A Year of Smiles – Day 228

Reason to SMILE #228: CALENDARS & TIME TRAVEL (One can dream! 😉) 


Apparently, I haven’t been paying attention to the calendar. As I was preparing to write today’s SMILE, I discovered that five days ago, I successfully turned back time by ten whole days! I went from Day 222 to Day 213. And I continued on that alternate timeline until today. Who knew I had that ability!

You know what that means, don’t you?

I really don’t have to face another birthday and my kids don’t have to grow up. All I have to do is turn back time by mis-numbering my daily SMILES.

Or, it means I need to write these things earlier in the day when I’m not so tired! 

One thing is for sure, though. I need to buy a calendar that numbers the days of the year and not just the days of the months. That would certainly keep my SMILES on track because time travel really makes a mess of one’s blog links!

A Year of Smiles – Day 227

Reason to SMILE #227: SIMPLICITY

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I often think I am too simple minded. When listening to the conversations of others serving in ministry, whether it be in children’s ministry, student ministry or pastoral ministry, I am many times awe struck and even a bit jealous. These ministers speak with such eloquence. Their words reflect great intelligence, an impressive education and a wide scope of sound reasoning. Then there’s me, shrinking into the corner of the room and thinking, “Wow! I don’t talk like that. Heck! I don’t even think like that! Maybe I’m in the wrong line of work.”

There’s nothing like being in a room full of fellow ministers to make me start questioning my calling! Ask each one what the requirements are for a successful children’s ministry, and sit back and listen. You’ll find that most everyone will have a list of six to eight, maybe more, foundational necessities that will guarantee the success of their ministry. Then ask me.

“Karen, what is the key to a successful children’s ministry?”

“Love.” The end. Next participant, please.

But, to me, it really is that simple. I could have the grandest of facilities, top of the line sound and video equipment, next generation check-in software, an abundance of committed and hard working volunteers and teachers and an engaging curriculum but if the children in my ministry don’t feel loved, accepted and welcomed, none of it would amount to a hill of beans. Love yields relationships. Relationships yield trust. Trust yields openness to the Gospel. Openness yields new believers in Christ. So, yeah. My answer is love.

We complicate so many things in life, don’t we? We especially complicate our faith in God. We call those complications religion! We argue over how one should dress for worship, what music should be played and what color to paint the walls. We debate methods of baptism, church organization or polity and styles of worship.  But, to me, simple-minded me, our faith doesn’t have to be that complicated. It really is quite simple:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself.

Luke 10:27

If we can follow these two precepts, everything else will fall into place.

And I don’t know about you, but when my life has less complications, it’s a whole lot easier to SMILE!

A Year of Smiles – Day 226

Reason to SMILE #226: TRUTH

My SMILE today may seem a bit unusual and may not actually feel like a SMILE at all.  As I’ve been pondering recent events in our world, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a song I wrote many years ago.  My heart aches for our children and the world we have created for them.  My only solace is the Truth of God’s Word, the promises of His plan and surety of His control.  No matter what the situation around me, the foundation of God’s Truth on which I stand brings a peaceful SMILE to my soul.

I share the following with you in hopes that you will be inspired to make a difference in the world around you and to point the way to the TRUTH.


Fires burn across the land,

The smoke fills the skies.

Angry men shout out and scream;

Some break down and cry.

 

Children watch as people die;

They see the hate, the pain.

Their little eyes can’t believe

The suffering and the shame.

 

Is this the world we want to show our children?

Is this the place we want them to call home?

We tell them that we love them but don’t show them the same.

Is this the truth we want them to know?

 

I wrote these lyrics twenty-five years ago.  I was almost eighteen years old and had just watched news coverage of the Los Angeles Riots of 1992.  I was horrified as pictures of violence, hate, fear and desperation flashed before my eyes.  I was overwhelmed with uncertainty and fear even though I lived on the opposite side of the country.  I did not understand it all and I knew there were children and other young people trying to make sense of the chaos, as well.

I wondered what these children were learning from the situation.  What lessons about life were they gleaning?  Were they giving up all hope at that moment?  Was their innocence slipping away as disturbing images of humanity at its worst invaded their ideals of safety and security?  Were they resigning to believe that this was how life was supposed to be?  Were these children accepting the hate, violence and pride as their truth?

Now, twenty-five years later, we find ourselves seeing familiar images flash on our TV screens.  And I cannot help but wonder.  Where are those children who watched similar scenes so many years ago?  They are the adults of our world now.  Are they watching in horror as they did as a child?  Are they worried about their own children and the effect this situation will have on their young lives?  Are they outraged?  Are they scared?  Are they worried?  Or are they hitting the power button, shrugging their shoulders and walking away?  After all, that’s life.  That’s the truth of our existence and there’s nothing anyone can do about it….

Oh, my friends, there is hope.  We can redefine the truth that our world accepts today by pointing the way to THE TRUTH, Jesus Christ.  He is our only Way to healing, restoration and salvation.  He is our only Truth in the midst of the chaos and deception orchestrated by our enemy, the devil.  He is our only source of abundant Life, peace, hope and yes, SMILES.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV)

The road to Truth starts with Love.  Love starts with you and me.

A Year of Smiles – Day 225

Reason to SMILE #225: SOMEONE TO COUNT ON

My Sunday began as usual – choosing songs for morning worship with the kids.  “Hmmm. Which song should we sing today?” I thought as I scrolled through our music files. “Ah! We’ll start with this one. We haven’t sung this one in a while.”

I made our playlist and waited for the kids to gather.

Soon, our morning activities began and music filed the room. My first song choice was playing and all was going well until… the chorus.  The words rang out,” I’m counting on, I’m counting on God. I’m counting on, I’m counting on God.”

Now, I must interject here that there are times when I get a little annoyed with some of our children’s songs. The chorus in this one repeats the same line over and over again.  And it’s not just the repetition of the words that bugs me. It’s also the music. The chorus is basically written using only one note. Don’t get me wrong. This song is awesome. It simply took some getting used to.

Today, however, it wasn’t the repetition of our song that disturbed me. As we were singing “I’m counting on, I’m counting on God” for the second or third time, I began to hear something more than the monotone melody of this children’s song. Rising above the music was a distinguishable voice asking, “Are you counting on me?” It was all I could do to control my emotions.

You see, I’ve been struggling lately, feeling like one particular issue I’m facing is hopeless. I had resigned to the fact that I’m alone in my struggle, that nothing will change and that I simply have to live with things the way they are. After all, I have been dealing with the issue for quite some time and every time I believe a breakthrough is just around the corner, there’s always a setback.

Man! What a bunch of hooey I was allowing the devil to spew into my ears! As a child of God, I always have someone on which I can depend. My Heavenly Father is faithful to answer my cries for help. He is the only One who can solve my problems and make a way when I can see no way at all. It’s time I begin trusting Him with everything – even that one situation that I believe is hopeless – no, especially that one.

Isn’t it ironic that a song I haphazardly picked for children’s worship would be the vehicle for God’s voice in my life today? Nah. God knows how to speak to His children. That’s something you can always count on! And God’s dependability is most certainly a reason to SMILE!

 A Year of Smiles – Day 223

Reason to SMILE #223: THE HAPPINESS OF OTHERS

Do any of you ever post things on your favorite social media site then constantly check to see how many likes you have or if anyone has commented? 

Any of you? 

Ever?

No? 

Yeah, me neither. 

Uhm, excuse me a moment. I need to go check something. 😉

While I was randomly scrolling through Facebook today – I wasn’t checking on yesterday’s blog post or anything like that! – I came across one of those friendship videos that an old college friend shared. I paused my scrolling long enough to watch the slide show of pictures from his life, pictures of his wife and child, vacation fun and other memories that I’m sure meant very much to him. Each picture showed my friend and his family smiling and truly enjoying their lives together. And by time the little video had reached its end, I realized I was smiling, too. It was nice to see my friend’s joy. I couldn’t help but SMILE!

You know, this whole being part of the human race thing really does have its perks. We have each other to walk with through life, to help carry our burdens, to cry with. We also have each other to share in our joys, to celebrate our triumphs, to have fun together and to help us find a SMILE.

You see, it’s all part of God’s design. I have no doubt that you and I were made to make each other SMILE!

Romans 12:15 (NIV) Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

1 Corinthians 12:26-27 (NIV) If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

A Year of Smiles – Day 222

Reason to SMILE #222: SHARING A SMILE WITH ME (Yes, me!)


Wow! I’ve made it to Day 222! That’s a whole lotta SMILES. Only 143 to go! I’m having so much fun sharing with you everyday but…

Lately, I’ve been thinking how unfair this relationship between you and me really is. And it’s time I got this off my chest. Day in and day out, I give and I give. I offer you the best SMILES I can and what do you give in return? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. 

<Insert awkward silence here.>

Hahaha! I’m only kidding!! I love sharing my SMILES with you. Bu-ut… 

I really would love to hear from you once in a while. Let me know what makes you SMILE. What turns the corners of your mouth toward the sky? What makes you happy? What delights your soul?

I know there’s a list forming in your mind right now so c’mon! Make me SMILE today. I want to hear from you. Remember, your SMILE can make a huge difference in the life of another. Don’t hold back. Let the whole world see!

A Year of Smiles – Day 221

Reason to SMILE #221: POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE

noun

• splendid celebration with ceremony and fuss

Tonight at Kids Central (the children’s ministry at my church), we celebrated the promotion of six of my kids to the youth department (The City). Each year, I make a huge deal out of this rite of passage by making the rising sixth graders wear graduation caps (made from construction paper and yarn), donning them with honors (a beaded necklace with a plastic graduation cap pendant) and having them march from the children’s hall up to the youth area to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance.” The kids think I’m crazy! I think it’s fun.


Why not make a fuss over the promotion of these kids? It’s a big deal, especially to these 6th graders. For the past year, they’ve been itching to hit The City. They had reached the top of the pecking order in the children’s department. They’d been the top dogs, the leaders, and were beginning to feel a little out of place. To these kids, they are no longer kids and they’re ready to be considered a young adult.

I see it a bit differently! In my eyes, they’re still kids. Being in the youth group doesn’t change that. They’ll always be my kids and I’m going to miss them at Kids Central. That’s why I make such a big deal of their promotion. I’m proud of them. I’m proud of what they’ve learned in their time at Kids Central. I’m proud of their growth – personal, social and spiritual. And I know that The City will be a little brighter now that some of my kids are a part of it.

Okay. Now I’m making myself cry!

I can’t stop these kids from growing and I can’t keep them at Kids Central no matter how much I want to. Though I hate to see them go, I will continue to usher them into the youth group with all the pomp and circumstance they deserve. And I will SMILE as I watch them march down the hall knowing that God has great things in store for these kids.

I’ll also SMILE knowing what’s waiting on these new youth group members once they walk through The City doors: a clobbering with pool noodles, an attack with silly string, an assault of noise makers and all the fun stuff that comes with welcoming the newbies!

A Year of Smiles – Day 220

Reason to SMILE #220: ENERGY BOOSTS


What refuels your tank? What inspires you and keeps you going? What encourages you when you’ve lost your moxie? What gives you that extra oomph to get you through the home stretch?

Good friends?

Inspirational quotes?

Cute little memes?

Prayer?

God’s Word?

Great! Those are all fantastic. Keep seeking that encouragement!

Now. What brings you down? What stops you in your tracks? What makes you stumble? What snuffs out that flame within?

Negative people?

Bad days?

Disappointment?

Criticism?

Struggles?

What if, instead of allowing these things to bring us down, we converted all that negativity into fuel for our fires? What if we took everything meant to stop us and harnessed its power and energy to push us even further toward our goals?

What if? Negativity is thrown at us everyday. We have a choice to either allow it to bring us down, stifle our growth and rob us of our joy or to let it strengthen our resolve, affirm our callings and broaden our SMILES. 

Energy siphon? Or energy boost? Which one will you choose?

A Year of Smiles – Day 219

Reason to SMILE #219: A GOOD, SWIFT KICK 

… in the pants! 

Yep. There are times when it is completely necessary. Sometimes we get in a funk and can’t seem to find our way out. We begin wallowing in self-pity and despair over lost love, an unfavorable situation at work or a missed opportunity. The more we think of our unhappy circumstances, the more we whine and complain. And with each verse of our sob songs, we make ourselves and all those around us more and more miserable. Until… 

… someone decides to gives us a good, swift kick in the hiney or a smack on the back of the head. Sure. It may not always take a physical altercation to bring us out of our negativity and back to the land of abundant living but a kick sure does grab the attention! And when we’ve made it past a certain point in our little pity parties, it often takes something drastic to wake us up from our self-indulgent stupors.

Even more, it takes someone special to do the waking, kicking or rescuing. It takes someone willing to take us by the shoulders, look us in the eyes and tells us to get with it, to stop dwelling on our problems and start counting our blessings. It takes someone willing to risk a friendship or risk the backlash they may incur in order to help a friend find joy again.

We need lots of someones like that in our lives. We need to be those someones for others.

A good, swift kick in the pants most likely will not make us SMILE – at least not at first. But if it works, if it wakes us up from our stupor of negativity and self-pity, we’ll be grateful to the one who cared enough to do the kicking!