The big story that's blowing up in recent days comes from the Oscars awards ceremony on Sunday. In case you haven't checked social media or heard the news, Chris Rock, who was hosting the ceremony, made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith (Will Smith's wife) concerning her bald head. For context, she has been diagnosed with alopecia, which means that she can't grow any hair on her body. In an emotional reaction, Will walked up on stage and smacked Chris Rock across the face - it's something straight out of the movies. Since then, Will has apologized for his actions, but he firmly stands behind the decision to defend his wife. While Smith's decision to react violently should certainly be condemned, it is certainly commendable that he went to bat for his wife in that manner rather than letting someone make fun of her and her medical condition that is beyond her control.
Reba McEntire released an album this past week that features her take on many classic hymns including Because He Lives and How Great Thou Art. The album is titled My Chains Are Gone: Hymns and Gospel Favorites. It is being released digitally and in CD and DVD formats, so there are plenty of ways to get a hold of her latest project. It also features other celebrities such as Lauren Daigle, Kelly Clarkson, and Trisha Yearwood. The so-called "Queen of Country" has said that the album is meant to commemorate her baptism when she was younger and to honor her mother who passed away in 2020. You can read more about the story behind the album here.
As things begin to warm up (sorry to our northern friends), Frozen Fashion from Grow Games is a great team game for messy nights with the youth group. For preparation, ball t-shirts up with rubber bands and soak them in warm water. Stick them in the freezer at the lowest setting where they won't touch each other, that way they don't freeze together. You'll need as many t-shirts as teams, which will need to be in groups of 4-8. The t-shirts need to be as frozen as possible, so this game may take a day's prep beforehand. On the day of, break your students into teams and give each their t-shirt. In order to win, students unthaw their t-shirts as much as possible and have one member get the shirt on all the way. They can thaw using whatever method they can think of, with their hands, breathing on it, smacking it against the ground, etc.
Growing up, one of my favorite fairytales was The Brave Little Tailor. In the story, the little tailor faces off against all kinds of creatures, but especially giants. At one point, the tailor tricks the giants into squeezing water out of a rock (spoiler, it was actually cheese). The giant is amazed. He futilely attempts to replicate the amazing feat and ultimately leaving disheartened and defeated after failing to get water out of his rock. Often, we see people squeezing water out of proverbial rocks and think that we can never measure up. In reality, there are factors at play that we can't see. Just like the giant didn't know that the tailor's rock was actually cheese, we don't know every aspect of other people's lives. There are issues we will face that truly are rocks, and just like the giants, we can't do the impossible with our bare hands, and neither can anyone else.
Even when we royally mess up, God is still able to take our mess and uses it for the benefit of the people around us. In Exodus 17, Moses is commanded to strike the rock in order to bring the Israelites water. Later on in Numbers 20, he is given the command to speak to the rock to get water. Instead, Moses falls back onto an old commandment rather than this seemingly small thing God has changed. God still blesses Moses, even though he disobeyed. This didn't come without consequences, however, we see God's faithfulness even when we are the ones who don't listen. Whether we are pastors or just figuring out who God is, He is always prepared to take our mistakes and redeem us. Take comfort friends, even when we feel like things are going wrong, God is still able to redeem our actions for the betterment of the kingdom.