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Teen Scavenger Hunt Finds Kindness Goes a Long Ways

This past weekend, I planned a scavenger hunt for the youth group. The teens had a lot of fun and worked great with their teammates. We had four groups of teams and I had four sections of points for the scavenger list. The first set were pretty simple stunts for five points like running a lap on a track, put away a stray shopping cart, or writing their names on a busy sidewalk. The second set was group photo pictures in various places for ten points each. The third section were riddles to locate different places in town and the surrounding areas, they were fifteen points each. Then lastly was the 20 point stunts, these were the stunts that were intended to get the teens out of their comfort zones. These stunts included things like folding clothes for a stranger at a laundry mat, giving a bouquet of flowers to someone and telling them Jesus loves them, pumping gas for a stranger at a gas station, or visiting someone in a nursing home or hospital.

Each team had a driver who would take them wherever they requested to find their clue, get supplies, or do their stunts. The driver couldn’t suggest anything or give answers to the riddles. The driver was only allowed to drive the team, take pictures of the team for group photos, and make sure they did whatever they checked off their list. I was one of the drivers. My team consisted of two girls and two boys. They did great in planning where to go first, what to do, and what all they needed along the way. One girl automatically took the role of the leader and asked the other teammates if her suggestions were ok with them. They agreed and threw in input whenever they thought of something themselves. The first place the group went was a park, there they did several of the group photos and then they decided to go to Walmart to get supplies for their tasks. I took them to Walmart, when we got there they started putting away stray carts. They put away a ton of them, one of the teens gathered so much; he looked like an employee without the electronic push/pull cart. After that they went inside and got a box of peeps for a group photo, a chocolate bunny to give to someone, and a notepad to write notes of encouragement to stick on a bathroom door stall. After they paid, they wrote their notes and placed them where the list said to. They did several different group photos afterwards and then decided to head to the nursing home. They planned to give the chocolate bunny to an elderly person there. Once we got there, the leader of the group went to a nurse that was standing in the foyer to let her know what we were doing. The nurse asked if we just wanted any random person. The group told her yes. When we came in, I noticed an elderly lady sitting in a chair near the entrance. The nurse pointed at her and said, “She’s a retired school teacher. I’m sure she’d like the gift.” The leader of the group went to the lady and introduced herself. The lady was hard of hearing, she asked what. After the teen tried several times to say what she was wanting to, the lady still couldn’t hear, so I spoke to her loudly. It was kind of funny, since I’m hard of hearing too; we were both speaking loud enough for the whole wing to hear us. Anyway once she understood who we were and what we were doing, she was delighted. The team gave her the chocolate bunny and said they wanted to bless her with an Easter gift. The lady smiled and said, “That is so sweet!” She then told about herself being a schoolteacher and how nice it was to have them bring that to her. She stood up and gave them each a hug and a kiss. They were all smiling as she told them each some little advice and thanked them once again. We said our goodbyes and headed out the door back to the car. All the teens were very moved by that little nice gesture, I was as well. They continued afterwards doing other nice little things, having fun, and working together as a team. I know that the other teams have their own stories to tell as well.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if more of us intentionally did something out of the ordinary to make someone’s day a little brighter? A little act of kindness goes a long way. It’s those moments of giving and sharing that help shine Jesus’ light to others. Wouldn’t it be great if we stopped preaching so much to people and started loving them? I think that’s the best door to open for others to hear you. I know that if I walk into an area where people are ranting, I find an alternative route. Instead, let’s just smile at the people we pass, let’s listen to what they have to say, and let’s humble ourselves and do little acts of kindness to show people they are important. Let’s be like Christ!

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Posted by on March 31, 2014 in Spiritual Reflections, Youth

 

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Do you hear what I hear?

When you are hard of hearing, listening becomes vital to knowing what’s going on.  I can’t hear very well, I wear hearing aids to correct it.  I have trouble hearing low tones, even with corrective measures.  So, if I want to actually hear something, I have to focus closely and listen for it.  When you loose your hearing, you realize how important it is and how much you miss when you go from barely hearing to hearing somewhat with hearing aids.  I didn’t realize that I wasn’t hearing birds chirp in the spring, crickets singing, or even cars buzzing by when I went walking.  I have a friend who is completely deaf, I know that she longs to hear.  I know how aggravated people get with me for not hearing as well as they do.  It’s frustrating and people go on the defense if you tell them you can’t hear well.  They often reply with, “I’ve been having trouble hearing today, too.” They speak like it’s a cold that someone catches and quickly heals from.  

But back to my original thought, listening is something you have to do more of when you can’t hear well.  You have to focus on what you want to hear.  You have to give attention to what is being said.  You have to hone in on sounds that others hear.  When you can hear good, you don’t notice the sounds around you as much.  They are normal to your environment.  You don’t give it a second thought.  You don’t know how blessed you are to hear.  

I often think of times in my life when I question God and say, “God, I don’t hear you.  Are you even saying anything?”  And I come full circle in my mind and think, maybe I’m not hearing because I’ve gotten so used to hearing the same sounds.  I’m routinely going about my day and I’m used to things not changing.  I have slowly adapted to my environment and all I hear is background noise.  Then when something crashes down, I usually run toward the noise to see what it is.  In the crashes, I ask what happened?  Why did it happen? How did it happen?  Perhaps the signs were there, but I wasn’t listening.  I got into the mundane routine of life.  So then I question God.  Maybe He was just trying to get my attention.  Maybe He has something He wants to say.  Maybe He’s been talking the whole time and I wasn’t listening.  So today, I’m going to listen for whatever God wants to tell me.  Maybe He wants me to notice someone who needs a little encouragement.  Maybe He wants to remind me that He’s beside me.  Maybe He wants to show me something I wouldn’t have noticed anyway.  Maybe He just wants me to pay attention to Him or spend time with Him.  

 

Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given[c]—and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”   Mark 4:24-25

Listen, O heavens, and I will speak!
    Hear, O earth, the words that I say!
Let my teaching fall on you like rain;
    let my speech settle like dew.
Let my words fall like rain on tender grass,
    like gentle showers on young plants.”

Deuteronomy 32:1-2

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Spiritual Reflections

 

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In the Good times and Bad

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.  Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.”  Ecclesiastes 7:14

When I read this chapter, this afternoon, this verse popped out the most to me.  The word that jumped out the most was “consider.”  To consider is to think about carefully.  When times are going smooth, we are happy.  We are enjoying the things we have, we aren’t worried, we are living it up, so to speak.  But when times are bad, we begin to think.  Our mood shifts, we feel unstable, we realize we aren’t in control of all aspects of our lives.  We consider what God is trying to teach us in the tough times.  We realize how weak we really are.  We realize how much we should depend on God and not circumstances or ourselves.  If we don’t consider, we usually make bad decisions and then in turn make the situation worse.

I’m the type of person who is always trying to look ahead.  I over plan things in my mind and then when unforeseen speed bumps or obstacles occur, I get frustrated.  I’m trying to control my future.  But the truth is, I can’t control anything.  Instead, I need to learn to consider why things happen.  I need to realize that God knows the future and it’s in His hands.  He has taken care of me in the past and he will take care of me in the now.  I just have to trust Him. 

 

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in Spiritual Reflections

 

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Untied Giving

ImageOne of my favorite books I was introduced to in high school was “The Prophet,” by Kahlil Gibran.  I loved the style and flow of his words and the depth of wisdom in that little book is profound.  There are so many nuggets of wisdom you can pull from this book, but today I’m just focusing on one little piece. 

“You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”  The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.  They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.  Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights is worthy of all else from you.  And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.  And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity of receiving?  And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?  See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.”

To often I hear people say that they won’t give to someone  because they aren’t sure how that person will spend the funds. Or if it’s something intangible like time, they are afraid to give it to someone who won’t appreciate it, so therefore they won’t give it.  The point of giving is to release something of value to another without strings attached.  Giving with complete release is fulfilled living. How so?  Because you are planting seeds, even if you don’t see it.  Will every seed be fruitful?  No, but some will.  Why take the chance not planting any at all?

Something small to you may be everything to someone else who needs it.  A little time listening to someone may be enough to keep them from making an unwise decision.  A smile may change another persons day.  A simple prayer may be enough to show that you care and shine a glimpse of Gods love on the one receiving it.  A kind gesture can replace hard feelings.

God is the ultimate giver.  He gave his son, Jesus for each of us that we may live.  He gave so that we wouldn’t be held hostage to our sins.  He gave because He loved and He loves.  He gave to me, although I didn’t deserve it.  He gave although I spent that gift wrong for a long time before I realized the greatness of the gift.  It took me awhile to understand the value of the gift He gave me.  But, He also gave me patience, He gave me mercy, He gave me forgiveness, He gave me blessings.  He gave and He gives to me daily.  He is my example, if you follow Him, He is yours as well.  Don’t hold tight to what you are supposed to release, it is a resounding instrument of who you are.  You are a representative to His kingdom. 

 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’   Matthew 25:44–45

 

 
 

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Snapping The Pieces Together

ImageMy mood has been disconnected the past few days.  I haven’t been able to put my finger on it, but I know I don’t like the way I feel.  My mind has been reveling in things I can’t change from the past.  That shouldn’t have a hold of me in the now, but sometimes thoughts creep up and it’s hard to shake it. Our current finances are tight too and that shouldn’t affect my mood so much, but it does. I decide to move away from my thoughts for a moment and sit in my son’s room while he puts together a Lego set.  He’s building and talking about various things.  I watch his fingers quickly snap the pieces together and form the pattern he’s following in the book.  I hand him pieces that are next in line and he says something that speaks to me immediately.  He says . “I’ve got a song stuck in my head that I don’t want there anymore.  Do you know how I can get it out?”  I quickly reply, “Sure, play a new song to cover the other.”  He says, “Yeah, but I don’t want any song there, so I guess I could just go to sleep and it’ll go away.” 

How many times am I like that?  Instead of replacing the song stuck in my head with a better song, I just decide to escape from it.  I should instead let God put a new song in my heart. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”  Psalm 40:1-3

I can’t lay in the pit and go to sleep.  I’m reaching out instead so He can lift me out of the pit and set my feet on a solid foundation.  My selfish foundation is a place where I sink, a place where I feel stuck, a place of dirt and filth.  I’ll open my mouth and sing the new song he has given me. 

 

 
 

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A Life Marked

Slates of marble

Arranged in deathly order

Stood silently as I pedaled past

Climbing the hill with a steady puff.

 

Reaching the top

I stepped off my bike

Perching myself on a flat monument

That overlooked the sea of souls past.

 

Stillness rested there

A place for my thoughts to dance eerily

Trying to find meaning to this thing called life.

 

Like a bird hidden high upon a branch

I watched the town move

While the cemetery lay solemn. 

 

Life in present, moments in past, and hopes for the future

Swirled in the depths of my mind

As I simultaneously pondered the names that surrounded me.

 

Recent markers were decorated with soft colored blooms

While older ones were overwhelmed with weeds hiding part of the name

Missed or forgotten.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2014 in Poetry

 

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The Wallflower

A silhouette in the corner.

A shadow on the wall.

She can’t help but wonder

Is she noticed at all?

 

Gray outlines descend onto the floor,

while spotlights gather center stage.

He whispers, “It is you I adore.”

For he has seen her life scripted on every page.

 

He asks her for a dance.

Then everyone else observes

the girl they disregarded with a glance

Is the one His attention deserves. 

 

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in Poetry

 

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