Posted in Stories

The wrong door

“It’s the Target on Plano Road. There’s a Sonic out front. And a Bank of America. The car is silver. Texas plates…”

Right next to her, another woman wasn’t as composed, sobbing over and over again, “I parked it right here. It was in this spot. I just ran in to get some paper towels. My kids were in the car!”

Along with others, we walked closer to learn what had happened and try to help. A young mom had run back into Target for a roll of paper towels, leaving her two children in the car. It was just for a moment. When she came out of the store, the car – and her children – were gone.

My wife went over to comfort her. The woman on the phone with 911 spoke quickly but calmly, and told us, “The police are on their way.”

Someone asked, “Are you sure this is where you parked your car?”

“Yes, yes, yes, yes!”

“What kind of car was it?” I asked.

“A silver Olds.”

I scanned the parking lot, wondering if somehow the car might be a row over. Or maybe behind a truck.

Another asked, “You came out this door?”

“Yes.”

“I think so.”

For a moment, everyone was quiet. There are two front doors, thirty yards apart.

Is it possible? I walked a few rows over, looking for silver cars. I saw one. Running. With two crying children inside.

I shouted, “Is this it?” I shouted out the license plate numbers and letters.

The young mom ran over, confused, relieved, embarrassed. “Yes. That’s my car. I must have come out a different door.”

We were relieved and headed home. But the night was not quite over for this mom. The police car blocked her from leaving. They would want to know why she had left two young children alone in a running car at night in the Target parking lot.

We wondered the same thing.

Posted in advent, Advent devotions, Devotions

2020 Advent devotion: Unto us a child is born

“Live and in person Advent devotion for December 8, 2020.” Read Isaiah 9:6-7 and Psalm 121.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Who comes to mind when you think of a child star? I guess it depends on your generation. Shirley Temple? Ron Howard (Opie)? Maureen McCormick (Marsha Brady)? Barry Livingston (Ernie Douglas on “My Three Sons”)? Mccaulay Culkin (Home Alone)?

Scripture has its share of child stars, too. From Cain and Abel to Jacob and Esau to Samson and John the Baptist, the arrival of children would shape the story of God’s people. But none of them were expected to be or do as much as the child Isaiah spoke of. In the birth of this son the world would meet the “Mighty God” and the “Everlasting Father” live and in person!

The arrival of every son and daughter is filled with the anticipation of what they will grow up to be and the things that they will do. Each addition to a family is unique. Each will discover their talents and learn new skills as they grow. Each brings a hint of the future with them, for they will one day be leaders, teachers, inventors, healers and artists. Children whet our appetite for a world that is better than the one we live in now.

It certainly is fun to discover what our children can do. We give them balls to see what kinds of athletic abilities they have. We put crayons and paint brushes in their hands to unleash artistic ability. We sing songs, play games and read books, watching as they become the people God created them to be.

Long before His birth, Isaiah reveals what this child would become. He was born for public service, politics and government. He would be the one to fill the very big shoes of David, ascending to the throne of a kingdom that would never end. His parents, His people and the world had high hopes for this child.

We still do. Each Christmas, we have high hopes that Jesus will bring peace and joy to our world. How thankful we are for this child!

Lord, be the child star of our Christmas, coming with the counsel, strength and peace we so much need. Amen.

Posted in children

More prepositions

I get to spend a few hours watching two of my one-year old grandchildren each week. They are both at the age where they notice, investigate and taste everything. They spend all their time discovering new skills, flavors and sounds. They constantly learn new ways of moving, communicating and manipulating. Their lives are best characterized by prepositions: in, out, up, down, over and under.

An hour of watching my granddaughter do that instilled in me a new desire to do the same. Much of my day is familiar, routine and habitual. But it doesn’t have to be. I am certain there are many tastes and smells, motions and skills, sounds and places yet to be discovered. I just need to add a few more prepositions to my day!

Order something different to put in my mouth. Put on some headphones and listen to a different kind of music. Climb up on the roof and see what’s going on around my neighborhood. Get down on the ground and see the world from a toddler’s perspective. Go out of my way to talk to someone I don’t know.

I can’t remember where I saw it, but I clearly remember the sign: “Don’t grow up. It’s a trap!” How true. I’m a little jealous of those who get to be full-time little ones. I’ll have to work hard to let my inner kid out more often. More prepositions. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Posted in Psalms

Rock climbing

I am having a ball in the Psalms this time through the Bible. The word pictures just keep jumping off the page and into my life. Like this one:

“Lead me to a rock that towers above me” (Psalm 61:2 AAT).

You never have to teach your kids (or grandkids) to climb on rocks. From parks to the zoo to a creek or the each, take them anywhere there are rocks and they will automatically begin climbing.

Why is that so appealing? Is it the physical challenge? It is the sense of accomplishment when you get to the top? Is is a chance to be higher and taller than the grown-ups? Or is it for that moment when they can announce, “Look at me! I’m all the way up here!”

For David, these words were his prayer for help against an enemy. The top of a rock was a good defensive position, a strong tower of protection. There’s no better rock and no more secure tower than God himself!

You’re never too young to begin and never get too old to keep climbing on the Rock!

Posted in children, heaven

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!

Posted in children, Ministry, teaching

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.”

Continue reading “Can I have your attention?”

Posted in children, Grace

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!

 

 

Posted in children, joy, Life

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!

Posted in Christmas

He knew we’d want to play with this.

IMG-7920I knew I’d be watching my two-year-old grandson Elijah for a few hours today while my daughter and wife did a little shopping. Before he arrived, I set out our little Playmobile nativity out on the porch.

From the moment he saw it he was delighted! He exclaimed, “This is perfect!” And then he picked up the baby from the manger and announced, “He’s awake!” He pointed out the donkey, camel, and sheep. Then, spotting the magi’s treasure chests, his eyes got big and he burst out with “Presents!” We got a full ninety minutes of play from this season’s first encounter with the cast of characters from Luke 2 and Matthew 2!

I believe our all-knowing Father knew that his children would delight in this hands-on telling and re-enactment of Christ’s birth. I can’t prove it, but I would contend he purposely chose the first-century, Roman empire, Bethlehem, virgin and carpenter setting because he knew it would capture our imagination, our hearts, and our souls.

I also believe it is therapeutic to sit and play with a nativity, preferably with kids. The holidays aren’t always the easiest times to navigate. You may be dealing with distance, death or divorce. There may be family conflicts, financial worries, unrealistic demands and unmet expectations, But when you sit down to play with a nativity, much of that fades behind the reminders of God’s promises, faithfulness, and presence. He shows up in the lives of real, ordinary people just like us, to walk us through guilt, sorrow, doubt, fear, pain, or whatever we’re dealing with.

That’s what it’s all about. Even a child knows that. I guess Jesus was right. You really need to be a child.