Students

Ukuleles, Gratitude, and the Presence of God

There are certainly typical Thanksgiving week activities—traveling to visit family members, making pies ahead of time and putting them in the freezer, cleaning the house in preparation for company, and making gratitude trees, jars, leaves, banners, and so on—as a way to visibly express our thankfulness. And then there are the not-so-typical Thanksgiving-week activities. Like the ukulele concert I attended last night, for instance.

A friend of mine plays the ukulele and has taken group lessons the past couple of years. Each November the group has offered a concert. Several of us have gone to support our ukulele-playing friend, and to enjoy the concert of a group of 10–12 ukulele players. Not only do they play in concert, but they play fun, popular songs, including some oldies. Audience members are given lyrics sheets and invited to sing along. And to my surprise, the audience has enthusiastically participated in these concert experiences.

Watch Out for This Thief

Don't Let Comparison Steal Your Joy

A lot of people really look forward to summer. Who doesn’t love long, lazy days or hanging out by the pool without a care in the world? That probably isn’t the reality for most people every day, but it’s fun to take advantage of slow, carefree moments when we have them.

Unfortunately, though, some people dread summer. Summer is a time of unveiling and shedding layers. For those of us who prefer to be covered up, out of sight, unnoticed, this shift can be a difficult one.

Summer is a time when everything is on display. It’s too hot to hide underneath bulky coats or long pants. For some people, this is easy. They are comfortable in their own skin, happy to shed the weight of those layers and get some much needed Vitamin D. But for others, this is hard. Summertime brings out the biggest thief of all: Comparison.

Comparison is here, and he’s come to steal your joy.

Spring Is In The Air: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

Spring is often considered to be a time of renewal. The grass grows, trees begin to bloom, and pollen fills the air. (Aaaachoo!) The whole earth is waking up from a long winter’s nap.

We also enter into a period of change. We shake out the dust and stale air of winter from our homes in preparation for the activities of summer to begin. We break out our warm weather wear (including our ill-fitting swimsuits) and throw our heavy overcoats and decorative Christmas sweaters to the moths.

But if you live in the Southeast, odds are that Spring may not come as smoothly as you might expect. One day, the sun is shining and the birds are singing, but the next day the temperature drops 20 degrees and you’re breaking out the earmuffs!

Maybe that’s just how transitions go. Rarely in our own lives, do we ever experience a smooth transition. Renewal is full of fits and starts before finally settling in to something new. As Student leaders, have you seen this to be true?

Add a Little Christmas to Your Life

Shopping. Partying at school. Cooking. Wrapping. Baking. Decorating. Traveling. Getting together with friends. And that doesn’t even include the church activities, choir programs and special Christmas services.

It feels like time speeds up between Thanksgiving and Christmas and we move at a faster pace through the month of December, trying to do all we feel like we are “supposed to do” at this time of the year.

Added to our attempts to juggle all of the extra activities and events and responsibilities that Christmastime brings, we also must continue our regular tasks of going to work or school, buying groceries, doing laundry, and running the children from this lesson to that activity. No wonder it feels like everything is moving at warp speed to the point that when the New Year comes our December feels like a blur and we long for time to rest.

Does Prayer Really Matter? Really?

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? You close your eyes, bow your head, and before a word crosses your lips you start to wonder, “Does this prayer really matter?” I mean, since when have words spoken in private ever changed global catastrophes like the war in Syria or the refugee crisis in Europe? Is prayer even all that important?

Oh, my friend, it is so important. When we pray, we’re really doing two things at the same time. We are (1) cultivating our relationship with God and (2) refining our own hearts in the process.

We pray out of a concern for others and with the faith that the One we pray to can actually hear us and cares about us. It’s an exercise in faith, plain and simple.

By voicing our hearts to God, we also underscore how important our words are. Sometimes we find that all we need is to sit in silence, at peace in the presence of a God beyond words.

Prayer is also the first step toward action. How many examples can we find in Scripture where someone wrestled with God in prayer over something they knew they had do? Honestly, more than I’d prefer to count . . .

Leading Students with WMU in Mind

As you lead your student group, I’ll bet the last thing on your mind is the list of WMU objectives. Before you flip past it in your next WMU Catalog or Year Book, take some time to think through each one. You might be surprised how integral these points are to our shared faith.

Pray for Missions

When was the last time you led your group to pray for a missionary? What about praying for someone you knew needed to feel the love of Christ? Praying for missions is no small thing. When you bring these prayers and petitions before God, it solidifies them in your own heart and often motivates you to action.

Engage in Mission Action and Witnessing

As followers of Christ, our faith must move us to action. It’s never enough to simply “feel” for someone who needs Christ. Share that love with them, my friend! And help your students see that they too are a valuable part of the mission of God.

Thanksgiving Grace

It was the first year Mackenzie was going to sit at the “grown-ups” table at Thanksgiving. She had aged out of the children’s table following the last round of babies born in the family and more space was needed at that table. As the oldest grandchild, she got to move to the dining table first. She was excited to sit with the adults—even though their conversation would probably be pretty dull. Anything would be better than trying to play peacemaker amongst her cousins all through the meal.

Mackenzie couldn’t wait until it was time for everyone to sit down together. This year there would be no need for fixing her plate early so she could sit with the other kids. Mackenzie could imagine it all. This year, she’d be passing the piping hot bowls of mashed potatoes, green beans, and corn, along with the enormous platter of turkey and dressing. The table would be filled with the family’s Thanksgiving favorites, along with a beautiful centerpiece, lit candles, and a beautifully set table—all on Nana’s treasured tablecloth that had belonged to her mother and grandmother before her.

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