"I love this song!" I said, not noticing that she was pulling all those pages out.
"Read the whole thing," she told me.
The first verse was good: "I will call upon the Lord/who is worthy to be praised/ So shall I be/ saved from my enemies."
But the chorus had a kicker to it: "The Lord liveth!/ and blessed be the Lord/ and may the God of our salvation be exhausted!"
(It should read, "be exalted," by the way.)
There's a reason we call for "authenticity" in youth ministry today, and this story really throws light on how foolish it is to try and make the Christian life look easy to nonbelievers, new believers or anyone else. It's ridiculous to hide the hard times we have and the difficult seasons we have to go through (I'm in one... it's one of the reasons I haven't written much lately) because if we try and keep a face up in front of people, and then they somehow discover that we're not all content and perfect, our whole faith is going to look iffy to them.
The mom who mentioned this story to me yesterday, before I saw the paper itself, seemed a little shaken by it, but I had a thought:
Even if Mother Teresa did feel lost, did wonder if Christ had really forsaken her, she still obeyed the command He'd given her, still served the people who needed her most. And thus, no matter what any writings say, she is still an example of true faith.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "Only the obedient believe, and only believers obey."
The question was "Why do we end prayers with 'Amen'?"
Smart Kid: "In Hebrew, it means 'Let it be done.'"
Really Smart Kid: "Then shouldn't we say, 'Amen, please?'"
"My gut feeling is that the odds are better than 20 percent, maybe better than even. I think it’s highly likely that civilization could endure to produce those supercomputers. And if owners of the computers were anything like the millions of people immersed in virtual worlds like Second Life, SimCity and World of Warcraft, they’d be running simulations just to get a chance to control history — or maybe give themselves virtual roles as Cleopatra or Napoleon.
It’s unsettling to think of the world being run by a futuristic computer geek, although we might at last dispose of that of classic theological question: How could God allow so much evil in the world? For the same reason there are plagues and earthquakes and battles in games like World of Warcraft. Peace is boring, Dude."
I'm a proud Goodwill shopper and talk about donating clothes and buying used with my kids fairly often, as a form of stewardship, and some of the folks (guys especially) I talk to are really uncomfortable with it. Since every designer store in the world, it seems, has a location in St. Louis, this story caught my eye today:
"Back to school shoppers stock up at resale stores"
"While parents are increasingly shopping resale, another trend is on the horizon: Teenage shoppers, who once never would have set foot in such stores, also are on the rise."Being green is cool, and we are in the recycling business," Maurice said. "Definitely the attitude (among teens) has changed. Also the kids are happier because they are getting more."
The youth group was busy while I was preaching. They were busy putting a whoopee cushion under my chair, and then re-inflating it a couple of times when I'd managed to sit on it while there was too much noise (hymns, etc) for it to be embarrassing.
Maybe they didn't get all of the challenge I set out for them in the sermon, but they're comfortable enough to hang around while I teach about God, which is a great start!
The two girls featured on the show (they had the same birthday, so shared the party) asked all their guests to donate money to St. Jude Children's Hospital rather than bringing gifts, and over the course of the party raised $50,000 for the hospital.
Which is a good thing. $50,000 worth of research and care for kids with cancer-- who could fault them for that?
The trouble is, the party cost $421,000, eight times the value of the donation. Nearly half a million dollars spent on celebrating two children and making them feel like rockstars. Does the donation, set against that obscene self-aggrandizement, have any value left? If the two students had spent the half-million on the hospital, and the 50,000 on the party, wouldn't that have made more of a difference?
When Jesus said, "The measure with which you give is the measure which will be given to you," did he have this sort of thing in mind? I'm not sure quite what to think-- I want to give those two girls credit for their generosity, but when their party cost eight times what they gave away, and the money for the donation came from their guests and not themselves, how generous was it?
When I told one of my students about it, she let me get about a sentence into the story and interrupted me to say, "Just to let you know, I don't want one!" According to her, it was far too much work.
So that made me start to think about how this weeklong bread might be a good activitiy for a small-group Bible study during a series about friendship and what it means to be a friend. You have to be committed to this bread or the starter will go bad. It takes some waiting; the bag leaks odd smells through the days when it sits on the counter; it's harder to make than most bread because there's a specific order to the steps. It's like a good friendship. (Which, of course, is why I suspect the Amish named it the way they did.)
"Of course it's hard. Anything that's worth doing is hard," I told a student one day. But to see that there's an investment required to build up good, Christian friendships, this kind of concrete, tasty project might be just what students need.
Here's the recipe:
Amish Friendship Bread Starter
Amish Friendship Bread (requires the starter)
I was sitting in Starbucks the other day, reading “The New Faithful” by Colleen Carroll, and noticed a job interview happening at a table across the cafe from me. This made me think about the number of job interviews I'd seen happening there since I moved to St. Louis-- every time I walk into a Starbucks store, someone's trying to get a job, either at the store, or meeting an interviewer at this convenient place.
The purpose of a job interview is to find out how well the person applying will fit in and what he/she will contribute to the company. One tactic that interviewers use all the time is asking challenging or tricky questions, trying to find out how well people think on their feet or how much they know. After the interview, the applicant will have an idea of where he's a strong choice for the job, and a set of weaknesses she can work on before the next meeting.
It made me think about how useful it might be to hold spiritual interviews with students once in a while, to directly ask questions about faith that check what students know and give them some things to think about afterward. The idea wouldn't be to put pressure on students to come up with certain answers, but to see where they're at and help us figure out how to help them more precisely. Greg Stier's “Ministry Mutiny” has an idea like this; that's another spark source for me on this one.
These are some useful questions for a spiritual life interview:
When you go to worship, what part of the service do you most look forward to?
If God had a message to give you right now, what medium (music, people, words, etc.) would He use to deliver it?
When you need to make a big decision, what steps do you take to discern what God wants you to choose?
How do they make M&Ms? (That's an actual interview question, designed to check creativity. Throw it in just for fun.)
What spiritual practices give you strength when you're tempted?
Talk about the times this year when you've been the highest and lowest, spiritually. Where was God in both of those places?
Sometimes we can get these things to come up in conversation. But I also think there's a place for a planned check-in.