On most Sundays except during the summer we have a Word for the children. I think all of us enjoy these just as much as the children do, and sometimes maybe even more than they do. I find that doing a Children’s Word is often more challenging than doing a sermon for adults since in 5 minutes I need to get to the very essence, the core of what I want to say and yet do it in a way that is engaging, holds a squirmy 5 year olds’ interest and contains some profound truth that they can carry away with them…Obviously, all of this does not often come together all at the same time…and that is why it is so challenging…
Today I want to share with you some profound words FROM the children.
Over the past 2 years we have asked the children to write a note to God stating what they wanted to offer God that week. We did this because the ritual of offering something to God was somehow getting lost in the hurried exchange of money from parent to child right before or during the Children’s Word. But also it seemed that we were missing an important chance to begin to explore and help our kids learn about what it means to give to God. Over these last two years Celebration Circle has collected the Children’s offerings and for lack of any other place, gave them to me. Every Sunday I get home from church and read the offerings that the kids have made and I am always deeply moved.
The notes are now all written by the children themselves in their own handwriting. There are often pictures, sometimes a story, but always something unexpected.
One child wrote, “God, Thank you for theatres.” This is an offering of thankfulness. Undoubtedly this child had gone to see a movie and had had a great time and on Saturday night or Sunday morning when asked what he wanted to give to God that week he remembered the wonderful time at the theatre and watching that movie and was grateful.
I have to say that I am not always very good at offering God my thankfulness. I am really good at offering my anxiety fearfulness, and fretfulness, but I am often not very expressive of my thankfulness. This is not to say that I am not thankful, but I think I take things for granted and do not express my gratefulness in the same way that I vent my fear, frustration, or anxiety. I have become inured to the things that go well, the things that give me joy or the things that are happening around me that are good and life giving. Now, I have never thanked God for theatres, but I really should. I love movies! I love the way the story unfolds, I love the creative way people tell their stories and share their gifts with us in that way. There is a lot to be thankful for as you watch a movie in a theatre, and that’s even before the popcorn and the Sour Babies. So why don’t I express that more often?
How can I express my gratefulness to God.
Another child wrote: “I want to give God $,” and then drew a picture of a dollar bill. This is a more traditional offering. I have heard that this child has said this at home fairly often. That somehow she chafes at the idea that she can give God just something written and can’t give God money. This may mean that she has learned all that she needs to learn from this process but what seems wonderful to me is that she said in her note that she WANTS to give God money.
I grew up giving God money. It was just something we did in our family. Once I got to the point of getting an allowance there was a discussion of what to give God from that amount and as my allowance increase my giving to God increased. There was never any discussion of wanting to or not wanting to it was just something that was done. After Keith and I got married and we began going to church again we just fell in to the habit of giving. There was not a lot of discussion about it. This is not to say that I don’t want to give, but what I realize is that I have lost that sense of imperative, the wanting/needing to give to God, and somehow in the roteness of my giving I have lost something precious- a sense of soulfulness in my giving to God.
How can I get that back?
How can I be more soulful about my giving?
Another child wrote a long story sharing important things about her life like how she was scared of monsters when she was 3. Let me rea d this portion to you….
“When I was 3, I was afraid of the dark. My Mom got me a teddy bear. I was scared of my monster toys. I thought they would come alive and eat me. I was really scared.”
This is one that is a constant struggle, isn’t it? I am always afraid of the monsters in my life- the “What will people think?” monster and the “If people know that about me they will think I am _____” monster, or the “Worry” monster that makes me feel that unless I worry constantly about things they won’t turn out right….
Vulnerability is one of the most profound offerings that I can give God. I am not sure that it is so much for God’s sake though as it is for myself. As I become more conscious and more willing to show myself for what I am, and let go of the illusion that I can’t be loved for who I am or that I cannot possibly control anything, I begin to see how much I need God and God through others to help me live a life giving life. And that process makes me somehow more useful to God. Our lectionary readings about Elijah and Elisha are interesting on this point. Elisha had a bad case of the “I am not good enough,” monster. So much so that he wanted a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. And yet in spite of his own personal weaknesses or maybe it was because he knew of them and began to trust that in God they didn’t matter, he went on to become a profound prophet and leader of
How can I let go of the monsters in my life?
“I want to give God a coffee cup made with love” say one child and another says, I want to give God a dog and a big kiss from my family. Love is the greatest of all fruits of the spirit the Bible says. I must say though that I tend to focus on loving God by loving others or loving creation or life rather than loving God directly. I have to say that it has never really occurred to me to give God a kiss! But the experiences that I have had where I truly felt God’s presence were feelings of intense love- A deep, all knowing, forgiving love that surrounded me. I am sure that presence would not be surprised to be loved back….God would probably appreciate a kiss from me given all that is on Her plate!
How can I love God more intentionally?
“God, I want to give you a red balloon.” What an extraordinary offering! What are the implications of a red balloon? Joy! Fun! Play! Laughter! Wonder! And then to slowly see the balloon shrivel or suddenly go “pop” and to be gone and the tears that follow….
Maybe the most profound offering of all is for me as one of God’s creatures to really and truly love and embrace life. I need to remember to have fun, to play, to experience loss and hurt, to suffer with others, and to wonder at the amazing things that I am surrounded by every day.
Last week Koinonia had the kids for Sunday school. After working with the Noah story we decided to take the three kids for some ice cream at the store in Takoma Park. We got to the store and the kids were ordering. The littlest one was three and couldn’t see the choices so I held him up so that he could and he saw this amazing pink one and said he wanted that. I read the label and it said “Bubble gum.” I wasn’t sure if he would like it but after getting a little taste he still said he wanted it and so we ordered a cone for him. He LOVED it! He ate the whole thing!
After we finished our ice cream we left the store and right on the Sidewalk was a doggy convention with about four dogs…The oldest girl in our little group was in heaven! She LOVES dogs!
I think you get the point…The childlike delight, the exclamation points that follow every experience no matter how small. Life lived fully in the moment.
How can I embrace my God-given life fully?
The children have given me these challenging and profound answers. I find that offering time has become much more soulful for me now since we began this process with the kids. I am challenged each week by something I read. Offering something to God has moved beyond just the check that I write and place in the plate each Sunday…I am beginning to ask myself during that quiet time… What will I give to God this week?
I invite you to join me…What will you give to God this week?