Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ever feel like a mouse?

This past Sunday, I showed a clip to the kids that was shown at a kids camp a couple years ago.  Below is the link.  If you haven't seen it, I would suggest you watch it before you continue reading...or else this blog won't make a bit of sense to you. 



I have seen this commercial many times now, but it was recently that it hit me in a new way.  We, as humans, sometimes feel like this mouse.  We get ourselves into situations where we feel trapped or pinned in by life.  That can happen in many ways, but one of the things that I see most often is when we allow ourselves to be scared by things that we have no control over.  And, much like mice, we can be scared by just about anything. And fear, my friends, can be debilitating.

Now, sometimes we tell ourselves that we aren't afraid.  We are just "wondering."  We wonder what the future will hold.  We wonder where we will get the money to pay that bill that looms over our head.  We wonder what the government is up to.  We wonder what will happen to our freedoms.  We wonder about all manner of things.  But many times, we aren't "wondering" we are worrying.   And worry can make us feel like that little mouse that's stuck in the trap. 

But it's the end of that commercial that I love.  The mouse takes the situation that seems hopeless and just changes everything.  That bar across him is no longer a trap...it's a tool for exercise. We should do that same.  Those things that have us scared, need to be tools to exercise our faith.  I mean think about it.  We have a Friend who is bigger than the storms that blow through our lives.  And He's not some far off deity that looms overhead...He's our FRIEND.   He loves us and wants what's best for us.  And no matter what is happening in our lives...our God is NEVER overwhelmed by our problems.  He knows what we need and He knows when we need it...we simply have to trust Him.

Next time a worry starts to take over your thoughts...remember our mousy friend here and change that worry trap into a tool to exercise your faith. 

Bet you never look at a mousetrap in the same way.  :-)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

If you could see what I see...

There is snow all over the place.  It's piled so high in some places that it is difficult to see oncoming traffic.  It makes travel difficult and it makes work outside something of a challenge.  But I love this time of year.

In fact, without question, this has been my favorite winter weather in years.  I love how the trees look full and beautiful with their winter coats of white snow.  I love how the ground is pristine and pure looking after a new snowfall.  I love the cold air that hits me every time I step outside.  It is, quite simply, a beautiful time of year.

Many people, however, do not enjoy this time of year.  They do not feel energized, as I do, when the blast of cold hits their skin.  They focus on the dirty snow that piles up on the roads and the difficulty that snow and ice can cause in travelling.  They long for warmer temperatures and are ready for any hint of winter to be gone as soon as it arrives.  I sort of feel sorry for those people...they are missing out.

Life is all about the way you look at it.  Personally for me, I am not at all a fan of summer and probably am just as miserable in the summer as those aforementioned folks are in the winter months.  But (most of the time anyway) even in the heat of summer, I can find something of beauty to comment on.  Granted, for me, in the summer that may take some doing, but I enjoy a challenge.  However, since it comes easier for me in the winter, allow me to share with you a few things that I see in the winter.  Perhaps it will help you see the beauty around you as well.

The view out Grandma's picture window.
As I sit at my Grandmother's table, I can look out her picture window that faces the back yard and it simply makes me smile.  There are things that you notice when the ground is covered in snow that are easily missed at other times of year.  For example, yesterday, two bright red cardinal's decided to stop in the back yard for a bit.  Grandma noticed them right away and called my attention to them.  I must admit that without the white covering of snow, I might not have seen them.   But two of God's creation graced us with their presence and the snow allowed me to notice them and remember their visit.   

In the snow, footprints of those who have gone before us are easily seen and followed.  And we will often follow those footsteps more readily in the snow than at any other time of year.  Foot prints remind me of those who have gone before me.  Of those who's lives I have watched and continue to inspire me.  People like my parents (Randy and Mary Jane James), saints of the church who I watched leave a lasting legacy as I grew up like Ray and Margarite Hensley, Francis Tullin, Elsie Hale, Rev. David Whitteberry, and Rev. Merlin Hunter and so many other people I have known.  Some of these people have passed and some are continuing to leave footprints for others to follow.  I hope as I see the footprints around me in the snow, it will remind me that I am not alone in this journey to follow the Father's path.  There have been many before me and there will be many after me.

Finally, the winter allows me to really notice and enjoy the sun.  When the sunlight hits a pile of new snow, it shines in a way that simply makes me marvel.  It makes what could be dreary days bright and cheerful as if the Father is saying, "Hello!  I love you!  Have a wonderful day!".   

These are just a few of many reasons I love snowy winters.  Perhaps they are not your cup of tea, and that's fine.  Do me a favor then and when summer comes around, write a blog for me about the beauty you see.  I think I'd enjoy that. 

Have a great day everyone!


Friday, January 31, 2014

You might be a member of my generation if…

Maybe it is because I have moved to a place that holds so many childhood memories or maybe it is because I will be having another birthday in a little less than a month, but my mind is beginning to reminisce. 

I’m a part of Generation X and I always hated that name.  It’s like my whole generation got dropped into an algebra problem and everyone was trying to “find” us.  However, aside from our unfortunate generational name, we are a pretty interesting group.  And we grew up in an ever changing world that was just beginning to use computers, loved music videos, and some of our crew could nearly touch the clouds just by the height of their hair (and yes, boys are included in this statement).  So, if you will indulge me, today I thought I’d reminisce a little.  Remembering this stuff made me smile…maybe it will do the same for you. 

 You Might Be A Member of My Generation if:

You remember watching “Saved By the Bell” when it first came out.

You were keeping the hair spray, mousse, or hair gel companies in business in Jr. High and High School.

Mullets were the popular hairstyle for guys. (Even MacGyver had one!)

You played video games on an Atari 2600

You had a set of “Socker Boppers.” (FYI: I saw these in a store recently…apparently they are making a comeback.)

You owned or wanted to own your own Laser Tag set.

You ever tried to talk as fast as the guy in the Micro Machine commercials.

Trying to figure out how to transform your Transformer toy the first time was always a thrill.

New Kids on the Block were THE group…unless you were a Country Music Fan, in which case switch that to Garth Brooks.

You remember going to computer class and being asked to actually type code into the computer.

Typing class (on typewriters) was a requirement in school.

You remember the other characters that used to be in the McDonalds Commercials (Hamburgler, Grimace, etc.)

Grey Poupon mustard makes you think of people in limos.

You can quote the theme song to the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”…and are probably doing so right now in your head…or maybe out loud. J

When you were growing up, there was always a popular show on television that starred Michael Landon.

You know where the phrase “Punky Power” comes from.

If your Youth Group ever went to a Carman concert. (Always Good concerts and always free!)

If you wanted to play a game with a friend, you actually went over to that friend’s house or they came to yours.  No need for a computer.

You wrote handwritten letters to friends…and couldn’t wait to get a response in the mail.

You got your world news from “Channel 1” in school every day...and you probably still associate Anderson Cooper with that news show as opposed to his current show. (or maybe that's just me)

You loved watching “The A-Team” and found it interesting that no matter how many buildings, vehicles, or random objects blew up during the show and though bullets were flying all the time…no one ever died or was even seriously hurt (unless it was a plot point).

TGIF meant “Full House”, “Perfect Strangers”, “Step By Step”, and “Family Matters” would be on.

People rarely asked “Do you go to church?”, but rather “What church do you go to?” because it seemed that everyone went to church somewhere…even if they didn’t attend all the time.

You loved watching “The Muppet Show” and always wondered how Gonzo was going to goof up the ending of the theme song each week.

You had at least one friendship bracelet that you wore for ages. (Ok…probably just a few weeks)

You knew LeVar Burton as the “Reading Rainbow” host long before you ever heard of “Geordi LaForge”.

Twitter was something a bird did.

If you are a girl, You probably read “The Babysitter’s Club” or “Sweet Valley High” books all the time.

You were determined to find “Carmen Sandiego”

You carried a camera and took lots of pictures, but never seemed to get all the film developed. (I’m pretty sure I still have some somewhere.)

 

Lots of good memories.  There are, of course, many more.  What’s your favorite memory of Generation X?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Moving to a Not So New Place...

So, as you know, if you've been following this blog or Facebook, I have been looking for a new place to serve because the church in North Vernon could no longer afford an Associate.  It took several months and much prayer, but God has opened a new door for me that seems to be just what I needed.  He's so good like that. 

Starting this Sunday, January 12th,  I'll be the new Children's Pastor at the Parkview Church of the Nazarene in Anderson, IN.  I even get to preach next Sunday night so if you're in the area, stop in and say hello.  I'm looking forward to this new place and getting to know these people.  Why is this such an answer to prayers?  Well, not only am I convinced this church going to be a really great place to serve, my friends, let me share with you how good God is.

First of all, Anderson is my old stomping ground.  I am familiar with the area and have lots of friends and family around.  Second, this opened a door for me to be able to move in with my Grandmother and help her out as well.  Thirdly, my new church is literally right next door to the school where my oldest and one of my dearest friends teaches.  Fourth, within 30 minutes of where I now live, there are 4 other Children's Pastor friends with whom I can connect.  And lastly, because I am still in Indiana, that means I will be able to attend SPARK in March.  SPARK is an annual retreat for children's workers from all over the state where we are able to attend workshops, connect with other churches, swap ideas and more.  It's a blessing that I was truly hoping I wouldn't have to miss.

God is so good.  Even now, I am sitting in the midst of a snow day (my favorite kind of day).  Grandma and I are about to relax and spend some time watching movies and enjoying seeing the beautiful snow that is just outside our doors.  We have about a foot so far and the temperature at the moment is -13 and it feels like -47 outside...so we won't be venturing out today.

I hope your new year is as blessed as mine has started out to be.  Until next time, as my Dad always says, "Be blessed and be a blessing."

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cyber bullying...Sports Edition

It's a new year.  I promise I will post a blog within the next week about my new position and location, because I am very excited about that, but today I must speak about something that has been gnawing at me for quite a while and I am wondering if I am the only one who is seeing this?

We, as adults, have been doing everything we can to teach children and teens that bullying in any form is wrong.  Bullying is one of the biggest problems that young people are facing today and it comes in so many forms it is mind boggling.  But, I am amazed at how many people I see on a regular basis participating in cyber bullying on Facebook.  It happens every time there is a sporting event.  And it can get NASTY!

If your team is losing, then you see people posting about how terrible this player or that player is.  Or maybe some derogatory comment will be made about the coach or coaching staff.  If your team is winning, then the chatter changes from how bad your team is, to how bad the other team is, or worse yet (and I can't even believe this is happening, but I see it all the time) people fuss about how terrible it is that their team isn't winning by MORE!  Seriously...it is enough to make me want to scream sometimes...and not because I care at all about sports.  I don't.  Trust me.  I have nothing invested in any team anywhere except for the teams out of my alma mater and that is simply for nostalgia reasons or pride in my college.  So, please understand that I am saying this for no other reason than the fact that there are eyes watching all that we do and this seems to be getting out of hand. 

First, every player on every sports team is indeed a person.  They have family, friends, and wait for it...FEELINGS!  They may get paid extremely well for what they do (or maybe not if it is a college player which means they are hearing all these terrible comments AND trying to deal with all the regular college life pressures), and if they are a professional, playing this sport, granted is their job and they knew that people would be watching them do their job.  But let us look at them from a different perspective.  Would you like it if everyone in the country had the opportunity to watch you do your job (whatever that was) and then post their thoughts about how well you are doing it, or not doing it for all their friends to see?  Would you allow your child to do such a thing to someone they knew?  Especially if they were going to post that person's name as well?  Would you enjoy having your Aunt/Uncle/Cousin/Son/Daughter/Mom/Dad/Brother/Sister see your name be maligned all over the internet?  No?  Well, that is what is happening to these sports figures.  Why is it ok to do it to them?

I can hear you now, "Toni, none of those players are ever going to see what I post and besides they're making a bazillion dollars a year!  They should be better at the game!"  Ok, so by that logic, then I can post whatever I want about anyone I want in a public forum...but so long as the person I am posting about never sees it and they make a lot of money, then it is ok.  And even if they did see it, they don't know me, so that's ok too.  REALLY????   Is that what we want to teach our children?  It's ok to post something very hurtful online about someone (and even use their name) so long as they make a lot of money, they won't see it, and you don't know them.  WHAT???  I don't think so!

And lets talk about the horrible talk that comes up about the referees.  All those refs have hugely difficult jobs.  They are doing the best they can.  Some will absolutely make bad calls, but I'd dare say they don't do it on purpose and it doesn't help matters if you become irate over the calls they make.  My Dad was a ref for several years back when I was in High School, and you would not believe the stories he would come home with from those games.  People sometimes get downright violent if a call doesn't go their way.  I would often pray that nothing would happen to Dad.  He never tried to make bad calls, but on occasion I'm sure he would probably miss something (after all, even though he's awesome...he is human).  And people do not like when the ref misses a call.  And he was reffing for Jr. High games.  It's so much worse when you get into college or pro ball games.  Give the refs a break!!!

Here is all I am saying:  CUT OUT THE CYBER BULLYING!!!!  Can you really tell your child or any other child that they shouldn't say hurtful things about others if all they have to do is look at your Facebook or Twitter feed and see stuff like,  "Oh my goodness!  George Footballplayer dropped the ball AGAIN!  Wish they'd get rid of him." Or  "Wow, Henry Sportscoach sure is doing a terrible job!  Wish they'd fire him."   If you want to say something about your team, say something encouraging.  "Come on XYZ TEAM!!!  The game's not over yet!"  or "Pass the ball to Henry Footballplayer!  He's having a great game!"

We as Christ followers are supposed to show Christ to the world around us and the online world is not exempt from that.  Before you post something online, ask yourself, "Is this detrimental to my Christian witness," and then ask yourself, "Would I allow my child/grandchild say this about someone they know?"  If your answer is "No" then don't post it. 

End of rant...back to your sporting events.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I've been working with children in some capacity for around 12 years.  In that time, I've noticed a change in the attitude of children.  The change is in their respect.  And not just their respect for others, but their respect for themselves.  Now, it is important to note that this change does not come from the kids, but from their parents.  

Here are a few things I have noticed:

Kids often run the house.  
Now, I know that sounds crazy, but it is true.  I have seen it over and over again.  The parents bend over backwards to do whatever their children want.  Whether it is a sporting event, a concert, a party, or simply making sure their child gets their own way.  The kids have priority over everything else.  Now, making children a priority is wonderful and I applaud parents who make it a point to spend time with their children, but those kids need to know that they are not the most important person in the world.  It is important that they know that their parents have worth as well.  That the things that are important to their parents are indeed important.  If Mom or Dad want to have a date night and it conflicts with something the child wants to do, well it's ok that that child misses their event from time to time.  They need to know that others are as important as they are.  Knowing this helps them respect others and their time. 

Kids are not allowed to fail.
This is something that has been happening for years and it's terrible.  I remember being a teenager and hearing an adult putting a stop to keeping score at a ball game because they didn't want anyone to lose.  REALLY???  It was insane then and it is insane now.  Kids need to learn not only how to be good winners, but how to act when they lose.  And if they don't learn that, they are sadly unprepared for life...BECAUSE YOU DON'T WIN ALL THE TIME IN LIFE.  I have had children (younger and older children) burst into tears because they lost a simple game in church.  What will happen to that child when they grow up and he/she loses a job, misses out on a promotion, or simply doesn't get the credit they deserve in life.  Will they cry then too? Will they throw a fit and march off in a huff? (Yep, I've had that happen too.) That will earn them lots of friends.  We have to let them learn how to win and lose as children to prepare them for life.  Plus, it helps them to respect the work it takes to win.  Those who work hard do well...those who don't, not so much.  

Parents no longer expect respect.
Parents allow their children to speak to them rudely.  They allow their children to give them attitude and talk back.  When I was a child, if I even tried to be sassy, my parents would have stepped in and put a stop to it.  They let me know in no uncertain terms that that type of talk was not acceptable and THEY MODELED THAT BEHAVIOR WITH THEIR OWN PARENTS.  I saw how they took care an respected their own parents and realized that this was the proper way to treat my parents.  My parents didn't talk back to their parents.  They didn't sass them.  They obeyed them...even as adults.  That is powerful in the eyes of a child.  Words only have meaning if they are followed up by actions.  My parents, then expected me to treat them with respect and I would be punished if I did not.  Did I always "feel" respectful of my parents?  Did I always "want" to do what they asked?  No.  In fact, sometimes I would fume because I didn't agree with them...but I fumed to myself.  I respected their decisions even if I did not always agree with them.  

My friend, Matt posted this on his Facebook page yesterday:
"Our sons will begin listening to their parents and doing what they're told without arguing and excuses. They will show us respect. If I have to quit my job, pull them from school, sell our house, throw away our TV, take away every activity, remove them from every friend and move us to the middle of nowhere, THEY WILL DO IT, or I will die trying."

I really don't expect Matt and his wife, Kristen to move to the middle of nowhere, but I applaud their hard work in this area with their children.  And it is hard work.  I'm not a parent, but even I know it's not easy to discipline consistently.  Sometimes your kids get mad at you.  Sometimes, they might even say they "hate" you (which they don't, but they will say it anyway...I know, because I used to think sometimes that I "hated" my parents, but I never actually did.) Kids get mad at me at church at times because I have rules and I expect them to follow them.  But I learned a long time ago...if they like me all the time, I'm not doing my job right.  They will not always get their way with me.  They won't always like my rules.  But they are my rules and if they want to be apart of the programming I plan, they will follow the rules.  End of discussion.

You might read this and think, "She doesn't have children...she doesn't know what she's talking about."  But here is the bottom line:  In all my years of working with children, this is the constant:  The children who show respect for their elders also have more respect for themselves.  They have more confidence and they have better outlooks on life.  Nine times out of ten, the children who are disrespectful are also more angry and bitter at the world around them.  They lash out more often and generally seem more sad.  That is what I have seen working with children over 12 years in three states.

But they can't learn this on their own.  It has to begin at home.    

 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Some Places Just Feel Like Home

There are some places in the world that just feel like home.  They are the places that when you arrive, you feel like you belong.  You feel at peace with your surroundings and you are always glad to be there.  For me, Trevecca Nazarene University is one of those places.  When I walk onto that campus, it is as if all the worries and problems of life seem to dissipate and I can just relax and enjoy the presence of the Lord.  His peace just seems to permeate the entire campus.

This past weekend, I was thrilled to be able to attend Homecoming at my Alma Mater, Trevecca Nazarene University.  This year was my 15 year reunion (technically, next year would be since I graduated a year late, but why split hairs...the class of 1998 is my class) and it is hard to believe that so many years have passed since I was a student at Trevecca.  Before I started college, I came to campus to visit with a friend of mine and her mother.  At that point, I had been to the campus several times, so I was showing my friend around. When we left the campus, her mom said something that I never forgot.  She said, "I feel such a peace on that campus."  I am reminded of those words when I come back to visit. Many things have changed.  There are new buildings and many of the old buildings have been remodeled to be used in different ways.  There are new teachers, new programs, and new fields of study...but the atmosphere is the same.  There is a peace that can only come from the Prince of Peace.

Homecoming was great fun.  And I loved getting to catch up with old friends and tour old haunts.  But, for me, getting to feel the presence of the Father in a fresh way was just what I needed.  I am so glad that Trevecca is a University that knows the importance of that time with the Father and encourages its students to learn that importance as well.

There is a statue at the main intersection of campus that succinctly
puts what Trevecca aims for it's students to accomplish in life.  As the picture shows...it is a powerful verse.

May we all strive to fulfill His call on our lives.