Monday, June 27, 2011

Weeds or Cabbage

This is not another blog about food. I really do more than cook and eat...honest. I even have a book coming out in a few weeks.

Fields were on both sides of the road which I had traveled for years. I love watching the crops mature. Every year at least two crops of Chinese cabbages were planted and harvested on the fertile fields, but not this year. Instead of the straight rows of beautiful green cabbages that I was so accustomed to seeing, scraggly weeds were growing in their place; sucking and stripping nutrients from the soil. I observed two things from that field.

  1. Something is going to grow in the field.
  2. If you want cabbages to grow, you must plant cabbages.

I am absolutely certain the farmer did not plant the weeds in those fields. The weeds grew because the fields had been neglected. Something is being planted in the heart of your children and grandchildren, which will either shape or twist their character. Something is going to grow. If you don’t cultivate, the weeds will grow? Good intentions don’t grow cabbages. Hoping for a good crop just doesn’t produce them; they must be cultivated. If you want your children to know the Bible and the God of the Bible, then you must deliberately plant seeds of truth in their lives. First, cultivation requires plowing. Plowing softens the soil and prepares it to receive the seed. Mom and Dad, are you praying for your children? We pray when they get sick, or when they are experiencing behavior or learning problems, which we should do. Sure we pray for adult children when they have marriage problems or financial struggles. But, plowing is pro-active. Plowing looks to the future for something greater than what you hold now. Plowing prepares for the future by preparing the ground. It requires, time, faith and patience.

You can’t have a harvest without plowing first. Prayer is plowing. Prayer opens the resources and wisdom of heaven for your children. While I can’t and don’t want to do all the praying for my kids, I want to do my part to help them be productive in life. I can plow…I can pray…but the question is not “can we”, it is “will we”? Hoping doesn’t achieve the needed results. Criticizing, nagging, or arguing doesn’t give them a leg-up. Prayer does! Regardless of how well your children are doing, pray into their destiny. Invest in their future through prayer. These are some dreams that I have and pray into for my children:

  1. That Jesus Christ will be number one, reigning on the throne of their hearts. Deuteronomy 6:5
  2. That they will hear the voice of their Good Shepherd and follow Him closely. John 10:27 3.
  3. That they will know and experience the fullness of God’s love. Ephesians 3:16-20 4.
  4. That they will daily lay aside every weight and run their race purposefully; serving, loving and giving. Hebrews 12:1 5.
  5. That all grace would abound in their lives, so that they will have all they need to fulfill their destiny. 2 Corinthians 9:8

For those of you who, like me, love to pray the scripture, here are some of my favorites. They are also where I derived my prayer goals for my children.
  1. Deuteronomy 6:5 NLT And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.
  2. John 10:27 NLT My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
  3. Ephesians 3:16-20 NLT I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. 17 And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20 Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.
  4. Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
  5. 2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

    Tomorrow, I want to chat with you about planting the seed. I love spending this time with you. I pray God’s richest blessings on you and your family!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Noise or Music?

Paulette’s home is tucked off the road, among a thick growth of trees, between two spring fed lakes. It is a haven for her family and guests, both human and animal. The beaver have their own lodge, which on occasions had been remodeled from the trees along the lake. A mama Canadian goose led five huge goslings, with papa falling in line last of all, as they swam across the lake in a perfect line. When they reached the other shore, they climbed out for a picnic lunch under the trees. If she gave a parenting conference, I would attend. In stark contrast, the male Mallard ducks feed brazenly at the edge of the pond, while the mama hides her babies from predators in the tall grass along the waters edge. They seem to understand the potential danger and swim around and around her without venturing very far.

Colorful birds of all sizes and varieties arrive at the feeders for breakfast and dinner, singing and dancing for their next meal. Crickets play their fiddles and frogs sing along, at least that’s what it sounds like to me.

But occasionally a guest will comment to Paulette, “This is a noisy place.”

But I would describe the sounds as music…peaceful, soothing melody…played by a gifted symphony, performed for their audience of one, their creator. Maybe they sing because they’re happy. Perhaps they’re communicating, or maybe they sing because that’s what they were made to do. I prefer to believe they are fulfilling their God-given purpose with their songs.

Scripture says, “Let everything that hath breathe praise the Lord.” When we help children move into sincere praise, we are helping them move into God’s purpose for their life—to glorify God.

To some people the melody of children’s praise sounds like noise. They don’t understand that perfect praise comes from the mouth of children. The praises that comes from the hearts of children isn’t formed to satisfy the ears of critics; it is formed to penetrate the heavens, all the way to the heart of God. Matthew 21:16 (KJV) ”And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say ? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?”

Help children realize three things about praise:
1. God desires their praise. Nobody can praise for them. God made them because He wanted relationship with them.
2. Real praise is an expression of love to God. It must be sincere and heartfelt.
3. Praise is not praise until it is expressed. You can express it by clapping, giving, saying words, playing a musical instrument, singing, raising your hands or serving.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hungry Girl…Hungry Boy

Here I go again, talking about the Cooking Channel; maybe that’s why I struggle to stay on my diet. My new favorite show is the Hungry Girl. She helps people, like me, make better choices without starving! She has a recipe for a Growing Bowl of Oatmeal, that turns ½ cup of oatmeal into a Pat sized serving that lets you leave the table feeling satisfied. Another one is her chocolate satisfying Mississippi Mud Pie recipe.

I love to eat…and I love to cook for hungry people or people that enjoy food as much as I do. We have a friend in the mountains that we have over frequently to eat with us. He built his cabin during the same time we did, so about twice a week, we just added a plate and fed him whatever we were eating. He arrived with an appetite, ready to eat and share stories. It was great, but people that aren't hungry drive me bananas. No matter what you cook, they just nibble or move their food around on their plate. Agghh!

I have felt that way after giving an invitation to children. It is frustrating. You know God has awesome things for them, and yet they fail to respond; sometimes even to simple request like worship or giving God thanks. When I see them stare at the ground or ceiling, or playing instead of praying, I feel SO frustrated. It’s as if they’re not hungry for more of God…and that is the problem, they aren’t hungry. That hunger is graphically described in Psalm 42:1 NLT “... As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.” If indeed that is the real problem, what can we do to create a hunger in their hearts?

How can we help children develop a hunger for more of God?

1.Pray ‘em hungry. Ask God to give them a desire for more of Him. It’s a prayer He wants to answer. Encourage the children to pray it as well. God I want to want more of you.
2. Whet their appetite with descriptive pictures. Describe how good God is. Describe regularly how much you enjoy worship. Let them see you enjoy it. Share special things that have happened to you as you spent time in God’s presence.
3. Let them taste for themselves with little bites, little segments of time. Give them opportunities to pray. One minute praise break. Tell God things you love about Him.
4. Limit the amount of junk food. If they fill up on junk, they won’t be hungry for what nourishes them. Don’t do away with the fun; just limit it so they don’t get satisfied with only junk food.

I must re emphasis point 1,pray, pray, pray. Ask God to create hunger in their hearts. Invite Him into your service. He wants to come more than you can imagine and they need it more than you can imagine.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

You Just Can't BEET'em!

I love beets and it’s my daddy’s fault. While I was raised in the city, my parents were country folks. Daddy always had a large garden, and one vegetable he raised from time to time was beets. Mother always pickled them in jars with sugar and vinegar.
At supper time (that’s what we call the evening meal in the South), daddy would search through the refrigerator until he found the chilled jar of pickled ruby-red beet slices. He’d jab a fork in the jar and bring it to the table. We’d pass the bowls of food around the table to dip our plates, but the jar of beets sat beside daddy’s plate. He would lean over to me and say, “Patsy (nobody called me Patsy but daddy), want some beets.”

I’d shake my head side-ways. He’d pierce several of the sweet ruby slices and pile them on his place. He always bragged about how good they tasted. “If you would try them you would like them,” he would always say. I tried them and I didn’t like them. But daddy ate them with such enjoyment, and he always encouraged me to try them; so because I loved my daddy, I would try the beets again.

If you’ve ever tried beets, you know they have a very earthy taste. I liked the sweet and sour taste that pickling produced, but I couldn’t get past that earthy taste. But, daddy kept encouraging, and I continued to taste until I finally developed a taste for them. Now, I keep some in my pantry all the time; partly because they remind me of daddy, and partly because I love them.

That’s what parents do; expose their children to different things, new things, new places, new ideas, and new books. That’s what children’s ministry leaders do too…only we expose children to God experiences, God ideas and deeper places in God. Actually, it’s the role of parents and teachers to help children experience the presence of God, but often neither seems to fulfill this role; because they don’t understand the power of influence that is needed to take children into God’s presence.

How did my dad influence my personal desire to eat beets?
1. He made room on his plate for the beets.
2. He modeled enjoying them personally.
3. He encouraged me to taste.
4. From sincere love that comes out of relationship, he continued to encourage me.

Those same principles must be employed for children’s leaders to take children into the presence of God. Children love the presence of God. I have seen children of all ages have the time of their lives, praying and seeking God. But, they don’t have the life experience to know how good His presence really is until we help them experience it themselves.

The four points as adapted for children’s leaders are:
1. Love God’s presence personally.
2. Model our love for worship and His presence.
3. Encourage them to take little steps toward God.
4. Continue to encourage children to experience His presence, in a variety of ways,.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Guide at Craggy Gardens

I was excited to visit Craggy Gardens. Gardens I have visited in the past, like Biltmore Gardens and Bellingrath Gardens, shaped my expectations. But, I assure you it was not what I expected. Craggy Gardens is located on the Blue Ridge Mountains, just past the turn to Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River. I expected manicured gardens designed by a Master Gardner, but I got much more than I expected.

Craggy Gardens is a beautiful mountain trail on the Blue Ridge Mountains that takes you through the snarled trunks of magnificent, fragrant Rhododendron and elevation dwarfed birch, ash and beech trees up to a peak that affords a 360 degree view. Besides the spectacular blue vistas that are available at many twists and turns along the parkway, May to June offers the glorious display of both Mountain Laurels and Rhododendron. The tall bush-like trees are covered with blooms. The color palettes range from light pink to fuchsia.

We had already walked about four miles through a lush canopied trail at Mount Mitchell, so Karyn wasn’t really interested in one more trail. But this area was covered with Rhododendrons, so I encouraged her to join Brayden and me. I have never seen so many of them. The sweet fragrance of the Mountain Laurels and the thick green canopy made the walk a sensual delight. Twisted and gnarled tree trunks were works of art in themselves. I wanted to continue, but I wasn’t sure they wanted to make the trek.

I asked Karyn, “Do you want to go back to the car?” Ashlyn was taking a nap, and Wayne waited with her in the car. We weren’t sure how long the trail was or where it would take us or what we would see when we got there. We just knew this was a place people said to visit, so here we were.

“No, Nana. This is something you want to do. Let’s go on.” (Isn't she precious! She gets that from her Nana!) I didn’t need any more encouragement. Brayden wanted to lead the way; he loves to lead. After a battle of the wills, it was agreed that Brayden would lead this leg of the trail and Karyn would lead coming back.

We met a park ranger on the trail who said that the trail was not too difficult and encouraged us to take the Upper Summit to get the best view. We made our way through the canopy of Rhododendron. Both sides of the trail was lined with lush green ferns, tall blueberry bushes, moss covered rocks, sprays of yellow and blue flower and white raspberry blooms. As we twisted and turned along the easy to moderate trail, climbing over tree roots and stair step boulders, we were taking a steady, but gradual climb to the top. There was so much beauty to experience as we moved along the trail that we didn’t realize we were climbing until the last short distance, which was pretty steep. Then we stepped out of the overgrowth into the clearing of the pinnacle. It was spectacular. We could see for miles and miles. Brayden and Karyn moved from side to side of the viewing platform to see everything. We found Wayne’s parking spot below. We looked out on the Asheville Watershed that supplies 30 million gallons of water daily to Asheville. Then Karyn led us back to the parking lot where we hurried to a museum at the Vistors Center. We climbed out of the car and Karyn looked straight up the mountain where she spotted a lady wearing a red top. “Look, Nana, that’s where we climbed.” Then she realized that she was looking at the lower vista, not the Upper Vista that we had climbed.

“No, look, we climbed to the top. Look. Look what we did. Man that was so cool. We climbed all the way to the top.” I don’t know where my camera was, but that would have made one incredible picture. She had the most amazing smile on her face. She just glowed from the realization of what she had just accomplished.

That’s what we do when we encourage children to enter into the presence of God. They have no idea where we are trying to take them. They have no idea what they are going to experience, or what God will share with them until they experience His presence for themselves. That’s why we need to be like the Park ranger that met us on the trail…guiding and encouraging. That’s our job as children’s ministry leaders; just to guide and encourage. Jesus has already made the way. Because of His death on the cross and because Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost, we can experience the presence of God in amazing ways. But the choice has to be made to go after God. We must choose to pursue His presence by worship and prayer, and by listening for His voice. Children can experience Him, but we need to help them find the trail that will take them there, and then encourage them to go there themselves.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Don't Move

The air was cool and a gentle breeze was blowing across the porch looking out on the mountains, so I moved to the porch for my prayer time. As I sipped coffee and prayed, I heard movement below and slightly beyond where I was sitting. Often, I hear gobblers and hens, which gather at the stream below, so I sat up to see if a hen had wandered to the top of the mountain looking for breakfast. The woods are thick in the direction I heard the noise coming from, so I waited patiently as the movement through the dry leaves continued. It was too loud to be a hen, so I anticipated something larger. I sat frozen, almost afraid to breathe, because I didn’t want to miss what was moving in my direction.

With my neck stretched as far as it would go, without moving out of my seat, finally I spotted it. It was a deer. As it moved closer, I could see its tail drooping and its ears raised, like a radar antenna. When it was confident that no danger was imminent, it moved through the tall grass, nibbling the seeds that dangled and then the leaves. By now its tail was wagging, happily like a bunny.

I remained frozen, because I didn’t want to scare it away. It continued meandering through the vegetation, nibbling and munching as it strolled. It moved out of my site, so I stood up to see. It continued eating and I moved again, this time into its line of sight. It saw me and froze. I moved out of its view, but when I crept back to take another peak, it was gone.

It was exhilarating. I wanted to awaken my grandkids to share the experience with them, but I didn’t dare move, because I knew movement would scare the deer away. As I pondered my early morning visitor, I thought of the similarities between my actions and the tendencies of some children’s pastors.

While they seem to be unrelated, too often we act as if we think the noise and activity of children will frighten Holy Spirit like a dove or deer flees when frightened. Maybe our caution is shaped by the fact that one of the symbols for the Holy Spirit found in the Bible is a dove. Perhaps, we think that the presence of God can be scared away by the noise that accompanies a group of children. We seem to think that God’s presence is fragile and requires quiet children, which we know most children are incapable of experiencing for any period of time. While Holy Spirit is like a dove, gentle and un-invasive, He isn’t timid and noise doesn’t bother God; He welcomes it. Just read the account of Jesus’ opinion of kid’s worship at his triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

It is arguably true, that one of our primary jobs in children’s ministry is to help children develop a personal relationship with God. Helping children engage in worship that takes them into God’s presence is a vital relationship key. As a children’s ministry leader with a passion to take children into the presence of God there are four very important things to remember.

1. Kids can genuinely experience the presence of God in life changing dimensions. His presence can leave its imprint on their lives for eternity.

2. Kids can move in and out of the presence of God easily. This is because they are kids and not adults. They are easily distracted, so establishing boundaries and aids to facilitate and direct their focus helps them to experience the most from their God encounter.

3. Because kids can move in and out of the presence of God so easy, you can help them move back into His presence with encouragement and redirection.

4. It doesn’t have to be lengthy to be powerful. Don’t measure the impact by time or emotional reaction. God can say some powerful things to children as they encounter God without children reacting with weird or strong emotions.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Great Visuals for your Children's Ministry

Have you checked out He has some really amazing cartoons designed with the Christian community in mind. His Bible stories for Easter and Christmas are really insightful and attractive. I love his sense of humor. He has some really cutting edge stuff.
A visual really is worth a thousand words, that's why it is so important to use them every chance we get. If you want to use some of his cartoons be sure to request permission and while you're at it, support his ministry.
This cartoon is almost too true to be funny, that' the problem with a cartoon, it hits us square between the eyes. It is so important that we communicate clearly to our students, so they grasp the understanding of what we are saying. One way to evaluate if we have communicated clearly is to ask questions. Questions, clarify and solidify concepts in the learning process. And use visuals...check out its really awesome!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Cause Within You

My passion was ignited yesterday when I joined the live “Meet the Author: Matt Barnett ~ The Cause Within You at The show has not been added to their archives yet, but honestly it was the best hour I have spent in a long time. Check it out later to view the entire presentation.

For my friends that know me, you know his dad Tommy Barnett has been one of my heroes for many years. I love people with passion and purpose. I love people that are doing things and not just talking about them. Tommy Barnett and his son are two of those people. Tommy Barnett at the age of 20 went to pastor a small church in Los Angeles. From that small beginning, which he says he was a failure, the Dream Center was birthed.

There were numerous quotes that I jotted down, but the passion that he delivers them with is as inspiring as the words, so I hope you’ll listen to this interview.

Crime dropped in his area by 73% in 3 years! Wow talk about effecting change in a community.

“Die to the dream of being a success and live to the dream of being a blessing.”

“Be sure that everyone recognizes Sunday is not the destination point, but the launching point.”

“There are no perfect plans…just compassionate ones.”

“The greatest risk is taking no risk at all.”

“If you want to be a bridge of hope you have to be willing to get walked on ever now and then.”
“We are one inconvenient act away from finding our cause for our life.”

“Allow yourself to be broken. God uses broken things.”

His comments on loving the things you fear was revolutionary! I can’t retell it. You just have to hear him.

I am buying this book TODAY and I hope you will too. Just read the first chapter at Oh, but before you read it, get a box of tissue!

Thank you for reading my blog and allowing me to rant and rave! I love you!