A Sand Beach In A Sunday School Room

Chapter Five: A Sand Beach In A Sunday School Room

silver spoon near silver kitchen knife

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I remember when the young Pastor asked me to teach Sunday School. A former Catholic teaching religion to first graders when I was still learning to be Lutheran? I didn’t think that was a good fit. But because I wasn’t into saying no in those days and because I wanted to fit in, though terrified, I accepted.

Little did I know the first time I said yes would lead me to teach sixth grade, then confirmation, finally serving as Sunday School Superintendent for many years. As I look back I have to analyze whether I said yes because I wanted to be liked or belong or whether I really wanted to teach young minds about Jesus. I think it was a little bit of both. I hadn’t counted on learning right along with the youngsters.

We had young Pastors so they knew what young kids liked and were on the pulse with what was happening because they had young families. The older generation of people at that time seemed to be open to some changes when it came to the kids.

Remembering how I grew up I wanted to make learning about Jesus interesting. We chanted Bible Verses, we told the story so kids could understand and one year we had a night family Bible School. We decorated the rooms to the hilt with a real beach with sand in one room, rowboats, nifty food, drama, storytelling and music. It was memorable and well planned. The older generation joined us too. We blended the old with the young. The older generation helped us shape our kid’s belief in God. We couldn’t have done it without them.

And I learned about the Bible, something I didn’t get from my old religion. Being a young adult I still didn’t give the structure much thought because the church was booming and it didn’t feel so structured as to be intimidating or judgmental. It was a growing time and members were excited about the growth. Although one of the things which did frustrate me was the amount of money spent on education versus keeping the church beautiful and perfect.

Perfection was part of the establishment which made me want to scream. Imagine stacking silverware perfectly in the drawers in the kitchen one by one with not one item out of place or we got into trouble with the kitchen ladies. What did that have to do with God? At another Lutheran Church which I belonged to, I was helping with a Ladies Luncheon and there were two sets of silverware. Being a new member of the church I didn’t know. After I had the entire room set with one of the sets of silverware I was told I needed to change the silverware. A little note here–the silverware all looked good.

I said I thought it looked fine. I was told to change it or I could leave. I was a little over the wanting to belong, so I said I could arrange that and started to get my purse to leave. They must have thought about it and the silverware stayed and so did I, but my views started changing on what church should be. These are the tiny little things that made me start to question religious institutions. What was their priority?

Next Blog: I Wish You Five Minutes

Church? Sports? Priorities Have Changed.

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published in the Albert Lea Tribune week of September 28, 2015

Times have changed since I was young. Religion has taken a backseat to other worldly things in our priorities.IMG_3385

After attending church one Wednesday evening I pondered all the changes that have taken place in the way people worship since I grew up.

In the “olden days” it wasn’t an option to not go to church on Sundays. As kids we didn’t miss anything because the community I grew up in did not schedule sports or other activities during church time. It didn’t matter what religion you were, respect was shown to the religious community.

During my high school days we had what was called “release time,” which was time during the week we were allowed out of school for an hour  to go to our respective churches to learn more about God and our religion. We also had the option of staying in school and having a study hall. Most opted for the religion and I admit sometimes it was just to get out of school, and occasionally we headed for a different church than ours because they were doing something more interesting such as addressing the “sex” topic which wasn’t discussed much in those days — and our parents expected us to attend release time. In fact, I think you had to have a signed note to stay in school and in study hall, but I’m not sure about that because occasionally the memory is weak.

Wednesday evenings were set aside for churches, and there were no activities scheduled in school during these evenings so as to not interfere with the churches. This was called respect.

While raising my kids, church came first and activities came second on the days we had church plans. At that time the conflict was setting in with other activities, but most parents made the choice for their kids that church attendance came first.

I realized when reading a blog by a friend how easy we had it as parents in my day when deciding what was happening for our children on Sunday mornings. Did they always want to attend church or church activities, absolutely not, but they went because as parents that was our priority. Now there is so much pressure put on parents on what to prioritize in their life.

I share with permission this blog post by Kristin Lotthammer, CFM coordinator at Zion Lutheran Church in Buffalo, Minnesota. She shares her personal story of the pull of other activities on her church and family life.

 

I would like to share my personal story with you.

Last fall, I had registered my son to play fall lacrosse. When I received the game schedule, I was crushed. Almost all the game times fell right during Sunday morning worship times. At that moment, I had to step back and think … priorities. What really matters to my family, my child? He loves playing lacrosse. How could I tell him he couldn’t play on the team because I was going to prioritize church first? Values, morals, values, morals … kept running through my mind and heart. So, I had a talk with my husband and son. We were all in agreement, God comes first!

I emailed the coach and the lacrosse organization and told them I needed to pull my son from the team. I gave the simple reason that church is still No. 1 in our home, and game times on Sunday mornings were not going to work for us. Guess what, I wasn’t the only parent out there with the concern that sports are creeping into our Sunday mornings way too often! Not long after my email was sent, there was a change. A lot of the game times had been changed to Sunday afternoons. Wow, I thought! What a great organization! They listened and cared!

All we have to do is kindly speak up and sometimes that will help.

I challenge you and your family this year to think about priorities and what really matters in your home. Our children are watching and learning from what we do.

 

Kirsten’s column moved me by her courage to stand up for what she believed in. I am not sure I would have been able to do that in today’s world. If kids miss a game or practice for church they are penalized, so of course parents don’t want their kids to feel the pressure of their choices.

We live in a diverse world, and I feel we should respect each other’s values and religious beliefs. I would imagine all religions have this problem when it comes to choices for their children.

Churches have changed the way they are teaching the younger generation because the priorities of parents have changed. Many churches now offer alternative times for worship to accommodate sports and school activities. I still wonder why it still shouldn’t be the other way around. And let’s be honest, extracurricular sports and activities are important, but how many kids actually will be the next famous athlete or star?

I don’t know the right answer. All I know is that things have changed and I am thankful I didn’t have to make the choices parents have to make today. I do know I am grateful my parents made the choices they did when it came to my faith, because when I struggle or am joyful it is where I turn through thick or thin. I don’t know where I would be if that would not have been my parents priority.

 

What Would Happen if God Became Our Business?

When I wrote this column I was skeptical about publishing it. I like to be fluffy because in our world today there are so many serious and sad things. For some reason this was on my heart to write. My editor pointed me to this song on youtube by Delbert McClinton. I hadn’t heard it before but it seemed to fit and make what I said a little more lighthearted. I am posting the video at the end of the column. Thanks for your patience.

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf – Column from Albert Lea Tribune September 15, 2014

I rarely write about religion and politics. I prefer to stay out of controversial subjects but for some reason as I was struggling with a topic for this week’s column, and reading a morning blessing by Susie Larson, Christian speaker and author, it sparked a thought and it seemed I should write about it.

This thought came to me after reading her morning blessing: What would happen if God became your business? And when I say the word business, it is just that, a business that we throw ourselves into and run, work hard at and takes precedence above other things in our lives.

The words that sparked that thought were these: May your heart of compassion grow for those who suffer in unimaginable ways. May you pray as passionately for them as you do for yourself.

I thought about my prayers. They always seem to be a dash here and a dash there in between my business and other daily activities. I may sit for a few moments in the morning and in the evening and dash out prayers in between, but business usually is a priority. I am in the business now of writing to help support myself. I do what I accuse many institutions of doing: I put finances first and God second.

I get fed along the way during my day by snippets and prayers from Susie Larson and other Christian writers and speakers who speak to my heart. But what would happen if I turned that around and made God my business. What would happen if I worked at prayer as hard as I worked at writing? The thought then crosses my mind that I shouldn’t have to work at prayer. If my mind seems muddled writing this it means I am also having a hard time wrapping my brain around this thought.

Some churches might say that they are in the business of God. Many are, and others may say they are in the business of God, but like me, finances are their business, as the churches are now run as a business and the rest takes second fiddle. What would happen if prayer and God took priority and finances took second place?

We have all heard the stories of being dropped from church rolls because no money had been dropped into a collection plate from an individual in a long time. We have all heard the stories of not being able to participate in an activity in church because it is too expensive. Many churches now are a business, run like a business and certain protocol and traditions that need to be followed take precedence over teaching about prayer and praying. They no longer rely on prayer and God to know that he will provide. They rely on accountants and tax people to keep the doors open.

That may seem harsh, but then I am being harsh on myself, too. My business is important, and so I pay attention. I am focused and not easily distracted. I am able to put other things aside and focus on the priority of making my business a success.

Larson said, “Pray as passionately for others as you do for yourself.”

I don’t know unless I have hit the bottom, if I pray much for myself. Maybe I do in bits and pieces, to help me to do a task. I know I prayed for inspiration for a column this morning and what came to me were the words: What would happen if you made God your business?

I think of my Grandma sitting in a chair by her window always praying the rosary, every day, a couple of times a day. I think of the priority in my family while I was growing up, church, prayer at meals, prayer at bedtime and family prayer. I think of my aunt every night sitting down with her bible for hours, reading and praying. Prayer was a priority no matter what was happening, what TV programs were on or what was taking place on a Sunday morning in the community.

Were their lives better because of it? I don’t know. Was my life better because of it? I think so although at the time I didn’t. There was something grounding about prayer. Perhaps those days’ churches were businesses too like the business my father ran, but I was too young to know.

There is a difference now.  Our businesses are social media, sports, jobs that make money to put food on the table and whatever else we work hard at, we are passionate about, and we believe in. We work hard at those things we are passionate about.

We might look at people who indeed make God their business, such as those who write books, speak and influence people lives, with skepticism. Do they get lost in the monetary part of their business and forgot the prayer part, too? We have seen that happen, and we have seen the scams.

Whether you believe in God or a higher power or a different form of religion than Christian, have you asked yourself what would happen if you worked as passionately at prayer as you do at your profession that feeds your family or the hobbies that feed your passion?

If you belong to a church, ask yourself if they are as passionate about prayer as they are about putting money in their coffers?

And then look at yourself, because I think that is what my message while reading Susie Larson’s blessing this morning is possibly about. What would happen if I were as passionate about prayer as I am about my business? If we all asked ourselves that question and pondered it, would the world change for the better?