Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday Reflections

For the last several years, I have helped churches meditate on the events of Passion Week through an interactive process of stations and prayer.  Each year has been a little bit different.  For the last couple years, our church has asked that the worship event be geared more for children.  Many of these activities could be easily adapted for home use, and I have received very positive feedback on the meaninfulness of these meditations.  Please feel free to borrow this for your own personal or church use.
Our church set up a tape trail (literally, masking tape leading to Sunday School rooms or tables in our basement hall) that marked out 12 separate stations for meditation.  We split the children into groups of 5-8 and had one or two adult volunteers with each group of children.
Station 1: Palms
THE BIBLE STORY: Jesus sent two disciples into a small town near Jerusalem. “Find a young donkey that no one has ever ridden and bring it to me,” he said. So the disciples found the donkey and told the owners that Jesus needed it. Then the two men brought the donkey to Jesus so he could ride it into Jerusalem. The crowds spread their coats on the road ahead of Jesus. His followers began waving palm branches and singing, “God bless the king, who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Read more: Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, John 12:12-19)
MAKING IT REAL On this day, Jesus was famous! He was big news—just like people we might read about in a newspaper or see on TV! But in a few more days, people would stop cheering for Jesus and start calling for him to be killed.
HOW TO PRAY Look at these news reports and think about how you might pray for people in the news. Talk with God about what God wants for these situations.
Station 2: This Cup
THE BIBLE STORY After their last supper together, Jesus and his disciples went to the Mount of Olives to pray. Jesus walked a little way ahead so he could talk to God alone. “Father,” he prayed, “if you are willing, please take this suffering away from me. But I want to do your will, not mine.” Jesus was willing to die on the cross if that’s what God wanted. God helped Jesus by sending an angel to strengthen him. (Read more: Matthew 26: 36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:13-16, 39-43)

MAKING IT REAL Dip your finger in the cup and taste. (YUCK!) Jesus said that taking the sin of the world to the cross was like drinking from a terrible cup. Think about how awful that must have been for Jesus to do. He took it all.

HOW TO PRAY Now think of someone who is afraid today, someone who is going through the process of doing something very tough, or someone who has to make a very hard decision, who knows that doing the “right thing” will be difficult. Pray for them now, and if you want to, put their name on a piece of paper near the cups.

Station 3: Arrested
THE BIBLE STORY While Jesus was talking to his disciples at the Mount of Olives, a group of soldiers arrived. The fire in their torches lit up the dark night. Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ disciples, walked up to Jesus and greeted him with a kiss. This was a sign to the soldiers that Jesus was the one they wanted to arrest. The soldiers had come with swords and clubs, but Jesus wasn’t going to fight. (Read more: Matthew 26: 47-56, Mark 14:43-50, Luke 22:47-53, John 18:1-14)

MAKING IT REAL Touch the rope and chains, and think about the many prisoners in the world today. Some are guilty of crimes, but some are innocent prisoners of conscience, arrested for things that are legal in our country. Some people are even put in jail for going to church to learn about Jesus!

HOW TO PRAY Ask God to help all the prisoners you have thought about.

Station 4: Pilate
THE BIBLE STORY The soldiers took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate didn’t think that Jesus had done anything wrong. He planned to tell the soldiers to beat Jesus and then let him go. But the crowd yelled loudly, “Crucify him!” They kept shouting that Jesus should be killed, and Pilate finally agreed. He told his soldiers to take Jesus away. (Read more: Matthew 27:11-16, Luke 23:1-25; John 18:28-19:16)

MAKING IT REAL To show that he disagreed with the crowd, Pilate washed his hands and said that he was clean from the responsibility of the trouble with Jesus. Sometimes, we can try to make excuses, too. We can do nothing when others really need our help.

HOW TO PRAY Wash your hands with the water, and dry them with a towel. Tell God that you do not want to be like Pilate who made excuses. Tell God that you are sorry for times when you may have made excuses for not helping others. Ask God to make you clean and to give you more chances to be helpful.

Station 5: Denied
THE BIBLE STORY As Jesus was accused, Peter followed from a safe distance. He didn’t want anyone to know that he was one of Jesus’ friends. He joined a group that was keeping warm by a fire outside the high priest’s house. Three different people asked Peter if he was Jesus’ friend. “No!” said Peter each time. “I don’t even know him.” Peter was afraid to tell people that Jesus was his best friend and teacher. (Read more: Matthew 26:69-75, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:54-62, John 18:15-18, 25-27)

MAKING IT REAL Do you ever deny Jesus? Our words and actions can make it seem like we do not know Jesus. Living like this does not feel good. Take a cracker, dip it in the bitter mixture, and eat it. Remind yourself of how bitter things can be without recognizing Jesus. Then remember that Jesus knew Peter’s denial would happen. After His resurrection, Jesus talked to Peter and forgave him. Take a chocolate and eat it. Remind yourself of the sweetness of God’s grace.

HOW TO PRAY Thank God for all the ways that God has shown mercy to you.

Station 6: Heavy Load
THE BIBLE STORY The soldiers led Jesus to a place outside Jerusalem called “The Skull.” Because the soldiers had beaten Jesus, he was too weak to carry his big wooden cross the whole way. So a man named Simon was told to carry the cross for Jesus. (Read more: Matthew 27:32-33, Mark 15:21-22, Luke 23:26-27)

MAKING IT REAL Take a rock now and hold it. Feel its weight. What concerns make you feel heavy inside? Problems with family or friends? Worries about money? Fears? Sickness? Work pressures?

HOW TO PRAY Ask God to show you those worries that you particularly need to let go of, then take the rock with you as you go. Pray to God about the worries for a while, then place the rock at the foot of the cross at the next station. As you do, try to give that heavy load to God.

Station 7: The Cross
THE BIBLE STORY The soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross and then raised it up high for all to see. Two men hung on a cross, on each side of Jesus. A man on one of the crosses said, “We’ve done many wrong things, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong. Remember me, Jesus, when you go to heaven.” Jesus told this man, “You’ll go with me to heaven today!” (Read more: Luke 23:32-43)

MAKING IT REAL Jesus loves you so much that he would die for your sins so you could be with God. God really wants to be with you!

HOW TO PRAY Just sit at the foot of the cross for a while, spend some time with God, talking about whatever you wish. Go to the next station whenever you are ready.

Station 8: Mocked
THE BIBLE STORY Large crowds followed Jesus to the cross. Many of the women were crying. But some of the leaders and soldiers laughed at Jesus, saying if he were really God, he should save himself. (Read more: Matthew 27:35-44, Mark 15:24-32)

MAKING IT REAL Have you ever been laughed at or made fun of? Surely, Jesus’ body was hurt as he hung on the cross. But his feelings must have been hurt, too, when others rejected him, denied him, and made fun of him.

HOW TO PRAY Think of someone who may have hurt feelings. Light a candle and pray for them, that the warmth of God’s love may fill their life.

Station 9: Forgiveness
THE BIBLE STORY Jesus looked down from the cross and prayed, “Father, forgive these people, because they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Read more: Luke 23:34)

MAKING IT REAL Sometimes, it is very hard to forgive, especially when we are still hurting. Jesus has set us a good example.

HOW TO PRAY Perhaps you can think of someone who has done something hurtful to you. Hold a nail in one of your hands, and ask God to give you the strength to be able to forgive the way he did.

Station 10: Darkness
THE BIBLE STORY After Jesus had been on the cross for a while, the sun stopped shining. It grew very dark, even though it was the middle of the day. And suddenly the thick curtain hanging in the temple was torn into two pieces. Jesus cried out, “Father, I put myself in your hands.” Then he died. (Read more: Matthew 27:45-50, Mark 15:33-37, Luke 23:44-46)

MAKING IT REAL Try to imagine the total darkness that came near the cross—even though it was the middle of the day. The Bible talks about darkness as a symbol for evil. Think about what it would be like without God’s Truth and Light. When you are ready to pray, turn off the light and feel the darkness.

HOW TO PRAY In the darkness, pray for situations, here or around the world, that seem very dark and evil. Ask God to shine the Light of Truth into these situations. Turn on the flashlight as you pray.

Station 11: The Tomb
THE BIBLE STORY Joseph of Arimathea was one of the Jewish leaders. But he hadn’t wanted to kill Jesus. Bravely, Joseph went to Pilate and asked him for Jesus’ body. Pilate said yes. Joseph took Jesus’ body to a new tomb, which had been made by cutting into the rock on a hillside. He wrapped Jesus’ body in linen cloth and carefully laid it in the tomb. Then he rolled a big stone across the opening of the tomb. (Read more: Matthew 27:57-61, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42)

MAKING IT REAL Think about how sad this day must have been for the people who loved and followed Jesus. He, their friend and teacher, was dead. They had to put his lifeless body in a tomb. In those days, people used a kind of smelly stuff when bodies were buried. Smell the spicy smell and imagine how Joseph might have felt as he took care of Jesus’ body.

HOW TO PRAY Pray for people you know who have had family or friends die. Ask God to be a comfort to them when they feel sad or lonely.

Station 12: The Impact
THE BIBLE STORY Christ suffered for you. He left you an example. He expects you to follow in his steps. He himself carried our sins in his body on the cross. He did it so that we would die as far as sins are concerned. Then we would lead godly lives. His wounds have made you whole. 1 Peter 2: 21, 24)

MAKING IT REAL Step into the sand and leave two footprints. Step out of the sand and look back. See where you have walked. Think about where you will walk after you leave church today. Think about where you might walk tomorrow or the next day. Think about the impression you leave behind for others to see. How might that place be different because you (and God with you!) were there?

HOW TO PRAY Keep praying! Ask God to be with you and help you every day so that you can live as God wants you to live!

Have a blessed Good Friday and Easter weekend!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


After being home with the boys three and a half years, I finally tried making a staple Ethiopian food, injera, myself.  It was a three-day process, but the end result got rave reviews from the boys.  Actually, I think the anticipation over the last few days was part of the fun.  I didn't try any traditional wat (a stew-like food served on top of the injera) but served pulled-apart barbequed pork roast and cooked carrots.

All my close-up action shots are blurry.  Those hands were flying from plate to mouth pretty fast!

If you are interested in trying your own injera, you will need some patience, teff flour (can be found at a health food store), and this great recipe!  Enjoy a taste of Ethiopia!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Saturday, March 23, 2013

What I Heard

I heard wonderful things in my kitchen today:
"Mom, that looks like fun.  Can I help?"
"Can I do some, too?"
"Baking is fun!"
"Baking is awesome!"

So, my oven was warmed and so was my heart as we worked and laughed and ate together.  Monkey bread and quality time with my kids--Yum!