ECME Devotions

Renew – Week of July 16, 2018

Renew – Week of July 16, 2018


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13



Americans are addicted to work. When meeting up with a friend for coffee, often the common question is, “How have you been?” The common answer is, “Busy.” We take pride in our busyness. We somehow feel that the busier we are, the more important we must be. Being a hard worker is a quality personality trait, but being a workaholic is not.

It is important during these quieter summer months to take time to renew your mind, body and faith. Your job of training young children to follow Jesus is so important. Being overworked, stressed and letting our faith grow weak is not being a faithful servant. There is only one solution to this: Jesus.

We can find comfort in Jesus’ life. Jesus was a hard worker. He preached from dawn until dusk. He went from town to town healing, teaching, and training his disciples. His work was very important, but even Jesus took time away from his work. He would go somewhere secluded with his friends or even wander off alone to speak with his Father. He needed to renew his strength and faith so he could continue to serve others. That life is YOUR life. Jesus lived it perfectly for you and it became your life at your baptism when Jesus took his perfection and put it on you.

We can find comfort in Jesus’ death. There Jesus paid for all sins for all time, which also became yours at your baptism. He forgives us for the times we fail to trust in him. He forgives us for the times we forget to draw from God’s Word.

The hope that we find in Jesus’ life and death fills us with peace and joy. Only when we are filled with those things will they overflow onto the children that we teach.



Prayer:
 Dear Heavenly Father, continue to fill me with your love, joy, and peace. May I be a light and a reflection of you to others in all I do. Amen.

(Reprinted from June 2016)



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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I’ve Got an Answer! – Week of July 9, 2018

I’ve Got an Answer! – Week of July 9, 2018


But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
I Peter 3:15



“Oooh! Oooh! I know! Pick me!” Almost every class has that one student who comes in every morning, eyes shining brightly, eager to do anything and everything. As you share the Bible story or read aloud for the day, they can’t contain their enthusiasm. They laugh, they sigh, they comment, they question, often without being called on. They can’t resist verbalizing their thoughts and reactions.

How about you and me? We may not be in a class where a teacher is firing questions at us, but we do have opportunities to answer. The little ones in our classes are full of questions about all kinds of things but especially about Jesus. Our families may be new to learning about Jesus or may be life-long Christians. In either case, they still have questions about matters of faith. Are we ready? How can we be ready? How can we know how to respond?

Our verse for today is such a help. First on our list: “set apart Christ as Lord.” Our sinful nature constantly fights against this…every day! We’ve got things to do and more often than we’d like to admit, those things get in the way of our faith. We need to renew our faith every day by being in the Word which moves us to put our faith into practice by giving thanks and glory to God for all he has done for us and by encouraging each other in faith. Next, we need to get ready, be prepared. How? We need to read, read, read the Word every day. Read the Word on our own, with our family, in Bible class. Read solid books that deepen your spiritual knowledge and equip you to defend the faith.

We can also think about what we might say to someone who asks. Be ready to tell them about sin and how it separates us from God. Be ready to tell them about grace and how God still loves us so much that he sent Jesus to take the consequences that we deserve. Be ready to tell them that even in the most difficult times, God’s peace is ours, heaven is ours. This is the hope that we have through faith. Say it simply, clearly, humbly, and with love for them. Some will be eager and interested in what you have to say. Some may need time to consider it all. Some may not appear interested at all. But your message is the same and the Holy Spirit promises to work through it.

You may not need to raise your hand but questions will come. With the confidence of knowing that the Holy Spirit can and will bless our efforts, we don’t need to be timid or hesitant. We have the joy and privilege of setting Jesus as our highest priority and being prepared to share the amazing blessing of God’s undeserved love and grace for us and for all!



Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, I so often get distracted by my tasks that I set you aside. Forgive me. Help me to set you apart as first in my life. And then, give me eagerness and the words to share with those around me how much you love them and your gift of salvation for them. In your name, Amen.

Question to consider: How can you prepare? Can you practice with a friend? Can you write a journal of possible responses? Is there a book on witnessing you can read? A Bible class to take? Make a plan and then ask God to bless your plan.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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No Passport Needed – Week of July 2, 2018

No Passport Needed – Week of July 2, 2018


But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:20



Years ago, our family had the opportunity to live abroad for one year. We loved our experiences that year. We loved the country, the traditions, the foods, and especially the people. But, we always knew that this was temporary and that at the end of the year, we would be going home. The year gave us new eyes for another culture and a heightened appreciation for our own country. As hard as the goodbyes were at the end of the year, we were so excited to be home.

This week we celebrate July 4 to recognize the founding of our country. It’s a day full of parades, picnics, fireworks, and national pride. Even with struggles that continue throughout our country, this is a day to stop and note what’s great about the United States. For each person the list will vary but often include the many freedoms we have.

Most of us are Americans by birth. We were born here and automatically became citizens. But as Christians, we know that while this is home, it’s only home for now. We have a far more important citizenship in heaven. This citizenship is ours by birth, but not our earthly birth to our parents. The new birth we have through Baptism, makes us a citizen of heaven. We have no heavenly passport to carry but our faith in Jesus identifies us as his child and therefore, a citizen of heaven.

Our earthly home is fraught with challenges, disasters, evil, hurt, and all kinds of disappointment and frustration. We can look at our country and the decisions that are made and become overwhelmed and discouraged. We even admit that our own attitudes toward government and leaders is not always pleasing to God. But then we remember our baptism. We remember what Jesus has done for us. We remember God’s unending love for us. While the challenges of sin are always around us, even more are the promises of God. This earthly life is temporary. This is not our home. Heaven is our home. And there we will no longer face the fear, hurt, disappointment, and pain of this life but will experience pure joy that will never end.

As we celebrate the 4th, let’s pray together for our country that the Lord will bless it. We pray he guides and directs our leaders to make God-pleasing decisions that maintain and protect our religious freedoms. We thank God for the multitude of blessings that are ours as citizens of this country. And above all, we thank God for our true citizenship in our heavenly home–no passport needed.



Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, I thank you for my country and the blessings I have as a citizen. I thank you even more that I can claim citizenship with you in heaven. When sin affects my life, remind me that this is temporary and that you have made a home for me with you in heaven. In your name I pray, Amen.

Question to consider: It’s easy to focus on all the challenges our country faces. This week, make a list of the blessings we have in the United States. Consider asking others to add to the list. Perhaps you might include the freedom to worship as you choose, our national parks, the ability to vote, etc.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Ambassadors – Week of June 25, 2018

Ambassadors – Week of June 25, 2018


We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:20-21



Don’t you love the look in a young child’s eyes when you ask them to deliver a message for you? “My teacher told me to tell you!” they exclaim to the hearer. It’s a big deal for them to be entrusted with such an important task and most children love it. “My teacher knows I’m big enough to do this for her!” They are eager and enthusiastic ambassadors!

What an amazing job an ambassador for our country has! If you were asked to be an ambassador for the United States, which country would you be most excited about? Would it be one like France or Italy? Would you be interested in something very different from your own home like India or Malawi? Would you be eager to serve in a country at peace or one with significant challenges? No matter the case, your role would be to represent and speak on behalf of your president, your country. What a responsibility! What an honor!

In our reading today, Paul is speaking to the people who lived in Corinth. As a reminder to them, he explains that the message he brings to them is not his own but is from God. He and his companions are sharing God’s appeal through them to the people of Corinth. And the message? “Be reconciled to God.” All your sins are covered! God has done it all! He loves you and has forgiven you! In faith, believe these words and treasure the peace of knowing God calls you his own!

Think of what you are blessed to do each day in your classroom. You get to be one of those ambassadors as well. What an amazing and humbling title! An ambassador for Christ! God has entrusted you with sharing this same message with each little one, each family, and those you know and love! And like an ambassador for our country, it’s not always easy. Sharing God’s message can be challenging when some are resistant to hear. Sin and Satan love to try to block the message. Our own insecurities and shortcomings can make us hesitant or reluctant. But like the young child asked to deliver a message, we can be full of joy, excitement, and confidence because the message we are sharing is not ours, but God’s. He has given us his Word, told us to share it, and promised he will bless it. What more do we need! “My God told me to tell you!” How amazing is that!



Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, you’ve told me to tell. And you’ve given me the most amazing message to share–your message of grace. Embolden me and help me to be excited and full of joy and confidence as I tell all those around me about you. And then I ask you to bless those who hear as you have promised. In your name, Amen.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Real or Make Believe – Week of June 18, 2018

Real or Make Believe – Week of June 18, 2018


I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Galatians 1:11



Stories are a vital and often cherished part of the day of a young child. The child could either cuddle on someone’s lap or sit wide-eyed as a story is read or told. Their facial expressions and body movement reflect their reaction to the parts of the story that are silly or scary or sweet. As a young child grows and develops, they may begin to ask, “Is this real or make-believe?” This is especially true when you have a little one in your class that may not have heard the Bible story before. Did Jonah really go into the belly of a huge fish? Did Noah and his family all live on the ark he built with all those animals? Did Jesus really make a blind man see? Real or make-believe?

In our reading for today, Paul is talking to the congregation in Galatia. He is looking to give them reassurance and encouragement. Paul, as you may know, was not one of the original disciples who walked and talked and lived with Jesus. In fact, Paul was the exact opposite. He had spent years seeking out Christians to put them in jail, to punish them, to do all that he could to squelch Christianity. Paul was probably not the most docile, teachable person who would easily change his mind or be swayed. It would be logical for people to be skeptical of him and of his message. Anticipating their concerns, he shares how he came to know the truth that he shares with them. The message he preached he received by revelation from Jesus. He didn’t make it up. He didn’t even learn it second hand from the disciples. He was given this message by God himself. Talk about validity! But even more, talk about the confidence that Paul could have in his message and the hearers could have as they listened to him!

You and I are not Paul. We may not have his tenacity or his courage. But we have been given the same privilege and opportunity to share the gospel. Think of the children who were in your class the past couple of years. Each day, you were able to share God’s amazing message of salvation with them. You taught them about God’s forgiveness which makes it easier for us and them to forgive each other. You shared how much God loves them which helps them and us reflect that love with each other. Together you talked about all the amazing promises and wonders God has told us about in his word, the Bible. Aren’t there times when you stop and just say, “Isn’t that amazing?” Aren’t there times when the children stop you and say, “Wow! God did that for me?”

Our world changes constantly. What was forbidden yesterday is likely ok and even encouraged today. On what can we cling in an ever-changing world? How do we and our children know what is right, what is wrong, what is real, what is make-believe? We have the Bible, God’s own precious words to each of us. He tells you who he is, what he has done, what he can do. And he tells us he forgives us, he loves us, he redeemed us, he calls us his own dear child. It’s real, not make-believe. And he and all he does and wants for us never changes. May the Lord bless you as you continue to share the story, the real story, this amazing message of grace each day!



Prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for all you have done and continue to do for me. Help me to never lose my sense of awe for you. And help me to share that awe with the children and families I serve, with colleagues, family, and friends. Amen



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Sleep Like a Baby – Week of June 11, 2018

Sleep Like a Baby – Week of June 11, 2018


I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8



I tiptoed into the dimly lit room and peered over the side of the crib. There he was, arms out at his side, sleeping as peaceful as can be. When our first son was only 7 weeks old, we travelled to visit family for Christmas. The house was full of relatives, laughter, and boisterous chatter. On any other day, I would have been loving every minute of it. But not tonight. I was a brand-new mom and my baby was sleeping nearby. I couldn’t understand why all these people I love didn’t realize that they were going to wake up my baby! How could they be so insensitive? While my heart was racing, my little one was far away in dreamland, not a care in the world.

Do you ever crave that kind of sleep? Do you ever find yourself lying face-up to the ceiling with eyes open wide and your mind racing? What is it about 2 A.M. that prevents us from the sleep we crave and need? It can be all kinds of things. It can be the long list of uncompleted tasks that are gnawing at you, the worry about bills unpaid or a repair that you can’t put off any longer, the unkindness of your words or thoughts toward someone you care about. This list is as varied as we are. Oh, for the kind of restful sleep that my newborn experienced with all the chaos right outside his door.

This side of heaven, those earthly struggles are going to be with us every day. That to-do list will never have everything crossed off. Things we own will continue to wear and need repair or replacement. We, and those we love, will not always get a clean bill of health. And our sin? It’s there every day, all day. Those careless words, unkind thoughts, harsh reactions are part of our sinful nature that will not leave us alone. That all sounds pretty hopeless. And without Jesus, it is hopeless.

But you and I are not without Jesus. Never did he promise that our lives would be without struggle. In fact, he assured us that there would always be trouble. But, and here’s the most important part, he did promise us that he would be with us always. He may not write a check to cover that repair. He’s not likely to shorten your to-do list, especially when it involves sharing him. He will not always grant the miracle of a cure for you or someone you love. Sin doesn’t give up and move on and leave you alone. But Jesus never moves on, never leaves you. In all of this, he’s with you and has promised you this: you can face each struggle, each challenge, each task, each sinful failure knowing that he’s there with you. He loves you. He cares for you. He knows your struggle. And so often, he can bring unexpected blessings from our struggles.

So, as you lie there, wondering about whatever it is that’s keeping you awake, remember that Jesus is there. Put your troubles at his feet. Instead of trying to solve them while you lie there, pray for his guidance, his encouragement, his forgiveness. And then trust that he has all things in his hands, including you. Then roll over, close your eyes, and sleep in peace knowing that you rest in the loving care of your heavenly Father. Sleep like a baby amid a chaotic world, knowing that Jesus is there, your sins are forgiven, and heaven is yours.



Prayer:
Now the light has gone away; Father, listen while I pray,
Asking you to watch and keep and to send me quiet sleep.

Jesus, Savior, wash away all that I’ve done wrong today.
Make me ever more like you, good and gentle, kind and true.

Let my near and dear ones be safe with you eternally.
Oh, bring me and all I love to your happy home above. Amen

Christian Worship 593: 1-3



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Open the Box – Week of June 4, 2018

Open the Box – Week of June 4, 2018


But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.
2 Corinthians 4:7



She stands before you with her eyes wide. In her hands is a small shoebox. She looks up at you with eyes brimming with excitement and says, “Would you like to see what’s in my box?” Who could resist? She opens her box and shares her precious items: a feather, a small grey stone, a bright yellow ribbon, a pencil with a fuzzy pom-pom on top, and a small tablet of paper. She can hardly contain her excitement as she picks up each item and tells you about it. She found the feather in her backyard, the stone while on a walk with her Papa. Each item is attached to a person or a memory. To her they are treasures, kept in an ordinary, nondescript shoebox.

In our verses today, Paul is talking about a treasure. In the verses just before this one, he describes Jesus as that treasure. A well-known hymn calls Jesus our priceless treasure. What Jesus has done for us is sometimes hard to understand. Why would he leave heaven to go through even the simple struggles of daily life on earth and do it for us? Even more, why would he go through the unimaginable pain and suffering and do it for us? One word: love. His love is beyond any words we can use to describe it. It’s hard to describe because it doesn’t make sense. When we’re honest with ourselves, we can’t understand why Jesus would love us and love us that much. But, it isn’t dependent on our understanding. It’s all about him and it’s true and it’s ours just the same.

If you were going to put the greatest treasure on earth on display, where would you put it? How would you make sure everyone saw it? God’s plan: you, and me, and all believers. Through his Word and the work of the Holy Spirit, God places Jesus in our hearts through faith. You and I, those jars of clay, who are imperfect and fragile, hold Jesus in our hearts. And because of his immeasurable love, we seek to reflect Jesus’ love for us and share all he’s done for us with all those around us. Why use jars of clay? Why use us? It’s not about the jar. It’s not about us. It’s all about what’s in the jar. It’s all about Jesus. It’s about the Treasure.

A little girl can hardly contain her excitement as she shares her treasures. She didn’t hesitate or worry about how you would react. She just had to share! May it be the same and more for you and me. What an amazing treasure we have! Not everyone has it. Some have had it and have neglected it or put it aside. With eyes brimming with excitement and reflecting the love that Jesus has for us, let’s be eager and passionate and bold about telling each other and everyone we know about that treasure that we have in Jesus!



Prayer: Dearest Jesus, in my earthly thinking, it makes no sense to me that you would use me to share something as important as you. Help me be bold. Help me be excited. Help me to reflect you in all I say and do. Help me share you, the most precious treasure. In your name, Amen.

Question to consider: We all know someone who needs to know or needs to be reminded about their Savior, Jesus. We have good intentions but don’t always follow through. What simple steps can you take, even today, to reach out and share Jesus with someone you know, with someone you care about? How can you open the box and share what you are excited to know is inside: Jesus?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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As You Say Goodbye – Week of May 28, 2018

As You Say Goodbye – Week of May 28, 2018


May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:14



If it hasn’t come yet, it’s likely coming soon. The last day. Even if you have a year-round program, you likely have a final day before the transition to summer. The last day can be filled with all kinds of emotions. There is always a lot of excitement for the children, the parents, and the teachers.

Then comes that moment when you stand at the door and say that final goodbye of the year. Each child walks past, their backpacks brimming with all their stuff. They are excited and so are you. I don’t know about you, but excitement isn’t always my strongest emotion at that moment. As I look at each child, I’m filled with a love for each of them that has grown throughout the year. I’ve seen them grow and seen them struggle. I’ve seen them forgive and be forgiven. I’ve heard their stories (that can go on and on, right?). And best of all, I’ve heard their expressions of faith. What a blessing and privilege it is to be one of their teachers.

What is it that you want and hope for each of them this summer? We want them to have lots of time with books and stories. We want them to have rich experiences that keep their learning going and lots of time to be active outdoors. What we want most is that they stay close to Jesus. What can we say that reflects our most heartfelt prayer for them?

Today’s verse is a wonderful blessing and prayer for each child as you say your goodbyes.
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ …be with you.” Here we ask that the children know that all the Bible stories they learned, all the conversations about showing love for each other, all the times where forgiveness was spoken, come from the grace we have from Jesus. Grace is the gift of Jesus to us, undeserved, given through his life, death, and resurrection. Because of grace, God holds them close as his own dear children. May they always remain close to Jesus in faith.

“May the love of God…be with you.” Think for a moment of the look you see in a mother or father’s eyes when they pick up their child on the first day of school. This is a look that is oozing with love for their little one. God the Father’s love for them and for us is like that but exponentially more. He looks at each child and each of us and calls us his own precious child. May they always know how dearly God loves them.

“May the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.” As human beings, we crave relationships. They are a blessing given to us by God starting with Adam and Eve. Our fellowship as believers starts with the Holy Spirit who works faith in our hearts. Through the Word, the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith. May they continually grow in faith through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

Off they go and the Lord goes with them. May this blessing be on them and on each of you as you close the door one more time before the next group enters this fall.



Prayer: Dearest Jesus, keep them safe and hold them close to you. May they always know your grace, your love, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. In your name I pray. Amen

Question to consider: Is there a way to continue to encourage your students spiritually over the summer? What are some simple ways to do so?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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I Just Don’t Understand – Week of May 21, 2018

I Just Don’t Understand – Week of May 21, 2018


[Jesus said], “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:26,27



“I just don’t understand.” Our son recently sent us a copy of our granddaughter’s preschool portfolio for the year. On one page was a picture of her working to master a task. “It’s hard” she tells the teacher. You’ve likely all experienced the face of a young child looking up at you for help. They are working and straining to figure something out and just aren’t getting it. They look to you, hoping and trusting that you can give them what they need. You likely stooped down and gave them encouragement and maybe a hint or two to help them overcome the struggle.

In our reading for today, Jesus is talking to his disciples. They’ve spent three years with him. Jesus knows that their time together on earth is about to come to an abrupt end. He knows what’s coming and he is seeking to prepare them. And Jesus knows that they will not be able to understand all that he is telling them. How could they? Even after all the time they spent together, the thought of the crucifixion of Jesus is not even a remote possibility in their minds.

Perhaps you’ve had an experience where you lower your head or shout out, “I just don’t understand.” An unexpected change of plans. News of someone you care about who has been in a serious accident. Sitting in a doctor’s office hearing news that is hard to comprehend. Someone you love has disappointed you. Whatever it is, you likely know that helpless feeling: “I just don’t understand.”

And then we hear the words in our reading today. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” What does that mean? Maybe we should start with what that doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that trouble will suddenly go away, cancer will disappear, time will roll back to before a serious event, or that heartache will end. This side of heaven, those challenges will always be with us. But, we have the promise of Jesus. He is the one who gives us peace, who is our peace. And his peace is unlike any peace on earth. It’s not a quick fix to a challenge but an eternal solution to the weight of sin. It’s not a simple answer to a heartbreaking question but a response that calms our hearts throughout the challenge. It’s a peace that reminds us over and over that no matter what, Jesus is with us. He has sent his Holy Spirit to us. We have the Word to continually remind us of his love, his forgiveness, his grace. Our greatest anxiety comes from our sin and the fear of separation from God. The peace we have from Jesus calms our hearts and gives us confidence to face whatever life throws at us.

“It’s hard.” And hard will always be a part of our lives and the lives of the children and families we serve. But we can stoop down to each child, speak to each family member, and remind ourselves and each other that we have a peace that transcends our struggles. We can share Jesus words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” He is with us. Our troubled and fearful hearts can trust in his peace for us.



Prayer:
Dearest Jesus,
Grant us your peace throughout our earthly life,
Our balm in sorrow and our stay in strife.
Then, when your voice shall bid our conflict cease,
Call us, O Lord, to your eternal peace. Amen
Christian Worship (alt.) 321:4



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Thank You, Mom – Week of May 14, 2018

Thank You, Mom – Week of May 14, 2018


I thank my God every time I remember you.
Philippians 1:3



I have a picture on my desk that is one of my favorites. It’s a picture of my mother and me on her birthday from several years ago. It’s not framed particularly well and it will never win a photo award but I love it. I love it because it is a reminder to me what a blessing it is that I get to be her daughter. She’s 88 and starting to show signs of life’s toll. She has had a life of challenges and heartache that would crush many. And yet she is tenacious and hard working. She has always loved to work with her hands and is a veracious reader. And it’s a rare moment that she’s not in a pleasant mood. She really is someone I strive to be more like. I’m not sure I’ll ever get there.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. This is a day that can bring a wide range of emotions for each of us. For some, it’s like the Hallmark commercials with everyone smiling and expressing tender words of love and appreciation. But for some, their relationship with their mother may be strained or broken. For others, it’s a reminder that their prayer to become a mother has been left unanswered. And for many, it’s a reminder of someone whose life on earth has ended and who is dearly missed.

Whatever your situation, when you think of a Christian mother, you may think of pictures of a mother sitting with her child on her lap as she tells them a Bible story. You may think of a mother kneeling by a child’s bed guiding them in a bedtime prayer. The picture can include a mother in worship with her children around her or a mother’s hands folded in prayer for her child. As I reflect on those pictures, I am thinking that I wish I were more like that mother and maybe you do too. We think of the times when we missed an opportunity to encourage our child when they were sad, hurt, or fearful. We could have shared Jesus’s endless love for them and his promise to always be with them. Perhaps, like me, you remember the times when you were frustrated with your child’s behavior and instead of leading them to Jesus’s love and forgiveness, you were impatient.

Take heart, my dear colleagues and sisters in faith. That same love and forgiveness of Jesus that we can share with not only our own children, but also the children we serve, is ours as well. That comfort of Jesus’ constant presence is for you, for me, and for all. Each time you go to the Word, your faith is strengthened and that faith is the most precious treasure that you can share with your own children and the children you serve.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to come close to the woman of faith that I see in my mother. But, her reminder of joy in all circumstances, patience and constant love, and a faith that trusts in Jesus as her Savior are one of the greatest gifts that God has given me. I thank God whenever I remember her and other women of faith who have been examples of a Christian woman. Whether in the classroom or with your own children, may the Lord bless and guide you as you share Jesus with young children and their families. May he bless you with Christian women to encourage and mentor you and may you be that for others.



Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, thank you for those women in my life who are or have been Christian women of faith. Their encouragement has so often pointed me to you, to your love and forgiveness, and to your amazing grace. Encourage me to share that with the children in my life as well. In your name I pray. Amen

A Question to Consider: Who are the women of faith in your life? Today’s verse, “I thank my God every time I remember you,” is a wonderful reminder to remember those women in prayer. Can you also find a way to share with them the impact they have had on your life as a Christian woman? Perhaps send them an old-fashioned, hand-written note of thanks including this verse.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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I Just Want to Know – Week of May 7, 2018

I Just Want to Know! – Week of May 7, 2018


[Jesus] said to them; “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:7-8



The teacher sits among her class with a brightly decorated box on her lap. There are little ones all around her in silent anticipation. One child grasps his hands together and jumps over and over. She’s got them. The children can hardly stand the waiting. They just want to know, “Teacher! What is in the box?”

I can only imagine how the disciples must have felt. Here is their dearest Friend, Jesus. His death devastated them. His resurrection amazed them. And now, the disciples are reaching out with their questions. They had just asked him when he would finally restore the kingdom to Israel. Perhaps they hoped Israel would again dominate the world with rulers like David and Solomon. Israel was currently under the powerful rule of Rome. They hoped that, since Jesus is the one, the Lord’s Anointed, he would reestablish the kingdom of Israel. Even after all the time they spent with Jesus, they still did not understand his plan.

How did Jesus respond? “You don’t get to know.” It’s not for them to know the Father’s timing. Only God knows that and for a reason. We don’t need to know when the time will come that God completes his plan. God’s kingdom is a spiritual one, not a political one. There will be no overthrowing of earthly power to restore an earthly kingdom. God’s plan is one of salvation, of grace and mercy, of redemption.

And our response? Let’s turn this around. What if we knew the timing of God’s plan? Would that knowledge change what you did today if you knew that his plan wouldn’t happen till next week, next year, or not even during your life on earth? Would you and I have the sense of urgency? Would we be as passionate about sharing the gospel with the world? Would we be as concerned about our own faith if we knew the time of either our death or Jesus return?

God in his wisdom tells us, just as he told the disciples, “It is not for you to know.” You and I know what we need to know. We have the Word. Everything we need to know about the plan is there. And we have opportunities all around us to share that Word.

Do you know what happened right after Jesus said all this? He ascended into heaven right before their eyes. Imagine how they felt. But he had reassured them that they will have all that they need from the Holy Spirit. And they spent years watching and learning from Jesus himself to prepare them to be witnesses. Now they can stand there and gaze upward or they can and should get to work.

The Holy Spirit gives you and I all we need to be witnesses for Jesus. We have the Word. We have his promise to be with us and guide us. We know God’s plan of salvation. We don’t know when he’ll come back to take us all to be with him but we know that we have today, right now, to tell and tell and tell.

Imagine the squeals of the children when the contents of the box are revealed (often no matter what is inside.) No matter what may be inside that box, it is nothing compared to the message of Jesus’ love, forgiveness and grace for you, for me, and for all. You and I get to tell people right now. We don’t know when the story of our lives here will end, but we know the ending: Jesus’ arms welcoming us home with him in Heaven. That’s something to squeal about and that’s something to tell!



Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, complacency can creep in so easily. The joy and eagerness of telling others about you can fade when we get overwhelmed by tasks and responsibilities. Please forgive me and reach out to me with your loving arm to draw me to your Word and then urge me on to tell and tell others about you. In your name I pray. Amen

A Question to Consider: Make a list of things that are at the top of your “to do” list. Mark them in order of when you get at them. Then mark them in order of importance for you. Do your markings agree? What makes the first priority for you? How can you be God’s witness in any or all of those tasks?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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That Hurts! – Week of April 30, 2018

That Hurts! – Week of April 30, 2018


[Jesus said,] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
John 15:1-2



Let’s get a show of hands. Raise your hand if one of the things you love about teaching is seeing the eyes of a young child widen as they witness a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis? (Imagine lots of hands.) Raise your hand if your favorite part of teaching is sharing the Bible story with young children. (Lots and lots of hands) Raise your hand if your favorite part of teaching is dealing with an angry, tantrum prone child. (Where’d all the hands go?) One more question: raise your hand if your favorite part of teaching is when the director or principal sits you down to address a mistake that you’ve made. (Likely few to no hands.)

We had dear friends in California who raised roses. I’m not talking about a bush or two. They raised over a hundred varieties of champion roses. We lived in the Sacramento area. Summer days can get over 100 degrees and there is no rain for most of the summer. Everyday Bob and Iva would grab their tools, head to their yard, and continue their tedious work. They loved their roses. They kept them hydrated in difficult conditions and made sure that they had supplements specially designed for each variety. And as you might expect, one of their tools was a pruner. They watched each bush for growth and ability to produce a flower. Because they lovingly trimmed and cut, their bushes flourished. They knew so well that if they failed to prune, their prize-winning roses would soon diminish.

You and I are like those treasured rose bushes to our Lord. He loves each and every one of us. He provides for us and cares for us. And part of that care is pruning. An expert rosarian knows all the particulars and specifics of pruning for the benefit of the bush. Even more, the Lord knows when and how to do the same for us. Pruning is painful. It can hurt. That pruning comes when we are reminded to remove anything from our lives that distracts us from God or draws us away from him. We don’t get to rationalize it or excuse it. It needs to be pruned, removed. Our first reaction is to resist. It’s not what our natural will wants. But it is motivated by the Lord’s passionate love for us. When you and I read the Word, when we dig into the Scriptures, when we learn more and more about our God, we are being shaped and guided by his will for us. As we grow, we continue to learn how his expectations for us, while they may seem outdated compared to the world around us, are grounded in a deep love and commitment to you and to me. That commitment is to call us his child when we have done nothing to deserve that status, to draw us closer to him-often through difficulties in our lives, and welcome us home to Heaven to be with him forever.

As you share the Word with your students, you are helping them to grow in faith as well. As you guide and teach young children when they struggle with their own sin, you are helping to prune away sin and its effects and lead them to the precious gospel. And when you share God’s grace, you are reminding them and yourself how much God dearly loves them and you. And this all comes from Jesus. Like the branch on a rose bush, if we’re not connected to him, our faith can diminish or die.

So, raise your hand if you are grateful for being pruned by Jesus. (You don’t really need to raise your hand.) And, what a privilege it is that you and I get to share God’s expectations for us with the children and share his loving grace as well. Raise your hands to fold them in prayer expressing gratitude for our Gardener, the Father, and our Savior, Jesus.



Prayer:
Dear Jesus, your pruning is sometimes so hard and painful. I don’t naturally want to give up the parts of this world that turn me away or distract me from you and your Word. But I know how much you love me. Continue to draw me closer to you. And help me to reflect you to others. In your name I pray, Amen.

A Question to Consider: How does God prune you? What are things in your life that need to be pruned? Is it an activity? A way of speaking to or about others? Write down a list of sins that you struggle with and then take them to your loving Gardener, God the Father in prayer. May the Lord bless you and keep you connected to the Vine, Jesus.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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My Shepherd – Week of April 23, 2018

My Shepherd – Week of April 23, 2018


The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Psalm 23



“It’s like herding cats!” Do you ever have days like that? A room full of two or three-year olds can feel like crazy chaos at times. The young children’s passion for their freedom of movement combined with their lack of experience can create the perfect storm for disaster. As you try to encourage them towards an activity or away from something that is not safe, it can feel like an impossible task.

Perhaps even other parts of your life can feel like you’re “herding cats”. The responsibility to stay on top of staffing and ratios can feel like a constant whirl of change. Your inbox can feel like a sandpit of never ending requests. Your efforts to balance the many wonderful opportunities and tasks associated with your early childhood ministry and your own personal life can seem impossible to get right.

Psalm 23 is a dearly loved section of Scripture. In this Psalm, Jesus is described as our shepherd. It’s a lovely picture that has been illustrated in countless paintings. It’s lovely, but what does it mean for you and me?

A shepherd is often one of the most loyal people you will meet. While he doesn’t herd cats, he does keep close watch over his flock. His whole life, all day, all night, every day, is dedicated to his sheep. When the grass gets thin, he moves them along to a new pasture. When the sheep need water, the shepherd not only locates water, but makes sure the water is safe to drink. When the sheep, who are known to be skittish, are alarmed by a sudden noise, the gentle voice of the shepherd can calm them. When the sheep are in danger from a predator, it’s the shepherd who steps in for protection. In their solitary life moving from pasture to pasture, the shepherd lives with the sheep 24/7. His is the voice they know, they trust, and they follow.

Jesus is that for you and for me. You and I are so often like that room of roving toddlers, cats to be herded, or sheep to be shepherded. We wander away from his Word, confident we’ll be just fine as we ignore the dangers around us. We become complacent with the culture of the world. When life gets hard or challenging or even mundane, “he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” Life can come at us fast and hard and can overwhelm us. Our own struggle with sin can get a grip on us that is discouraging at best and can lead us to despair. Those quiet waters? They are in his Word. His Word gives us the reassurance that God’s love is eternal, his forgiveness is ours. This comfort and reassurance give us a kind of peace that is unattainable in the world. He gives us spiritual rest knowing that our sins are forgiven and we are at peace with him.

Like the shepherd with his rod and staff, the Lord is there protecting us from the cunning and subtle attacks of Satan. He is also guiding us, directing us, and calling us back to him. We can listen to his voice with confidence knowing how dearly he loves us and how much he sacrificed to open heaven for us. His reassuring voice that we hear in his Word reminds us how much he loves us even when we stray, how much he does to take care of us even when we neglect him, and how we can live in his peace even in a world of heartache and sin knowing heaven is our home.

And, we can go one step further. We can share that story with each child and their family, each fellow staff member, our own family, or friends in our lives. We can share the peace of knowing that we “will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”



Prayer: 

The King of love my shepherd is, whose goodness fails me never;
I nothing lack if I am his, and he is mine forever.

Confused and foolish oft I strayed, but yet in love he sought me
And on his shoulder gently laid and home, rejoicing, brought me.

And so through all the length of days your goodness fails me never.
Good Shepherd, may I sing your praise within your house forever! Amen
Christian Worship 375: 1, 3, 6

A Question to Consider: This beautiful Psalm is one that we can read through quickly and sometimes miss the treasures throughout the text. Consider reading this with a colleague or staff stopping after each phrase and sharing with each other how that phrase illustrates God’s love and care in your life. Use specific examples whenever possible.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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A Couple Whiles – Week of April 16, 2018

A Couple Whiles – Week of April 16, 2018


[Jesus said], “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me. Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
John 16:16, 22



Young children have a lack of understanding of time. When you explain that Mom or Dad are coming later or that they will get to do something later, they want to know what “later” means. When they know something special is happening like a birthday or a visit from someone, we may help them by connecting it with something they do know. You may tell them that it will happen in “four sleeps”. Our youngest son often asked if we could go “in a couple whiles” rather than “in a while”. I guess it sounded like it possibly gave him more time before he had to move on to the next thing.

Jesus’ dear disciples struggled with understanding as well. Jesus’ words from Luke were spoken before Gethsemane and Golgotha. He was letting them know that terrible things were about to happen that would leave them full of heartache. There is no greater heartache than losing someone we love. The disciples were about to experience that in the most gruesome manner. They were about to see their precious Savior and Friend crucified as an innocent man. It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like for them. Jesus knew that this was all necessary and a part of God’s loving plan for them and for us. But as loving as it was, it could be devastating for the disciples who had spent three years at his side.

But Jesus continues with his comfort. “And then after a little while you will see me.” He was telling them, reminding them that the grave could not hold him and that he would rise on the third day. But they didn’t understand. As they wondered among themselves, Jesus knew their struggle and reassured them. “Now is your time of grief.” Those words were for the disciples but they apply to us as well. Grief is all around us. We see the effects of sin in our world as we watch the news, as we hear of tragedies and pain for those we know and love, as we struggle with our own challenges and in particular, our own sin. Grief is all around us. We feel the effect of our own sin each and every day.

And his comfort comes again. While we have grief now, he promises we will see him again. Not just like the disciples saw him for those days between Easter and Ascension, but when we see him again, it’s for eternity, forever! We will see him with our own eyes, for all eternity, in our home in heaven. And that comfort of heaven and God’s amazing grace give us indescribable joy, especially in times of grief. While God does not remove all heartache from our lives here on earth, he also promises that no one will take our joy away. It’s his incredible gift to us today, tomorrow, and each day.

So, as you experience the challenges and grief of your time here on earth, know that “in a couple whiles”, or as Jesus said, “in a little while” we will see him. And when we see him there will be no more pain, no more grief, just joy for an eternity of “whiles”. And that joy doesn’t need to wait until we are with him in heaven. We have that joy today and everyday knowing that his forgiveness and promises are ours today and no one can take that away from us.



Prayer: Dear Lord, the grief and pain of this world can be overwhelming. There are times when despair is hard to fight. Thank you for your reassurance that you are and will always be with us. The thought of being in heaven with you is also overwhelming. Help me to reflect joy in knowing that in all I do. In your precious name. Amen.

A Question to Consider: Sometimes we may wonder what it would be like to be able to know things that will happen to us. What a blessing that we don’t know. But we do know the most important part of our future, heaven. Think of a struggle you are facing. How does knowing that heaven is yours, help as you go through that struggle?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Was, Is, and Will Be? – Week of April 9, 2018

Was, Is, and Will Be? – Week of April 9, 2018


“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Revelation 1:8



We are people of order (for the most part). Most of our lives revolve around events and activities that have a beginning, a middle, and an end. A great story is developed in that pattern. A project that we prepare for our students typically has a series of steps that have a beginning and an end. Our days begin when we wake up and end when we go to bed. Our lives on earth begin at birth and end in death. It is a predictable and expected cycle in most every part of our lives. We know it, we understand it, and in some cases, the predictability of this cycle gives us a sense of security.

And then we read today’s verse from the book of Revelation. God is speaking to us through his Word and describing one of his attributes that is hard for our earthly minds to comprehend. “Who is, who was, and who is to come.” What does that mean? How can anyone or anything exist now, exist in the past, and exist in the future?

I remember when we learned about lines in math class. Do you remember the illustration of the line with an arrow at each end? While on paper the line was a definite length, the arrows indicated that in the math world, this line went on forever in each direction. The line was infinite. I remember being amazed by this thought. That, my friends, is a simple illustration of our God. The statement in Revelation includes the terms Alpha and Omega. Those are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. They illustrate that God is the beginning and the end. He created everything and holds it all in his power for eternity. He has always been and always will be. When we try to take that in, it’s not possible for our human minds to comprehend it fully. We might even be tempted to think God is less than he really is.

However, even though we cannot understand it, it’s meaning for our lives as his children is immeasurable. We live in a world that is constantly changing. We live in a world that has little to nothing to hold on to. But, we have a God who always was, is today, and always will be. He never changes. His love for us never changes. We can count on this like nothing else in this world. When the events of this world and of this life come at us, they can shake our confidence. But we can have absolute confidence in our God who is, who was, and who will always be our God, our Redeemer, our Savior, our Hope, our Peace.

So, as you begin and end each day, as you witness the cycles of life, as you live in this ever-changing world, remember that your God is constant. God’s love and forgiveness for you are sure. No beginning, no end, for all eternity.



Prayer: Dear Lord, there are so many things about you that are beyond what I can understand. But I am so grateful that you are and always will be unchanging in your love, your forgiveness, and your faithfulness in the promise of heaven for me. Motivate me to share this amazing truth with the children and families I serve. In your name I pray. Amen.

A Question to Consider: The comfort and confidence that we have in an unchanging God in an ever-changing world is amazing. This week, be open to opportunities to remind people of this blessing.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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I Know – Week of April 2, 2018

I Know – Week of April 2, 2018


I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
Job 19:25-27



One of the wonderful things about young children is their amazing imagination. We know of the benefits of imaginative play. Young children have the ability to create an elaborate story line from a simple thought, to picture a captivating “reality” in their creative play. We encourage their imagination and can be amazed by it.

Imagination in adults? In our busy days of checking off task after task, we seldom have time to just sit and imagine. If you could, what would your imagination create? Would it include a quiet setting at the edge of a peaceful lake? Would it include visiting a favorite bustling city? Would your imagination create the perfect day with those you love all together? Would your imagination wonder about a world with more of something or less of something else? Imagination can be restful and calming and even inspiring.

Maybe one of the things you imagine is what life will be like in heaven. Do you wonder? Do you ever doubt? Our verses today may be very familiar to you. These words from the book of Job were spoken by Job when he was in the midst of pain and heartache that is difficult to comprehend. His body was wracked with pain and his friends had mocked and disserted him. Most of his family had died and he lost almost every earthly possession. And then he says, “I know that my Redeemer lives… I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” What? Where does that kind of confidence come from? In the midst of a story that is so well known that his name is associated with the trials of life, we hear this incredible expression of faith. “I know!” I am not imagining it. I’m not wondering. I know that he lives. And I also know that because he lives, I’m going to see him with my own eyes. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine standing in front of Jesus, him looking you in the eye with arms open wide, saying to you, “Welcome home.”?

This is what Easter is all about. It’s about Jesus and what he has done for us so that we don’t need to imagine what life will be like in heaven. While we may not know the particulars, we know that we will see him, be with him, for all eternity. “How my heart yearns within me!” I can only picture it now but I know it’s true. And, you and I get to share that amazing truth with the little ones in our care and their families. Thank you, Jesus!



Prayer: My dear Redeemer, I thank you for your perfect life, your death that was undeserved on my behalf, and your resurrection on Easter morning. Because of you, I know that my sins are forgiven and that heaven is my home. You are risen, risen indeed! Alleluia!

A Question to Consider: For some, the hymn “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” is very familiar and for some it may be new. Whatever the case is for you, take a few minutes, open your Christian Worship hymnal and read through each stanza of hymn 152. Ponder all the many ways the hymnwriter reminds us that Jesus lives for us.



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Humble – Week of March 26, 2018

Humble – Week of March 26, 2018


Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death.
Philippians 2:6-8



Sometimes when we go through our daily routines while working with little ones, we may feel insignificant. Our days often start early and can go late; they are filled with task after task caring for the needs of those in our care. We can feel overwhelmed and maybe even feel a little “brain numb” after talking to toddlers all day. It may, at times, seem like the importance of the care and nurture we provide is misunderstood.

No matter our role in life, Jesus’ life of humble service reminds us that he made himself nothing, “taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” This is Holy Week which starts with Palm Sunday. On that day, Jesus rode into Jerusalem knowing his ultimate act of humility and love was only days away. Yet, Jesus didn’t stop there! “He humbled himself and became obedient to death.” That humility was the most important act of all time. That humility and death won for us the treasure of heaven!

Being humble is difficult. It requires that our natural, sinful inclination of pride be pushed down and ignored. Instead we remember how Jesus humbled himself – brought himself as the creator of the whole universe to be contained in a human body and let his creation, man, put him to death. While we can’t come even close to exemplifying the humility that Jesus showed, we certainly can remember that our humble attitude shows through in our daily lives. While we work with the precious souls that God has entrusted to our care, we know that it is an extremely impactful role because it is ever so important to their Savior and ours. So, as we go about those daily routines, we can fill our day with joy in serving the little ones, joy in partnering with their parents, joy in the privilege of saying “Hosanna” as the people of Jerusalem did when Jesus humbly rode past on that first Palm Sunday.



Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for humbling yourself to come to earth and die for me. Help me remember that while I work with the little ones in my care, I can model humility and reflect your love with my students, their families, and coworkers. Amen.

A Question to Consider: How can we encourage each other when we are feeling unappreciated or unimportant? How can we model humility to our students?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Hold My Hand – Week of March 19, 2018

Hold My Hand – Week of March 19, 2018


Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:23-26



When my son was in his toddler years, he would routinely ask to hold my hand whenever we got out of the car in a parking lot. He would say, “Mommy, hold my hand, please” as he held his chubby little hand up for me to hold. I was more than happy to oblige. It was so wonderful to feel his hand hold onto mine. I was able to guide him along the sidewalk keeping him safe from dangers. I was content knowing he was right by my side.

That is what our heavenly Father does for us – he holds our hand through this world of trials. His hand guides us away from the uneven ground, just as I guided my toddler away from the rocks, the holes in the pavement in the parking lot, and the dangers of the streets. Our heavenly Father’s hand guides us to heaven, just as our hands guide our children on a path towards learning about their Savior. Just as my son took delight in holding my hand, so do we desire to walk with our Father’s guidance and strength.

It is comforting every morning to wake up and know that our Heavenly Father will be holding our hand all day. He is there with us when we prepare for the day, when we spend time in his Word, when we read our students Bible stories, when we present our lessons, and yes, even when we are wiping away tears for a little one. He is holding our hand even during those difficult times – when we are frustrated with student behaviors, when a family member is struggling with an illness, when we feel lonely, when we just need a hand to hold. He is there with the wonderful request, “My child, hold my hand, please.” And we are more than happy to oblige.



Prayer: Dear Lord, stay right beside me today and hold my hand. Remind me that with you by my side, I have the opportunity to share your love and comfort with everyone I meet. Amen.

A Question to Consider: How do you encourage and guide your students to heaven? How do you share the comfort of God’s hand with others?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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The Depth of God’s Love – Week of March 12, 2018

The Depth of God’s Love – Week of March 12, 2018


For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:14-19



I remember when we received the diagnosis for my daughter. She still had a limp when she walked at eighteen months. Our pediatrician sent us to an orthopedic surgeon. When we walked in the office and sat down with the doctor, who had been closely observing our daughter for about two minutes, we were surprised that he already had an answer for us. He simply stated: Your daughter has spastic hemiplegia cerebral palsy. This diagnosis was followed by an MRI and another diagnosis of what was causing the cerebral palsy: Your daughter is missing a large section of her brain. WHAT?!

When I left the Children’s Hospital in Phoenix with the news, I felt a bit numb. I did not know what we should do now. I remember holding it together until later that evening when the kids were tucked into bed. Then I cried. What was her future? What would be involved in her care? Why, Lord? When my husband walked in the room he saw my tears and just took me in his arms and held me.

That is what this passage is like, a big hug holding us together. It is a prayer for us to remember how wide and deep and absolutely sufficient our Lord is to hold us together through any situation. His love wraps around us like a hug that holds us up while we feel like collapsing underneath. This reminder is better than a hug. It is the absolute truth that our God is bigger than any situation we face. He has it under control!



Prayer: Dear Lord, remind me of the depth of your eternal love, a love that is greater than my simple understanding. Hold me up today as I share your love with the little ones in my care. Amen

A Question to Consider: When have you been comforted by someone’s words or actions towards you? How can you comfort others by reminding them of the sufficiency of God’s grace?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Stand Firm – Week of March 5, 2018

Stand Firm – Week of March 5, 2018


So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
1 Corinthians 10:12-13



Have you had one of those days? Those days when life just seems to be going along smoothly – your kids are all happy and doing well in school, you and your spouse do not have anything too stressful going on at work, the days seem to come and go with the same routine. For me, it is often those times when our family’s schedule is filled to the brim, not allowing any time for meditation on God’s Word. Then suddenly you realize you have not gone even once to your Father in prayer throughout the day. That is what happens. We think we are standing firm, but then we suddenly fall. Our fall can simply be placing something in our life ahead of our loving Father, like our busy, routine schedule.

Or maybe it is the opposite. Our life is so full of crisis after crisis – your child is sick, your husband’s work is slow and he may be laid off, your student had a death in the family, the doctor appointment requires further testing. The list goes on and we are so busy getting through crisis after crisis that we suddenly realize that we have not spent time with our Father. Our temptation is to tell ourselves that we can make it on our own. We have to keep going because our family is depending on us. Our students rely on us to have our lessons ready and be full of energy.

Let’s face it, there are definitely days we are tempted to let the busyness or chaos of life be our focus. That is an easy temptation, but Scripture assures us that God is faithful. He will not let us fall away from him. He will be right there to bring us back to his side. He is faithful.



Prayer: Dear Lord, when I am tempted to let things become more important than you, bring me back to your side. Thank you for being faithful and not letting me fall. Amen.

A Question to Consider: What is a temptation you face? What can you actively do to stand firm?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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True Love – Week of February 26, 2018

True Love – Week of February 26, 2018


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8



During February, we often speak of or teach on love. Our lesson plans are filled with hearts and flowers. We share love notes and valentines. We have little parties or special activities. We know what an important message this is. We have the greatest of privileges to be able to share the message of “True Love”, God’s love, with the next generation.

God chose to save us from our ugliness while we were in our ugliness. He looked at us and saw how we fell short. Yet he chose to save us just the same! He did not pick an easy project or a quick fix. He did not treat us as a fixer-upper. He had the perfect solution! We know we fall short and we know we don’t deserve his love. Yet God sent his only Son to take care of that problem for us! He showed love for us beyond all understanding.

As believers, our hope is not optimism that everything will be alright. It is the assurance and confidence that God has already worked everything out for our good. He has taken care of our biggest problem, our sin. It is by his grace, his undeserved love for us that we can boldly and confidently say or sing, “We love because he first loved us!” (1 John 4:19) That is true love!



Prayer: 
Dear Lord, thank you for the sincere privilege of sharing the good news of salvation with the next generation. Give me opportunities to share your love with others. Bless my efforts and increase my zeal as you use me as your tool to spread your love and be your feet on the ground here on earth. In your name, I pray. Amen

A Question to Consider: How can you, motivated by God’s grace, show love to your students, their families, and coworkers through your words and actions? Are there new ways you could implement to encourage the people around you and thus share this message of “true love”?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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I Am With You – Week of February 19, 2018

I Am With You – Week of February 19, 2018


For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39



The children were lined up waiting to get a drink out of the water fountain. We all know that waiting is hard, even for adults. One child was getting a little fidgety. The teacher, using positive redirection says, “Please be careful. It scares me when you do that.” That is when a child from the back of the line reminded that teacher of one of God’s great promises. He said, “Why are you scared? You taught us that God says, ‘Do not fear for I am with you.’ We don’t have to be afraid, he is with us!” The teacher took a breath and smiled. She looked that child in the eye and said, “You are right!” That was all that needed to be said. While God does not promise that we will never endure earthly pain, he does promise that we never need to fear separation from him.

With all the things that a teacher is responsible for each day, it is easy to get wrapped up in the how’s and why’s and when’s. We often lose sight of that promise that God gives us-“that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” He promises to be with us through them all. Sometimes we need to take a deep breath, say a prayer, and remember that he is walking with us as we lay a foundation that we pray will stay with the children into eternity.

Whether it is a mundane task such as cleaning your classroom or a more complex task like enrollment planning for next year, he promises to be with you. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. What a great comfort that is as we approach each task! May all we do reflect his love and promises for us.



Prayer: 
I am trusting you to guide me;
You alone shall lead,
Every day and hour supplying
All my need. Amen
Christian Worship 446:4

A Question to Consider: What “teachable moments” throughout the day can you incorporate little scriptural treasures into so the children can apply them to their daily lives?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Somber, Yet Joyous! – Week of February 12, 2018

Somber, Yet Joyous! – Week of February 12, 2018


God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21



Sometimes children feel the weight of their sin immediately. Sometimes children do not even need correction or redirection from the teacher. They will spill their guts and repent before the teacher can even get across the classroom to assist. It is a blessing that we can also teach forgiveness to the children, using the example of what Jesus has done for all of us.

As we look this week at Ash Wednesday and Jesus’ journey to the cross, we often think of a solemn and somber scene. The weight of our sin was laid on Jesus. He suffered for us. He was punished for our sins so that we would not need to be punished. He suffered that we might have life eternally with him. Yes, that can be very heavy, but it also stirs up joy in us.

He took our dirty clothes, spotted with our sin. He wrapped us in his robe of righteousness. What a gift! What joy! A wonderful message of joy that we have the privilege to share with the children! What a great message to share with those little lambs which he has entrusted to us! As we prepare our hearts and minds, as we study the path Jesus takes to the cross for us, we can also remember that the promises of Easter morning are right around the corner! Jesus did that for us! He took on our all our sins that “we might become the righteousness of God.”

We feel joy through that forgiveness, a weight lifted from us! Remember that child who feels the weight of their sin? You also can witness the power of forgiveness as one child offers an, “I forgive you” to their friend. Let us find joy and confidence in the righteousness that was won for us by Jesus.



Prayer: Dear Lord, give me joy and confidence as I teach your little lambs. Help me use my daily interactions with both the children and their families to share your message of love and forgiveness. In your name I pray, Amen.

A Question to Consider: How can I help my children better understand the gift of forgiveness? Are there strategies I can implement in my classroom or school?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Listen to Him – Week of February 5, 2018

Listen to Him! – Week of February 5, 2018


While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
Matthew 17:5



After a weekend, your students arrive excited to see you. They can hardly contain themselves. They cannot wait to share every detail with you from your time apart. You are their teacher. You are a very important part of their little world. We have our students for only a short time. Sometimes they enroll for a few years. Sometimes it is for one school year. Sometimes it is even shorter. We want to teach them everything they need to know in whatever time we have with them. We want them to be prepared for what lies ahead of them.

The disciples had Jesus right there with them. They had the very Son of God beside them to learn from, talk to, and use as a resource. He was their teacher and their friend. They would only have him for a short time. Soon Jesus would suffer and die for the sins of the world. When Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain with him, he had a purpose. He revealed his glory as the Son of God. He knew the difficult times that lay ahead for the disciples. This experience was to encourage them. It would build them up and strengthen them for what was coming.

God says, “Listen to him!” He also wants us to listen to him. He uses his Word to encourage us, to build us up when we are weak and to help us through those difficult times. God tells us that serving him will not always be easy. We will encounter difficulties and stumbling blocks. But he also promises to be there for us and walk with us through those difficult times. He uses his Word to keep us close to him and to encourage us as we go about the work he has set out for us to do. He tells us to “Listen to him!”



Prayer

Let each day begin with prayer,
Praise, and adoration.
On the Lord cast every care;
He is your salvation.
Morning, evening, and at night
Jesus will be near you,
Save you from the tempter’s might,
With his presence cheer you.
Christian Worship 478:2



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Trust – Week of January 29, 2018

Trust – Week of January 29, 2018


Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6



I am known to be passionate about children’s literature. One of my favorite books is “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White. And one of my favorite scenes in the book is when Wilbur is confident that he can spin a web, just like Charlotte. This endearing little pig ties a small rope to his tail, climbs atop the manure pile, and leaps confidently into the air. You know the next part, right? He lands with a dejected thud, confused and bruised-including his sweet ego. He was so sure. But he was missing some very important details.

You know what you’re about to read, don’t you? We are so often like Wilbur in our daily walk. Our days are filled with task after task, decision after decision. Some are practical and easily solvable. But some leave us, like Wilbur, dejected and confused. Our human nature gnaws at us, encouraging us to try harder to figure it out. We work and we work. We worry and we worry. We think and we think. Often this carries us past the end of our day and into the night. We toss and turn, now wrestling with a problem that is even more difficult and less clear with the cloudiness of fatigue.

And yet, we know what to do. We may not know the answer, but we know where to turn. Why is it that we so often are hesitant or even forget? “Trust in the LORD with all your heart.” What does that mean? How can I trust him with all my heart? Trusting him is living with the confidence that the LORD is our God. We lean on him because we know who he is, what he has done, and how dearly he loves us. We acknowledge him as we listen to him, we read his Word, and we trust his will for our lives. “He will make your paths straight.” Does that mean that he will make my life easy and get rid of any and all challenges? It does not. Didn’t we just say how much he loves us? Indeed, we did. But the most significant obstacles we face, are those that turn us away from God. They threaten our relationship with God. But he reaches out to draw us back, to draw us closer to him. The obstacles and challenges in our lives are often the very things that remind us how desperately we need God and how very dearly he loves us.

Your problems and challenges are likely a bit more significant than Wilbur trying to spin a web. Each one, no matter how seemingly insignificant or overwhelming, can be taken to the Lord. We can always turn to him knowing he loves to hear from us. He is eager to help and wants us always close to him. So, when you’re wrestling with a solution, or dejected when your plans didn’t work out, turn to the Lord. Trust him. Pray for his will and guidance in your life, confident that no matter the path, the Lord is there with you, holding you close in his love. And each day, what a blessing it is that you can share that same encouragement with the children you serve and their families. What a blessed reminder to them and to you.



Prayer

Dear Father, I can so often be self-reliant and neglect to go to your Word and go to you in prayer. Forgive me. Help me to trust you who never fails and to always look to you for guidance and your will for me. In your name I pray, Amen.

A Thought to Consider

Make a list of challenges or decisions that you have made lately that seemed difficult. Then note how they turned out and what blessings you see, regardless of the outcome. How can this list remind you that you can trust God in all things?



Creative Commons LicenseEarly Childhood Ministry Educator’s (ECME) Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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