Monthly Archives: April 2011


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The Coffee Cup is Teaching

Sari and Macie were playing a game (Hungry Hippos, I think) and they started to fight about it. Amanda stepped in and told Sari that she needed to teach Macie how to play so she wouldn’t get frustrated. At this point in the intervention, Sari was exasperated and she exclaimed to her mother: “I don’t want to teach Macie! I don’t want to be a teacher!!”

I was a silent witness to these events from another room. I called to Sari and asked her to visit me, which she reluctantly did, assuming, rightly so, that she would be in trouble for her outburst and unwillingness to cooperate with her sister and mother.

I had a cup of coffee in my hand and I set it down on a table. I asked Sari to watch what I was doing for a second. I reached down to the coffee cup, grabbed it by its handle, brought it to my mouth, took a slow and deliberate sip, then proceeded to set it back down on the table. I asked her what I had just done. She replied, “You drank some of your coffee.” I pressed her further, “How did I drink my coffee?”

I continued: “I grabbed it by the handle, right? Why? [pause] Because a coffee cup holds hot coffee and it’s probably not a good idea to hold it by the cup when it is really hot, right? Did I hold it by the lip/rim of the cup? Why? [pause] Because I could drop it like that, right?”

I think Sari was beginning to catch on…

“Did I gulp the coffee fast or sip it slowly? Why? [pause] Because coffee is hot and it could hurt my mouth if I drank it fast, so I drink it slow, right?”

Dad: “Did I just teach you how to drink coffee?” Sari nods. “Did I have to say anything to you or did you just watch me?” Sari: “I just watched.” Dad: “Can you teach Macie stuff by playing games the right way and showing her how it’s done?” Sari grins. “Maybe you can teach Macie about how to act appropriately and not throw fits by you acting appropriately and not throwing fits. Can you do that?” Sari: “Yes, Daddy.”

Dad: “Now go teach your sister stuff…”

I like coffee. Amanda and I drink it every morning. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that short little lesson about what we do and who we are is on display to everyone all the time. We are always teaching, aren’t we? We are constantly teaching our kids, our siblings, our spouses, our coworkers, our employees, our friends, our customers, even strangers, and we don’t even know it. What are you teaching people today?

Go ahead, have another cup of coffee…


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“Sunday” by Sadie B. (video)

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Story of Jeremiah (story & video)

Jeremiah had a tough job. He was to be the prophet through the destruction of Jerusalem and the ensuing exile for the people of Judah. The book after Jeremiah is entitled “Lamentations” and you can guess how much fun Jeremiah had during his tenure as God’s spokesman.

Video link (
Story lesson (502.69kb, pdf)

Peanut Butter and Jelly

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Grilled Cheese

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Followers Swimming Event (video)


Story of Isaiah (story, video & audio)

In Isaiah chapter 6, a remarkable thing happens: Isaiah meets the LORD! It’s an incredible scene! The Main Street students get to act like “seraphs” during the teaching time today!

Video link (
Audio file (11.55mb, mp3)
Story lesson (373.91kb, pdf)

OT Storyline (video)

On Wednesday, April 13, 2011 @ msy YOUTH we showed the students a 22-minute video from Willow Creek called “Old Testament Rewind”. It walked the students, humorously, through the storyline of the OT. To help give the students some structure as they watched this video, I hung up two strings across our 30′ stage. On the top string was the overarching “scenes” and on the bottom string was some of the events that happened during the larger scenes.

Stories of Elisha (story, video & audio)

Kathy Baker walks the Main Street students through the various stories and encounters of Elisha.

Video link (
Audio file (10.25mb, mp3)
Story lesson (664.39kb, pdf)

Mind Warp

The title of this post should be: Random. But “random” is well, random. So I borrowed the title of the chapter where this story come from in the ministry book I’ve been reading: “Middle School Ministry: a comprehensive guide to working with early adolescents” by Mark Oestreicher and Scott Rubin.

Random is the best way to describe the minds of early adolescents. These middle school students’ cognition is undergoing a serious overhaul. Where they have mastered the thinking from preschool through elementary called concrete operational thought, in the run up to eventual adulthood, these middle school aged students begin to receive the ability to think abstractly. However, with all things developmental, whenever we are reaching a new stage there is what’s called invariant sequence. This means that when one sequences to a new stage of development, we seek to integrate that new stage along with the old one. In this case it’s concrete (old) with abstract (new) thinking. Thus, by nature, middle school students are extremely random. This makes for some fun stories! (found on pages 67-68)

One Sunday morning I was teaching on God’s forgiveness in my church’s middle school ministry. Partway through the teaching time, I used a few mini case studies to check for understanding.

Case study: Charlotte is a committed follower of Jesus, and she usually makes decisions that reflect that desire. But she also wants to be popular. Last weekend, Charlotte got invited to a party with a bunch of cool kids from school. And, not sure how to act in this setting, Charlotte ended up having some alcoholic drinks. Now Charlotte has tons of guilt. She feels like Jesus could never forgive her and that she must not be a Christian anymore.

I asked the kids what they’d say to Charlotte if she confided her feelings to them. Hands went up.

The first kid I called on said, “I’d tell her that alcohol is stupid!”


I tried another student who said, “I’d say, ‘Jesus still loves you, but it’s too bad you’re not a Christian anymore.’”


The girls in the front row was thrusting her hand in the air and making an “ooh, ooh, ooh!” sound. I reluctantly asker her what she’d say to Charlotte. With a huge grin and a basketful of confidence, she responded, “I’d tell her that my name is Charlotte, too!”

I believe my face fell a bit. At this, the pastor’s daughter raised her hand with a look on her face that said, I’ll help you out here; I know what you’re looking for.

“Bethany?” I pleaded. With a bored voice that simultaneously mocked both her fellow youth groupers and me, she flatly sighed and said, “I’d tell her that Jesus forgives her.”

Ah, the minds of middle schoolers. It’s the combination of innocence and a willingness to verbalize any thought that make middle school ministry such a wild ride at times.

Three Cups of Tea (review)

Greg Mortenson loves kids. His passion is not fighting the war on terror (although his work, arguably, is REALLY redirecting extremism), rather it is educating children. Mortenson operates his educational initiatives in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. His organization is called the Central Asia Institute (CAI). Since the mid-1990’s, after a failed attempt at K2, Mortenson, a former mountaineer, forged a new path in his life after his connection at a village called Korphe. For all the assistance these villages gave foreign climbing expeditions on the rooftop of the world, they received no assistance or advancement in return. When Mortenson arrived in Korphe and after he spent some time in the village, he saw how children (and their parents) craved for an education. He saw students out in a field practicing math with sticks in the dirt. Mortenson made a promise: I will come back and build a school.

Many mountaineering expeditions made promises, but were largely unfulfilled. But something in Greg Mortenson made the people of Korphe believe him. Sure enough, almost a year later, Mortenson arrived in Korphe with the supplies to build a school. With the first school built, a non-profit organization created (CAI), and a team of valiant and hugely supportive Pakistani staff, this gentle giant proceeded to start many schools (especially for girls), women’s vocational centers, and meeting basic needs projects. This white American accomplished some significant things: education for villages that hadn’t seen government money ever and trust and cooperation among Muslims suspicious of this American’s long-term interest.

All Greg Mortenson wanted to do was build schools for children. His goal is to bring education to children had no opportunity. It’s somewhat coincidental that 9/11 happened and the focus on Islamic extremism and the ensuing war on terror during the time he was working in Pakistan. It has made what Mortenson is doing much more significant in light growing extremism, which is more ignorance than hatred. Through his work, Mortenson reminds us all that Muslims are a peaceful people who uphold peace and justice and love. While it’s easy for Americans to think that all Muslims are associated with terrorism, they are not. Just like Christianity has its extremes, so does Islam. Compared to all the media about the Middle East and our continual focus on the extreme element of Islam, Greg Mortenson’s story reminds us that Muslims are people just like us, who want things for our children (just like us) and to serve the world with goodwill (just like us).

If you’re looking at getting an education about the good nature of Muslims and a story about one man fighting the odds of accomplishing a goal that the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan couldn’t get done, then this book will inspire you. It will remind you that we are all human beings on this planet and that we are all responsible for each other. However, if you want to stay disconnected and don’t want to regard Muslims as people whom God loves, then don’t read this book because it will frustrate you. (I’m not saying that if you don’t take the time to read this book then you don’t like Muslims.)

I am reminded of the tension in the early church as they sought to enact the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The tension was between Jewish Christians and their Gentile counterparts. Is everyone eligible to live in the kingdom of God? Does the Gospel transcend cultures, race, social status, and gender? What about religion? Jewish Christians were frustrated that the Gentile Christians didn’t have to be circumcised and follow the rules of Judaism. Paul reiterated that the Gospel was for everyone, regardless.

So my assertion is this: What does the Gospel look like, working in our world? I would assert that it looks a lot like what Greg Mortenson is doing for remote villages in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan; bringing education and meeting basic needs through connection and the forging of significant relationships.