To the boys who stop…

To the boys who know that “Stop” means ‘stop’, thank you.

To the hormone-crazed, adolescent male who understands that “No” means ‘no’, thank you.

To the guys who are tempted to push and manipulate but don’t, thank you.

You deserve some recognition.

Someone has taught you a vital societal skill: respect.

Maybe it was your dad, who wanted you to be an upstanding citizen. But maybe it was your mom who was respected by your dad. Or maybe it was your single mom, who wasn’t respected. Maybe it was an older, wise friend…maybe it was a family member who didn’t want you to screw up your life and someone else’s as well. Whoever taught you, thank them. And thank you, sir, for listening…and heeding.

It is so tempting, when you’re with someone you care about deeply, to seal the bond with more than a kiss.

The moments get heated, the mood is ripe with feeling…but she says “No”…and you listen.

Mentally, you’re face-palming, lip-biting, eye-rolling, screaming with desire…but you stop. You’re listening to her. And you’re respecting her.

And that respect means everything. EVERYTHING. EVERY. THING.

It matters to her now. And forever.  It matters to you now…and it will matter to you later as well. When you don’t have to hide what happened. When you don’t have unexpected complications for your actions. When you don’t have a criminal record. When you can look at your wife without regrets. When you can talk to your son about respecting women, without being a hypocrite yourself. When your daughter asks you for advice about dating…and you know what to tell her because you’ve been the right kind of guy.

Stopping means everything. And you, sir, know how to do it.

Tell your friends. It matters.

When they tell their tawdry stories, ask them if they respected her.

When they imply what they’re going to try, ask them what is their plan if she says ‘No’.

Make them think about it…because it’s not just about them. It’s about her, too. Which you know already.

Influence them with your self-control and confidence that you know you’re doing the right thing. 

It matters. Now and in the future.

Thank you, for stopping. Spread the word.

Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts? - Confucius


Why Children’s Ministry is Important

This post has been rolling around in my mind for months…gathering momentum, losing momentum, changing focus, improving focus….you get the idea. And as I finally sit down to write it, for the third time, I feel a bit concerned, but more driven.  What I’m going to say isn’t going to make everyone happy, and I’m finally okay with that. It still needs to be said. So here goes.

I’m distressed that “the church” (general term) doesn’t understand the value of children’s ministry. Effort, funds, and emphasis are placed on the ministries of people who can drive and give money and vote…but not on the future generation of smaller citizens.

An effective children’s ministry doesn’t need glitz. It just needs sincerity.

Play-dough is worth millions when it is rolled from a loving grandmotherly volunteer to an open-minded child. Paper and crayons can create a multitude of crafts in the hands of widows, widowers, and college kids….crafts ready to be shared by eager kids. Here’s my point: lack of materials should never be an excuse to not have a children’s ministry.      The Bible and a willing reader are all that is truly required.

But therein lieth the struggle of so many church leaders…willing volunteers. I wish I truly had THE answer to that conundrum. But here are a few suggestions, from my experiences:

  1. VISION–Children’s ministry must be in the vision of the whole church…and not just lip-service, and not just from the kidmin leaders. Many churches have grandiose ideas for their congregations…but what about the children of the congregants?  The church leadership (pastor(s), decision-making board, ministry leaders) must believe in the value of children’s ministry to start with. If they are truly committed to the importance of the spiritual growth of the kids, that fervor will be seen/felt and trickle down. Volunteers are more likely to step up if the requests are for heart-felt ministry, not mere babysitting opportunities.

2. RELATIONSHIPS— Getting to know congregants, their jobs, their interests is vital to finding volunteers. If you know who likes to cook, then ask them to cook the hot dogs/cookies/pancakes for the kids’ events. Crafty stay-at-home moms are a great resource for Sunday School  or VBS preparations. Who are the OCD people? Ask them for help organizing the supplies or scheduling. Who are the ADD people? Ask them to lead the active activities with kids. Who are the social butterflies or the musicians or the builders? Once you know who these people are, ask them to use their skills with the kids. Don’t just expect them to volunteer, ASK them. Tell them that you see the value of their gifts…and you know where they could be useful. It may be out of their comfort zones at first, but remind them the relationships they will form are priceless.

3. DELEGATE–I made the mistake of loving all parts of children’s ministry too much…and not delegating enough. Again, the relationship piece is vital. If you know who is good at something, ask them to help. If you’re obsessive about the way something NEEDS to be done, give specific directions…or get less obsessive and be more thankful for the help. Delegating now prevents burnout later. If some church members are willing, but hesitant, have a coffee-talk about their concerns. Maybe they just need reassurance that the kids aren’t really little monsters. Maybe today’s older adults want to help, but they aren’t sure they can relate to modern kids….talk it out. If they are willing, help them be successful. Talk to kidmin leaders at other churches and plan events together…even across denominational lines. It will be good to share/gather ideas that work, split the labor, and build community.

4. SCHEDULE DOWN TIME— Overused volunteers become non-volunteers. Make a rotating schedule of helpers so that the ones who are always saying ‘yes’ will have a forced ‘no’ time. Despite what they tell you, they DO need a break. Whether rotations are set on a monthly, seasonally, or yearly basis, they need to happen. And appreciation gifts need to happen as well. Ask those bakers to bake some goodies for the Sunday School teachers, nursery workers, or VBS helpers. Get the artsy crew to make personal thank you cards for the ones who work each Sunday. An occasional ‘night out’ for the children’s ministry team is a great way to build relationships and rekindle the fire of service.

5. THIS REMINDER–The children of today’s church are the seeds of tomorrow’s church. They are the ones who will go out and tell their friends what a great place their church is…and invite their friends (and parents) to come along. Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. We want them to be grounded in holy truth and Godly wisdom if they are going to lead our country into the future. If we skimp on their spiritual growth, it will not be a priority in their lives as they age. God help us if we are responsible for raising a godless generation.

Church, we are failing our children if we fail at children’s ministry. Inconvenient truth: we only get one chance with our kids. One chance to show them that God is important. Love is vital. Justice is right. If we ignore the development of this part of our ministry, we shouldn’t wonder why college kids and young adults don’t attend church. We didn’t show them its purpose.

We have one chance, church, one opportunity to impress on our children the importance of a relationship with God. What are we doing with it?




Do something about it

When I was a kid and I was discouraged about something…or as a teen and battling anxiety and depression, my Pollyanna mom repeatedly gave me the same sound advice. “Get up and do something for someone else.” While self-care is vital, wallowing in pity is detrimental.

Our nation has undergone some serious changes lately, changes that have sent many reeling into bouts of national anxiety. Others have responded with anger and threats. And others are just speechless.

It’s time to pull ourselves up out of our pit and get active for others. If you’re mad, change something. If you’re depressed, help someone else. If you’re hopeful, spread it around. Regardless of your present emotional state, do something about it.

Here are some options. Each of these organizations has opportunities to help nationally and internationally. Put feet to your faith. Go and do.


Be the change you want to see in the world.                                      ~Ghandi

Easter quotes


A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.

~Mahatma Ghandi

We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining – they just shine.
~Dwight Moody

The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ came to do three things. He came to have my past forgiven, you get a purpose for living and a home in Heaven.

~Rick Warren

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.

~St. Augustine

The great gift of Easter is hope – Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake.
~Basil Hume

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.

~Pope John Paul II

Outside of the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no hope in this world. That cross and resurrection at the core of the Gospel is the only hope for humanity. Wherever you go, ask God for wisdom on how to get that Gospel in, even in the toughest situations of life.
~Ravi Zacharias



At the impressionable age of three, my daughter loves lollipops and sno-cones and other things that make her tongue change colors. “What color is my tongue? Blahhhhhhhhhhh…” I often hear during candy consumption, gum chewing, or even dinner. She bears all…yogurt and blueberries, chicken, macaroni and cheese… she’s a curious little blond caveman. We are working on the table manners, but her curiosity about her tongue color is just too tantalizing to her brother. He can’t resist egging her on…”If you keep eating green beans, your tongue will stay green…” and other big brother-isms.

Recently, we went to the local coffee shop. After several swigs of her chocolate milk, she inquired, “What color is my tongue?” I replied, “Pinky  purple”, but her brother said, “Brown!” She looked at me dubiously and turned to him with confidence. So enthralled at lolling her tongue at him that she missed his smirk, she asked “Is it really?” He assured her that her tongue was completely brown, the color of chocolate.

I shook my head at his big brother ways, but I realized he was just a reflection of so many lies that we accept. If someone we trust tells us something, we believe them…regardless of the ridiculousness.  From the seemingly benign “You’re not very good at that” to the deeply scarring “You’re ugly”…or worse.

Drinking chocolate milk does not turn a tongue brown. The proof is in the mirror. Eating a sno-cone does add color. The proof is in the mirror.

If you’re questioning what is being said about you, look in the mirror. What do you see? Do you see the embodiment of the stories you’re hearing? Or do you see the truth? Are you green from envying others? Wash that envy off and be pleased with what you add to this world. Are you slightly yellow from fear? Rinse away the worry and put on a brave face to attack your own fears. Are you a brown-noser? Good grief! Get that off your nose and focus on the hard work that needs to be done.

If you don’t see anything you dislike, then why are you believing it from others? You are a beautiful creation, with an array of talents to show the world. Smile at yourself and say confidently, “You are fine the way you are!” Then stick out your tongue to prove your own color, your own beauty. Make a goofy face and move on with your day!

Undressing the part

‘I’m not a princess anymore. I’m not wearing the dress anymore.’

That’s what she stated, rather bluntly, when her brother said that he would protect her with his sword, because she was a princess, he reasoned. They had been playing dress up for several hours, after a hamper full of princess dresses and clompy shoes showed up for her. He was wearing his knight helmet and breastplate, wielding anything longer than twelve inches as protection for his damsel.

She took the wind out of his chivalrous sails when she stated that she was no longer a princess. She had moved on to other things…rolling a golfball across the floor and chasing it, skipping around in her sock feet, playing with her new doctor’s kit. Her purposes had changed, her direction had shifted.

I laughed at what she said, mainly because she was so matter-of-fact about it. She had pranced around in frills and pastels most of the afternoon, and she was clearly ready to change venues. And she loves an opportunity to correct her brother.

But as I started thinking about it, I realized that a princess is always a princess, and all her clothes are always princess clothes. But when playing dress up, changing attire does change who a person is.  Don a red hat, you’re a fire man. Pick up a baby, you’re a mommy. A crown makes a princess and a hammer makes a handyman.

Kinda like labels define people. ‘Recovering’, ‘victim’, ‘former’. Labels can be the tiaras we flaunt, the swords we wield. We hide behind them because we are afraid to truly face what people will think of us. I’m not really a princess, but I want them to think that I own a small country and I’m in control of everything. I’m not really a plumber, but I can fix anything because I’m brilliant.

So what happens when we take off the costumes? It’s a little more persona-altering than putting them on. Facing the real us can be as frightening as truly finding a monster in the closet. We avoid the truth like a boy dreads taking off his superman cape. We want to wrap up in the security of disguise. ‘I was’ is easier to hold on to than the uncertainty of ‘I could be’. ‘He did’ is what we know; ‘I will’ is the unknown.

But costumes get tattered and ripped. Wands get broken and tools wear out. Eventually, the truth shows through. Ugly as it may be, it is real. The longer it is avoided, the harder it is to see it reflected back in the mirror.

The sooner we face the truth that we must live with, the better. The small steps taken as our real selves take us so much farther than those in clompy shoes or fire boots. These steps build our own muscles, our own strength and our own authentic confidence. It’s hard. It’s the hardest thing we will ever do, but it does indeed guarantee the best ‘ever after’.

Take off the crown. Lay down the badge. Look in the mirror and accept the truth. Take a deep, sparkling breath and start the path to happily ever after.