To me, they were just lights. I had seen them a million times before. Besides, I had potholes to dodge, detour signs to follow, and taxi drivers cruising along faster than I would like.
To our kids, the city lights created quite the stir. Spontaneous applause erupted from the car seat gallery, shrieks of disbelief, and a conflict of estimates. Our three year old thought there might be seven lights or maybe sixty-three. The four year old was thinking more along the lines of 207 or like a million.
In any case, my kids helped me return to a sense of wonder while I was busy getting lost in the city. And from our high vantage point, the lights were incredible. They should have taken my breath away at first glance. I’m so thankful they caught me on the second one.
It was one of those God moments where the scripture comes alive before your eyes. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
It was the perfect time to break out our little lights and sing. I am pretty sure they fell asleep somewhere between, “Hide it under a bushel? No!” and the words, “Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine….”
The next time you’re in the big city (or any city for that matter), here is a list of ideas for family devotions that you can utilize with your children. Have fun, allow God’s word to speak, and watch out for that crazy woman driver waving a pretend light in the air.
Family Devotions Ideas for the City:
1. Venture to a Lookout Point: Find out where you can best view the lights of the city at night. Use Matthew 5:14-16 as a reference. Is it possible to hide the city? Put a blanket over it, cover it with a bowl, or stick it in under a box? No, the lights of the city can be seen from a great distance. If we live for Jesus, we will shine like these city lights. As people look at us, they will see Jesus.
Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” How was Jesus the light of the world? What does that mean? How can we be lights to our family, friends, neighbors, and world? How do we sometimes hide our light? What can we do to change that? Let’s work together as a family to be like these city lights!
2. Eat at an Ethnic Restaurant: One of the most beautiful things about the city is its diversity. God’s creativity and design is remarkable. It is healthy for children to experience other cultures and to be around people that may or may not look different than them.
Eating in an ethnic restaurant can prompt many discussions about history, current global crises, world missions, and our responsibility to love God through our actions. Invite the waiter or waitress to speak with you about his/her culture. Go there to learn about differences and celebrate all of the ways you are the same.
Discuss with your children the picture of heaven portrayed in Revelation 7:9-10, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”
You may choose to eat something that you would not normally eat (octopus, anyone?), but don’t make your kids be too adventurous. (Rice and noodles are generally a safe bet for children.) Tip your server well and allow God to be honored through your interaction with him or her.
3. Be Prepared to Give: If you do head to the city, it is likely that you will walk past someone in need. Obviously, for the sake of your family, use caution and discretion when travelling. But do be prepared to love the marginalized as Jesus would have. In lieu of giving money, many city organizations suggest having gift cards in small amounts to disperse. We try to always carry a McDonald’s gift card with us at all times. If you’re going to buy a coffee or bottled water, purchase an extra few to give away.
If you’re really planning ahead, find out what a city rescue mission might need for supplies. Typically, their websites will have a list of practical items that you can donate. These may or may not include clothes, cold weather items, toiletries (hotel samples are often requested), and food donations. Have your family collect these items over the course of a few weeks. When it’s time to head to the city, bring them along for drop-off.
Matthew 25:31-46 is a great passage that coincides with giving. Verse 35 states, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” And then, a few verses later, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
A great way to close these devotions-in-action is with prayer. Pray for Christ followers to be lights of the world. Pray for your family to grow in love towards others who are different. Pray for others who are in need. Praise God for being a God of rescue, compassion, and justice.