The Beatitudes Plus: Adult Vacation Bible School

The Beatitudes Plus:

Adult Vacation Bible School Curriculum

By Joy Eastridge

Certified Lay Minister Parish Nurse

First Broad Street United Methodist Church

July 2022

Introduction

Our small group was invited to conduct an Adult Vacation Bible School at a local low-income housing unit for residents who are 65+. We had an average of 15 in attendance each day, with a high of 19. Our core group was four persons from the same Sunday school class—each of us with a different gift which we employed in concert. June Siggins got us all organized and made a schedule; Retta Overturf led the music; Grace Cripe headed up the crafts; and Joy Eastridge led the Bible study. We also had help and contributions from Mary Smith and Carol Garland. The event was supported in prayer and financially by First Broad Street United Methodist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee.

Our format included an opportunity for fellowship by sharing a meal each day.. Our schedule varied a bit, but we consistently had a meal, craft, music, movement, Bible study, and prayer time—all in a two hour time frame (noon to 2 p.m.). 

At the end of the week, we asked for follow up with a survey. I have included our sample. This allowed participants to give us feedback and turned out to be very helpful in our planning for future events.

I am sharing these notes because when I searched for something already put together for Adult VBS, I didn’t find anything. As resources, I used some of the first chapter of Jen Wilkin’s, Sermon on the Mount. I also referred to The New Interpreter’s Bible One Volume Commentary. Scriptures are from the NRSV.

[The blog formatting omitted my footnotes, which I used to give credit for direct quotes. If you have questions, please contact me directly. I have also published the version with footnotes on http://www.eastridges.com.]

Adult VBS Day 1:

  1. General Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount: It is universally loved and respected as a guide to good living—even among non-Christians. The pronouncements, which overturn worldly values and expectations, remain hopeless ideals at odds with reality UNLESS they come through the power of the One who creates and shapes reality.
  2. The Beatitudes are well-named. They might also be spelled the BE-Attitudes—the way we are to be as followers of Jesus.
  3. Read Matt. 5:1- AFTER he sees the crowds, he teaches the disciples. His dedicated followers are the true audience. The rest of the folks might have been listening in, but the disciples were the intended recipients. So if we are his disciples, the Sermon can become a light to our path. If we are not disciples, it’s a nice ideal. But we can only truly follow this, IF we are true disciples and tap into the power Jesus offers us.

Paul reminds us in 2 Cor. 10:12, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they do not show good sense. We, however, will not boast beyond limits, but will keep within the field that God has assigned to us, to reach out even as far as you.” 

Our standard is higher than the people around us. This can be both a comfort and a challenge. If we feel we are undeserving and unworthy, then we know that Jesus is showing us a way to become what is our best selves through his power. If we have been on the journey a long time and feel a sense of accomplishment (and maybe a twing of pride!), the Sermon helps us see ourselves again for what we are—sinners in need of a Holy God.

3. 5:2- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Blessed- Definition: happy, to be envied, supremely blessed, fortunate.

Reading the verse again with this definition in mind, we could say, “Happy or supremely blessed are the poor in spirit…” What are your thoughts about that turn of phrase?

What does it mean to be “poor in spirit?”

“All these things my hand has made. And so all these things are mine, says the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look, to the humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word.” Isaiah 66:2

“The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Webster’s defines poverty as the state of one with insufficient resources. Based on this definition what does it mean to be poor in spirit?

What does Jesus say belongs to the poor in spirit?

“Kingdom of heaven is ‘the Kingdom of grace here, and the kingdom of glory hereafter,’ It is the reign of God established at Christ’s first coming and consummated (completed) at his second coming. It’s the rule of God particularly over believers.

Why does Jesus say that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit?  Maybe it is because he poor in Spirit are those who, in their desperate need, cry to God for help.

What is another way of saying this? 

3. Matt. 5:4- “Blessed are those that mourn, for they will be comforted.” 

—People can mourn for many reasons. What are some things that cause us to mourn?

Example: My mother in law is loosing her husband gradually as he slowly succumbs to dementia. Some days he is more present than others, but every day is hard. One Sunday she heard the hymn, “Oh Love that will not let me go,” in church.  When she heard this she felt God’s blessing as she mourns my father-in-law’s dementia, feeling that the love is still there and will never go away. She feels comforted in her mourning.

—We can list out some of the reasons we mourn and struggle with grief. There is also mourning for those who are those grieved by all that is evil in the world and by their own part in its waywardness. 

Joel 2:12-13– mourning our sins

James 4:7-10–  honoring the poor. Being humble. Lamenting. Weeping over our sins.

In light of these passages and in light of the first Beatitude,, what kind of mourning do you think Jesus is referring to when He says, “Blessed are those who mourn?”

How has recognizing your lack of spiritual resources and your need for Jesus been a blessing to you? What role has godly grief played in your repentance?

Think about how you might phrase this if you were re-writing it?

Adult VBS Day 2:

Introduction: Starting with stories:

—Brothers Zsolt and Geza Peladi were homeless in 2009, living in a cave outside Budapest, Hungary, and scavenging junk for a living in Hungary when they learned they had inherited a fortune from a grandmother in Germany. The siblings were located by charity workers and put in touch with the attorneys who were handling the estate of their maternal grandmother in Baden-Württemberg, The Telegraph reported.The once-penniless brothers received 4 billion pounds. Today, that would be equivalent to more than $5 billion in U.S. dollars. (Wiki)

Who would have thought an old pair of jeans dating to the 19th century could be worth a small fortune? One pair of such jeans was passed down through a family in a wooden trunk that once belonged to Arizona pioneer Solomon Warner, eventually coming into the hands of his great-great-grandson, Jock Taylor. The design of the jeans showed that they were made by Levi Strauss & Co. The fact that they had just one back pocket meant that they were made prior to 1901, when the company added a second pocket to their well-known jeans. Eager to own the artifact, Levi Strauss & Co. offered Taylor $50,000 for the jeans. Taylor decided to wait for a better offer. The jeans eventually sold for almost $100,000. (Wiki)

—We all love a rags to riches story don’t we? A lot of fairy tales carry this theme. Think of Cinderellla. And there are TV shows that illustrate this—the lottery house show on HGTV. It’s fun to think about what we would do if we had a million dollars.

  1. Matt. 5:5- “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.”

This one seems so counter-intuitive—so upside down and inside out! It is out of step with the world’s way which is related to power, ego, winning, a “me first” attitude.

Meek= enduring injury with patience and without resentment.” A meek person is someone who is not occupied with self at all, someone who does not insist on a set of rights.”

It also means gentle, mild. Let’s look at Jesus and the work “Meek.”

Matt. 11:28-30

Matt. 21:5

Isaiah 53: 2b and 3 and 12

How did Christ perfectly demonstrate meekness?

2. What would the world say is a synonym for meek? (Pushover, doormat)

The meek are those who want no part in the world’s pursuit of power but become like children and serve others.

If a meek person is someone who does not insist on a set of rights, how meek are you? What rights do you feel entitled to or take for granted in your home, church, workplace, or community? 

Can a sense of entitlement stifle your relationship with God? If it does, then how does meekness help it grow? 

Does this mean you are not supposed to have rights and then people can run all over you? How does meekness WORK as we live in this world and yet hold Christ-like values?

3. Is it surprising that this Beatitude says that the gentle, mild, meek will INHERIT THE EARTH? It usually feels like the pushy, self-promoting, egotistical ones get everything. How does this compute in your mind?

Think a bit more about our inheritance in the Lord and the stories of rags to riches from the introduction. Do we sometimes say “no thank you” to the Lord and decline the inheritance he offers us? Are we content to live in a cave scavenging for a living when we have all of the kingdom at our disposal?

4. Matt. 5:6—“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.”

Introductory question:

What is something you get a craving for sometimes? Something that you sometimes have to make a special trip to the store for—is it chocolate? Ice cream? Cheetos? Pickles!

People who live into this Beatitude are those that long to see all that is good and right prevail I the world—and in their own lives. 

John 4:7-15– Jesus and Samaritan woman

Who is speaking?

What is offered?

What need is satisfied?

John 6:35– Jesus is the Bread of life

Who is speaking?

What is offered?

What need is satisfied?

1 Cor. 1:26-31– According to verse 30, who is our righteousness? Keep this in mind because it will be part of another Beatitude!

5. Jesus is trying to help these people he encounters—and us—get our priorities in line. He wants us to re-frame our focus and hunger and thirst for him! Priorities. Our cravings reveal something about our inner self. And this is not about chocolate or about food—it is about what we long for. Are we asking God to help us crave him?

Adult VBS Day 3:

Introductory question:

Can you remember being punished as a child for doing something you weren’t supposed to do? How many of you were good little kids? How many were born into mischief? Were you a goody two shoes or a Dennis the Menace? (Show of hands). Can you remember getting what was your due (justice) or maybe a time when you received grace instead of justice?

  1. Matt. 5:7—Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.

What is mercy? Grace, compassion, exercising forbearance.

What is justice? An act of the law, receiving your due. 

“Justice is rendered when people receive their due, according to the law, be it God’s law or man’s law. An act of justice is typically an act of the law, and might be an act of vengeance and force. Mercy, on the other hand, means exercising forbearance. An act of mercy is an act of grace and compassion.”

Think about making the Beatitude say, “Blessed are the grace-filled for they shall also receive grace.” Does it make you think of the Lord’s Prayer?

The merciful are those eager to 

1. aid all in need…

2. ready to forgive all who wrong them…

3. and charitable in assessing the deeds and motives of others. (Giving others the benefit of the doubt)

Read Matt. 7:1-4—What concept is presented this later passage of the Sermon on the Mount that is also presented in the fifth Beatitude?

Romans 2:1-4– Judging others. Story: One time I went to the beauty parlor to do my nails and I was stuck next to a lady that was expounding on how much she hated “them” and “those people.” She talked about what a faithful Christian she was. I pondered what to say. Finally, as I got ready to leave, I said, “Have you read Romans 2 lately?”

Why do you think how we treat others will affect how God treats us? Think again about the Lord’s prayer.

Is there someone you have trouble showing mercy to? How could you adjust your perspective so that showing mercy to them becomes easier?

JUST MERCY- Equal Justice Initiative. Bryan Stevenson, Montgomery, AL

The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.

Song: 

Change my heart of God,

Make it ever new,

Change my heart O God,

Let me be like you.

You are the potter

I am the clay

Mold me and make me,

This is what I pray…

2. Matt. 5:8— “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

Introductory question:

Have any of you had cataract surgery? How was your vision different after the surgery? 

“The pure in heart are those who single-mindedly pursue the will of God.”

If being pure in heart is not being perfect or free from sin, what is it?

Why do you think the pure in heart will “see God”?

Isaiah 6:5-8— Was Isaiah pure in heart?

When we have sin it can cloud our ability to see God. What sin causes you to battle with impurity of heart?

And how is it that we really SEE God. Is this a physical vision?

1 John 1:9– when we ask, God will cleanse us. Then we can see him in the world around us. We have our eyes open again by the Spirit of God. This is what the Bible means when it says we will be a new creation:

2 Cor. 5:16-21– Listen for what it says about being a new creation.

Somehow through God’s love, we get grace, not justice. We get forbearance instead of the Law. 

One time, when I was driving, a passing car splattered a whole puddle of mud on my car. It obstructed my view. I had to turn on the windshield wipers fast to clean it off and keep going!

When God forgives us, through his love and grace and the blood of Jesus, then the windshield of our life is wiped clean, streak free, and we can indeed see God. Let your light shine!

Adult VBS Day 4:

Introductory question:

Do you know your heritage? Your background? Have you ever done one of those ancestry.com things or done genealogical research?

Do any of you have children or grandchildren? Do any of them look or act like you? Are any of you a twin?

  1. Matt. 5:9- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

The Bible say that peacemakers will be called children of God. Maybe that means that peacemakers look like God? They have his characteristics and inherit his traits. How do we become peacemakers. Let’s look at what peace is, how Jesus embodied peace, and how we can be peacemakers.

What is true peace? What is a peacemaker then? Sometimes we say things like, “Just give me some peace!” Or “I wish we would not have war in the Ukraine and that peace would come.” But is that all peace is? Being left alone or the absence of war?

—When do we mistake the absence of conflict for peace? Can true peace involve struggle? When have you seen peace be a struggle?

—According to the internet, “Peace is more than not fighting. A “Positive Peace” involves the promotion of peacefulness through positive interactions like civility, cooperation, and care.”

—The peacemakers are those who subordinate their own rights and interests to maintain peace, overcoming evil with God.

Jesus was the Prince of Peace- Isaiah 9:6

Romans 12:17-21– listen here for characteristics of those who live peaceably with all. What do they do?

What are some practical ways to be a peacemaker? How was Jesus a peacemaker? 

—In our home- is the gift of presence evidence of being a peacemaker?

—In our church- loving others through controversy. How does this show we are peacemakers?

—In our community/workplace- supporting efforts for all to be included at the table.

—In our country- finding ways to build bridges, not forts or walls

*Remember building forts as kids, or “club houses” or tree houses? Owen and Andy, my grandsons, love building forts out of boxes. They have their own separate spaces and there is “peace” —at least initially. Until, the younger one decides he likes his sibling’s box better and tries to get in there! Then, I have to become the “peace maker” and restore order

John 14:25-27—how is the peace Jesus offers different from the peace of the world?

God sent his son, the Prince of Peace, to make it possible for us to receive grace. Jesus paved the way for peace. True peace. 

Gal. 3:26-29- We are one in the Lord. Divisions are gone. How does this make peace?

Gal. 4:4-6- Jesus, the peacemaker, redeems us and brings us into right relationship with the Father.

2. Matt. 5:10, 11- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.

– Who inherits the kingdom, according to the Beatitudes?

– Who is our righteousness? What would this one sound like if we put Jesus’ name there?

– When are we persecuted for doing the right thing? 

– What do we risk? 

What does this kind of person look like—a person who stands firm, even under persecution?

Eph. 4:25-32.— Heading of this section says, “Rules for a New Life.” How do these directives help us thrive even in times of trouble and persecution. 

We are not called to be right but to be righteous. We don’t have to have all the answers or even an opinion. When people ask, we can say “I honestly don’t know.” But we are called to be loving in the midst of persecution

– Telling the truth, standing up, being in the minority, requires courage. Being in the majority requires tolerance while being in the minority requires courage. According to Ralph Sockman, pastor of Christ UMC in NYC: “The test of tolerance comes when we ae in the majority. The test of courage comes when we are in the minority.”

Adult VBS Day 5:

  1. This week, we learned more about the Be-Attitudes—how we are to “be” when we are citizens of heaven. Contrary to the way the world teaches things, we are to know we are spiritually needy; we are to grieve over our sins; be truly hungry for righteousness.
  2. With these eight simple statements, Jesus tells us how to develop the character he wants us to have and how to produce fruit in keeping with our righteousness that comes from Jesus.
  3. When we enter into this relationship with Jesus, our expectation of reward get turned completely upside down.

[Review the Beatitudes]

4. Now we have talked about how we are to “BE.” Next Jesus tells us how to take that Godly character and act in the world. We are to be Influencers.

Do you know what an influencer is?

“An influencer is someone in your niche or industry with sway over your target audience. Influencers have specialized knowledge, authority or insight into a specific subject. Their pre-existing presence in a niche makes them a useful launching pad for brands in search of credibility.” (Wiki)

Basically, these persons get paid money, a lot of money, to post on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TicToc, etc. Some of the highest paid influencers include soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi. Others are Kylie Jenner, Selena Gomez, Dwayne Johnson, Kim Kardasian, Ariana Grande, Beyonce Knowles. Do you know any of these folks? According to the internet, Cristiano Ronaldo gets paid upwards of 880K for each post!

5. SALT- Matt. 5:13“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? Is is no longer good for anything but is thrown out and trampled under foot.”

Have you ever been on a low salt diet? What foods are particularly hard to swallow without salt?

Salt preserves. 

And adds flavor.

Have you ever nearly drowned? Have you ever needed a personal floatation device? Can you swim? One time, my godson nearly drowned and I had to go out to rescue him.

As “life preservers” to others, we are the people who keep others from losing their lives. We are agents of good and of wholesomeness. Like salt kept the meat from rotting, we keep the world from going to destruction.

6. Matt. 5:14-16- You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under a bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

What are some functions of light in the natural world?

  1. Helps us see
  2. Guides us
  3. Dispels the darkness

1 John 1:5-7 and 2:9-11.

  1. God is light. No darkness at all.
  2. We show our light by loving others.
  3. Our ultimate goal is to bring glory to God. Not ourselves. Worldly influencers are about gaining money or fame. We are about gaining meaning, purpose, love, and a servant’s heart.

Summarizing: Salt and Light. Pure goodness. That’s what we are. We are the true “influencers” of the world. We do it with love and kindness and through relationship building. We are to be faithful and fruitful. Invitational influencers. Followers of Jesus who love and see others with the vision of Christ.

Questionnaire Sample for follow up programming:

1. How was VBS for you?

Food___________________________________________________________________________

Crafts__________________________________________________________________________

Music__________________________________________________________________________

Bible Study______________________________________________________________________

2. What was your favorite part?

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3. Was there anything that you learned or that touched your spirit that you would like to share with us?

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

4. We will keep coming on Mondays at 1 to have Coffee and Cookies (or some other goody!). But is there something else you would like that we might be able to do/help with?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

5. Are you interested in having a regular Bible study time? If so, are Mondays at 1 a good time for that or is another time better?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

10 Tips for Leading a Great Bible Study Group on Zoom

10 Tips for Leading a Great Bible Study Group on Zoom

As we face cancellations, alterations and modifications related to COVID-19, one bright spot has been the ability to use Zoom technology for Bible Study. Many people, of all ages, have been able to download and figure out Zoom on their smart phones, tablets or computers. By joining together, we find ourselves once again enjoying some fellowship and know that Jesus’ words, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am (Matt. 18:20),” is certainly true.

While Zoom is fabulous for helping us gather in a virtual room, the process of leading a study can present new challenges for the leaders. Here are some ideas to make things go smoothly:

1. Plan ahead- Schedule your Zoom meeting and send out the meeting ID and password a week ahead. I send mine out with the prayer request list that goes out the day after our meeting. I highlight the time, the ID and the password out of the complicated-looking list of phone numbers for access and other information.

2. Double check – Before your start time, send out an extra reminder. I learned the importance of this when I logged on one week just a few minutes early, only to find that somehow I had scheduled two meetings for the same group and had sent out conflicting times. The meeting went on as planned, but several people were not able to attend in the confusion.

3. Assign someone to be backup- When you send out your notice, send out the phone number for someone who can be a back-up tech person, helping folks who can’t get in the room or have forgotten how to turn on the video or audio. This can relieve interruptions and make the meeting feel less stressful for the other participants. Again, I started this process after receiving a text ten minutes into the Bible study from a member who was having trouble. Instead of pausing the meeting for everyone, I asked our tech person to call her and give her the necessary assistance.

4. Set up- Before you meeting, set up your space in the home where you will do your meeting. It helps not to have too much background clutter or a long view of the whole room. During this COVID-19 crisis, I have been surprised by all the national newscasters who have invited the nation into their dining rooms or living rooms. It’s interesting, but can be distracting! Also, set your computer up on a book or other elevated surface so that the camera is directed right at your face instead of capturing a less flattering shot going up from your chin. You might also consider the lighting and put a lamp in the room so that you have some indirect lighting. I have also added a couple of comforters on the back of chairs to help absorb extraneous sounds and echoes. Of course, turn off all the background noise, including the television in the other room. It is surprising how much of the background noise gets transmitted through Zoom. Also, consider asking your participants to mute themselves so that accidental sounds don’t distract everyone.

5. Consider your own appearance- Whether you are a man or a woman, it is time to spruce up a little! Dress up, do your make-up and hair, and put on some nice earrings and lipstick (ok, guys you all get a pass on this!). In fact, lipstick or lip lip balm has been shown to help make the speaker more easily understood.

6. Greetings- It helps if the host can be present a few minutes before the start time. In fact, I have started scheduling a 15 minute “chat” before our Bible study time, so that folks can gather, share news, tell funny stories, and work out tech glitches before we get into the Word. I also like to be on hand to greet everyone by name and have each person say something to get started. Having an opportunity to speak initially can break the ice and help folks participate more as the meeting continues.

7. Start as promptly as possible- People like to know what to expect. Starting on time respects their time and gives everyone a much-needed sense of structure during this time where many of us feel somewhat “off quilter.”
Assign prayers and readers ahead of time- One thing that makes a Bible study feel more normal is having different members of the group participate. By planning ahead, and asking people to read specific scriptures or say a prayer, the leader helps to eliminate down time during the meeting or conflicting voices talking.

8. Redundancy in notifications- When life is more normal, people know what to expect and don’t have to think so much about the details of gathering. When using a new app, most of us need an extra measure of grace and a little more time. We also need frequent reminders via several communication methods—Facebook, text and email. The leaders’ proactive approach can help minimize stress and open the group’s heart to hear God’s message for them.

9. Ask questions- Attendees to your Bible study may begin to disengage after a long period of just listening. Be sure and ask questions, hold your Bible up as you make a point, include your hands in the field of vision, and allow for strategic pauses.

10. Close well- Groups sometimes enjoy having a predictable ending to the meeting time. My group generally enjoyed saying The Lord’s Prayer together, but with Zoom that simply does not work because of echoes. We have adapted by finding other ways to end in prayer: using sentence prayers or having someone read a Psalm.

Whatever you do, groups will thrive and return regularly if they feel welcomed, heard and loved. As a leader, your preparation time and the energy you put into making things go smoothly matters just as much now —maybe more—than ever. COVID-19 is a terrible pandemic, but it is possible that some people who have never been able to attend a Bible study, may do so for the first time. The door of opportunity is open. Let us be ready to go through it.

COVID-19 Away Soup

In these days of spending more time in the kitchen, I came up with a recipe to scare COVID-19 away. Ok, it really doesn’t work that way, but it is still yummy! And easy!

Covid Away Soup:

2 onions, chopped and sautéed in olive oil until tender
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can cannellini beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 can Glory brand collard greens
1 carton of beef broth (or substitute vegetable broth for vegetarian )
Salt
Pepper
1 t dried basil

Optional: You can also add chopped kielbasa sausage or other protein to onions and sauté together.

Joy Eastridge
March 2020

Also, if you need a new twist on an old staple, try these “heavenly” grits:

Pillow Cloud Grits

4 cups of water, boiling
1 cup instant grits
1 t salt
1/2 t cracked pepper
Hot sauce to taste
4 oz cream cheese, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup of provolone or other white cheese

Bring water to boil, add grits while stirring and add other ingredients. Turn to low and continue to stir for 5 minutes until thickened and done. Add salt to taste. Thin with a splash of milk or half and half if too thick.

Love in the Time of COVID-19

Rainbow in the window
A sign for children passing by
Hunting for hope
Wanting to cope
Fresh hearts meeting sadness
For the first time
Tender and young
They look up to us
With big eyes round
Brimming with questions
Unanswerable:
What is a germ?
What is a virus?
Will Covid go away?
Why can’t I play?
We stand taller
And square our shoulders
Hoping to transmit
Confidence we don’t feel.
We say, “It’s ok.”
We hear our own words
And want to believe
To trust in our Greater God.
Grasping a dimpled hand
Reassuringly
Then the Secret Code:
Three squeezes for “I love you.”
Squeezing back four
“I love you, too.”
Love is enough.
For now.
Forever.

Nurses and Bullying: 4 Things You Can Do

Nurses and Bullying: 4 Things You Can Do

Case study: Cindy was an older new grad. She went back to school after a long and successful career as a chemist, deciding that she wanted to be a nurse and explore other avenues of service for her “second half” of life. Capable and efficient in her first line of work, it was a shock to find herself as a novice where everything felt unfamiliar and where mastery was a ways off. Her first place of work was on a busy ortho floor. The second week at work, she called me crying. “Their expectations are so high. They keep threatening me.” I tried to listen without judging or offering advice, but something just seemed off. Every few days she texted or called and what she described didn’t seem like anything I had ever experienced as a nurse: where there should have been mentoring, there was censoring; where there should have been guidance, there was abandonment; where there should have been counseling, there was silence and isolation. The source of most of the problems was her preceptor, a young nurse, who my friend described and very physically attractive but unkind. As it turns out, she was a bully.

Nursing is not immune to bullying.

Nursing is not immune to bullying. While we would hope that in such a caring profession, we would find a greater percentage of people with compassionate care agendas, sadly there are also a number of practitioners who exhibit the characteristics of a bully: they are critical, negative, they isolate their victims, avoid meeting with them, and generally make life miserable.

According to a study by Etienne, “Bullying in the nursing workplace has been identified as a factor that affects patient outcomes and increases occupational stress and staff turnover.” (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/216507991406200102)

The trouble with bullying is that it is often subtle and therefore difficult to recognize as such. While the playground bully may be overt and even violent, the adult bully is usually disguised under heavy layers of professional accomplishment and years of experience with manipulating others. They come in all shapes and sizes, both men and women, old and young. The “mean girls/guys” from 7th grade grow up, don’t they? But sadly, they sometimes don’t leave behind their old ways of treating others, and they bring those tactics with them when they put on their scrubs and head to the nursing workplace.

One of the primary manifestations of bullying is that the victim often feels that it is all his/her fault. After exposure to the bully’s tactics, they may even think to themselves, “If only I did this or that better, then they would not treat me this way.” The thought processes at the center of the bully/victim relationships can sometimes be lifted straight from our textbooks about abuse. Just as victims of domestic abuse many times blame themselves, nurses who are victims of bullying find themselves looking inward and wondering if there is something wrong with them.

What are some of the classic signs of a bully boss or co-worker? (https://www.yourerc.com/blog/post/20-subtle-signs-of-workplace-bullying)

Some more subtle signs:

Deceitful and manipulative- making promises but not keeping them or using promises to purposely disappoint.
Shaming and blaming- bullies want the victim to blame themselves.
Ignoring or undermining work- purposely “forgetting” to notify someone of meetings, belittling their work or accomplishments.
Intimidating and criticizing- setting impossible standards and even threatening.
Diversion and mood swings- bullies might avoid the victim so that the work issues cannot be resolved in a timely manner; and they are subject to widely varying moods (which boss/co-worker will be coming to work today? The sweet one or the nasty one?)

Overt bullying:

Aggression and intrusion- actual physical altercations with the bully entering your personal space.
Belittling, embarrassing and offensive communication- using their position to cause you harm, either physical, psychological or professional.
Coercion and threatening- pushing the victim to do things they don’t feel comfortable doing and using threats of termination or other punishment to get compliance with their demands.

So, if you or someone you know if being bullied in the workplace, what can you do?

Document- Keep a record of any threatening or inappropriate emails, texts or interactions. Should it become necessary to report the bad behavior, it will be important to have specific occurrences, words used, and frequency of episodes. Also, learn your workplace policies on bullying and what your recourses are.
Detach- Try to look at the occurrences in light of how this person treats others. Have you been “picked out” for special scrutiny? Bullies are sometimes bullies across the board but at times they pick out a few victims, zero in on those and treat others as allies, making the other staff members into (sometimes) unwitting accomplices for their own bad behavior.
Dare to Defy- Standing up to a bully is hard and practically can be impossible. Often, persistent bullying requires cutting our losses and moving on to another position. But adult and boss bullies—like those on the playground—can respond to pushback: maintaining eye contact, standing firm, ignoring or not acceding to their demands. This is harder to do than it sounds, because the victim of a bully at work frequently is not in a position to resist and finds themselves being jerked around by the perpetrator’s continually changing and escalating demands, whims and moods.
Defend- Be on the lookout for bullying behavior around you and if you see something, say something.

As for Cindy, in the end, she resigned after 3 months and went in search of another job—certainly not the route a new nurse wants to have on her resume—but a physical and psychological necessity given the bullying she experienced. After the rocky start, she went on to have an extremely successful career as a nurse and to find the profession a satisfying fit for her talents.

Have you witnessed bullying in your workplace? How have you been a victim of bullying?

The 500

500 or more
They stand
Strong and silent
Thirsty
Thirsty
By the flowing river
Of the Water of Life.
Their feet curl along the edge
Careful not to touch the crystal Water
For fear.
Of What?
Of giving in
To the tide of purity that sweeps over all?
To the water of life that answers every thirst?
They know in their heads
But not in their hearts
They see with their eyes
But not with their spirits.

Instead of joining the great flow
They resist.
Thirsty
Thirsty.
Unwilling to give
Themselves to
The only Truth there is.
Pride holds them fast
Firmly rooting them in place
Along the dusty banks of life
Pursuing but never finding–
Even though it is right there,
All along.

Some dip their feet in
And splash around
Happy to have found
Some semblance of
Meaning
Purpose
Fulfillment.
Thirst-quenching
Ever-filling
Life.

Just a very few
Throw themselves in.
Completely,
Unequivocally,
With abandon,
Never turning back.
They drink deeply of the Waters
They breathe it in,
Immersing
Filling every thirsty crevice.
They turn to beckon their friends,
Joyfully urging them to taste and see
That the Lord is Good.
To drink from the well that never runs dry.

Guided and invited
The 500 come,
Inching forward
Still Afraid.
But buoyed by Hope
That friends profess:
The Water is sweet
There is a Gracious plenty.
Come and enjoy
True life.
Drink from the Source.

A Prayer After the 4th

A Prayer After the 4th

Oh God, Holy One.
Our nation has been seduced into
Thinking wrong is right
That wealth is might
That an unkind spirit wins
That justice belongs only to the rich.
We ignore the needs of the poor
By justifying our own selfishness,
Saying, “I have earned what I have,
Let them do the same”—
All the while disregarding the grace
That bring us to this place.
Turn our hearts away from pride.
Clothe us in humility and let us take stride
Behind the feet of our Master,
Imitating his Spirit and averting disaster
By being true children of Light
Who keep service in our sights.
Let us not be manipulated
But instead inundated
With the desire to see clearly
What you love so dearly:
Justice
Mercy
Humility.
Yes, Lord, Make America Great Again.
But this time in the ways that provoke a true Amen:
Great in service,
In Love,
In Righteousness
In Purity
In Compassion
In Inclusiveness
And in Kindness.
If our country truly is of Thee
And lives into its calling as a “Great Land of Liberty,”
Then let us sing,
Consciousness to bring,
That far we have strayed
From the way we were made.
So wave the flag proudly
For He is our Star
And by His stripes we are healed,
As we lift our hands to his glory
Our destiny will be fulfilled.

Joy Eastridge
July 2019

The Heart of Holiness

As we stood with 100,000 other pilgrims in St. Peter’s square, trying to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis, I felt the powerful holiness of the moment because so many of us were there for a single purpose: to seek after God. The determination of the personal holiness of the Pope or the variety of religious traditions around us were irrelevant. What really mattered was the crowds’ singleness of heart in seeking out God.

I felt a similar feeling at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Truly, touching the stone that was designated to mark the place where the Baby Jesus laid to rest, had no particular import. What really mattered were all the people, from every nation milling around me, looking for God in any way they could find him. Touching that stone was holy because of the millions of people who had been there before me, hearts set on uncovering a God who often hides himself, only to be discovered by those who seek him with a heart of love.

“Surely you are a god who hides himself, Israel’s God and Savior.” Isaiah 45:15.

God places the desire for him in each of our hearts. It is the center of being, the core of the spirit, the place where the soul resides. Every day we have a choice: acknowledge our need or not? Cover it up with busyness or lay it bare for the Holy One to fill in his way? But God is not pushy or demanding. He stands quietly, patiently waiting for us to see him, in all the myriad places he lives: in a rock, in a flower, in newly tilled soil, in the smell of rain, in the sound of wind, in the smile of a child, in the neediness of a homeless neighbor, in the fevered brow of one who approaches death. God is there. God is here. God lives everywhere, but he only reveals himself if we stop to seek him.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” Isaiah 55:6

Seeking the Christ in everyone and every thing is the duty of our life. It is our purpose. What strangles us is when we limit God to certain types of people and a few allowable manifestations, all connected with our particular tradition. Our limitation of a mighty God has nothing to do with him and everything to do with our own desire to control him and to pridefully “know” the answers about God. When we open ourselves to the unknown, the mystery of faith, the encounters with holiness that transcend all of our own efforts, only then do we begin to see the ubiquitous presence of the Spirit of God, transcendent and holy.

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” Psalm 73:23.

As we read his Book, the guide to life he has given us, and helped to interpret through his people over the ages, we tend to see it as we would an instruction manual, full of neatly defined steps that guarantee good results. What we fail to read in it are the plentiful references to a God beyond our understanding, one who continually reveals himself over the ages, one who has not stopped sending his prophets just because the revelation is considered complete. God loves his Word and wants us to love it too and to learn it and to live by it, but he is not contained in it. He is not limited by it. He is not controlled through the devoted learning of its passages.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col 1:27

As God lives in us, planting the seed of his spirit in the human heart— the riskiest of all divine adventures—we walk around as a dim personification of the Christ in the world. The more we live into this model he has set before us, the more we transmit the fruit he desires to bless the world with. When we nurture this Christ in us, we emanate the lovely perfume of Christ and we hold forth the light of his love, blessing those around us and offering to them the fruit that comes forth from a Spirit blessed to be full of Jesus.

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24

In his death, Jesus multiplied his work and his disciples. As he sent the twelve forth to “Feed my lambs,” he sent them as sowers of the seed, cultivators of the soil and also as keen observers of his work in the world. His invitation was to “Go into all the world” and to open the eyes of our hearts, inviting us to see him in unexpected ways. He did not say he would follow a prescribed method, a 12 step approach, a particular dogma. Instead he roundly condemned those who sought to limit him, those who worked out of a desire for worldly recognition and a flaming pride. Jesus’ anger against the part of humanity who claimed control over God was real and remains a warning to us today: don’t get too cocky about all the you “know” but live instead in the childlike faith that is open to the every day uncovering of Christ in all things and in all people everywhere.

“Let the little children come; and do not forbid them for to such belongs the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 19:14)

What does Jesus mean when he makes this radical statement? He certainly leaves the door open for those who are true seekers, not just for those who feel they have arrived. If we love as children love, we will stop seeing others by our own definitions of worthiness and instead with hearts full of grace. My prayer for all of us as we walk this pilgrim’s journey, is that the God of the past, present and future, will continue to reveal himself in unexpectedly joyful ways!

Love One Another–All “One Anothers”

Love One Another—All One Anothers

“The Muslims are trying to take over our country,” my friend said, fear barely disguised in his voice.
“Really? What makes you say that?” I asked.
“I saw them all at a rest stop one time in Ohio. They had on their robes and they were bowing to Mecca.”
“So what percentage of the US population do you think is Muslim?” I asked, trying to get to the bottom of his concern.
“Well, I don’t know that. I just know they are taking over. They are everywhere, in sports, everywhere,” his voice trailed off but the edge of certainty was audible.
“I have looked it up, and it’s about 1%,” I told him.
“1% what?”
“1% of the total of the US population is Muslim,” I clarified.
“Well, that doesn’t matter. They are still taking over. I just don’t like them.”
“Them, who?” I asked. “Muslims in general? That’s 25% of the world’s population.”
“I can’t help it. I just don’t like them.”

This conversation with my committed Christian friend continued to trouble me throughout the day, leading me to the Bible where I looked for words of guidance. What I read called me to greater humility, love, patience and advocacy.

Jesus said to his disciples shortly before his crucifixion: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Here Jesus is inviting us to be loving toward other disciples, even those who are seeing the world through a lens of fear and judgement. Earlier he also spoke of obedience to his words as the sign of his touch on our lives, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has a greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:12-14)

When we see our fellow disciples walking in a way that is contrary to what Jesus taught, we have the obligation, the command from our Lord, to continue in a loving relationship with them. In this case, what does a loving relationship entail? How do we lovingly help one another navigate through our prejudices, especially when the world around us does nothing but stoke the fires of fear and insecurity?

When we live in a world-view dominated by fear instead of love, we see “others” as threatening instead of, as Jesus proposed, beloved by him and worthy of our love too. When we live in fear, we build walls, long for bigger prisons and arm ourselves for self-defense—for what choice do we have? Evil is out to get us.

In John 3:16 and Matthew 28:19-20 we read some of the most often quoted verses of scripture, both of which tell us of God’s great love for all of humanity, no exceptions, and our call to go and do likewise. Throughout the ages, we read in scripture and in later “His-story” instances of God’s people hating others, persecuting others in the name of Jesus, and even killing vast numbers supposedly to further the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of us roundly condemn these behaviors and exempt ourselves from the propensity to do such evil. And yet. Here we are in our day, making statements about people of other religions trying to take us over. If we really ponder the view he espoused, wouldn’t the logical outcome of that statement be that we need to control, oppress or even fight against those “others” that are taking over?

In the words of Jesus we find a completely different approach, a way that leads to love and life eternal: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5: 11-12)

Regarding our ostracism of those who threaten our nation, our selves, our way of life, our color, our culture, our language, Jesus advocates for a way of love that is beyond the capability of the human heart and there only through his grace, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” (Matt. 5:43-46)

In our grace-less humanity, we long to draw lines of demarcation around our love. It is so much easier that way. This is white. That is black. This is me. That is you. This is great. That is not. We love the rules, the enforcement, the exclusion of doubt, the judgment. But then we have this Jesus, this lover of our souls that will not let us go, that will not leave us alone in our lack of love. He keeps pulling us out of our circle and making it wider until, before we know it, the whole world, every last one of these creations of his, stands with us in our circle and we have no choice but to give it all up and love.

Through Christ, we are blessed with courage and power that are not naturally in us. 2 Tim.1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV) The fear is held in check by the power, the love and the sound mind—all employed together to keep us from giving way to the flow of self-interest that runs through our veins when we live in the flesh. Life in the spirit is an invitation to leave all that selfishness behind and to pursue, unfettered, the joy-filled life of love that Jesus invites us to.

Back to my friend. What do I say? How do I love him with Christ-like love?

Let us pray that our lives will be ruled by love and not by hate.
Let us pray together for those we are inclined to hate for we all have challenges—your struggle may not be mine, but I have struggles, too.
Let us keep reading all of God’s love letter to us, and examining it with new eyes and open hearts, every day.
Let us remember that when God brings people that are “different” into our lives, he does it with an invitation for us to love better, deeper, wider, longer so that we can be transformed in the process.
Let us invite the Holy Spirit of God to live in us and make us over from the inside out into people that look just like Jesus, the lover of all our souls; lover of every last one of us on this earth.