Friday, September 19, 2014


Welcome here! I'm glad you are visiting these pages, where I hope you will find encouragement for your children's ministry.
I now write at my author website. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

New Beginnings

On 6th of November, 2010, I became a blogger. As I sat down to compose my first post, I did not know if anyone would read my words. I did not know where this simple blog might lead. But God, who knows all things, knew.

God knew that four years later, my dream of writing, not just to encourage teachers, but to impact the lives of children might be realized.

On September 9th 2014, my first children's book, Love Letters from God will be published by Zondervan, and I will be blogging from a new website.

If you are reading these words, thank you. Thank you for believing in me; for following me; for encouraging me, as I hope to have encouraged you. And if you are involved in children's ministry, thank you for the eternal impact you are having on the lives of our children.

It is my hope that even though I will not be writing exclusively about children's ministry, you might still read my words on the new site and subscribe to it.

And if, one day, God should plant a dream in your heart, be sure to nurture it; pursue that dream with a passion; chase it down until it is captured. And then grasp that dream tightly; hold on, and never let it go.

And most of all, use to the full the gifts you have been given...for God's glory.

Watch Love Letters Video

Dreams come true; without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them. John Updike

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sabbatical Blessing

There is something perched in our garage that my three year old grandson describes as 'amazing'. It is a wooden houseboat, almost finished, in the process of being built by my husband. Eighteen feet long and six feet wide, complete with windows, decks, sleeping area, 'bathroom' and kitchen, she sits, waiting patiently for July, when she will float down the Erie Canal and take us away from the world until September.

This little life adventure will take place as part of my husband's sabbatical...a three month rest from pastoral duties, from which we hope to return physically refreshed and spiritually renewed.

And so last Sunday morning, at the close of the service, my husband and I were called forward in order to receive a blessing from the congregation as we begin our sabbatical journey. I knew that this had been planned. I thought it was a beautiful idea. But what I didn't know is that the hands that were laid upon us would belong, not to adults, but to children.

They came hesitantly, a little shy, unsure about placing their hands on us as we knelt. But as we encouraged them, they surrounded us with grins, and chubby fingers, and an air of innocence and spirituality that I have seldom felt before. To my left, a little boy lightly placed his hand on my shoulder, smiled shyly, and whispered our names as the pastor started to pray.

And as I knelt at that altar, listening to the pastor's words, surrounded by these little ones, I thought about Jesus, and how he wanted to be surrounded by little ones too. And I thought about his words, and wondered if, when Jesus said let the little children come to me, was it really so that he could bless them, or was it so that they could bless him?

David and Glenys,

May God, who is present in sunrise and nightfall,
and in the crossing of the sea,
guide your feet as you go.

May God, who is with you when you sit
and when you stand,
encompass you with love
and lead you by the hand.

May God, who knows your path
and the places where you rest,
be with you in your waiting,
be your good news for sharing,
and lead you in the way that is everlasting,
with fair winds and following seas.


Monday, May 12, 2014

The Power of One

It is Sunday morning, 9.30 am. I walk into my classroom, armed with my lesson, which I have spent quite a lot of time preparing. And I am met by one solitary child sitting on the couch. I can't help it. I am disappointed. Not by her, but by the empty chairs that surround us.
Has this been your experience too?

And yet as I take my place beside this faithful young girl, and her mom who teaches alongside me, I remember that some of Jesus' most powerful lessons were taught, not to the crowd, but to the individual.

I remember Nicodemus, who after his night time encounter with Jesus, would undoubtedly use his position to quietly, yet powerfully, witness to the Sanhedrin.
I remember the woman at the well, who after her conversation with Jesus is so excited that she has the attention of the entire town.
I remember Zacchaeus, who after his meal with Jesus, would astonish so many with his utterly transformed life.
Jesus knew the power of one.

And so next time I walk into my classroom and I am met by one solitary child, I will not be disappointed. Instead, I will thank God for the opportunity to teach...because today, I might just be teaching a Nicodemus, or a woman at the well, or a Zacchaeus.

And I will remember the power of one.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What's the Purpose?

So this is what I see outside my window this morning. My front deck is all newly painted. My purple pansies sit proudly in their pot. My perennials are making their appearance. The sun is shining and the birds are feeding.

But all this spring beauty is out shadowed by a million, annoying, little shriveled buds that are strewn absolutely everywhere I look. They insist on appearing every day, blown incessantly from the maple tree above and covering both front and back decks. There is no end to them.They are the sole reason why my broom perches permanently beside my front door.

But no matter how often I venture out to sweep these annoying buds away, they still manage to find their way into my home, where they are trodden underfoot, squashed into the rug, and scattered on the hardwood floors.

And yet without those annoying buds, I know that my maple tree would never blossom. If I found some way to remove this temporary annoyance I would never get to see those fantastic leaves that will turn a brilliant orange and red in the fall. And so I reluctantly have to admit that what is a problem now, does actually have a purpose.

And I know there's a life lesson in there somewhere, for me and my children. I just hope that I will remember it.

Friday, May 2, 2014

What is Your Explanation for the Resurrection?

Holy Land Visit, 2013
If Jesus' enemies had stolen his body, all they had to do to disprove the resurrection was to produce it.

If Jesus' friends had stolen his body, they would have been hunted down, arrested, and charged for the crime.

I am sitting in my last lecture at Bible Study Fellowship as my leader says these words. They make so much sense to me that I struggle to understand how anyone could disagree with them. No intelligent person with any knowledge of historical data could argue with the fact that Jesus Christ was a real, breathing, human being, who lived and walked the streets of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

And once we acknowledge that fact, how do we explain his resurrection? If this was a story made up by his disciples, why would they risk their lives to spread such an incredible, unbelievable, unimaginable lie? Why would Paul suffer beatings, and shipwreck, and imprisonment? Why would Peter ask to be crucified upside down? Why would Stephen choose to be stoned to death?

If I am one of the millions of Christians duped by an enormous lie, then so be it. But I am convinced, along with Paul, that the only plausible explanation of what happened on that Sunday morning so long ago was the impossible truth that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. No cave could contain him.

And if I believe this astonishing fact, then I must also believe that God has the power to do immeasurably more than all I could ask or imagine.

Imagination is a wonderful thing. What do you imagine for your children? When you close your eyes, what do you dream for them and their future? 

Be encouraged. God can do more.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Temporary Landscape

Walking on Frozen Lake Michigan
On Wednesday morning I looked down through the window as the plane from Heathrow to Chicago brought me home. Thousands of feet below, light sparkled on Lake Michigan's blue waters, making it hard to believe that just one month ago, I was walking, along with hundreds of others, on her frozen surface, witnessing a landscape that was utterly amazing.

People had told me about the frozen waves. I could already see them in my mind- there would be hundreds of little frozen ripples on a flat sheet of ice and snow. But nothing could have been further from the truth. In fact, it felt more like traversing a mountain than a lake.

I stood, several hundred feet from the shore, beyond the end of the pier, where fish would normally be swimming in the deep, and surveyed this unbelievable landscape.

Huge rectangular blocks of ice had pushed their way up from the frozen depths, making mini-mountains on which people climbed and children slid. The lighthouse stood captive- totally engulfed in frozen fingers, like an alien from a horror movie.

For as far as the eye could see, the lake had become a mass of ice caves, boulders, deep caverns, pits, and ice platforms. People clambered to the highest points to capture the scene on camera. Because now, of course, it is all gone. Every peak and cave, every pit and platform-  forced to give way to warmth, and blue, and calm.

We walked a temporary landscape... just as we do every day of our lives.

But as we walk, wherever we look, Easter whispers hope. 

No matter how deep the snow, winter gives way to spring. No matter how cold the ground, earth gives way to flowers. No matter how bare the branches, frost gives way to buds.

And no matter how certain the grave, death gives way to life.

What a wonderful message for our children!

He is risen! Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Time To Let Go

'Time to Let Go', a sculpture in Traverse City, MI
One spring evening about twenty years ago I was running around a tree in our back garden. I was tired. My back was sore. With one hand I simultaneously pushed and held upright my youngest son's bike. He was riding it. Without stabilizers. For the first time.

I thought he would never get it. The bike wobbled precariously as he careered around the lawn, trying to keep his balance. The thought of giving up and trying again tomorrow was more than appealing, at least to me. But he clung to the handle bars, determined, his little legs whizzing around on the pedals. It was time. I let go.

And joy of joys...he was riding alone! We laughed as he continued to wobble, but despite several falls, my son no longer needed my hand. And the stabilizers were forever discarded.

Twenty years later, I am still letting go. In all sorts of ways, and of all sorts of things.

But I don't let go of joy. I don't let go of hope. I don't let go of the One who helps me keep my balance as I career through life, whizzing around worries, and pitfalls, and Lent.

How could I discard the best and strongest stabilizer I know, the One who is holding me, and all the children in my life, as we wobble home? I couldn't.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Difference Between Me and Jesus

I recently discovered a marvelous little app that allows me to manage and track my followers on Twitter. 'Unfollowers' sends a message via my inbox every day to alert me when anyone decides to stop following me.

I check their name to see who they are. I briefly peruse their profile. It hurts, just a little. I wonder, just for a moment, why they would choose to unfollow me. But then, to make me feel better, I do what I'm sure most Tweeters do...I simply hit the red 'unfollow' button next to their name, and do what they did to me. Why worry? Why follow someone who doesn't follow back? Far better, methinks, to focus on the 603 faithful followers I do have, than on the one I lost today.

And then there's Jesus...who needs no app to alert him to new unfollowers; who instantly knows their name; who knows exactly why someone would walk away from his truth; who hurts, not a little, but a whole lot when this happens; and who would never, ever choose to 'unfollow' them; but rather- insanely, unbelievably, unselfishly, crazily, sets out over any and all terrain to bring that one lost follower back to him.

Like that persistent shepherd who falls and stumbles as he searches against all odds for that one lost sheep, Jesus steps out over the treacherous terrain of atheism, skepticism, unbelief, and downright ridicule with the sole aim of lifting his child high on his shoulders, and carrying her all the way home, rejoicing.

Now that's what I call a Savior.

And that's the difference between Jesus and me.

And that is why I teach.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Gift

Last Sunday morning I had the privilege of standing side by side with my husband to offer bread and wine to our church family. I watched as they made their way toward the altar. A solemn, slow, reverent procession. Some looked at me and smiled, but most bowed their heads, respecting the mystery of the moment.

And then the children came. There was no stopping them. They almost ran down the aisle, eager to receive. I laughed as one little girl grabbed her bread and plunged it deep into the cup of juice, her chubby little fingers disappearing under purple. The cup overflowed. But she held on tight to the bread. It emerged, dripping and sodden, and she devoured it like candy.

And then there were the brothers. They came trotting down the aisle, smiling, holding hands with their dad. They reached with outstretched hands as I bent down with the plate of bread. And they grinned and looked me straight in the eye. I smiled, intrigued by a glimpse of red and silver, sparkling on the younger brother's shirt. What was that? This little guy was proudly wearing two shiny bows...the kind we might use to denote a precious gift.

And I wonder how different my experience of communion would be if I were to approach it like a child-

With outstretched hands; eager to receive; expecting my cup to overflow; ready not just to be a taker, but a giver.

To offer myself, at the altar, as a gift. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Lady Who Lived in Strawberry Cottage

She lived in Strawberry Cottage. And although that name sounds like it belongs on the pages of a Beatrix Potter book, Strawberry Cottage is a real place. And this is a true story.

Strawberry Cottage is a beautiful, old home, nestled among fields in the little village of UpHolland, in Northern England. I love UpHolland. I grew up there. At the back of Strawberry Cottage, I remember walking through the woods that she and her husband had bought, so that the tiny bluebells would be preserved. She never stepped on them. Because she was Linda.

Once a month, she would invite all of us Sunday school teachers to Strawberry Cottage. We would gather in her modest living room to plan our monthly lessons. And although she was the Sunday School Superintendent, she never frowned if we had not read through the material ahead of time. She would just smile; and laugh; and pour tea. She would offer us homemade treats; and understand that we had been too busy; and pray with us; and encourage us. Because she was Linda.

And when she first met my four rambunctious sons, who were usually bouncing off the Sunday school walls, and who generally put others off teaching for life, she just loved them. Because she was Linda.

Linda taught me more about how to appreciate and retain volunteers; how to teach; how to love children; and how to live a humble, gentle, grace filled life than any book, or seminar, or training event ever could. Not through words, but simply by who she was. Because she was Linda.

It is twelve years today since Linda smiled. Outside Strawberry Cottage hangs a sign that says 'For Sale.' But her legacy lives on. And if I can leave even half the legacy that she did, I will be happy.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sunflower Dance

A sunflower at its very best,
near our chateau
This morning as I looked out at the four feet of snow piled high on my deck, I closed my eyes and dreamt about the summer of 2010, when I spent an unforgettable seven days in a gorgeous chateau in the south of France...

My family gathered, over thirty of us, to celebrate my brother's birthday. Every evening we would sit outside around a huge table, laden with crusty French bread, cheeses, and delicious food from the grill. We would talk and laugh the evening away as the sun went down over golden fields.

For as far as the eye could see, our villa was surrounded by masses and masses of yellow sunflowers. Every day, I would watch them as they swayed in the early morning light. Whenever the sun shined on them they turned their heads toward it, a splendid sea of golds and yellows- dancing at their very best.

But if, one day, the sun failed to shine, then the sunflowers failed to dance. Instead, they hung their heads, sad and despondent...utterly dependent on the sun, and quite miserable without it.

It made me think about all of us, who serve in ministry. Like that field of golden sunflowers, turning our heads upwards every morning, God shining on us, helping us dance, being the very best we can be.

May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Glimpse Into Godly Play...

I am sitting in a circle of children listening to the storyteller. She tells the story slowly, her eyes downward, focused on twelve little wooden characters as she moves them up the mountain. There is a lot of silence. The children listen. They watch, and they wonder. Wondering is a very real part of this environment, where biblical stories are retold, but not explained, and little minds are at work, making meaning out of mystery.

And as the storyteller asks the questions, the children know they do not have to answer ....because these are just things to ponder. There are no prizes to be earned for the correct response, no popcorn to be won, no gimmicks to entice involvement. Only the wondering...

I wonder how the twelve disciples feel being called to be with Jesus?

I wonder what they said when they told the news of the Kingdom of God?

I wonder how the people felt when they heard it?

And into the space and silence, a little boy ventures a one word response...


Mmm.. I wonder why they would feel happy? asks the storyteller.

Maybe because it's good news, he says, smiling.

And now it is my turn to does he know that? How does one so young know that the kingdom of God is good news?
Unless, of course, the kingdom belongs to him?

And just like the upside down teachings of Jesus-  we who plan, and prepare our lessons so diligently, we who hold our 'learning objectives' like a measuring rod in our minds.....
must remember that when we set out to teach our children, it's actually they who end up teaching us. It is they who understand kingdom concepts better than we, even if they cannot put it into words.

And as a teacher, surely this is what I must strive towards-  to nurture that spirituality already present within the child; to value the pondering, the wondering, the space created by silence, and trust that God is at work in ways that can never be measured.

This is a hard approach for me, because it requires that I change.

But I know that in the upside down kingdom, I must change and become like a little child, in order to let the child teach me.

Learn about Godly Play

Monday, February 10, 2014

Practicing the Presence of God

I kneel beside my grandson as he stands mesmerized at the window in the early morning light. I have my arm around him as we watch snowflakes gently fall. Branches are bowed heavy. Sunshine glistens on the garden's white blanket and we see jewels sparkling here and there. We are peeking into winter's treasure chest - its lid opened wide outside our window. There is no sound except our voices.

Where's God? asks Xander.

God is in the trees. I say. God is in the stillness. God is in the snow. God is in the air. God is in the sunshine.

But where is God? he puzzles.

Well God is invisible, remember?

My grandson is still. He thinks. He watches snow fall. And then he turns to me and asks,

God is in the house?

I laugh as I scoop him into my arms and affirm, Yes, God is in the house. And God is in your heart too.

And the words of Jesus and Henri Nouwen and Sue Monk Kidd echo in my mind as they share the mystery and wonder we find when practicing the presence of God.

And I think about an autumn day when I raked leaves and my neighbor came to talk. And how the only thing I could think about as I leaned on my rake was that God was in my neighbor, and God was in the leaves, and God was in our conversation, and in our worries, and in our smiles, and in our time.

And I want every day to be like this snowy day. Or the day when I raked leaves in the autumn.

How do we cultivate practicing the presence of God with our children?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Children as Worship Leaders

I did something in church this morning that I have never done before. I received communion from a fourth grader. It touched by heart. 

This is the body of Christ, broken for you,
he said shyly, as he carefully lifted the plate of bread towards me.

I watched as he served his mom and dad, his little brother, his grandma, his friends, and their parents. Occasionally he looked up to the pastor just to make sure he was doing everything right. He was.

This ten year old boy- who could just as well have been at home playing video games- had already led us in the opening prayer; given out certificates to new members; welcomed them with a hand shake; read the passage of scripture from the Bible he was presented with in third grade, and helped the pastor prepare the elements for communion.

And as he took his place at this altar, next to candles, and choirs, and bread, and wine, where sermons have been preached for years and years, and babies have been baptized, and people have knelt before Christ-  I couldn't help but wonder how experiences like this would help to shape this young man's life, and to kindle a sense of the sacred in his soul.

And I couldn't help but wonder, as he held his third grade Bible and read,
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God....
if he knew that he was talking about himself.

How does your church intentionally engage children in leading worship?


Monday, January 27, 2014

The Bear at the End of The Street...

I sometimes wonder why I live in Michigan. It is freezing cold. Several feet of snow cover the ground. And although there is nothing more lovely than sunshine sparkling on snow, our sunshine is in short supply. And winter days are long. But without the snow, I never would have seen the wonderful bear who took up residence one day at the end of our street....

Quietly, the snow bear sits in his front yard and smiles at passers by. Cars slow down, and windows open as children point their little fingers and marvel at him.

And I wonder at the ingenuity and creativity of the one or the ones who made him...
I do not know how many hands worked together to fashion and mold that bear. I do not know how long it took to smooth and reshape the snow until that bear looked just the way its creator intended. But what I do know is that every time I see it, it makes me smile. That bear brings a little bit of sunshine into my winter day.

And as silly as it seems, as I work in children's ministry, I want to be like that bear. I want to be fashioned, molded and shaped until I look just the way God intended.... so that when people see me, they will smile.

And maybe, like that bear that is so wonderfully made, I might be able to bring a little bit of sunshine into someone's winter day.

I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

Monday, January 20, 2014

What Do Your Children Take Away From Worship?

What is worship to you?
Why do you attend worship?

These were just two of the many questions that our pastor asked in church this morning as part of her challenging, thought provoking, and eloquent sermon. She had just finished explaining to our youngest children what frankincense was, as they gathered around the altar in the quietness, and smelled its sweetness, and watched as the smoke curled and climbed slowly up to the heavens.

Do we see the enormity of what we're doing here? She had asked the congregation later.

And I would guess that for most people, the answer to that would be no. After all, don't many of us come to worship because it is our weekly routine? For me, growing up as the daughter of a preacher, and then later being married to a pastor, attending worship every Sunday has been a weekly routine of mine all my life.

But while worship might sometimes be routine, it should never be mundane.
When we come to worship we choose to take our place in the ancient story that will reveal to us who we are, our pastor had said. Wow! You mean that I am part of God's ancient story? That I have a place at God's altar where incense rises like sweet perfume to God Almighty, the maker of the whole earth?

I do. You do. All of us have a place there. And so do each of our children. 

Let us never attend worship to be entertained. Let us never attend worship because it is our routine. Let's attend worship ready to meet with the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent maker of the universe, who has a purpose for each one of us and whose earnest desire is to send us out into the world to be a light to those who walk in darkness.

And this is my prayer, for the little ones we bring to worship each week...that they might have a glimpse of the enormity of what we really do when we gather together as God's family, and know, deep within their being, as I suspect our children did this morning when they watched that sweet perfume rise, that, in the words of our pastor,
worship is a moment in time, a gift of God's grace shared by God's beloved....
that they are indeed part of God's ancient story that will slowly but surely reveal to them who they are.

Is this part of what your children take away from worship each week? And if not, how can we make that happen?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

3 Lessons You Can Learn From The Megachurch

A repost from 2010...but the lessons are still current!

Have you ever wished you were serving in ministry somewhere else? Several years ago, my husband and I took our team of teachers to visit a 'megachurch'. It was amazing! As I watched hundreds of excited kids zooming down tubular slides into their 'classrooms' below, I couldn't help but covet what I saw. All I could think was, I want to be in ministry here. But God did not call me to serve in a 'megachurch'. God called me to serve in a 'minichurch.'

The next day, as I stood forlornly in our children's ministry space, looking around at the drab furnishings and out of date supplies, I realized I had a choice.

I could either forever covet what the megachurch had, or I could learn from them, and do my very best in the place to which I had been called. I chose the latter, and in doing so, learned 3 important lessons:

  • It's not about how many resources we have, but how resourceful we can be.

  • It's not about being big, but about being our best.

  • It's not about how many kids we bring to our programs, but how many kids we bring to Christ.

That experience served to rejuvenate our space, our teachers, and our passion for children's ministry. Today, even though I still love the energy of the megachurch, I no longer covet what they have. Instead, I try to look to them to see what I can learn. I love what Pastor Bobbie Houston of Hillsong Church in Australia said:

I actually think we have a responsibility to represent God with excellence, and that doesn't mean perfection. It just means that we give our heart and our soul and that we actually represent him well.
Serving with excellence is not the prerogative of the megachurch, but the priority of every church. Whether we serve in a megachurch or a minichurch does not really matter. Are we representing God with excellence? Are we giving our heart and soul to our Children's Ministry every single week?
Because if we are, then that's all that really matters.

Monday, January 6, 2014

3 Things To Remember When Ministry Gets Hard...

Don't give up now Mum! my son yelled cheerily, as he jumped over me like a mountain goat. I was sitting on a rock, out of breath, perched halfway above the world. It was 1998, and we were climbing Stickle Tarn in Northern England.

The Lake District was one of our favorite places of all time. I can still close my eyes and see the little villages, the cobbled paths, the sheep dotted on the hillsides, our four young sons running ahead of us. I can still smell the rain on the grass and hear the rush of my favorite waterfall as it tumbles over the rocks. 

I can do this I kept repeating to myself, as I picked up my backpack and dragged my weary body back on to the hillside path. This was only 1500 feet...a mere 1500 feet my son had said. I looked around at all the other families who were cheerfully climbing this monstrous mountain. They all seemed to be doing fact, they were all passing me by. It was discouraging.  I wished I were somewhere else. I looked up to see how far ahead my sons and my husband were...but they were out of sight.

I contemplated sitting down, and just admiring the view from where I was. Maybe I could just meet the rest of my family on their descent?

But I didn't give up. And as I puffed and panted my way around the last peak, I saw something that truly did take my breath away. Nestled quietly on top of that peak was a little lake, shaped like a tear drop, totally hidden from view to climbers below. Who knew it was there? It was an unbelievably beautiful sight, a true reward after all my hard work. And if I had not climbed, I never would have seen it.

And this is what I try to remember when I am feeling weary in ministry, or wishing that I served somewhere else:

  • Don't compare yourself to others, especially when they seem to pass you by.

  • It's okay to take a break, as long as you get back on track.

  • Never quit. Keep climbing- because you don't know what will be there when you reach the top.
And if you give up, you'll never get to see it.