Category Archives: Children’s Ministry

Remember When

My grand-neice graduated last Friday night.  I should add that she graduated from pre-school, so I’m not quite as old as that first sentence suggests.

Actually, I’m every bit as old as that first sentence suggests.  Unlike most kids, I never thought mid-30s was ancient when I was little, mainly because I was the surprise child of older parents, and most of the people we knew had long since left their 30s behind.  Now that I have attained the age of 35, however, I’m beginning to realize just how far up the hill I actually am, and how much nearer I am getting to going over it.  I can tell this by the growing stock of memories that occasionally crowd to the front of my brain.  I know I’m getting a ways up the mountain because of the extensive view I now have when I look back.

Friday night was certainly an occasion for remembering the past.  The preschool our little princess attended is run by the Christian school that I attended from kindergarten through 12th grade.  Her preschool graduation included some of the same songs and Bible verses that I remembered from my early education, and — who knows?  Those might have even been the same caps and gowns.  They certainly looked the same.  Above all, there were the people that I knew, that I had worked with in the past.  These were people I had done ministry with in Christian education, and whose testimony and service to the kingdom are so very precious to me.

In short, I had the same experience that often comes to us when we go back to a place (a house, a school, a church) we once knew well but have not seen in a long time.  It is not just a familiar sight, but a familiar feeling that washes over us and soaks into the heart.  I had never been inside the church that hosted Sam’s graduation before Friday, but there was that feeling all the same because the program was familiar and so were the people:

I remember on the night of my kindergarten graduation, I wore a white flouncy dress and a big red mark right in the middle of my forehead.  The red mark was from the camera I had been playing with before we left for the event.  It was a really old Kodak camera (old even for 1980), and it had a square flash bulb that you bought separately and screwed into the top of the camera.  I was fascinated by this device, and I longed to take a picture with it.  When no one was looking, I held it up to my eyes (as I thought had seen the big people do) and clicked. 

What I remember next is a blinding and burning flash of light that must have made me yell because everyone came running.  As it turns out, I had been holding the camera backwards, and the burning sensation was from the flash bulb going off against my forehead.  It didn’t hurt much, but I couldn’t convince the grown-ups that I hadn’t been trying to take a picture of myself, and it must have left quite a mark because all my friends asked me about it.

I remember, too, that some of the graduates got special awards that night, and I never could figure out what they were for.  My mother commented afterwards that they must have been the students who made “straight A’s.”  This made me rather indignant.  I had been in kindergarten for a whole year, and I did not make crooked A’s.  Why hadn’t anyone told me my A’s weren’t straight enough?

I bring up these childish memories because they are an indication of how our perspectives change over time.  I honestly have no idea what Samantha will remember about preschool or the teachers who taught her.  I don’t know what she’ll remember about her graduation night, or even what she’ll someday remember about me or the rest of the family members who came to share her big event.

I do hope that she remembers what she learned.  I hope she remembers, not just the books of the Bible, but to read the Bible and give its precepts an honored place in her life.  I hope she remembers those Sunday School songs about Jesus because they are true — every one of them.  I hope she remembers that she is part of our family of aunts, uncle, sister, Mom, and grandparents.  But I also hope she learns and remembers that she is part of a bigger family of believers that meet together, learn together, love each other and serve each other with gladness.

And I hope, too, that she will someday have the joy that I have continuously, of meeting her fellow believers and remembering the work they did together that had eternal weight and glory.  I am in a season of transition right now, and much of what I do is still new and strange to me, but I can say moving forward that the best memories I have of the past are those that involve “kingdom collaboration” — God’s work done with God’s people.  I hope my neices find that happiness as well.


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The Hokey Pokey

Have you seen those bumper stickers – What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about?

I know.  They’re kidding.  Except that sometimes it turns out to be true.

In our Sunday morning kids’ worship (LiveWire), there’s a song we sometimes sing from one of our worship DVDs.  It’s a Sunday School version of the Hokey Pokey by Ronnie Caldwell, and it goes something like this:

You put your whole self in

You pull your whole self out

You put your whole self in and

You shake it all about

You give your heart to Jesus and

He turns your life around.

That’s what it’s all about!

It makes for a fun kids song.  We get to sing about Jesus and do a funky dance at the same time. What’s not to love?

The problem is that we grow up, and we become adult Christians, and some of us are still doing the spiritual Hokey Pokey.  It goes something like this:

We put our whole selves in, or so we thought when we gave our hearts to Jesus.  Then we get distracted by other things, and we pull our whole selves out.  Then there’s a crisis, and we put our whole selves back in because life is shaking us all about.  And we know that giving our hearts to Jesus was supposed to turn our lives around, but it feels like we didn’t get it right somewhere.

The thing is, we really were supposed to grow up spiritually as well as physically.  There’s supposed to be some maturity, and the consistency that comes with it.  In Isaiah 40, the voice in the wilderness proclaims that “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain” before the glory of the Lord is revealed.  We know that Jesus is Lord of the straight gate and narrow way, but somehow we never get our own ways straightened out before Him.  This is because we can never hope to overcome our own weaknesses by our own power.  That’s because (drum roll please) they’re our weaknesses.  What we really need is to seek out His presence and the power that comes with it, and we will do that when we pursue Him all the time, and not just when we’re in trouble.  You know what your preacher used to say when you were a kid about reading your Bible and praying every day?  Yes, that still works.

So, let’s make up our minds, you and me, that we’re going to quit doing the Hokey Pokey.  All that in and out is kid stuff.  Besides, at my age, shaking it all about can get a little dangerous.

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Four Dimensional Love

Another Valentine’s Day has passed, and I suppose I could have blogged about it.  But when you’re unattached, the day seems a little less important.  I say that without bitterness.  It’s just a reflection on where I am at the moment.

It is always a good time to think about love, something so essential to our faith that we don’t let children out of the nursery until they have some Scripture about it.  For those of us raised in Christian families, can we even remember not knowing John 3:16?  But today, I am meditating on Eph. 3:18-19,

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

I did a bulletin board for this verse a few years and discovered that the verse presents a quandary.  I wanted to do some word art to illustrate that God’s love is wide, long, high, and deep.  My problem was the word “long”.  You can stretch it out to make it long, but then how is it different from wide? You can stretch it UP to make it long, but then it is indistinguishable from high.  I know that sounds silly, but trust me, it was a source of aggravation.  There is only so much you can do with two dimensional bulletin board.

In fact, we don’t do any better at grasping that love of God in three dimensions either. We can understand 3D size — width, height, depth — but what is the length of God’s love?

According to Albert Einstein, space exists in the third dimension.  The fourth dimension is time.  What if God wants us to understand that His love fills all four of the dimensions that touch us, even through something as transient and ephemeral as time?  What if the length of God’s love is its capacity to stretch from one side of eternity to the next?

It takes some empowering for our thoughts to reach that high.  Paul says we need “power to understand,” but also states that all saints should seek that empowering and that understanding.  Maturity (completion) doesn’t come through knowing about the love of God.  We teach that to toddlers.  Maturity comes from experiencing the love of God, and understanding it better and better each time we encounter it.

It comes from knowing that when God stretches out His arms to say, “I love you THIS much,” the whole 3D universe isn’t big enough to hold Him.

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