Tag Archives: church attendance

An open apology to kids about knowing God, faith

I apologize.  

As I continue to study and to read the Bible, I realize I failed.  I failed to teach you faith.  I failed to practice the parenting principles that my own parents taught me.  I failed to share what I know to be my own life foundation.

I apologize.

As I grew up, both Mom and Dad lived a Christian lifestyle.  They modeled it by the very routines of our day and our week.  They never demanded that we participate, but then we would never have refused to follow their instructions.  It never even occurred to me that we should question the practices.

Therefore, why did I not follow those deeply entrenched practices on my own?  I did some, but some I did not.  Going to church each Sunday was a well-preserved practice and included attending Sunday school.

Because Dad always went with us each Sunday, I never thought that my own husband would miss church.  I thought that was just part of the agreement in a marriage.  When I first had to go to church alone, I ached. It was so wrong, yet I failed to make an issue of the change.  I just went—alone and alone with the kids.

I apologize.

Another practice that I failed in was maintaining the practice of the meal’s blessing.  We had three meals a day growing up and that meant three mealtime graces.  

I admit that the practice weakened during the college years because prayer is private and mealtime in the dorm’s cafeteria was far from private.  The meals’ grace disappeared.  Oh, I could have said the grace privately, but I don’t remember doing so.  And when I moved into an apartment, I could have resumed the practice then.  But I didn’t.

Then came marriage and meals were often in front of the TV.  No table grace then.  

And then came kids.  I should have known that I needed to add in the meal’s prayer, but I did not and did not even approach the subject with Dad.  I failed.

Then life changed with the divorce, and the opportunity to add in open prayer was there—but I hesitated.  It was not until the preschool grace developed and later remembered that the simple table grace resurfaced.  I failed to do so in a timely manner, but now it seems so important, so routine, and so simple.

I apologize.

Now the two practices of church attendance and table grace are just two small, concrete pieces to the Christian lifestyle that one can wear openly, but there is more about which I need to apologize.

Faith education is a critical failure.  I know that many argue that as children develop, they need to learn about God on their own, along their own timeline, in their own way or by their own experiences.  But how does that work?

Having been a teacher for 30 some years, I know that learning is developmental.  I know that all individuals can learn.  I know that we all learn differently.  I know that we learn by seeing, by hearing, and by doing.  

Yet, did I teach faith in my own home. No.  I realize now that I counted on the kids learning via other people’s teaching.  I delegated the task to others and did not take my own initiative to teach the very foundation of my own life.  I failed.

For some reason I thought that I was doing enough, and I was not.  I thought that since my kids lived in my home they would be able to figure out the importance of faith by osmosis.  

I did not figure in what would happen when outside influences or the divorce would create an entirely different learning environment than I felt I was maintaining.  I neglected my kids’ faith education.

I apologize.

How easy it would be to just ignore the issue, but I cannot stand seeing what life without God does to people.  I see so few who seem to have an internal fountain of joy shining from within them; and I know they are missing the joy I experience knowing God in my own life.

What I should have done is been verbally open about how God is part of the daily world in which I exist:

I should have spoken about how God created this universe and we are to care for it.  

I should have shown how all the different birds are part of God’s creation.  

I should have shown how farmers are key to feeding God’s people and for protecting this world that supplies all we need to grow crops and to nurture the livestock that feeds us.

I should have explained how important it is to treat each and every individual with love, just like we want to be treated.

I should have shown them that good leaders do care about their subordinates making any business or organization work smoothly.

I should have . . . and the list continues.

I apologize that I failed.

But, today, I want to put a stop to the failures and speak out—directly—to my kids.  God is good.  Whether you can ever fully understand the concept or not of an omniscient God, a creator, a spirit, a being, or whatever, I know that you must know what a difference God makes in my life.

More than anything I want you to experience the joy of this life experience that we are given.  I want you to demonstrate to all those you interact with that the power of loving one another is priceless.  I want you to share the love of life that you have because God loves you so much that he provides it.

And, I want you to know firsthand the value of studying the literature of the Bible.  We use words as a tool, and the Bible is filled with words to implement in your lives to manage all the ups and downs.  

As human beings, who do have the freedom to chose right and wrong, who do have the mental capabilities of analyzing history, science, social science, and experience, and who face all the challenges of living among believers and non-believers, we must learn all that we can about God.

Knowing God personally makes it possible to manage the evil forces that co-exist in our world. 

Knowing God personally makes it possible to live a joy-filled life even when we are confronted by a life challenge whether physical, mental, financial, or even a natural disaster.  

I apologize that I did not arm you with the knowledge of God that makes life good now and on into eternity.

I apologize that it has taken this many years to speak up.

I apologize that I did not teach you how to pray so you can always feel the reality of God with you, by you and for you.

Hear my prayer oh Lord, 

I am just a child of yours

     always learning of your vastness.

I am a child who has wasted time

     sharing what I value with my own.

I am a child who whines to you

     that my kids may not know you on their own.

Forgive me, Lord, 

     for my failures to teach my kids of You.

Forgive me, Lord,

     for wasting time in sharing faith out loud.

Forgive me, Lord, for whining

     rather than doing as much as I can.

Guide me to speak out loud 

     the truth of your love for us.

Guide me to live out loud

     my faith that so others may see.

Guide me to love my kids

     and all others as you commanded.

Thank you for the words of the faithful

     that share knowledge of faithful living.

Thank you for the open communication

     through our prayers.

Thank you for your guidance

     through the Holy Spirit within us.

May I be the parent unafraid 

     to love not only my kids but all your kids.

May all your children experience your great love

May they know the joy of loving you, 

         of loving life, and         

of loving one another.  –Amen

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How to take God on vacation

given on Sunday, July 26, 2015 (I was not in the pulpit on July 19.)

How to take God on Vacation

Summer brings vacation time for most of those in the United States. With school in session for 9-10 months of the year, summer traditions have included going to church camp, vacation Bible school, picnics, family reunions and vacations. Sadly though, vacations have a way of skipping God.

How can Christians skip over God in their lives? Well, vacations take us to new locations and change daily routines. You may only be gone a few days, but typically that includes a Sunday. Away from home, many chose not to attend church on Sunday morning.

In fact, I doubt that many weekly churchgoers know that as a member of a UM church, there is an expectation members should not miss more than four Sundays a year. Church attendance is one of John Wesley’s acts of piety. Yet, on vacation finding a church to visit is typically not on the itinerary and it takes God out of our vacations.

Taking God on vacation means locating a church to visit. Maybe there is tourist information you can check to locate a historically significant church to visit. Another possibility is to visit a different denomination to learn about other churches, or maybe attend a family member’s hometown church. Some campsites even offer a Sunday service that might be on Saturday evening or at a different time on Sunday.

Of course, vacation is for self-renewal and another possibility to take God with you is to design your own worship time. Maybe you need to step away from the family and find a quiet spot to read, to reflect, and to pray privately. If you are camping, nothing compares to a quiet time in God’s world looking at the lake or a river or a mountain or a canyon. God’s world becomes the sanctuary and it can be any place you stop and focus on God.

Speaking of camping, the kids home for summer have options, too. The tradition of going to church camp still continues even if it changes the format. Nothing requires going to church camp, but it provides opportunities to grow in faith as well as provide a break in the summer—for the kids and the parents.

Of course, some kids have other camp opportunities. Maybe it is 4-H camp or a favorite sport camp. These are not necessarily church-related, but God can go along, too. Each time young people learn how to interact with other kids in a Christian manner, they are learning to live their faith. God does not walk away from anybody, young or old, just because they go camping or on vacation.

Young people brought up in church and in a Christian family, learn how to take God with them. God is there to protect them. God is there to give them the strength to try new and different things. And parents, they can let the kids go off by themselves knowing that God is with them.

But what about the grown ups? How come they take off and forget to take God with them? Maybe they don’t, but sometimes their actions do not reflect their Christian standards. Sometimes there is a little too much indulgence in food and alcohol. Entertainment may not follow their beliefs like gambling too much or going to entertainment that is questionable. Why simply overspending while gone could be a problem.

Taking God on vacation is just as important for adults as it is for kids. Maybe there is no church camp, but there are retreats adults can attend to renew or revive their faith journey. During spiritual retreats, the itinerary includes worship times, classes, and quiet reflection time. In these retreats, maybe participants are not taking God with them, but God is taking them.

Probably taking God on vacation is much simpler than one might imagine. Living a Christian lifestyle, God is always present. In this week’s lectionary, the reading from Psalm 14 and Ephesians 3 emphasize how God is always present with us. The readings remind us that it is important to stay connected with God all the time.

On vacation, God’s world is revealed to us in new and different ways. Our country has taken steps to preserve some of the natural wonders and to recreate recreational sites of beauty, too. This is God’s world and vacation time is perfect to thank God for all he created. Maybe the view across the lake takes one’s breath away. God is there and you tell him how awesome he is.

Vacation sites are filled with natural beauty, but some sites are human-made. The gifts God has given humans have created glorious architectural structures. Some gifts are shared through artistic creations that hang in museums; some are heard from a stage; and others are found at a table with tantalizing scents. God is there; God is everywhere.

God is on duty whether you are struggling to locate a specific address or dealing with a flat tire along the roadside. God is there to protect or to send help. Maybe the person pulling up beside you is a stranger; but when they stop to offer help, they are the hands and feet of Jesus.

Of course, you, too, can be the arms of Jesus for someone else, too. Christians treat others, as they want to be treated; and the server at the diner looks to be having a bad day. Take the opportunity to put God into action. A kind word can do wonders; or maybe a question and offering the time to listen to her answer shows God cares.

Taking God on vacation really is important. Not only do you need God for protection and security; but also others need you to share God with them. Mission trips are another way to vacation with God. It may be hard to offer your vacation time to help others in crisis, but the benefit may be just the prescription your spiritual life needs. The results of the mission trip can be evident at the site, but the lasting results within one’s soul might be more valuable.

Planning a vacation does not mean that everything has to change. Just make sure to look for God’s gifts around you. Offer yourself as God’s servant when opportunities pop up. Pray.

Pray all the time whether it is in thanksgiving, in praise, or in supplication. Just pray. Maybe the prayer is for the drivers along side you on the roads or maybe for that server in the restaurant. Offer prayers for the natural wonders dazzling your eyes. Maybe you continue prayers asking for God’s guidance at the job to which you will return.

God is pleased when his children make decisions that demonstrate their faithfulness. Certainly it is easy to think only how the vacation is going to be just for personal fun, but vacationing with God enriches our lives spiritually and assures God of our desire to be in a right relationship with him. And when your return to work and to your daily life, others, too, will se what a vacation with God can do for one’s quality of Christian life that comes with the promise of eternal life—or eternal vacation.

Closing prayer

Dear God,

Summer is half way over for our community.

Many friends and family find ways to vacation

And we know you are with them always.

Thank you for their safety and their fun.

With summer half way yet to go,

Help us strengthen our Christian lives on vacation.

As eyes see your glory in nature and made by humans,

Hear our praises and accept our thanks.

And as summer vacations come to a close,

Let us find the spiritual and physical renewal

Needed to continue along our journeys.

May others see you in our lives and ask why.

May others find vacationing with God a sample

Of life ever lasting along side you and your son. –Amen

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