Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Few Words About Movies...From A Fan



       In recent years, we have seen an upswing in the number of Christian movies that are being made.  I am beyond thrilled by this because it is a wonderful way to teach others about the love of Christ or for the Lord to open a door to conversation about Him.  Films like “Fireproof”, “God’s Not Dead”, “The Grace Card” and “Courageous” are all powerful films you could bring anyone to and they would hear about God’s love.  However, not all movies that claim to be Christian or are touted by others as such are very Christ Like.  And this bothers me and has bothered me for some time.  Let me explain. 
         
       Years ago, there was a movie out called “The Cross and the Switchblade.”  It was a wonderful film (though cheesy and dated by today’s standards) that portrayed the true story of a preacher who reached out to gangs in New York.  The fact that it was about real people and showed real situations made it powerful.  Though it was showing gang life (a tame version I’m sure, but still eye-opening), it did this by not only showing the vicious fighting that occurred, but also by making you use your imagination some.  And while I’m sure the gangs in question did not speak like choir boys, there were only a very few swear words in the film.  And the movie showed the power of God’s love to change you for the better and how He doesn’t give up on anyone.  No matter your background and no matter what you've done, God still loves us and wants us in His family. I still find the film powerful, though it is more than 30 years old.
        
         In contrast, I went to see a more current movie with my brother awhile back. (I’m not going to use the movie name here, but if you ask me I’ll tell you what it was.)  And while I was not a really a fan of the person the film was about to begin with, I had heard the name and good things about their talent plus I enjoy biographical films.  But mostly, I just wanted to hang out with my brother.  It was a treat for me since I rare have that opportunity.   
        
         I left the movie having no desire to ever hear anything about or by the person the movie revolved around.  My opinion of the person, from that film (and only from that film as I had nothing else to base it on), was that the person was paranoid that people would leave or not like the person, was one of the most joyless people I had ever seen portrayed and was quite selfish.  Not selfish where money or time is concerned, but more in the fact that everything had to revolve around him.  His needs, his issues, his feelings.  If it didn't revolve around him, then it didn't matter.  Even the charity work him did seemed to be more to make the person feel better about himself.  Now the actual person was perhaps not this way, but that was what was portrayed in the film.    
         
       I understand that not everyone is happy all the time and I know that being a Christian does not mean that everything goes well in our lives all the time.  But if they were wanting to make a movie about how God’s love can change you, how God’s love is amazing, or how God’s love is powerful, they missed the mark.  I’m not saying the person didn’t have a walk with the Lord…please don’t take that from my words.  Just that, the movie portrayed this person in a way that made me…well, pity him.
          
I saw someone online recently talking about what a wonderful Christian movie a certain film was. (Again, I am not posting the movie name, but if you ask, I will tell you.) I had not heard about the film so I looked it up.  When I saw that it was rated R and had around 30 F words (according to a secular website) as well as a bunch of other stuff that I wouldn't want to see/hear. I questioned the person about it.  They responded in part, that it was a powerful Christian film and that the main character in the film is constantly shown as a light against the darkness around them and was able to speak to them because of that.    

That may well be, (I have not seen the film and do not plan to) but here is the bottom line as I see it.  When I go to a Christian film I was to learn about Christ.  I want to see the difference He makes in people’s lives.  And though I know we need to see the difference between those who walk in the darkness and those who walk in the light, I don’t want to be accosted by a barrage of swear words, smut, or innuendo in order for them to do that.   And if the screenwriter is any good at all, I don’t need to be.  

Many years ago, Dick Van Dyke, was asked by a magazine why his show (at the time he was on “Diagnosis Murder”) didn’t have more sex and violence in it.  The magazine felt he wasn’t showing life as it is.   His response was, “What’s wrong with telling like it ought to be?”  I love that.  If he, as a secular artist, felt that way shouldn’t we, as Christians be even more vigilant about that?

We see the bad.  It’s all around us.  We don’t need Hollywood to inform us that the world is a dark place.  We are called to be the light in that darkness.  God gives us creativity.  He gives talent.  I am not a screenwriter by any means, but I know that God has given some people an incredible talent for that.  We serve an amazing God.  He has overcome the world and we have been called to bring the world to Him.  Tell me, how making someone who is already dealing with the darkness around them, trudge through even more of it is a good way to reach them for Christ?   

           I have often heard people talk about movies being good because they are “real”.   Well, “real” is overrated.  We all know real.  And for some, the reality of life is more overwhelming than for others.  We are here to show them the life God has for them.   I’m with Dick Van Dyke on this one. “What’s wrong with telling it like it ought to be?”

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Love is more powerful than hate...Care to help me demonstrate?

Winter has arrived!  I am so excited.

I know...start telling me how crazy I am.  It's ok.  Everyone does.   I'll wait...

Feel better now?  Ok, I'll continue then.

Actually, the reason I am excited is because it is the holiday season.  My favorite holiday is Christmas.  I love it.  I love the smiles I see on people's faces.  I love how we start decorating everything with pretty lights, figurines, and ornaments that bring back fond memories of days gone by.

And I love the goodwill people tend to show to their fellow men.  Well, usually they do.  This year, seems to be starting out with folks finding that challenging.  I know some people are mad about the grand jury verdict in Missouri and others are relieved that the officer involved was not indited for doing his job.  But seriously people...how does destroying stuff and hurting people benefit anyone?  I mean, if I got mad at my neighbor and so I decided to go break the windows of the folks three blocks away, then I would be clearly in the wrong and most people would think that there was something wrong with me mentally.  After all, even if I really did have reason for my anger toward my neighbor it would be absolute lunacy to take it out on a random person who is clearly not involved in the situation.  Not that violence of any kind is ok simply because someone is angry.

Part of my devotions today came out of Proverbs and how interesting that it seems to address just such an issue.

Proverbs 29: 8, 10-11 (NIV)
Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger.
Bloodthirsty men hate a man of integrity and seek to kill the upright.
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.

It seems, we as a people, have had trouble with our anger for centuries.  But, how wonderful that God doesn't leave us in our selfish way of thinking.  He gives us warnings of how letting our anger control our actions will do nothing but cause more problems...and most of the time make us look bad too.

We have entered the Advent Season...a season of expectation and joy as we await celebration of the coming of our Lord.  A Savior who came knowing full well our faults.  Knowing we are a messed up people.  But also knowing that we could be saved.  It is not a season of anger but of peace.  It is a season of joy...a season of love...and most of all a season of hope.

Can you imagine what would happen in our world if people were as vocal and demonstrative about spreading peace, joy, love and hope as they have been in spreading their anger and hate?  We all know which is more powerful.  The change we would see in the world would be mind boggling.  If fact, it would be world changing. 

So do you really want to change the world for the better?  Really want to make a difference? Join me in sharing God's peace, joy, love and hope in the world this season.  Love is much more powerful than hate.  Care to help me demonstrate?

Let's change the world! 

Monday, September 15, 2014

So, what do you do for a living?

I have been in Children's Ministry for over ten years now, and I love my job.  Truly!  I do.  It's an amazing job and every day is different.  I am allowed and encouraged to be creative.  I get to be around amazing children and adults.  AND I get to tell them about Jesus!  It is indeed a fantastic position and I am honored to be a Children's Pastor. 

However, there is one question that I have gotten many many times over the years.  And that is this: "What do you do for a living?"  I respond, "I'm a Children's Pastor." To which the response is then, "Yes, but what do you do for a job?"  This surprised me at first.  After all, being a Children's Pastor is my job.  If I had responded, "I am a teacher" or "I am a welder" would the response have been, "Yes, but what do you do for a job?"  But it rapidly became clear that many people do not know what a Children's Pastor does.  Perhaps they think that we simply babysit on Sundays and Wednesdays and if that is the case, then I do indeed understand the confusion. 

So, below you will find some of the duties of a Children's Pastor.  This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but at least it will hopefully help answer the questions about what a Children's Pastor does.  You will notice that in the list I have not placed PRAYER or BIBLE STUDY.  This is not because we don't do it, but because of all the things people wonder about ministry, those two things are a given and we must do them if we want to be effective in our ministry and grow as a Pastor and as a Christian. 

Preparation for services:
    This takes up a good portion of the week's work.  How much will depend on how long the service is, how much of the program needs to be learned because it is "brand new," if we are writing the curriculum or using a purchased one, etc.  And it includes not just the message, but also the games, music, object lessons, review sections, prayer activities, preparing the agendas, technical/video needs, and prep for the volunteers who help as well. 

Contacts and/or calling
     While many Children's Pastors do not do as many home visits as perhaps a Sr. Pastor does, we do try to attend the events or programs that our children are involved in...when we know about them.  We can not attend everything, but we do try to attend what we can.  We also often help with the regular calling of the church to hospitals, nursing homes, shut-in's etc.  This also includes correspondence via email, postal mail, social media and etc. 

Event Preparation
     Events such as Bible School, Easter Eggstravaganza, Trunk or Treat, Special Family Sundays, and Revivals take lots and lots of planning.  Most people only see the event itself, but for each 2 hour event there is probably 50-75 hours of planning (or more) that was done prior to that event to get things ready so that it goes smoothly and properly.  And that doesn't include the hours put in by the volunteers who help to plan the event.

Meetings:
     In most churches, there is a weekly staff meeting that will be about an hour or so.  Then over the course of the week there are other smaller meetings as things get planned or talked about.  Some may not be seen as a regular sort of meeting, but they are still meetings of a sort and are vital to making sure all bases are covered.  Then there are the Zone or District Meetings that we attend.  They are not as often as our staff meetings, but some are on a monthly basis and some are several times a year.  Again, these can last from 1-3 hours or so and for District Meetings will often involve driving to another location 45 minutes or more away. 

Shopping:
     I know it probably seems odd that shopping is a part of my regular duties, but in order to do things well and using a tight budget (which nearly all Children's Pastors have), it takes a lot of time to search for the best buys on items needed.  Shopping can occur online (so from the office) or having to go to the actual store.  There is always an event coming up so something always seems to be needed. Shopping is something that is never really finished.

Publicity/Information Sharing 
    This takes many forms.  From creating monthly newsletters to creating a poster or flyer for an upcoming program, to updating the department facebook or twitter account or even putting new information on the bulletin board. And let us not forget the many sign up sheets and permission slips that are needed. 

Research 
    Children's trends change by the minute it seems and if we want to be able to minister to them, we need to know what is important to them.  From the popular TV shows and movies, to the music and video games that are bombarding them.  And let us not forget the books and magazines they read.  Aside from our own studies into how to reach children, we need to keep up with what is currently reaching for them from every side.  Sometimes that means watching a movie that they are all talking about or reading the book that they can't put down.  If it is important to them, it has influence and if we want to be able to influence them for the Lord, we have to know about what is important to them.

Paperwork
    There are Board Reports, expense vouchers, and other office details that must be taken care of as with any other sort of position.

Other Teaching...
    Many Children's Pastors teach outside the regular services in some capacity from time to time.  Sometimes it is being asked to preach in an adult service or it could be leading a workshop within the church or at another event.  Some also may speak at a chapel service of a local school, or help with an after school program. 

I'll stop there.  As I said, this is not an exhaustive list, there are many other things I could have included, but it's a start.  Yes, it's a big job, but I think my Children's Pastor friends would all agree that we wouldn't want to do anything else.  We love what we have been called to do and get excited about the things we plan.  God called us to minister to children and their families and we are honored to answer that call.  To Him be all the glory!



Monday, August 4, 2014

#WeAreN...Let us not be silent!

Imagine being told that in your town that being a Christian was no longer allowed.  That you now have the choice of converting to a different religion, paying a huge tax (much more than you could afford), leave your town, or you will be killed.  And to make sure that others know you are a Christian household a letter "N" is spray painted on the side of your home.  Now imagine that you choose to leave, but when you get to the edge of your town, you are forced to hand over everything you own except the clothes on your back.  As you leave you find that the church you used to attend has been overtaken and is now being used for another religion.  You hear of people that you used to worship with, but who chose not to leave the town are now being murdered in unspeakable ways.  Now those same people who took over your town have their sights set on other towns to do the same thing in. 

And now imagine that the world is hearing of these horrible events, but no one is doing anything to stop them.  Imagine that news about the injury of a sports star, the ongoing drama in celebrity lives, and the continual bickering of government officials is flooding the mainstream media, but the holocaust that you are living through is being virtually ignored.

You really don't have to imagine any of this because it is actually happening!  Granted, it isn't here in the United States...yet, but it is happening in Iraq.  Our Christian brothers and sisters have been faced with that exact scenario I described and what am I seeing on the news and across the internet?  These are actual headlines I copied from the news section of AOL today:

Rare lobster rescued from grocery store

Man who filmed NYC chokehold death arrested

'Cute' creature puts third person in hospital

Now, granted there were other articles too.  A bit about the conflict happening in Israel, and other military issues around the world, but seriously...the above articles were more important than a literal HOLOCAUST happening in Iraq?  REALLY???? 


The news reports, I read (from non mainstream places of course) show situations frighteningly similar to what Hitler did to the Jews in World War II.  I remember studying that war and thinking, "How is it that the world didn't stand up for the Jews?  Why didn't they try to stop Hitler?"  It was mind boggling to me that even one concentration camp could have been built before someone stepped in and said, "There will be no more murders!"  And yet, I read the reports now and think..."So, that's how it happened."  Perhaps the world didn't step in because it didn't know...and those who did know stood by and silently watched doing nothing. 

Well, not me!  I may not be able to go to Iraq and literally stand with my Iraqi brother and sisters, but I can certainly do my part to get the word out about their plight!  Maybe my words won't do any good in the long run, but that won't stop me from trying!  SOMEONE STEP IN!!!  If it can happen there, it can happen here. 

The "N" being painted on the homes of Christians stands for Nazarene...or Christian.  So I am proudly standing with my Christian Family around the world to say #WeAreN and we will not go away.  I saw this picture on someone's twitter feed (My apologies that I can't remember whose) and I loved it. May we all stand with our Iraqi brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Devil's In My Pocketbook - Part 2: Gas Pump Adventures

The Devil's In My Pocketbook...And Other Things I Learned From Grandma (Part 2)
Gas Pump Adventures

Several years ago, (and by several I mean probably 15 or so) my cousin and my Grandma were out together and Grandma noticed that her car was in need of gas. She pulls up to a gas pump and my cousin (who was probably around 12 at the time if that old) hops out of the car to pump her gas for her.  He quickly notices that she has pulled the car up on the wrong side so he tells her that she is going to have to pull around to the other side so that he can get to the gas tank.  Grandma puts the car in gear and literally drives the car in a full circle ending up directly where she was at first...with the gas tank of the opposite side of the car from the gas pump. 

My cousin, no doubt giggling a little, tells her that she is still on the wrong side and that she will have to pull the car around to the other side so that he can get to the gas pump.  So, she once again puts the car in gear and makes a full circle around the pump ending up exactly where she started...still with the gas tank on the opposite side from the pump.  By now, my cousin is laughing full out and Grandma is quite confused.  Finally, after at least one more failed attempt to circle the gas pump (I'm not certain how many tries it took because I was not there) Grandma realized what had happened and got the car's gas tank next to the pump so that the gas could be added.  But, her misadventures with that gas pump are a part of our family lore to such an extent that if ever I am driving a car and pull up to the wrong side of a pump (which has happened to me on more that one occasion), Grandma's adventure is the first thing I think of.  :-)

It's funny to think of Grandma driving around that gas pump in circles.  Each time she thought she was in the right place and each time she had ended up exactly where she had started and with the same problem she had started with.  But as I think of her predicament (and I must admit that I have done the same thing she did before) I am reminded that we often do similar things in life. 

How many times have you found yourself running and running only to find that you keep ending up in the same spot with the same problem you started with?  We seem to get stuck in something that we know is going to be a problem, but each time we try to change it on our own we end up in the same place we started...and with the same problem.   And it could be a myriad of things that causes us to feel this way.  It could be financial issues, a destructive habit, a relationship that is harmful in some way (physically, mentally, or spiritually), or any number of other things.  Some people run when they hear God calling them to something outside their comfort zone.  Some run when they realize they need God, but are afraid to trust Him.

But thankfully, we do not have to stay in that same spot.  Just like my cousin was there to point out that Grandma was on the wrong side of the gas pump, God is right there willing to help us through our struggle and when we follow His guidance, he will lead us out of that circle and help us continue down the path He has chosen for us.  But unlike my cousin, God will never laugh at our problems.  God understands our struggles and wants only to reach out and say, "This way...follow me.  I'll show you the way out."  Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  

We often try to run away from our problems, but that tends to bring us back to where we started.  All of our running in circles gets tiresome.  What a blessing to know that it isn't necessary.  We need only to run to Jesus and let Him be our guide.  And with Him leading us, though the path may not always be an easy one, we can trust that He will lead us down a path that is exactly where we need to be...and we can say goodbye to that frustrating circle where we had once found ourselves.

It's another lesson God has taught me through my Grandmother's life.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Devil's in My Pocketbook...and Other Things I learned from Grandma (Part 1)

Grandma and Alex.  I can't wait until he can enjoy these stories too.
For years my family has been saying that we were going to write a book about Grandma and include all the funny things she has done.  We always told her that we would have to publish it in the fiction section because no one would believe that it was all true.  However, as good as our intentions have been, we have yet to finish said book.  So, I thought I'd start it in my blog.  It won't be completed in one blog, but will be a series of them that I'll post from time to time.  Though these stories are funny, they do have something to teach us...well, some of them do.  Some are just a scream and had to be included.  :-)  So, if you see the above title, you'll know...there's some humor ahead.

So, first I'll explain the story of the title of this book.  "The Devil's In My Pocketbook...and Other Things I learned from Grandma."

Many years ago, my cousin was ill and had to go to the doctor.  On this occasion, my Aunt was working and could not take him, so Grandma took him to the doctor.  Since my Aunt didn't want to miss what the doctor said, she sent a small tape recorder with Grandma to record what the doctor said.  No big deal...except come Sunday, Grandma still had the tape recorder in her purse.  Sunday morning Grandma heads out to church and as she drives along she starts to hear this low growl and isn't sure where it is coming from.  She checks her radio and realizing it isn't on, she continues on to church, but the low growl and grumbling continues.  By the time she arrives at church she is convinced that the devil is in her car.  When she drove up to the church and handed her car off to a young person to park her car for her (a service offered for the elderly at that time) she warned them that something seemed to be in her car.  The young person parked the car without incident and Grandma headed into the sanctuary.  As service began, she could hear the low growl continue and was becoming concerned.  Those around her had easily realized that the sound was coming from her purse and eventually she realized it too.  She gingerly started opening her pocketbook, unsure of what she would find.  When the pocketbook was opened it was found that that small tape recorder had turned on, but in the 1/2 speed setting, which of course made the doctor's recorded voice sound quite ominous.  When Grandma turned it off, she turned to her friend next to her and said in a very relieved manner, "Oh thank goodness.  I thought the devil was in my pocketbook!"  

Now, it is important to note, that during all of the above story, except for when she got to church, Grandma was alone and none of the family was sitting with her in the service.  We would never have known of this hysterical escapade except that she shared the story with us during lunch.  We laughed and laughed.  We could just picture her confusion and concern.  My Uncle asked her, "So, really...of all the things that sound could have been, the only thing you thought it could be was that the devil was in your pocketbook?" To which Grandma replied, "Well, I had already checked the radio!"

We have laughed about that story for probably 20 years now.  But as I look back on it, I realize that she probably isn't too far off in some ways.  Though, I am certain that the devil is NOT in my pocketbook, he sometimes uses the things in my pocketbook to try and keep me "too busy" for God.  My calendar gets full, my to do list lengthens, and my wallet is constantly wanting more money in it.  Plus in this present day and age, the internet, the phone, my music, tv shows and even movies will all easily fit into my pocketbook.  If you stop to think about it, if I'm not careful, the devil could indeed worm his way into my pocketbook.  Grandma's funny story reminds me to be ever careful.  He's not there now, but he's always going to try to get in...only I won't hear a low growl warning me he's arrived. 

So, that's Part O
ne!  There's many more to go, but that's all for now.  Have a great day everyone!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Peace in the Midst of the Storm

As anyone who knows me could attest, I am not a fan of summer in the slightest, but I do enjoy the rain.  I like hearing the raindrops hit the roof and windows.  I enjoy how calm and peaceful a summer shower can be to listen to.  But with Summer, we also get storms. 

Now, I am not as big a fan of storms.  I like them fine until they get an attitude and start busting out tornadoes and such.  Storms have a way of putting us on edge and making us alert to our surroundings all the more so we can watch for the strong winds and sometimes flooding.  Not much of a fan of those kind of storms. 

Because we were in evangelism, my family lived in a trailer or a motor home for most of my childhood.  When a storm came, not only could you hear it, but often you could feel it because it would cause the trailer to sway some.  The wind used to scare me in those situations.  But, my Grandma James, used to always call the wind her friend.  She liked to listen to it come through the trees and she would smile.  Or we would hear it outside the house and she would say, "That's my friend saying hello."  So when it would get windy, Mom and Dad would say, "Don't worry.  That's just Grandma's friend" and somehow it didn't seem so scary anymore.

In life, we also will have storms.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are small and easily dealt with, but some are so strong that we wonder if we will make it through.  But through the storms, big or small, there has always been a constant.  We are not alone.  Jesus is always in control.  Even when life seems out of control, it is never out of His control. 

I love that old song, "Peace in the Midst of the Storm" by Shirley Ceasar.  Many times over the years the lyrics of the chorus of that song will cross my mind.  Today they came to mind again:

"There is peace in the midst of storm-tossed life
There's an Anchor, there is a rock to build my faith upon
Jesus Christ is my vessel, so I feel no alarm
He gives me peace in the midst of the storm"

No matter what goes on in my life, I know that I can trust Him to guide my path...even when the path veers off to places I didn't really want to go.  He's still in control and I trust Him to guide me to wherever I need to be. 

Today is one of those times that the path is going a bit off of where I'd like.  My Grandma James (who I live with) has been quite ill as of late and this morning we are taking her in for a Heart Cath.
I am praying that they are able to fix the issue that she is dealing with...though we aren't quite sure what issue that is yet.  But even as we take her for this procedure, I am trusting that the Lord will guide the doctor's hand and that all will be well. This storm isn't forever, and this storm isn't bigger than God's umbrella.  I'll just hold a little tighter to Him until it passes. After all, giving peace in the midst of the storm is His specialty.  Thank you Jesus.