Tag Archives: children and spiritual formation

Leah Grundset Davis: Everyday Theology: Everywhere

An article makes its way around social media every year during summer. It details the differences between a vacation and a trip when you’re traveling with young children. It was so true that I laughed heartily as I read it the first time.

With the knowledge that our beach “vacation” was actually a trip (save for the two days Grammy joined us and my husband and I actually ate some full meals sitting down), my husband and two daughters packed our bags and traveled to Hilton Head, S.C., for a week.


We were expecting to take a little break from our daily routines, as anyone hopes to, on our trip. And the news in our world had been heavy. We’d just walked through the first days of grief from the shooting in Orlando and great loss of life in Istanbul and Baghdad. One afternoon while the girls were napping, exhausted from their morning of beach play, I came across this poem by Warsan Shire:

“later that night

I held an atlas in my lap

Ran my fingers across the whole world

And whispered

Where does it hurt?


It answered




This poem rang through my head. It’s so true. There was and is a great grief hanging over our world. There is this deep sadness and pain throughout our world.

And we feel it. Sometimes it is ours directly and sometimes indirectly. But when we are paying attention, we feel it. And it can feel hopeless. Even when we know and believe in hope.

We all went out to dinner our last night at the beach. Waiting outside to enter the restaurant, my soon to be three-year-old, a preacher’s kid through and through, was playing with Bible trivia cards. She promptly walked up to a woman and showed them to her. It turns out, my daughter had naturally gravitated to another minister who was excited to play the game with her. (My daughter’s version of game is naming the characters on the nativity scene on the front and paying no mind to the trivia questions).


As she and her new friend played the game, the sky opened and it started pouring. Her new friend said to her as we all went to our tables, “Lydia, remember you are loved by God.” Lydia said, “so are you!” We smiled and parted ways.

The rain poured as we ate our seafood. When we came out, the rain stopped as suddenly as it had started and a beautiful rainbow stretched over the water of the inlet. Lydia was overjoyed to see her first rainbow in person.


She jumped up and down and loudly proclaimed, “Mommy, that’s my first rainbow I see. That means God loves everyone, everywhere! God loves the whole world!”

At the end of our trip, that was the hope-filled benediction I needed to hear. Some words of healing from the mouth of an almost three-year-old—that especially in the places where it hurts, the love of God is there too.

We return again and again to our calling to be the people of God who hope and love in ways that seem impossible. But we do it. And we work for justice and for peace. We must.

Indeed, God loves everyone.

leah grundset davis

Rev. Leah Grundset Davis is the communications specialist for the Alliance of Baptists. She lives in Bristow, Va., with her husband John, daughters Lydia and Sadie Pearl and dog, Moses.

Jennifer Andrews-Weckerly: Everyday Theology in the News

Before I became a parent, I used to be the brunt of many jokes about parenthood. The jokes were justified. Though I devoured The Baby-Sitter’s Club books as a preteen, I never really did much babysitting in real life. It turns out babysitting was not as picturesque as it seemed in the books.

By the time I was a college student, most of my girlfriends were gaga over babies and kids. I, on the other hand, held them at arm’s length, having no idea how to do any sort of mothering activities. And heaven forbid there be a group of children all together. I was like a deer in headlights with too many kids around.

When I became a priest, I was terrified I would have to do children’s ministries. I did not know how to talk to kids, and I certainly did not know how to explain complicated theological concepts to children. I almost cried the week when I prepared my first “child friendly” sermon as an associate.

Becoming a parent meant I quickly got over the physical stuff with children. In fact, I have become much more like my college friends, dying to hold little babies. But what never did come naturally was learning how to talk to children in an accessible way about God. I know this to be true from the many times my six-year old’s eyes have glazed over as I tried to explain something about church or God.Jennifer and Simone.jpg

This handicap has become especially challenging these last couple of weeks. For some reason, my oldest daughter has become fascinated with the news. Whether on TV, looking at pictures in the paper, or listening to snippets of NPR before she makes me change the channel to music, my daughter has started paying attention – and paying attention has meant that questions have started coming.

Last week, the questions were about what a boy from Stanford did to hurt a girl. I struggled to know how graphic to be with a six-year old about sexual assault, consent, and our bodies. Part of the challenge is that my daughter’s questions are usually pretty basic: “Why is he in trouble? Why are people mad?”

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I try very hard to give her basic responses, but how do you not talk about the objectification of women, the bias of our justice system against sexual assault victims, the difference between healthy, responsible sexual activity and rape, and white, male privilege?

This week, the news is haunting me again. The questions were again basic: “Why are they talking about people dying? Why did he kill all those people?” Which topic do I try to tackle: gun violence, homophobia, or cultural differences? She knows that women can marry women and men can marry men, but I am not sure we have used labeling words like gay, lesbian, or transgender. We have talked about Mommy’s aversion to guns, but she does not understand how people procure and use assault weapons.


And I certainly have no idea how to bring God into all of this. Luckily, she seems to get caught up in the details of the news instead of waxing philosophical with me. But someday she will. And I do not know how I will delicately explain my sense of who God is versus who others say God is.

Though they were not related by blood, Naomi and Ruth were mother and daughter by choice. In a defining moment in their relationship, Ruth declares, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1.16).

Naomi’s job from there on out is to teach Ruth the ways of her people and her God. There will be no escaping Ruth’s presence. So Naomi better start teaching and talking to Ruth.

I remember when my daughter was three or four, I used to immediately skip the news channels when looking for something on PBS or Disney. Now, my daughter wants to watch the news. I suppose her desire to watch, listen, and read is a gift to me – a chance for me teach her about the evils of this world and how God is an agent of love and light despite darkness. That is what I tell the adults in my life every day.

Now I have to figure out how to tell that same story so that a six-year-old, a twelve-year-old, a sixteen-year-old, and a ninety-year-old alike can understand. I will likely fumble my way through. I suppose it is a good thing that God has always worked through me in spite of me.

Andrews-Weckerly Family.jpg

Jennifer Andrews-Weckerly is a minister and mother of two living in Williamsburg, Virginia with her husband, Scott. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies and having dance parties in the kitchen.

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Kheresa Harmon: The Mystery of Prayer


We can spend a lifetime struggling to understand how, or even if, our prayers are answered. We beg for the diagnosis not to be cancer. We silently cry for this pregnancy test to be positive. We scream out to God for her not to die today. We groan for the relationship to be restored. We bargain with God to fix it, whatever it may be, one more time. We struggle. Did God hear us? Did God answer us? Why did it turn out this way? Where is God?

We can spend a lifetime struggling with prayer.

A 402 mile bus ride drove my nine-year-old son, Timothy, to his knees. As dusk’s delicate fingers slowly pulled the curtain on Maundy Thursday, my son became sick. He was very sick. Tears welled up in his fearful eyes. Timothy looked frantically at me and pleaded, “Please pray!”

The charter bus swayed and lurched along I-85 South. Timothy rested limply in his seat and I kneeled on the floor. He and I forgot about the other children, their parents, and his teachers. I begged God to take away the headache and the nausea. I begged. The bus swayed and I prayed, “Please help Timothy not be scared, Jesus. Please make your face known to him right now.”

Maundy Thursday darkened. The bus swayed and lurched. Timothy’s nausea and pain intensified. Somewhere along I-85 South in Gaston County, Timothy’s prayer was not answered.

Or was it?

With his eyes closed and his little head resting against the bus’s window, Timothy whispered, “Before I threw up, I was not scared anymore. I just felt safe and that, no matter what happened to me, I would be O.K.”

Good Friday dawned, and health was restored to my son. Timothy and I spent the better part of that holy day reflecting on the sacred moment of prayerful struggle that happened in my son’s life a few hours earlier.

In a swaying bus on a dark Maundy Thursday evening, Timothy struggled with prayer. In his struggle, Timothy grasped what it was that makes prayer so powerful. He did not get what he wanted. The pulsing pain in Timothy’s head did not abate. The nausea would not loosen its grip on him. Timothy vomited, in a bag, on a charter bus filled with peers.

Timothy did not get from God what he asked (nor did Jesus on the first Maundy Thursday, for that matter). Timothy did get precisely what he needed – God’s peaceful presence.

Our model for prayer and the struggle with it is captured perfectly in Jesus’s words in Matthew 6:9-13, and especially in verse 11 – “Give us this day our daily bread.” Our good and gracious God gives us exactly what we need for each minute of the day, even when we are ignorant of our own needs.

What we need is God. We are given God.

Timothy got God’s yes! As the bus swayed and lurched along I-85 South, Timothy felt the powerful presence of the God who is with us. Timothy was not alone. We are never alone, for our God is with us.

The mind-boggling beauty of God’s presence with us is that God’s presence with us is God suffering with us. God does not merely carry us. God holds our hand and groans with our pains as we struggle along this swaying, lurching journey called life.

That is more powerful than a prayerful petition answered simply the way we want it to be.


Kheresa Harmon is married to Steve Harmon and they are the parents of a fourth-grader named Timothy.  A graduate of Campbell University Divinity School, Kheresa serves as the Director of Admissions for the School of Divinity at Gardner-Webb University.