Are there pointy hats in heaven?

party hatsEven though All Saints is technically November 1 on the church calendar, we celebrated it in worship today. And since we call it a “celebration,” the children’s sermon wasn’t too hard to put together. After all, if there’s joy in heaven when one person repents, we can celebrate here on earth too. So I gave out pointy party hats and party blowers, those things that unroll when you blow into them.

I knew those things would be fun, I just didn’t know how much fun. I got a big kick for the rest of the morning when I saw all these pointy hats sticking up from the pews as I preached. I also had fun working around them to bless the children who came up for a blessing at communion. Something so simple provided so much entertainment!

So as I reflect on the day, here’s my question: are there pointy party hats in heaven? On the one hand, one might immediately answer, “Of course not. That would be silly.” On the other hand, if the kingdom of heaven indeed belongs to little children, they may just bring their hats and noisemakers with them! I can so picture Jesus wearing a pointy party hat with the kids.

While we have little hints here and there throughout the bible of what heaven will be like, we’re not really going to know what it’s like till we get there. But I’m absolutely certain that when I breathe my last in this life and take my first breath in the next, if I see pointy party hats, I’ll know I’m in the right place!

Total meltdown

gem-lauris-rk-606993-unsplash“Ok, two minutes.”

That’s all I said. That’s all it took. Suddenly, my grandson fell to the ground, let loose a long, agonizing wail, and would not accept the truth that we were leaving the fast food restaurant play ground in two minutes.

This caught me off guard. A two-minute warning was usually well received. I had never seen such a reaction. I know he was just getting over a cold and wasn’t 100% yet, but this was over the top.

Later, I wondered — what makes me melt down like that? We all have our moments. Most of the time we are well-behaved, composed, and in control. But all it takes is one look, one comment, one request, and we can lose it, too. We may not scream, but we’ll certainly feel like it.

I did a little soul-searching and came up with the one thing that makes me melt down, at least on the inside. (When you are an adult, you learn how to stuff your feelings and make everyone think you’re doing just fine.) It’s when someone asks me to do just one more thing that I don’t consider to be part of my job description, but is a request that makes perfect sense to them.

I know, I have to explain. Here’s a good example. Someone who has no connection with the church whatsoever calls to ask me to perform a religious service for them, like a wedding or a funeral or a baptism. Or someone is concerned about their adult child who has never really shown much interest in the church, but perhaps I talk some sense into them because they are making bad decisions. Here’s another — someone has a great idea for ministry that they think I should implement. Will they help? Not a chance.

Those are just some of the moments when I just want to say, “I’ll be back in a minute,” so I can go outside and just scream at the top of my lungs. I don’t often do that. But I sometimes feel like doing that. In fact, if we’re talking and I step out for a minute, you can be pretty sure that’s exactly what I’m doing.

So I really wasn’t too upset when my grandson lost it. I thought, “I know; I feel your pain.” I’ve been in meltdown mode before. I’ll be there again. I’m thankful that I have a heavenly Father who’s willing to take me by the hand, walk me out of there, and give me a chance to pull myself together. I think there’s a lot of kicking and screaming in the kingdom of God. But he loves me anyway.

A smile!

I did it. I coaxed a smile out of my youngest grandchild Daniel today. I wasn’t the first to do that, but it was the first time for me.

As I reflect on that, I think it’s pretty amazing. I’m not absolutely certain, but I think smiling is an acquired skill. While we’re born with the muscles to smile, we have to learn how to get the corners of our mouths to turn upwards. And we do! At some point our eyes begin to focus on the face in front of us, a face that is smiling at us, and we imitate them as best we can and just like that, we’re smiling!

I enjoy making people smile. Sometimes it’s easy. All I have to do is look at my youngest daughter and she not only smiles but breaks into laughter. Other folks are harder. Some who hear my sermons, which usually include at least one humorous line or story, will not crack a smile.

What is it that makes me smile? There’s the usual — a funny story, certain bodily sounds, a silly face, puppies, finishing up a task, a package at the door, a check in the mail, a clever idea that pops into my head, finding some money in a pants pocket. When someone smiles at me, it’s hard to not smile back.

me and danielAnd of course, a baby. Even before they learn to smile, they make us smile. And then they learn how to smile from us. Isn’t that amazing.

Just thinking about that makes me smile.

 

I was just reading to you

YertleA few months ago, I had the privilege of holding my newest grandchild, Daniel, just hours after his birth. He was swaddled snugly in a dinosaur-covered blanket, sporting a matching cap. I quickly accepted the offer to hold him and said the first thing that came to my mind. “I was reading a story to you yesterday, remember?”

Less than twenty-four hours before, I had sat down to read one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books to Daniel’s big brother, Elijah. Elijah soon lost interest and galloped away to do something else. But his mom, exactly 40 weeks pregnant with little brother was also sitting on the sofa, slowly rubbing her belly. So I kept on reading Yertle the Turtle, delighting as the precarious tower of turtles collapsed, leaving Yertle with a kingdom of nothing more than the mud into which he fell.

As I chatted with Daniel, I paused to marvel at all the voices I the world that he would recognize. His mom and dad, of course. His big brother, grandparents, and a few aunts and uncles. On more than one occasion, I would stoop down and “talk to the tummy.” Those on the outside would roll their eyes as I asked, “What’s your name?” “When’s your birthday?” and “Whatcha doin’ in there?” I like to believe Daniel merely thought, “Don’t worry, Apa, I’ll let you know soon!”

I like having conversations with little people. Even before they can respond with words, I can tell they are listening very carefully. Sometimes they’ll respond by looking deeply into your eyes. Or they’ll twist their mouth into interesting little shapes. They squint when you blow in their face and say, “It’s windy day!” And sometimes they look excited as you move their legs to make them run as fast as they can or move their arms to make them dance.

I love to read stories to kids, especially my grandchildren. I like to think I’m pretty good at it, too. In fact, I like to believe that story got the show on the road. A few hours after “the end” the contractions began. I think my young audience wanted to see the pictures that went along with the story!

Can I have your attention?

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Photo by Loren Joseph on Unsplash

Post-Easter Sunday excitement, wiggles and sugar-hangovers made the Good News Club a little more challenging last week. After a few songs and teaching about the resurrection via the account of the two disciples who met the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus, it was craft and review time. The room divided up by grade to work on a few peel-and-stick crafts and see who could remember a few things from the story that day. Conversation and laughter filled the room, but everything remained under control — except for a few boys in the second grade group. The adult working with that group could have used a few dogs from the herding group to help corral those nine children. I was done teaching for the day so I tapped the four boys on the shoulder and said, “You guys come with me.”

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Kids

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Photo by Christiana Rivers on Unsplash

I never, ever get tired of reading or hearing the story of when people wanted to bring their kids to Jesus and the disciples tried to stop them (Mark 10:13-16). I can just hear the disciples saying, “Get those kids out of here.” And then Jesus says, “Don’t you dare send those kids away. Let them come to me. That’s what this is all about!”

This account resonates on a number of levels. First of all, I think that deep down, we just all want to be kids. We want to be free of all the responsibilities of being adults, to just play and imagine and color. And that’s OK. You get a much better handle on Jesus when you are a kid. You’re not trying to prove yourself or justify yourself. You just look at him with wonder and know that he’s not like any grown up you’ve ever met before. He wants you to hang around, not just go off and play (and be quiet).

I also believe we want to feel his embrace. After Jesus rebuked his disciples and told them to let the children come to him, he took them in his arms and blessed them. With all the uncertainty, violence, politics, prejudice, hatred, jealousy and evil in our world, we just want someone to hold us. We long for someone who can make us feel safe. Who better than Jesus, who loves without boundaries, who provides a refuge from everything that threatens, whose arms can reach and embrace anyone, no matter the distance?

Don’t ever grow up so much that you no longer yearn for the feel of his arms around you. Always embrace your inner child, for that is one of the places where you will best get to know your Savior!

 

 

Look at me!

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Photo by Carlos Martinez on Unsplash

My little friend C. stopped by to see me the other day. With a whopping five-and-a-half months of life under her belt, she has developed quite the personality. When I said, “Hi!” and our eyes met, she flashed a huge smile, kicked her legs and excitedly waved her arms.

But when I looked away for a second to talk to her handler (aka Grandma), I saw out of the corner of my eye that she stopped. When I turned back to her and made eye contact, she smiled and squirmed again. This is my kind of game. I looked away and looked at her over and over again, with the exact same result. She was delighted when I looked but was dismayed when I didn’t.

Reflecting on that brief visit, I thought, “Wait a minute, I’ve played that game before.” We all have. There are times in life when it seems like God has turned away from us, and we’re dismayed. But when it seems like he’s paying attention to us, we’re all giggly and happy. Bad stuff happens and we’re like, “Hey, God, I’m over here.” Good stuff happens and we’re all, “God is good, all the time! All the time, God is good!”

King Saul once felt that way. He said, “God has turned away from me and answers me no more” (1 Samuel 28:15). But Saul had turned away from God a long time before that. In fact, when Saul said that, he had employed a medium to conjure up the spirit of Samuel!

Does God turn away from us? Just the opposite. God comes looking for us. Like he looked for Adam and Even in the garden when they were hiding in the bushes. Or like a shepherd who goes in search of a lost sheep. Or Jesus, who shows up in this world to seek and save the lost.

The best reminder of God’s gaze on us comes in the words of the benediction, “The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you” (Numbers 6:25). I hope you’ll never hear those words the same way again, a reminder of God’s persistent gaze upon our lives, so that we can respond with excitement, joy and yes, a giggle!

Note: the picture is not C. She is much cuter!

 

 

 

At the kid’s table, again

kids-1I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but once again I found myself at the kids table.

After the wedding rehearsal, the family invited me to join them for dinner at the Portuguese American Cultural Center for supper. Even though I was the last to leave after locking up the church, I was one of the first to arrive there. Within fifteen minutes or so, more of the family trickled in, and it wasn’t long before I found myself watching a young men, Junior (age 4) and his cousin (age 6), play some games on an iPad. We were joined by two young ladies, Ina (age 4) an Layla (age 9), who were each absorbed in a book. When I asked what they were reading, they eagerly shared with me the highlights of their Captain Underpants books. As I sat to listen, we were invited to the buffet, and just like that, I found myself eating with the kids.

If you know me at all, you’ll know I was in my element, and soon we were comparing notes as to what is actually inside a clam, debating how much salt to sprinkle on a piece of bread (correct answer: none), and clinking out glasses so we could watch the soon-to-be married couple kiss. Dessert was even better as some delicious homemade chocolate mousse was quickly dubbed “moose poo.”

They couldn’t quite get the knack of rubbing a finger along the rim of a glass to fill the room with a high-pitched note. They did find and consume most of the chocolate covered strawberries. And the imitation rose petals decorating the tables were great for practicing for the big day tomorrow.

I got to meet a lot of nice family and friends of both the bride and groom, but I enjoyed the kids the best. Bonus moment: when ten-month old Clifford gave me a big, mostly toothless smile!