Love The Children Now

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Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  –Jesus Christ

I don’t have a solution,
But something is amiss,
The problem is appalling
And I can tell you this:

I wouldn’t want to spend my nights,
Upon a concrete floor,
Or caring for a toddler,
I’d never met before.

I wouldn’t want the same three meals
each day for many weeks
Without a way to brush my teeth
Or wash my dirty cheeks.

I wouldn’t want to be apart
from family so long.
To be an innocent, a child.
Who has done nothing wrong.

Forget the funding battles,
Forget building the wall,
We must not be a stumbling block
to children, young and small

Each side, entrenched, the battle waged
The fix? I don’t know how,
but surely Christ would call a truce,
And love the children now.

Mitch

 

“Can You Play?”

 

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“The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.” -Zechariah 8:5

It was Saturday afternoon at the church, on the cusp of Advent, and I was working.

Kylie (our awesome children’s director) had recruited some volunteers to offer free babysitting just to give parents a few hours of kid-free time.  Judging this to be a noble task, I signed on to help.

We had watched a movie, and done a variety of crafts, and now, with an hour to go, Kylie and I filed the older kids into the gym for some running around time.

I found a chair and sat down.

Kylie began leading the kids through one form of tag after another.  Freeze tag.  Sharks and minnows.  Stay-on-the-line tag. (There are a lot more versions of tag than I remembered)

I watched as calories were burned and a good time was mostly had by all.  Then it happened. One of the girls, a third grader, was getting things organized for yet another version of running and catching.  She looked at me and said the words:

“Can you play?”

I had been sitting on my rump for an hour, never even considering joining in.  Her words literally stunned me.

I jumped to my feet and stammered, “Yes…I can play…”  At that very moment Kylie called out that it was time for the kids to meet up with their parents.

What a strange moment for me.  I had been invited (called out) to play, and now I was saved by the clock.  Half of me felt like I’d dodged a bullet.  The other half felt…old.  And not the good kind of old.  The kind of old that looks at the past wistfully, wondering what’s become of me.

CAN I play? I play an occasional video game.  Does that count?  I walk my dog.  I watch Netflix.  Wow. I used to play instinctively.  With wild abandon.  Have I lost this spark of my humanity? I certainly hope not, but I may admittedly be a little rusty.

Which brings me to Advent.  In honor of this little encounter, and in spite of all the work I have on my plate these next weeks, I have decided to honor the coming Christ the way a child might.  These are the ways I aim to play this Advent:

  1.  Play a board game.  Monopoly, Boggle, Trivial Pursuit.  I’ve got all those in a closet somewhere.
  2. Play Santa.  I aim to give gifts that aren’t just check marks on a list.  I want to feel that thrill of giving — Fewer gift cards…more toys!
  3. Play with Tom.  Tom is my doggie.  He ALWAYS wants to play, but most of the time I give him a treat to distract him.  I plan to get down on the floor and rough house.
  4. Play with kids.  I will joke and tease with the kids at my church, but if I want to recapture Christmas through their eyes, I’ll need to listen to them, learn from them, and get up off my rump, wiling to burn a few calories!
  5. Play with my imagination.  I used to be so good at this!  Bringing a drawing or a story into the world.  You know, Making believe is actually a good way for Making Believers! So today I’ll pretend to be a shepherd.  Tomorrow I’ll do my best to be an angel.

That’s my list, for now.  Do you have one?  While making a list seems counter to the whole spontaneous notion of play, in this case I hope it serves as a good reminder.

Yes! I CAN play. May that never change.  To see Christmas as the twinkle in the eye of the creator takes more effort for some of us than others, but it’s always worth it.  Besides, I’ve received an official invitation to try, from a real live young person.

Let me extend that invitation to you.  Can you play?  Do you want to try with me?

Good.

Tag, you’re it.

Have a great Advent,

Mitch

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barefoot.: devotions & discussions by Rev. Mitch Todd Paperback

 

 

Keep ’em Coming

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When I look at this picture, I have some really great memories…

of being bored out of my mind.

This is Saline Presbyterian Church, in Michigan.

I would have been around 9.  My brother was 7.

Up front, the preacher (our dad) was preaching,  and we were trying to make it through another hour of worship.

Tic Tac Toe.  Hangman.  That dots and boxes games.

We’d count the number of ceiling tiles.

We’d scratch out letters and words in the bulletin to make new sentences.  “We lift up our cares” became “We lift up cars.”

We’d try to make the other one laugh, and then look scornfully if they did.

We’d stand and sing the hymns, sometimes changing the words.  “When I fall on my face with my knees to the rising sun…”

We’d doodle, and fidget, poke each other, and stare at the clock that seemed to tick so slowly, and sometimes, when all other options were extinguished, we’d actually listen.

My dad was a great preacher.  When I was a little older, my mom became ordained.  She was a great preacher, too.

Still, I’ll be honest.  There were plenty of Sundays when I would have rather been any place other than some old stuffy sanctuary.  But something about that weekly discipline, that time spent in “Holy Space” listening to words of wisdom, began to affect me.

Theological concepts began to make sense.  Stories from the Bible became more intriguing.  And I was actually able to see the connection between what we did in here, in the Sanctuary, and what the Church is called to do out there, in the world.

Today, when I see kids in church, there with their families, I feel so happy to see them.  I wouldn’t begrudge them some doodling or tic tac toe throughout the service, either.

But when I preach, part of me is preaching for them.  I want to make them smile, or laugh, or perk up. Or even learn something.

I want them to catch a glimpse.  A glimpse of Jesus there in the room with us.

I know worship can sometimes be boring (for any age),

but I do believe it has a cumulative affect.

So parents, keep ’em coming.

Both for their sake, and for mine.

After all, the glimpse of Jesus I get to see

is frequently in them.

Have a great week,

Mitch

BringKidsToChurch

Christmas is for adults, too.

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Everybody always says, “Christmas is for Children.”

Been there, done that.  It was great.

However…

I’d like to raise a few points on behalf of those who find themselves with a few gray hairs.  Or a lot of them.

Christmas is no less magical or profound or sweet or challenging now than it was when we were whippersnappers.

In fact, it may even be better.

Let’s talk about Hope:  I must confess I’ve done my time on the Island of Misfit Toys.  Feeling broken. Not sure where I belonged. But I’ve learned that everyone gets broken.  Everyone feels like a misfit from time to time.  It is the coming of Christ that gives our lives meaning and purpose.  Now I know what it really means to have HOPE!

Let’s talk about Love:  I’ve learned that there is no perfect present underneath the tree.  Hard as we might try, we can’t fit love in a box.  There’s only one gift that truly satisfies to that extent.  It is the gift that God gave to us, so that we might pass it on.  Now I know what it really means to have (and give) LOVE!

Let’s talk about Peace:  Every year I find myself saying, “has the world ever been this bad?”  My attentiveness to the suffering around me has developed, but so has my faith and resolve.  I believe there is no turmoil that the Prince of Peace cannot transform, and I want to help.  Now I know how to look for signs of PEACE!

Let’s talk about Joy:  Whereas once a gadget or a toy would make me giddy, now joy strikes me much more deeply. It is in the presence of family and friends.  In witnessing simple acts of grace.  In the Christmas story.  More than just the excitement of a season, I am reminded of what God With Us truly means both now, and the whole year round.  Now I know the ongoing thrill of JOY!

Oh, I’d never take back those wondrous years of Christmases past.

But that wonder has never left, if we know where to look!

It’s in any heart that embraces the HOPE, LOVE, PEACE, and JOY of Christmas…

and never lets go.

Merry Christmas.

Mitch

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READ THIS: KONY 2012

READ THIS:

This is important.

I wouldn’t dream of using this space to tell you who to vote for in 2012.

But I know of someone we can all unite against.

His name is Joseph Kony.

WATCH THIS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

This is a movie. It’s 29 minutes long.

Watching it will anger you, educate you, perhaps shame you.

The video is worth the time, I promise.

It’s about Joseph Kony, a war criminal from Uganda who has kidnapped, raped, mutilated and enslaved more than 30,000 children. And it’s about how we can stop him.

DO THIS:

Share this devotion with your family and friends. Share it on Facebook, retweet it on Twitter.

Visit the site http://kony2012.com and add your pledge.

Pray for the invisible children around the world.

Have a good week,

Mitch

I Got Egged.


If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  Luke 11:13

I got egged last night. (Halloween)

Well, I was the intended target. And I kind of deserved it.

See, I didn’t get home until 9, but I’d left our outside lights on. I wonder how many eager kids rang our doorbell only to be answered by the frustrated “woofs” of our big bear of a dog, Charlie?

Actually, that’s part of the reason I wasn’t home. I just couldn’t picture a whole night of dog eruptions every two minutes. And I hadn’t bought any candy, and we live in a new subdivision, and I didn’t know if there would be many kids anyway. Last year I gained 5 pounds from the leftovers. Either I’d have a Charlie-induced headache from too many kiddies, or I’d have a sugar-induced headache from eating too much candy because there weren’t enough kiddies.

So I went to a movie. God forgive me, I abdicated my role and responsibility as an American homeowner. Instead, I sat by myself in a theater and watched a special screening of Ghostbusters, one of my favorite movies from my late childhood.  It brought back some great Halloween memories.  (Too bad I wasn’t making some for somebody else.)

When I pulled up at 9, I was sure all the trick-or-treaters would be done, but our street was still filled with the sounds of teenagers making their late-night rounds. Sheepishly I pulled into the garage, walked into the house, and turned off the outside lights. I still didn’t have any candy. Time to pretend I wasn’t home.

Then the siege began. If you can call it that.

A handful of neighborhood boys had clearly seen me arrive home and douse the lights.  They wanted revenge. I sat in the dim light of my dining room, my traumatized dog beside me, and I could hear them circling the house, talking.

“He’s in there. I think I can see him.”

“Where’s my egg?”

“No guys, look! That’s him through the window!”

At this point, Charlie could take no more. He bellowed mightily and the boys screamed off into the night. Charlie and I couldn’t help but grin at each other, like the Grinch and his dog Max.

An hour later, Jan was home, and she let our dog out to do his business. He returned inside with something in his mouth.  A whole egg, complete and intact. Those poor boys got neither treat nor trick from me this year.

I did not feel satisfaction at this notion.  Suddenly, I felt terrible! I had missed Halloween.

How many times do you have the opportunity to give gifts to your neighbors? To have them standing at your front door? I blew it, and I knew it.  If I could find those guys I’d tell them I’ve learned my lesson.  Instead, I’ll have to prove it to them.

Next year, I’m gonna be the best house on the street. I may even get full-sized candy bars to pass out! (And toothbrushes?) I’ve been reminded that caring for the children is my responsibility, too. God wants me to give good gifts to these children, just as God has given good gifts to me.

Sorry, kids, you didn’t manage to get any egg on my house, but I assure you…

There’s plenty on my face.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch

photos by Jepster, Julep67