Tuesday, November 26, 2013


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.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A few thoughts about Hollywood...

Ok, I'll admit it.  I'm a fan of celebrities.  Not all of them, mind you, but some.  I am interested in who they are and what they do.  Why, you ask?  I have no answer for you, but I think it started when I was a kid.

See, when I was a child, I got $1 a week for an allowance (it would actually end up 90 cents after I took out my tithe) and I loved to read.  But books cost more than $1 and I was never very good at saving for more than a few weeks at a time.  But the TV Guide was about 90 cents to buy and it looked like a book (not like now...now it looks like a regular magazine).  So, I would buy it and read it practically from cover to cover.  They used to have little synopses of all the movies that would be on that week in the back of the magazine and I would read them...especially the ones about old movies. Since we traveled all the time in evangelism, I didn't have many friends that I saw often.  We were in a different town, state, and church every week.  I think it was then that I started to really enjoy following celebrities.  They were the "friends" of my childhood.  I suppose it sounds silly, but I really do think that is where it started.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not a superfan type stalker person.  I don't idolize these people.  I am just curious about them and hope that they are doing well.  And when a celebrity that I am interested in has a problem, I feel for them.   I pray for them.  After all, these celebrities have a lot of pressure on them and are literally watched constantly.  Can you imagine being watched all the time, every day, and having people just waiting to take a picture or video of some silly thing you might say or do?  I always thought that being a preachers kid was living in a fish bowl, but it's nothing compared to those who choose to brave the lime light.  They deserve our prayers.  If you do not like something you are seeing coming out of the film industry or television, you can bellyache about it, you can rail against the horrible thing you are seeing...or you can pray about it.  Prayer is a powerful tool that I do not think we are using enough when it comes to Hollywood.

We all know that Hollywood influences the people of our society...for good or for not so good.  And most of us will never have a meeting with anyone who has any real influence over what Hollywood puts out.  But we all have open access to the One who is in charge of everything and He has the power to influence people way more than Hollywood ever will.  And we should be praying for those involved with the shows we like as well as those we do not.  These people are influencing our young people in ways we can not imagine.  Some take that responsibility seriously and try to be good influences, others seem not to care at all what their actions say to others.  But no matter who they are, or how they live their lives, they are people Christ died for and they need our prayers.  If they are Christians, they need our prayers for strength and encouragement.  If they are not, they need our prayers all the more.

So, I have decided that for the rest of this year, I am going to choose one television show or movie cast/crew/production team each week and pray for them.  Pray for their safety.  Pray for their families.  Pray for them.  I don't have to know all their names to pray for them.  I know the One who knows all their names.  I'm a firm believer that prayer changes things.

Anyone care to join me?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"We Need A Spaceship!"

Great Friends!  Luke, Jeremy, Me, Lynnette, and Jordan
Last week, I got to take a vacation.  I went to Phoenix, Arizona and spent the week with some very dear friends who I never get to see.  They are like family to me and I am so blessed to be "Aunt Toni" to their son, Luke. It was a joy to spend time with them, see some sights, visit with other friends, and cheer on Jordan at his football game last Friday.

While his parents, Jeremy and Lynnette were at work, I got to take care of Luke.  He is this amazing 3 year old with a huge imagination.  He looks at life with such wonder and excitement.  In fact, there is no problem that cannot be fixed with his new tools that he got for his birthday.

Aunt Toni and Luke
On my first day with him, Luke and I went outside and were watching a hummingbird that was in the tree in their front yard.  As it flitted around (as hummingbirds do) our conversation went something like this:
Luke:  Catch it, Aunt Toni.
Me:  I can't Luke.  It's too high.
Luke:  We need a spaceship!

Then Luke, went about finding and fixing his needed spaceship...which turned out to be the same tree that the hummingbird had enjoyed flying around.  Luke went inside and got his tools, brought them out and went to work.  Soon, he said, "Ok, Aunt Toni!  Get on." (My spot was next to a particular knothole of the tree).

Luke:  Ready?
Me:  Yes.  Where are we going?
Luke:  Uh oh.  It's broken.
Me:  It's broken?  Can you fix it?
Luke:  Yes.

And he would then go about fixing whatever the day's problem was.  Once it needed gas, once the key didn't work, etc.  Each day, he worked...but just because the problem never seemed to go away, he wasn't deterred.  It was just onto whatever the next issue to fix was.  The problems were not really a big deal.  They just had to be dealt with.

I wonder how often we are not as determined as Luke about the problems in our own lives.  When one comes up, do we fix it?  And if we fix it, but it breaks again, do we continue to try or do we just give up?

Too many times, I see people give up on fixable issues.  They live life for "happiness" and if it doesn't make them happy, then they quit.  But what they do not seem to realize is that the joy in life does not just come from the things that make us happy for a moment, but also through the work it took to get to that moment.  And the work it will take to get to the next part of our lives.  Often the things that we have to work on the hardest not only bring us joy, but also satisfaction.  I am happy when I have a birthday party, but I get joy out of throwing one for someone else.  You see the difference?  Both are enjoyable, but joy comes out of the one that requires work.

I can pretty much guarantee you that Luke's Spaceship will never leave Earth, but he sure is having a great time working on it.  He continues to go out and when a problem comes up, he'll "fix" it.  He's enjoying the journey.  For him, building the Spaceship is simply about the job at hand.  He's working on it...and he's not giving up.

Don't be afraid of the adventures that road blocks in life can bring.  After all, road blocks often involve detours, and you can learn a lot from a detour.  They often take us places we would not have thought to go otherwise.  So, next time a road block shows up, what will you do?   Will you give up? Will you worry and fret about the change in direction?  Or will you "build a spaceship" and keep going.  Personally, I agree with Luke.  "We need a spaceship."

Luke and his Spaceship

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Garage Sale In My Future...

I've been trying to figure out how to write this blog for the past few days.  Sometimes, things happen and there are simply no words to express your feelings.  I have been having a few days like that recently.

This past Tuesday night, our church board met and because of some financial issues that are not improving, they decided to eliminate my position at the church.  This did not come as a shock to me because I knew that they would probably have to make a change.  They have been very kind and are giving me until the end of the year (if needed) to find a new position somewhere else.  In the mean time, I will continue to lead the children and teens at our church to the best of my ability.  They are awesome kids and teens and I will miss them, but I am blessed that I got to be a part of the their lives for the past two years and 8 months.

As I look toward the future, at this point, I do not know where I will end up or how quickly a position will open, but I am looking forward to my new assignment and trust that the Lord will open the right door to the right place at just the right time.  He is faithful and I trust Him implicitly.

So, I guess a garage sale is in my future as I start to pack things up.   God is good, all the time.  It is so good to know that though, I do not always know where my life is leading, I know without a doubt Who is leading my life...and I am content to follow His lead.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


I love music.  I love singing along to old songs and new ones.  I get annoyed when people who are "professional" sing in ways that will hurt their voices in the long run and more annoyed when young people emulate that bad technique because they think it sounds cool.  I wonder how cool they will think it sounds when they get vocal nodes.  But that is beside the point...I love music.  I learn best when something is in a song.  For example, as I posted on Facebook yesterday, if I am counting to twelve, there is almost always the rhythm and tune in my head that I learned on Sesame Street back in the day.  (Click the link to see the video I'm talking about)  This will be stuck in my head forever I think... 

Or, how about the 10 Commandments.  I learned those to a song called "The Perfect Ten" in a musical titled "Angels Aware" back when I was in about 5th grade.  To this day, it is those lyrics that I have to run through in my head when I am discussing the 10 commandments.  Click here to hear "The Perfect Ten"

But the best thing about music is how it can alter your mood.  Sometimes, when I feel like the world is closing in and I need a shot of "get up and go" in order to get something accomplished.  For that, my go to song is Barbra Streisand's "Don't Rain on My Parade."    Somehow, it always recharges me.  Or if it's been a particularly rough day and I just need something to remind me that all will be well again, "Be Still and Know That I am God" by Steven Curtis Chapman is a song that is never too far away.

Over the years, I have learned that one of the all time stress relievers for me is to belt out a song in the car as I go down the road or in my house when no one is around to hear me.  Music is one of God's most amazing gifts and I am blessed by it on a continual basis.

It is because of that, that I am careful about what songs I teach to children.  I don't want to teach them a "fluff" song without a point.  Those are ok on occasion, but whether we realize it or not, these children will remember the music they are taught for the rest of their lives and I would rather have a song with lyrics like, "Ancient Words, every true, changing me and changing you. We have come with open hearts, oh let the Ancient Words impart." (Ancient Words, Group publishing) or "Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance.  I just want to praise You.  I just want to praise You.  You broke the chains now I can lift my hands, and I'm gonna praise You.  I'm gonna praise you." (Shackles, by Go Fish), than a song that has no real message at all.  I won't list those songs, but you know what I'm talking about...

But it goes beyond, what they are taught at church.  What kind of music do you allow your kids to listen to?  Is it uplifting or is it derogatory?  Is the message something you would want your child to learn or is it offensive?  Would the lyrics be something you would allow them to say?  And before you say, "Oh they don't know what that word means, they just like the beat," let me remind you that kids are much smarter than we often give them credit for and even if they do not know the meaning now, they will someday and they will also remember that you had no problem with them singing about it, so it must be an ok thing to do/say/be.

Music is powerful.  It always has been.  But it is important that we use that power to teach things that the Lord would be pleased with and not to instill ideas that are not in our best interests or the best interests of our children.

Well, I've shared some of my favorites...what are some of yours?  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What's right for you???

I am so tired of the phrase, "What's right for you..." fill in the blank.  How did we get here?  Why is it considered so wrong to have a sense of right and wrong in the world.  How did we become so very self centered that we no longer care about our fellow man's well being.  We hide behind phrases like, "It might be right for you..." because we don't want to appear like we disagree.  

We live in a world where someone has to stand up and say, "NO!  THAT'S WRONG!!!"  Is it possible that someone will not agree with what we believe to be right and wrong?  Sure!  That's their right!  They can believe whatever they want, but that's not going to make it any more right or wrong.  If I were wearing a pink shirt, you could scream at me that it is blue until you are hoarse...but it will still be a pink shirt.  So, go right ahead and scream.  Only one of us will look foolish in the end.

I try very hard to not be a political type person.  It simply doesn't do any good to fight online about things because no one will change their mind because of something someone says on the internet.  But with new laws being put into place and discussion happening everywhere, there is something that I simply must voice an opinion about and that is abortion.

So, if you will pardon me for a moment, I must stand up on my soapbox.

Abortion is wrong!!!  It is murder.  It is the taking of a life.  There is nothing okay about that.  Nothing.  And while you might say, "Well, it is not my place to tell someone what they can or can not do with their body", then I have a couple questions for you:

Do you allow people to come up and punch you whenever they please?  If you do not, then you are not allowing those people to do what they would like to do with their body.  After all it is their fist that is hurling at you.  Their arm that is swinging your direction.  Who are you to tell them that they can not do what they like with their own body?

Do you allow people to mistreat children?  After all, they are doing the mistreatment with their own bodies.  They are the ones who are using their arms, legs, fists, or whatever to inflict harm on a child that can not stop them.  But if you stop them, then you are not allowing them to do what they wish with their own bodies. 
You can not have it both ways. 

And what about the bodies of those small unborn children?  They have different DNA from their mother and often have a different blood type.  THEY ARE NOT HER BODY!  And, they are totally innocent.  They did not ask for their parents to have sex and create them.  Even if they are a product of rape, they did not ask to be conceived any more that their mother asked to be raped.  They did not commit the crime.  They sit there with no say in the matter at all and yet they are the ones whose lives are taken.  

Why is it murder in many states if one of them is killed in a car accident or if the mother is hurt in some other way, but perfectly okay to take that same life if the mother goes into an abortion clinic.  The unborn child was same amount alive whether it's life is taken in an accident or on purpose.

The next, and most infuriating, argument that I hear is, "Well, if they are born and their parents can't take care of them or don't want them, what kind of life will they have?"  Well, first of all, those parents better quit making babies until they can care for them.  Seriously people.  Don't have sex and you can't make babies!  There is your choice!  If you choose to have sex, well then you had better be prepared for the results.  Don't act all surprised about getting pregnant!  This is not rocket science!  And as for the babies that need good homes...there are families literally all over the world who would give anything for a baby.  
Pro-Choice is simply a way for people to make themselves feel better because Pro-Murder would be totally offensive.  

I shall now step off my soapbox.  

I promise my next blog will be much more upbeat and less controversial.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Nazarene Family Reunion...

Last Wednesday, General Assembly 2013 started in Indianapolis.

For those of you reading this that are not Nazarene, General Assembly is a series of business meetings and services that happens in our denomination every four years.  Delegates come from all parts of the world (150+ world areas) to have a part in this amazing experience.  There are hundreds of seminars, wonderful services, lots of cool exhibits, and Bible Quizzing at the World level for both our children and teens (One of my students, Cole Nugent got a Gold in the Children's World Quiz!), plus all the business meetings happen during this whirlwind week.

We also see this as a special time of fellowship because we get to be with our friends and family around the world that we are often separated from by distance.  It is like a huge family reunion and I look forward to it.  Being with my Nazarene Brother and Sisters reminds me that I am a part of a global church that is working together to reach others for Christ.  Below are just a few pictures from the past few days.  
The Piini Family: Friends from California

Mom and Alexander

Was awesome to see Mike and DeeAnn Page.
 I served on their staff in Sacramento.

The Havens!  More friends from Sacramento

The Fabulous Cole Family from Kentucky

Summer Kemp, sweet friend from college.

Sonya Mounts: an awesome friend from college
 who now lives in Washington State.

It wasn't all fun and games.  Here are a few of us ready
 to usher in on of the services.

Mingling Nazarenes after the Sunday morning service

Looked for her for several days, but finally found the Shortinghouse crew!  

Had to search for these folks too, but I was thrilled
 when the Nikkels found me first!

Anytime I can hang out with Jill Waltz is going
to be just too fun!

Renee Twibell is one of my all time favorite people.
So glad we got to catch up some.

Great to see the Casto Family.  My parents pose for a picture
 with these great folks.

I also volunteered in the kids play area.  This obstacle
course/slide was the favorite of many kids

One of the worship services.
Having church with literally thousands of other Nazarenes
 from dozens of countries is such a blessing.

Mom and Sherry Rogers pause for a quick picture!
During this time, changes, updates, and clarifications are made in our Manual as well as elections to various boards within our Denomination.  This year, we were electing two new General Superintendents and it was a blessing to be there to be a part of the excitement.  As the votes went up and down and the ballots kept coming it was quite the roller coaster ride.  But, finally, after three days and a total of 53 ballots, we have two new General Superintendents.  It is indeed a privilege to be a part of a group that takes the time to pray between ballots in an effort to be certain that the right people are chosen for the positions.  I look forward to seeing how God will use David Busic and Gustavo Crocker in their new positions as General Superintendents.

I always hate to see General Assembly end, but I will treasure the memories of this blessed time with my Nazarene family.  I am very proud to be a Nazarene and proud of my Nazarene heritage.  Now the countdown begins to General Assembly 2017!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Thank You

It's Memorial Day and there is a "M*A*S*H" Marathon on television.  I like this show, partially because it is funny, and partially because it doesn't make light of war.  It shows how it is dirty and unpleasant and cruel. The people in the show are funny, but the situation never is.

As I watch this beloved program, I am reminded of so many of my family and friends who have in the past or are now serving in the Armed Forces.  Several of my family members and friends have fought in war.  I have friends who are serving now around the world.  Some are back home, but still serving here in the States.  We take this time every year to remember those we have lost, but also to thank those who have given of themselves.  And not just the ones who are in fatigues, but also their families who wait for them at home.  I would imagine that waiting at home, can be just as hard as serving at times.  And many children grow up while their parent is away defending our Country.  We owe these men and women and their families a huge debt of gratitude.

So, to those who have are are currently serving in the Armed Forces:

Thank you for being willing to be away from your families to defend us.  Thank you for volunteering to put yourself in harms way to keep us free.  Thank you for your courage and your hard work.  Thank you for going to places that we wouldn't want to go, in conditions that no one would want to be in, so that we could stay free.

To the families of those to serve:

Thank you for supporting your military family member.  Thank you for keeping the home fires burning while they are away.  Thank you for diligently raising children alone, while your loved one serves.  Thank you for your courage and your bravery on the home front because we know what you do is not easy either.

Thank you all.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Be Joyful Always???

As much as we wouldn't like it to, bad stuff happens sometimes.  Those days are hard.  There is no one who would tell us that they are not tough.  When someone starts talking behind your back, that hurts.  When that job you really wanted falls through, that is disappointing.  When we lose someone we love, that is painful. The weather gets rough, the world gets cruel, people we love get sick or hurt, and just bad stuff happens.  

But we are not defined by what happens to us...we are defined by how we react to what happens to us.  When we are under pressure, what is really in our hearts will spill out...for good, or for bad.  Anyone can be happy when life is going well.  But choosing to be joyful when life is spinning out of control...that is a bit harder, but it can be done...and it should be done.  Notice that I didn't say that we have to choose to be happy.  I said, we can choose to be joyful.  Happiness is an emotion.  We are going to feel the way we feel. Sometimes it will be happy, sometimes it will be sad, sometimes it will be angry and sometimes it will even be numb.  But to be joyful, is to literally be "full of joy" and that is a choice we can make regardless of our circumstances.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18
"16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

I love those verses and I try to live my life that way.  I don't have to enjoy the circumstances of my day in order to find a way to rejoice.  I suppose I'm a bit like Pollyanna playing the "glad game" in that respect.  There is always something to be thankful for even in the midst of life's most challenging times.  But we have to be willing to look for the good in every situation.  Not everyone is willing to do that, but if you are, you would be amazed at the things you can see and the ways God works even through those difficult times.  And the more we look for the good in every situation, the more things we will find to be joyful about.  

Living this way, takes practice.  But we serve an amazing God, who finds ways to show His love for us every day...no matter what we feel.  He is there and He loves us...and that alone should be enough to make us joyful.  

Watch carefully...what will God show you that you can be joyful about today?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gardening 101

Well, Spring seems to have officially come to Indiana.  Those who know me well, would tell you that I'm lamenting the fact that there will be no more snow and they would be correct.  However, I do enjoy the Spring some as well.  I like seeing the world come alive with color once again.  Today as I was driving to the post office, and I saw a tree all in bloom with pink flowers of some sort and I was reminded of the beauty that will be coming our way shortly.

My Mom is a gardener.  She is constantly playing in the dirt once the weather gets warm.  Personally, I try to stay away from dirt because it usually contains bugs and I am not at all a fan of bugs.  But Mom gets out there and digs away.  She pulls at weeds, plants things, and is constantly watering something or other.  Then, before you know it, cool little things start growing in all those places where she'd been digging and pulling and watering.

Our relationship with the Lord is a bit like gardening.  It takes work for it to grow.  Our time in prayer, Scripture reading, and in fellowship with other believers, are the way we tend to our spiritual garden.  When we ignore those things, weeds can start to creep into our lives.  We might not notice them at first.  After all, not all weeds are ugly.  Some can even look kind of pretty...but they are still weeds.  And weeds take away from the beauty of the flowers that they infiltrate.  If we catch them when they are small, then usually they are easily removed, but if they are left to grow, those weeds will totally take over the flowerbed and you won't even notice the flowers anymore.

How is your spiritual garden growing?  Have you been tending it or has it been overtaken by weeds?  If the weeds are thick, worry not.  It may take some effort on your part, but God will help you remove them.  After all, God made you to be a beautiful example of His love.  Don't get let those weeds hide all the beauty He has created.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Just the SPARK I needed...

Every have one of those times where you feel like you have reached the end of your creative rope?  I have been working with Children for more than 10 years and I love it, but every now and then, I hit a wall creatively.  I simply can not think of new ideas and even simple tasks (like telling a Bible Story) become  difficult.  It is at those times that I need to recharge my creative batteries.

Enter an amazing conference for children's workers called SPARK.  It is just exactly what I needed.  This inexpensive conference takes place in Marion, IN at the Shiloh Park Campground and it is for all the Children's Pastors, Children's Directors, and Children's Workers all across the state of Indiana.  We get together on Thursday night and have a costume themed dinner.  Great food, fun games and awesome prizes. On Friday and Saturday we have more than 20 workshops to choose from covering all types are children's ministry.  From using Social Media to planning a Preschool Worship service you can find a workshop that fits your needs.  Plus in between all the awesome workshops, great food (seriously...you will not walk away hungry), fun prizes and a wonderful prayer room, we have the chance to just hang out and chat with old friends, meet new ones, share each others burdens and encourage each other's ministries.  And if all that wasn't enough, we were able to be a part of two wonderful worship services with Rev. Carla Sunberg as the speaker.  What a blessing that was.
Ready for the costume contest

When I and three ladies from my church arrived at SPARK, I was depleted in many ways.  But when I left, I was refreshed and excited to get back to work and see what God would do through our Children's Ministry.    We have already started planning our costumes for next year and talking about who we could take with us.

Sharon, Mary, and Darian.  These fabulous ladies came with me this year.

A huge THANK YOU to Trey Brooks and his committee for putting this on each year.  You guys do an amazing job and I want you to know that we appreciate all the hard work you put into this spectacular event.

If you live in Indiana, work with children at your church, and you haven't been to SPARK yet...well, mark it on your calendar for next year.  March 6-8th, 2014.  The cost is only $70 per person and includes the workshops, lodging, and meals. Talk to your pastor or you District Children's Director for more information.   Hope to see you there next year!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spending Time with "The Waltons"

Anyone that knows me well, could tell you that I'm a fan of classic television shows.  Seriously...they just don't make them like they used to.  Those shows where you could sit down and enjoy some TV time as a family without someone swearing a blue streak  or watch a sitcom and it was...you know..funny.  

As of late, I've been watching DVD's of "The Waltons."  I'm very proud to say that I finally own the entire series on DVD...including the TV Movies.  Every time I watch an episode, I'm struck by a few things.

First it is the love of the family.  Not only do all of the Waltons love each other, but they love all those who are a part of their world.  If you are a neighbor, you are family.  If you are a stranger, you are welcomed as family.  Everyone gets along because everyone helps each other.  Now I realize that this is all a scripted television show, but I also know that we, as a country, used to be much more like that than we are now.  We used to take more time to just be with our family.  We were not running from one ball game to dance practice, to band rehearsals or whatever else fills our days currently.  Most people I know are so busy anymore that they hardly can catch their breath.  When did that happen?  Why did we let it happen?  What do we have to do to change it?

Second, they appreciate nature.  I must admit, that while I love to look at nature, I'm not a big one for actually being out in it.  I have always noticed that wherever there is nature...there are bugs.  And I'm not a fan of bugs.  But, when I watch "The Waltons," I love how they adore the nature that surrounds them.  And  of course, since they are suppose to be in the Blue Ridge Mountains...well, it is bound to be beautiful.  Makes me look around my own world a bit more and appreciate the beautiful world that God has given me right where I am.

Lastly, they live simply.  There is not a computer to be found in the Walton home.  Nor is there a television or a cell phone.  They read the paper for news and listen to the radio for more news and also for entertainment.  In a world where we have difficulty stepping away from the internet or our cell phones for more than just a few minutes, sometimes I wonder if we are missing out on the world around us.  Even though we connected to it electronically, we are often disconnected from what is right in front of us.  We know what's happening in Washington, DC, but are we aware what is going on in our local government?  We know how our friends are doing across the world, but have we checked in on our neighbors across the street?

Just a little food for thought....at least it has been for me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gas Leaks and Fire Trucks and Police...OH MY!

So today started out fairly normal...but that changed pretty quick.

I went to the office and after I was there about an hour, I heard an incredible BOOM!  Then is sounded like a 747 was idling right outside my window.  I got up and went to look out the window of the youth room and the sound got louder...but I couldn't see anything that was burning or would be making that noise.  Then I went out to the side door of our church and when I opened it...well, I have never heard anything so loud in my life.  Next to the church there is a very small little building where a gas main is housed (or something very similar) and I could see that something was spewing out the pipe at the top.  I realize that gas is invisible, but there was a flame for just a minute as well and even without the flame you could see the gas coming out because it was escaping so fast.

Soon, there were police cars blocking the road, and fire trucks on either end in front of the police.  Now here is the thing...I was alone at the church at that particular time.  My car was in the garage next door.  I walked outside several times (specifically in view of the firemen) hoping that someone would come and tell me what was happening...or if I needed to evacuate.   But no one told me anything.  Finally after this had gone on for about a half an hour to 45 minutes, I walked out to one of the fire trucks and asked what was happening.  He said that there was gas spewing out of the pipe and that while the gas people were there, they were not closing it yet.  I asked if I should leave and told him that my car was in the garage next to the church (which was closer to the leak) and he said that I shouldn't open the garage door because it could cause a spark.  "Should I leave?" I asked.  "Well," he said, "If you see my truck backing up, I'd run like crazy." (Expletive deleted)

So, I went back into the church and went back to my office to collect my things.  That part of the church reeked of gas so I figured leaving was a good idea.  All the while, my Aunt was telling me (via phone...not in person) to "leave the building...go! Go! Go!"  She was quite annoyed that I was humming as I was gathering my things in no huge hurry.  I also grabbed a blanket because I had not worn a coat to my office and it was 20 degrees outside.  Not really a big deal, but I figured I might need to walk a bit, so I wanted to be safe...so I draped the blanket over my bag and headed out of the church.

I walked down the block past the police and went into a Arby's that was at the end of the block.  It wasn't busy (even though it was lunchtime) because hardly anyone could get to it because of the roadblocks.  The people working in the Arby's didn't know what was causing the roadblock and though they could hear the gas leak (which no longer sounded like a 747, but more like a semi engine idling) didn't know what the sound was.  So if filled them in...and we waited together for the craziness to end.  The marvelous folks at Arby's gave me a free lunch as I waited.  (They really are wonderful people...if you get the chance, stop in at the North Vernon Arby's)

Finally after the gas had been gushing for more than an hour (possibly closer to two), they got it stopped.  Then just as quickly as it had started, all the emergency personnel left and the traffic started to move.  Within about 20 minutes, you would never have known there was an issue.

I went back to the church and called a fire chief who gave me the "All clear."

Praise the Lord for His goodness today.  This could have been so bad.  I saw a flame coming out of that pipe, but it didn't last long...IN A GAS LEAK...it didn't last long.  Amazing!  There were no explosions and no one got hurt.  And as crazy as this day was...I wasn't worried.  Even as I was texting and Facebooking updates to friends and family or talking to people on the phone...I was very calm inside.  I serve a big God and I knew no matter what...He was in charge.   When I should have been frazzled...I wasn't.  God is so good.

How appropriate that there is church tonight.  :-)  "My God is so big, so strong and so mighty!  There's nothing my God cannot do!"  That song (the GO FISH version) has been running through my head today.  Thank you Lord!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Duties of an Aunt...

Alexander Grayson James
Yesterday, was an exciting day for our family.  My nephew, Alexander Grayson James was born in Springfield, OH.  As soon as my Mom and I heard the news, we wanted to go to the hospital and wait there for his arrival.  Rick told us that it would be quite a while before Alex arrived, but that didn't matter.  I was absolutely dying to get in the car and go!  My Dad wanted to go too, but he had some responsibilities here that kept him in North Vernon, so we were sending him frequent updates via texts and phone calls.

Alex imitates Burgess Meredith

Then, at 1:53 am on January 2nd, he arrived.  Alexander showed up and our lives will never be the same.

Now, you may not be aware of this, but while Alex is my first nephew by blood, he is not my first nephew.  Some of my dear friends (Jeremy and Lynnette Page & Kris and Erica Miller), have children who also call me Aunt Toni...well, actually only one is talking as yet, but that is beside the point.  Ha ha!  So, I actually now have 3 nephews (Luke, Byron, and Alex) and 1 niece (Aurora). And they are all very special to me and I am thrilled beyond all measure to be their Aunt.

Being an Aunt is still new for me, but fortunately I have had some wonderful examples of Aunts (and Uncles) over the years that I can look to and this is what I have come up with.  As I see it, there are 5 very important jobs that I have as an Aunt.

1)  Be a Christlike Example:   I want them to know that I love Jesus and that He is indeed my top priority.

2)  Pray for my nephews and niece:  There are lots of things that they will have to face that I never had to face as a child.  They need my prayers.

3)  Be a listening ear:   I know as I was growing  up, sometimes I needed someone other than Mom and Dad that I could unload my problems on or work through an issue with.  I am so thankful that my Aunts were there for me to talk to.  They often had insight into my parents that I needed to hear in order to be able to see my parent's point of view.  I want to be able to do the same.

4)  Provided help when needed:  Over the years...especially when I lived far away from my parents, my Aunts and Uncles have come to my assistance many times in many different fashions. At times it was money, sometimes it was advice, and sometimes is was an earful that I really needed to hear...even if I didn't want to.  (Yep, I was a stubborn teenager...I'll admit it.)  I am truly blessed by my Aunts and Uncles and I want to be the same kind of blessing to my niece and nephews.

5)  Never let them forget that they are loved:  Though none of them live close, I never want Alex, Luke, Byron or Aurora to forget that they are loved by their Aunt Toni.  When I can't see them in person, I love sending cards, letters, and packages and when they get old enough to talk on the phone, I'll do that too.

Thank you to all my Aunts and Uncles.  You have blessed and continue to bless my life more than I can say.  I hope I can be as good an Aunt as you have all been to me.