The Gift We Need

The Gift We Need is a short story by Pastor Paul Goedert

It was a time like no other. Christmas. I was nine years old and the magic was still very real to me.  Santa, reindeer, chimneys and everything that goes with it. December was a month filled with family, love, joy, and presents.

OH THE PRESENTS! It seemed like Santa knew not just the things I had asked him for, but all of my secret desires for toys, games and candies! I believed, I wanted, and I got. Christmas was a time of receiving for me. But all of that changed the summer after I turned nine.

My Father was a very important man in our city. He served on the city council, was General Manager of our local bank, and he also taught Bible study at our church. But none of that mattered that summer.

Just like every other July my family went camping over the 4th of July. This year we camped at a state park that we had never been to before. We had a great time, spent nights around the campfire, except for the night that my Dad took us out on Lake Michigan in a boat to watch the fireworks from offshore. It was the best!

A few days after our return my Dad stayed home from work, he told us he had a nasty summer cold, he just needed rest. By the end of the week he was in the hospital, by the end of the month he was gone. The doctor’s told my Mother and older siblings what happened, I couldn’t make any sense of it. All I knew was that he was gone.

School started and things were tough. I missed him terribly, and it showed in my behavior and academics. If I could fight over it, I did. Many days I returned home from school with cuts, scrapes or a fresh black eye. I made sure the other kids did too.

Halloween came, I was uninterested. Thanksgiving came, I didn’t care. But December was approaching, and although I missed my Dad, the thought of all the lights, snow, and Christmas magic gave me a little hope.

Things weren’t just tough for me, my Mother had gone back to work to try and keep us afloat. My Dad’s life insurance had paid off the house, the car and had kept us able to survive for few months. Even I began to notice that things were changing, and not in a good way. Mom’s great meals were being replaced by frozen dinners and fast food. Trips to the movies or the mall got fewer and far between. I could feel the pinch, even as a nine year old boy.

After Thanksgiving my Mom sat me down, told me she needed to tell me something. She began to tell me about how tight our finances were, that we were spending most of what she was making on electricity, heat and groceries. She told me that Christmas would be different this year. She broke it to me that Santa wasn’t real, and that all those gifts had come from my parents. I was devastated, she cried with me. No Christmas this year.

My new reality hurt, and my Mom was trying to make things better. That Sunday we went to church for the first time since my Dad’s funeral. Except it wasn’t our church, we went to the little church down the street from our home, not the church I had always been in, my Mom called it a fresh start, whatever that means.

In our kids lesson that day we learned about Jesus being God’s gift to us. All I could think of was the gifts I wasn’t going to get that year. I knew my Mom would try, but I knew it would fall short of what I had in the past.

Than the hammer fell. Our furnace died two weeks before Christmas, during a record setting cold snap. The last of my Dad’s insurance money and part of what my Mom had saved went to pay for a new furnace. There went Christmas, although my Mom jokingly added that Christmas can’t be fun if you freeze.

Christmas Eve came, the meal was small and unsatisfying. My Mom explained there simply wasn’t enough to splurge on a big meal. The answer left me as empty as the meal. I yelled that I wish Dad was still here,  that he could fix anything, that we would’t be in this mess and Christmas wouldn’t have been ruined if he was alive. As I stomped off to my room for the night, I was the first of what I now know to be many tears that fell from her eyes that night.

My body woke me up at 6am, just like every other Christmas morning. I almost jumped out of bed to run downstairs. But reality flooded back to me and I rolled over. A good three hours later, I finally got out of bed and went down to have whatever breakfast I could find.

To my delight, there was a breakfast of thick french toast, bacon, eggs and strawberries put out for us. My brother who had arrived late had stopped and brought some groceries for us to celebrate. I ate the food hungrily and thought that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. Than I walked into the living room. Disappointment swept over me.

Under the tree, instead of wrapped presents, there were cans of vegetables, fruit, boxes of baking mix, and even some spaghetti noodles. I didn’t understand. My Mom was sitting in my Dad’s chair and she smiled at me, wished me a Merry Christmas, and asked me to sit with her. I sullenly complied.

My Mom opened her Bible and began to read the Christmas story from Luke to me. As I listened, it felt like every Christmas before. This was a tradition and I felt normal for the first time in months. When she finished, she handed me a small wrapped box. It was the only wrapped gift I received that year from her. She looked at me and said “I hope you like it, I know its your favorite.”

I tore into the box, and quickly confusion set in. It wasn’t a toy, a video game, or candy. It was a box of corn muffin mix. Jiffy corn muffin mix to be exact. She was right, it was my favorite, we always had it with chili, fried chicken, and with whatever I could convince my Mom to make it with. I loved corn muffins. But it wasn’t what I wanted.

My Mom looked down and saw my confusion, but she didn’t shed a tear, she simply said “Sometimes the gifts we want, aren’t the gifts we need. I know you want toys, and sports equipment and candy. But right now those are only wants. This box of corn muffin mix is something you need. Not just the food, but the memories, the goodness, the positive feelings that go along with it. I wanted to give you something you needed this Christmas.”

“All of these cans and boxes under the tree, these are my gifts to you this year. Just like God gave us Jesus, to show us love and light, to bring us hope. That is why all this is under the tree. What we need is always greater than what we want.”

I looked around, what I had discounted before became clear to me now. These just weren’t cans of vegetables and fruit. There were cans of sweet corn and green beans, my favorite vegetables. I saw peaches and pears! My favorite cereal was there too, as well as my favorite meal, spaghetti! My Mom had gotten me all of my favorite foods for Christmas. I looked at her with a new understanding.

That Christmas I learned something, it’s not the gift we want that brings us joy or peace or even love. It’s the gift we need. With this new understanding of Christmas and God, I soon gave my life to Jesus. All because of that box of corn muffin mix.

Every Christmas after that, even now as I have children of my own, there is one small box for each. There are still toys, game, and candy. But one box for each gets opened before all the rest, that box is always corn muffin mix. To remind us of the gift we need, family, love, hope, the gift of Jesus.

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Use It or Lose It – October 2017

This October in GL First Kids we are talking about stewardship and all the ways we can take care of what we have, and why. It starts with everything beginning to God, and we are working with the kids on learning how they can use their time, things and money wisely. We will tying it all together by focus our last week on the importance of living our life focused on what really matters.

The other big news this month is the launch of our GL First Kid’s small groups at 9am on Sundays. We have three groups broken up by grade; K-1st, 2nd-3rd, and 4th-5th. The small groups will be reinforcing and introducing the concepts that we are teaching in the 11am GL First Kids church service. Make sure you check out whats happening!

Bible Story: Matthew 25:14-30
Memory Verse: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” Luke 16:10a, NIV
Life App: Stewardship: taking care of what you have because it all belongs to God.
Basic Truth: I need to make the wise choice.

As a cook who has worked in restaurants it can get very boring. People for the most part order the same dishes over and over. There is very little change in your job. I love cooking when I can create my own flavors and dishes. That is exciting, making 27 grilled cheese sandwiches in a day, not so much. That’s why I love watching the show Chopped.

The excitement of not knowing what’s in that basket is one of the best parts. But the very best part is finding out how those crazy ingredients are going to go together, and if it is actually going to taste good.

In our story this week a wealthy man went away on a journey. He gave instructions to his three most trusted servants . In the story Jesus says that the man gave one servant five talents, the second one two talents, and the third servant one talent.

Now a talent is a unit of money, like a dollar or a quarter, except that for a common worker in that time a talent was like 20 years of wages. So all three servants were actually given a large amount of money, even the servant who received only one talent. The two faithful servants doubled their masters investment, while the other dug a hole and buried it.

Now “talents” are a metaphor for the abilities and gifts that God has given each and everyone of us. So of us have received many gifts, some it may seem we have received just a few. But all of them have great value, and we have all received gifts from God. Here is what we can learn from the two faithful servants.

You have to learn that you have to…

FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU HAVE

Before the two servants could do anything, they had to figure out what their master had given them.

We have to do the same thing, God has given each of you a unique talent, gift or passion. The best thing that we can do is to figure out exactly what we have right now.

Some of you are gifted creatively, you sing, dance, play an instrument, maybe you paint or draw. Some others of you have been given practical gifts, you could be mechanically or technologically gifted. All of us have traits in our personalities that are a gift. Maybe your compassionate, a great listener, or the best, maybe you can make people laugh. The ability to bring a smile to someones face is one of the greatest gifts.

After you figure out what you have, you have to…

FIGURE OUT HOW YOU CAN USE IT

The two faithful servants invested the money their master gave them, and each doubled the amount they started with.

They knew what their master had given them was something of great value, he had given them something that had been his.

In the story of our lives, God is the master, and He has given each of us something born of who he is. Creativity, compassion, complex thinking, love and even humor. All of these things and more make up who God is. His gift is not just a talent or ability, it’s a spark of His very own life.

Even if it only feels like a little gift, we are still supposed to do something with what God has given us. Burying it in a hole and never using it is not good enough. Keeping our gifts and talents inside the church is also not acceptable.

Let’s talk about the third servant, he did nothing with what the master gave him. And as a result the master took his talent from him, and gave it to the servant who did the most with what he had been given.

You have lots of hopes and dreams for your future. But a has as you try to plan every detail of your life – you can’t. But what you can do is make sure you are taking care of what God has given you. That means doing the best with what you have.

Respect Your Leaders

Bible Story: 1 Samuel 24 – David spares Saul

Bottom Line: You respect God when you respect the people He’s put in charge.

Memory Verse: “Show proper respect to everyone.” 1 Peter 2:17a, NIV

Life App: Respect—showing others they are important by what you say and do.

Basic Truth: I can trust God no matter what.

We wrapped up our month talking about respect this week. We’ve talked about respecting God, having respect for all people, regardless of their situations, race, economic status and popularity. Last week we talked about the importance of respecting our parents.

Throughout all this month there has been one common thread tying it all together, respect for God. It starts and ends there.

Our final week we focused on showing proper respect to the leaders that God has placed in charge of our lives. The need to focus on respect for our leaders is just as important as any of the others we have learned, we respect our leaders because God has put them in charge. If we don’t respect them, we aren’t respecting God’s choice for this time of our lives.

See, if we are to respect God, which is the ultimate goal, than we need to be able to respect the things that God has done (create people) and is doing (creating families and establishing leadership).

We don’t always agree 100% with what God does, because we don’t always 100% understand what God does. But we still need to show respect for those God has placed in authority in our lives. Pastors, teachers, government leaders, parents, and all of the other people God has place in our lives. They are worthy of respect because God has put them there, and by respecting them, we are showing our respect to God.

Here are a few ways we can learn to respect our leaders.

  1. Pray for them. Don’t pray they see your point of view, pray that God would guide them, pray that God would keep them healthy, bless their families. Pray for the person, not the position.
  2. Don’t talk bad about them. So you don’t like them or agree with them. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. This is also a good time to pray… for our own attitudes.
  3. Remember who is really in charge. David had a chance to kill Saul, but choose not to. Instead David relied on God’s plan to make him king, and respected the person God put in charge. David was able to do this because he recognized that ultimately, God is in charge.

Thanks for reading! There is downloadable printout for this weeks lesson review you can share with your child. I am looking forward to our new series in September; Lunchroom, which will be focusing on friendship. See you soon!

Pastor Paul

GL Kids Parents Week 4

You respect God when you respect your parents.

Bible Story: Ephesians 6:1-3; Deuteronomy 5:16

Bottom Line: You respect God when you respect your parents.

Memory Verse: “Show proper respect to everyone.” 1 Peter 2:17a, NIV

Life App: Respect—showing others they are important by what you say and do.

Basic Truth: I should treat others the way I want to be treated.

Respect isn’t always easy. Even when we know we are supposed to respect everyone, situations come when it makes it difficult to make that choice. Especially when it comes to kids and parents.

School is coming, which means your children will be spending less time with you, and more time with other kids. It also means you have less time to parent and correct behavior and help disciple them as they grow in their spiritual formation.

My advice is this… slow it down. Take time to respond, don’t be reactionary. Moments will come, situations will pop up, things will happen that will test you kids respect towards you. Don’t be discouraged, don’t be enraged… breathe.

These are frustrating moments, but they can be teaching and discipling moments too. Use them to point out behavior problems, Biblically, not just opinion. Remind them of the bottom lines for respect that they learned this month in August.

  1. Show respect to God because He’s in charge of everything.
  2. You respect God when we respect the people He made.
  3. You  respect God when you respect your parents.
  4. You respect God when you respect the leader’s He’s put in charge.

Respect is something that is learned, it can’t be forced or natural. Don’t just demand it of your child, embody it. You can’t expect your children to model behavior that you do not. Show respect to others if you expect you child to.

Pastor Paul

Click on the link below for our Week 3 home worksheet!

Drumline – Week 3

 

 

GL Kid’s Journal – July 2017, Week 1

Bible Story: 1 Samuel 17

Bottom Line: God Made You to Be You

Memory Verse: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

Life App: UNIQUENESS—discovering who God made you to be so you can make a difference.

Basic Truth: I can trust God no matter what.

The first two weeks of July have been a blast in GL Kid’s We are continuing our theme of Gadget’s and Gizmo’s, but this month the focus is on how God has created each of us with our own unique talents, personalities and individual purposes. We really want the kids to understand that God’s creativity is evident not only in the physical world, but also can be found in each and every one of them.

Like all of our lessons, they are based upon a story from the Bible. This one is a very familiar story, one that we all know. The story of David and Goliath.

There were some powerful things we can learn from this story. First off we learn that God can use anybody, big or small, king or shepherd, warrior or poet to bring about His glory. Second we learn what happens when we have faith in God, verbalize that faith AND we take actions that show that faith, God honors and delivers. But it’s the third lesson that we really wanted to show the kids.

When David told King Saul that he was going to not only fight this giant, but defeat him, Saul offered David his armor and his weapons, preparing David for the battle in front of him. David considered these items, tried them on, but in the end wasn’t comfortable. The armor was too heavy and David couldn’t move. The sword was unwieldy, and David had no confidence in using it. So David told Saul that he wouldn’t fight with the King’s armor. That he would face this giant with what he had confidence in.

David had some unique experiences for a young man. As a shepherd he had defended his Father’s flock against bears and lions, and he had done so with staff and a sling. A unique choice for fighting off such powerful animals. David had confidence in the abilities and gifts that God has given him, and even more so he had confidence in the God that had given him those gifts. David made the unique choice again, this time to face the giant warrior Goliath, with a staff, a sling with a few smooth stones, and the power of God behind him.

We all know how this ends. God rewards David’s faith and boldness with a victory against Goliath, the Philistine army is scattered, and David is made a hero! But if not for David’s unique choice, if David had decided to try and fight as someone else, not himself, his victory may have come at a much higher difficulty. David’s swift and dominant win, came because David recognized that God created David to be David. The same way God created you to be you!

This last Sunday we had to missionary guests who shared amazing stories of kids praying and believing for miracles. In one case a little girl prayed for a healing, against the wishes of the woman she prayed for, and God delivered that miracle healing! This week I challenged the kids to look for opportunities to pray with people for the miracles they need, to have the faith that God answers prayers. Even ones that come from the tiniest of us. I challenge you to do the same as a family. Look for opportunities to pray, to believe, to give God the opportunity to show you something amazing.

Pastor Paul

GL Kid’s Journal – June 18, 2017

Bible Story: Genesis 2:19-20

Bottom Line: God Made You to Imagine

Memory Verse: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Life App: CREATIVITY – imagining what you could do because you’re made in God’s image.

Basic Truth: I can trust God no matter what.

What a month of firsts! We’ve talked about the first light, the first mountains, the first oceans, the first animals and God’s most special first in the creation story, the first person.

Adam was created in God’s image, with all the creative and physical capabilities to do another first; the world’s first JOB!

Adam was tasked by God to take care of His creation, to tend to the garden and enjoy the fruits of God’s labor. Sounds a lot better than some of the jobs I’ve had!

But like we learned last week, Adam was created by THE Creator, in HIS image! God knew Adam needed more to do than pull weeds and take walks. Adam needed to be able to flex the creative muscle and use the imagination that God gave him. So God gave Adam a second job… to name all of God’s other creations.

So time out for a second. One of my favorite things making its way around social media circles are the memes with alternative animal names. Adam had to name every creature on the face of the earth. He looked at the tortoise and said (in perfect English of course), “Hello, tortoise.” Adam saw birds with beautiful feathers and exclaimed “Parrots!” Us? This is the best we can do…

animal-kingdom-trash-panda-raccoon

But I digress.

God also made Adam a helper, Eve. Although they couldn’t create something from nothing, they could use all the imagination and creativity God had put into them and see limitless possibility.

These jobs God gave Adam, they are ours today as well, we are still tasked with caring for God’s creation, both the animals and all of the rest as well. God made all of us to create and to imagine. Stop and think  and dream with your child on how you can use your imagination to help make this world better. The only limit to what we can do is the limit of our imaginations.

Throughout the Bible, God gives jobs to his people. Moses was to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. Solomon, to build the temple. John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus. Paul was to go to the Gentiles and spread the story of Jesus. And that’s a job that we share as well. Jesus gave us a job to go into all the world and share the gospel. There is no unemployment in God’s Kingdom! We all have a job to do.

This Sunday we wrap up our month focusing on creation and creativity with another first… and this one is not so fantastic.

See you next week!

Pastor Paul

GL Kid’s Journal – June 11, 2017

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Bible Story: Genesis 1:26-2:1-25

Bottom Line: God Made You

Memory Verse: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Life App: CREATIVITY – imagining what you could do because you’re made in God’s image.

Basic Truth: I can trust God no matter what.

Well, we certainly had an adventure this week in GL Kid’s! With the arrival of summer vacation for most of the kids, the launch of our new check-in system and the introduction of a couple of new youth volunteers, our plate was full and overflowing!

This is the first of our weekly journals on whats happening in GL Kid’s, we want to keep parents, family and church up to speed on what the kids are learning and how they are growing. If I can draw your attention to the box above. You will see these five categories every week in the journal entry: Bible Story, Bottom Line, Memory Verse, Life App, and Basic Truth. Three of these are unique to our teaching style. The Bottom Line is our big idea for the week, we want the kids leaving knowing this. The Life App is our monthly life application for the theme. The Basic Truth is is focused on 1 of 3 basic truths we will be teaching the kids, this changes with each lesson.

In June and July our overall theme is Gadgets & Gizmos, with a focus on creativity in June. God is creative, we learned this week that because our God and creator is creative, than we each have a spark of creativity in us as well. Wether that spark is in artistic creativity, mechanical, culinary, musical, writing or a host of other creative ideas and thoughts. God created us to be creative, that is why he gave Adam rule over the Earth (Genesis 1:28-30), because he could be creative, think of new things, and help God’s new creation flourish and grow. God’s creation spawns creativity.

When we talk of sunsets, we speak of how God painted a perfect sky. Mountains, God sculpted them beautifully. And He crafted forests, rivers, oceans all with the creative eye of a master artisan.

God created us with the same care and thoughts. Our systems and bodies are so complex.  We were created with eyes, ears, noses, tongues, and fingers, all with which we can take in and experience God’s creation. The Father designed us with muscles, tendons, joints, and bones, so that we can work and mold this wonderful art project God made.

But ultimately the human form, was created in God’s image. And that means something else as well. 

A Rube Goldberg invention is a complex machine that does a simple action. If you have ever played the game Mouse Trap, than you have seen a Rube Goldberg invention at work. The human form, physically, spiritually and emotionally is essentially a Rube Goldberg invention. An amazingly complex machine, that does something incredibly simple.

God created us to be in His own likeness, He created us to be like Himself. That doesn’t mean we look exactly like God, so what does that really mean? 

We used Mr and Mrs Potato Head to help us tell the story of creation. See their feet? God gave us feet so we can stand strong and be courageous. Courage let’s us be brave enough to do what we should do, even when we are afraid. 

God also gave Adam arms. Our arms can be used to reflect who God is, a God of love. There are so many ways we can use our arms to show others God’s love. The kids had some great ideas. We can use our arms to hug someone when they are sad or just to show them we love them. We can help our parents, family and neighbors with work around their homes. We can hold doors, cook meals, and my personal favorite, we can even us them to give high-fives to each other!

God gave us a mouth too, you’re probably thinking how is my mouth made in the image of God. But it’s true! We can honor others with the way that you speak about them and the way you speak to them. We can also honor God as well with our prayers, praise and song! But before we can tell people how we value them, we have to see the value in them first.

So it’s a good thing God gave us eyes to see others the way that He sees them. In fact, we can use the eyes and ears that God gave us to live our lives with initiative, which means seeing and hearing what people need, and doing it.

These are all gifts that were given to us in God’s great creation plan, and now we can use these gifts in God’s amazing plan of restoration and redemption. God has made us in a wonderfully, complex manner, to do something very simple: LOVE OTHERS. 

Pastor Paul