I focus a lot on how God blesses me. Indeed, how I long for God to me. And God does, even though God’s blessings are often quite different than the blessings I have in mind! But what about me, how often do I seek to bless God by what I say, think or do? Psalm 103 is a powerful reminder about how important this is: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (RSV). Today, may I bless the Lord in big ways and small, publicly and privately, and with all of my heart, soul and mind!
There’s a cacophony of noise swirling around. Some of this noise is people advocating for their personal agendas. Other parts are the sound of confusion. But some of it – to be honest, way too much of it – is anger, demonization and hatred.
I confess that sometimes all of this noise is so loud I cannot hear You. I also have to confess that too often I am so busy adding to the noise that I don’t really want to listen to You. But deep down I know I long to hear You, need to hear You and must make it a priority to hear Your graceful word, Your healing word, Your challenging word, Your correcting word, Your transforming word and Your hopeful word.
May this be a day of listening and hearing. But perhaps even more importantly, may it also be a day of discerning and then acting so that Your will may become just as real on earth as it already is in heaven.
Christ, in Your mercy, hear my prayers.
I believe this era in history will be remembered for our insistence on labeling people and putting them into categories, and then demonizing them when they don’t fit in the right boxes. I know this seems like a harsh indictment, but the evidence is overwhelmingly clear from online posts, political rhetoric and even Christian pronouncements. In a world whose stability is threatened by the COVID19 pandemic, government overreach, global hunger, terrorism, the sin of racism and climate change, this just may be the most threatening reality of all because it leads people to use their energy for attacking others instead of working together to solve problems. Quite frankly, it’s time for those of us who know we are saved by Jesus and want him to be Lord of our lives to change the narrative – whether it’s in our online presence, the way we talk about politics or how we speak our faith – by talking about others as those created in the image of God, people for whom Jesus died, and sisters and brothers in Christ. It may not change the world, but it’s sure a positive start.
By Melinda Shunk
Children's Ministry Coordinator
Where did Jesus teach his disciples? The majority of Jesus’ teachings were outside. Along the lake, on a hilltop, on a dirt trail were the locations of ministry that Jesus chose. Still today, the Holy Spirit works best outside and in nature. Camping ministry is the corner foundation for faith formation in children. It allows a child to be away from the everyday life distractions and places them in peaceful locations surrounded by new friends, beautiful worship, silly songs, caring young adults, outdoor adventures, Bible study, and a small taste of independence.
Camp Tanako is a blessing to the Children’s Ministry in Arkansas because they specialize in elementary-age camping ministry most of the summer. Don’t get me wrong, they have some excellent MAD camp, junior high and high school theme weeks for older kids, but most weeks are designed with your child in mind. The camp also has a short three-night Discovery Camp for first-time kids that are not sure they are ready for a whole week away from home. Tanako is nestled right in Hot Springs, which has plenty of fun things for parents to do if they stay in town while their children try out the three-night option.
Kayla Hardage is the new camp director, and “Thanks to COVID-19,” she has had an entire year to plan and prepare for your child to come for a week of camp. There are new boats in the lake, 9 square, GaGa ball pits, a renewed mini-golf course, great creative art spaces, mountain bike trails, a well-staffed swimming pool, and a ropes course for those up for a sky-high adventure. There is also a new education director, Matthew Gwinner, who has years of camping ministry experience to share around a s’mores-filled campfire. Kayla and Matthew will be training their staff not only for their summer ministry positions but also for controlling the spread of COVID-19. They have several layers of precautions in place, including mask-wearing and spaced-out bunk beds in large cabins. They will follow all CDC guidelines for a safe summer camping experience.
It is not too late to plan a fun-filled faith formation week for your child. Click on the link to check out their new, updated website and the weeks of camps available. Please also check with your church administration; many times, funds are left by members to finance a child’s experience at camp. If your church doesn’t have a camping scholarship fund, talk to Kayla today, by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org, on the ways you can quickly create a camping scholarship fund.
Something seems pretty clear to me as I look at Jesus’ ministry. When he was abundantly clear about what was right and wrong, Jesus almost always first led with compassion. When Jesus led with compassion, he almost always eventually told people they needed to change what they were doing. What tied these two seemingly opposite things together? Love. Jesus loved people with a compassionate heart just the way they were – but he also loved them so much he was unwilling to leave them just the way they were. For you and me, true love rooted in Jesus’ heart embraces people where they are without question and then walks with them as the Holy Spirit changes them from the inside out. In a world where so many people seem to be convinced that it’s a choice between compassion or change, Jesus’ love unites the two in a transformational way that can only be called miraculous.