Shaking off Snakes and Other Helpful Hints for Those in Ministry

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God is with you everywhere!

That’s been our preschoolers’ theme this month. If you who know me, you know I love a good theme snack–especially when it comes to preschoolers. So before we dig a littler deeper, I hope you get a kick out of these snakes snacks we made our “littles” had this week. So simple, just a bread stick wrapped around a skewer. I sprinkled them with a little cinnamon sugar and used raisins for eyes!) They were super fun and, well, and they were super delicious! Thank you, Pinterest and Pillsbury Dough Boy for another preschool snack win!

plate of snakes

Anyway. . .

Today’s lesson was about Paul when he landed on the island of Malta–hence the snake snacks! The Bible says that,

“Welcomed by the unusual kindness of the islanders, Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.” (Acts 28:1-4)

Yikes! There are vipers on the island!!

The superstitious islanders wrongly conclude that Paul must have been a murderer. They reason that even though he escaped alive from the shipwreck at sea, for cryin’ out loud, someone’s pretty upset with him because he’s about to die from viper bite.

But, no, it was not to be, because then Scripture tells us,

“But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.” (Acts 28:5)

The islanders watched and waited.

The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.”

I can see that. In fact, I’d like to have seen that.

This leads those hospitable islanders to invite Paul and some others to the home of the chief official of the island. Here, Paul winds up healing the man’s father along with the rest of the sick on the island. When they were ready to sail again, the kind folks on Malta gave them everything they needed.

In other words, Paul after being bitten by a viper, just shook that snake off and kept doing ministry.

What??? That’s awesome!!! Completely and totally awesome!!

Now I’m just tellin’ ya, that’s not how I would have handled it. But isn’t his way so much better than mine?

Snakes alive, you bet it is!! So here’s the helpful hint for ministry:

Ministry can be tough. Using the term “ministry” for those who are in paid and non paid ministry, I have always believed we are all called to be ministers of the gospel. And when we follow Jesus, snakes bite. It would do us well to learn to use the viper response method of the infamous “Mr. Paul.” But paid or volunteer, I’m pretty sure that if a viper bit me, I would be running around screaming, and then sitting down waiting for the ill effects to take place hoping someone is praying and someone else is calling 911.

Oh, but not Paul. He just shakes it off, and goes on about his business. (I’m so sorry if a T-Swift song just started playing in your head.)

When spiritual snakes bite, I’m afraid that many of us, myself included, forget the simple, yet profound, message of our preschoolers’ lesson: “God is with us everywhere!” He is here. He knows the danger of the poison, but He’s got our back and we can go on walking in trust.

Because when people see us walking in faith and victory, although they may be a bit confused, they will be able to see firsthand the power of God at work.

So when the snakes bite, and they will, remember that God is with you everywhere, and He is more than enough to enable us to shake it off and continue serving in ways that bring Him honor in all we do.

“I will be with you always.” Matthew

The Ugliest Cookies I Ever Made and What God Taught Me Through Them

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I had visions of the most beautiful cookies. Tiny little hand prints to remind lil HiSKidZ that Jesus healed a man’s hand.

However, my husband couldn’t decide whether they were supposed to be bird prints or animal tracks. He also thought they looked like a good opportunity to try out his new camera lens.

Hey! What?????? Leave my animal tracks, I mean, hand print cookies, alone! OK, maybe he had a point. These may have been the ugliest cookies I had ever made.

And God taught me a great lesson because of them.

Like I was saying, our preschoolers were scheduled to have a lesson entitled, “Jesus Heals a Man’s Bent Hand,” as part of a series we are doing on Jesus Makes Us Well.

In choosing a theme snack, I thought to myself, “Hand print cookies! That would be awesome!!” So I borrowed a hand print cookie cutter and off to work I went. Never mind the fact that I don’t make cut out sugar cookies, or that I don’t own a rolling pin or have any all purpose flour. I was not to be deterred.

Betty Crocker and I got mixing things up and life was good. Since I didn’t have that rolling pin, I just scooped the dough out and patted it down in my whole wheat flour blend and then cut out my now slightly speckled little hands, laying them carefully down on the cookie sheets. Sure they looked a little lopsided, and perhaps they looked like they needed to be washed. Maybe the fingers were bent a little here and there. I mean, c’mon, it was a lesson about a man with a bent hand after all.

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As I scooped, and patted and cut and baked these cookies were, ummm, well, they were not exactly looking like little hands. Rather, they were crooked, bent, a bit disfigured animal tracks. They did taste good, though!

The more I baked, the more I laughed. I sent texts to some friends, and we laughed together as they tried to console me.

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But the coolest thing is, I didn’t need to be consoled. I was perfectly fine with my perfectly imperfect cookies. Something that may not have been true about me a few years ago. In fact, you would be correct to assume that I would have been out at the store late on Saturday night to buy more ingredients, starting all over until everything was just perfect.

But because a man’s hand wasn’t the only thing Jesus healed, I stayed at home, finished my baking and thanked God for doing miraculous things in the lives of imperfect people.

My imperfection may not have been physically obvious, but it was still there. Because Jesus had healed my striving, perfectionist heart, I was now free to laugh at mistakes and creative oversights, confident knowing that He cares more about my heart than my perfection.

Because of Jesus, I was able to be happy, joyful even, with the decision that the cookies would simply be hands before the healing, rather than after. Either way, the kids would love them and they would learn that Jesus had the power to heal a man with a bent hand, and I was reminded that He had the power to heal their imperfect leader, and that’s what really matters.

Oh! One more thing: Tonight during our 6th grade discipleship group, we shared some of the left over cookies. The kids thought they were jellyfish (just turned upside down), and my husband did this:

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He called it Wilson!

Taste and See the Lord is good!

Angel Treats

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For our lil HiSKdiZ lesson last Sunday we made these super fun angel snacks. Sure, somehow it may seem a bit harsh to eat angels, but they are SO CUTE!!! And SO TASTY! Our lil HiSKidZ loved them and do did our leaders. Our lesson was centered on when the angel Gabriel came to tell Mary that she was going to have a baby and named Jesus.

They are super easy. You just need some Bugles chips, (it’s amazing how many people love the Bugle!) small pretzels, Kix and Cheerios cereals and some frosting. We used the kind in a tube. It made it super simple to apply and made the angels look neat and tidy. (Something I’m sure angels are!) It also made the task really quick and we had our own angel army in no time at all.

You can tell how to put them together just by looking at the picture.

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I found the idea on Pinterest from the Blog, a http://showerofroses.blogspot.com/2010/12/our-2010-jesse-tea-for-advent.html”> in a post about snacks that can be used to teach from the book “The Jesse Tree.”

If you’ve never checked out “The Jesse Tree,” I highly recommend it, and the angel treats as well. Check out his picture of my friend Patti who helped put these together. I thought she was totally channeling her June Cleaver when she came in to the church the other day, but with the pic in black and white I think it’s even more perfect!! (She didn’t know I was going to snap a pic, but she was pretty sweet about it anyway!)

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Enjoy!! Taste and See. . . the Lord is good!

Very Blue Red Sea Cupcakes

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Like in many churches, we often map out a weekly teaching plan for our volunteers that includes a teaching point, Bible lesson, craft, activity, songs and snack. For our littlest HiSKidZ, snack is almost always something that ties into the lesson reinforcing the story or truth we want them to learn.

This month, our preschoolers are learning that they can praise God, and Sunday’s lesson was about how the Israelites praised God after they crossed the Red Sea. I love the snack that Susan, one of our veteran volunteers, shared with our classes to help them remember that God’s people praised Him after He helped Moses lead them safely across the Red Sea.

These super cute cupcakes were so easy to make with a simple cake mix, white frosting, Teddy Grahams, pretzel sticks and some Pillsbury Funfetti Aqua Blue Vanilla frosting (it comes with little fishes!)

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The cupcakes were fun, delicious and helped lil HiSKidZ learn more about God. Although it did bring up the age-old question, “Why is the Red Sea blue and not red?”

Taste and See. . . the Lord is good.

Praying with Mike and Ike

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I love it when kids pray!! And I love “Mike and Ike” candies. So when the two spontaneously come together it just becomes one of the BEST DAYS EVER!!!!

This year I’ve made it one of my prayers to help HiSKidZ grow in their walk and talk with God. I’m always looking for great ways to incorporate praying into their everyday life, so no doubt I was excited when God combined one of the desires of my heart with one of the loves of my life.

Here’s the fruit-tastic story.

Sunday night we were meeting with our 6th grade Discipleship group, and that meeting involved an impromptu Wal-Mart run for some pumpkins, and added to the pumpkin run was a snack run—because who can go to Wal-Mart and get just what you came for!!

Those in charge of the all important errand, to the joy of my soul returned to the church with 3 awesome pumpkins and 6 boxes of colorful, fruity goodness also known as “Mike and Ikes.”

We opened them all up and dumped them in a bowl (the “Mike and Ikes” not the pumpkins) and began our study of the gospels.

We quickly chewed our way through Matthew and onto John while also chewing our way through the “Mike and Ikes.” My alarm went off to let me know we were almost done for the night, and reminding me that I wanted to have prayer time before heading home.

Since corporate prayer is a pretty intimidating thing to some of our kids and we didn’t have much time, I thought, “Why not use the “Mike and Ike’s” to help teach the kids about prayer.”

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So we dug into the candy bowl, and each choose one more candy, revealed its color and came up with a prayer request that coordinated with the color of Mike and Ike they had chosen.

When we invited Mike and Ike into our prayer time, our prayers went from the general, “Thank you for a great night and help us to have a good week at school,” to some more specific prayers like:

GREEN
Lord, help us grow in our faith and be strong in you.

PINK
Lord, help us to be kind to our friends and even the people who aren’t our friends.

BLUE
Lord, we want to pray that people will know you and want to be saved.

YELLOW
God, we want to live so that we can be a light for you in the world.

ORANGE
Jesus, help us to tell others about you so they can know about your love and light.

RED
Lord, help us to show your love to those around us.

Our prayer time wasn’t long, but it was focused and memorable. Using those candies helped kids to make a connection, learn to pray more specifically and gain confidence in praying aloud as the body of Christ.

Taste and See. . . .Mike and Ikes, teaching kids to pray and the Lord are all very good.

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In case you were curious about those pumpkins. . . .our service project for the night was weeding around the church sign. At the last minute we decided to go get pumpkins to add a little fall color! Little did we know we’d be adding color to spruce up more than the flower bed!

Fiery Furnace Snack for Kids–Taste and See Sunday

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This month our preschoolers are learning that “God is With Them Everywhere!” Today their lesson was specifically about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and their visit to the fiery furnace because they wouldn’t worship the king’s statue.

To help teach our story, we built a cardboard box furnace, expressed a little creativity with a super fun craft (that’s a future blog post for sure, for sure) and to top it off enjoyed the tasty snack of fiery furnace fun pictured above.

jace in the fiery furnace

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there was really anything “fun” about the guys’ experience in the furnace that day. But, I did think, as I looked at the faces of the little bears we used to represent “Rack, Shack and Benny,” that perhaps they were experiencing some pretty great joy in the fact that God was indeed with them everywhere–especially in the midst of the BBQ fit for a king.

One of the teachers told me that they asked the children what happened to the guys when they went into the furnace. The teacher expected them to say that God was with them, but instead one of the kids piped up with, “They got all burnt up!”

The teacher, a little taken aback, replied, “No, No, God was with them and He saved them.”

The kids responded with some “Woahs. . . .”

I have to wonder if I’m not a bit like my preschoolers sometimes. Do I fail to realize that God is with me in hot times? Do I forget that I can have joy in the midst of trials? Can I be as happy as the little bears on our graham crackers knowing that I can trust God no matter what?

The Spirit was speaking through today’s little snack and helped remind me that God IS with me everywhere and the joy of the Lord is my strength.

Taste and See. . . the Lord is good.

The Lesson from Little Debbie–Taste and See Sunday

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Oh Little Debbie! She and her little cakes and treats are so tantalizing, so tempting, so creamy, chocolatey, and chewy. But alas, they aren’t necessarily the best food choice I could ever make.

Although they look good, they taste good and the price is right, they still aren’t necessarily a great nutritional choice. But do I let that stop me from picking up a box from time to time? No, of course, not. Because, well, because a girl needs some chocolate every now and then, right? And did I let that stop me from buying them for our preschool snack this week? No, of course not, because those little brownie hearts fit so well with our theme!

As I placed the boxes of brownies in our classrooms, the Holy Spirit reminded me of some truths about our hearts.

We tend to say, “Trust your heart.”

The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart.”

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We say, “Don’t be afraid to give your heart away.”

Yet Scripture says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

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And we say, “Follow your heart wherever it leads.”

But God says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

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There are battles that wage within my heart. They may wage in yours as well. Battles between my flesh and my Spirit. Battles in which the enemy speaks to me in words that sound sweet, sound right, sound justified, yet are not. It’s in these battles that my flesh cries out above my Spirit, and unless I take the utmost care to stifle the cry of the flesh, I will follow my heart to places it has no business going. Sometimes that is just to a box of chocolatey fudgy brownies, but other times it is to jealousy, unforgiveness, criticism, laziness, or more

In these times of battle, I am learning to not only take Scripture to heart, but to take it to my heart, so that in all of my days my heart will bring honor to the One I gave it to. In these times of battle, I gain greater glimpses of my love for Him, and His for me.

Taste and See . . . the Lord is good!