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
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
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
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
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