Post-Easter Sunday excitement, wiggles and sugar-hangovers made the Good News Club a little more challenging last week. After a few songs and teaching about the resurrection via the account of the two disciples who met the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus, it was craft and review time. The room divided up by grade to work on a few peel-and-stick crafts and see who could remember a few things from the story that day. Conversation and laughter filled the room, but everything remained under control — except for a few boys in the second grade group. The adult working with that group could have used a few dogs from the herding group to help corral those nine children. I was done teaching for the day so I tapped the four boys on the shoulder and said, “You guys come with me.”
I never, ever get tired of reading or hearing the story of when people wanted to bring their kids to Jesus and the disciples tried to stop them (Mark 10:13-16). I can just hear the disciples saying, “Get those kids out of here.” And then Jesus says, “Don’t you dare send those kids away. Let them come to me. That’s what this is all about!”
This account resonates on a number of levels. First of all, I think that deep down, we just all want to be kids. We want to be free of all the responsibilities of being adults, to just play and imagine and color. And that’s OK. You get a much better handle on Jesus when you are a kid. You’re not trying to prove yourself or justify yourself. You just look at him with wonder and know that he’s not like any grown up you’ve ever met before. He wants you to hang around, not just go off and play (and be quiet).
I also believe we want to feel his embrace. After Jesus rebuked his disciples and told them to let the children come to him, he took them in his arms and blessed them. With all the uncertainty, violence, politics, prejudice, hatred, jealousy and evil in our world, we just want someone to hold us. We long for someone who can make us feel safe. Who better than Jesus, who loves without boundaries, who provides a refuge from everything that threatens, whose arms can reach and embrace anyone, no matter the distance?
Don’t ever grow up so much that you no longer yearn for the feel of his arms around you. Always embrace your inner child, for that is one of the places where you will best get to know your Savior!
My little friend C. stopped by to see me the other day. With a whopping five-and-a-half months of life under her belt, she has developed quite the personality. When I said, “Hi!” and our eyes met, she flashed a huge smile, kicked her legs and excitedly waved her arms.
But when I looked away for a second to talk to her handler (aka Grandma), I saw out of the corner of my eye that she stopped. When I turned back to her and made eye contact, she smiled and squirmed again. This is my kind of game. I looked away and looked at her over and over again, with the exact same result. She was delighted when I looked but was dismayed when I didn’t.
Reflecting on that brief visit, I thought, “Wait a minute, I’ve played that game before.” We all have. There are times in life when it seems like God has turned away from us, and we’re dismayed. But when it seems like he’s paying attention to us, we’re all giggly and happy. Bad stuff happens and we’re like, “Hey, God, I’m over here.” Good stuff happens and we’re all, “God is good, all the time! All the time, God is good!”
King Saul once felt that way. He said, “God has turned away from me and answers me no more” (1 Samuel 28:15). But Saul had turned away from God a long time before that. In fact, when Saul said that, he had employed a medium to conjure up the spirit of Samuel!
Does God turn away from us? Just the opposite. God comes looking for us. Like he looked for Adam and Even in the garden when they were hiding in the bushes. Or like a shepherd who goes in search of a lost sheep. Or Jesus, who shows up in this world to seek and save the lost.
The best reminder of God’s gaze on us comes in the words of the benediction, “The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you” (Numbers 6:25). I hope you’ll never hear those words the same way again, a reminder of God’s persistent gaze upon our lives, so that we can respond with excitement, joy and yes, a giggle!
Note: the picture is not C. She is much cuter!
I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but once again I found myself at the kids table.
After the wedding rehearsal, the family invited me to join them for dinner at the Portuguese American Cultural Center for supper. Even though I was the last to leave after locking up the church, I was one of the first to arrive there. Within fifteen minutes or so, more of the family trickled in, and it wasn’t long before I found myself watching a young men, Junior (age 4) and his cousin (age 6), play some games on an iPad. We were joined by two young ladies, Ina (age 4) an Layla (age 9), who were each absorbed in a book. When I asked what they were reading, they eagerly shared with me the highlights of their Captain Underpants books. As I sat to listen, we were invited to the buffet, and just like that, I found myself eating with the kids.
If you know me at all, you’ll know I was in my element, and soon we were comparing notes as to what is actually inside a clam, debating how much salt to sprinkle on a piece of bread (correct answer: none), and clinking out glasses so we could watch the soon-to-be married couple kiss. Dessert was even better as some delicious homemade chocolate mousse was quickly dubbed “moose poo.”
They couldn’t quite get the knack of rubbing a finger along the rim of a glass to fill the room with a high-pitched note. They did find and consume most of the chocolate covered strawberries. And the imitation rose petals decorating the tables were great for practicing for the big day tomorrow.
I got to meet a lot of nice family and friends of both the bride and groom, but I enjoyed the kids the best. Bonus moment: when ten-month old Clifford gave me a big, mostly toothless smile!