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 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 221

Reason to SMILE #221: POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE

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• 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 214

Reason to SMILE #214: ROCK PAINTING

Yes. We’ve jumped on the bandwagon. But what a fun and inspirational bandwagon it is! Have you heard about these groups that are organizing to paint rocks, hide rocks and search for rocks in their communities? The idea is to gather up some rocks, decorate them with all sorts of designs, inspirational quotes, etc., hide them around town for people to find and while you’re hiding them, search for rocks other people have hidden. Oh, and if you find a rock, you’re supposed to re-hide it elsewhere. What a neat idea! This has kept many a family busy during the boring summer months. It has also motivated people to get out of their houses and to visit all kinds of local businesses, parks, places of worship and more.

Children everywhere are having mom check the pages of their local Facebook group for clues as to where the rocks are hidden and then pushing parents out the door to race to find these rocks. What joy these rocks are bringing to these kids! But on the flip side, some of these kids are experiencing extreme disappointment upon the discovery that the rock they were seeking has already been found! The good thing is there are many a conscious rock painters watching for posts about disappointed kids and are making it their mission to ensure these kids find a rock. It truly is awesome to watch!

Well, I’m done watching! Tonight, at Kids Central in Albany, GA, we painted about 35 rocks that will be hidden all over our community.  Take a look:

 

 

That’s 35 SMILES we’ll be sharing with our little world!! My only wish – to actually see the faces of the rock seekers who find these crazy rocks!

A Year of Smiles – Day 213

Reason to SMILE #213: YOU’VE GOT THIS!

This week many of the children in my church begin another year of school. The first day of school is always a dreaded day in my household (actually, any school day is!) and I’m sure it’s the same for many other households. Of course, there are a variety of reasons to be anxious over the beginning of a new school year. For my kid, it’s merely that he doesn’t see the point of school! (Yep. Tell me how do you deal with that one! – – Please!) No matter the reason, I completely understand. I had a whole list of them myself. So, for all of you out there who may have kids hesitant to begin this new school year, here’s a SMILE to pass along:

You've Got This Adobe Spark

 

And if you’re not a student, well, this SMILE is for you, too! Remember, no matter what you are facing, God and You have got this!

A Year of Smiles – Day 207

Reason to SMILE #207: END OF SUMMER/BEGINNING OF SCHOOL

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Summer is waning – 

Except for the heat.

And kids will soon be

At school in their seats.


Five days of freedom

Remain for a few.

ONLY FIVE DAYS?

But there’s so much to do!


There’s shopping for glue

And rulers and pens,

Pencils and paper –

Is that wide-ruled or thin?


There’s sports registration 

And after school care

There’s shopping for clothes – 

Do they need underwear?


There’s schedules to change 

And sleep to adjust;

There’s groceries to buy –

Those snacks are a must!


Oh, then there are shoes. 

I almost forgot.

For one little “swish”

Small fortunes are lost!


There’s so much to do

And so little time.

Oh, how did the days 

Of summer pass by?


While surveying lists

And mourning lost time,

Your kids in the house 

Are found running wild.


The TV is blaring;

Their rooms are a mess.

They’re fighting and nagging;

They’re being such pests.


You start to get up 

But halt in your tracks.

You look at the date,

Then SMILE and relax.


There’s only five days;

School soon will begin.

The house will be empty.

You’ll have peace once again! 😉

 

 

A Year of Smiles – Day 201

Reason to SMILE #201 – BLESSINGS

The rhythmic beat of drums and the blues-y sound of a bass guitar filled the air as a room of kids chanted “Bless-ed, bless-ed, bless-ed, bless-ed, bless-ed.”  We were singing a song about the Beatitudes found in Matthew chapter 5.  It’s actually a rap and when I first heard the song, I thought, “Wow! What a cool way to learn the Beatitudes!” After six weeks of trying to teach the song to these kids, I have come to the conclusion that my group was not meant to rap – no matter how much I wanted them to! Oh, well.

The Beatitudes are excellent Bible verses to read and even memorize. These verses talk about blessings. And who doesn’t like blessings? We ask God for them all the time, don’t we? Lord, bless this food.  Lord, bless our home. Lord, bless this business venture.  Lord, bless me. We pronounce blessings on others, too. What do you say when you hear someone sneeze? God bless you. And how do you respond when you find out someone is sick or when someone has gotten hurt? Aw, bless his heart. Yes, we like blessings.  However, our idea of blessings is not really the Lord’s idea of blessings.

God doesn’t hand out blessings like Santa handing out toys. If you read Scripture carefully, you’ll find that the blessings and promises of God usually come with a proviso. Read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1 -12, for instance. Some of the blessings you will find in these verses of Scripture are comfort, mercy, seeing God, being called a child of God and the kingdom of Heaven. Those all sound great. I’ll take those blessings, please! It doesn’t quite work like that. Jesus tells us in these verses that these blessings belong to those who live and act a certain way, to those who are faithful followers of God. Take a look:

³Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

It’s obvious from these verses that God doesn’t regard blessings as we do. God is more concerned with our lasting growth as a person than He is with our instant gratification. Again, He’s not Santa freely handing out candy canes at the mall or a genie in a bottle waiting to give you three wishes. There has to be some responsibility on our part. If we want to be blessed, we have to live the life worthy of blessings. And when we do, verse 12 tells us that even if we are insulted or persecuted for it, we can “Rejoice and be glad” a/k/a we can SMILE (KJV = KJ’s Version) for “great is your reward in heaven”!

 

A Year of Smiles – Day 193

Reason to SMILE #193: SUSHI AND WATER BALLOONS

“Sushi?” one of the kids asked.

“Yep! You’re gonna love it!” I replied.

He did.  And so did all the other kids.  Why wouldn’t they?  The only ingredients were sugar, sugar, crisped rice cereal and sugar!  (Sorry, Mom and Dad!)

But we worked off that sugar high with a water balloon fight!  It’s all good!

People say to me all the time, “I don’t know how you do what you do. I couldn’t work with all of those kids and still keep my sanity. You must be a saint.”

No, you don’t have to be a saint to work with these kids. All you need is a little bit of understanding and a whole lotta love. And as for sanity?  It’s overrated!  You gotta be a little crazy to feed 32 already hyperactive kids a bunch of sugar and then hand them a bucket of water balloons!

Ah, but I love it. Working with these children is so much fun and a sure-fire way to find a whole lotta SMILES.

 

 

A Year of Smiles – Day 175

Reason to SMILE #175: BARE FEET

The first thing I do when I get home is take feet-42939_640off my shoes.  Not because I’m worried about my carpet or anything – I live with three males so that concern went out the window years ago.  No, I take off my shoes because I’d much rather go without them.  Who needs shoes when the feet God gave us are perfectly adequate!

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m no wild child longing to run rampant through the great outdoors barefoot and carefree.  Not me at all!  I love a cute pair of shoes but the older I get, the more I just want to be comfortable.  So off the shoes go when I hit my bedroom door.

The funny thing about my longing to unshod my feet is that I have just the opposite desire for my kids at church.  One of our rules is to keep your shoes on your feet.  What they don’t know is that all afternoon on Wednesdays, I’m usually running around the church barefoot as I’m preparing for our evening activities.  Pretty unfair, isn’t it?  No.  You try being in the same room with thirty kids who have just been playing out in the heat for twenty minutes and have all decided to kick off their sweaty, smelly shoes. Thus, the rule!

I wear my shoes because society dictates.  And because my feet need protection!  I live in the South and I’d be suffering from third degree burns in the summer if I tried to walk on the asphalt with just my bare feet.  And speaking of the South…

What prompted this post today was all of the shoes I see lying in the road.  Everywhere I go, I find that someone has lost a shoe.  Not both shoes just one!  How do you lose a shoe when you’re driving down the road?  Does this happen other places?  Well, all I can say is that the South must be full of SMILING people free of their shoes and society’s restraints… at least they’re free of one shoe anyway!  😉

A Year of Smiles – Day 172

 

Reason to SMILE #172: A GIFT FROM A CHILD

Wednesdays, I think, are my favorite day of the week because I get to have fun at Kids Central, the children’s ministry at my church.  Our biggest group of kids attend the mid-week activities and I love seeing each and every one of them.  Wednesday nights are jam-packed with music, skits, games, snacks, crafts and, of course, Bible study.  It’s organized chaos at it’s finest.  Did I mention how fun it is?

Tonight was no different. A whole lotta kids, a whole lotta chaos and a whole lotta fun.  But my SMILE actually came before the evening activities kicked off.  A sweet little girl, who had arrived early, walked up to me with a package of sorts and said, “I made this for you.” Anytime this happens, I can’t help but SMILE but as I opened her precious gift, my heart soared.  Check it out:

Hover over the pictures for a “translation”. 😉  There was a message on the inside of the main envelope (top right picture).  It says, “I love you and God is awesome and Jesus is awesome and you are awesome too and I wish church is every day. Good bye.”

This is a SMILE worth treasuring!