Stained Glass Windows

June 8, 2013

A lllllooooooonnnnngggg time ago Keith Green had a great song called Stained Glass Windows.  That song is reflected in the people and places that inspired me this week.

The best of this week

My favorite blogger is inspiring and encouraging everyday.  But on Sunday’s she speaks to things that touch us all.  Even if we are not interested in gardening, decorating and other lifestyle issues, Sunday’s Joy Day! is always a great reminder of how we can better reflect the light of the Father, or how we might just need it to shine on us and warm our hearts from time to time.  Check out JOY DAY! here  

There is always something in the news, even so-called “Christian” news about churches or church people who do heinous things.  It is so inspiring to read of a church that thinks of the community outside of their church walls when it comes to investing in the world on behalf of the kingdom.  Or maybe they are investing in the Kingdom on behalf of the world.  Here is a great kindnesss by a church letting Christ shine through them.  

When people look at us, do we more readily reflect the world and cultures around us, or do we reflect the culture of our Home Kingdom?  Do we let the Light shine through us by our behavior?  Every time I listen to, or read this guy, I am convicted.  And I grow a little bit.  Sometimes a lot. I want to lead a supernatural life.  

Favorite music video(s).  We have a tie here.  I’m really liking Brother McClurg. This song was exactly what I needed to sing this week.  The only way this is going to work is if we let Him Shine Through Us.

And Rend Collective Experiment spoke to my heart this week as well .  I wonder where I could find a Jingling Johnny?  We Are The Church  

Enjoy and respond.

What touched your heart, soul, or mind this week?

 

And if you want to laugh and learn, watch this one.  

 

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Outcomes: IMAGINATION

June 6, 2013

I read a post at ChurchLeaders.com recently about the four things we should count as church leaders.  You can read it here.  For “adult” church and church plants, measurable things  like attendance, giving, leadership development, and discipleship are important.  In children’s ministry they may also be key in certain evaluations. (Attendance is certainly important when asking for a budget increase, for example.)  But I think for the long-term there are other outcomes that we should be looking at.

Recently, I spoke about Joy as being a key desired outcome.  Today, let’s look at an equally nebulous, yet equally important outcome:

IMAGINATION – Beyond Daydreams

I love the “tagline” for General Electric. GE- imagination at work.  Boy, that sure is better than”Flip a switch-thanks to us.” Another possibility could have been, “If you think copper pennies are great, you should see our wire!”   Or they could have gone with, “Is your toast burnt?  You’re welcome.”

Yes, I think “Imagination At Work” is better.

I read with fascination, the Mercedes Benz  Facebook page:  “After filing over 80,000 patents—more than any automaker in the world—it’s clear we pride ourselves on having the industry’s biggest imagination. The day we invented the automobile we vowed never to stop reinventing it, and we kept that promise with a century of industry firsts….”

This has got to be my favorite quote of the year, “having the industry’s biggest imagination.”  It was written by one nameless, faceless copywriter, no doubt, but expressing the sentiment of the folks at Mercedes Benz. And it describes perfectly what we should strive for in our ministry to children; empowering imagination.

If we are not empowering kids to use their imagination, we are not letting them operate with the tools their Creator has given them.

Help the children in your ministry imagine the size of the ark.  Imagine Goliath.  Imagine the Nephilim.  Imagine how many fish could be seen from the pathway across the Red Sea, how many stars Abraham saw, or how many loaves and fishes it took to feed five thousand families.  Imagine what it would be like to see for the first time; to enter a town for the first time without someone yelling “Unclean!” to watch from the inside as graves clothes were removed from your face.

We simply cannot teach the story of Redemption without inviting kids to imagine along with us.  We must do whatever we can to unleash their creativity, their minds, their imagination, and let them get a glimpse of the mind of Christ.  (I Corinthians 2:16)

Winston Churchill said, “The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.”  Imagine, if you will the Kingdoms of the mind, if we have the mind of Christ.   If we do our part to cultivate the imagination of our children, both they and we will receive a big opportunity.

Successful children’s ministries ought to be the most imaginative places in their community.  And that should include everyone from the children in attendance to the storyteller to the guys on the sound board.  After all God is the inventor of imagination. We must do everything we can to cause the imaginations of our children and teams  to stretch and grow, using tradition methods (when they work), incorporating music, art, storytelling, games, skits, small groups, large groups, games, contests and competitions, prayer, and reading.  Everything designed for that next step of faith, and anything (that is not sinful) at our disposal to introduce kids to the Original Imagineer.

If we do that, our ministries and our impact will be bigger than our imagination.

 

What are the best tools you have discovered to spark the imagination?

What is the most imaginative part of your ministry?  

Which area of ministry needs an imaginative kick-start?

 

If this post inspires, informs or encourages you, it would bless me if you shared it.

 

I’ve been thinking about ministry to kids and families a lot lately.  The question I posed to myself is, “If we are successful, what will it look like?”  If you are training for a marathon you set time and completion goals.  If you are building a house the blueprint tells you what it will look like before you even start.  You know where every plug, wire, and pipe belongs.  You might even know where every nail and screw belongs.  

In ministry, it may or may not be as black and white (or blue and white) as a blueprint. But we should be able to describe expected outcomes.  We should be able to identify what success looks like.  As I have been pondering this I have come up with six things that I look for.  Your list may include more or less than six.  As the days pass and we interact, my list may expand, perhaps yours will as well.

I am not going to give you my entire list all at once, because I want to talk about outcomes one at a time.  And I want to hear your thoughts, not only on your list, but I would like it if you engaged with mine.  Tell me where I nailed it, and where I missed it.

So here’s the first item on my list:

JOY – Beyond Fun

 There has been so much written about the difference between joy and happiness, I don’t feel the need to get into that discussion here.  But I will say that when we gather kids together to talk about Jesus it has to go deeper, much, much deeper, than simply providing a fun experience.   Yes, we want it to be fun some of the time, but that should never be our main objective.   It’s important to note, when a child senses they are valued, and loved, when they sense they are part of something bigger than themselves, when they are engaged….they will say they had fun.

Asking kids to describe their experience will usually give unsatisfactory results.  Joy is a word they will rarely use to describe their emotion.

“Fun.” Yes, we will hear that.

“Cool” I’m okay with that answer.

“Great” We’ll take it every time.

“It was joyful.” I have never heard a child describe Kids Worship that way.

So we can’t assume that just because kids don’t mention joy doesn’t mean they don’t experience it.  If they felt loved, they would probably not say that either, but… I think we can all recognize joy when we see it.   Self-help specialist Dr. Jeanine Austin describes joy as “a deep connection with God.”   I like the sound of that even if I can’t tangibly get my hands around it. Behaviorist Paul Ekman describes JOY as one of seven basic emotions and he describes it simply as Impending Gain, but I would add to this a spiritual dimension that would transcend gain, happiness, even peace.  That’s why I like the phrase “a deep connection with God. “  Joy is transcendent.

We want a child’s experience within the church setting to transcend that experience.  Huh?  Let me try to explain.   The things a child experiences:  fun, relationships, learning, Truth (purposely capitalized), worship and salvation, will be the things they talk about.  It won’t be until they are older that they start to talk about the impact of their small group leader, the connection with God and with others, the change of thinking that took place, the “God Experience” that expressed itself.

Happiness, fun, adventure, music, these are all tools, feathers on our arrows.  Joy, on the other hand is a lifestyle target.  It is an outcome as well as an expectation of a faith-filled life.  I checked with several dictionaries, from Noah Webster’s first American Dictionary, published in 1828, up to the modern Dictionary.com.  A common thread in all of them was not simply experiencing good fortune, but the prospect of possessing what we desire.  I like what Noah Webster said, “Joy is a delight of the mind, from the consideration of the present or assured approaching possession of a good.”*

 * 1828 edition of Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language

Is JOY  a desired outcome in your ministry?  Why, or why not?  

What do you do to foster joy?  Have you discovered a way to measure joy?  Do you have a joy meter?

If this post encourages or engages you, it would give me joy if you shared it?  Thank you!

We live about a half-mile from the center of our bustling metropolis.  This means we are on the edge of town and the center of town at the same time.  Yes, our borough is that small.  Sometimes at night, when a really big fire summons several departments, I can hear first one, then two, then sometimes three and four different alarm sirens, starting from different Burroughs and echoing off the mountainsides.  It is almost comforting, if you don’t stop and think of why the sirens are sounding.

From a half-mile, or more away the fire siren is noticeable but not an interruption.  It’s not alarming.  We think, out loud or to ourselves, “I wonder what is on fire today.”  Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, we remember to pray for the fire fighters and the victims, but there is nothing inconvenient about the fire siren from a distance, even though, or maybe because, we hear it at least once a day.

 However, recently we were “downtown” just a half a block from the fire hall when the siren went off.  It got our undivided attention.

 

Everything came to a stop.

 

 

 

Everyone around us glanced up, as if looking at the siren we would somehow see and avert a disaster.  Conversations were virtually impossible for the minute the siren sounded; everyone’s attention was, momentarily at least, redirected to the emergency.  Even though there was not a thing we could do, (or would do, for that matter) we had not one scintilla more of information.  But it commanded our undivided attention.  At least for the sixty seconds that it butted into our life, we were unable to even hear each other.

 

I sometimes wonder how loud the warning siren of the Holy Spirit has to be to get our attention in that way. I know there are times in my life where I can hear the distinct, “Watch out!” or “Don’t!”   Times when I am immediately warned, and I immediately respond.   Then I gloat, “I heard and obeyed.”  Other times it is as if the message was coming from the other side of the mountain. 

And I know that it isn’t God who has moved.

But if it is not a glaring, loud, interrupting, Holy Holler, I wonder how often I ignore.   Do I let the quiet promptings slide?  Do I let the warning whispers fade into the background of my life?  Or do I pay close enough attention to be warned away from dangerous conversations, dangerous relationships, dangerous web pages, and even dangerous thought patterns? 

I believe, when we are following closely, walking in obedience (Might I even say holiness?) God doesn’t need to shout to get our attention.  He doesn’t need to show up in an earthquake or a fire.  God longs to speak to us in a gentle whisper, and He longs that we would still respond instantly, as if the town fire siren had just gone off.

Proverbs 2:1, 3:1, 4:1 & 6:1 each starts with the words  “My child, listen…”   I believe God has more to say in stillness – when we take the time for stillness.  I am grateful that he loves me enough to interrupt my foolishness from time to time; that he cares enough to save me from things like a deer in the road, or a dumb decision; that he wants my best to always be my first choice.  God wants to speak to me in stillness, I am grateful He doesn’t limit Himself to that.

I know it’s true that:  “.. my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.   “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  (Isaiah 55:8, 9)  I also know that, as a follower of Jesus, we can have the mind of Christ!  (I Corinthians 2:16)  It is up to us.  He will shout at us only so long, he will whisper only so many times.  (More than I deserve.) 

But if I don’t listen….

I hope, like volunteer fire-fighters drop whatever they are doing to respond to an emergency, I stop, listen, and obey when God speaks.

Whether it is a siren or a sigh. 

 

How do you keep the channels open to hear from God?

 

 

If this post blesses or encourages you, I hope you would share it with your friends.

Just a Drop or Two

April 26, 2013

I made oatmeal this morning.  It is a nice, healthy change of pace.  I like it.  To make it even better, Diane likes it when I scoop in a tablespoon of dark chocolate while it is simmering on the stovetop.  She’s right, the chocolate makes it even better.    Today I threw in another surprise.  When she sat down at the table this morning, Diane said, “Did you add peppermint?” Very perceptive! 

So, here’s the recipe….two cups of water…a shake of the salt shaker…one cup of oats…one tablespoon of dark unsweetened cocoa…and….TWO (just two) drops of peppermint oil.  Mmmm.

 

What are you working on right now where two drops of love will change the flavor?  Who are you interacting with where two drops of grace will change the conversation?  What frustrating project could use two drops of fun?  What relationship needs two drops of forgiveness?

Most of the time, we think we need to make large, sweeping changes to make something better.  Sometimes, however, just a drop or two of the right ingredient is all that is needed.  A smile, a nod, a handshake, a hug might be all that is needed.  A dollar, a phone call, a note, could change everything.  An affirmation, a word of encouragement (or Scripture) might be all that it takes to bring success. 

The next time you are facing an obstacle that looms large, look for a small solution.

 

 

Maybe, if you looked closely you would discover that you are holding seven loaves and a few small fish.

 

 

 

 

If this post blesses you, sharing it would bless me.

There’s an old joke that I am sure is making its rounds again in flood –ravaged parts of our country.  I won’t bore you with the story, but the punch-line is, “I sent three boats and a helicopter, what more could you want?”  Laugh with me!  OK, chuckle then.  Don’t know the rest of the joke?  Message me and I’ll tell you, but the joke is older than I am so I’m sure you’ve heard it.

Lately, I have been feeling like I missed the helicopter…

And in the midst of a serious pout am reminded that I am not the first, nor will I be the last to feel like I missed something important.

I’m reading about young David, anointed, but not yet enthroned.  Perhaps fifteen years he spent running from a king he wouldn’t kill, living in caves, eating forbidden grain.  His best friend is the son of his biggest enemy.  I’ll bet there were days when he felt like he missed the helicopter.  Fifteen years! 

Four months, doesn’t seem quite so harsh in comparison.   

Joseph, one of the GREAT leaders in history spent years in prison; at least two, maybe as many as thirteen, FOR DOING THE RIGHT THING!   Where was his helicopter?

Lazarus died.

 

When I go beyond myself today I know that I have been lucky.  Blessings have come my way for most of my life.  I also know Christians don’t always like that word, luckSome say there is no such thing as luck.  But I am currently reading a book by pastor and worship leader Glen Peckaim called Lucky.  If a pastor and worship leader can use the word, I guess I can too, right?  Pastor Peckaim says it can be argued that the word in the New Testament, notably the Beatitudes in Matthew and Luke, most often translated “Blessed” can also be translated “Lucky.”  So for now I will stay with that word.  After all I have a pastor and a Bible translator agreeing with me.

 But I digress.  Most of my life, up until four years ago, I would have to say life usually moved in my favor.  Just look at my wife and anyone would say I was really LUCKY.  My friends and jobs and health…they didn’t point to wealth and fame, but I was more fortunate than most of the world.  Actually compared to most of the world I am still very fortunate.  Unemployed and broke, but fortunate nonetheless.   And even now, in my confusion and frustration, God has been pouring out blessings on Diane and me.

So I keep listening for the thump thump thump of the rotors.

And I remember in Whom I trust. 

You are the rock we’re standing on

You are the love we’re counting on

You are the God who never fails

You speak your Word and it remains*

 

A verse that has greatly encouraged me is 1 Chronicles 28:20 (NIV).  “David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.’”

 

I know this is not “in context.”   King David was talking specifically to his son Solomon.  But I know the same God David and Solomon served is the God I serve and the character of God has been proven, over and over again.  He will not fail me or forsake me.   

 

And so I stand strong while I wait for my helicopter.

 

 

 What have you done to stand strong in the times when you had to wait for the helicopter?

 

 

*     Glen Peckiam, from the book, Lucky

 

 

If my words have encouraged or blessed you, it would bless me if you shared this post.

We were out for a walk on this beautiful sunny spring afternoon and we came across an incident that almost brought me to tears.

A young man was working in his yard, a huge pile of mulch filling the end of his driveway.  He was shoveling the mulch into a wheelbarrow as his young son “helped.”  We watched as we walked for a couple of minutes, and every single time the young man scooped up a shovel full of mulch he had to shift one way or another to move around his your son, who wanted to be right there. 

Almost any dad I know would grow tired and say something like, “Would you get out of my way?” just in the short time I was walking by.  But this dad patiently moved himself out of the way with every scoop.  And then when the wheelbarrow was filled he scooped up his son and put him in the wheelbarrow with the mulch, and off they went to unload somewhere else.

I wept.  For this father, being with his son was worth more than efficiently doing his yard work.  He spoke love to son with every shovel full of mulch, without saying a word.  He shouted to his child, “You are more important than anything.” With every step he took.

He had his priorities straight.

Will the yard work take longer with his little boy helping?  You bet, probably twice as long as it would take if his son was safely ensconced in front of the television.  But guess what, as years go by, when this dad speaks, the son will listen.  When this dad warns, the child will heed.  When this dad directs, the child will follow.

And when this dad puts this little boy to bed, the child will lie down in peace and sleep the sleep of the loved.

There are many ways to train up a child.  I was blessed to witness one of the best.  I don’t know the child or his father, but I know without a doubt there is one child in my little village who knows that his daddy loves him more than anything.

 

How can you speak love into your child today?

Are there any projects you are working on that would be slowed down, but greatly enriched with the interruption of your child?

 

 

If this post blesses you, it would bless me if you shared it.  Thank you!!

The opposite of miserable

February 4, 2013

Here is my favorite quote of the month.  I know, its only the 3rd, but this one will be hard to beat.

Jean Valjean  “…said to himself that he really had not suffered enough to deserve such radiant happiness, and he thanked God, in the depth of his soul, for having permitted he, a miserable man, should be loved so much by this innocent being.”

The thoughts Viictor Hugo, as expressed by Jean Valjean have once again re-awakened in me a sense of supreme gratitude.

I have to admit that I agree with Upton Sinclair, who calls Les Miserables, “one of the half-dozen greatest novels in the world.”    I am re-reading it right now, having recently watched the movie.  As good as the movie was (is) it is a dim reflection of the most redemptive novel I have read.  And I read a lot.

One of the fascinations for me is Hugo’s ability to flesh-out flawed human being in a way that has you cheering for their redemption renovation, reclamation

So I read, sometimes only a few pages at a time, and I walk away refreshed, renewed.  To be sure,  I do not hold any novel, a mere work of fiction, in as high regards as I hold the Word of God, but as for works of men and women, It is my favorite.

Les  Miserables can be translated as The Miserable ones, The Wretched,  The Poor OnesThe Wretched Poor, or The Victims.  I find myself often, even on this current path, feeling that I am the exact inverse, the opposite of The Miserable Ones.  I am one of the fortunate Blessed Ones.

Every weekend, my wife write a posts which include a “Joy Dare.”  you can read about it here.  She lists at least seven things that she is grateful for.  I thought i should take a hint and do the same thing.

Sort of.

Here are the first 20 things that came to my mind for which I am grateful.  I was thinking I could write a paragraph for each of them, but decided to keep it brief.

  1. Diane –40 years of friendship and more
  2. 42 years of Faith,  I don’t remember the date, but I remember the moment
  3. house – warm and joy-filled
  4. cats – Yes we are crazy cat people
  5. parents – Still loving each other and still loving their kids after 60+ years
  6. friends, those nearby are not giving up on us
  7. friends,  those in NY have hung in through thick and thin
  8. and more friends,  in Michigan and beyond, faithful after decades
  9. health haven’t needed a doctor in 4 years – it would be even longer if I were not so clumsy
  10. wisdom– given whenever requested
  11. security not in a job, not in a career, but in something permanent
  12. my laptop -, and the ability to use it
  13. my reference books – for when I feel like thinking deeply
  14. my fiction books (Those I am reading) for when I don’t feel like thinking at all
  15. my fiction books that I am writing trying to keep my brain alive
  16. music for worship Gungor, Redman, Evans,Yoshonis
  17. music for relaxing  Mozart adagiosManheim Steamroller, Keaggy
  18. music for moving Rodrigo Y Gabriella, Bach, Brewster
  19. walks around my neighborhood   beautiful in every season
  20. Time to sit and ponder  Psalm 46:10 

Take the time to reflect on your amazing blessings.  You will find that it won’t take long to make a nice list.  At least if you are as un-miserable as I am.

 

So.  What are you grateful for today?  Start a list.

Praying For Your Kids. #7

February 2, 2013

If you have ever lost a night’s sleep to worry, illness, or argument( even if it wasn’t your worry, illness or argument) you know how debilitating that can be.  On the other hand, if you have ever had one of those beautiful, restful, uninterrupted night’s sleep, you know how healing that can be.  And regardless if you are one of those who is blessed with the ability to drop quickly off to sleep or not, your prayers can ensure that your children sleep well.

It seems that the best rest test is whether or not we are living in the joy of God and in His peace.  So, I guess some of us can  (and should)start by praying this prayer for ourselves, and to  be strength-filled, joy-filled and peace-filled enough to then begin praying over our children.

I pray that the light of Your face would shine down on my child and fill his/her heart with joy.  I pray that my child would lie down and sleep in peace.  (# 7 from iMOM.com)

Every lullaby is designed to help a child to sleep peacefully.  Why we give up on that concept as our children grow up is beyond me.  Of course most children would think a lullaby was too childish for them, but there is nothing at all childish about our need, and our children’s need for a peaceful night’s sleep.  It truly affects every other part of our life.  Fortunately, prayer is more effective than the best of Brahms.

Two things that I know help anyone sleep better.  JOY and PEACE.   And if both of those blessings are from God, how much better will be the rest.

This isn’t rocket science, folks.  If we just give a little thought to how and what we pray with and for our kids, we can begin to unleash to power of God’s blessings for our kids.

And again, if we are living without joy and peace, our children certainly are missing it as well.  I think, as much as we may assume otherwise, that our kids get both their joy and their peace tanks filled up at home, from mom and dad.  Mom and dad get their joy and peace, not from job security or a healthy human relationships.  Security and relationships are a byproduct of joy and peace, not the other way around.  And real joy and peace come from a close connection with God the Father.

If we want our children to have a joyful, peaceful sleep, we need to pray for those blessings, not just for our kids, but ourselves as well.  Then we can watch God say, “YES!” to both of our prayers.

 

It’s Still There

January 21, 2013

If you go outside tonight you might see something spectacular. Appearing from behind and a bit above the waxing moon, but 414 million miles further away, Jupiter will light up the night.  The second brightest object in the nighttime sky will give us a show, as long as there are no obstacles that get in the way.   Get in the way of an object bigger than the rest of the Galaxy combined?   Is that Possible?

An obstacle does not need to be very large to block our view.   Some thin, wispy, next to nothing clouds a few thousand feet above the earth could easily get in the way.  The view of a celestial object with a mass more than two-and-a-half times all the rest of the planets in our solar system combined is being hindered by some accumulated cumulus water vapor.  Astounding!

Clouds are not very dense; until it rains they are lighter than air, yet they can block our view, of not only Jupiter, but even the Sun itself.  Something so amorphous and diaphanous, yet at the same time translucent, and able to shield us from the Sun.  Of course it is all a matter of perspective.  A simple, average, thundercloud can hold six hundred million tons of water!  That cute little puffy thing isn’t so little after all.

This two-hundred word science lesson is brought to you by the word perspective

The obstacle may be much bigger than you think it is.  (But it is still not bigger than God.)  Clouds, for all their fluffiness are filled-to-bursting.  And that thing, or person in your way, may at first appear inconsequential, but they may actually be a truly gigantic obstacle for which much prayer is needed.

Even small objects can block out view if the perspective is not right. The next time you lose sight of the prize, or can’t seem to find what you are looking for, try looking at it from a different angle.  Most of us have seen children, or the child-like, trying to block an uncomfortable image by holding their hands in front of their face.  Sometimes we must change our point-of-view to see clearly.

The object blocking our view might just be the object for which we are lookingMany great discoveries are made by accident, while the explorer or scientist is looking for something entirely different.  

Just because we can’t see what we are looking for doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to see.  Sometimes we are directed to walk into the darkness so that we can see something even more important that we expect.  Sometimes the spectacular is blocked from our view so we can see the magnificent.

Actually, we will always see something spectacular, but whether we notice or not is completely up to us.  Around every corner, over and under every tree and every bush, on just the other side of everything, there is constant extraordinariness going on all around us. 

 

 “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God”   Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

 

What are you looking for?

What are you seeing?

What  perspectives need to be changed?

 

 

If you are blessed or encouraged by my ramblings, please share this post with your friends.

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