Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Snowman

The day after Christmas it started to snow. I had a wonderful plan for the day. My little grandson and I would wrap up, we would go outside and build a fantastic snowman together. In my mind, our collaborative snowman would stand impressively on our front porch, and greet our neighbors. All who passed by would marvel at the creativity and the size of it. Our snowman was going to look so good! But he did not turn out quite as I anticipated. The snow would not stick together. I could not form a ball that would roll and collect more snow. The carrot that we picked out for his nose made half his head fall off. My grandson wanted the snowman to have five arms, instead of two.Then he began to cry because he was too cold. My dream was shattered. But as I cuddled him in my arms, I remembered that the most important part of this day was not how the snowman turned out, or what he looked like. The important part was the time I spent with my grandson, building a relationship that will last, rather than building something that would melt over time.
It is good to dream dreams for our ministry. It is good to have wonderful plans, and to envision in our mind what our ministry might look like. But if it doesn't turn out quite the way we anticipated, we must not lose hope. We must not worry about impressing others. We must remember that our most important role is to build relationships...with children, with parents, with families...relationships that will last, and will lead them to Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Undercover Boss

A repost from December 2010...

With an audience averaging 17.7 million viewers, 'Undercover Boss' ranks as the biggest new season premiere since 1987 and the most watched premiere episode of any reality series.
Each week, 'Undercover Boss' follows a different executive as they leave the comfort of their office above to work alongside their employees below. This undercover mission allows them to share in the experiences of their employees and to obtain an up-close look at how their company works. At the end of the week, the true identity of the boss is revealed, the employees are rewarded for their hard work, and the company celebrates as everyone benefits from the experience.
Over 2000 years ago, another 'Undercover Boss' left the comfort of His office above and came down to live amongst His people on the earth below. With an audience of millions, the true identity of the boss was revealed and each Christmas, the world celebrates. What a privilege we have to be part of bringing children to discover the true identity of that 'Undercover Baby' and the eternal benefits He brings.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John 1: 14

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Eye Contact

I stood and watched my little grandson as he played with the train set alongside several other children. At 2 or 3 years old, they were doing a pretty good job of sharing, but their parents still kept a vigilant eye just in case they needed to step in to reinforce the lesson. A little boy snatched a train from another and I watched with interest as his young mom stepped in. She crouched down alongside him and spoke gently. Look at me. She said. The boy ignored her. But she persisted, this time using his name. Josh, I need you to at look at me. Josh ignored her. His focus was still on the train he wanted. The mom would not give up. Quietly, but deliberately, she tried a third time. Josh, she said, I need to see your eyes. Right here. She motioned towards her son's eyes and then pointed to her own. Now she had his attention. Josh finally paused and turned to face her. Only when she had established that eye contact could she teach him an important lesson.
Honey, the trains are for sharing. Josh shared.
It is almost Christmas. While we are busy, and focused on what we want, God stands at our side, yearning for us to turn and face Him. God crouches down, calls us by name, and gently persists until we respond. Only when we pause, and that eye contact is established, can we truly learn the lessons He has for us.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Prayer Room Has Moved...

I was rushing through London's busy Heathrow 
airport when I saw an interesting sign. It read:
The prayer room has moved.
I stopped to take a photograph, and thought how wonderful it was that such a room was available...perhaps for those who are nervous about flying, or for those whose faith requires that they pray at certain intervals.
But how glad I am that I do not need a special room to pray...especially one that is hard to find! My prayers do not need to be said at a certain time, or in a certain place. I can pray any time. I can pray anywhere, in the sure knowledge that God, who never moves, and is never hard to find, is listening. If the children we teach can know that, then we have taught them something wonderful indeed.
When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.
When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Jeremiah 29: 12-14 The Message
 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Praying for Prosperity

The four of us sat around our kitchen table...myself and my husband, along with a Korean pastor and his wife. We bowed our heads as the pastor offered to pray for our family, and specifically for our four sons. I loved the way he prayed from the heart, his words flowing eloquently and sincerely as he prayed straight from scripture. He recited words from Jeremiah 29...a favorite verse of mine that I was familiar with and loved...
Thank you Lord, for the plans you have for these young men, plans to prosper them, plans to give them hope and a future.
I had always loved the thought that God had good plans for my children, and that he wanted to give them hope, and a future. But I felt a little uncomfortable with the word 'prosper'. How could we sit and pray that my children would prosper? It did not seem right to ask for such a thing. But the pastor continued:
Help them Lord, to prosper in their knowledge of you,
and to be rich in love, and joy, peace, and patience, kindness, goodness, faihfulness, gentleness, and self control.
I never forgot those beautiful words and five years later, I still recite them. My frequent prayer, not just for my family, but also for the children I minister to, is that they would prosper in their knowledge of God, and be rich in the fruit of the Spirit. Because I know that if they can prosper in these things, then they will be rich beyond measure.
Read this wonderful interpretation of Jeremiah 29:11
 



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

23 Years Ago...

Our beautiful home
It was 1989. I can still vividly picture the scene. I was standing in our cute little home, the first one we had bought together, surrounded by four noisy little boys playing at my feet. My husband had just come home from work and saw a letter lying on the doormat addressed to him. The letter was from the Methodist church. He opened it and I peered over his shoulder, curious to see what it said.
Dear David, it read, We, at the Local Preacher's meeting were praying about who God mght call to become a Local Preacher. Your name was discussed. Please give this your prayerful consideration.
I can distinctly remember my reaction...one that I am not proud of. I almost laughed as I said to my husband, You're not going to do that are you?
I might...was his reply. I was dumbfounded, because I knew that this was just the beginning of a slippery slope. If he accepted the call to preach, that might lead to a call to the ministry and I was not ready for that. Listen David, I retorted, you can preach, but don't ever tell me you want to be a minister..because I don't want to live in a parsonage. I want to choose my own carpets!
I guess I must have known what the future held...or at least I thought I did. 23 years and several parsonages later, here in Grand Rapids, we now finally own our own home...and David is still a minister. All along, God could see what I could not. I just had to trust him. On this Thanksgiving eve, I am thankful for a God who is faithful; a God who can see ahead when I cannot; for a beautiful house; but most of all for that far more wonderful home that He is preparing for me in heaven.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Vital Church Initiative

We once had a tank of discus fish in our home.These beautiful tropical fish are highly sensitive, and hate any disturbance to their environment. But in order for those fish to remain healthy, in order to survive, they had to be subjected to regular water changes. They would cower in the corner of the tank at the sight of the suction tube. They would scurry around frantically as we moved their big rocks out of the way. Now they had nothing to hide behind, and would tremble in fear until we had finished the process. How I wished that we could communicate with them, to let them know that those changes were not just simply for their good...but that they would actually die without them. 
These are challenging days for the United Methodist Church. It is time for many churches to change. It is time to stop cowering in the corner at the sight of a projector screen. It is time to stop hiding behind our habits and traditions. It is time to allow some big rocks to be moved...because if we don't, we will die. I do not want to be part of a dying denomination. I want to be part of a growing, healthy, lively church that thrives on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Yesterday I attended a gathering of faithful, fruitful United Methodists who came together to listen to Gary Step, the West Michigan Conference Director of New Church Development and Congregational Transformation, as he made an impassioned plea for us to embrace the Vital Church Initiative...a process that will help us make the changes we need in order to survive. I pray that those congregations taking part will not cower. I pray that they will not hide. I pray that they will be ready to move those big rocks aside, so that God's transforming Holy Spirit can take hold of our denomination, and lead us forward. These are challenging days indeed...but with courageous leadership, and God's almighty power, we can surely rise to them.
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7

Friday, November 2, 2012

How Can I Grow my Sunday school?

My dad answered the call to preach when he was just 15 years old. Over 70 years later, my dad still preaches...not by speaking from the pulpit, but simply by the way he lives. A quiet, humble, and unassuming gentleman, the epitome of generosity, my dad never sought to indoctrinate anyone, but simply to witness to all those around him- by living a life of love. As a young girl, I remember being squashed in the back seat of our car every Sunday morning by several neighborhood children, none of whom would ever have attended Sunday school if my dad had not collected them. And so when I am asked that eternal question, How can I grow my Sunday school?, I think about my dad. I think about his passion for Jesus Christ. I think about how he understood that there was a gospel to proclaim, and children who needed to hear it. Time passes, many things change, my dad grows older. He can no longer drive, or fill his car full of children, but he still lives a life of love, and this truth remains...there is a gospel to proclaim, and children who need to hear it. I think about all those children whose lives he has impacted. I think about all those children who would never have heard of Jesus Christ if it had not been for my dad...and I think that I want to live a life like that. 



Monday, October 22, 2012

In Love With the World


Xander, my little grandson, is totally in love with the world. At just 18 months old, he already anticipates that the minute he opens that front door, there are going to be so many new and wonderful things for him to learn. Today he fell in love with leaves. Today he learned that it is fun to sit in a big pile of autumn leaves. He learned that they make a wonderful scrunching sound when you stamp on them; that leaves can be big or small, brown, or gold, or orange, or red. He discovered that it's fun to throw them in the air, or kick them around; that when they are dry and fall in your hood, they scratch your neck, and when they are wet, they can stick to your cheek. He learned that when the wind blows, autumn leaves go rushing and dancing down the street...so fast that even when you chase them you can't catch them. Who would have thought that there would be so much to learn about leaves?
And it made me think...when I open my Bible, do I anticipate all the new and wonderful things that God wants me to learn about Him and His purpose for my life?  And if I could see all that wonder through the eyes of a child, then maybe, just maybe, I'd get to fall in love with God all over again, like Xander is in love with the world.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dreams

My husband had a dream. In his dream, he envisioned a wooden sailing boat, built by his own hands. Together, we would venture out on the water, harness the powers of nature, and sail along in the wind. I thought it was impossible. But several years later, his wooden boat was finished and we set out for the lake so that his dream would become reality. But guess what? On that beautiful summer day, there was not one breath of wind. We sat, with the sail up, floating around and going nowhere.
Our second attempt was a spectacular failure.... at the first gust of wind, the mast snapped, the sail crashed into the water, and we had to beat a hasty retreat back to shore. But my husband refused to be deterred. He went back to his barn, repaired the mast and we valiantly set out for the third time. Could we succeed now? Unbelievably, the mast snapped again.
By now it was Fall. The warm weather was failing and summer was drawing to an end. I thought that we should give up on the dream, and try again next year. But my husband thought differently. Driven by that dream, and that longing to succeed, we ventured out, and .......sailed. Two weeks ago, on a crisp Autumnal evening, with no other boats in sight, my husband's dream finally became reality. I had to admire his perseverance.
Has God given you an impossible dream for your life or your ministry? Hold on to that dream. Don't let it go. Don't give up. Refuse to be deterred, despite what others may think. Your dream can still become reality. But only if you persevere.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hope for Haiti

If you had been with us in worship yesterday as we celebrated World Communion Sunday, you would have seen many kinds of breads arranged on our altar table, each one representing the different children of the world. Underneath the breads hung some beautiful pictures, gifts from the children of Haiti for our Sunday school children as part of the Peace Pals project. The pictures were made from paper that had been torn into squares, but this simple craft was something that the Haitian children found hard to do. in Mizak, the mountainous region of Haiti where these children live, there is no paper to spare. There is no electricity, no plumbing, and no water filtration. But there is hope, brought to these people by an initiative called HAPI. Haitian Artisans for Peace International was founded in 2007 and began as a community of fair trade artisans using their creativity to make a variety of products for the international gift market. A Haitian business with US encouragement, HAPI is empowering women and bringing hope to their families for a brighter future. What a wonderful initiative for the United Methodist Church to be part of, and what a wonderful opportunity we have to introduce our children to a world so very different from their own.
Listen to Mark Doyal as he tells the story of the recent mission team to Haiti

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Walking the Prayer Labyrinth

When I saw on our Lake Louise retreat schedule that we were to walk the Prayer Labyrinth, I wasn't too impressed. I had seen this sort of thing before...I was happy to try it, but I felt sure that I would just be walking around in circles. If given the choice, I would much rather connect with God out in the woods, or by the lake. But I was totally unprepared for my experience in the Prayer Labyrinth, and absolutely entranced by the mystery of it. From the moment I stepped onto that path, I knew that I was meeting God. With every step I took, and every turn I made, I felt the undeniable presence of the Holy Spirit, convicting me and challenging me as I journeyed, not just along this painted path, but on the road that we call life. I could hear the sound of the log fire in the grate, the soft music as it played, the shuffling of others as they meandered along this same winding road. I could see candles as they flickered, the feet of others as they passed me by, the hands of those raised in prayer. I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, the emotions of my friends as they made their own way on this journey, the energy in the room as God Almighty stooped down to meet us. And all along, all I wanted to do was reach the center of the Labyrinth. I truly yearned to be in that place of peace and calm, where others where. But it took me a long, long time to get there. Many times I thought I had reached it, only to discover that the path took me away from the center, out towards the edge again. And when I finally stood in the middle of that Labyrinth, I did not want to leave. For the longest time, I was unable to tear myself away. But as in life, I knew that I must journey back. I set out to return to the real world, but I knew that I was not returning alone.
How often do you get to meet with God in such a powerful way? Find a Prayer Labyrinth. Walk a Prayer Labyrinth. Prepare to meet God in that sacred place. It will impact your ministy, your life, your heart, and your soul. I know that I can still meet God in the woods, but the Prayer Labyrinth at Lake Louise was an experience that I will never forget.
This is what the Lord says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." Jeremiah 6:16

Friday, September 21, 2012

No Choice

Click on the photo to see
the dog on the paddle board
A few weeks ago I was sitting enjoying a picnic on a beautiful beach when I witnessed an unusual sight. A man was coaxing his dog onto a paddle board. It was not an easy task. The dog was very reluctant to climb aboard, but after much pushing, coaxing, and lifting, the man managed to force the dog on to the back of the board, and launched out into the lake. I watched as the guy paddled the board further and further away from the shore and out into deep waters. The dog never moved. The two were out on the water for a long time. I lost sight of them, and it was a while before I saw them returning to the beach. The dog was in exactly the same position, and only moved when the paddle board grounded on the sand. Then he hurriedly jumped off and scampered away. He had been safe all along, and had participated in what had to have been an amazing adventure. Being on that paddle board had allowed that dog to go much further out into the lake than he would ever have done by himself. But then again, he had no choice in the matter.
We who serve in Children's Ministry have a choice. God never forces us to step out of our comfort zone...but if we don't, we might miss an amazing adventure that we would never experience by ourselves. So what will you choose...God's big paddle board adventure, or the safety of the beach?   

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Communion For Babies?

It was 1989. My youngest son was just a little baby, but he kicked his legs in excitement as we knelt at the altar rail and the pastor approached him with a large piece of communion bread. My baby devoured it greedily and I held him tight, waiting for the little individual glass of grape juice that I knew was to follow. I felt a little anxious. Our church had just finished a lengthy debate about whether or not children should participate in communion. Their questions and arguments stlll rang in my ears. Can a little child really understand the deep significance of bread and wine? Don't children need to attend classes, so that they can be taught to approach this holy sacrament with the reverence and respect it deserves? Is this really appropriate? We never had communion when we were children. 
As a young mother, I, of course, strongly disagreed, and was thrilled when the resulting vote went in my favor. I knew without a doubt that as my baby reached out his chubby little hand to receive that glass cup, God would be smiling just as much as I was. But disaster was about to strike. I watched as my baby folded his fat fingers around the little cup, gulped down the grape juice, licked all around the rim just to make sure there were no droplets left, and promptly threw the glass on to the tiles below, where it smashed into a million tiny pieces. I was mortified, and I swear I could hear 'tut-tuts' behind me. But the pastor carried on as if nothing had happened. Months later, the congregation would laugh about that incident, as the Methodist church in England learned to embrace children at the communion table.
How glad I am to be part of a denomination that practices an openly inclusive table, where all are welcome! After all, who among us truly understands the deep significance of bread and wine?
This Sunday, our church family will celebrate communion together..the common meal. And as our babies and children reach out their chubby little hands to participate in this holy sacrament, I just know that I won't be the only one who is smiling.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Family Ministry In Our Church

A Family Ministry Blog Tour has been taking place over the past two months. Over 60 different leaders, all involved in Children's and Family Ministry from many different denominations have been answering the question, 
What Is Family Ministry? 
It's a complex question, with no 'right' answer, because all churches are different, all families are different, and all ministry is different. So what does Family Ministry look like in my church? I could probably write a really complex answer, but to put it simply, our Family Ministry looks like love. We simply try to love every family that comes through our doors, or every family that we meet on the street, no matter what that family looks like
For me, Family Ministry is praying for, and with families. Family Ministry is asking families what they need from us. Family Ministry is intergenerational fellowship and fun. Family Ministry is about providing resources and opportunities that will enable families to grow in their knowledge of Christ and advance in their walk with Him. Most of all, Family Ministry is about creating a safe and welcoming environment, where no one is judged, but rather all are loved, because everyone that we meet belongs to God's great big family. 
Family Ministry then, is about serving, befriending, and loving others, no matter what their family looks like. Mom and Dad; Just Mom; Just Dad; Dad and Dad; Mom and Mom- it does not matter. Family Ministry is all about unity- uniting all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ, with Jesus as our Head. That's what matters.
I pray for those who will believe in me...that all of them may be one. John 17: 20

Monday, August 27, 2012

Is it Worth it?

So my friends are arriving from England later today. They have probably never seen a hummingbird before...the weather in the British Isles is just not warm enough for these tiny birds to survive. So I have some assessing to do...in order to put my hummingbird feeder up, I firstly have to find it, amongst all the junk in my garage. Then I have to clean it. Then I will have to search on Google to find out how to make the nectar. Next I will have to make the nectar and let it cool in the refrigerator. When that is done and I am finally ready to fill the feeder, I will have to drag the ladder out of the garage and climb it in order to hang the feeder in my front window, because I cannot reach the hook. And so I ask myself...is it worth it? Such a lot of effort for such a little bird. But my friends from England have probably never seen one, and they are good friends. So I somewhat reluctantly begin to look for my feeder.
About one hour later, I am sitting in my front room with my eyes on that swinging feeder and I am waiting....waiting because I tell myself that if I catch sight of just one of those little hummingbirds, then it will all have been worth it. And I so want to tell you that this is what happened. I want to write that all my efforts were rewarded as I witnessed one of those fascinating little fellows feeding from the nectar I so lovingly made. But I can't write that, because that never happened. After all that effort, I never did see a hummingbird coming to my feeder. But suppose one came when I wasn't looking...would it have been worth it then?
In our children's ministry, we are busy preparing for a new season. We pray, we plan, we organize, we recruit, we lead, we encourage, we teach....and despite our best efforts, we may never see that one little child who comes to Christ. Such a lot of effort for such a little child. And so I ask myself...is it worth it? And the answer is... yes.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Hollow Shoulder

Click on the photo to see
baby Stefan fast asleep.
My dad is 88 years old. Baby Stefan, his newest great grandson, is barely 4 months old. At a recent family gathering, Stefan started to cry. His mom was about to pacify him, when my dad said, 'let me have him.' We all watched as Emma handed her baby to him and my dad gently put him on his shoulder and began to pat his back. Within two minutes, that baby was fast asleep. He felt safe and secure and loved. Baby Stefan was lying in my dad's 'hollow shoulder'...a little refuge from the world, formed over the years from numerous babies that have nestled there, from his own eight children, to his twenty six grandchildren, to his eight great grandchildren. 
We all need a refuge from the world. We all need a safe, secure place, where we feel loved and cherished. God has a hollow shoulder too...a safe place formed over the years by generations of children who have rested there. And there is room for us there too. 
The one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders. Deuteronomy 33:12

Monday, August 13, 2012

Castle Walls...

Click on the photo to see
the name inscribed in 1870
This time last week I spent a wonderful day wandering around the ruins of an ancient English castle. Occupying a commanding position at the head of Portsmouth Harbor, Portchester Castle was originally built in the early 3rd century and now stands as an impressive example of British medieval architecture. As I stood in these ancient ruins and made my way up and down the narrow, winding staircase, I couldn't help but marvel at all the history contained within these walls. In the 1800's the keep was used as a prison where over 3000 men were contained. In an effort to relieve their boredom, the prisoners carved their names in the stone walls, many of which are still legible today. But as I stood reading their names, I knew that the reason for this graffiti had to be far more than an activity to pass the time. In the midst of their captivity, these prisoners must have carved out their names because they wanted someone to remember them. They wanted someone to know that they had been there. They wanted to ensure that their names would not be forgotten.
Isaiah reminds us that God knows our names. In fact, they have already been inscribed...not on stone walls, but on the palm of God's hand. As Christians, we can remind our children that God remembers our names. He knows just where we have been. And we will never, ever be forgotten.
I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Isaiah 49:16

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympic Fever

As a British citizen living in the United States, I was anxious to join with millions of viewers from around the globe to watch the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. 
Wow! As I watched over 200 nations parade their flags proudly around the Olympic Stadium, and listened to the cheers of the crowd, I couldn't help but think that I was witnessing all that is good in the world. So often, we get caught up in our differences, but in that Olympic arena, the tremendous diversity of our world was celebrated, and barriers of class were transcended as dignitaries like the Queen witnessed the arrival of the Olympic flame alongside the 500 ordinary construction workers who built the stadium. It was a perfect picture of unity, diversity, celebration, and equality in God's world. It made me proud to be British.  
Unity was important to Jesus...so important that it was the subject of His final prayer in John 17. Jesus' earnest plea to His father was that all of us may be one.
As Christians, we are called to transcend barriers of race and class, to celebrate diversity alongside our brothers and sisters, so that all of us may be one.
As I watch the Olympic games this week, I will be reminded of the awesome privilege I have to be called to celebrate diversity, to work to bring unity, to be a voice that pleads for equality for all our children, and to build God's kingdom in His amazing world. I'm not just proud to be British...I'm proud to be a Christian. 
Read Jesus' Prayer For Unity

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Good Reason to be Depressed?

If you are involved in ministry within the United Methodist Church, you may have good reason to be depressed. It seems that everywhere we turn, there is someone waiting to remind us about the dwindling numbers in our denomination. It is true. Statistics show that membership in our churches is declining, and there are various initiatives being explored to help us reverse that trend.
But I don't think Jesus read statistics. Jesus read hearts and minds. Jesus may have attracted the crowds, and filled the fields to capacity, but His focus was always on the individual. Friends...there is power in focusing on the individual. Ask Nicodemus, who came to Jesus at night, and undoubtedly returned to witness to the Sanhedrin. Ask the woman at the well, who was so moved after her encounter with Jesus that she told her entire village about Him. Ask Zacchaeus, whose transformed life after having spent time with Jesus was a far more powerful witness in his community than any words could ever have been.
So if you are ministering in a small church; if you are the teacher to that one lone child; if you serve in your church nursery with that one single baby on your lap...take heart! We who are called United Methodists still seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ, for the transformation of the world...and this usually begins with the transformation of one.
Yes, there is work to be done in our denomination, but far better to significantly impact the heart and mind of one, than to attract one hundred who do not hear the message. The individual was important to Jesus. And if that was good enough for Him, then it's good enough for me.
Read this interesting article from Jim Winkler, on 'Lies & Statistics'

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Five Little Words...

It was the summer of 1970. I was 11 years old. The bell clanged for the final time and two minutes later, the doors flew open. Laughing, shouting children poured out onto the playground. It was our last day in that little red brick building. In September, we would all be attending High school. My friends and I cheered, and hugged. We cried, and said our goodbyes. But before I ran to catch the bus, a teacher was standing, waiting for me.
Glenys, she said, Don't ever stop writing. 
I do not remember how I replied. I do not remember that teacher's name. I do not really remember what she looked like. But I do remember her words....just five little words, planted like seeds in my heart, that over the years, God would cause to grow.
There are no qualifications needed to be an encourager. We do not need to attend classes. We do not need to study. We do not need to learn how to do it. We just need to speak.
You and I have the enormous privilege, and the enormous power to encourage the children in our lives, to sow seeds in their hearts, which God will cause to grow. And all it takes is our words.
Encourage one another, and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Galilean Sunrise

One early morning In the spring of 2013, I may just be standing on the shores of Lake Galilee with my husband, watching the sun as it rises over Israel. I am so looking forward to being able to stand in this holy place, and as I do, I know that I'm going to be remembering some wonderful scenes and stories from the Bible... Jesus calling His first followers from their nets; Jesus calming those stormy waters with just two small words; Jesus, the risen Christ, preparing breakfast on the beach for His disciples. 
Lake Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in Israel, and even though more than 2000 years have passed since James and John mended their nets on its shore, this lake is still a favorite fishing spot, full of life, sustained and fed by the Jordon River that flows through it from north to south. In complete contrast, the Dead Sea is a body of water in which no life can survive. Only bacteria can thrive in this salty place. The Dead Sea takes freshwater in from the Jordan River, but nothing flows out. 
You and I are meant to be vessels, through which God's Holy Spirit can flow. As we minister to children and families, we are to take Jesus in, and give Jesus out. 
Open yourself fully to the energy and flow of the Holy Spirit... let Him sustain and feed you, let Him fill you with life and love, so that you can feed others as you fulfill your call.
Dead Sea, or Sea of Galilee; dormant or dynamic; lifeless or lively...I know which one I want to be.
I have come that you might have life...and have it to the full. John 10:10

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Who's In Control?

A large pit bull terrier came bounding around the corner, straining at the end of its leash. I lifted my eyes to look at the owner and could not believe what I saw. This young lady, struggling to keep hold of the leash, was literally covered in mud, from head to toe. Shocked, I just could not help but stare. She saw me looking and explained breathlessly, 'He dragged me into the mud.' It was obvious who was in control here. 
I sometimes find myself being dragged into places that I don't want to go...not by a pit bull, but by pride, or discouragement, or fear, or negativity. And if I'm not careful, they can drag me into a place where I am questioning my calling, my effectiveness, and my ministry to children. But I cannot let them be in control. God is the One who called me. He is my encourager, my sustainer, my equipper, and my cheerleader. And far from dragging me anywhere, His preference is to gently lead. In fact, the only thing he makes me do is lie down in green pastures. Why would I not want control like that?
God is the One who called you too...let Him encourage, sustain, equip, and gently lead you as you answer His call. Like me, I'm sure you would choose green pastures over mud any day of the week.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters...
he guides me in paths of righteousness. Psalm 23: 2-3

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is VBS Outdated?

If you are involved in children's ministry, you may have heard debates about the value of Vacation Bible School, or conversations questioning its relevance for today. Can a model that has been around for so long really be effective? Having just completed a week of VBS at our church, here is just a snapshot of what I saw, heard and felt... 
During the course of this week, I have seen leaders leading with passion and grace; teenagers volunteering their time with love and energy; new families welcomed with smiles and warmth; children with eyes and hearts wide open to God's love; and little brown hands holding white ones. 
I have heard the sounds of laughter and giggling; of singing and praying; of whispering and shouting; of 'oohs' and 'aahs' as children discovered something new about God's wonderful world, and His even more wonderful love for them. 
Most of all, I have felt the undeniable presence of the Holy Spirit, moving amongst us as we sang; as the pastor passionately told the story of Jesus, and little children spontaneously ran out to the front to answer his call... 'who will follow Jesus?' I felt moved and convicted as their voices, in unison, replied, 'I will, I will.' And it makes me raise my voice with theirs, and affirm again His call on my life, that 'I will, I will.' I will go wherever He leads me, into the world, to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the children who need to hear it.
Is VBS outdated? Not for me; not for those children; not for those teenagers and adults who attended with me this week. It is a powerful, effective ministry and I thank God that I could be part of it.
Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Mark 16:15 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Florida Rain

I sat by the hotel pool, enjoying the beauty and heat of a Florida day. I swam, sunbathed, read my Bible, and relaxed. Perfect! But after a while, storm clouds began to roll in. In less that twenty minutes, the blue sky had turned gray. The breeze had become a strong wind, and huge raindrops began to fall. The pool was closed. I quickly gathered up my things, and retreated to the safety of my room, where I could watch this tropical storm from my window. It was only when I got there that I realized I did not have my Bible with me. My Bible was still sitting on a sun-lounger by the pool...in the middle of a torrential downpour. There was no hope of retrieving it until after the storm had passed. I knew it would be ruined.
After 30 minutes, when the rain had eased, I ran back to the pool, splashed through several inches of warm water, climbed over the low wall, and could not believe what I saw. Out of all the sun-loungers surrounding the pool, there was just one where the back rest had fallen forward. Underneath it was my Bible. It was hardly wet at all.
Some would call it good luck. Some would call it fortuitous. Some would call it coincidence. I would call it miraculous. I would call it a perfect picture of protection, a perfect picture that we can share with our children...of a God who covers us during the storm. 
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.
Psalm 91:4

Monday, June 11, 2012

Title or Testimony?

Last week I was privileged to hear Dr Tony Campolo, who was a guest speaker at our United Methodist Annual Conference. His entire talk was inspirational, but it was his final thought that challenged and intrigued me. 

He asked the question: what do you want to be remembered for...your title or your testimony?

He drew our attention to several Bible characters who carried a title, and contrasted them others, who carried a testimony.

Pharaoh, the cruel ruler of Egypt, who enslaved the Israelites, had the title... but Moses, who led them from captivity, had the testimony.

King Darius, who threw Daniel into the pit of lions, had the title...but Daniel, who was delivered from the ordeal, had the testimony.

Queen Jezebel, who used her position to persecute the prophets of God, had the title..but Elijah, who defeated the prophets of Baal, had the testimony.

What is your title?
Is it Christian Education Director?
Is it Pastor of Children and Families?
Is it Sunday School Superintendent?

My title is West Michigan Conference Coordinator of Children's Ministry. It's a long title, and one that is a privilege to carry, but it means nothing if I don't leave a testimony.

What do you want to be remembered for...your title, or your testimony?

Read Tony's blog: Red Letter Christians

Monday, June 4, 2012

Synchronized Steps

Click on the photo to see
Xander walking with his dad.
At 15 months old, my grandson is enjoying taking walks outside next to his dad. This cute photograph shows them out for an evening stroll. I can just imagine the little conversation they are having as they walk side by side, and that little boy's steps are perfectly synchronized with his father. But I know that their walks together are not always this way. Sometimes, when other families pass them by, Xander will turn around and start following them, walking in the opposite direction. Then his dad has to patiently turn him around, to get him back on the right track again. When Xander gets tired, I know that his dad picks him up and carries him along the way.
It's just the same when we walk with God too. He wants us to stay close by His side, our steps perfectly synchronized with His. When we get distracted, or tired, He will patiently turn us around, set us back on the right track, or even carry us along the way. 
Don't neglect to take a stroll with God today. He is waiting to have that little conversation by your side.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Family Camp

This past weekend I spent a relaxing two days camping with my church family in Reeds City, Michigan. On Saturday morning, we were organized into work crews and assigned different tasks to help clean up the camp. I was part of the crew that chose to work on clearing the River Hersey, so that it would be ready for those who would go paddling on it later in the afternoon. Our crew took several kayaks and canoes, and paddled downstream, picking up trash, and clearing debris along the way. As we came around a bend we saw a huge tree that had fallen across the width of the river. This was too large of an obstacle to move without a chainsaw, but several of the team managed to clear the branches from one end, so that the kayakers after us would be able to navigate around it. By the end of the morning, our canoe was full of trash, but the river was clean, and ready for those who would follow us.
As we journey along the river of life, Jesus has already gone ahead of us-  
to clear the way, to pick up our trash, and to help us navigate around those obstacles that fall across our path. What a wonderful lesson to teach our children. Life is never obstacle free. But He prepares the way. We just need to be prepared to follow.
I will go ahead of you. Matthew 26:32

Monday, May 21, 2012

Write The Vision

Yesterday I attended a farewell service for 
Rev. Laurie Haller, who has served as our District Superintendent for the last six years. Laurie's message to us yesterday was much like her ministry -one of encouragement, challenge, and inspiration. She preached from Habakkuk 2, where God instructs the prophet to 'write the vision' that God would show him. One of the first comments Laurie made was:  'you cannot be what you cannot see.' What a challenging thought!
Do you have a vision for your children's ministry? Have you prayed that God would show you what His plans are for its future? Have you written it down, so that it is plain to see? Do your co-workers know the vision, so that you are each working toward that common goal? Laurie shared four important points about vision: write it; wait for it; work toward it, and stay on course. Friends...work on your vision, because if we can see it, we can be it!
Write down clearly on tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance.Put it in writing, because it is not yet time for it to come true. But the time is coming quickly, and what I show you will come true. It may seem slow in coming, but wait for it; it will certainly take place, and it will not be delayed. 
Habakkuk 2: 2-3
Read Laurie's message on her blog.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Stand

It was 4.30 pm. In our little classroom Kevin was sleepy, and rightly so. This little guy had been up early that morning. He had already completed a full day of school; had dutifully listened to his teacher; participated in activities, and worked hard to complete all his daily tasks. He was ready to go home and take a nap. But instead, he had to sit still again, listen again, focus again, and pay attention to the teacher again. It was all too much. He closed his eyes, and in the midst of 20 other loud and lively children, he fell asleep. And then the cry went up. "Miss Glenys, Miss Glenys, Kevin's asleep again!" 
I gently nudged his shoulder, and Kevin jumped. Was he in trouble? Would he lose his sticker? His tired eyes looked up at me. "Stand up Kevin." I said. He got to his feet, came over to me, and for the rest of the lesson Kevin stood by my side, leaning against my shoulder. As long as he was standing, he could not sleep.
Friends, when ministry becomes all too much for us; when we are tired; when we feel like we have given all we can give, it's then that we need to stand. But we never stand alone. We can rest our head on our Teacher. We can lean on Him. We will not be in trouble. We will not lose our hope. We just need to stand and lean on Him. Because as long as we are standing, we cannot sleep.
Dear friends, stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.
1 Corinthians 15:58 The Message

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Treasure Box

When I was about ten years old, I owned a small wooden treasure box. The trouble was, I had no treasure to put in it. So one day I decided to fix that. I made up my mind that instead of eating any candy or chocolate I had, I would put it in the box and save it.

It took me several months to fill my treasure box. Sometimes I worried about what would happen if the candy rotted away. Sometimes I worried in case my brother found it and tried to steal it. But one of my greatest joys was to occasionally allow myself to peek inside that box, just to get a glimpse of the treasure I was storing away. 

Finally, the day came when I could stand it no longer. Self restraint was thrown to the wind. I lifted my treasure box down from its hiding place, opened the lid and devoured all. Candy had never tasted so good! 

One day, I will open another treasure box.
But this one will not contain candy. 

This box will contain all the spiritual treasure that I have been storing whilst here on Earth. I hope that my treasure box will be overflowing with all the love, and joy, and hope, and encouragement that I have tried to instill into the lives of the children in my world. 

You and I are engaged in storing up eternal treasure; treasure that can never rot or spoil; treasure that no one can ever steal; treasure that will never fade away. If you were able to peek inside that box, to see just a glimpse of what you are storing in heaven, wouldn't that bring you joy?
Be encouraged today...the work you are doing for our children is stored in heaven. And your box is probably overflowing.

Don't hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it's safe from moth and rust and burglars. It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. 
Matthew 6:19 The Message

Monday, April 30, 2012

If Jesus Were a Blogger...


Chances are that if you’re reading this article, you’re either a blogger yourself, or you enjoy reading blogs. In the USA alone, there are more than 20 million bloggers, blogging away in the big old blogosphere... all with different voices, all with different opinions, but all with one thing in common...they each want to be heard. 
 
Every blogger blogs in the hope that someone out there will be listening. Every blogger writes in the hope that someone out there will be reading, and every blogger hopes that one day, someone out there will leave a comment.

The power of that one little comment is amazing. I know this to be true. I know this to be true because I am one of those bloggers whose heart skips a beat when soon after posting my latest entry, my eyes alight upon those two magic words, 1 comment.

 I rub my hands together in glee and allow myself a moment to ponder who it might be that has taken the time to read my words and leave a comment. And then, when I can stand it no longer, I click on those magic words to discover who this wonderful person is and what they have to say. 

But the truth is that it does not really matter who the person is, or what their comment might be. The excitement lies in the knowledge that I, as a blogger, have been noticed. I have been heard, and I have been responded to. And in that regard, maybe Jesus is a bit like a blogger too. Jesus yearns to be noticed. Jesus yearns to be heard. And Jesus yearns to be responded to. 
 
But that is where the similarity ends. Jesus is not a blogger.

Jesus is the Son of God, who calls us away from our laptops, who wrestles us away from our words, who pushes us out of our office chairs and propels us into a broken world...not to comment, but to act. 

If Jesus were a blogger, I’d definitely be one of his followers, but it’s not my comments that would make his heart skip a beat- it’s my actions.
 
Christians-  type your words, post your blogs, leave your comments, but remember, it’s only our actions in this world that really matter.

PS Comments welcome.

Question: If Jesus were a blogger, what would he blog about?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Are You in Too Deep?

If I was given the choice, I would probably choose shallow waters rather than deep.

When I'm swimming in a lake, I like to be able to put my feet down and know that I can stand up. I much prefer the warmer temperatures of shallow waters, and I love to paddle and dip my toes just at the edge of the ocean.

But I have to admit, I'm a little envious of those braver folks that go out into the deep. After all, I'll never be able to plunge, if I continually choose to paddle. I'll never have the opportunity to surf a mighty wave if I choose to stay where the teeny ripples are. And there's absolutely no way I will ever catch a salmon in four feet of water.

And I wonder..is that what I'm like in my ministry...afraid to step out and take a risk? Am I paddling around at the edge, where I've always been, afraid to make changes, or try anything different? Because if I am, then I'm missing out on the incredible opportunities that await me if only I could venture out into the deep. 

This is my prayer:
Jesus, hold my hand.
Lead me out into deeper waters.
Help me to plunge instead of paddle.
Let me choose to surf rather than be safe.
And let me be a catcher of big fish...for you. Amen.

Friends..we can paddle all day long when we get to heaven. While we're here on earth, there's no such thing as being in too deep.

Read What Jesus Said About Going Into Deeper Water

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ups and Downs

When our family first visited the United States, a kind church member gave me the option of accompanying him, my husband, and our four sons as they went fishing, or going shopping with his wife. Being a family girl, and never having gone fishing before, I chose the former....but I think it may have been the wrong choice. I had envisioned sunbathing on the deck while the boat drifted lazily on the water...but the experience was not at all what I had anticipated. Eight miles out in the turbulent waters of Lake Michigan, the boat constantly rose and fell with the swell of the waves. I never really got to sit down at all, let alone sunbathe! As my sons caught salmon, I just kept my eyes focused on the horizon... the only constant and steady part of the scenery that was not changing.
Life is full of ups and downs, highs and lows. The only constant and steady part of our ministry is Jesus Christ. Focus your eyes solely on Him. When everything around us is changing, He alone can bring calm and order to our lives. 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrew 13:8

Monday, April 9, 2012

Looking Up


Click on the photo to see
Xander looking up to Grandad
One of the delights of being grandparents has been to watch our little grandson as he learns to walk. Just over one year old, he bravely totters around, frequently falling, yet always getting back on his feet, ready to try a few more steps. Sometimes, when he gets tired, he will reach out for a supporting hand, looking up every now and then just to see who it is that is helping him out. But the day will come when this little boy will be all grown up. One day, he will not need, or want, to hold my hand. One day, Xander will be walking independently...which is, of course, exactly how it should be.
In my Christian journey though, I never want to walk independently. There will never be a day when I want to let go of God's hand as He leads me, guides me, and helps me up when I fall down. I want to be totally dependent on God, holding on tightly to His hand, and constantly looking up to see who it is that is helping me out. No matter how old I am, I will always be His child, and He will always be my Helper, lifting me back on my feet, and encouraging me to take a few more steps. That is, of course, exactly how it should be.
I will take hold of your hand. Isaiah 42:6



Monday, April 2, 2012

Good News

Good news was waiting for me in the mailbox. 
I peeked inside and saw a shiny, brightly colored envelope peeking back. The words in glittering gold danced across the envelope.....'You have been selected! Your responsibility is about to be rewarded! No annual fee for the first year!' I realized then that despite its shiny, attractive wrappings, this was nothing more than an invitation to debt. I relegated it to the recycling bin where it belonged.
This Friday, I will sit in front of a plain, wooden cross. It will have no shiny wrappings, no letters that glitter in gold, no bright colors that peek at me. Yet in this cross is the most wonderful invitation I could ever receive. And from this cross, Jesus whispers,' You have been selected. Your responsibility will one day be rewarded. And best of all there is no fee- ever... because this debt has already been paid.'
It is Holy Week. Let's elevate the name of Jesus high above everything else, where He belongs. Good news is waiting for us at the cross.
That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,  far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:20-21



Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Focused Goose

The Canada goose was totally focused on the task at hand. She took hold of the branch, held it tight in her beak, and tugged and tugged until the end snapped off. Turning around, she placed it carefully on top of the mound of sticks she had already collected. Then she turned back to the branch again. My son and I were captivated by her performance. Obviously preparing to build her nest, the goose refused to be distracted from this important task. Even though we were standing only a few feet away, she ignored us and continued with her purpose. Looking at that pathetic pile of twigs, It was hard for us to believe that this would one day be a beautiful nest from which new life would spring. Yet something deep inside that goose was calling her to prepare it anyway, and nothing could dissuade her from it.
God has placed a deep calling inside each one of us. When it is hard for us to believe that our efforts will ever amount to anything, let's remember that He is taking all that we do, no matter how small, and making it into something beautiful. You are chosen, called, and equipped to fulfill a unique role in ministry. Hold fast to that passion, that desire, to complete the purpose God has for you. Refuse to be distracted. Stay committed. Focus wholeheartedly on your calling and don't let anyone or anything dissuade you from it. Yours are the efforts from which new life will one day spring.
Read what The Message says about focusing on the goal...