Sunday, October 16, 2016

October 16: Children's Sabbath

As you celebrate Children’s Sabbath in your congregations (whether this weekend or next), take time to read the words shared by Marian Wright Edelman the president of the Children’s Defense Fund: 

“Fifty years after that turning point in the Civil Rights Movement, some of us are asking 'How long will it take?' Still deeply pained by the killing of Trayvon Martin, with fresh anguish over the killing of unarmed Black boys in Ferguson, Cleveland, and countless other cities and towns across our land, we’ve heard this year the collective question, 'How long will racial prejudice blind our vision, how long until we affirm and act like precious Black lives matter?'

"Fifty years after President Johnson’s war on poverty, some of us are asking 'How long will it take?' How long will it take until we end the child poverty that traps one in five children — one in two Black babies and one in three Hispanic babies? It is a national moral disgrace that there are 14.7 million poor children and 6.5 million extremely poor children in the United States of America — the world’s largest economy. It is also unnecessary, costly, and the greatest threat to our future nation, our economic and military security. And soul.”

We pray for our children this Sunday and every day. We pray to be a part of the solution. 

(Excerpt from the 2015 Children's Sabbath Manual Welcome Letter: For more faith-based resources from the Children's Defense Fund, visit

Friday, October 14, 2016

October 14: Breathing Peace

 What does it mean to be "children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation" (Philippians 2:15)? 

I am reminded of the disciples hiding in a locked room in the days after Jesus had been crucified. They had witnessed horrific violence. They were traumatized by the injustice. They were in the midst of grief for their beloved teacher and friend.

Jesus came and stood among them and said "'Peace be with you' ...when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (John 20:21, 22). 

The disciples were afraid. Being afraid is understandable. The world can be scary. 

God designed our bodies to give us adrenaline when we are afraid. This adrenaline gives us the energy to run away from danger or to defend ourselves, if necessary. This is often called "fight or flight." This is a good thing in moments of danger. However, it is not healthy for our bodies to constantly be in "fight or flight" mode.

Breathing can help us calm our bodies. Soft belly breathing is a simple way to care for ourselves. I invite you to try it with me. 

Gently place your hand on your belly and become aware of your breathing. At first, do not try to change your breathing. Just acknowledge this is how you are breathing right now.
Breathe in through your nose and out your mouth.
Slowly deepen and lengthen your breath.
See if you can raise your hand as you are breathing.
Allow your belly to go soft.
Continue to deepen your breath.
Allow your mind to wander.
Keep bringing your focus back to the softness of your belly, the strength of your back, and your deepening breath. 
Do this for a few minutes.

The audio link below is of Dr. James Gordon explaining how soft belly breathing moves us from the "fight or flight" energy into the "rest and digest" experience that allows us feel the peace that connects us to God, to others, and to ourselves.

Please pray with me: 

Spirit of the living God, breathe peace in us, so that we might shine like stars in the world. Amen. 

Rev. J. Bentley Stewart
is Director of Student Life for Disciples Seminary Foundation in Northern California.He is an ordained minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). For six years, he served as a chaplain at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. Currently, he is organizing the core team to begin a new Disciples worshiping community in Marin County, where he resides with Janel, his wife, their two sons, Carter and VanIke, and their beloved 110 lb. lapdog, Norman.

Our 2016 prayer vigil theme is Helping Our Children Heal from Violence. For more resources visit and 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

October 13: Relearning Reactions in a Preschool Classroom

Often, children process life experiences through their play. My classroom's dramatic play area mimicked a house, complete with pretend kitchen appliances, a dining set, and baby dolls. In my classroom, the house area was full with four students, usually girls. Each girl had two “necessary” accessories 1) a baby doll 2) a rectangular object that could be used as a cell phone. A typical play session in this area involved students alternating between soothing their baby dolls to screaming into their “phones” at unnamed family members or a baby daddy, “how could you do this to me?” or “I'm gonna call the police on you!” After observing this pattern, I suggested extensions to their play. For example, “hang up, don't keep talking to someone who is upsetting you,” or “all this yelling is stressful for your baby, how can we make it feel safe?” By suggesting alternative reactions to play scenarios, I helped students explore new ways of interacting with familiar problems. The context of play enabled students to take social risks that they may not have been comfortable trying out in real-life scenarios. Dramatic play can help children process their experiences, both positive and negative, by reenacting them, responding to them, and assuming different roles in the situation.

Loving Creator, give us the courage to meet children where they are in their play. Help us recognize play as a powerful tool for learning new ways to respond to the violence in our environment. Amen.
Erika Sanders graduated from Chapman University in 2013 with a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies. During her time as a student, Erika worked as the youth group director for a local United Church of Christ congregation. In 2014, Erika moved to Chicago to participate in Teach for America. She taught preschool in a Head Start center on the south side of Chicago for two years. Erika recently completed her Masters degree in Early Childhood Education and is a credentialed teacher.
A Little More...Play and Children's Learning:
Our 2016 prayer vigil theme is Helping Our Children Heal from Violence. For more resources visit and 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

October 12: Peace and Understanding

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” - Philippians 4:8-9

Paul writes to urge us to live up to a high ethical standard. He doesn’t make it a Pollyanna story, denying the realities of violence that exist around us. Instead, he suggests that, while we struggle with the possibility of violence in our everyday life, we should be encouraged by the knowledge of God’s peace within us. Likewise, we should extend peace to all those we encounter. He presents values that we should hold in high esteem: honesty, truth, justice and purity. These bring peace and understanding.  

May an honest approach to violence come to past to bring peace to all people, everywhere. Amen.  

Rev. Brooks Barrick is a Disciples minister located in Indianapolis, Indiana. A graduate of Christian Theological Seminary and a Doctoral candidate at Anderson University School of Theology. The focus of his ministry is social justice. He is the local mission director for the 2017 General Assembly of the Christian Church (DOC). 

A Little More...

Our 2016 prayer vigil theme is Helping Our Children Heal from Violence. For more resources visit and 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

October 11: Helping Children Heal through Honesty

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” - Exodus 20: 16

Children are more aware of the world around them than we think. They are observers and learn through observations and patterns. Values and character traits are something that can only be learned by example, and honesty is no exception. Children learn about the importance of honesty by experiencing honesty in their everyday lives. As parents we sometimes think we need to shield and protect our little ones from the atrocities of the world by not being honest with them. We leave details out or choose to withhold information that might be painful from them. Children are, from a very early age, impressionable. They perceive and are aware of more than we think. If we talk to them from an early age with honesty in all matters, they will not only learn the importance of honesty as a character trait in a person, but they will connect with us and open up to us. We know that so much of the violence and hurt in the world is caused by people not being honest. By not only bearing false witness against their neighbors, but by not being honest about feelings, fears and prejudices that people might have that lead them to cause harm. We must speak honestly with our children about how the harm and pain caused by others is rooted in pain itself. When we allow ourselves to be honest and open with our children we can teach them that although there is much pain and hurt caused by people, we can always choose to heal and to be an agent of healing.

God of truth and love, help us to be more open and honest with ourselves and each other. For the truth sets us free and helps us to heal.

Tanya Lopez
serves is the Disciples Women Ministry Staff in the Pacific Southwest Region. She is also currently serving her second term as the President of the Hispanic Women’s Ministries for the Convencion Hispana del Pacifico. She earned her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education from California State University, Fullerton in 2009 and is open to the call of pursuing her seminary education in the near future. Tanya has a passion for working with women and their families. She is married to Rev. Al Lopez and has two young daughters whom she loves fiercely.

A Little More...Melted crayon prayer station:
This prayer station can be adapted. When discussing love and healing with young children and families, you can use this activity to visually show how love and healing covers all pains and hurts. The melted crayons flow and cover all, much like God’s love and healing covers us all.

Our 2016 prayer vigil theme is Helping Our Children Heal from Violence. For more resources visit and 

Monday, October 10, 2016

October 10: Choosing Another Way

"And you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free." - John 8:32

One of the greatest gifts God gives us is his Holy Son, Jesus Christ. If Jesus didn't die on the Cross for us, our relationship with God would be disconnected and we would not be able to "bear good fruit." Growing up Tongan American in Utah has been tough, especially growing up in what most people called the "ghetto." Too many times I encountered violent situations such as a group of teenagers punching me to the ground because of the color shirt I was wearing, trading swear words with other minority groups who had different opinions than me, or watching other parents beat their kid up because they were alcoholics. As I grew closer to God, I began to realize that, although I wanted to retaliate and prove my point, because I believed I should be on top, I had a revelation that Jesus is the Way the Truth and Life. 

When I began to seek God and start a personal relationship with Him, I reacted differently to violent situations. Rather than fight back, I let go. Rather than feel hatred towards people who abused, I prayed for them. Fighting back is a lie, because what do you gain from it? 

In Matthew 11:28: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Lord, I pray for healing and comfort for those who are scarred from violent actions. And that we may always remember, Your Spirit of Good Fruit to help make smart choices. Thank you.

Siosifa Uesi
was born and raised in the state of Utah, and is the third oldest out of eight children. His parents are from the Island of Tonga nextled in the South Pacific. Granger Chrisitan Church, West Valley City, Utah is where Siosifa attends and also conducts the youth choir. Siosifa is currently getting his Bachelor of Arts in Music at the University of Utah. Sifa hopes to record the first Tongan Gospel Jazz Muisc and build his own music studio when he graduates.

A Little More...Everybody's Different by Paula Gelbach

Our 2016 prayer vigil theme is Helping Our Children Heal from Violence. For more resources visit and 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

October 9: Honest is the best policy

For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.” Corinthians 8:21
Honesty is the best policy. If I lose my honor, I lose myself.” - William Shakespeare

Jesus told us that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Think about it; do you like it when you find out someone has lied to you? Probably not! And since you know how bad it feels to have someone lie to you, you don’t want to make anyone else feel that way either. God wants us to be happy with ourselves; He wants us to be proud of the way we behave and the way we treat other people. Even if we fool people when we lie or cheat, we know that God hasn’t been fooled. And we haven’t fooled ourselves either.

Dear God, help me to be proud of the person I see when I look in the mirror; I want to see an honest person looking back at me. Amen.

Layne Beamer
is Senior Pastor at First Christian Church Whittier, California. He is married to Michyl-Shannon Quilty and has a 21-year- old son, Shayne. Making sure that they are both proud of him is very important to Layne!

Our 2016 prayer vigil theme is Helping Our Children Heal from Violence. For more resources visit and 

Friday, October 7, 2016

October 7: Ain't No Mountain High Enough

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 8: 37-39

At the end of our youth-led worship service, the youth asked the congregation to stand and dance together in celebration of the God who loves us and is always with us no matter what. As Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell’s, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” came through the speakers, our congregation danced together – hesitantly at first, but picking up in enthusiasm as the youth and children danced exuberantly through the aisles.

Ain’t no mountain high enough,
Ain’t no valley low enough,
Ain’t no river wide enough
to keep me from getting to you babe.”

It is so easy to let the weight of grief, fear, anger, sadness, and a number of other deep emotions paralyze us as we hear news reports of violence and hate across the world. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed and believe there is nothing to be done, no way to help. Often I find that the best thing to do in those moments is to dance. Put on music – sad, happy, oldies, Broadway, anything that you can move to – and dance, allowing body to connect soul. I think our biblical ancestors like David and Miriam knew something about this connection between body and soul that we’ve forgotten in our reserved, standing or sitting, well-mannered families and churches. Something that has to do with healing and wholeness and whole-bodied-ness.

So take a few minutes today as a family, put on some music, and dance together. Be silly, be awkward, be off-beat, but dance. Perhaps you’ll find some deep joy in the midst of everything else. Perhaps you’ll be reminded of God’s abiding presence dancing with you.

God, remind us that you are with us as we dance, as we cry, as we learn, and as we grow! Amen.

Douglass Anne Cartwright
is a pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Albany, Oregon. She loves to dance, sing, play games, and learn more about God.

A Litte More... Hear the song:
(Song written by Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)

Our 2016 prayer vigil theme is Helping Our Children Heal from Violence. For more resources visit and 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

October 6: Keep Working on This Butterfly

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” - Philippians 1:6

I watched my tween twins painting on a rainy afternoon. As I sipped my coffee I reveled in a moment of bliss at their creative outpourings. The Girl was painting dinosaurs and the Boy was making butterflies. As I patted myself on the back for having such well-rounded kids, the Girl reached over and made a big black mark in the middle of his painting. The NERVE of her! They began to bicker. “Why would you do that?!” my son exclaimed as he stormed to the trash can and threw his painting in. “You ruined everything.” For him this was an act of violence. It destroyed his vision. His sister came and took his painting from the trash. She said, “I don’t know why I did that. And I wish I could fix it for you, but it is your art. Don’t give up on it yet. Keep working on it. Maybe it can still be a beautiful butterfly.” In Philippians 1:6 it says, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Sometimes life gets messed up. Sometimes our vision becomes no longer possible. That doesn’t mean that God is done with us, or that we belong in the trash bin. God is completing the good work that was begun in you. You might have to work harder with God to help the vision be realized, but God is not done with you yet. Whether we make a mistake or the world thrusts something on us, there is an opportunity to let God work on it.

Loving God, remind us that no matter how messed up life seems you are with us and are working to complete the work of beauty you created them to be. Amen.

Susanna Orensky
is the Senior pastor at Deltona Christian Church in Deltona, Florida, where she has served for two years. She is completing her seminary work at Lexington Theological Seminary and has been approved for ordination. Susanna served as the student pastor at First Christian Church Daytona and as a youth pastor at Pershing Avenue Christian Church for 8 years. She and her husband Hal have three children, Ben and Rachel who are 14 years old twins and Eden who is 12. Susanna enjoys multigenerational ministry and is especially passionate about justice work.


A Little More... It's Okay to Make Mistake by Todd Parr

Our 2016 prayer vigil theme is Helping Our Children Heal from Violence. For more resources visit and 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

October 5: Illness and Healing

Like the woman in the scripture, I have a chronic illness,  She struggled with hers for 12 years.  I have been struggling with mine for about 18 years -- at least.  A chronic illness is a sickness for which there is no known cure.  Therefore, those experiencing it can find themselves dealing with it quite often for the rest of their lives.  It can make life challenging to be somewhat sick all the time.  Sometimes it can feel like your own body is committing violence against your soul.  With pain, limitations, a reordering of your life/schedule and friends and family not understanding fully what you are going through, it can feel as if you are troubled on every side.  Yet that is when we push through all that would crowd us out of the presence of Jesus.  That is when we stretch ourselves to ensure that we are touching the Lord.  It is miraculous that we receive power in our struggle when we remain in the presence of the Lord through it all.  We remember that no matter the struggle, God is with us.  No matter the challenge, we are never alone.  Then we can take a deep breath and feel ourselves relaxing. 

O God, You are the ultimate resting place for our souls.  You grant peace and strength in the struggle and joy in the journey.  For that, we are truly grateful.  Help us to be witnesses of Your grace and mercy so that others may know the healing for their souls that can be found in Your presence.  We pray this is the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Rev. Dr. Dara Cobb Lewis
who serves as a pastoral counselor in Belmont, NC.  She is a married mother who overcomes the challenges of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) daily by the grace of God and with the help of those who love her.

Our 2016 prayer vigil theme is Helping Our Children Heal from Violence. For more resources visit and 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October 4: The Burden of Hate

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” - Matthew 5:43-48

So often Jesus’ command, “love your enemy,” is understood as a burden -- I can stay clear of my enemies, I can even be kind to my enemies, but love them…well that’s a rather tall order. But when we consider the alternative to loving our enemies we quickly find not loving them is even more burdensome. As followers of Jesus we are called to transformation from the worldly ways of bullying, hostility, violence, and selfishness to that of understanding, peace, justice and love. Harboring anything other than love for anyone, especially our enemies, does not lead to transformation, in fact it leads to the opposite, destruction. Sadly, violence and abuse are realities in our world. We can chose to hate abusers, and in the short term, it may even be easier to hate them, but harboring hate in our hearts will only weigh us down, making it impossible to truly seek and establish justice and wholeness. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “I have decided to stick with love…Hate is too great a burden to bear." I believe this quote gets to the heart of what Jesus is teaching in Matthew 5. We can respond to abuse and abusers with hate and hostility but that simply feeds the flames of injustice and hate. Hate cannot be used to abolish hate, the only way to overcome abuse, bullying, violence, and hate, is love. Loving our enemies is not a burden, on the contrary, loving our enemies is essential in liberation from our enemies.

God may we be grateful we are called to love and not burdened by hate.

Rev. Daniel H. Kovaly
is a graduate of the University of Houston with a degree in Music Composition and Phillips Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree. He is an Ordained Disciples minister and is currently Senior Minister at Bullittsville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Burlington, Kentucky.
Our 2016 prayer vigil theme is Helping Our Children Heal from Violence. For more resources visit and 

Monday, October 3, 2016

October 3: Being a Helper

John 9:1-12

In this story, Jesus teaches the disciples that people who are having a hard time have not done something wrong. Sometimes, people around us face difficulties so that God and God's followers can be there to help them. When approaching the blind man in the story, Jesus acts as a helper. Being a helper is one of the best ways that we can be like Jesus and do what God wants us to do each and every day. When our friends are having a bad day, our brothers and sisters have a lot of chores to do, or our moms and dads are busy, being a helper allows us to be like Jesus and make someone else's day a little easier. Sometimes when we see bad things happening in our world it easy to be scared or sad, but if we look for the people helping to stop the bad things and helping the people affected by the bad things we can see God at work in our communities. 

Loving Jesus, show us how to be like you. Show us how to be a helper and show us how to find the helpers doing God's work in the world around us. Amen. 

Originally, from Manchester, Missouri, Will O'Brien is a member of Union Avenue Christian Church. Will studied Religion and Arabic at the University of Rochester and served as a Peace Intern with the Disciples Peace Fellowship. Currently, Will lives in Cairo, Egypt where he is a Global Ministries Global Mission Intern serving with the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services. 


Our 2016 prayer vigil theme is Helping Our Children Heal from Violence. For more resources visit and 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

October 2: Our Children Cry Out

Acts 8: 26-31

One of the toughest acts to carry out is to rise up from a position of comfort and engage in a task that requires our full commitment and engagement.  Many parents or parental figures can recall moments when feeling sheer exhaustion, they experienced the blessing of a place of rest and comfort, a sweet zone where they hoped no one would interrupt their sleep.  However, I am sure that most of these beloved caregivers would report that on more than one occasion, the cherished state of comfort they had found was interrupted by the call or cry of a child who needed care in the middle of the night.  During moments like these, parents process so many thoughts: Maybe I’m not really hearing the call; or maybe somebody else will respond to the cry; and the central thought: my child needs me; as tired as I may be, I must respond, I must get up!  During an era where our societal narrative so often includes accounts of violence involving and impacting children in their schools, their neighborhoods and even their homes, we must “get up!”  No matter the actual time of day, for our children, it’s the middle of the night, and they are crying out for help, for healing, for love.  We are at a point in time where we must accept collective responsibility to live as agents of God’s healing of the hearts, minds, and bodies of all of our children, and to function as ambassadors of God’s hope who safeguard children’s health, safety and positive development. Like Phillip, who in response to God’s call gave up his sweet zone and comfort spot, and got up and traversed the wilderness highway from Jerusalem to Gaza, where he would guide an Ethiopian eunuch into a relationship with Jesus Christ, we, too, must respond to God’s call for us to sacrifice our sweet zones of comfort in order to get up for our children!  Commit to their healing; engage in actions that give them peace.  Respect them!  Protect them!  Never neglect them!  Get up!

Prayer:  O living, loving and liberating God, give us the level of fortitude that required in order for us to break the chains of personal and societal comfort, so that we may embrace, embody and demand the things that make for peace and healing of all of our children.  Amen 

Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan Jr.
is a fourth generation Disciple who recently celebrated the 30th Anniversary of his ordination to ministry. He is the President of the Disciples Justice Action Network (DJAN), and has recently completed a stint as Executive Director of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, a national victims' families-led anti-death penalty organization.  Dr. Sullivan also served as Regional Minister and President of the Northwest and Pennsylvania regions, respectively.

A Little More...Reconciliation Ministry:

Our 2016 prayer vigil theme is Helping Our Children Heal from Violence. For more resources visit and