In early May, I and six other church members spent a week at the UMCOR Sager-Brown Depot in Baldwin Louisiana. I was accompanied by Joyce White, Kathy Helmer, Dawn Rice, Lisa Henson, Susanne Osborne, and Butch Chapman. This was the 12th year that JFUMC has sent a mission team and it was the 8th time I had made the trek south.
I imagine we've all heard those words many times over. Even if you are in your teenage years, you've likely grown accustomed to hearing the phrase on or around your birthday. Yet, the older I get, the more the birthdays I accumulate, and the more I hear Happy Birthday, the more it makes me think about my life. Often around my birthday, I begin to reflect upon the trajectory of my life. I think about where I've come from and where I am headed. I am often reminded of my childhood and the various places I grew up. I remember the blessings of friendships of the past as well as the circumstances of the past which have made me who I am today. But even more so, I begin to wonder what my future will hold. While I like to believe I have many years ahead of me, a passing birthday brings with it even a tinge of uncertainty as to the extent of my life. That's not to be fatalistic, but realistic. I'm not getting any younger (though I feel and know I'm still very young!
Some of you know that I have been on a journey to become a Licensed Methodist Minister. This was definitely something that just happened to me seven months ago. I have reflected on how in the world I got here. I knew my faith was growing the last fifteen years of my life, but really how did this journey happen for me?
As the Gospel of Matthew tells us, "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" Jesus put children in the middle of His ministry. We should take a lead from Jesus and put children in the middle of the Church. Did you know that almost 80% of people currently active in churches decided to follow Jesus before they were 18? Children are so open to learning what it means to trust in God. They are more mold-able than ever. They are forming their understanding of relationships, love, the world, and God. We need to become intentional about making sure they get the right impression.
I recently read an article covering the recent shooting at the Synagogue in Poway, California. You likely have heard or read the story, but if you have not, a young man walked into the synagogue intentionally targeting Jewish worshipers and killing one and wounding others. As the news has filtered out, it has been discovered he was a "faithful" member of a Christian church. In his seven page manifesto explaining his reasons for perpetuating this atrocity, he credited his theology and faith.