and an excuse for another Inspirational Christian
and, yes, I’ve picked a woman
There were soooooo many women I could have picked as being inspirational, Godly, Christ-following women. Women whose example we could all follow; writers like Emma Scrivener, missionaries like Jackie Pullinger, ordinary women whose names you wouldn’t recognise, women throughout history, women whose stories are in the Bible, so many incredible women!
Those who are strong and those who are weak, those in extraordinary times and those living ordinary lives, those who gave help to millions and those who have helped me, those who partnered with amazing men and those who went it alone, the single and the married, the struggling and the suffering, the ‘good girls’ and those with a ‘past’, those who were in cults and those who were in gangs, the scholars and the uneducated, the famous and the unknown and even the ones like me.
I could write about any of them; how they found Jesus and how they followed him and their lives and stories would be an encouragement because in each and every case Jesus has done something amazing in saving them and he has done something incredible in using them to continue his mission here on earth.
The woman I picked today is Esther John. I hadn’t heard of her until I was researching and determined to pick an Asian female Christian, mostly because that was a category I couldn’t think of a well-known name in, but her perseverance in circumstances I know many of my sisters are facing today made her a sure and certain choice.
I should also point out that during Black History Month I also featured two incredible women of God: Mandisa and Rosa Parks I recommend you can head on over and check out their fact sheets and Bible studies too.
There will be new stuff coming soon
and there’s plenty of good stuff already here
I’m not posting anything new this week – my parents are coming to visit, I’ve recently started a mid-week preschool playgroup that requires a lot of planning, I’ve not been super organised and I’ve got some filling in the gaps to do that’s beginning to weigh on me.
Edit: Turns out International Womans Day is the 8th not the 13th as my brain told me. Not super organised is at least organised enough to have prepped a post a week in advance although not organised enough to have checked the calendar.
Next week: the Disorganised Sunday School Blog will be celebrating International Womans Day.
Edit: Because of the aforementioned error there may or may not be anything next week. However the IWD post is up.
Sometime in the future: I’ll post the material for the playgoup and a ‘how to …’ on getting one started. I’ll also post the first of a long series of sermon accompanying worksheets for the entirety of Acts. I’ll reorganise the blog and make sure all the series are complete. I’ll make a list of youth group games for any situation. And I really, really want to write some sunday school stuff for the second half of Daniel (it’s just always at the bottom of my wish list).
Right now: Check out our pic-n-mix style plans for children’s work on John, the Ten Commandments, Parables and Philippians or have a look at our studies for youth groups; Philemon, The Armor of God, Narnia and Pilgrim’s Progress.
and a new home for our celebrated Black Christians
So it’s very nearly the end of February and therefore the end of Black History month – and I’ve enjoyed it ever so much. I’ve ushered for (and therefore watched) our local primary schools BHM celebrations, including poetry, hip-hop, dance, painting, songs and readings; I’ve been to the local library and seen their displays including learning about the origins of BHM, I’m going to see Black Panther tomorrow and I’ve really, really enjoyed learning about and putting together some info sheets and studies on some Black Christians I think are truly inspirational. This week’s (and the last in this series) is Olaudah Equiano: African, slave and abolitionist – brother in Christ.
You can find all of this series in the Youth Work Menu under Inspirational Christians. It will be added to – our next one is due March 8th: International Woman’s day. Subscribe so you don’t miss out and leave me a comment with either a Christian lady you find is an inspiration to you or a Black Christian you’d like me to write about in the future – I may or may not be able to wait until next year for an excuse to reasearch and write!
An American Idol
and a great role model
So no, I’m not suggesting you idolise this weeks inspirational Black Christian – she just happens to have come to fame through the American Idol TV show.
I can’t think of a better introduction for her than one of her most recent songs:
So here’s our latest Bible study looking at questions raised by the life of Mandisa.
Thoughts on a Worldwide Christianity
and how to open our eyes to it
This weekend there will be celebrations all over the world – predominantly in Asian populations – because it is the Lunar New Year. Except here in Chicago we’re celebrating next weekend; ‘cos the cool kids show up late to the party?!
I might have completely forgotten that it was the lunar new year except for a Chinese Friend and a Vietnamese friend posting on facebook this morning. I’m very grateful that Jesus brought us together for a time in our life and that I could learn so much from them. Also for the internet and – although it can be tricky to navigate in a way that honours God – all the blessings that come with it: the ability to communicate with others from across the world, the ease of sharing and reading the thoughts of others and the possibility of searching across the world for information about one specific thing.
I’m introducing you to Conrad Mbewe this week for Black History Month or maybe you already know of him as the influential blogger, writer and speaker he is. Reading blogs from Christians of different cultures and backgrounds is a fantastically easy way to open our eyes to the implications of Christianity in different circumstances and to open our hearts to glorify God for his barrier demolishing love, goodness and sacrifice!
I can highly recommend his blog – A letter from Kabwata – scroll down to the labels section and see what piques your interest.
and the beginning of lent
I live in America now where they think a pancake should be fluffy – whereas I know adding raising agents to the batter is WRONG – it should be as flat as a pancake.
However you prefer your pancake today is a good day to consider what you’ll do over lent. Similarly to advent it’s a time of preparation – Easter is coming! We can look forward and celebrate the time of God’s rescue and the historical event we can look back on and say ‘Yes – this is why I believe!’
Here are a few ideas for lent-prep:
If you’re going for all 40 days give up something that takes time and use that time to study and pray instead. Try fasting from dessert; a daily TV show; youtube; wearing makeup; computer games, shaving etc.
Another way to fast is to give up something important to you and tell God – ‘you are more important to me than this’. Most of the above list falls into this category but here are some non-time consuming options: chocolate, coffee, selfies, shopping for clothes, alcohol, meat, Facebook etc.
Or fast from food for a day, pick a day where you can be quiet and use mealtimes (or the whole day) to pray. This article is helpful if you’re a beginner like me.
Take up something new
Here are a few Lent based devotionals helping you to prepare for Easter:
#LiveLent is the Church of England’s devotional – you can sign up for text or email devotionals here.
BibleGateway.com has their Lent Bible Reading Plan
There’s a prayer guide from Open Doors
An ebook of Tim Chester’s Lent devotions (if you haven’t been organised enough to get a paper version)
With your youth group or Sunday school
Make a count your blessings jar: write one thing every day through lent that was a good gift from God: put it in the jar. At Easter read and remind yourself of all the blessings then thank the Giver. As a group; have a joint jar and put in one thing each from the week.
Make a prayer calendar: On each day write the name of someone to pray for. It’s easy to fill in 40 days as a group and with teens you can co-ordinate and remind people online.
Learn a section of scripture together. Practice it when you meet and decide how much you’ll learn y next week. Isaiah 53 is Easter appropriate.
I haven’t forgotten it’s black history month – our next inspirational Christian will be here on Friday. Subscribe so you don’t miss out.
The faith of the woman who helped change America
February is Black History Month and the Disorganised Sunday School is celebrating by posting some info on excellent Black Christians; both historical and modern day. Too often the face of Christianity is ‘some white guy’ and we’re viewed by many parts of the world as a white western religion – which couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s very early in church history that Peter makes this declaration:
“I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”
God doesn’t limit his welcome to white westerners: he welcomes all! And so should we. Highlighting Black believers this month is to help me (a white western Christian) expand my horizons a bit. Too often I default to CS Lewis and Tim Keller (old white men) when looking for quotations and I’ve seen it in sermons too; outside of the Bible the people who get quoted are old white men.
So here’s my pledge: I’m not abandoning the old white men but I’m expanding beyond just them to women, people of colour, young people and children when I quote. I’m going to pay special attention to those I’m normally biased against (unintentionally) because I believe that you don’t have to be an old white man to have something worthwhile to say about Jesus. This month’s info sheets and youth group sessions are here to help me, and hopefully others, counter that bias in ourselves and inspire the girls and minority cultures in our youth groups by showing examples of faithful Christians they can more easily relate to.
We’re kicking off with Rosa Parks. If you just want her biography and quotes click here. If you’re looking for a youth group session you can run around this remarkable woman click here.
And if you want a good short read her book Quiet Strength is available on Amazon. It’s more reflections than biography and I certainly found it thought provoking.
The power of our stories
And some hints on thinking about sharing yours
I have just returned from a women’s weekend away. There was fun, great teaching, weird American food and testimonies of what God has done and is doing in the lives of some of the women there. Some of these were told in full or in snippets from the stage, others as I got to know people and wanted to know how their lives were going or how they’d ended up a sister of mine, some where unthinkingly testimonies as people asked for prayer.
There is real power in hearing what God has been and is doing in people’s lives – when carefully told it counters the conservative tendency to explain the theology without being relatable; the arrogance of assuming we’re somehow better than others; the image of somehow being ‘sorted’ when we still struggle. It emphasis and gives rise to questions about the gospel – forgiveness, adoption, salvation, sanctification, revelation. We can say why we believe and shake people out of their current worldview. We can encourage, instruct and edify each other. There is power in our stories because God is powerful.
On this how to… page are some articles I found useful as well as some tips for sharing your testimony either with your youth group or for getting them to think about sharing theirs.
and all the drama of a situation
The last of our first person dramas captures Onesimus’ side of the story Paul tells in his letter to Philemon. I find having a story told in this way, whether it’s read off the page or acted out, is a great addition to reading from the Bible; helping kids connect the historical events to real people who are a lot like them.
I like the worksheets too – obviously or I wouldn’t have written them – as a way of engaging your mind on a different level. I nannied a couple of children who loved to take their dolls to the park then pretend to be Mary and Joseph hiding from Herod. Games, dramas and activities grounded in real truths can help to young children to work out their feelings and responses in a way that being asked a question in a study cannot.
That said I’m a firm believer that even young children can participate in a ‘proper’ Bible study too. Like these youth orientated studies on Philemon.
Let me know what kind of activities you do with the kids to open up their responses. I bet you have some fantastic ideas.
Depression and Hope
and discussion starters
According to the BBC 1-in-4 girls and 1-in-10 boys aged 14 show signs of depression. That means there’s probably someone in your youth groups who is suffering.
The good news is Jesus is Good News for all your young people. If you want to start the discussion off can I suggest my friend Philippa’s blog – A Certain Brightness – as a great place to look for the interplay of hope in times of depression. She’s very real and very excellent. Worth checking out.