Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's not about us...It's about Him!

Christmas is by far my favorite time of year.

First, there is the weather...I love the weather.  Though it hasn't happened yet this year, is there anything better than waking up to a snow covered world?  It makes everything so beautiful and looks so peaceful.  And I love sitting in front of a fireplace watching the flames flicker.

I love the happy faces and excitement that you see at Christmas.  People are always so much happier...oddly enough in our self centered society, it is at the time of year where so many focus on giving to others, that I see the most joy in people's faces.

And then there is the most important thing about Christmas.  At this time of year the entire world is celebrating the birth of our Savior.  If you celebrate Christmas, you are celebrating Christ's birth...even if you don't realize it.  How cool is that?  (For those of you who like to point out that Jesus was not actually born on Christmas Day, let me assure you that this is not news to me.  But it is the day that we choose to celebrate His birth, so please...let's skip that particular argument.)  Plus, at Christmas we have many more opportunities to share the love of Christ because people just seem more open to it.  Like I said, they are celebrating His birth...even if they don't know who He is.  Sometimes that causes folks to pause then want to learn more about Him.  Let us pray that many ask those questions this year.

Several years ago, I heard a Christmas song by Go Fish called "It's about the Cross" and it has rapidly become one of my all time favorite Christmas songs.  I wanted to share it on here today as a reminder of what the season is really all about.  After all, if it were not for the birth of Christ, we could not celebrate his amazing gift to us at Easter.  And without his salvation...we'd all be lost.  Thank you Jesus!  I'm so excited to be celebrating You this season!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Voting Day!

Today is the day we have long awaited.  For some, the excitement comes from getting to vote in their first election.  For others, it is simply because we know what a privilege it is to be able to vote and we want to do our duty.  And for others still, it is because we know that after today we will no longer be bombarded with political ads...and let's face it, that is a blessing for everyone.

Today, as I went to vote, I was excited to do my part.  I know that it is an honor to be able to vote.  Many people have fought and died so that I can voice my opinion on who should run our city, county, state, and country.  My one of my roommates from college, Krista Embry, put this on her facebook page today:

Day 6 of Thanksgiving: I am thankful today for those who have gone before and protected my freedom to have my voice heard as I choose a candidate in the election. Even though those who died protecting our freedom may not be able to cast a ballot today, in a way, all of us who are, and do - still give them a voice.

Excellent words Krista!  Very well said!  I agree wholeheartedly.

Some have said that they chose not to vote today, or perhaps they have "thrown away" their vote by writing in a candidate that is fictional.  That is also their right.  It is unfortunate that anyone would choose to do either of those things, but they have the right to do what they please whether I like it or not and I am glad that they have the opportunity to make their own choices.  We live in a land that lets us have the right to choose and that is something that we should never take lightly.  Too many people around the world would give anything to have the opportunity to vote for us to ever see it as anything less than a privilege.

I am proud that I have the right to vote.  I am honored that I got to do so today.  I will commit to praying for whichever candidate wins the election...even if it is not the one I voted for.  Will you do the same?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Peace, Beauty, and a Wonderful Savior.

I just got back from a trip to see my dear friend Erica and her family.  She lives in Jackson, Kentucky...well, the address is Jackson.  The actual location is WAY out in the middle of nowhere.  No cell service, no GPS,  just amazing beauty.

My first morning there, we had to leave early because Erica had an appointment just outside of Lexington.  We would be leaving just before 8am so I was up well before Sunrise.  After breakfast, I had the opportunity to sit out on the porch of Erica and Kris's home (See above...duplex on the left) and watch the sunrise.  It was a cool morning...about 40ish degrees.  As I sat on their porch, I simply could not stop smiling.  It was cool (which I LOVE) and quiet.  I could hear the leaves brushing against each other on the trees and the birds begin to sing ever so slightly.  Then the sun began to rise and the darkness that surrounded me began to change ever so slowly to light.  The trees started to showcase their beautiful colors as the sun began to reflect against their leaves.  As I sat there and took pictures of the changing scenery as the sun rose, I was just in awe of our amazing Creator.  He designed every leaf, every tree, ever hill I was enjoying.  It was a wonderful time of communion with God.

Then on Sunday morning, it was a rainy day, but once again I was up early and while the house was still quiet I stepped out on the back porch to read my Bible.  And once again, I was in awe of the beauty that God was showing me.  Behind their home is a lovely little footbridge on one side and the side of a foothill on the other.  I stood on that porch and read from my Bible and once again enjoyed a time in the presence of the magnificent Creator.  It was a blessing that I won't soon forget.

Sometimes we need to get away to be able to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. I know for me, those few days with wonderful friends and surrounded by a canvas only God could paint, I was able to draw closer to my Savior...and that is a treasure worth far more than anything else I could imagine.  Thank you Jesus!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

When Did Bullying Become OK?

I'm afraid I must step up onto a soapbox for a minute because I do not think I can take much more of this.

If you have been watching online for the last few years you would see that there has been a huge surge of people speaking out against bullying.  And rightly so because it is a huge problem in our society.  I work with children and teenagers and I know that it happens.  It's terrible and it hurtful and it MUST STOP!  Everyone seems to agree with this...until it is time for the elections.

Then it seems that adults all across the country decide that bullying is ok.  After all, the people they are talking about are politicians.  They made themselves fair game, right?  WRONG!  They decided to run for a political office.  They decided to try and make a difference in our country.  They did not decided that they and their family were just going to be "ok" with being bullied.

No matter what your political affiliation, this blog applies to you...and I'm talking to the politicians themselves too.  If we want to teach our children that bullying is wrong, then we have to stop it ourselves.  Would you like to explain why it is ok for you to verbally torture, tear down, and post embarrassing pictures of a politician, but it's not ok for them to do it of a classmate?  Do you realize what you are doing to the family of that politician?  How would you like it if your Mom, Dad, Aunt, or Uncle was being torn down all over the internet by people who had never even met them?  Do you know for an absolute fact that what you are saying is true?  Even if you do, why is it ok for you to post such things about this person while at the same time you are trying to teach children and teenagers that it is not ok for them to do the same to others?

This is a horrible and tragic double standard that MUST STOP.  Children learn by example.  What kind of example are you setting?  Teens do what others do.  Are the things you are posting something you would want said about you?  If not, DON'T POST IT!  Don't SHARE it.

If you don't like a particular politician, don't tear him or her down.  Build up your candidate.  Show off all his or her good points.  I don't care why you don't like the other candidate...tell me why you do like yours.  Is that so hard?  Or do you really not know enough about your candidate to do that.  If that's the case, then that is a whole other problem...and a whole other blog!

Am I the only one who sees this?  I hope not.

Monday, October 1, 2012

King of the Roller Coaster!

If you know me very well, you know that I am terrified of heights.  I don't even do well crossing bridges. (Side note:  Why are bridges so high anyway?  I mean, must you be a thousand feet in the air?  Couldn't you build the bridge a mere 75 feet above the water and still get across?  I don't know...good thing I'm not an engineer.)  I stay away from things like ladders, glass elevators, and especially roller coasters.  When I am high above the world, my legs shake, my hands get cold, my heart races and it's all I can do to breathe properly.  I realize that most of the time the fear is irrational, but that doesn't make it go away.

Fortunately, the roller coaster that is life does not affect me that way.  Life is full of twists, turns, dips, highs and lows and yet, it doesn't scare me at all.  I mean no one enjoys the lows of life, but those lows help us appreciate the highs and generally help us grow, so there is no sense in avoiding them.  The twists and turns keep life interesting.  Besides, the God I serve is the King of life's roller coasters.  He knows all the twists and turns, he's ready for the ups and downs, and he's better than any safety bar could be in protecting me.  With Him by my side, I have nothing to fear.  

I have recently been thinking a lot about just how big our God is and how much He cares for us.  It's an amazing thing to contemplate.  The One who created the very universe, formed all things into being, is all powerful and more amazing than words...He cares about me.  He's taking care of me!  And that knowledge can bring peace in the midst of any of life's roller coasters.  Thank you Jesus!

Just some thoughts that were rolling around in my head today.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A question for our World...

This blog is a bit more serious that others I've written, but I wanted to write it because today I've been thinking about God.  Now, I realize that probably doesn't come as a shock since I am in the ministry, but go with me here.

Tonight I'm taking our teens on location someplace (location left out in case one of them reads this before tonight) where we are going to look at God's creation and discuss just who He is.  I am reminded of that Scripture passage where Jesus asks Peter, "Who do you say I am?" (Matthew 16:15)  Peter, of course responds with, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God." (Matthew 16:16)  Peter had to decide for himself who Jesus was, and it had become crystal clear.

Is it just me, or does it seem like people have forgotten who He is?  It reminds me of the Children of Israel when they were wandering in the desert.  God would continually send them help and when He did, they would be thankful and worship Him...for a minute.  Then the complaining would begin again.  Anyone else see our world doing this same thing? Only now, we are perverting who God is as well.  I'm hearing people talk as if you can pick and choose what you will believe about God...and whatever you choose to believe, that is what is correct.  WHAT?

God is unchanging.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Just because you choose to believe that He won't punish you for your sins doesn't make it true.  You can choose to believe there is more than one way to heaven, but that doesn't make it true.  God is the almighty and all powerful creator of the universe and He has told us the way to be saved.  He sent His Son to die for us.  We can choose to accept His amazing gift of salvation or we can choose not to.  The choice is ours to decide, but it is between those two choices.  You can't make up other choices to choose from.  The Bible isn't a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book.

So the question is coming at us again.  Who will we say that He is?  I say that He is my Savior, my Comfort, my Confidant, my Friend and so much more. He is the One True God.

Who do you say that He is?

Monday, September 17, 2012

You Might Be A Children's Pastor If...

So, I'm feeling a bit silly, so I put together this little list.  I'm sure my Children's Pastor friends could add to it, so feel free.   Enjoy!

You Might be a Children’s Pastor if:
           * You can improvise a lesson when all the “props” you planned to use decide to mutiny

           * You realize that props do indeed mutiny, but only at the most inopportune times, so always have a back up plan...and perhaps a back up back up plan.  :-)

* You have ever stapled a costume for a program so it would stay together long enough for the performance.

            * Empty toilet paper rolls are not something that you think should be thrown away.

            * You have no idea what music is popular unless there is a version out for kids.

            * You can name at least 5 children’s television shows on Disney or Nickelodeon

            * You can indeed pull a "MacGyver" on a Sunday Morning if needed
            * You understood the previous statement.

            * You find object lessons during any shopping trip

            * You realize that having an overhead projector is an incredibly important decorating tool
            * You know what station is Radio Disney

            * You could wallpaper your children's department in Oriental Trading magazines that NEVER STOP COMING!

            * Your office is often filled with random objects that seem to others to have no purpose but to you are just object lessons in waiting.

            * You have difficulty not coming up with motions for the songs in “big church”.

            * You can not stand still to give a lesson…even if it is for adults.

            * There is a wig in your office that is used most often when it is NOT Halloween.

            * You have a stockpile of masking tape and/or duck tape and you take some with you to any/all events “Just in case”.

            * You love Jesus and love teaching children all about Him.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


It was a day much like any other day.  I had gone in a bit early to work at Ball State University.  I had turned on the television in the lobby of our office building and was listening to it as I started the computer and began the day in my office.

Then I got a phone call:
Co-worker: "Toni, do you have the TV on in your office?"
Me: "Yes, why?"
Co-worker: "Turn on the news!  A plane just hit the World Trade Center.  I'll be right there."

I got up and changed the station on the television to the Today Show and suddenly our "normal" day just stopped.  No one was working.  Everyone was glued to the screen.  Folks were coming in from nearby offices to see what was happening. Students started filing in.  Soon the lobby was full of people.  All of us in shock about what we were seeing.  First one plane hit.  Then another hit.  Then another hit the Pentagon.  It was all so surreal.

Our Graduate Assistant had recently been to New York and I will never forget him saying. "You don't understand all the people UNDER those Towers."  Until then I had never known that there was a mall underground beneath the Twin Towers.  We watched in horror as people were jumping out of the building to their deaths below.  And not just one or two.  People from both Towers jumping out of windows willing to take their chances that they might survive the fall...but they didn't.

Then the unthinkable happened.  One Tower fell.  We were all watching it, but still couldn't believe what we had just seen.  All those people...just gone.  The smoke on the television screen was so thick it looked like a wall coming toward the camera people.  Then when the shock of the first building falling began to subside we immediately thought about the second one.  Would it fall too?  Surely not.  It didn't get hit in the same place as the first.  Surely it would remain standing...and then it fell too.

We looked on...not able to tear ourselves away from the screen, but praying for God to be with those in New York.  We were trying to call our families to see if everyone was aware of what was happening.  To reassure ourselves that we were ok...that our families were ok, but even though we were in Muncie, IN and not New York City, the shock was just as real for us.

I remember when I went to lunch that day with a friend, we were still watching the television in a local restaurant and it was there that I heard about the fourth plane that had crashed in the field before it could reach the White House.  And I remember thinking, "When is this going to stop?  How many more are there?"

That day, the world changed.  Everything that we had taken for granted was up for grabs and our security in our every day lives was taken away.  People who went to church all the time and those who generally were not church going people were praying and crying out to God for help.  There was a tragedy that for those my age and younger was unequaled to anything we had ever seen in our country.  We, as a country, turned to God.  And rightly so.  He was there.  He was giving comfort and peace in horrible situations.  He was giving strength to those who needed it so desperately.  And then when the initial shock wore off, and the terror that had gripped so many subsided...sadly then so did their need for God.  But thankfully, God didn't leave.  He continued to give comfort and peace and strength and wisdom to all those who asked.  He was there in the midst of the rubble as people looked for survivors.  He was with the families waiting to hear if their loved one had escaped the building in time.  He was rejoicing with those who found their loved ones safe and comforting those who did not.

He continues to do so even today.  He stands there loving us...even when we don't deserve it.  Just waiting on us to turn to Him again...individually and as a Country.  He has so much to give us.  So much to share.  Let us not wait until tragedy strikes to reach out to Him.

When something like September 11th happens, it should remind those of us who know Jesus just how many do not.  We often think we have more time.  The people that died that day thought they had more days ahead of them.  They didn't know they were out of time.  We also don't know how much time we have ahead of us.  I could live to be 100 or I could die this afternoon.  My amount of time on this Earth is not known.  But I want to reach as many as I can for the Kingdom in the time I have.  When tragedy strikes, we should not have to reach out to God...we should be able to allow Him to hold us up because He's already holding us in His arms...if we will just let Him.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Learning from a Spider and a Lizard...

There is a spider that lives outside the main entrance of my home.  I am not a fan of spiders and my first thought was to kill it immediately...but when I saw him, I was very tired and I just didn't do it.  So, I left him alone.  It is now several days later and he is still there.  He doesn't seem to move.  Just sits in his web and watches the world go by.  So, I've decided since his is outside my home, I'm not going to bother him.  But I have given him a name.  I call him Henry.  I wonder what he looks at all day.  After all, not a lot happens outside the door of my home/office.  It is quite simply a stairwell. If you look up, you would see the entrance to my parent's home and an exit from the garage, but that is about it.  I wonder what he looks at all day.  Are there other bugs that stop in and pass the time of day with him?  Does he catch a lot of insects in his web?  It doesn't seem like it as I never see any.  Why doesn't he go somewhere where he'd have more insects around...if not for company, than for food.  But, he just stays in his corner...content for them to come to him.

Several years ago, I lived in a very small home in Pompano Beach, FL.  Lizards abound in South Florida.  They are just everywhere and one found it's way into my house.  Now the problem was, it lived on my ceiling and was very fast.  I couldn't reach him and by the time I would get a chair so I could get to him, he would have moved to another part of my ceiling once again out of my reach.  It was terribly annoying until I just decided that he was planning to stay around, so I named him as well.  His name was also Henry.  I chose it because I didn't know the gender of the lizard and figured if it was a girl, then it could be short for Henrietta. (That's the reason I chose Henry for the spider too).  Like Henry the spider, it never seemed to go very far.  Henry the lizard would pretty much just stay on my ceiling.  I wondered what it did all day while I was at work, but then decided I probably really didn't want to know.  But he helped keep the ants at bay (which seemed to be overrunning the area around my home) and that was quite nice of him.  But right outside my door were lots of other lizards.  I heard them scurry away when I would walk in the grass.  I wondered why he never tried to leave and join them?

Sometimes I think we, as Christians, are a bit like these two Henry's.  We often stay in one spot.  We don't see beyond our little world and really have no desire to branch out into another area.  We are thrilled when others come to see us, but going out ourselves simply doesn't appeal.  How sad when there are hundreds of people just outside dying to know our Savior.  But we have to be willing to go to them...for they probably won't just show up and ask about Him.

I'm going to let Henry the spider stay outside my door...then every time I leave, I can remind myself that I don't want to be like him.  I don't want to be stuck in one small corner content with only ministering to those who come to me.  I want to go out and see who God opens the door for me to talk to.  

Amazing what God can teach me...even through a spider and a lizard.  :-) 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Perfect Vacation

It is interesting to me that Summer has such different meanings to different people. Most people look forward to Summer as a time of vacations and spending more time with family because there is no school keeping students and teachers occupied. It's a time of rest and rejuvenation as people enjoy the sunshine and pretty days.

Unless, of course, you are a Youth or Children's Pastor.  Then Summer is a marathon that you have to psych yourself up for.  Now, I'm not complaining.  There are lots of fun things that we get to plan in the summer that we couldn't do at other times of the year.  Things like Camp, Swim Parties, and Vacation Bible Schools are they type of events that make Summer exciting...but they also make summer busy.

On my District (The Indianapolis District) in the summer, I can expect: Teen Camp, Kids Camp, Vacation Bible School, District Assembly, District Missions Convention (and Kids Mission Day), Campmeeting and our other local church activities.  If I were on the Northeastern Indiana District (where I have some friends) there would be all of that, but they have 3 different Children's Camps over three weeks in the summer instead of just one.  Suffice it to say, for anyone who ministers to young people, summer is anything but a time of vacation. But as busy as it is, it's so fun to get to work with people that you only get to see on occasion at other times of the year.  We have some amazing Children's Pastors and Children's Ministry Directors on our District and I love getting to work with them.  It's always a time of great fun and lots of laughter.  I also got to meet and work with some great teenagers and that was a huge blessing as well.

However, now that the summer is nearly over, and the kids are going back to school soon, I can take a few days to relax and I am SO EXCITED!  I have just started a 4 day vacation and what are my plans, you ask?    Rest!  Lots of rest and the opportunity to catch up on those things that have had to take a backseat in recent days.  Cleaning and laundry have been in "only what's necessary" mode for the past few weeks.  Now I will get the opportunity to catch up. My family would probably tell you that I have never been much of a "clean freak."  And they would be right.  I don't mind a little clutter and I am awful about remembering to dust things.  I wish I had inherited the "I think cleaning is fun" gene that my Mom got, but sadly it must skip a generation.  So when I say that, even for me, my house is in a state of disarray...well, let's just say that this time off couldn't have come at a better time.  :-)  I HATE spiders, but there is one that has taken up residence in a doorway that I never use...and up to now, I just didn't have the energy to get rid of it.  Poor little's day has come!  To be fair, I have given it ample time to find another residence.

So, this is going to be a perfect vacation.  I'll clean, do laundry, get rid of the spider in the doorway, watch the Olympics, and hopefully read a book.  Then on Saturday, I'll jump back into the fray more renewed and excited about the great things ahead!  God is so good and it is so fantastic to watch Him work in the lives of young people.  Busy or not, I wouldn't trade my profession for anything in the world.  God called me to be a minister to young people and I am blessed to have the opportunity!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Passing of a Legend...Rest in Peace Andy Griffith

I don't think that I've ever written a blog about a celebrity.  And this blog isn't actually about a celebrity perse as much as it is about the change in our society.

Yesterday Andy Griffith died.  A legend in the television world and a fixture in most American homes at some point.  Whether you watched him at Sheriff Andy Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show" or as Benjamin Matlock on "Matlock", laughed as he portrayed Private Will Stockdale in "No Time for Sergeants", or enjoyed his musical styling of the old hymns, he brought joy and laughter to our homes for many years.  And he did it all in a family friendly way.

When Andy Griffith was on Television, you didn't have to be afraid to watch the show with your family.  His humor was not only funny and timeless, but also clean.  In fact, most of the comedians that we look back on with great fondness were hysterical...and clean.  Andy Griffith, Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Dick Van Dyke (who is still living) and many more have been and will always be looked up to as masters of their craft and they all made us laugh without offending us.  It is sad that the same can not be said of most (though not all) of our current so called comedians.  It is interesting that these are the giants of the comedic industry.  No one will ever take their place...but it causes me to wonder why more people are not following their lead.

I suppose crude has become the new "funny", but crudeness isn't funny.  It is, however juvenile.  Bathroom humor should remain in our childhood.  Children can't help that they find that kind of humor funny, but adults should outgrow it at some point.  Swearing isn't funny.  But somewhere along the line, our society decided that these things were indeed funny...and society has suffered for it.

So, I tip my hat (if I wore hats) to those truly funny people who brought us laughter that will stand the test of time.  I appreciate that they didn't waver in their stand to keep their humor clean.  It's sad that we have lost another who wa That is what crossed my mind when I heard of the passing of Andy Griffith.  I just thought I'd share my thoughts with you.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day Dad!

Today is Father's Day and I had to post a blog because I have an amazing Dad, and it's not every day that I get the opportunity to brag on him.

My father is Dr. Randall Lee James.  He's a pastor, author, teacher, theologian, former evangelist, former missionary, and musician.  But more than all of that, he's Dad.

He has taught me many things throughout my life.  He's funny and he's taught me how to find the humor in nearly any situation.  He's wise and has shown me to value of thinking through a problem and seeing all sides of a situation.  He's incredibly smart and he has the ability to make even the most complicated things easy to understand.  He tells me that he's proud of me when I do well and corrects me when I mess up.  But whether I do well or I fail, he tells me he loves me and that is something that means more to me than I have words to express.

When I went into the ministry it was so comforting to know that he would help me work through any questions that would come up as I do my studies and take the classes that are needed for my ordination.  I have often sought his council over the years and he has never failed to listen to my questions and help me find the answers.  It is very freeing to know that I can ask Dad anything and he will never make me feel stupid for asking the question.  I always try to take the classes that he teaches because I know I will learn a lot.

Dad has shown me in both word and deed what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  I have watched him over the years through good times and bad and I have watched how he has responded to situations of all kinds.  No matter what goes on in life, I continually see Jesus in my Dad.  I want to be an example like that for others.

He may not realize it, but in life and in ministry he is the best teacher I have ever had and I hope to continue to learn from him for many many years to come.  So, Happy Father's Day Daddy!  I love you so much and I am so blessed to have you!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

She is Amazing!

There are a few people in my life who are so special and so important that I simply can not imagine what my life would be like without them.  One of those people is my Grandma James.  Today is her birthday and I am blessed to get to be with her today.  But, I do not think she realizes just how fantastic she is or what an impact that she has on everyone who meets her.  So I thought I'd take a few minutes and share just why she is so amazing. 

First of all, I have never met anyone who is more loving.  From the time I was little until the present, I have never felt more loved than when I am in her presence.  She simply radiates love.  And it is not just because she's my Grandma either.  It's because Jesus lives in Grandma and His love just spills out of her and onto everyone around her.  From playing a game, to cooking a meal, to simply having a chat...Grandma just radiates the love of Christ.

Next, she listens to me.  She lets me vent when I'm troubled and gets excited with me when I'm excited.  No matter what is going on in my life, I know she will always be there cheering me on in the good times or there with a word of encouragement when my day just isn't going all that well.

She is the most patient person I have ever met.  Many things happen in life that a less patient person might want to throw something across the room or scream at the top of their lungs...but Grandma patiently goes on.  The good, the bad, the in-between...nothing gets the better of Grandma.  I want to be like that too.

She is funny.  Hands down, without question Grandma is the funniest person I have ever met.  She doesn't always mean to be funny, but that just adds to her charm.  If you've ever played a game with Grandma, then you know what I mean.  If you haven't...well, I'm sorry, but you're missing out. 

Lastly, (though I really could go on for much longer) Grandma shows me Jesus in her life.  Not just in her words, not just in her actions, but with all of her life.  I want to be like my Grandma.  I'm so blessed to have her in my life.

Happy Birthday Grandma!  I love you more than I can adequately put into words.  Thank you for being such a wonderful influence on me.  You are indeed amazing!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

10 Lessons I Learned From Mom

Tomorrow is Mother's Day and I simply could not let the day go by without using my blog to brag on my Mom for a bit.  Several years ago my brother wrote her a song for Mother's Day (it's called Mary's Song and you can find it on his website...there's a link to it on this page) and while I am not at all talented in song writing, I thought perhaps this would be the next best thing to show her how much she has taught me over the years.  Now, let's be honest:  My Mom has taught me WAY more than 10 things, but if I took the time to list them all, this post would go on for days.  So, I'm just picking out 10 of the bazillion things she has taught me.  Perhaps your Mom has taught you some of the same things. 

1) Necessity is the mother of invention
       I am quite certain that any creativity that I have, I got from my mother.  Growing up, I can not tell you how many things she fixed or built when the need arose.  She can make just about anything out of cardboard and tack paper if necessary.  Because of her, when I am in the midst of a project and a curve gets thrown at me, I know that I don't have to give up...I just have to get creative.  And learning to fix problems creatively is a skill that has served me well in ministry. 

2) Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do
     If she said this phrase once to me, she said it a million times.  There are jobs that we do not enjoy doing or do not want to do, but that does not mean that we don't have to do them.  Too many times today I see parents that allow their children to only do what they want and I think that is sad.  It is by being made to do the things that we don't want to do that we learn responsibility and character.  I am so blessed that my Mom (and my Dad) didn't allow me to decide what chores I would or would not do.  By learning to do them all, I am better able to care for myself as an adult.

3) I am not more important than anyone else
     My Mom taught me how to be compassionate by letting me watch her care for others.  There were many times when Mom was ill or when money was tight that Mom still found a way to do something for someone else.  She has always put everyone else ahead of herself.  She reminds me that we are here to serve and not to be served. 

4) Church is not an option!
     Now in all honesty, this is something that both of my parents taught us.  NOTHING took priority over time in God's house.  Not vacations, not school functions, not family gatherings, not anything.  Even illness was not a good excuse unless you would be contagious to others.  Being in God's house and having fellowship with God's people was important and my parents knew that if they let me skip for a sporting event, or a weekend away, or even a school event, that I would be much more likely to see church as an option that wasn't really a necessity in my life.  Don't misunderstand me, there is nothing magical about a church building, but it is part of learning about priorities.  God was made a priority in the life of my family and nothing could budge that priority.  Some people probably think that my parents were too strict in that area.  But I have seen what happens when parents do not make church a priority in the lives of their children.  When they let other things take that place of being at church (even good things) the children and teens start to see what is really important in the lives of their parents.  And if being a church can be replaced with being a a ball game, going to a family dinner, a trip to Kings Island, or helping to build a deck at a friends tell me where they will place the priority in their life?

5) Spending time with God is important
     Many times growing up, when I would wake up in the morning, I would find my Mom praying in some part of the house.  The place would still be quiet.  And I would find my Mom on her knees talking to the Father about all manner of things.  Her Bible would be beside her where she'd been doing her devotions before her prayer time.  Those memories are etched in my mind and I have always wanted to be just like her.  I've yet to master the getting up early to pray part, but I do know that I need to spend time with God daily if I want to serve Him the best I can.

6) It's ok to be silly
     My Mom is a nut.  I love her for that.  Playing games with her is always a hoot because you never know what new word or phrase she might come up with to vent her frustration. A current favorite of mine is: "Fiddlely, Diddley, Piddley, Poo!"  Not sure how to spell all those words,but since she made them up, I suppose I can decide how to spell them.  She has taught me that it is ok to let your hair down and be yourself.   No one should be serious all the time.

7) Music is apart of who we are
     As long as I can remember, music has been a part of our family life.  My family is always breaking out into song at random times.  In fact, most anything can trigger just such an outburst.  I suppose that might seem strange to others, but it is very much a part of who we are and my Mom is the leader of the pack when it comes to this aspect of our lives.  She sings all the time.  It's nothing for her to break out into song if one pops into her mind.  I am the same way.  We all are to some degree.  I think it's a neat trait of our family.  Others might find it a bit odd, but music seems to permeate our lives in such a way that it simply has to escape sometimes...and it usually escapes in the form of a song fragment that just needed to be sung in the middle of Wal-Mart!

8) She loves me no matter what
     I suppose this one should go without saying, but I'm saying it anyway.  There is just something special about a mother's love.  She has at times been disappointed in me, she has disagreed with me, she has even been concerned about me, but she has never ever stopped loving me. 

9) No matter how old I am, I will always be her baby girl
     There is something special about always being seen as a child by your parents.  I'm not saying that it isn't at times an annoying trait, but there is something calming about knowing that no matter how old we get, our parents will always see us as the little children they raised and because of that they enjoy so much watching us accomplish things in our lives...because they know what it took for us to get to where we are.  They remember the struggles and the challenges along the way.  Whether it is graduating High School, getting a new job, starting a business, buying a house or whatever the accomplishment might be.  We will always be their kids...and they are proud of us.

10)  I make her proud
     No, I'm not being conceited.  I know this because she told me so.  Mom made it a point to let me know that she is proud of me.  If you are a Mom, do not underestimate the power you have to give your children the strength they need to accomplish the things life brings.  My Mom tells me she is proud of me...knowing that thrills me and makes me want to do even better.

So, these are a few of the things my Mom, Mary Jane James, has taught me over the years.  I look forward to continuing to learn from her for many more years to come.  I love you Mom!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Embarrassing moment #...oh brother, I've lost count!

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter. As you can see by the photo, we had the Easter Bunny at this year's Easter Egg Hunt for our church. She was a blast to have around and cars were honking at her all the time. It was lots of fun!

Have you ever had one of those days where you know you've forgotten something, but you just can't figure out what it is? I had one of those days on Easter Sunday.

All morning long I had the nagging feeling that I had forgotten something very important, but no matter how much I thought about it, I just couldn't put my finger on what it was. The children were going to be singing in our morning worship service and I wanted to make sure that I had input the words into the Easy Worship program, but I knew that was done...the lesson for Kingdom Kids was ready...the workers were all where they were supposed to be in all the Children's areas. I just couldn't figure it out. SO, I continued on with my morning.

All the kids (preschool and K - 6th) came into our Kingdom Kids room to practice thier song before we went into the sanctuary. They did a fantastic job. I was very proud of them and knew they would do great. We lined everyone up. Walked them to the sactuary, got all of them onto the platform and prepared to sing...and THEN it hit me. I'd forgotten the music. I didn't bring the CD! We didn't have it in the building!!!! We use Itunes for our Children's church, instead of switching out the CD's all the time and it never once crossed my mind that the music wasn't in the soundbooth. HORRORS!!!! My face blanched as I realized what I'd forgotten. Thirty sets of eyes are staring at me...ready to sing...and we have no music!!! One hundred and seventy sets of ears are waiting to hear the children sing, and we have NO MUSIC!!!

I quickly told the congregation that I'd forgotten the music and would be right back and scurried out of the sactuary all the while trying to figure out what to do. A teenager was running our sound for us that day in Kingdom Kids and he ran to the sound booth (up a flight of stairs) twice to find a blank CD, then we burned the one song needed onto the CD and he ran it back to the soundbooth. (I really hope I didn't break any copywrite laws, but I promise that CD will be destroyed.) The entire problem was resolved in probably 5 minutes or less, but it was one of the longest 5 minutes in my life. The kids sang and did a marvelous job and the service went on just fine, but I was so embarrassed I could have falled through the floor and hidden for the rest of the day. I'm doubtful that I will make that same mistake again...EVER! So, that's my embarrassing story. 

*Sigh* Some things never change.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's in the Genes!

When I was growing up, while we were in evangelism, my Dad enjoyed tracing our family tree. We would go to libraries in lots of little towns as we travelled and Dad would continue his search. Sometimes he would come out and tell us about the person he'd learned about. I always thought it was so neat.

Now that I'm older, I decided that I wanted to trace it too. So, several months ago, I asked Mom and Dad to help me start the tree and they gave me all the information they could remember about their families and I put the information on a tree at This week, I decided to really start looking harder and it has been an amazing journey...with much more to learn. However, so far, this is just a bit of what I've learned...

On my Mom's side, I have traced part of the line back 21 generations to 1328 in Scotland. Along the way, I've come across that we have a line of Lords and Lady's that begins in 1358, a minister in the family (born 1789), we also have relatives from Ireland and England, and sadly I have an Uncle who was drawn and quartered in 1548 though I don't know why. Now that is just disturbing! Looks like the first Barrett (my mom's Maiden name) to come to the US was James Barrett who was born in Ireland in 1715 and his wife Hannah who was born in Scotland in 1720.

On my Dad's side, I've traced part of the line back 18 generations to 1378. We are from Welsh and English descent on the James side of the tree. Looks like the first James to come to the US was John James in 1673 from Wales (found his travel papers). Since Jamestown was founded in 1609, that means my family was here almost at the beginning of the United States. That's pretty cool! Though...oddly enough, there don't seem to be any actual James' in Jamestown. :-) At least not from our line. I also found the Last Will and Testament of Captain John James (died 1778) and it was quite and interesting read. I believe he was in the Revolutionary war, but I'm not certain, though I'm pretty sure some of his sons were.

I've also discovered that my family seems to have the travelling bug from WAY back. No wonder we've still got ichy feet. It's literally in our genes to travel about it seems. :-)

If you've never traced you tree, I would encourage you to do so. I've still got a long way to go, but WOW, I find something new out about my family nearly everytime I look.

We study the history of our country and of the world in school, but we often lose track of our own personal history. That seems so sad to me because we can learn an awful lot from those who have come before us. So, I'll keep digging! Who knows what I might find. Some of it may be exciting, some it will certainly be sad (like some things I've already found...I'm not at all proud that some of my relatives were slave owners...turns my stomach to think abou that.), but it is all my history and it has all gone into the forming of the person that I am today. So, the search continues!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Blessing of Friendship

So, the last few days I've been somewhat nostalgic. It happens to me from time to time. This time it was brought on by looking at some old pictures on Facebook. I've always been one to take lots of pictures and I love looking at them. They help me remember all the wonderful people and places I've been blessed to know over the years.

I'm about to have a birthday in a little over a week and while I am not one who generally worries about growing old, when my birthday rolls around, I do often take a little time to reminise about the days gone by. When I do, I find that I have been blessed more than I could ever deserve with friendships that have stood the test of time.

First I was blessed to have a small group of friends who never seemed to lose track of me no matter how many times my family moved. If you've ever had to move often in your childhood you understand what a rare gift that is. Sara, Audra, Stacy, Janell and Jason will always be special to me and very dear friends because they have always been my friends no matter how far away I was from them. They have known me the longest...and they still like me. :-)

I was in 5 public schools and was homeschooled as well. In all those public schools I met amazing people. Thankfully I still get to keep up with some of them through Facebook. What a blessing that is.

In college I met some of the most amazing, talented, and loyal friends that I could have ever imagined. I couldn't possibly list all the wonderful people who touched my life during those years. I loved cheering on our soccer team, hanging out with my Music Business classmates, being apart of Student Government, having parties (usually in the same room of Jernigan where SGA met or in Benson Lobby), Watching X-Files with friends on Sunday nights while eating Little Ceasars Pizza, attending/being in weddings, spending time with my amazing roommates (Krista and Lisa), Choir tour fun, and of course who could forget that marathon 8 night recording session to get my Senior Project done in a studio that wasn't always quite operational. Sam, I'm pretty sure you and Derick pulled off a miracle that week for which I am very grateful.

God blessed me with friendships in churches across the miles. From other Pastor's Kids (like the Fountains, the Brummets, the Freys and more) to staff members that I have been blessed to serve along side (Muncie Southside, Liberty Towers, Jefferson City, and now North Vernon) or other ministers on the District's where I've served (NEI, Sacramento, Missouri, Indianapolis) and the countless people in the churches where I have attended or served. New friends have been added to my life that I can't imagine not knowing because while we have known each other a relatively short time (can it really be less than 5 years?) they have become people that I depend upon, lean on, love and trust so much.

While my parents were missionaries, I got to meet some of their students and now count the students of the Shangalia Choir as friends as well.

As I look back on my life, I am humbled by the blessing of friendships that God has granted me. Friendships that I hope to continue to foster and grow.

Thank you Lord, for the amazing blessing that you give us through our friends. May we never take them for granted.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hmm...80 years.

Today is my Grandpa's 80th birthday. When I think about all the changes that have happened in my lifetime thus far (almost 36 years) I'm amazed. I can't even begin to imagine what it was like to grow up in a time where indoor plumbing was new in some places, families had to make do with only one car, all of your information about the world came through newspapers or the radio, and computers were not even a part of the equation. But in the last 80 years, my Grandpa has see all of that and so much more.

In High School, our history teacher gave us an assignment that we were supposed to take the list of questions that he provided and use them to interview someone over the age of 70. Then we were to write a report. I chose to interview a wonderful woman who was apart of our church named Lois Blanchard Eades. She had been a teacher for many many years and was a published author of both books and poetry (Remember the poem, "If Jesus Came To Your House"). She was just a fabulous person with a sparkling personality and spunk to spare. I remember sitting in her living room and listening to her answer all my questions. Some of which I had thought were rather silly...until she answered them. For example, one of the questions was, "When was the first time you rode in a car?" Her response was something to the effect that they had a car in her family so she'd ridden in it when she was a small child. I was blown away by her answer simply because in my lifetime...everyone has always had a car...but in her lifetime, that was not the case for everyone. She paitiently answered all my questions. Even the tougher had she lost anyone in World War II. She had, and she told me about it and even though so many years had passed, it was still fresh in her mind. That assignment was probably the most memorable of my life and the one I am the most grateful I was able to do. Lois went on to be with the Lord last year, but I have some wonderful memories of that amazing woman due, in part, to that history assignment. Thank you Coach Burgess for assigning it.

Over Christmas, my brother, my two cousins and I went to visit our Grandpa and while we were there he got out old pictures and began telling us about his life as a child. Then when my brother and I returned with our Dad, Grandpa once again began sharing about the past. We got to learn about our family in ways that we hadn't before. It was a blessing.

Over the years, I have been blessed to meet, get to know and spend time with many Senior Adults and I am so glad. They inspire me in so many ways. They have so much to share with us because they have seen, been apart of, and been through so much in thier lifetimes that they would love to share...if only we will ask.

Days like today remind me not to miss opportunities to learn from those who have gone before me. I can learn so much from them.

Happy 80th Birthday Grandpa. I love you!

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year! I New Me?...or Not.

Happy 2012 everyone! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas with your families and that the New Year is one filled with many blessings and promise!

Over the last few days I've been thinking about the New Year. Most people are making resolutions and deciding just what they are going to do this coming year. There's nothing wrong with that. Everyone needs goals. Goals are a great thing. They keep us motivated. For me, however...making resolutions doesn't work very well.

I've made resolutions many times over the years and while I make them with the best of intentions, for the most part, I forget about them by February. Unfortunate, but true. I suppose I can take solace in the fact that I'm not the only one. Ha ha!

So, this year, I'm going to do something different. NO resolutions for me. HOWEVER, I am going to work on bettering myself. I am going to try and lose weight this year (like last year and every year), but this year, I am determined not to beat myself up about any challenges that might get tossed into my path. Just do my best and see what happens. I actually started this last year about September or so. I started watching what I eat and trying not to go overboard. The result: I've lost about 12 pounds. It's not a huge amount and it's not near my goal (Goal is to lose 150 pounds total), but it's a start and I'm happy with it. Slow and steady wins the race as they I've decided this year just to keep in the race. Not to quit and not to let myself get upset when I mess up. Just to slowly keep in the race. No promising that I'll hit my goal my a certain time...just that I'll keep striving for it. Someday, maybe I'll hit it.

Here's the thing though, whether I lose all the weight I want to or whether I stay the way I am for the rest of my life...I'm the same person. We often link "who we are" to "what we look like." I've decided that is just rubbish. We might feel differently about ourselves if we lose a bunch of weight, get a new outfit or accomplish a big goal...but in reality, we are the same person that we were before. So, I've decided to be happy with who I am, because I might be able to change what I look like, but I can't change the person God made me. And I like her. She's a pretty neat person. She's got flaws and issues, but God also gave her talents and compassion, and good friends. Yep, I like the person God made me. And this matter what happens to my outsides...I'm going to remember that! :-)