Happy Monday friends!
Last night in youth group we defused some bombs, worshipped together, took prayer requests and prayed for one another, and spent some time talking about the importance of taming our tongues!
Defusing bombs sounds much more serious than it really was. One of my favorite party games to play with youth groups is "Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes." Its a game where one person is the "bomb defuser" and a group of people nearby called "bomb experts" use a manual to tell the defuser what to do to defuse the bomb! It's a game that requires clear communication and teamwork under pressure, and that fit in really well with our lesson for the evening! If you want to see the game in action, this is a great video!
After grabbing some snacks, Eli led us in a time of worship, and we settled down to continue our conversation on the book of James. We were in chapter 3 this week, and spent some time reflecting on how James describes our tongues. He calls them "a world of evil, set on fire by Hell," which can sound a bit extreme until you consider the lasting impact that our words can have. I shared briefly about times that people said both positive and negative things to me that have stuck with me for many years. Most students had similar experiences and could relate.
One of the most unique opportunities given to us as followers of Jesus is the power to bless others, and call forth their true identities as God's beloved children. To drive that point home, I spent some time reading a portion of Henri Nouwen's The Life of the Beloved. If you are unfamiliar with who Henri is, he was a Dutch priest who spent much of his adult life teaching in the divinity school of Harvard, Yale, and Notre Dame before spending the last 10 years of his life in a community of adults living with disabilities. I like to joke that Henri is my spiritual father, as his writing has been incredibly influential in my life.
In the chapter called "Blessed" Henri reflects on a time when a woman in his community named Janet approached him and asked for a blessing. Being a priest, he responded in a somewhat automatic way by tracing the sign of the cross on her forehead, but she protested saying, "No! That doesn't work. I want a real blessing!" So later that evening in a prayer service, Henri invited Janet to come and receive her blessing. He wasn't sure what she wanted, but Janet didn't leave him wondering for long. She left her place in the circle and buried her face in Henri's chest with a hug. As he embraced her, he said,
Janet, I want you to know that you are God's Beloved Daughter. You are precious in God's eyes. Your beautiful smile, your kindness to the people in your house, and all the good things you do show us what a beautiful human being you are. I know that you feel a little low these days and that there is some sadness in your heart, but I want you to remember who you are: a very special person, deeply loved by God and all the people who are here with you."
These kinds of blessings are SO powerful. They remind us that we are not our own, and even in the midst of all the struggles of life - God is with us.
I ended the night by encouraging students to be mindful of the way that they speak to the people they come into contact with this week, and try to intentionally bless one person every day.
Next week we will return to our "Can I Ask That?" series, and talk about why we can trust the Bible!
Have a wonderful week, and thanks for checking in!