I found out last night that my son is nearly as well trained as our next door neighbor’s dog; oddly enough they are both named Jack. I was sitting on the back porch when my neighbor let her dog out in the backyard to play. Upon seeing the dog in the backyard, Jack (my son) excitedly rushed to the back door and pounded on the window until I let him out. From there he promptly rushed over to my neighbor’s yard and began chasing the dog around. In itself this scene was hilarious because one of the Jack’s is part mastiff and outweighs the other by a factor of three, not to mention that the other Jack is still a toddler who hasn’t quite mastered the art of running without waddling yet. After a few moments my neighbor said, “Jack.” Both of them ran over to her and looked up expectantly. Seeing that the child wanted to pet the dog she said “sit,” to wit both my son and the dog plopped down on the grass. Chuckling slightly and noticing that my son had nearly been knocked unconscious by an out of control tail she looked at her dog and said, “Jack, lay down.” Again my son complied and lay down in the grass. Although she didn’t ask him to shake both the boy and the dog know that trick pretty well too.
We decided to celebrate Jack’s second birthday this weekend as the next two weekends are booked solid for us in terms of event schedules. We had about twenty people over to the house, more than half of whom were children. We then fed them lots of sugar and let them run wild around the house. We had originally hoped to let them run wild around the backyard but a weekend full of storms quickly put the kibosh on that idea. It was a good group of people, perhaps not nearly as strange of an invitee list as our Christmas party last year it was still probably more diverse than what is normal, including a random couple (and their two children) who we met on the street at an event in downtown Schenectady and, making a second party appearance, the family I bought my truck from.
As I prepared my youth lesson this week I found myself moving into Judges. While there are a number of good and basic stories in the book of Judges I’m trying to limit myself to the somewhat more well-known highlights, specifically because I have found that the biblical illiteracy up here is astounding and while there is a lot I want these kids to know it would be very easy to completely overwhelm them. I want to build a foundation for better understanding of the rest of Scripture, in my mind this starts with the basic Old Testament stories. So anyway, I found myself in Judges where I finally settled on Samson as my main focus point, not so much for the lesson I can pull out of it but because he is one of the more well-known OT characters.
While I have known for quite a while that Samson (as depicted in Scripture) was not a man of strong moral character I don’t think I ever realized just how wildly inappropriate some aspects of his story were for younger audiences, even teenagers. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible is filled with stories of men and women whom God used to do great things that had massive character flaws, but the story of Samson really seems to take it to a new level. Even as I told a somewhat toned down version of the story of Samson I found myself cringing a little wondering if this might be my last Sunday teaching. I told my pastor afterwards that he should consider titling his next sermon series “The Mostly Wildly Inappropriate Stories in Scripture.” He said he would get back to me on that.
I have to admit, it has been fun teaching in this fashion, while there is always application that goes with each story I have transitioned more from the role of teacher to that of story-teller. Instead of running down a list of points or asking my students to fill in the blanks I have begun to spend most of my time describing the details of these stories that really begins to make them come alive. It has been a unique experience for me since most of these kids have never even heard about guys like Samson or Joshua or even Moses. When I first started teaching these kids I relied heavily on the New Testament as I typically do, but as I quickly realized that they had no foundational basis for much of the material we discussed I was forced to change my approach, to go back to square one, so to speak. And it has been refreshing, I consider myself fortunate to have this opportunity.