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Monday
Apr042016

{women's} panel

a few weeks ago, we celebrated women's history month at willow chicago with this panel. it was such a joy to be part of this---spending time with these women shaped and challenged me. enjoy!

follow these fantastic women online:

Chi Chi Okwu: @chichiokwu

Sarah Benibo: @gc3s

Karin Straehl: @kkovitvo

Wednesday
Mar232016

easter {wednesday}

It's not difficult for me to imagine having a last meal with a friend who's about to move. In my transient city community, people leave ALL year long. this week: i received 3 emails from friends who in my church who are moving/graduating school/leaving the city for a job change. 

Last Suppers are very familiar to me. 

I'm familiar with eating, laughing, talking, blessing, praying, wishing each other well. All the usuals of a special, final farewell meal together. 

But, washing feet. Not so familiar. 

John 13:1-17

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

I just LOVE Jesus. I imagine Him at His final meal, with friends gathered around Him, each one expecting tearful goodbyes and memories shared, and instead JESUS, washes their feet, one-by-one reminding them to serve each other in love after He's gone. This is love, He says, and I hope you'll carry on in this love even after I'm gone. 

Consider Carrying on Jesus' love by serving someone as he/she leaves. Help a friend move, or offer to pack for a neighbor going on a short trip, or make a meal for a friend who's accepted a job offer. Bless as Jesus blessed by serving in love. 

*originally published in Awana Lent Devotional 2015

Tuesday
Mar222016

easter {tuesday}

I was recently at a gathering of leaders for the purpose of strengthening our personal leadership skills. As you might imagine, we covered all of the usual leadership suspects: candor, culture, failure, team. We're all church leaders so we walked away re-committed to leading the best we can for the sake of the kingdom. 

And then I read Mark 1:1-11, this week's Lenten reflection passage. And, I remember Jesus is God's chosen leader. He's radical, and unexpected, and wonderful. 

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus, beloved Son of God, born to lead and love and challenge and care. His leadership is filled with grace and peace and wisdom. And, I think of Jesus as leader, after a few days reflecting on my leadership, and I see the gaps. I strive, and push, and work hard to excel, often with great cost. I'm selfish, and critical, and filled wtih judgement. 

But, Jesus. God's chosen leader demonstrates that kindness and strength are not mutally exclusive. That really, to lead well you simply must love well. 

I just love Jesus. 

This week: Consider the context in which you lead: at work, at school, at home, in church. Ask Jesus to fill your mind and heart with his leadership ways. That you might extend His kingdom in your sphere of influence. 

*originally published in Awana Lent Devotional 2015

Monday
Mar212016

easter {monday}

READ Matthew 27:27-50

Jesus Suffers for His People 

Today, I saw a woman crying on the bus. A grown woman crying so hard after receiving terrible news on the phone that she couldn't contain her tears as she rode the bus. I couldn't help wondering what news she had received, and how I could help this stranger in pain. 

Always, my first reaction when I see someone suffering is to offer help, practical care, solutions. Dry up those tears, I say, we're going to get out of this. And, hopefully, we'll get out of this FAST!

But, Jesus. He says, "Stay." 

Stay with my people in their pain. Join together in the suffering. As I have endured sufffering for your sake.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:3-4)

This week, as we enter Holy Week, mindful of Jesus' suffering and pain for our sakes, consider how you might stay with someone in pain. Not moving too quickly, not rushing through the suffering, but truly walking next to, shouldering the pain as if to make the suffering just a bit lighter.  

*originally published in Awana Lent Devotional 2015

Monday
Feb152016

be like me {current favs}

for the month of february, at willow chicago, we're teaching lessons titled: Be Like Me {Jesus' teaching from the mountain}. this is the first time we've created original lessons based on the beatitudes + sermon on the mount. it seemed right to add these lessons following january's follow me, and heading into march's easter lessons on jesus loving the world.

i LOVE these lessons for so many reasons -- TOP of the list: it gives us the opportunity to really show off Jesus’ magic! he was unlike anyone, as crowds grew and gathered to hear him speak. loving all and giving every person the opportunity to be near Him and be like Him. as we show that kids, created in jesus' image, can love each other, care for those in need, pray continually, and not worry -- i imagine jesus will do great things in their hearts and lives. original art by molly z

a few of my current favs from this unit: 

Original Art: it's super important to me that we don't use images of jesus as a white man in our curriculum. jesus didn't have white skin, so to show visuals of him with light skin, i think, is teaching the bible inaccurately to our children. BUT, you know. i'm a broken record.

aaron created this fantastic image that we're using in all age classrooms to highlight what it might have looked like when jesus taught the people on the mountain. 

Staging: crystal created this fantastic stage enviroment for our grades 1-3 class based on the concept that kids would feel like they were sitting on the mountainside with jesus while listening to the day's story. i'm in love with this concept -- because, literally, when you sit on the floor and look up at the stage, it feels like you're on a mountain. tapestry by urban outfitters

Toys: we bought a whole heap of new toys so that kids could experience the story during playful station time. for our lesson on caring for those in need, multicultural food books. it's a chance for kids to consider how jesus gives people the food they need.

for next week's lesson, on not worrying (matthew 6), we bought these bird wings for kids to have fun while learning that god clothes and feeds the birds.

and, because MOST of jesus' teachings on becoming like him are based on loving each other, we bought several sets of these toy people so that kids in all classrooms could pretend play situations in which they showed love to someone who looked similar + different to them.

Music: yancy generously sent us her new kidmin worship DVDs, and boy, are we in love. we've introduced a few songs for these lessons -- specifically, all creatures of our god + king (gorgeous floral design that matches well with the moutainside creative design), and wanna be like jesus, which of course, is the perfect lesson pair!

now it's your turn---what are your current favorite things? i'd love to be inspired by your ideas.