Which prayers are in Shine?

By Rose Stutzman, director of Shine

Which of the following will be included in the new Shine Sunday school curriculum for children?
A. The prayer of Janis
B. The prayer of Jabez
C. The prayer of Agur
D. The Lord’s prayer

The prayer of Janis refers to Janis Joplin’s song “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?” As you may have guessed, it is not in the Shine curriculum, designed for age three through junior youth. The song also asks the Lord for “a color TV” and “a night on the town,” and continues “prove that you love me and buy the next round.” I assume that Janis was being sarcastic in this song recorded three days before her death. Singing the song is a critique of a world rife with consumerism.

The prayer of Jabez is found in 1 Chronicles 4:10:

Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!” And God granted what he asked.

The Prayer of Jabez, by Bruce Wilkinson, is a book based on this short verse about one of the descendants of Judah. The book encourages Christians to expect God to answer our prayers for blessing. While not nearly as blatant as Joplin’s song, the book promises success, and at least in part those successes can be measured by what you can acquire. A 2005 reprint claims that the book has sold more than 10 million copies. Certainly the book’s sales “enlarged the borders” of Multnomah Publishers. Considering the struggle of Christian publishers to stay afloat, the success of this book is no small thing. (In 2006 Multnomah Publishers was acquired by the Christian division of Random House and became WaterBrook Multnomah.)

Shine curriculum does not include the prayer of Jabez but does include another lesser-known prayer from the Old Testament: the prayer of Agur from Proverbs 30.  Agur asks God for two things: he asks for integrity (“remove far from me falsehood and lying”) and Agur asks for enough (“give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food that I need”). In many ways the prayer of Agur reminds us of a line from the prayer Jesus taught the disciples, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (And yes, the Lord’s prayer is also included in the Shine curriculum. So the correct answer to the beginning question is C and D.)

OT_PrayerOfAgur (2)The story “Prayer of Agur” in Shine On: A Story Bible

I often wonder about the times Jesus went off to pray by himself. Did Jesus pray for enough compassion to love his enemies? Enough strength for another day of crowds seeking healing? Enough courage to face suffering and death?

I can imagine that Jesus prayed for the rich man who went away sad, and surely he prayed for his followers to love each other. The story of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness shows us that Jesus chose against worldly power and glory. Jesus’ goal was God’s kingdom of reconciliation and wholeness, not a kingdom of triumphing over others.

Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. —Matthew 6:10–13.

How we pray shapes our lives. Both the prayer of Agur and Jesus’ prayer “for daily bread” remind us of God’s generous provision. We can share with others so that they too have enough.

  • I wonder how prayer shapes my life.
  • I wonder what prayer you and I could pray today.
  • I wonder when there will be enough for all?

3D-BookCovers_ShineOn_lowRGB (2)A Story Bible with the caption “Shine On: A Story Bible has gone to press. Congregations should plan to purchase Shine On: A Story Bible for each Primary, Middler, and Multiage group. This story Bible is an integral part of the curriculum and an important home connection. Plan now to buy Shine On as a presentation gift for the families in your congregation. Our dream is for each household to have a copy of Shine On to further strengthen faith formation opportunities at home. Watch for special quantity offers on ShineCurriculum.com.

ShineLogoShine: Living in God’s Light is coming soon. Sample sessions will be available for preview online by end of January. The first quarter is planned for use in Fall 2014 but will be off the press and available by end of March for Christian education committees to purchase and preview.

What do you expect to find in an Anabaptist children’s curriculum?

RoseStutzman

Rose Stutzman, with her granddaughter
Shine project director

 

Why I don’t Twitter

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
-Blaise Pascal, Pensées

I wonder what Pascal would have thought about Twitter. His Pensées or “thoughts,” many of which are in fact short enough to be tweets (140 characters maximum) were his religious and philosophical musings about the meaning of life and religion, a first draft of what was to become his own apologetic on the Christian faith. He died in 1662, seven years before they were published and printed on a press, using a process that had not changed much in the more than 200 years since Gutenberg invented the movable type printing.

Today they might have been only a drop in the ocean of the Information Age. I frequently muse to myself and others about our future in the age of the internet, social media and digital information.

I found out recently that Twitter has over 1 billion registered users worldwide, about 230 million of which are active. Approximately 500 million tweets are made per day; averaging 5,700 per second. Over 300 billion have been made since the first tweet was sent in March of 2006. Katy Perry, Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga and President Barack Obama all have more than 40 million followers; the top 25, with the exception of the President and YouTube, Instagram and Twitter itself, are all entertainers.

I don’t use twitter, but I am occasionally active on Facebook, though that tends to come in waves or bunches. I still can’t get over the idea that it feels like I’m only on it because I’m bored. It reminds me of its very early days—maybe 7 years ago—back when high school students still weren’t allowed to have Facebook pages—and they were using Myspace. My then-teenage children and some friends were sitting on our front porch, discussing whether it had any merits or virtues. One of the neighbor kids, probably 16, said—and I’ll never forget this—“yeah, I come home after school and go online right away. I’m looking to see who else doesn’t have a life.”

How times have changed. Now, not being on social media is almost akin to not having an existence. Not only are virtually all teens on some form of social media, but they are watching it all the time, in school or elsewhere. It pervades their existence. Even baby boomers, who came into social media in its second wave, have adopted it wholeheartedly. All this has happened rapidly and with minimal discernment as individuals, families and faith communities. The culture “happened to us” and we dived right in.

But to me the question still nags—do those people (including me) have a life? For publishing colleagues, I might as well not exist—if I don’t tweet.
My response, and what I am about to say is ironic given that my vocation includes working in publishing and media, is that I don’t, because there’s just too much information to process already. Theologian Walter Brueggemann said,

Our lives are occupied territory
Occupied by a cacophony of voices
And the din overwhelms us.

Often my hesitation to create more content (such as this blog posting) is that I hesitate to add to that “din.” Given my own sense of being overwhelmed, I also wonder if others are able to process, or ponder, what they “consume” each day through various media.
Not only are we deluged with information—or with ways of sharing it with each other—we’re having a harder and harder time just sitting “quietly in a room alone.” Along with our overdoses of screens and media, we are losing solitude, quiet and deep thought. Sitting quietly, using that time to read, think, meditate and pray, may be a dying faith discipline. How will we train and practice this discipline in an always-connected age?
Further, the digital age, which depends on electronic devices that become obsolete before they outlive their usefulness, also breeds a lack of a sense of permanence. This is somewhat paradoxical, given the fact that social media is at the same time so hard to delete.

One final thought, or pensée: As the amount of information available to us becomes virtually unlimited, it’s becoming less and less meaningful. Facebook alone stores 300 “petabytes” of information. A petabyte is one quadrillion bytes, a number so large as to be nearly inconceivable and thus, meaningless—except to marketers, who are able to measure, sort and process our digital lives into algorithms that target our personal consumption. In the midst of updating our Facebook status, are we able to ponder all the consequences of our digital age? In the future, how will we know what is most important to give our attention to? Will we be able sift through the din to see or hear what we need most? As people of faith, will we be able to discern as a community—not just as individuals—the most important questions confronting us? Or will we just sit back and wait to react to the latest tweet or status update?

~Russ Eanes

photo (5)

To not eat or not sleep . . . that is the question

ElizabethRachelsDaughterRecently, my daughter, Elizabeth (above), and I had a fun, and slightly ridiculous, conversation in the minivan.

“Mom, I wonder what it would be like if we didn’t have to sleep. We could do twice as many fun things in a week and still get work done. Wouldn’t that be great?”

“People would probably end up working lots more instead of relaxing and doing fun things,” I commented, reminding her once again that her mom is cynical.

“Probably some people would, but others would take advantage of eight more hours in a day—almost 60 hours in a week! Plus, no more being woken up. Or that groggy feeling when you first wake up.”

“What I sometimes wish is that we didn’t have to eat. Think of all the time you’d save—no cooking, no clean-up, and no grocery shopping.”

AugSeptOct2013 166Elizabeth looked skeptical.

I continued, “Of course, our bodies would have to be rewired so we could still get energy. Just breathe it in or something.”

Elizabeth laughed. “But, Mom, wouldn’t you miss eating your favorite foods. And when would we all be together if we didn’t eat meals together sometimes? Besides, sleeping is a solitary thing. What’s there to miss if you didn’t sleep?”

“Dreams for one thing.”

And so the conversation continued—no sleeping versus no eating.RoseStutzman

For people who love to cook or love to eat, not eating wouldn’t be appealing at all. I’m one of those persons who loves to bake but doesn’t like to cook meals. I’d much rather bake bread than a casserole. My daughter is the one in our family who loves to cook. Luckily for both of us—me, the reluctant cook, and her, the beginning cook—we have two cookbooks on my shelf of cookbooks. I am now on my second copy of Mennonite Country-Style Recipes and Kitchen Secrets by Esther H. Shank and the More-with-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre. And those copies are looking “well-loved” with stained pages and missing back covers. I mostly go to these two cookbooks when I am hunting up meal ideas or am in the mood to bake. They are also the ones I suggest to my daughter to look in.

MWL photoEstherShankCookbookI like the way Shank set up her recipes so that the ingredients are above the instructions for just those ingredients. I’m less likely to put an ingredient in at the wrong time that way. I frequently visit the microwave cooking and quick-fix sections when everyone is hungry now. One that I’ve used with family and friends many times is the soft pretzel recipe (page 235). People not only eat them, they often help shape the pretzels into all sorts of shapes. From young children to youth groups to adult friends, it’s a fun activity to do together.

More-with-Less is a great place to find healthy recipes that taste good. I no longer buy Bisquik because I make the Master Baking Mix (page 68) which tastes better and is just as versatile. While there is a pancake recipe using the Master Mix, I tried the pancake mix on page 73 and prefer that to any other. (Restaurant pancakes pale in comparison.) My favorite recipe is the Easy French Bread (page 63). I have been making this French bread since I was ten years old and discovered that I liked to knead. If we didn’t have to eat, I would have never discovered that or the fact that bread fresh out of the oven is incredibly delicious.

In the end, my daughter and I agreed that it was a good thing that God was in charge and had figured out that both sleeping and eating were essential for our lives. The alternative just wouldn’t work as well or be as enjoyable.

How about you, would you rather eat, or sleep?

Or,

Have you ever had a conversation with your child that seemed silly or maybe cyclical like this one, but where you learned something in the end?

Rachel Nussbaum Eby
Managing editor of Shine, new faith formation children’s curriculum coming this Spring from MennoMedia (with full roll out this fall!)