Saturday, October 18, 2014

Boldly Breaking Rules

Sunday, October 19, 2014
Interfaith Children's Sabbath

When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31 NRSV

I don’t remember his name but I do remember how he felt in my arms. He was bony. He was much lighter than a child of his age ought to be. He also lived in a crack house where rats roamed freely.

As his mother stood before me, desperate for a child care placement for her baby so she could enter a drug rehabilitation and job training program, the rules flashed through my head. 

The urban, not-for-profit early childhood program I directed was full. We had a waiting list of twenty children in his age group. Looking into the baby’s eyes and the eyes of his young mother, “the place in which we were gathered together was shaken.” 

When I look back on that day, I believe the Holy Spirit filled my heart causing me to speak the word of God with boldness to that desperate mother. “Yes, he can start first thing in the morning.”  

We’ve been praying for five weeks now but prayer is not enough. While prayer is critical, we must speak with boldness for our children: our children who were abducted from their families in Nigeria, our children at the southern border of the US, our children in privileged communities who cry themselves to sleep, and our children who are victims of gun violence. It is time for adult rules that get in the way of our children’s well-being to be broken. 

Sacred Spirit, shake our churches, shake our homes, and shake our hearts that we might speak the word of God with boldness. Move us to break free of anything that harms even one of your precious children. Amen.

Rev. Tim Graves
Pastor
Condon United Church of Christ

Condon, Oregon

Friday, October 17, 2014

Our Call to Act: Cherishing Our Children

Saturday, October 18, 2014

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:15-17 NRSV

I am sitting in my coffee shop “office” and Malcolm, a sweet, attentive, intelligent, vivacious 7-year-old boy has introduced himself to me. I am astounded at his joyful, curious personality.  

He asked me what I was doing and came over to my computer where I had the guidelines up for writing the Light a Candle meditation. I told him I was writing a meditation for people in churches. He thought a minute and said, “you mean like for when churches have a candle ceremony when someone dies?” I told him, no, not that kind of lighting a candle. I told him we are lighting candles to help churches remember to pray for children, for all children.  

I can think of no better way to cherish a child than to listen to him, invite her to learn about what you are doing, let him talk about his life, show her you are truly interested in her being.  Malcolm has reminded me of what it means to cherish a child and the joy it brings. 

When we look at the words used when we cherish a child we see that they are action verbs: invite, talk, show, listen.  We are indeed called to act. We must act if we are to let children lead us. I pray you meet a Malcolm today.

God, we pray for your children and trust them to your care. Guide us to feed them, physically and spiritually,  protect them, laugh with them, listen to them, to invite them, enjoy them, and to cherish them. Amen.

Olivia Stewart Robertson

Family and Children’s Co-Minister for Disciples Home Missions and the Faith Formation Team of the United Church of Christ

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Everyone Needs a Hand to Hold

Friday, October 17, 2014

He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse. Malachi 4:6 NRSV

The first rule of childhood: always hold hands while crossing the street. Upon reaching a corner, look for someone with more street crossing experience, to keep you safe.

One day, after many years, yours becomes the hand others will hold.

Imagine childhood without that safety. You cross the street alone or trail after a parent who screams at you to hurry up instead of helping you. Perhaps, the adult grabs your arm and jerks you onto the curb just as cars roar past.

Without a hand to hold, you’d never know the need. Without knowledge, you wouldn’t see the point. The importance of holding a hand would be lost. It would be every person for themselves and the streets would become very dangerous indeed.

So, if yours is a safe hand, don't hesitate to reach out. It’s never too late to discover, learn, and share the security to be found in holding someone’s hand.

God of Restoration, teach us love anew. May our hearts so overflow with your presence that our hands automatically reach toward the children who need us. Give us the insight to also reach out to those grownups who lacked the security of a loving hand.  We mourn the loss of their childhood and pray that you guide them to safe hands where they are now. Amen.

Tammy Nelson
Ministry Coordinator
Northern California Nevada Conference
United Church of Christ
Hayward, California

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Smashing Barriers

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” Mark 5:22-23 NRSV

We find Jairus distraught by the impending death of his daughter. Totally understandable, right? When our children are sick, we will go to any length to bring them back to health. 

Jairus made the decision to go to a man who was very different from himself, a man who was despised by the religious officials. Jairus asked him to touch his daughter. 

Touch. Somehow he knew the touch of this man is what would make her well. 

Jairus and Jesus broke barriers that day. The barriers of culture, ethnicity, race, and religion are human-created boundaries that Jesus simply did not see. Jesus’ only concern was the child. 

Many in our world continue to look at our differences and use them as an excuse to deny the help that is needed. Instead, let us smash those barriers as Jesus did. Let us help all of God’s children.

Loving God, help us to see all of God’s children with your eyes. May we touch those around us with your love and grace as Jesus demonstrated with the daughter of Jairus. Amen.

Lisa Setty
Children and Youth Pastor
Overland Park Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Overland Park, Kansas

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cherished as Children

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

 When the child was older, he went out one day to his father among the reapers. He complained to his father, “Oh, my head, my head!” The father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” He carried him and brought him to his mother; the child sat on her lap until noon, and he died. 2 Kings 4:18-20 NRSV

On the news nearly every night we see the casualties of war.  When those pictures capture the faces of dead and wounded children, I cry.
  
Elijah had declared that the Shunammite woman would have a son; a child she cherished for each day of his life.  On the day he died in her arms he had been cherished and cared for since the day Elijah had surprised her with his prophecy.  

Today the mothers and fathers of the children wounded or killed in the tragedies of war or from gun violence in our own communities love and cherish their children very much. Let us cherish all children and work to find paths to a more peaceful world. 

Lord, let us be instruments of peace in this world.  Help us be determined in our efforts to shelter and cherish all of our children. Amen.

Rev. Robin Spurling
Pastor
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Carthage, Illinois

Monday, October 13, 2014

Value Above Politics

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Matthew 2:16 NRSV

Children have been used as political pawns for thousands of years. Furious at influential men who were supposed to help him, King Herod resorts to drastic political measures to preserve his place and the government which he serves. 

Still today, as nations attempt to protect themselves and preserve national security, innocent children are used as pawns, ignored for their innate value above what they can do for the government or the country.  

We wage war on children by cutting food stamps and various forms of public education, by retaining a minimum wage that prevents parents from providing proper care, or by ignoring the children who suffer in every war, regardless of who wins. May we remember children’s true value. Children are precious in God’s sight above and beyond what they can bring to any nation.

Holy God, help us remember that we are ALL your children, loved and valued. Protect us, and our children, as we look to you for guidance. Amen.

Rev. Laura Phillips
Associate Minister
Overland Park Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Overland Park, Kansas

Sunday, October 12, 2014

As My Mind Wandered

Monday, October 13, 2014

And cast lots for my people, and traded boys for prostitutes, and sold girls for wine, and drunk it down. Joel 3:3 NRSV

One evening while reading the statistics that 300,000 children are kidnapped and forced into sex trafficking each year (U.S. Department of Justice), my mind wandered to the creation of the Ten Commandments.

How different history would have been if the commandments had forbidden war, slavery, exploitation of workers, and abuse and cruelty to children.

What would it be like if the fifth commandment provided an exemption for abuse and neglect? Honor thy father and thy mother, unless they are abusing or neglecting you.

Although we should never second guess the Ten Commandments, written by God’s love, we are born with human frailties.

Gracious God, forgive us if we blame you for allowing bad things to happen. Our pain is great, but yours is greater, feeling the pain in the world you created. Amen.

Ruth Patterson
Nursery Director
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Omaha, Nebraska

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Shame Internalized

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Young men are compelled to grind, and boys stagger under loads of wood. Lamentations 5:13 NRSV


The Jerusalem captives are certain that God is punishing them. Little children internalize this belief.  “God is mad at me.”

Little girls and little boys are born into punishing situations. Do they know that they are innocent?  Do they know that God loves them? How many children believe that they are innately bad?  

“Other kids get to play and have fun. I have to carry heavy wood in the cold.  My fingers get smashed. God must be mad at me. I am bad.”

We pray for suffering children. We pray for your liberation. We pray for your justice. If we adults have favor in your eyes, allow us to be part of the solution. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.  

Brian Morse
Director of Spiritual Care 
Truman Medical Centers - Lakewood
Kansas City, Missouri

Friday, October 10, 2014

Too Many Tears

October 11, 2014

My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out on the ground because of the destruction of my people, because infants and babes faint in the streets of the city. Lamentations 2:11 NRSV

When I first read this verse from Lamentations 2, my heart broke. It broke because I sympathize with the writer. My eyes are also tired from crying. My stomach is in knots so tight I’d rather rip it out and toss it on the street than feel this way another second over children who are put in harm’s way.  

It continues to break even now because I know there are children within my own privileged community who go to sleep weeping, stomachs churning, praying that God will make things better. 

I see it and I often feel powerless to make a difference.  Is prayer enough? What more can I do? What more can we do? How long do our babies have to be in harm’s way?

O Holy One, when our eyes are swollen from too many tears, dry our eyes that we might see where we can offer your light. When our stomach churns and we want to remove it rather than feel the pain, show us your grace. Strengthen us that we might transform this world of destruction into a world of safety and peace. Amen.

Andrea Brownlee
Associate Pastor
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Oskaloosa, Iowa

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Seeing More than Stumbling Blocks

Friday, October 10, 2014

Therefore thus says the Lord: See, I am laying before this people stumbling blocks against which they shall stumble; parents and children together, neighbor and friend shall perish. Jeremiah 6:21 NRSV

There are days I struggle to get tasks completed because I don’t understand them. It’s a blessing when one of the church children come up and magically move things or hit a button and things just work. Children see more than stumbling blocks because they believe that they can do anything. 

Children have a unique way of seeing a different perspective. Jeremiah addressed God’s people, who often refused to change their hearts and see differently. 

Sometimes stumbling blocks help us to slow down and re-evaluate the situation. Children bless the church by letting us see things in new and exciting ways. The church must now protect children from things that limit who children are and will become. We must show children they are loved through all of their becoming who God has created them to be.

God, sometimes I get so caught up in the things that are not important that I forget to be who you created me to be. Help me to see beyond the stumbling blocks. Help me to see with the joy, excitement, and hope of a child. Amen.

Rev. Kate West
Pastor
First Congregational Church, UCC
Belle Plaine, Iowa

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Weeping for the Children

October 9, 2014


Hazael asked, “Why does my lord weep?” He answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to
the people of Israel; you will set their fortresses on fire, you will kill their young men with the sword, ash in pieces their little ones, and rip up their pregnant women.” 2 Kings 8:12 NRSV


We find ourselves shocked by the prophet Elisha’s words. How could anyone dash little ones into pieces? Hazael, a messenger from the king, heard these words when he asked Elisha about whether the king would recover from an illness. Although the king’s illness was not terminal, Elisha wept, for he knew Hazael would become the next king and do terrible things to children. 

Like Elisha, you may find yourself weeping today for the innocent children who get caught in turmoil. In April, when over 200 Nigerian girls were taken from their school, the world wept. We longed to hear they were safe. Voices spoke up for their safe return, but the kidnappers demanded the return of militant prisoners in exchange for the girls. Innocent children became caught in political turmoil, and though some girls escaped, we continue to weep for those who remain missing. Just as Elisha wept for the little ones, we continue to weep for children caught in the world’s struggles. 

God, may you protect the innocent children, keeping them out of harm’s way. When they become ensnared in the violence of the world, may we weep together, offering our tears as prayers of hope.

Rev. Dr. Douglas Cripe
Pastor
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Kennett, Missouri

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Children of Security & Children of Want

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The king said, “Divide the living boy in two; then give half to the one, and half to the other.”
1 Kings 3:25 NRSV

We’ve all seen the news footage of children in harm’s way. It’s easy to separate ourselves from that reality because our soccer fields are lush and green, tended by paid groundskeepers. The children arrive in matching colorful uniforms with smiling faces and all the safety equipment in place. They eat a healthy snack and a healthy meal and go to sleep in a clean, safe place. At least for many of us this is true.

The stark reality between children in harm’s way and children who know safety, security, nurture, and love are as life-depriving as dividing a child in half. 

As long as we live in a world where even one child goes without the basic necessities, where even one child cannot know peace and safety, the security of all will be precarious. Until we create a world devoted to the care and consideration of every child, no child can be certain their life will be free of needless suffering. For ours and theirs, we must seek to remove all harm which threatens the security of God’s children.

God of Peace, breathe a yearning to preserve and protect life into your world. Remove the seeds of hatred, greed, anger, malice, and distrust that have taken root in Eden. Cleanse the world of the choking darkness which seeks to overcome your light. Fill the cracks of division with forgiveness. Teach us to love as you love. Amen.

Rev. Tracy Parker
Associate Minister
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Paris, Kentucky

Monday, October 6, 2014

Our Shared Human Connectedness in Every Child

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. Exodus 2:3 NRSV

"Well, if that were my child..." 

You've heard folk say it, either with a sense of moral superiority, or in other cases with a sense of compassion, albeit detached from action. It wrongly assumes, however, that children are not the care and responsibility of us all.

Interestingly enough, the care of the babe Moses, the cunningness of his mother and sister, and even the fate of God's saving activity for the world, all hinge on the Pharaoh's daughter's ability to see within this foreign child her own human connectedness. She took pity on this child, just as Jesus took pity showing compassionate action in the lives of those he encountered.  

How we see the foreign child matters. In them we see ourselves, our future, and even God's salvific activity in the world.  "If that were my child..." might transform into compassionate, and even joyful acclamations of "that's my child!"

Grant us eyes to see and ears to hear, a heart to love and hands to serve with compassionate action. Adopted by your spirit, we embrace our Oneness with you and all your children. Amen.

Rev. Kenneth Hardway
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Wheeling, West Virginia 


Associate Regional Minister for Youth and Young Adults, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in West Virginia.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

With the Wisdom of a Midwife

Monday, October 6, 2014

“When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” Exodus 1:16 NRSV

As a midwife, it was her job to bring life into the world, not destroy it.  So, one can imagine how horrifying it was for a midwife to hear it was her worldly duty to kill boy babies.

It was because of her call from God to cherish every child’s life, that she took her faith and used it to out-wit the king and lift up the people he was trying to destroy.  When the children we call “ours” are threatened and put in danger’s way, it is not our first instinct to protect with wit, but rather to protect with force.  Let us be reminded of the faith and wit of the midwives when the time comes to cherish and protect all of God’s children.

All Seeing God, we give you thanks for the examples of these wise women. May our first instinct always be to cherish and protect with wisdom, rather than anger and force. Amen.

Molly Goodrich
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Tyler, Texas

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Uncomfortable Truths

Sunday, October 5, 2014

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Genesis 21:15 NRSV

What was Hagar thinking to neglect her child!? Didn’t she care about Ishmael? Why didn’t she plan ahead as you or I would do? 

The rest of the story reveals the uncomfortable truth that Hagar had no choice. Hagar was a slave. Abram banished Hagar and Ishmael to the desert because of family jealousies. God opened Hagar’s eyes to see the life sustaining well that would save her son. 

God calls each of us to open our eyes to painful truths. Uninformed judgment has no place in God’s kingdom. 

God of Hope for Children in Harm’s Way, open our hearts to see more clearly the true nature of circumstances faced by too many of your children.  Guide our hands to provide life and hope. As your faithful people, all children are our children. Amen.

Jenny Tripses
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Peoria, Illinois

Friday, October 3, 2014

For a Child-Deep Prayer

October 4, 2014

In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. Luke 1:47 CEB (1)

Shrek: Ogres are like onions.
Donkey: They stink? 
Shrek: Yes… NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers.

We mistake them as shallow, silly, simple but children have layers, too. Children have depths adults ignore. Be present with a child, listen to hear the struggles, quandaries, longings, rages, and compassions, and the layers peel away. Deeper and deeper they go. 

A child’s inner prayer life is rich with suffering, wonder, doubt, fear, hope, and joy. Mary was a child herself. Yet her prayer — from the depths of her being — is among our best-treasured expressions of faith and trust in God. 

Into the vesper still and hush, a soprano drops her jaw and dares to sing, Magnificat anima mea. The prayer of a girl called by God, coming of age, who feels in her innermost being the awe of her calling and the fullness of her joy.

God, give me the prayer life of a child, for her honesty, depth, complexity, and power. In the depths of who I am, I rejoice in you, my savior. Amen.

David Cobb
Spirit of Joy Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Lakeville, Minnesota

____

(1) Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Seeing What They See

Friday, October 3, 2014

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6 NRSV

My son is obsessed with trains.  This is heightened by the train tracks that run beside our house. When the train comes by he grabs my hand, and compels me to carry him outside to watch it.  

“Train, go faster,” he says gleefully.  

Before Zach I never really gave trains much thought.  Now, they are a sign of wonder and joy.  Even when alone, I now run to look at the train as it speeds by. This is what a child does. Children lead us to what we might otherwise dismiss.  

I wonder what would happen if we allowed ourselves to be led by a child toward the vision of the Kingdom of God? Children already see and desperately want us to experience the Kingdom with them. 

God, give us the eyes of children.  Allow us to see what they see. Give us the grace and humility to run with joy towards the vision that you have granted them. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Rev. Aaron Todd
Minister of Education
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Midwest City, Oklahoma

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Child Is Born

October 2, 2014

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

When I gaze upon the thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America amassing along our southern border, I do not see threatening faces of terror nor disease-ridden bodies carrying pestilence.   

I see hope in the face of discouragement and promise in the face of impossibility. In their faces, I see the face of my ancestors, themselves immigrants, who came here seeking a better life. This story of children seeking refuge from chaos is something we all know something about. 

When I think about these children, I think about another child, born into poverty. His family was marginalized to the point of sleeping in cattle’s quarters. I think about his family as they were forced to flee their homeland out of the threat of violence that comes with despotic rulers. I think about the holy family and Jesus, the Christ child.

Maybe our job as Christians is to be the face of love that meets the fears of these children. Maybe our job is to embrace them, as Mary embraced Jesus in that cold cave long ago? Maybe our job is to nurture them, to love them and to care for them as if they were God's own.  Because, in the end, that is who they are, preciously beloved children of God in whom God is well pleased.  

Gracious and loving God, you poured yourself out and into the world that we might care for you. Allow us to care for you through your children now. Amen.

Rev. Kurt A Walker
Faith United Church of Christ
Indianapolis, Indiana


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Glory of Children

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their parents.
Proverbs 17:6 NRSV

Before the notion of a continuing afterlife became prevalent in Judaism, the legacy of an individual on earth was his or her children and grandchildren: they continue my flesh, they often continue my name. 

However, this scripture subverts the popular religious beliefs of the day. Yes, grandchildren are the crown but the glory of parents is not necessarily their children: “The glory of children is their parents.”

So often the drive in successful parenting is to enroll children into activities to make parents proud. It is a strange economy where parents’ pride in children is an extension and manifestation of privilege and a celebration of the resulting inequalities. In these cases, whose glory is being celebrated, the child or the parents?

If the glory of children is their parents, we seek to live in a world where all children are rendered as divine gifts. Their parents live in a just and equal society where they may give their children opportunities to excel, perform, and create.  When parents are disadvantaged from offering their children opportunities, or those opportunities are practiced as exercises in inequality, the legacy left behind is an extension of the mistakes and horrors of the past. 

We can do better.

Holy Spirit, descend upon us, onto all flesh, from our oldest to our youngest. Move in new ways among us. Grant us the courage to speak with tongues of fire to support parents and to work for justice for parents and children, in ways that do honor to you. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Christopher D. Rodkey
Pastor
St. Paul’s United Church of Christ
Dallastown, Pennsylvania

Christopher is the author of Too Good to Be True and The Synaptic Gospel


Monday, September 29, 2014

Making the Best of Being Blessed Too Soon


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. 1 Samuel 1:27 NRSV

On some evenings at our worship service with the homeless, prayer requests cascade on similar themes. 

At one, a pregnant teen, looking very uncomfortable as she leaned against her boyfriend, asked for prayers for the safe delivery of her baby. She had had no prenatal care, but she thought the baby would be coming soon. 

Another young woman ask us to pray that she get her little girl back. The teen had left the baby with a relative and now wanted her. The relative would not give the baby to the teen until she got and held a job and had a place to live. 

A third very young teen, requested prayers that she would get pregnant because she wanted a baby so badly.

God answers all prayers. Sometimes God lets us hear them so we can be a part of the answer.

Mother God, thank you for blessing us with children whether they are newborns or teenagers. They remind us of our vulnerability and how much care we each need and brighten our lives with wonder and love. Amen.

Marilynn Knott
Author
Crown Heights Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Blessing the World


Monday, September 29, 2014

...and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Genesis 28:14 NRSV

Genesis 28 describes Jacob’s dream of a ladder of angels, in which angels ascend from earth to heaven and back again. When he awakens, Jacob exclaims, “God was in this place, and I did not know it.”  

Jacob receives a blessing. From his family, all the families of the earth will be blessed. Jacob builds an altar and calls the place, “Beth-el,” the house of God.  

Today, we affirm that the house of God is everywhere and in everyone. Each child is holy. Each child’s face reveals the face of God, and awakens us to our own childlike spirit. We can exclaim “God is in this child, and I know it.”  We can bring out the holy in each child by blessing the child with our loving touch, nourishing food, and good water, safe housing, and neighborhoods and nations that are peaceful and secure.

God of all families, bless your children.  Open our hearts to love, nurture, and protect them.  Help us be generous in our time, affection, treasure, and political support so that each child might be blessed to be a blessing, in Christ’s name.  Amen.

Bruce Epperly
Pastor
South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Centerville, Massachusetts

Bruce is an ordained Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ pastor. He is the author of over thirty books, including Process Theology: Embracing Adventure with God and A Center in the Cyclone: Twenty-first Century Clergy Self-Care.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

"Mommy, What Is a Blessing?"


Sunday, September 28, 2014

I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. Genesis 12:2 NRSV

My son asked me, “Mommy, what is a blessing?”

“You are a blessing,” I replied.  

Blessings in the Bible are accompanied by a lot of work and little reward, by a lot of responsibility and determination with sparse hope for the fruits of big dreams. When it comes to teaching children about blessings, work and responsibility must be a part of the definition.  

This promise of becoming a great nation comes with receiving blessings and giving blessings.  Giving of ourselves to another person, so that their burdens are easier, is the blessing we are asked to pass along.  We are blessed by the works of others as we are blessings to others through our works. How easily we forget this! 

My children are much happier when they work to make someone else happy. When I think of my blessings, all of them have come from making myself a blessing to another.

God, help us to intentionally think about blessing another and teaching each other to do so, especially children. Amen.

Rev. Dawna K. Watkins
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Dawna is supply preacher, playwright, puppeteer, and  pastor’s spouse serving in the congregation of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Hematite, Missouri


Friday, September 26, 2014

The Global Promise


Saturday, September 27, 2014

For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” Acts 2:39 NRSV

We are confronted daily with terrible news from around the world. Refugee children trapped at our national borders, families fleeing persecution in the Middle East, and the ongoing struggle to provide access to clean water for our sisters and brothers in developing nations impact the lives of children.

In the face of global hardship, can we find within our hearts the courage to believe that ours is a God of abundance? Could our journey toward discipleship extend beyond the scope of our own personal experience?  

As Peter preaches on the day of Pentecost, God’s promise is not only local but global in its scope. God is present, walking beside the refugee children and their parents.  When we remember God’s promise is for all, we let God’s global mercy shape our ongoing prayer life and faith journey.

God of All Creation, kindle within our hearts a sense of global kinship. Remind us that your promise is for all humankind, near and far. Amen.

Rev. Nathan Dannison
Senior Minister
First Congregational Church, UCC
Kalamazoo, Michigan

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Warning: Gravity!


Friday, September 26, 2014

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.
Mark 9:42 NRSV

Gravity.  Gravity is one of the things that would pull a person with a millstone around their neck to the depths of the sea. It is also a word that describes the seriousness of not caring for a child of God, especially “one of the least of these.”  This warning may seem harsh but I think it indicates the immense care that God has for all of God’s children.

A women’s meeting I attended recently addressed human trafficking, which often involves children.  One way traffickers convince children not to leave those trafficking them is by telling them no one cares for them.  They fill them with lies and tell them they are not worthy of respect.  

We must combat this insidious issue by being vigilant in showing care for all children and reminding them they are all beloved children of God.  That is gravity that can keep us all grounded.

Loving and Caring God, help us treat all of your children as your beloved.  Forgive us when we forget the importance of telling them how very much you love them. Help us feel your divine spark within each of us.  Amen.

Rev. Janna Preston
Minister
Southside Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Jacksonville, Florida

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The "It" Factor


Thursday, September 25, 2014

An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.” Luke 9:46-48 NRSV

My cousin called me it. As a newborn I wasn’t that offended but, as the story goes, my aunt tried correcting him. My cousin protested, “Until it has teeth, I’m calling it an it.” 

These words in scripture that refer to a child as it are awkward to our ears: “Jesus … put it by his side.” However, that is how culture of the day viewed children. Children were treated as non-persons. They were at the bottom of the pecking order. Jesus tells the disciples to put themselves in the place of society’s most vulnerable. Still, this child has a place close to Jesus’ side. 

God’s care for children must be expressed to the world by becoming vulnerable on their behalf. God’s care for children must be expressed to each child by the way we tenderly hold them to our side. 

Lord, give us the courage to stand in the gap, making ourselves vulnerable on behalf of children. May we speak out and stand up for all your children. May we call them by name and hold them close to our side. 

Rev. Lee Yates
Minister of Faith Formation
Christian Church in Indiana (Disciples of Christ)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"And How Are the Children?"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

And whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” Matthew 10:42 NRSV

The Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania greet each other with “Kasserian ingera?” which means, “And how are the children?”

What they hope to hear – what we all hope to hear – is “the children are well.” If all the children are well, life is good and the future is hope-filled.

“And how are the children?” could be a conventional politeness, like “How’s your kids?”  But what if it means “How are all the children, how is this place or this situation or this climate affecting the young and vulnerable?” Could this question become a reminder to us that all children are precious in the eyes of God?   

What if we began each day asking, “And how are the children?” Would it change anything in your life or mine? Would it change life for the children of the world?

God, open our ears to disciples asking, “And how are the children?” that it might undermine our preoccupations and refocus our energies. May the children be the beneficiaries of our hope and trust in you. Hold us accountable for our words and actions. Amen.

Rev. Susan Meeter
Minister
United Church of Christ

Monday, September 22, 2014

Marvelously Set Apart

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


You are the one who created my innermost parts; you knit me together while I was still in my mother’s womb. I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart. Your works are wonderful-- 
I know that very well. Psalm 139:13-14 CEB (1) 

Children learn and develop both good and bad habits from us. They learn how to see themselves from how we see ourselves. Sometimes when we look in the mirror all we see are imperfections and things we want to change.

Children will notice. 

What if we looked in the mirror and saw the beautiful things? Children will see that too. The Psalmist reminds us that God knit us together before we were born to be set apart, to be us. 

All God’s children are made up of different shapes, different abilities, and different gifts. Let us celebrate that. Show all of God’s children how wonderful they are, exactly the way they are.   

Wonderful, creative God, we give you thanks for making us exactly the way we are. Help us to see all of ourselves as wonderful and set apart by you to do marvelous things. May we show the children in our world how wonderful and marvelous they were made. Amen. 

Rev. Kim Crowley
Associate Minister
Seventh Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Richmond, Virginia

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(1) Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Helper of the Helpless

Monday, September 22, 2014

But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan. Psalm 10:14 NRSV

***

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”  Desmond Tutu

There are many things in this world that can cause hurt and pain in a child’s life! Each day too many children are told by adults and other children that they are less than their peers. These children hurt so deeply inside that they sometimes don’t even know how to express their pain.

God sees their pain; God knows the pain is caused by those who oppress them. 

God is the great help to the helpless. God’s concern extends not only to the orphan, but to the bullied and the beat up.  

God of the helpless, help us to see those children around us who are in pain. Use us to help those who are in need. Help us to bring your kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Rev. Ann B. Shepherd
Director of Christian Growth
Timberlake Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 
Lynchburg, Virginia

Associate Regional Minister for Youth & Outdoor Ministry, Christian Church in Virginia

Saturday, September 20, 2014

God Hears Us

Sunday, September 21, 2014

And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Genesis 21:17 NRSV

How often do we cry out in pain, fear, or anguish? How often do these cries fall unanswered? There is this fear that we will be left to handle things alone. An angel of God tells Hagar not to worry or be afraid. God heard the cries of the boy.

We are called to provide loving care to all of God’s children. The good news is that we don’t have to do it alone. God promises to help us in our time of need. Let us listen to the cries of the children and work to protect and cherish these precious lives.

Gracious and loving God, gently guide us to protect the children of this world. Remind us that you too hear our cries and will be with us always. Amen.

Rev. Katie Carlson
Chaplain
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Friday, September 19, 2014

God's Call to Care for Children

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. Amos 5:15 NRSV

This scripture reminds me of a Sunday about three years ago after the Chardon High School Shooting. The children and I made cards to send to the families of the victims. I suggested making cards for the shooter. “He's just a kid who made a bad choice,” I said to the children.

None of the children agreed with me and no cards were sent to him. 

Several months later during the news coverage of the trial, I reflected on that day. My kids perceived evil. Being called to care for children means listening to their perceptions and thoughts. Bad choices or not, it is God who gives second chances; it is God from whom grace flows.

Heavenly Father, I come to you knowing I will make mistakes. Open my heart to knowing and remembering it's not about the mistakes or choices but the heart that is connected to you. Amen.

Michelle Brown
Children's Minister
Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Cleveland, Ohio

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Purposeful Response

Friday, September 19, 2014

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. Isaiah 42:1 NRSV

Why do we need to purposefully answer the call to cherish and protect every child?

Hillel the Elder was a famous Jewish religious leader in the 1st century. He said: “whosoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whosoever that saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”(1)

Within the precious life of every child is the opportunity for a whole new world of possibilities. When we intentionally protect every child, we are protecting the opportunity for those glorious possibilities to emerge, possibilities that have the power to change our world for the better. 

Our children are instruments of God’s love and grace. As we cherish our children we are accepting God’s gifts of love and grace for our world, gifts from God that every child bears. 

Amazing God, help us to see how your soul delights in every child. Give us the courage to cherish and protect every child, your servants, so that they may bear the fruit of your blessing upon us for a better world. Amen.

Rev. Robert E. Van Ess
United Church of Christ
Resident Chaplain 
College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Little Rock, Arkansas

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(1) Khushwant Singh. The Freethinker's Prayer Book: And Some Words to Live. New Delhi: Aleph Book Company, 2012.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Learn to Do What is Right

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Isaiah 1:16-17 NRSV

God’s message to us through the prophet Isaiah could not be more to the point: 

  1. Stop doing what is wrong. 
  2. Learn to do what is right. 
  3. Work for justice. 
  4. Help and defend those who cannot stand up for themselves, specifically children and widows. 

In today’s world the real problem is figuring out how and where to start. The answer is easy and hard at the same time. 

We begin with prayer, by caring for those children right where we are, and with more prayer. We lead by example, showing others how to cherish and protect the children of our communities. 

We support and encourage those who can do things on a larger scale. We respond to God’s call by taking one step forward and then another, taking care of the children, and learning to do what is right.

God of All Children, you have called us to care for the children of this world. Prod us, provoke us, guide us onto the paths that will make this a world where they are cherished and protected. Amen.

Donna J. Hanby
Pilgrim South United Church of Christ
Springboro United Church of Christ
Springboro, Ohio


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

God's Question to Us

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:2-4 NRSV

A year ago I was blessed to meet and hear Mark Barden, parent of Daniel, one of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Their group, Sandy Hook Promise, wants to change the Newtown tragedy into an opportunity to change the culture of violence in our nation.

God asks the powers that be and us, “How long?”  That you includes all of us who are not actively working to change our nation’s gun laws. How long will we let guns rule?

Although gun violence is only one facet of the injustices faced daily by the precious children of God, the love affair with a gun and the power over others that it represents is abhorrent to our loving God, who puts aside power in order to become one with us in Jesus Christ.

Join Sandy Hook Promise; let us have sensible dialogue to rescue the needy.

O LORD, you call us to give justice, to rescue the weak, to stand up to the evil in our world. Embolden us to follow Jesus in a life that challenges the status quo. Amen.

Rev. Carol Cook
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Baltimore, Maryland

Monday, September 15, 2014

Being the Favorite

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

You shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes, in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall render just decisions for the people. You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Deuteronomy 16:18-20 NRSV

If you have siblings you've wondered it. If you have multiple children, you’ve been asked about it or thought about it: which one is the favorite?

Which one is the favorite that gets a little more leniency, a little more patience, a little more trust from you? 

I have four kids and it baffles people when I say that each kid is my favorite depending on the day and the situation at hand. It baffles people because even though we all wonder about it we don’t ever say it. The thing is, none of us is good at not showing partiality.  Only God can do that. Only God does that!

Holy and just God, please remind us that we are not the ones who get to decide who deserves more love. Remind us that our hearts have the ability to grow with love when we are willing to share it with all your children. Amen.

Rev. Samantha Houser
Zion United Church of Christ
Waukon, Iowa

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pursuing Truth About Children

Monday, September 15, 2014


You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit. Exodus 23:1-3 NRSV

News reports such as those about the children at our borders fleeing violence and poverty in Central America often leave us feeling helpless and confused. What are we to do? 

Exodus calls us to pursue the truth directly and let it speak for itself. When it comes to caring for children, God calls us to learn the facts and put faces on those facts. God’s truth and power for shalom (healing and wholeness, justice and peace) is at its core, relational. 

While you can find online eyewitness reports from persons of faith on the front lines and denominational staffers can help you connect directly with children in need around the globe, the best course of action is for you to talk to teachers, social workers, and police in your own community. The effects of poverty, violence, and injustice are all around you. No community is immune.

As you follow God’s call to care for each and every one of God’s precious children remember the guidance of Exodus 23. Amidst popular misrepresentation and 
information overload, seek truth and let it speak to your heart. Then prayerfully let your life touch and be touched by children. Your life will be blessed to be a blessing.

Gracious God, motivate and equip us to seek the truth about children suffering from violence, poverty, and injustice in our local and global communities. Guide us to discern your wisdom and reach out to become a significant force against popular misrepresentation, confusion, and helplessness. Help us affirm in word and deed that each and every child is precious in your sight. Amen.

Kate Epperly
Family and Children’s Co-Minister for Disciples Home Missions and the Faith Formation Team of the United Church of Christ