The Fine Art of Appreciation

thank you

Recently my boss retired after 40 years of ministry in the same church. You don’t often see longevity like that any more, and I am so blessed to have worked with a man who taught me so much through his words, but even more through his life.

However, my life wasn’t the only one touched. We asked some of our children and students who attend the Christian school at our church to create artwork and write notes of appreciation.

Precious doesn’t begin to describe some of what they shared.

“So sorry that you are retiring. You were at the church for 40 years I think. What are you going to do in your free time? I’d probally go ice-skating or do gymnastics. You are the longest preacher I have known for like my whole life. We had some good times, but you’ll always be my favorite.”

“Were so sade your leaving.”

“I hope you have fun man.”

“Good luck in your future and now God is with you.”

“I’m sorry that your going to a different church. I hope you like it. Good Luk. I hope I’ll see you Sunday.”

“Good Luck. Congratulations for retirement. You were nice.”

“Thank you. Friend of God. Preacher of God.”

“Happy I love you.”

“Thanks for the encouraging words you give me. The sermons you preach at school are easy to understand, which helps me apply it to my life. I appreciate the smiles you give me. Hope your retirement is as good as can be. God Bless you, good luck.”

“We are very sad you are going into retirement. You were my favorite preacher and you always made me laugh. One of my favorite sermons was when you put on a wig and became Sampson. Thank you for making me a servant master. I really think you brought me closer to Christ Jesus in your sermons thank you very much.”

Children may not always understand everything. They may not get the grammar or the spelling right. They may not have the best penmanship, but my-oh-my what a great job they can do making someone feel loved and appreciated.

It’s a fine art, appreciation. One worthy of the short time it takes to jot down a note, draw a picture, make a call or yes, even send a text.

With Christmas beginning in October, (that’s a whole ‘nother blog post) be sure to take some time in November to allow your family to share together in the fine art of appreciation. You’ll be thankful you did.

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Using Worms for Bait (and Other Great Stories to Help Kids Dig Deeper into God’s Word)

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In some ways, the church where I serve isn’t that much different than a lot of other churches. Although we encourage children and their parents to read, study, know and live out God’s Word, it is often a challenge.

As a result we work at finding creative ways to help kids want to dig deeper in the God’s Word. One method way we use to move kids to want to read the Bible for themselves is to point them to some of the slightly unusual things that are in the pages of Scripture that they may not have seen or heard about before.

For example, our 6th graders are currently studying the New Testament. As we went digging into the pages of Acts we found worms. What preteen doesn’t want dig for worms–especially in the Bible? So we used that time to be sure to share with them Herod’s story from Acts 12:21-22 and the important truth of giving glory to God.

“Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.”

There are so many other great or at least slightly unusual stories that can peak kids’ interest in the Bible causing them to go home and read more for themselves.

Here are a few of the favorites with our kids:

Elijah Runs Raster Than a Chariot
I Kings 18:46

Elisha and the Bears
II Kings 2:23-25

The Really Big King with the Really Big Bed
Deuteronomy 3:11

The Man With 12 Fingers and 12 Toes
II Samuel 21:20

Going to the Bathroom Bible Style
Deuteronomy 23:12-14

Almost Any of the Judges
Book of Judges

Shipwrecks and Snakebites
Acts 27:13-28:6

Grabbing kids’ attention and directing them to the Word is a calling of such great importance. While it may not always be a good idea to use shock or disbelief just for the sake of it, sometimes it can be a very good thing to use to instill a desire and hunger to know more about the Bible.

C’mon, dig in, and let’s get ‘em hooked on God’s Word!

Very Blue Red Sea Cupcakes

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Like in many churches, we often map out a weekly teaching plan for our volunteers that includes a teaching point, Bible lesson, craft, activity, songs and snack. For our littlest HiSKidZ, snack is almost always something that ties into the lesson reinforcing the story or truth we want them to learn.

This month, our preschoolers are learning that they can praise God, and Sunday’s lesson was about how the Israelites praised God after they crossed the Red Sea. I love the snack that Susan, one of our veteran volunteers, shared with our classes to help them remember that God’s people praised Him after He helped Moses lead them safely across the Red Sea.

These super cute cupcakes were so easy to make with a simple cake mix, white frosting, Teddy Grahams, pretzel sticks and some Pillsbury Funfetti Aqua Blue Vanilla frosting (it comes with little fishes!)

funfetti

The cupcakes were fun, delicious and helped lil HiSKidZ learn more about God. Although it did bring up the age-old question, “Why is the Red Sea blue and not red?”

Taste and See. . . the Lord is good.

You Will Not Talk to Your Mother That Way (and Other Great Things My Husband Said to Our Kids)

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I have a really great husband. We have spent almost thirty years together and have raised two pretty great sons together.

He’s not a perfect husband. . . which is just fine. I’m not a perfect wife.

I am so thankful that Tim has always set such a good example for our sons. He’s one of the quiet dads, he may not say much most of the time, but when he does, it’s generally worth listening to.

Here are ten really great things he has said through the years that are worthy of passing along to the dads out there who are working to find their way in the parenting world.

1) You will not talk to your mother that way. She is your mother.

2) Let’s help your mom clean up.

3) Keep going. Don’t quit.

4) You keep driving from your direction. I’ll start from mine. If the car breaks down again, stay where you are until I get to you. If it keeps going, we’ll meet up and caravan home.

5) Great report card.

6) Hop in the truck, let’s go for a drive.

7) We’re going for it. If we have to turn back, we will. But if we make it, we’ll have one of the best times of our lives. (By the way, they made it, and they did, indeed, have one of the best times of their lives.)

8) I’m proud of you.

9) Good effort, son.

10) This is who we are. This is what we do.

Both of our boys have an overwhelming admiration for their father. He is strong, quiet, faithful, hard working and industrious. And he loves us. We know that, not just because he says that with his words, but because he models it to us every day in the little things he does and in the examples he has set.

Dads, I’m always telling the moms, “It’s the little things that are the big things.”

Be the dad in the little things, because those will be the biggest things in your kids’ lives.

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On and one more:
#11) Real Men Hold Their Wives Purses.

Thanks to Sam McGhee for allowing us some time for silly snapshots during our family photo session. To learn more about Sam’s work go to http://www.sammcghee.com

Things I Want HiSKidZ to Know–Elijah’s Stories

Days of Elijah

These are the days of Elijah!

At least in our church they are. HiSKidZ in our elementary programs have been learning through High Voltage Ministry’s Curriculum about God’s faithfulness to Elijah and how “life is full of ups and downs but God is faithful.”

I love Elijah’s stories because they are filled with miracles, power and the kinds of things that just make kids (and their teacher) go, “Woah, Awesome!”

Birds bringing happy meals, a widow baking lots and lots and lots of bread out of next to nothing, the resurrection of a child, the total domination of the prophets of Baal, and the Spirit inspired ability to run faster than a speeding chariot are all part of Elijah’s encounters with the One true God.

As we come to the end of our lessons, we see Elijah in a cave on the mountain of God where He receives a message from the Lord wanting to know what he’s doing there.

Elijah tells God the things He already knows concluding with something sort of like, “Um, trying not to get killed.”

Then God says to him, “Go out. Stand on the mountain in front of me. I’m going to pass by.”

And as the Lord approached, a very, very, very powerful wind tore the mountains apart, breaking up the rocks.

But the Lord wasn’t in the wind.

After that wind there was an earthquake.

But the LORD wasn’t in the earthquake.

After the earthquake a fire came.

But the LORD wasn’t in the fire.

(At this point I do have to wonder a bit what Elijah was feeling. . .fear of the Lord is my top answer on the board!)

And then after the fire, there was only a gentle whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he pulled his coat over his face, and he went and stood at the entrance to the cave, where he and the LORD talked.

Elijah once again told God about the story He already knew, and about the fears God was already taking care of, and the LORD GOD JEHOVAH told him to keep going; it was going to be okay; there were others; he was not alone. After the mighty display of God’s power, God quietly reminded Elijah that there was still work to do, and God would be there with him to do it.

It’s so important that we share Elijah’s story with our children. For one, they need to know the awesome power of our miracle-working God.

They need to know that as His children, even when times are hard, the pressure is on and we feel alone, God is with us.

But even more, they need to know that His reminder may in some great announcement, but in the gentle whisper of the God who loves us. So we need to listen to His voice and follow His call, because the One who calls us is always faithful.

You can check out more of Elijah’s story in I Kings 17-19

How to Become a “Scent-sational” Kidmin Team

Scent-sational

I put a new “Scentsy” wax cube in the warmer in my office today. I hadn’t used one for quite awhile, but the cold weather and gray skies made me want to warm up my space and my attitude. A sweet mix of peppermint and a little left over something or other was noticed by everyone who came by.

“Hmmmm. Something smells nice.”

“Oh, wow! Your office smells great.”

“What smells so good?”

The aroma in my office was sending some good vibrations throughout the church for sure, for sure.

Then a little later in the day I was Skyping with my friends Todd and Andy. We were chatting about blogging and we got on the topic of the attitudes and how we need to always be careful that we are conveying an attitude encouragement, humility and equipping rather than complaining, criticism or negativity.

As I got ready to head home for the day, I went to turn my warmer off and realized that our attitudes, and the attitudes of our teams, need to be a bit like that Scentsy.

A great attitude is like a pleasant aroma. It can literally change the atmosphere in a room–or a ministry.

We want our children’s ministry teams to draw people to them. We want people to be comforted, invigorated, motivated, and encouraged. We want to model Jesus in all we do!

How does that happen? A “scent-sational” kidmin team comes from individual “scent-sational” attitudes and efforts–from each member choosing daily to have attitudes like. . .

joy
faithfulness
encouragement
initiative
servanthood
grace
kindness
forgiveness
laughter
fun
patience

. . . regardless of our circumstances.

When we live out these types of attitudes, individually and collectively, people will take notice, they will be drawn to us and we will be a “pleasing aroma” not only to others, but to the Lord. We will not only be a “scent-sational” team member, but a “scent-sational” team.

So let’s get praying, let’s get choosing and let’s get using God’s power to permeate the space around us with the attitudes of Jesus as we serve together to be not just “scent-sational,” but sensational kidmin teams as we share Jesus with the children around us.

What If We Could Change the World?

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We can. We do. We will. We are changing the world right now.

No doubt, we’ve heard it before, but I believe we need to hear it again and we need to hear it often.

We make a difference. We influence. With each step we take and each word we say, life changes. It may not seem like it, but it does.

We leave a mark, be it ever so tiny, for good or for bad. It may last just a minute or it may last forever.

Whether it is through what we do or don’t do, we are making a difference.
So make we need to make that difference count.

As a children’s ministry leader, I know with every fiber of my being, that the world is changing exponentially for our children.

And we are part of that change.

In the things we say or the things we don’t say; teach or don’t teach.

In the time we give or don’t give.

In the priorities we choose or the things we choose not to prioritize.

What we do may seem small to some, but we are changing the world, and this knowledge allows us to press on knowing that as a part of God’s Kingdom, each small thing we do is part of something BIG, something powerful, and something eternal.

What will you change today?