Space to Grieve (for Kids!)

Just a few days ago we marked our foreheads with ashes to remember our mortality. We heard the words: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This statement has been running through my brain watching the aftermath of Parkland, Florida.

Today, I woke up wanting to do something for the kids, youth, and families at church – to make space for them to grieve, feel sorrow, and give their concerns and love to God. Thumbing through the 2018 – Devotional Booklet – “Don’t Forget to Pray!” – I was looking for an idea. I came across this devotional from my friend, Joy McDonald Coltvet, set for this Sunday, February 18. She writes:

“I came so that everyone would have life, and have it to the fullest.” (John 10:10)
Mom looked outside and asked, “Is that tree alive?” Her 2 year old looked at the crooked branches against the sky and shook her head, “Yes!” Mom thought, “How can she tell?” Even though she was new to life herself, the 2 year old knew that the tree was resting in the winter weather. Even when spring feels far away, the tree is getting ready. Buds will be coming, followed by leaves. The tree is alive, even when there is not one leaf we can see. Jesus brings life to all people. Sometimes people compare Jesus to the tree of life with roots in fresh water, leaves of healing, and so many kinds of fruit. One thing is sure: Jesus brings life to you and me. What will you do with your life today?
To answer the question – What will you do with your life today? – I built a tree. Two, to be exact. I sawed a carpet tube in half and painted it brown to create the body of the tree. I drilled holes in it at an angle and added painted dowel rods to make the branches.
Now, kids, youth, and families each Sunday during Lent can write down their prayers on a green tube, and then slide the prayers onto the branches.
My hope is to fill the branches with whatever prayers on on the mind’s of the people – sorrow, grief, concern, hunger, despair, or reflections to whatever aftermath. So that come Easter, these once sparse branches filled with prayers, will be transformed into something new.
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The lenten season moves us from winter into spring. But it is Jesus who can move us from sorrow to hope, from grief into new life. Prayer is one way we can express how we feel before God. My role, then, as a director of children’s ministries at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in south Minneapolis is create, carve, and make space for kids and their families to grieve through prayer.

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