Growing Season

Tall pine trees at sunset cloudy skyI still remember the day I turned 20.

I can picture myself walking across campus at the University of Wyoming, having had to turn up my collar and zip my jacket to my chin in order to keep from shivering in the crisp autumn air.

It was all a sort of vivid reality check – a sensory assault, really. As if the realization that I wasn’t a teenager anymore wasn’t tangible enough, enter that cold north wind whose breath sent brittle leaves skipping across the pavement – a sort of prophetic song and dance to usher in the season’s first snowfall, which that year had to come in September.

I had been married for just over a month on the day that I turned 20. Maybe it was because I was in multiple poetry classes at the time, but I remember my thoughts unfolding in rhyme and cadence as I walked through that milestone morning of awakening.

It was the day that I grew up.

I don’t have a memory like this to accompany any other birthday (isn’t that strange?). Something changed in me on that day – I can’t explain it, I don’t understand it – but I remember it as if it happened yesterday, especially when the first hints of winter come around.

Years later, a thirty-something with life experience and a growing family to boot, I caught that same wind-of-change as I made my nightly rounds at the YMCA camp where I worked and lived. The chain on the old flagpole clanged loudly as I walked past, my feet clacking on the wooden boardwalk between the old camp buildings. The chill in my nostrils woke everything up inside of me, giving me the feeling that I was on the brink of something new and that everything was about to change… again.

A song came to mind on my walk that night – the lyrics and a YouTube link are here, for you to enjoy and consider today.

Maybe autumn-changing-into-winter doesn’t strike you as prime growing season, but I assure you it is. Or, it can be.

May the chill in the air awaken you to God’s new thing – and stir your soul to holiness.

Wind and Spirit, by Chris Rice

I hear a sound and turn to see a new direction on that rusty weather vane

Suddenly the dead brown leaves are stirred to scratch their circle dances down the lane

And now the sturdy oaks start clappin’ with the last few stubborn leaves that won’t let go

I can hear Old Glory snappin’ and her tattered rope now clangin’ against the pole

And my breath is snatched away and a chill runs up my spine

Feels like something’s on the way, so I look up to the sky, I look up to the sky

And from the corners of creation comes the Father’s holy breath

Ridin’ on a storm with tender fierceness, stirring my soul to holiness, stirring my soul to holiness

I see the lifeless dust now resurrected, swirling up against my window pane

And carried ‘cross the distance come the long awaited fragrances of earth and rain

And out across the amber field the slender grasses bend and bow and kiss the ground

And in them I see the beauty of the souls who let the spirit lay them down

And it takes my breath away. and a tear comes to my eye

Feels like something’s on the way, so I look up to the sky, I look up to the sky

And from the corners of creation comes the Father’s holy breath

Ridin’ on a storm with tender fierceness, stirring my soul to holiness, stirring my soul to holiness

And like a mighty wind blows with a force I cannot see, I will open wide my wings, I will open wide my wings, I will open wide my wings and let the spirit carry me

From the corners of creation comes the Father’s holy breath

Ridin’ on a storm with tender fierceness, stirring my soul to holiness, stirring my soul to holiness

I hear a sound and turn to see a new direction on that rusty weather vane.

Hands of Blessing L4L.20

Food of Love

Image by Collin Key via FlickrThe WORD

The WORD

“The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: ‘Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.’ Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.” Mark 10:13-16 (The Message)

I’m picturing the children in my church family right now. The ones whose parents faithfully bring (or drag) them to church every week. The ones who spill things on the carpets. The ones who make paper airplanes out of their service folders. The ones who fill their plates with the choice snacks during Fellowship time. The ones who kick balls in the courtyard (and manage to get balls stuck on the roof, in the trees and occasionally hit an innocent worshiper in passing).

Get a picture in your head of the children in your life and read this passage again.

The APP

Why do we bring our children to worship if not in hopes that Jesus might somehow touch them?

The answer to that question is probably closely linked with our own answer to the same: why do we attend churches and worship services and Bible studies? Is it sincerely because we hope to get close enough to Jesus for Him to lay His hands of blessing on us? Or does it have more to do with obligation? Tradition? Ritual? Social circles? Appearances? Habit?

The parents in today’s Gospel story knew that a touch from Jesus could heal, restore and forgive. As eager as adults were to get close enough to touch the hem of His clothing, you can imagine how parents might have hoped to see their children blessed by being in His presence as well.

Be honest, though. You can also relate to how the disciples must have felt.

  • This is important ministry that Jesus is doing!
  • To be in His company is a really big deal – a privilege! A gift!
  • These kids are just goofing off and getting in the way of His teaching and healing.
  • They’re keeping those who need Jesus from being able to get close.
  • Where ARE the parents of these kids, anyways?
  • Somebody get these kids a babysitter!

Their reaction isn’t unlike our own, is it? I can’t tell you how many times words like these have been spoken (or unspoken) by adults in the church, concerned that the distractions created by children are wreaking havoc with the ability of the grown-ups to worship and study on Sunday mornings.

  • This is an important meeting that we’re having!
  • To be here in worship is a really big deal – a privilege! A gift!
  • These kids are just goofing off and getting in the way of the Pastor’s teaching. They’re distracting the adults from their focus on Jesus!
  • Where ARE these kids’ parents, anyways?
  • Somebody get these kids a babysitter!

Smacks, doesn’t it? Yet this is often how our worshiping communities react to the influence of children on the adult-centered worship experiences we’ve created. We want to meet with Jesus in the sanctuary, so we send the children down the hall, in blatant disregard of Jesus’ very heated words:

“Don’t ever get between them and me.”

If children are, as Jesus pointed out, at the very center of the life of His Kingdom, how dare we lay hands on them to distance them from our encounters with God when what Jesus wants to do is lay His hands of BLESSING on them!

Hands of care and concern.

Hands of gentleness and protection.

Hands that render a touch filled with love and acceptancesomething that most of us (and most of them) are hungering for in our affection-starved lives.

Accepting the children around us, as messy and loud as they might be, is prerequisite to our participation in the Kingdom Jesus speaks of. Until we learn to see the ‘distractions’ that they cause as divine appointments with the Savior Himself, we will miss out on the richness of Kingdom life as it is lived in relationship to the lost and the least.

Until we remember that in the year 2014, the literal hands of Jesus ARE you and me; we are the ones withholding the blessing that He longs to shower on the children in our homes, in our churches and in our world.

I don’t know about you, but I heard the tone of His voice when He told them, “Don’t push these children away.”

I think He meant it.

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