Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dear to Me

I never thought I'd say this, but I can't wait to wake up early tomorrow.

It seems a strange thing to say, doesn't it? For a teenager? For anyone who's not six? I agree.

I certainly wasn't excited to wake up early this morning and go to "Sunday school training" at church. We have a large body, and nearly a thousand children come through our doors to learn about Jesus every week while their parents go to church. Because we have so many children to teach, we have to have lots of volunteers to do the teaching. Today (this morning in particular) was the big training, teaching old volunteers new curriculum and giving new volunteers the orientation of sorts.

I've taught kindergarten at the Saturday night service for the past three years, and I have to admit that at times I have been far less than enthusiastic. I go because I feel that, as a Christian and a member of the church, it's part of my job to help teach the next generation of children. But the fact that I was diligent about serving did not mean that I had a servant's attitude.

In fact, many days I arrived at class tired, frustrated, and unable or unwilling to communicate the love of God to the kids who came in to hear it.

This year, I felt God calling me away from serving that same kindergarten Saturday night class, and moving on to something different. They needed volunteers for third grade at the 11:10 Sunday morning service, so I decided to go for it.

I don't know what happened today at teacher training, but it was like a switch was flipped on inside of me. I cannot wait to teach third grade.

I don't know what exactly got me so excited about it. Leader training was fun and interesting, but nothing to change my attitude and heart so drastically. It must have been God, opening a facet of my heart for these third graders that I didn't even know existed.

I am ecstatic about teaching these kids how to be a light to the world around them, about showing them that the Bible is your sword and that prayer is like a lightsaber (the class is outer space-themed). I can't wait to pray over these kids individually, to be able to invest in their lives, to be able to show them that God loves them, and that they, in turn, can love others like He does!

I consider it an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to teach these kids about God's love. It is my prayer that God would continue to prepare my heart to teach these kids, and to learn from them too. I pray that He guides each of them with His hand, through each and every day, and that they can use what they discover in class to be ambassadors for Jesus in their own schools, in their own homes, to their own friends.

Children are such an important part of the body of Christ. They are the next generation, the innocent, the least of these. The Bible says that they will "inherit the kingdom of heaven."It's our job as growing and maturing members of the body to lead them and support them and encourage them. I hate to think that while I haven't been neglecting this job, I haven't been treating it with the reverence and respect and effort it deserves.

"Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us."
                  - 1 Thessalonians 2:8

It is my prayer and my hope that God will transform my heart and the hearts of everyone serving the precious children at my church, and at churches around the world into hearts full of "so fond an affection" for these kids that we couldn't help but share both the gospel and "our own lives" with them. 

I pray that God's precious third graders that He has placed in my path will become "dear to me."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What the Wiggles Taught Me About Life

Chances are, if you were a child in the last ten or fifteen years, you've heard of the Wiggles. Comprised of four men, a strange flower-eating dinosaur, and a pirate that tickles people, the popular kids' TV show, The Wiggles has been entertaining children and driving their older siblings insane for years.

Before last night, the Wiggles was pretty much the bane of my existence. The thought of hearing "toot-toot chugga-chugga big red car!" or "fruit salad... yummy! yummy!" again made me want to bang my head against a wall over and over again.

Levi and Evan, however, do not share my feelings. In fact, Levi adores the Wiggles. He even has an Anthony doll (it's even creepier than it sounds). So you can imagine our excitement when someone gave us tickets to see their live show at the Ryman. Our excitement for Levi, that is. I had no interest in seeing the Wiggles live. Actually, if there's such a thing as negative interest, that's what I had.

Even I didn't quite know what I was thinking when I said I wanted to go. I was surprised at myself. I couldn't' quite believe I was voluntarily putting myself through hours of the Wiggles. My best guess is that it really had nothing to do with the Wiggles themselves, but rather with Levi. I was excited to see his reaction, to see how happy it made him.

So last night, carrying a red backpack, and holding one small, but very excited hand, I walked into the Ryman with Levi and Dad to see the Wiggles live.

I don't know that I've ever seen Levi as surprised and excited as he was when the Wiggles came out on that stage! He was dancing and clapping and singing and yelling. He was a very happy boy.

But never so happy as when Murray Wiggle came up to the balcony to collect the roses that some members of the audience had brought for the strange flower-ivore dinosaur. I was praying with every fiber of my being that Murray would even walk past us, just so Levi could get a glimpse of him up close. I nearly lost my breath when Murray came right up to Levi, gave him a high-five, and told him he liked the guitars on his t-shirt. Levi was overjoyed! "Murray, Murray!" he kept saying over and over.

Truly, there are few times that I remember being happier. Seeing the joy on Levi's face just nearly burst my heart wide open! I teared up. Yes, at a Wiggles concert. A Wiggles concert is the last place on earth I thought I would cry, but there you have it.

My respect for the Wiggles, especially Murray, skyrocketed. And, would you believe it, Murray deliberately sought out each and every one of the special needs children in that balcony and talked to them. My heart was so full. When I got home, I wrote Murray Wiggle a thank-you note. I don't know if he'll ever read it, but it was well worth writing it.

What struck me the most about the whole thing was Murray's intentionality. He intentionally spent time with those kids who had special needs because he wanted them to feel special.

How often do we forget to be intentional in our lives? Focusing only on how other people treat us instead of how we treat other people? How often do we neglect to be intentional with our friends, our families, and those that look up to us?

I've had the incredible opportunity to help mentor a group of rising ninth-grade girls this year at my church, and intentionality has really been brought to the forefront with me. I remember being their age, and having a "big sister" who was an older girl in the youth church. I remember how special it made me feel when my "big sister" would seek me out and ask me how I was, or take me to go get coffee.

I've realized that regardless of whether I continue leading these girls or not, I need to be intentional with them. I want them to feel as special as I did when my "big sister" took me to Starbucks. I want them to feel as good as I did when my summer mentor texted me to see how I was. I want to be that for them.

More than that, though, I want to be that person for everyone in my life. I don't want to be the person that waits on other people to come to me. I want to be there for them. So that they know that they are loved, they are special, they are worth my time and energy. Because God thinks they're special, that they're worth it. And if they can see just a tiny glimpse of who God is through me, any amount of time, energy, money, or anything else will have been completely and totally worth it.