Monday, December 29, 2008

HIghlights of 2008

HT to BrunetteKoala for this:

Ten good things that happened this year…

1. I passed all of my 2007-08 college assignments. I also managed to get an 8000 word extended placement report and research paper done even though it took some 4 a.m.-ers which is ridiculous at my age with a family, a job and a social life as well as an academic life. What was I thinking when I started this degree, I wondered to myself!

2. Without going into detail, this year I have been so encouraged by individuals who have taken time to speak or write to me to give me specific encouragement. I never seek to do things in my job to please people or make them think well of me, I simply try the best I can to please my heavenly Father. Before anyone reading this thinks I am some sort of saint (as if!) I muck it up, I fail often, I criticise, I get grumpy or sad and I have to come back to him and to others again and again and say sorry. It's been a year of tremendous difficulties and yet tremendous encouragement. Ain't that just like God? :-)

3. God's provided for all our needs and more, including some very special gifts.

4. Going to Toronto to TACF for (my) third Families conference was just amazing. I was there once again to receive as much input as possible - teaching, prayer, advice and time. Got to spend quality time with the children's pastors at their home. I value and love them loads. To spend time with folks who do exactly the same job as you (although on a much larger scale!) is fantastic. This trip was rounded off with some quality family time in a rural cottage on Lake Huron.

5. I've stepped out into a new job into a new staff team I knew almost nothing about. But they are the most awesome group of people; sometimes I almost rub my eyes in disbelief that I'm actually here. I am growing to love them very, very much in just for short months.

6. My children have been a source of joy - they are growing up fast but yet are holding on to a childlike-ness in the right measure, particularly with regard to the move that has taken place. They have trusted implicitly that to be with mum and dad and with Father God directing everything that happens is by far the very best thing to happen to them, even when they are missing their grandparents, friends and old school. I love them to bits and am so blessed by how easy they are to be with. I am so grateful for the very close friends they have made here already.

7. The holiday club has undoubtedly been a highlight of the year. This happened during my last week on staff in my previous church. It felt like it was the best club ever. I think there were lots of reasons for this; not least of all because of the TREMENDOUS team and my right hand woman who assisted me in every way, Guacamole Girl, but because there was such a sense of God's presence - perhaps some reading this may recall the Monday morning when two of the elders came to pray with the team and then the last morning, the Friday, when we stood together as a team before God for one last time.....many children experienced God's love and healing power throughout the week.

8. The camping trip with my dear friends from the Costa squad (aka mums' playground gang) - so good to go away and do something completely different without it raining!!

9. Spring Harvest at Skeggy - again, "working hard" with several hundred 5s to 7s(really. It's a long day!) but being with our Powerpack friends, Nick and Kath, Heather, Chris......
It's an area of service that our whole family are involved in and this year our very good friends, the Merries, came with us to be on team too.

10. Spending time with some dear friends who travelled some distances to stay with us - you spoke such wise words to us - Kath and Nick, Gillian and George, various Carruthers in different combinations....! Love you, love you, love you <3

High point of 2008:
The Move. High, but didn't always feel it. Scary, yes. Challenging, yes. Life-changing - yes!!

Low point of 2008:
1. 8 June 2008 - the day I told my church I was leaving to serve in another. Audible gasp. Loads of tears. I cried a lot the day before (whilst watching Chris Tomlin on GodTV play at Frenzy) and on and off the next afternoon and evening. As did my husband. This was not a girl thing!
Why so upset? Because it was leaving family to step into the unknown in so many ways yet out of a deep conviction that it was a call from God to take all we had learned in our wonderful upbringing in our previous church (a) somewhere else and (b) so that we could be unrooted and disorientated to allow him to build something very new and beautiful in our lives and hopefully in others lives....

2. the month of November. Lots of stresses came to a head.

3. I was saddened by what felt like some untimely deaths this year...dear Elma in January, my 35 year old penfriend Gwyn in April and Ted Herbert in September.

Person of 2008:
Like BK, I can't really pick just one. Given the turmoil of leaving somewhere we have known our whole lives long to move somewhere new, my friends have been OUTSTANDING = every one of them, one after another.....we have been blown away by the messages of love and support that come still even tonight, 5 months after we moved away. We feel incredibly, incredibly loved and humbled and privileged that they care for us so much. If I experience ten percent of that in this new place, I will be blessed indeed.

Best film you saw this year:
Australia (got to say that as I saw it yesterday). So challenging and emotional on so many fronts - racism, stolen generations, the realities of war, love and romance, a child's future, the value of culture and custom ....

Best book you read:
The Shack - read in almost one go. Moving, thought provoking, revealing the heart of the Father.

Best sporting moment:
Watching the Olympic race where Usain Bolt won the 100m in *stunning* fashion....reminded me of a leaping springtime lamb!

What you are looking forward to most in 2009
Being able to have a permanent residence in this new city (we are living out of literal suitcases in temporary rented accommodation)

Thing you will miss least about 2008
Financial stress.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

still here....

Oh. my.

tomorrow it will be a fortnight since I last posted.
I am still here! Just been so so so busy....just not had the will to blog!

Some snapshots from the month of December -
I've been - Brian McLarening - pouring forth on an afternoon on theology and children at a denominational training conference - struggling with housing concerns - out on trips - bowling with marvellous primary sixes and sevens and taking over warehouses of soft play with 80 younger primary children - trying hard not to over-do Christmas - catering for 9 year olds (daughter's birthday tomorrow) - arranging nationally significant child protection training - pastoral visiting a number of families which has taken up some evenings - planning and preparing for 4 services with SP....everyone loves a Children and Family Pastor at Christmas - have been stressing at not writing Christmas cards; stressing about the essay I have to write; the magazine article I said I would do and the research paper that I kinda shoulda begun (I blame Calvin. I picked up a commentary on Joel and nearly passed out when I read something in it. More about that another time) - meeting with denominational core leader about the future of children's ministry blah de blah

None of that includes my regular stuff - communicating with volunteers as I have quite a lot of new stuff coming up in January and a lot of folks needing drawn in tighter toghether in their respective teams. Plus admin that's suffocating me. Bleuuggh. Pauline - I love you!!! [some readers will understand that reference from days gone by!

You get the drift. It's been a busy month. Doing all age service with a nativity cast of *lots* tomorrow, an increased wattage on the illumination front (your light has COME (flip that switch!!) and several cracking visual clips (why do I choose such challenges....????)

Had to do severe speaking to self this morning. Feeling quite sad and I really shouldn't be. God's been so good to us this past week. Psalms are made for moments such as those. Being sociable in a new city at this time of year requires such effort and the longing to go back to the old place is stronger just I'm missing my green leather sofa (in the unsold, un-let house) so much. Then you realise how ridiculous that sounds and you get cross at yourself. In the getting cross at yourself, (and at others) sadness follows. And THAT'S when I need to open up the Bible and get some truth in......if you have a moment, please pray that I stick so close to those precious promises.

Thank you!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Children - an issue?

I read this (below) on a large church website today (ON ANOTHER CONTINENT - guess which one!) and it's making me very annoyed. It's part of a FAQ section on "joining small groups":
Is there childcare available?
Every group deals with this issue in its own way. Some of the groups go in together and make arrangements for a babysitter or take turns watching the children. Other groups require each participant to make their own arrangements.

Am I over-reacting to the use of the words "every group deals with this issue in its own way?"
Are children "an issue?"
Are they an inconvenience to how we "do church"?
Do they - annoyingly - require looking after in order that we may grow spiritually or make connections with other adults?
Is it not possible to make connections with other adults and grow spiritually when we have children with us?
Must we, the church, be childcare providers for those who come along to have their needs satisfied?

I'm VERY concerned about the Western cultural context which pushes children to the outside. We seem to place more value on material fulfillment, good money coming in to the home etc; than on fulfilling the spiritual needs of our families. I hope to post in the next few days on spiritual formation, which is what this blog has banged on about since its very first day.

I have said it before on this blog but I'm gonna say it again [...someone I respect hugely told me blogs were mainly full of hot air; with the same old thing being said over and over again. I'd like to prove his point]........we are not so different from Greco-Roman culture today - children are sometimes persona non grata in the church - send 'em off for education in their separate groups and let us debate and talk with our peers at the areopagus.

Then we'll go home from church, get our kids to watch a DVD so we can put our feet up, then later have a quick game of Wii sports with our child and tuck him/her up into bed. Perhaps I sound cynical. I like to think I am being honest as I have done all of the above!! Please note that I am not against DVD watching and game playing. I used this as an example only to prove the point that our busy lives spill over into the realm of our own spiritual development and that of our children's - we can't cope with our lives without things to distract our children and babysitters to help us enjoy fellowship. I walk the narrow path on this one and I have to be honest and humble about this.

However, I see a difference from sticking a DVD on to get some peace and quiet post-church, with getting together with other families where all might eat together, adults and children chat then adults chat and children go off to play together, using their imaginations or some creativity....this allows the development of social skills, being in community and also gives us some down-time from the hard task of raising children, for it is not always easy. But lots of families find getting out and going to church tiring and prefer to eat lunch and chill after church, rather than have their house messed up and their children running around in a gang of 4/6/8 getting excited.

Here are some of the things the Bible says about children:

• Children are a gift from God – God gives them to adults as a special sign of His love to us and as a means of personal fulfilment (Deut 7:13, Ps 127:3)

• Adults receive special blessings through their children. (Num 5:28, Deut 28:4, 11, Lam 4:2)

• Children are desirable. (Gen 9:7, Deut 6:3)

• To have a fruitful relationship with God, children must be taught to obey Him. (Prov 8:32, 19:26)

• Children are so valuable to God that He commands us to protect them (1Sam 20:42, Ezra 8:21)

• God wants to have a genuine relationship with His children – He describes how children may enter His presence and enjoy His company (Ps 8:2, 34:11, 103:13, Mal 2:15, Matt 21:15, Mark 10:13-16)

• God loves children enough to ensure they receive discipline. It is a reflection of His passion for a child’s well being.

. God enjoys the nature and personality of children – attributes such as sincerity, humility, naïveté, vulnerability and simplicity. He treasures these characteristics (Matt 18:3, 19:14, Phil 2:15)

. Children were so special that the Lord Jesus rebuked his closest friends when they stopped parents bringing their children to him to have him bless them.
He brought a child into the very centre and said "let the little children come to me, do not hinder them for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

Later this week I am going to post some personal thoughts and practices that I have led as a children and family pastor which counter this trend of "children at the edge". But be warned, it's not a simple list of "do this and do that" - reading it may cause some folks to freak out!

I led a seminar on this very issue to a truck-load of pastors. Lots of grey hair and splendid sweaters. And shaking heads as I spoke. Most unnerving. Or recently I went to speak at Another Church's training day and asked innocent questions about their leadership's view of children. Seemed to cause a bit of bother but in a good way (if that makes sense).

To tackle this head on is to be counter-cultural. Dare I say even - subversive???

if this post interestes you, please also see: children and family - a theological overview (my own!)

Friday, December 05, 2008

A Day in the Life of A Children's Pastor

Of course, this bears absolutely no relevance to anything at all to that experienced UK kids pastors/workers!?!?

(I am very grateful to the staff team and a lot of other people who help me as we share loads of stuff out together)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Blog Comments Day

Thanks to John Smulo (and if you've never checked out his blog, please do so, its immense!) for bringing Blog Comment Day into being.

In the meantime I am somewhat dazed. Stayed up far too late, woke up with a spring in my step and then a slide on the ice into a brainstorming/vision casting meeting on children and family ministry at denominational headquarters AND a final Doctrines exam today.

(yeaa haaa, no more, ever, ever again!!)

Exams ON doctrines, that is. Not doctrines themselves. Like now I can teach properly (!!!)

So when I get back tonight I'm going to go c-r-a-a-a-a-z-z--y and comment on a few more unknown to me (as yet) blogs.

Happy conversations! Please do leave me a comment or even consider becoming a Follower ....sounds cult-like, eh?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Hopeful Imagination

Blogging here today.
Advent has begun.