What is the "Watch with Me" Challenge?
The Watch with Me Challenge is an activity and devotional-based guide designed to encourage your hearts, strengthen your faith and give you ways to connect and grow even during uncertain times.
Starting Friday, March 27
Over the next 16 days leading up to Easter we will prepare our hearts around the request Jesus asked of his friends on the darkest night of his life: "Watch with me." Each day, you will find a post with a quick, easy, do-it-at-home activity aimed at acts of kindness and spiritual growth. The challenge is also posted on our Facebook page and if you'd like to engage, comment, or follow along with others, we recommend you join us there!
Who can join?
Anyone looking for something to do and a constructive approach to chaotic times! The challenge is open to the public and all are welcome. You can do the challenge on your own, with a spouse, partner, or as a family. Perhaps your Bible study or prayer group has been suspended due to Covid-19 and you'd like to do the challenge as a group then use an online meet-up tool like Zoom or Google Hangouts to connect virtually.
Then Jesus went with the disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here and watch with me." And going a little farther, he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak."
Day 0: WELCOME
If you have comments, questions or would like prayer for any reason, contact us!
Welcome! Scroll down for posts.
Day 1: Ready, Set... Goal!
Friday, March 27
WHAT MAKES YOU "SLEEPY"?
We are kicking off our challenge by taking a few moments to think about why we are here: what do you hope to get from this challenge? Are you looking for something to do, encouragement, hope, peace, comfort, ways to get involved and love others, community and friendship? Or something else entirely?
In Matthew 26, Jesus asked his disciples to “watch with me” while they waited together in the garden. Unfortunately, the disciples missed out because they fell asleep. We don’t want to miss out!
When we keep watch with Jesus, we should expect something extraordinary. Do you have an area of weakness in your walk with the Lord? Something that makes you “sleepy” like the disciples in the garden? Something that makes Jesus feel distant or unreal? Take one to five minutes to ask the Lord what he would like to prune away or change in your life. Turn it over to the Lord and ask him to fill the space that’s left with something else. What would He like to plant in your life?
Lord, sometimes I don’t see my own strengths or weaknesses very well. But you do. What would you like to change? Please place a goal on my heart.
Wait a few minutes. Try to listen with your heart. The Lord might not answer right away and that’s ok. Keep asking him today. And when he tells you, write it down!
There is no homework for this challenge but I encourage you to write or record your experiences. If you are willing to share with others, post thoughts and reactions here. We look forward to seeing how Jesus works in your lives!
Day 2: Clean up for others
Saturday, March 28
Today’s challenge is to do a chore you don’t normally do. Surprise someone in your home by putting your socks in the hamper *cough cough, Billy!* doing the dishes, setting the table, asking to help make dinner — you get the idea. It doesn’t have to be a big deal and you don’t need to make an announcement. Keep watch by paying attention: “what does so and so usually do for me?”
I am going to attempt something I’ve never done before: TAXES. (Actually, I vaguely remember my Dad taking me through them one year but I think I made him so miserable in the process that he never made me do it again…) In almost ten years of marriage, I have never done our taxes. Billy insists this is a life skill and has been encouraging me to learn. Blah blah blah. Usually he is done with our taxes by now but he’s been very busy with work and SO… I really can’t think of a better way to show him I actually have been listening to him for the past ten years.
If you live alone (or, if all your chores have miraculously been done by fairies and elves!), consider gathering a few items to donate to Salvation Army. If you have children, consider using this as an opportunity to ask them to give up one toy for the good of others.
During the Covid-19 crisis, Salvation Army has been actively supporting homeless who are ill as well as continuing to serve their communities as they are able. To learn more, visit their response page here: https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/covid19/ You don’t need to deliver the items immediately and if you are ill or immune-comprised please stay safety conscious and reach out to a friend to make your drop-off! Practice compassionate health by leaving your bag on your porch where your friend can pick it up without exposing you unnecessarily.
Day 3: MAke a phone call
Sunday, March 29
Call the oldest person in your family. This can be an isolating time for older generations, especially if they live alone or in a facility where they cannot receive visitors.
If you are the oldest person in your family, consider reaching out in one of the following ways: call the youngest member of your family; call another individual you know is isolated or suspect may be lonely; call someone you haven’t connected with in a while.
If you have kids, let them each make their own phone call. Ask if they’d like to join you in the challenge but don’t sweat it if they’re uninterested. You can still set an example! Who do they think needs a call? (It’s ok if it’s their best friend.)
If you are blessed to frequently connect with family, consider other ways to touch an isolated individual. Call a local nursing home and ask if it would be alright to have flowers delivered for the staff to give to an under-visited resident (if you have the means). Or ask if you can send a “thinking of you card” to the home so the staff could give it to a resident who needs encouragement. Address your envelope to the staff member you talk to and put your request that it be given to a resident on the back of the envelope. If you’re feeling really brave and outgoing, ask to talk to an under-visited resident. Don’t be discouraged if your request is denied, just politely thank them for their time!
If you’re feeling really energetic, you can always do more than one challenge action!
Day 4: Begin memorizing our theme scripture Verse
Monday, March 30
Taking away fear or negative thoughts isn’t enough. We need to fill in the gaps with the power of God’s word! The theme verse for our Watch with Me Challenge is:
2 Timothy 1:7: “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (or, some translations say, “love and a sound mind.”)
Bible memorization doesn’t have to be a chore! Here are some ideas to get you started and make it fun:
Post it on a wall in a place you see it often (We have two by the diaper change station ;)
Post the words of the verse on the wall as targets for nerf guns (not just for kids!)
For kids, create a “seek and find” puzzle version: one word per card or post-it hidden throughout the house. Once they find the post-its, see if they can unscramble the verse!
Sing it (use a familiar tune, like a nursery rhyme or Beatles song; This brought me a sweet memory: when my mother-in-law visited recently, I could hear her singing verses over Jubi, just making up a tune. Sometimes I am so blessed by a baby monitor! Now, when Billy or I change her diaper, she points to the verses on the wall: “how about this” she says. We don’t sing it like Gramma though :)
Go back and forth with a partner or around the dinner table saying one word at a time. How many times does it take before you can complete the verse correctly from memory??!
If you are doing the challenge as an individual, you don’t have kids, or you live by yourself, write it out a few times and hide it for your future self in places you will likely forget. For example, in the boxes of Christmas decorations; in your summer clothes or flip-flops; a few towels/dishcloths down in the clean laundry; a few dinner plates down in the cupboard; OR, IF YOU ARE SO LUCKY: in the third or fourth roll of toilet paper :)
Return to the verse throughout your day and throughout the challenge. We will work on this three times, three different ways over the challenge. When fear rises, push it away with your God-given spirit of power, love and self-control!
Day 5: A Day of Hope with Family Life (93.7 FM)
Tuesday, March 31
Today, starting at 6 am EST, the Family Life Radio Network here in western NY will host a Day of Hope, leading prayer in response to Covid-19 and these uncertain times. They’ll have hourly needs posted on their website (http://www.fln.org/radio/) and throughout the day their staff will be leading listeners in prayer.
It’s a beautiful thing to realize how widespread is the body of Christ!
I remember one Sunday morning when we lived in China. In our city of 6 million there was just one official, government-approved church. The international (English-speaking) service had just let out and I was standing by the door watching local Chinese nationals arrive for their service. A familiar tune floated out the door… Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! I couldn’t sing along in Chinese but my heart was full as I praised the Lord for raising up his people around the globe.
Suddenly, I had a revelation: I realized I was experiencing a changing of the guard. Our body of believers was leaving, another body was arriving. And it wasn’t just happening in our city! Twelve hours later, on the other side of the world, my home church on the east coast of the United States would be opening its doors and doing their part. The mind-blowing reality of the Church rushed in on me: at every moment and place in between, brothers and sisters of my huge extended, adopted family would be lifting their hearts and voices in praise! We are never alone when we praise the Lord for the Lord lives in the praises of his people.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “It’s five o’clock somewhere!” Well this is a whole lot better! As you tune in to Family Life Radio (93.7 FM) or your local Christian radio station today, enjoy the worship as your background soundtrack. As you pray, dwell on the richness and wideness of the kingdom of God. If you trust in Jesus and follow him, you are a part of this amazing, everywhere, all-the-time praising family! Glory to God!
Thank you, Family Life Network!
PREPARED TO SHARE
Day 6: Record your "jesus story"
Wednesday, April 1
It’s time to testify! Christians call the story of how they met Jesus and how he changed their lives (or, in some cases, how he interrupted their lives and turned them upside down!) their testimony.
Let me say up front: this challenge is not about pressuring you to go out and immediately share your story. If the Lord leads you to do so, great! But our goal here is simply to practice expressing a testimony.
Notice I said, “a” testimony.
It doesn’t have to be the story of how you got saved. Jesus has done lots of things in my life that I want to offer up to his glory! That’s what we’re after today.
Think of a moment when Jesus worked in your life and carried out real transformation. Perhaps you were feeling up against a wall or unable to see a way out. Then decide how you’d like to record it. You could write it down in a journal, type it up, make an audio recording, make a video of yourself, tell it to a challenge partner if you have one, or just say it out loud to the Lord! Spend a few moments thinking about the important details, twists and turns in the story that especially highlight the power and grace of the Lord.
Thank the Lord for this memory. And don’t just let it rattle around in your mind and heart: getting the words out, in one way or another, matters. It’s something the psalmist and apostles did over and over again. If you ever get the opportunity to share what the Lord is doing in your life then it won’t be the first time.
Day 7: Give me oil in my Lamp
Thursday, April 2
If you don’t know this classic, campfire sing-a-long song, check out a YouTube clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Txh1-93YNUE
The song comes from Matthew 25 and the parable of the ten virgins (or bridesmaids). As you read the passage, consider this: Jesus saved this parable for the very end of his teaching. He entered Jerusalem in chapter 21, taught about his coming death in 22, denounced the Pharisees for a final time in 23 and predicted future trouble for his followers in 24. Then, with passover and his arrest on the horizon in the very next chapter, Jesus gave his disciples this teaching. Why did he save this seemingly simple tale for this point in his ministry?
Read through the passage using the “SOAP” study method:
S = scripture (Matthew 25:1-13)
O = observation (what jumps out to you? Circle a word or phrase that speaks to you.)
A = application (why did you notice what you did for O? What can you learn from it? How could it change your actions today?)
P = prayer (thank the Lord for what you observed and what you think it means. Ask him for additional wisdom. Ask him to recall words from this scripture to your heart and mind today. Ask him to use the words you circled to encourage, teach and correct you today.)
In our troubled world, people seek many ways to be prepared and fill their lamps with oil. And there are often practical reasons for doing so! (Just don’t be like this guy: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/14/technology/coronavirus-purell-wipes-amazon-sellers.html) But make sure you are ready to follow the bridegroom when he comes: are you prepared for what the Holy Spirit may ask of the church during and after Covid-19?
Day 8: Google Translate
Friday, April 3
Today’s challenge is to translate our memory verse into another language besides your first language.
I have to confess: I am absolutely awful at foreign languages. I still remember embarrassing myself in second year Spanish class when I translated “dinero” as “dinner” (by the way, dinero means money, not dinner!). So if you speak multiple languages you can use them to work on translating our verse; but if you’re like me, there’s a wonderful little tool of modern technology called Google translate.
Here’s how to do today’s challenge:
Search for Google translate on Google
Type -- don’t just copy and paste -- our theme verse into the “Enter Text” box on the left. Try to type it in from memory but don’t forget to check for accuracy. Do you have it down word perfect yet?
Then, choose a language from the drop-down menu in the box on the right. Choose any language you like! In the bottom corner you may see a small “volume” icon: click it and listen to the verse in the language you chose. (Not all of the language choices have a listen option so you may want to try another if you’d like to listen to it.)
The challenge is not about learning to speak another language. You don’t need to memorize the verse in the foreign language you chose. Instead, as you listen to the verse in strange sounding words, think about this:
Somewhere out in this wide world, a Christian brother or sister hears or reads or speaks this verse in this way. These are the sounds they connect to the truth, wisdom and power of this word of God. You don’t know who that brother or sister is, but listen to their language again and pray for them:
“God, I pray for Christians living in country X who speak this language. I may not know any of them personally but you know each one by name. If they are being persecuted for your name, O Lord, I pray that you would comfort them. If they are a new believer or still making up their mind to trust you, I pray you would encourage their heart and draw them to you. If they are ministering to others, I pray you would strengthen their hands.”
I like to imagine that someday we will be walking around heaven and Jesus will come up to us and say, “Come on over here! I have someone I want you to meet. You prayed for this person without knowing their name and it’s time to change that.”
If you’d like, copy down the verse the best you can in the language you chose and put it in your Bible, maybe marking 2 Timothy 1:7. Let it remind you to pray for your unseen, unknown brother or sister.
Which language did you choose?
Day 9: celebrate spring
Saturday, April 4
Jubi loves going outside -- in ALL weather. But recently, going outside has become much more pleasant for me! It’s still very early spring (or “mud season” in some parts of the country) but even now we can see hints here and there of new life.
Today’s challenge is to get outside. Take a walk, even if it’s just to the mailbox! Take note of the old signs of winter still hanging around. Then “read between the lines” and seek out signs that spring and summer are just around the corner. If you are home-bound and can’t get outside, open a window! Breathe in some fresh air.
It’s an old metaphor but a good one: this season reminds us of our Christian life. The old, dead, and tired gets slowly but surely pushed aside to make way for new life. Every year, the Lord renews his creation. This is a kind of promise to us written in nature.
As we look forward to Easter, the high point of our Christian year, we also look forward to the second coming of Christ when he will make a new heaven and new Earth, when we will be made new once and for all. This clip of the “Finale to the Firebird Symphony” from Disney’s Fantasia 2 gives us a taste of this kind of power: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kw-ZQzOjA8 Disney makes the clip about mother nature… but all good in nature and all praise and power belong to our Father in heaven and his Son, for
2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In [Jesus] was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:2-4)
Please take a picture of any signs of spring you may find and post here! If you haven’t noticed, the Facebook cover photo needs an update. I’ve been… saving it… for this challenge LOL. So any photos that I receive from this post I am going to work into a rotation on our Facebook page so we can be continually reminded of the redeeming power of God that is waiting just beneath the surface to break through!
Day 10: Worship with Song
Sunday, April 5
At our church in Boston, my favorite time of the year was Easter week and especially Palm Sunday. If you’ve ever been or lived in New England you may have picked up on something: New Englanders are not the most social, friendly, chatty kind of people. They generally keep to themselves, mind their own business, and are very reserved in public.
But Palm Sunday was different. We all had a leafy branch in our hands, the choir came marching in down the center aisle carrying banners, and we sang with the excitement and anticipation of Easter around the corner. You could feel the joy, especially during the hymn I’d like us to read and think about for our challenge today: “Lift High the Cross!” When we got to the chorus, “Lift high the cross!” everyone raised their palm branches and waved them around wildly. You couldn’t help but smile!
Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adore his sacred name.
1. Come, Christians, follow where the Master trod,
our King victorious, Christ the Son of God.
2. Led on their way by this triumphant sign, [the cross lifted high]
the hosts of God in conquering ranks combine.
3. Each newborn servant of the Crucified
bears on the brow the seal of him who died.
4. O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
your death has brought us life eternally.
5. So shall our song of triumph ever be:
praise to the Crucified for victory!
Which line or verse speaks the most to you and why?
Here’s a modern, acapella arrangement of this traditional hymn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TetkXEiCrOk
Day 11: get creative with prayer
Monday, April 6
When Jesus asks his disciples to “Watch with Me,” he tells them to “Watch AND PRAY” (Matthew 26:41). Theologian Dallas Willard points out that Jesus expects the act of praying will keep the disciples awake and help them keep watch. Wow. I don’t know about you but sometimes prayer seems to have the opposite effect on me! How can we build a habit of prayer that keeps us awake and watching?
Our challenge today is designed to help you expand your prayer life. Go to our website and click on the “Teaching” menu option then choose “Devotionals.” Scroll down to find a collage of ideas related to prayer and prayer topics. Choose one you haven’t tried before and see where it leads you! Before you begin, pray to the Lord ABOUT your prayer life:
“Lord, I know that prayer pleases you. It’s a habit and discipline to connect with you and invite you more and more into my life. Help me follow Jesus’s example by building a strong habit of prayer. Grow a desire for prayer in my heart and please meet me in prayer as I come before you. Amen.”
Prayer is hard. Especially if you’re just starting out. Your mind may wander or you may run out of words. It’s ok! Come as you are -- but don’t stay as you are. Keep coming before the Lord in prayer and when you look back you’ll be surprised by the growth that follows.
Day 12: Connect with a stranger
Tuesday, April 7
Everyone can use a little extra care these days and the Holy Spirit knows a lot more than we do what people around us may need! Today, take a moment to think about how you might bless a stranger. Here are some ideas:
Leave a note for a stranger in a mailbox or on a windshield
Leave a verse on a windshield
Make a snack for your mail person or other delivery service person (Friends of ours leave thank you snacks for Amazon drivers during the holidays. Delivery drivers are just as busy and needed now!) Don’t forget to put the flag up!
If you go through a drive-through, give an extra thank you, a small tip, or maybe a care package with some wipes or hand sanitizer and a note reminding them to be safe and healthy
Call your favorite restaurant and leave an encouraging message: sympathize with this difficult time, remind them you love the food, and let them know you’ll be back!
If you have the opportunity, invite the person to our church Facebook page or include a church business card. But don’t feel pressured to do so! Any love and grace we give belonged to the Lord first. Whoever you target, even if you never see the person, pray for them today. Ask the Lord to draw that person to himself. Ask the Lord to bring that person to our church. Jesus teaches us to be bold in prayer, even asking for mountains to be moved. It doesn’t hurt to ask!
Day 13: Thank an Unsung Hero
Wednesday, April 8
Who do you see working behind the scenes? This unsung hero could be at church, in your home, or out in the community. Find a way to thank them personally today by making a call, writing a note, sending a text or, if you have the chance, to their face.
Whoever you choose, add that person to your prayer list! Have you noticed that we are compiling quite a few people to pray for?
1. First, the oldest person in your family (or the person you called),
2. various people working on Covid-19 (lists provided by Family Life),
3. a Christian brother or sister who speaks another language,
4. a stranger,
5. and today, your unsung hero.
Take an extra moment to pause and think about who you want to thank today. Chances are, the first person who comes to mind is not an unsung hero! Who is the third or fourth or tenth person you might think to recognize? How might you thank that person? Let’s spread gratitude around! Thanks be to God!