Fundraising, Charity, and The Church

funraising, and the church

I’m writing this blog post for the Church. Not just my church, but the Church. This isn’t for those outside the Church. Just the Church. I’m also writing this as a Protestant. And I’m writing this as someone knows the inner working of churches. That makes it a little more awkward. And I’ll tell you, most of the pastors I know, including the one I am married to, have a hard time talking to you, the people, about this. First, it directly affects them. Their livelihood comes from the Church. Second, some pastors, and we won’t name any names, give giving a bad name. They are self-centered and have no vision for the Kingdom, only their wallets. But the majority of pastors I know aren’t like that. The majority of the ones I know live on small salaries, sometimes working more than one job to provide for their own family, all while trying to do the thing God has called them to do. They often don’t know if they’ll have income by the end of the year. They often don’t know if they’ll have income next month. So, drop your preconceived notion about pastor millionaires flying around on personal jets. Now, on to the money talk.

I’ve been listening to quite a few podcasts lately. It is just something I do while washing dishes, folding laundry, or cooking dinner. While folding laundry and listening to an old Freakonomics Podcast (called How To Raise Money Without Killing A Kitten) about charity giving and the economics and research behind Americans giving, it just really hit me that (1) Christians aren’t the super charitable people they like to think they are and (2) the Church often tries to pull a lot of the same “tricks” other organizations do to compete for the Christian’s dollar.

Now, there are a couple of issues going on here. And I don’t call myself an expert, and really this is more of a rant to raise awareness than anything.

The average American gives 2% of their income to charity. Now, a Gallup poll in 2008 said 77% of Americans identify as Christians. (Who do they poll? I’ve never been polled. Anyway, moving on.) I think that is a very high estimate. Huffpo in 2013 said 20% of Americans no longer identify with any religion. (This source says 83% identify as Christian.  This source says 70.6%.  This source says there are 247 million Christians in the US.) My point is, something is wrong. The majority of the country is Christian, yet they obviously aren’t tithing.

Dun. Dun. Dun. I said the big bad word in today’s evangelical circles. Tithing. It is a Biblical concept you’re all aware of. Give God 10%. Now, we can debate gross or net. You can even try to debate that tithing is an Old Testament concept not relevant for a New Testament Church. And if you want to go there, fine. Pattern your life after the New Testament Church in Acts 2 when they sold everything they had and gave the profits to the poor and lived sharing everything with one another. That’s cool. I was just asking for 10%. But I guess everything works, too.

So, disconnect number one is that 2% of income from Americans is going to charity (all of them, not just the Church). Shouldn’t that number be higher since the majority of America is “Christian”? (I use the quotes because I am not sure we have that many followers of Christ; I think more of them are cultural Christians.) So, clearly, some of you (again, talking to the Church, here) aren’t giving as you should. (I should also note here that neither I nor the Pastor has now or ever known how much any individual or family in any church we’ve been in have given. We’ve made it a point to not know those things. I don’t want you thinking I cooked you dinner when you were having a tough time because you gave the church money. We’ve also made it a point not to touch the money. So, I have never seen a single check in the offering plate or a single name on the PayPal summary. I really have no clue.) And you can justify that decision until you are blue in the face, but the facts will not change. You need to be giving 10% to YOUR CHURCH. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care where you attend. You need to be tithing to your church. If you don’t trust them with your money, why are you trusting them with your spiritual health and the spiritual health of your family? You can dislike this if you want, but you need to be giving 10% to your church. You don’t need to be earmarking it for what you want it to be used on. You need to let go and give it to God. Period. No strings attached. No splitting the amount between all the good things you want to give to. 10% to your church. Then give to the other things. (And don’t forget to give of your time and talents as well.)

Back to the podcast, they listed six reasons people give to charities: (1) altruism– you really want to help the person or cause; (2) “warm glow” altruism or as I called it, selfish altruism– you want to feel good about giving, you want bragging rights, you want the warm fuzzies knowing you are a good person or knowing other think you are a good person; (3) guilt– you feel bad not giving, you don’t want to look bad by not giving; (4) herd giving– you give because others around you are giving or someone you look up to gives; (5) private good– you give to get or keep (not loose) something you want; (6) public good– you want the thing to exist, not just for yourself, but for your community or others. Now, often your reasons are a mix of things. And often churches use these same things to get you to give. (I don’t necessarily think it is intentional for the most part, just something that happens when we do things because it is the way things are done. Think about passing the offering plate for a minute. You play on herd giving: everyone else is doing it, possibly even someone I look up to. You play on guilt: I don’t want to look bad not giving. You play on public and private good: I need to give for the church to continue and I really like this or that program; plus, I want this place to exist for my community. “Warm glow” altruism: you feel good by giving; some churches will even tell you the blessings of God are directly tied to your giving. Altruism: you really do want to support the Church and the cause of Christ. Now, clearly all those are not bad things. There are a few negatives, but some positives. We don’t pass a plate at our church because of the negatives. I don’t think passing a plate is wrong. We just don’t do it.) But isn’t there another BIG reason to give to your church? Yes, I hope there is altruism in your gift. But isn’t there something else? Obedience. It is a dirty word in our culture. Obedience. But that is how we grow. That is how we grow as children. That is how we grow as Christians. I don’t know how to put others before myself until I practice it. I don’t know how to become less self-centric until I practice it. I don’t know how to be obedient until I practice it. Tithing is bare-minimum obedience practice. It is the absolute easiest form of obedience. God asks us first for the small things. When that becomes easier, it becomes easier to give the big things. To give up our lives for full-time ministry. To give up our children for full-time ministry. To give up our time for someone in need. To give up our comfort for someone else. To give up ourselves for the cross. 10% of your money is the starting point.

So why is it so hard? Why are churches closing the doors because they don’t have the funds to carry on? Why are pastors working two or three jobs just to be able to bring God’s word to God’s people? Why are churches not being planted? 70% giving 10%– we shouldn’t have problems funding any aspect of Christian work. The widows should easily be taken care of. The orphans should be well loved and cared for. The missionaries shouldn’t have to come home to beg, but come home to share the fire in their bellies for the people. Why is 10% so hard for us to let go of? And is 10% in your pocket really worth limiting the Church?

So what do donors or givers like to get? Well, according to the podcast, they like getting something in return. An inflated ego, for sure. They want to win something. They want to gain something. They want control. Sadly, how much does this all sound like Christians? (Ahem. Especially that control part. Ahem.)

But what do we actually get by tithing? What is in it for you? Well, the fact that we ask that question highlights the problem. If you’re more concerned about yourself than others then you clearly haven’t quite gotten the message of Christ.

Now, I could go through the list of what your pastor does, what your church does. I could add copies of the budget and account for hours spent and what they were spent doing. But really, the bottom-line is obedience. And your church shouldn’t have to use gimmicks and tactics to get your support. You should support them because you love God and you love the Church. You should give because you are invested in the Gospel of Christ. We should give because God tells us we should. The Christian life is a life lived for others– from our pocket books to the hours in our days. Giving isn’t to make you feel good. It isn’t to make you feel bad. It isn’t to purchase your mansion in glory. Giving is about obedience to God and love for others.

Now, I know my editor is going to give me grief about this post. All I have to say to him is that I was led to say something and that I did it out of love, not self. I think it is a message worth sharing.

Back To School Planning

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We’re entering the fast paced beginning of the school year time. Homeschoolers, public schoolers, private schoolers, hybrid schoolers- whatever we are, we’re getting ready for the next year. The next year when we can make a difference in our kids’ lives. Will this be the year they find that thing that sparks them? Will this be the year they develop a love for reading, or writing, or math, or running marathons? The beginning of the school year always comes with such high expectations. And then wait, come April, we’ll just be hoping we didn’t mess them up too much this year.

I’m a homeschool mom. Our year here won’t start until September. In fact, we’re finishing up our last school year still. Testing has to be done this year. But the planning for next year is beginning. And I know I’ll overplan. I’ll want to do too much. There are just so many beautiful and awesome things in the world and I want to give all of them to my kids. I want them to be able to write all the wonderful thoughts that come into their heads. I want them to read ALL the books. I want them to see, love, and create art. I want them to see how the world works and watch it amaze them. I want them to hear the stories of our past as humankind and hear their take on things. I want them to learn languages to expand their horizons and not limit them to what is written or spoken in English only. I want to teach them to play ALL the instruments. I want them to understand mathematic concepts so they can create, understand, and develop the world around them. I want them to learn liturgy, theology, apologetics, and more about our Lord. And it is all so much.

But then I remember that I am still learning. They have their whole lives to explore this world. They have their whole lives to read. I’m still reading, writing, learning. I’m still creating, listening, exploring. And hopefully they will be too, when they are my age. I have to remember that I am teaching them how to do these things- how to learn, how to explore. And I’ll enjoy the wonder as they go along.

I’ll still overplan. I’ll try to be flexible. I’ll try not to be hard on myself come April when everything just didn’t pan out the way I wanted it to. I’ll still want to show them the whole world all at once and tell them what a beautiful place it is- to look for light in the darkness or better yet, be the light in the darkness. The weight of the task will still be heavy. But I’ll try not to be overwhelmed. I’ll try to let the weight inspire me. I’ll slow down enough to enjoy this time in their lives when the wonder comes naturally.

Pippin- A Birth Story

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This is a post about pregnancy and birth- from a mom’s perspective. If you’re not down with that, leave now! Quick!

My pregnancy with Pippin was going extremely well. I was planning a home birth with some lovely midwives. I even got a water birth tub from a friend, thinking maybe water wouldn’t make me want to claw my skin off this time around, we’d see. Pregnancy was boring, and normal, and uneventful.

And then it wasn’t. I started itching. Claw my skin off, Benadryl won’t touch it, horrible itching. So, I texted my midwives. “I’m itching. I was itching all night. It won’t stop.” After a few other questions about things like urine, rashes, and poop- my midwife told me I’d need to have my liver tested. I was in the lab a couple hours later having liver function tests drawn. My midwives gave me some dietary changes to make and a juice recipe to drink daily while we waited for results. I kept thinking that the liver test would come back fine and it’d just be another weird pregnancy symptom. (Because, you know, no two pregnancies can be alike. Each kid has to throw in their own twist on things in there.)

My liver function test came back bad. Not horrible, but my AST was at the high end of normal and my ALT was double what would have been considered normal. 33 weeks pregnant, zero history of cholestasis in myself or my family, no multiples, no risk factors at all for this. But, we were testing anyway. They ordered bile acids and I went ahead and set up an appointment with a perinatologist for a biophysical profile, non-stress test, and consult. I took to the interwebz, trying to find out all I could about ICP- treatment, risks, anything I could find. It didn’t take long for me to realize how serious this itching actually was. Not so much for me, for me it was annoying. I’d itch, be tired, maybe some GI pain, but I’d heal once the baby was born. The real risk was to the baby. My baby. The big scary word no mom wants to hear or even contemplate- stillbirth. I was terrified.

I stayed on the diet (no sugar, no caffeine, no fried food, low fat everything, no white flour, nothing processed, lots of greens, lots of water with lemon) and the juice (beet, carrot, apple, grape, grapefruit, lemon, and olive oil). After meeting with the perinatologist, we decided to go ahead and start treatment while waiting on the bile acid results.  (Bile acid results take a ridiculously long time to get when you are anxiously awaiting results- about 10 days in my case.) So, I started taking a medication known in short as Urso. And I’d continue weekly biophysical profiles, non-stress tests, and perinatologist consults until we knew I didn’t have it.

I knew from the internet that I was hoping for total bile acids to be less than 10. They finally came back, and they were over 10. 11.9 to be exact. So, a definitive ICP diagnosis, but mild. Second bile acid drawn.

I continued in the care of my home birth midwives and saw the perinatologist weekly for monitoring the baby. My next bile acid result was even higher. Not the news I wanted. It was still mild, but the diet and medication were not exactly lowering the bile acids in my blood. They might have been keeping the ICP mild, I can’t really know.

We knew early delivery would be necessary. An induction would be a possibility. Given that I am a VBAC (though this would be my fourth) and all the other risks associated with ICP, I decided to transfer to a hospital based midwifery group. The transfer, though it was at almost 36 weeks, was seamless, thanks to the back up care provided by the perinatologist. (The hospital based midwifery group works under the perinatologist.) My home birth midwives were supportive of me still trying to have Pippin at home, the perinatologist was comfortable backing me in a home birth, it really came down to my comfort level. And with everything being so up in the air, I just needed one plan for simplicity and on plan that covered all my what-ifs.

At 36 weeks, I started getting nervous. What if my bile acids spike? I wouldn’t know in time to do anything. (Since the blasted test takes 10 days.) So, at my weekly BPP/NST at 36 weeks 3 days, I talked to the perinatologist about my fears. I knew I had a live baby that day, could we say the same in a week? With the risks known to start rising dramatically in week 37, I just didn’t want to risk it. We ended up doing an amniocentesis that day to assess lung maturity. The plan was to begin a low, slow induction the following day in the hospital if his lungs were mature. If the amnio did not come back showing lung maturity, we’d induce at 37 weeks.

Tuesday, the 21st, the amnio results came back showing lung maturity. I went into the hospital that afternoon to begin the slow induction process. I was soft, anterior, not at all dilated. About 50% effaced. And baby at -2. That put my bishop score at about a 6. (Which really isn’t great.) Since I wasn’t dilated at all, we started the induction with cervadil. It states in for 12 hours and gets the cervix ready for the actual induction. About a quarter ’til 5 on Tuesday evening, the Cervadil was inserted and the induction had officially begun.

I kind of expected to have a baby 4 hours after that. I didn’t. I thought, “This is my sixth, it won’t take that long to pop this baby out.” Well, those 4 hours passed, and I decided it was time to sleep. Mentally, I thought it was over. I thought that there was no way this induction would work and I’d have a c-section the next day. Some of you know how traumatic my first c-section was for me and know how hard I fought for my first VBAC. So it will come as a shock when I say that I was okay with the thought of another c-section. I thought, “My baby will be out. And he’ll be alive. And I’ll heal.” I also knew that a c-section would be different this time around. They’d let me hold the baby in the OR. They’d be more respectful. So, that did help, but my main thought was simply that my baby would be alive.

The next morning, the cervadil was removed. I was sure it had done absolutely nothing. The nurse told me they could do it again for another 12 hours if I wasn’t dilated enough to start the next stage of induction. I asked how dilated did I need to be at this point? She said a 2. I was sure I wasn’t that dilated. Surprisingly, I was 3.5cm dilated, more effaced, baby was at 0 station now. On to step 2. After breakfast.

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I took a two hour breakfast break. During this time, The Pastor learned that our house caught on fire. The relatively new oven in our kitchen went up in flames. My mother-in-law was with the children and she got them out and called 911. Police, fire trucks, and the Red Cross came to the delight of my boys. Our church family jumped in helping my mother-in-law entertain the kids, feed the kids, and clean up the house. It was just the kitchen. Just one side of the kitchen. But during this break in my induction, The Pastor is on the phone with the landlord, the fire marshall, his mother, and the church lay leader. Poor guy. And he kept all this from me. I didn’t have a clue anything was going on. I knew The Pastor had a head ache, but assumed it was from sleeping on a bench.

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9 a.m.- 16 hours into the induction- pitocin is started. When they day low and slow, they mean it. I was still pretty sure none of this would work. I was pretty scared of pitocin, since I have heard plenty of stories about laboring with pit- how painful it is compared to natural birth. I didn’t have an epidural or any pain meds. I figured it’d probably get to that point, but why tie myself to the bed prematurely? Pitocin was started on 1. You read that right. 1. This was definitely going to be slow.

Pitocin a 1. I’d have one contraction every time the piton would drip, which wasn’t often. Pitocin went up to 2. Then 3. Then 4. Then 5. Then 6. It is about this point I really freak out. Here we are, after noon, and this Pitocin isn’t doing a thing! How long am I going to keep at this before someone realizes it just isn’t going to work? I’m freaking out. This is all going to end in me being cut, I just know it. Nothing is happening. Nothing. **I should note that I had friends messaging me telling me things were going well. I also had The Pastor telling me all was well. My freaking out was pretty controlled, but I do think those around me knew where my head was.**

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I freak out a little on the midwife. She laughs a little and asks me what I want to do. “I want you to check me! These contractions aren’t even uncomfortable. Clearly nothing is working! My body just isn’t going to work like this.” She checks me. I’m 5cm dilated. She says, “See. It is working.” “It is working far too slow.” is my reply. They bump the pitocin up to 7 and assure me this is normal and usual and my body is working. I’ll admit, while I should have been happy that I was more dilated- I wanted it to be more. 5 was only 2cm more than I was at 9am. This low and slow was never going to actually get the baby out. On the plus side, at least it didn’t hurt.

My doula had stopped in and popped in to say she was stepping out again until things picked up a bit. (I do not like to be watched.) I was starting to feel a bit more uncomfortable, as in, the contractions were starting to get noticeable, but I let her go anyway. Of course, I quickly realized that was a mistake and had The Pastor calling her back a few minutes later. After applying some peppermint essential oil to my lower back because I am pretty sure baby is posterior.

Things went from oh-this-is-noticeable to whoa-this-sucks really quickly. It always does for me and it always takes me by surprise. I knew pretty quickly I was hitting transition. I knew I was just checked less than an hour before and was “only” 5cm. I knew the nurse had just 15 minutes before bumped the pitocin up to 8 because I was clearly not in “active labor” yet. But suddenly, I need my hips squeezed, I need to go to the bathroom, I’m hot, I’m going to puke, I decide I don’t want a sixth baby after all. You know, all those things that happen right before you start to push.  Baby had definitely turned around and was ROA and ready.

The nurse wants to check me. I assure her a baby is coming out without her getting involved in my business, if you know what I mean. She keeps asking. I start pushing. My doula is explaining to her that I have a “sound” in my voice when I am complete. The next contraction, the doula says, “That sound.” I push a little. My water breaks all over the nurse. She leaves to change clothes right that second. Surely she’s had amniotic fluid in her socks before. The Pastor and my doula are keeping the cool rags coming, and the peppermint oil and orange oil to help with the nausea.

Less that 20 minutes of pushing (and complaining- I complain a lot while I push) later and we have a baby. I could have sworn he was crowning for half an hour, but that would be impossible given the times. But I swear I thought his head was just never coming out. But unlike the brother before him, his body slid out easily. No pushing past shoulders or hips. Just push out a head and the rest basically fell out. When I first started pushing, the midwife told me he had hair! (As opposed to the brother before him that was born with zero hair and still doesn’t have much to speak of.)

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They put him on my chest and I got to smell and cuddle him right away. The Pastor cut the cord after it stopped pulsing. Those that know him will find this part humorous. The midwife asked if he wanted to cut the cord. He said, “As long as I can really cut it and it not be some ceremonial not really cutting it kind of thing.” (Our first baby, the doctor cut the cord, then had him cut it shorter, which kind of irritated him and he is still clearly irritated by it.)

After nursing for about an hour and 20 minutes, they weighed and measured him. 7 lbs. 2 oz. 18.5 inches. They also gave him a vitamin K shot. (This is important for ICP babies. They have increased risk of neonatal hemorrhage.) And then he was diapered and clothed and handed back to me. He stayed with me the entire time we were in the hospital. (You may or may not remember my previous horror stories with postpartum in a hospital, which lead me to home birth in the first place.) He was perfectly healthy. On day 3, his bill levels were borderline, and knowing ICP babies have a higher risk of jaundice, I decided to go ahead and treat him. (The hospital pediatrician left it entirely up to me, which was completely new that a pediatrician thought I was competent.) So, we stayed 12 extra hours in the hospital for him to get some phototherapy. (His levels went from 12 to 7 in those 12 hours.)

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I am happy with my choices. I don’t feel bad about “loosing” the home birth plan. Flexibility is a necessary part of the home birth process. Birth is about choosing the best providers and location to fit your needs. When your needs change, plans might change. And that is really okay. My hospital induction, while not being something I would have ever wished for, wasn’t plan B. It was just the plan at that point. I don’t regret that for a second. And I don’t think it was second best. It was what we needed. And all in all, I am glad that the induction worked. It turns out, 7 hours of pitocin isn’t so horrible. It was enough time for my body to adjust. My labor unfolded as my labors usually unfold. I never did feel the need for pain medication or an epidural. The pitocin contractions felt the same to me as natural contractions. I should point out that low and slow on pitocin isn’t very common. So, I do understand that  my expectations of pitocin were likely based on people who had much more medication than I did. But if 8 units of Pitocin works, I’ll definitely take it over the body slam that some doctors give.

As for my liver, I couldn’t take meds after Pippin was born. I had Percocet right after he was born, and then Motrin several hours later, and it brought the itching back. So, I opted to not take anything. Instead, I used clary sage and lavender essential oil for the afterbirth pains. It did not make them go away, but it did take the edge off. And I figured I’d rather be cramping than itching like crazy trying to hold and nurse a baby. I’m still taking it easy on the diet, trying to give my liver a chance to heal, and it should be healed over the next several weeks. As to if this will recur, I don’t know. ICP has a very high recurrence rate. But it is usually genetic and mine isn’t. So, we don’t really know. It is possible this was all triggered by my getting rotovirus at 31/32 weeks pregnant. But we’re completely unsure about if it would recur or not.

For more information about ICP, check out this website.

Grateful for Enough

flowerEnough is not a concept we’re very aware of in Western culture. We want excess. We want more. Enough to us is just not enough, and that desire for more transforms our prayers and our perception of God’s answers to our prayers.   We have no concept of daily bread. Our perception of need is very off.

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So we end up adopting one of two theologies. One theology we use to bridge this gap is to say that, if we’re not getting what we pray for, the fault is ours. We’re just not doing it right. In our heads, we say that God gives all things requested to the super-spiritual elite. If we’re not getting all we’re asking for, it is because we just haven’t made it to VIP status with God yet. Clearly, the problem with this theology lies in everyone that isn’t Western. Very real poverty exists in much of the world. Are we really willing to say that is their fault? The Christians in Third World countries are just not as loved by God as we are. Saints who spent their entire lives living in poverty for the sake of others are just somehow not among the spiritual elite, as evidenced by their poor surroundings and lack of wordily goods. The Christians in Egypt are just missing out on some secret that puts you in God’s “favorites” column. So we swing the other direction and embrace an opposite theological assumption: God doesn’t care about your happiness. He wants holiness only. Your enjoyment of life or lack thereof is none of His concern. Your emotional needs don’t matter. You just need to put your head down and run the race He sets before you without complaint. Carry your own cross and don’t complain about it. With this, we’re willing to say our Heavenly Father cares nothing for us except that we do as we are told. He’s apparently a “children should be seen and not heard” type of Dad. Your obedience is all that matters. Not sure where we file the God-is-love bit under this theology.

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There is a middle ground we overlook– something between the extremes we forget. God does love us, and God does want us to be happy. We just have to readjust our goals, our vision. We’ve got to learn what provision really means. We’ve got to learn to be grateful for enough– to turn off the cultural impulse to have the most, to live with excess. We have to learn what it means to have daily bread. Our prayers for half a million dollar homes need to be replaced with gratitude for a safe place to sleep. Instead of prayers for extra money for our saving accounts, dream vacations, and big screen TVs, being thankful for paid bills, comfortable surroundings, and jobs to support our needs… I’m not saying there is anything wrong with nice houses, vacations, and comforts. But those are not proof that God loves you. It is simply proof you live a very privileged life.

God clearly wants you to be happy. Look at the flowers, clouds, stars, birds. This world has plenty of enjoyments– holy enjoyments. God wants you to be happy with His provision. You just have to change the terms of your own happiness. Learn to be grateful with enough. Learn to be grateful for the privileges we have as Westerners.

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I may not own a big, fancy house, but I have  a safe, comfortable home. I may not have a huge amount of money in the bank, but my needs are all met. We may not go on elaborate vacations, but I have a lovely family and time to spend enjoying everyday life with them. I have enough. I even have more than enough. I am grateful.

40 Holy People: Week Seven

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Day 35: Frances Ridley Havergal: All For Thee

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Frances was born in 1836 in England. She was the youngest of six children. Her father was a minister, so Frances grew up in the Church. Her mother died when she was 14 and she went to live and study at a boarding school.

Frances wrote poetry. Being a musician, she also put her poems to music. She prayed that God would guide and anoint her writing. And He did.

Frances told God that she would do anything He asked. She was always ready to share the story of Jesus with anyone she met, even if it meant stopping what she was doing to talk to them. She even gave all her jewelry to help fund missions work.

On her deathbed, Frances praised God to be meeting Him so soon. She tried to sing one last hymn to the Lord as she took her final breaths.

Watch this video and see if you recognize Frances’ most popular hymn.

Day 36: John Hyde: The Language of The Heart

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John Nelson Hyde was one of six children. His father was a minister in Carthage, Illinois. His father prayed that God would send laborers to the field (meaning people to go into the world and share Jesus). Three of the Hyde children were called into the ministry of God.

John heard God’s call on his life to go to the mission field. He talked about missions, prayed about missions, and encouraged other classmates to go to the mission field, as well. 26 of 46 of his graduating class ended up going to the mission field.

John felt God calling him to India. He served as a village missionary, traveling from village to village on foot or in a horse-drawn cart to share Jesus with the people. He spent much of that time living in a tent. He spent most of his time in India living in that tent.

john was very close to being deaf, so his sending group thought it might be best if he was not on the field. John agree to come home and turned in his resignation. The people in the villages heard that John was being pulled from the field and protested. Saying, “If he never speaks the language of our lips, he speaks the language of our hearts.”

For the first thirteen years he was in India, John saw very little results. He was robbed and threatened with violence by some. John continued to pray for India to know Christ and he continued to tell the people about Christ. He was known to pray for hours for the people he ministered to. His response to all difficulties and all problems was prayer. Though he saw little results for his prayers, He knew He would eventually see God’s harvest. He encouraged friends and family to pray for India. People all over the world starting praying with John that God would do something big in India.

In 1905, after more than a decade of work and prayer, John finally saw the answer to prayers he’d been looking for. Revival had broken out in India! (Revival is what we call it when many people turn to Jesus at once and the Holy Spirit moves people toward Christ.) For the next five years, John traveled all over India and people came to Jesus.

Two years later, John died. His dying words were, “Shout victory to Jesus!” (Only he said them in Punjab, a language used in India.)

Can you imagine God calling you to a foreign land and not even having a home to sleep in when you got there?

Could you pray for 12 years for something without seeing any answers to your prayer? Do you think that was difficult for John to do?

Coloring Page.

Day 37: William Taylor: Reaching The World

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William Taylor was born to Methodist Ministers in Virginia in 1821. He was the oldest of eleven children. He followed in his father’s steps and became a circuit preacher at the age of 21.

In 1849, William felt called to California. The Gold Rush was just beginning, and William felt God leading him to the opposite coast of his birth. He built a chapel once he arrived in California and then built a house to live in. He became the pastor to unchurched multitudes from sailors to miners, most living very sinful lives. He saw many of these people come to find salvation in Jesus. Those people, then took Jesus to those around them.

After ministering in California for about 10 years, William traveled across the country preaching to people in Philadelphia and then Indiana. Then, William went to Canada to preach the Gospel. In Canada, he heard that Australia was in need of Jesus. So, on William went to Australia. After three years of ministering in Australia, William went to South Africa. He traveled up the coast of Africa by ship, preached as they went along. In 7 months, he saw 8,000 people come to know Jesus as their Savior. From Africa, William traveled to England, preaching the Word of God to the people there. He then went to Barbados, then British Guiana, then Scotland, then to the West Indies. He preached in St. Kitts, St. Vincent, Nevis, Trinidad, Tobago, St. Thomas, and Jamaica. He then went back to Australia, then to Tasmania and Ceylon. In 1870, when he was almost 50, William went to India to preach about Jesus there and found churches. After starting revivals across India, William then went to South America, to take Jesus to the people there. At 63 years old, William went back to South Africa, which was the last place he took the word of God before his death. He set revivals ablaze in hearts on almost every continent of the world in his lifetime.

If one man could reach people in that many countries, how many people do you think could be reached by the whole Church?

Can you mark all the countries that William Taylor ministered in? (Map.)

Day 38: Peter: The Rock

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Peter was an interesting guy. He seemed to always be the first to jump out there. Sometimes, this was good for him. Other times, well, Peter must have gotten used to the rebuking. But even through his mistakes, Peter was still the guy Jesus chose to carry on the Church when He was gone.

Matthew 16:13-20 (CEB) says:

Now when Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Human One is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

He said, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Then Jesus replied, “Happy are you, Simon son of Jonah, because no human has shown this to you. Rather my Father who is in heaven has shown you. I tell you that you are Peter. And I’ll build my church on this rock. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it. I’ll give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Anything you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. Anything you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven.” Then he ordered the disciples not to tell anybody that he was the Christ.

Peter tells Jesus that he knows Jesus is the Son of God. Way to go, Peter! Jesus tells Peter he’s going to be the leader of the Church from there. And then what happens?

Matthew 16: 21-23 (CEB) says:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and legal experts, and that he had to be killed and raised on the third day. Then Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him: “God forbid, Lord! This won’t happen to you.” But he turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stone that could make me stumble, for you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”

Whoa! We go from, “Dude, I’m choosing you to be the rock of my Church.” to “Get behind me Satan!” That is quite the turn around. And to Peter’s benefit, wouldn’t we all wish nothing but happiness and no pain for our friends? But that wasn’t what Jesus was trying to do. Being safe wouldn’t accomplish what the world needed. So while Peter wanted his friend and Lord to just be safe, Jesus knew the plan was different.

After this night, you have Peter putting his foot in his mouth again on the mountain with Jesus. Then you have the disciples being unable to cast the demons out of a little boy, and Jesus has to do the work for them, because they lacked faith. After this, Jesus has Peter go fishing to pay their taxes. Then we see Jesus teaching his disciples lessons about lost sheep, falling into sin, and forgiveness. And so on that last week goes until we get to the night Jesus is arrested.

In Matthew 26, Jesus tells Peter that he will betray Him three times. Of course, Peter says that won’t happen. Then he cuts off a guy’s ear who is trying to arrest Jesus, so you’re thinking, maybe Peter really won’t betray Jesus. But then we read Matthew 26: 69- 75 (CEB):

Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant woman came and said to him, “You were also with Jesus the Galilean.”

But he denied it in front of all of them, saying, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

When he went over to the gate, another woman saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.”

With a solemn pledge, he denied it again, saying, “I don’t know the man.”

A short time later those standing there came and said to Peter, “You must be one of them. The way you talk gives you away.”

Then he cursed and swore, “I don’t know the man!” At that very moment the rooster crowed. Peter remembered Jesus’ words, “Before the rooster crows you will deny me three times.” And Peter went out and cried uncontrollably.

And we see that Jesus was right. Peter denied him. We don’t see Peter again until after Jesus’s death, when he is at the tomb and walked in to find that Jesus’s body was gone. And then Peter is all in. No more denying. No more running. From the empty tomb until his own upside down crucifixion. From the empty tomb, Peter was bold for Christ. He became that rock that the Church was built on. He walked on water. Those moments of denial did not define the legacy of Peter. They could have if he had let them. But he didn’t. He knew Jesus. Jesus’s death was just as much for Peter as for anyone. And Peter worked for the Church Jesus loved to the end.

Do you ever feel like you’ve done something so bad that there is no hope of being good?

Do you want to confess those things to Jesus so He can forgive you and make you a holy person?

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Day 39: Jesus: Our Salvation

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Luke 22:39-46 (CEB)

Jesus left and made his way to the Mount of Olives, as was his custom, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived, he said to them, “Pray that you won’t give in to temptation.” He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed. He said, “Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will must be done.” Then a heavenly angel appeared to him and strengthened him. He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. When he got up from praying, he went to the disciples. He found them asleep, overcome by grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation.”

Luke 22:47-52 (CEB)

While Jesus was still speaking, a crowd appeared, and the one called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him.

Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Human One with a kiss?”

When those around him recognized what was about to happen, they said, “Lord, should we fight with our swords?” One of them struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear.

Jesus responded, “Stop! No more of this!” He touched the slave’s ear and healed him.

Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders who had come to get him, “Have you come with swords and clubs to arrest me, as though I were a thief? Day after day I was with you in the temple, but you didn’t arrest me. But this is your time, when darkness rules.”

Luke 22:63-71 (CEB)

The men who were holding Jesus in custody taunted him while they beat him. They blindfolded him and asked him repeatedly, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” Insulting him, they said many other horrible things against him.

As morning came, the elders of the people, both chief priests and legal experts, came together, and Jesus was brought before their council.

They said, “If you are the Christ, tell us!”

He answered, “If I tell you, you won’t believe. And if I ask you a question, you won’t answer. But from now on, the Human One will be seated on the right side of the power of God.”

They all said, “Are you God’s Son, then?”

He replied, “You say that I am.”

Then they said, “Why do we need further testimony? We’ve heard it from his own lips.”

Luke 23:1-49 (CEB)

The whole assembly got up and led Jesus to Pilate and began to accuse him. They said, “We have found this man misleading our people, opposing the payment of taxes to Caesar, and claiming that he is the Christ, a king.”

Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “That’s what you say.”

Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no legal basis for action against this man.”

But they objected strenuously, saying, “He agitates the people with his teaching throughout Judea—starting from Galilee all the way here.”

Hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was from Herod’s district, Pilate sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was very glad to see Jesus, for he had heard about Jesus and had wanted to see him for quite some time. He was hoping to see Jesus perform some sign. Herod questioned Jesus at length, but Jesus didn’t respond to him. The chief priests and the legal experts were there, fiercely accusing Jesus. Herod and his soldiers treated Jesus with contempt. Herod mocked him by dressing Jesus in elegant clothes and sent him back to Pilate. Pilate and Herod became friends with each other that day. Before this, they had been enemies.

Then Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people. He said to them, “You brought this man before me as one who was misleading the people. I have questioned him in your presence and found nothing in this man’s conduct that provides a legal basis for the charges you have brought against him. Neither did Herod, because Herod returned him to us. He’s done nothing that deserves death. Therefore, I’ll have him whipped, then let him go.”

But with one voice they shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison because of a riot that had occurred in the city, and for murder.)

Pilate addressed them again because he wanted to release Jesus.

They kept shouting out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

For the third time, Pilate said to them, “Why? What wrong has he done? I’ve found no legal basis for the death penalty in his case. Therefore, I will have him whipped, then let him go.”

But they were adamant, shouting their demand that Jesus be crucified. Their voices won out. Pilate issued his decision to grant their request. He released the one they asked for, who had been thrown into prison because of a riot and murder. But he handed Jesus over to their will.

As they led Jesus away, they grabbed Simon, a man from Cyrene, who was coming in from the countryside. They put the cross on his back and made him carry it behind Jesus. A huge crowd of people followed Jesus, including women, who were mourning and wailing for him. Jesus turned to the women and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me. Rather, cry for yourselves and your children. The time will come when they will say, ‘Happy are those who are unable to become pregnant, the wombs that never gave birth, and the breasts that never nursed a child.’ Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ If they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

They also led two other criminals to be executed with Jesus. When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing.

The people were standing around watching, but the leaders sneered at him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he really is the Christ sent from God, the chosen one.”

The soldiers also mocked him. They came up to him, offering him sour wine and saying, “If you really are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” Above his head was a notice of the formal charge against him. It read “This is the king of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’ve also been sentenced to die? We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”

It was now about noon, and darkness covered the whole earth until about three o’clock, while the sun stopped shining. Then the curtain in the sanctuary tore down the middle. Crying out in a loud voice, Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I entrust my life.” After he said this, he breathed for the last time.

When the centurion saw what happened, he praised God, saying, “It’s really true: this man was righteous.” All the crowds who had come together to see this event returned to their homes beating their chests after seeing what had happened. And everyone who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance observing these things.

Day 40: You: Your Life in Christ

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So who will you be? What will you do for God? Will you love your neighbor? Will you help the sick? Will you feed the hungry? Will your life point to the cross? Will people see you and want to know Jesus? All of these holy people made the choice to follow Jesus. (Even Jesus made the choice to do the will of the Father.) Every Saint did what they could one thing at a time. What will you do?

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40 Holy People: Week Six

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Day 29: Maggie Gobran: Being The Help Needed

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How many times do we see a problem or see a need and think, “Someone should really do something about that?” Maggie Gobran saw a need and instead of looking around to see who would do something, or praying that God would somehow intervene, did something herself. Mama Maggie, as she came to be known, grew up in the middle class in Cairo Egypt. She became a Coptic Christian. She was a marketing manager and computer science professor. In other words, she was living a middle class life and had no intentions of changing that. Then she visited the Cairo garbage slums (see picture below), where people lived among garbage heaps, many of them children and many of them Coptic Christians, just like Maggie.

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Maggie gave up her middle class life, her jobs, her security, to go help those people she saw in the slums. She started Stephen’s Children (http://www.stephenschildren.org/index.php) to help the children and young people in those slums, and now other impoverished areas of Egypt. The organization seeks to show the children love, build self esteem, and hold onto the hope found in Christ. Maggie now has 1500 workers and volunteers working with her and they’ve reached more than 30,000 children and their families.

Have you noticed a need in your community? How could you meet that need?

“You know, we don’t choose where to be born, but we do choose either to be sinners or saints. To be nobody, or the heroes. If you want to be a hero, do what God wants you to do.” – Mama Maggie

Map of Egypt to Color.

Coloring Page. (A Coptic Cross)

Day 30: Shane Claiborne: Making Peace

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Shane Claiborne grew up in Tennessee. Shane is the started of a New Monastic movement. We read about some ancient monks and monasteries. Shane is spreading the same concept, in a modern way. He has traveled all over the world promoting peace and helping the poor. He has worked in Calcutta, Chicago, Rwanda, West Bank, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He now lives in Philadelphia in a faith community that help the homeless.

“Only Jesus would be crazy enough to suggest that if you want to become the greatest, you should become the least. Only Jesus would declare God’s blessing on the poor rather than on the rich and would insist that it’s not enough to just love your friends. I just began to wonder if anybody still believed Jesus meant those things he said.”

Would you be willing to travel the world to help promote peace? What is peace?

What could you do to help the poor in your community?

Coloring Page. 

Day 31: Mary: The Annunciation of Our Lord

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Annunciation is a big word that means to announce. Today, if you’re on time, is the day known as The Annunciation of our Lord. Why? Well, a pregnancy lasts 38-42 weeks, so today would have been about the time the angel came to Mary to tell her Jesus would be born.

Luke 1:26-38 (CEB)

When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible for God.”

Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

An angel comes to tell Mary that her entire life is about to change. At first, she is confused, but the angel tells her all things are possible with God. She doesn’t fight it, she doesn’t argue with the angel, she fully accepts the will of God for her life. She gladly accepts this life changing news.

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Day 32: John & Beth Muehleisen: Encouraging Others

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John and Beth grew up in America. They currently work on the mission field in Uganda. They have been missionaries for 28 years, raising their children on foreign soil to do the work of Jesus. The main focus of ministry for John is teaching, encouraging, and empowering the ministers God is raising up in Uganda. He is helping them plant more churches and strengthen their brothers and sisters.

The Muehleisen’s have spent their entire life answering God’s call on their life. That call took them far from home and far from their comfort zones. What will you do when God calls you?

John began using a puppet names Lazarus to minister to children in Africa early in his ministry. See a video of John and Lazarus here.

Day 33: William & Catherine Booth: Taking Jesus to The World

William and Catherine

William and Catherine Booth are the founders of something called The Salvation Army. William was a Methodist minister in England in the mid 1800s. The Salvation Army was created as a group of Christians taking the call of God’s salvation out to the world, relieving poverty, and other charitable causes. Not only does the Salvation Army take the word of God to people, they actually help them. The Salvation Army is now in 126 countries.

“While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight. While little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight. While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight. While there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight. I’ll fight to the very end!”- William Booth

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Day 34: James Hudson Taylor: Setting Self Aside

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As a young man, Taylor rebelled against the faith of his parents, who were Christians. But at the age of 17, his eyes were opened, and he accepted Jesus as his Savior. Shortly after, he felt God calling him to China.

James Hudson Taylor was a British Protestant missionary to China. He spent 51 years of his life living in China. He began China Inland Mission (now OFM International). The organization brought over 800 missionaries to China, began 125 schools, and led to 18,000 people deciding to follow Jesus.

While ministering in China, Taylor dressed and groomed himself like the Chinese. He realized his appearance was causing many of the Chinese people not to listen to what he had to say, so he dressed like them so they would hear his words.

His life and stories of his life inspired many people to pursue missions work full time, including Amy Carmichael and Jim Elliot, who we read about earlier in Lent.

Map of China to Color.

40 Holy People: Week Five

40 holy people

Day 23: John: Sharing The Story of Jesus

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John was a disciple of Jesus. We read in Matthew 4 of Jesus calling John and his brother James to follow him while they were repairing fishing nets with their father.  He wrote several New Testament books (John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation). He referred to himself as the Beloved Disciple, the one Jesus loved. He and his brother James are often called the “Sons of Thunder”. (If you and your siblings had a nickname, what would it be?)

John followed Jesus. He learned directly from Jesus. He saw the miracles Jesus performed. He even went out and performed miracles himself in Jesus’s name. John knew that just learning the good news for himself, seeing the miracles with his own eyes, that wasn’t enough. He had to share Jesus with others. He had to tell other what he saw and heard. So he shared. He wrote what he saw, what he heard, and you can read that today. After Jesus’s death, he traveled around, telling people about Jesus. It wasn’t enough that he knew the One True God- he had to tell others!

In Matthew 18:19-20a, Jesus says, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you.” And that is just what John did. You know about the life of Jesus today thanks to those first disciple writing down what they saw and heard. You know the good news because John did what Jesus commanded and shared it. Now it is your job to go out and do the same. Who will come to know the Good News because of you? Who will be introduced to Jesus through your life and your words?

Coloring Page.

Where in the world are you going to tell people about Jesus?

Day 24: Saint Patrick: Slave to Missionary

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If you’re doing these on time, today is Saint Patrick’s Day! Saint Patrick’s Day isn’t about luck, green eggs and ham, leprechauns, or green clothes. So why do we have a day to celebrate this man called Saint Patrick?

Born in England, Patrick (whose name wasn’t Patrick in those days) was brought up in church. He came from a Christian family that taught him about God. When he was still just a boy, he was captured and taken to Ireland to a life of slavery. During his slavery, he grew close to God through prayer as he worked as a shepherd. After six year in slavery, he heard a voice telling him it was soon time to go home. The voice came again and told him his ship was ready. Patrick ran to the sea, 200 miles away, where he found a ship with a captain willing to take him home.

Once back in Britain, Patrick studied Christianity. He had a vision about the Irish people asking him to return. So Patrick went to Ireland as a Missionary. Patrick shared God with the people of Ireland. As a result of his ministry, Ireland came to know God. (They previously knew nothing of Christianity.)

So, why the green? And why the shamrock? Well, Ireland is a very green country. (See the picture below.) So, on St. Patrick’s Day, we wear green, the color of Ireland. Patrick used the shamrock to teach the Druids about God. Remember learning about the Trinity in earlier weeks? Patrick used the shamrock as an example to teach people the Triune Nature of God. God is 3 persons, 1 God. Just as a shamrock has 3 leaves, but is one shamrock.

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Patrick is recognized as a Saint by many Christian traditions.

Do you think it was easy for Patrick to go back to where he had been a slave?

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Day 25: Cyril of Jerusalem: Feeding the Hungry

st_cyril_of_jerusalem

Cyril was a theologian in the early Church. (around 313-386 AD) (Theology is the study of or how we think of God.) In 351, Cyril saw a cross of light in the sky over Golgotha. (Golgotha was the hill where Jesus was crucified.) The entire city of Jerusalem saw the cross in the sky.

When the city of Jerusalem went through a food shortage, Cyril started secretly selling some of the items from the church to pay for food to keep the people from starving. This wasn’t allowed. But Cyril did it anyway, choosing to break the rules rather than see his people suffer. He was charged and lost his job in the church because of this, but was later reinstated. Though he was exiled twice by Emperors.

Cyril also wrote many things about the nature of God and of forgiveness. “The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden for God is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as the Spirit approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen and to console.”

Are there hungry people where you live? What could you do to help feed them?

Coloring Page.

cross in the sky

Day 26: Joseph: Doing The Difficult Thing

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Matthew 1:18-24 introduces us to Joseph.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly. As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled:

Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son,

And they will call him, Emmanuel.

(Emmanuel means “God with us.”)

 When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary

as his wife.

This was definitely not the easiest path for Joseph to choose. He knew people would talk about he and Mary. He knew people wouldn’t understand what had happened. (After all, even he didn’t really believe it until an angel came and told him it was true!) But he chose to marry Mary and become Jesus’s earthly father. Joseph was the man who taught Jesus the things he needed to know to be a man. Joseph taught Jesus scriptures and how to work with wood. Joseph cared for Jesus and protected him, as a father should. He didn’t have to, but he chose to.

Sometimes the things God asks us to do are not easy. Sometimes they make people think we’re weird, strange, or just unlikable. But God calls us to do it anyway. Joseph listened to God through the angel in his dream and ended up a part of the greatest story ever told. What will happen when you listen to God?

Coloring Page.

Coloring Page.

Day 27: Francis of Assissi: Caring for God’s Creation

saint-francis

If you are doing these on time, then today is the first day of Spring! It is only appropriate that we talk about Francis of Assissi on such a day.

Francis of Assissi was born in 1181. He was the son of a wealthy merchant, and spent much of his youth living a very materialistic (putting importance on having things, buying things, and spending money) life. He did not think of others and lived only for himself and his own fun.

In 1204, Francis went off to war as a soldier for Assissi. He had a vision there, and lost his desire for worldly things. When he returned home, he gave up his wealth and treasures, began preaching in the streets, and developed a following. He founded an order of monks, who lived with no worldly pleasures. He cared for the poor, but also for animals and the world God had created. He saw the animals and plants as something good that God had created, and that we should take care of because it is from God. He often preached to animals.

When Francis died, it is said that birds came to be with him on his deathbed. Francis lived a simple life, but found that in the end, he was not alone. Many Christian traditions recognize Francis of Assissi as a Saint.

Activity: It is the first day of Spring! God for a walk in nature and look at the things God created. You can also plant some seeds in honor of St. Francis today.

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Day 28: Elijah: Miracles, Even to The End

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Elijah was a prophet during the 9th century BC. Elijah lived a life of miracles. God gave him messages for the people, which he delivered. During famine and drought, God fed Elijah by having ravens bring him food. (1 Kings 17.) Elijah raised a boy from the dead. (1 Kings 17.) Elijah challenged the followers of a false God and showed the nation that there was One True God. (1 Kings 18.) God fed him yet again in the wilderness. (1 Kings 19.) Elijah heard the still, small voice of God in the wilderness. (1 Kings 19.) Elijah pointed out the wickedness people tried to hide. (1 Kings 21.) He called down fire from heaven. (2 Kings 1.) When it came time for Elijah to die, well, he didn’t. A fiery chariot with horses came and took Elijah to heaven in a windstorm. (1 Kings 2.)

So, what made Elijah so special? Why was he at the center of all these stories? The truth is, that Elijah wasn’t at the center of the stories. Elijah wasn’t the main character in his own life. God was. Elijah did what God said and went where God told him to go. God was at the center, and that is what made Elijah’s life such a whirlwind.

Who is at the center of your story?

When God tells you to go, will you go?

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Coloring Page.