Monday, December 31, 2012

Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being Book Review

I had the privilege of reading Zach Eswine's book, Sensing Jesus, through Net Galley, this winter. What a privilege it was.

Not only does Eswine help you understand the emotions behind what it means to be a ministry leader and a follower of Jesus, but he builds a solid foundational base on scripture by which to stand as one. The author talks you through all the feelings of being broken and beaten-down in ministry and reminds you that Jesus is where you hope lies.

I felt like, as I got further and further into the book, that I was getting to know Zach as a friend and brother in Christ. His writing style is personal, poetic, and reads much like a memoir (my favorite genre of books).

I truly felt that not only was I not alone in experiencing what I had in ministry (the ups and downs) but also felt as if I had a true friend in the author. A book that gives me a sense of who the author truly is, rather than how they want me to see them, is the best kind of book. His authenticity and transparency is remarkable.

Zach is a great writer, who writes with deep feeling and honesty. He writes with a poetic soul, the words more like a symphony than a sentence, reminding us that we are highly creative beings, made by a wonderfully creative God.

This is a must-read for another going into the ministry and a wonderful balm for the soul for those who've been in it for a while. Zach truly has an understanding of the human heart, and isn't afraid to be open and honest about the struggles we all go through as we seek to serve God in the local church.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Values vs. Inanimate Objects: How We Shouldn't View the Newtown Tragedy

Do we really need one more voice out there about this?

Probably not, but I’m going to say it anyway. Because one thing I will not stand for is when the people of America make a three-dimensional issue a one-dimension issue.

This is not about guns... primarily.

This is not about values... primarily.

You cannot say today’s culture is void of values and that’s why a massacre happened. People were killing each other long before the culture was where it's at now.

You cannot blame the use of guns on it either. Adam Lanza didn’t have a gun. He stole the guns he used in this massacre. A criminal will find a way. I don’t believe we should make it easier, but by remove the right to bear arms from our constitution is a one-dimensional way of solving the problem.We have to take a long and serious look at our gun control laws. We have to. But that's not the end of the story.

Because if we were to take away the right to bear arms in this country, it would not change the human heart.  
This is an issue of idols.

When I was a kid, my mom used to make me pull the weeds out in the flower beds around the house. When she taught me to do it, she made it clear that if I didn’t grab and pull up the roots too, the weeds would come back.  It’s the exact same thing with idols. By removing the things that tempt us in the first place we are only taking care of the surface issue, not the root.

I have a surface sin of criticizing others. I can stop doing it out loud, and I still keep doing it in my head. All that really does is make myself look better in front of others (by not voicing my judgments) and not hurting others’ feelings. These are all good things to aspire to, but it’s not making me less critical of others, it’s just allowing my critique to fester inside. It’s not changing my heart and attitude toward people – the people which need love and grace and someone to come alongside them to care for them in the midst of their brokenness. This is how I should deal with people – not critique them. But I cannot change my feelings towards them by simply stopping my criticism. I have to learn to love people in order to truly change from the inside out. (This also doesn’t mean I should keep on being critical – the answer is never to just “Go on being a terrible person because it doesn’t matter anyway.” That is definitely not what I am saying.)
To quote a very wise man, RC Sproul, “the problem of evil is the problem of us”. We are born evil and Christ is in the process of redeeming us. Without recognition that we are bad people who do bad things to other bad people, then we can’t figure out just how we could solve this tremendous issue facing our nation.  If we simply change the law, it will not change our hearts. We must start with the human heart. It is broken and in need of repair. Only the one who created it can repair it.

The question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” can only be answered this way. “That only happened once. And he volunteered for it.”

That man was Jesus. It’s because of his self-sacrificing love that I can be changed. We all can.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

From Grief to Blame

It’s hard not to seek answers during a time like this in our country. It’s hard not to keep your eyes glued to the TV as the news coverage uncovers all the details of a national tragedy.

It’s also hard to simply let yourself heal.

My therapist in seminary told me I move on too fast. I hadn’t thought about that before, but I realized she was true, especially once I had the experience of grieving through a loss before then seeking answers. I thought seeking answers would help me heal.

It didn’t.

Moving on is the natural instinct in a situation like this, because we just want to the pain to be over. But by not feeling the pain, we are stunting our emotional health and most importantly, our hearts become hard.

The news is making me very angry tonight. Investigative reporters are pushing, pushing, pushing to blame, blame, blame. Blaming the mother, blaming the school’s lack of security. They are even analyzing the statements made by parents of those who lost children and asking physiologists to tell the world how the parents should be reacting. WE GET IT.

But stop. Seriously, stop it.

Let us grieve. Let us process the nature of this evil and the children who died senselessly. It will not help us to hear about why this killer’s mother had so many guns. It will not help us to hear that the killer was mentally ill. It will help us to hear about the children who died. It will help us to hear about the heroic acts of the teachers inside that classroom.

Let us cry. Let us grieve. Stop giving us answers, stop assigning blame and start giving us hope.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Six Songs of Me

Guardian Music is doing a fun prohject? Heard of it? It's called :Six Songs of Me"

1. What was the first song you ever bought?
I’m not entirely sure, but I think it may have the Pet Shop Boy's song "West End Girls". Probably only cassette single, for .99. 

2. What song always gets you dancing?
"What Would You Say" by Dave Matthews. This was the first song I ever heard by them, before they got really big. I have memories of chancing to it in line in the cafeteria in college. Always gets me grooving. At the time, there was no sound like it.

3. What song takes you back to your childhood?
"Mony, Mony" by Billy Idol. This song has a particularly funny memory for me. My brother had made it to State Track, so my mom, my best friend from elementary school and her mom all drove down to see him compete. On the way to Lincoln, this song came on the radio and Diann, my best friend’s mom, starting singing at the top of her lungs and dancing in her seat. The problem was, she thought the words were “Bony, Bony"

4. What is your perfect love song?
"With or Without You" by U2. For me, this song works on two levels, aside from being a beautiful love song, there are many illusions to Jesus on the cross. That’s the real love story.

5. What song would you want at your funeral?
 Speaking of love songs… I chose “Jesus Paid it All” by Kristian Stanfill version (I don’t care for the original tune). I want everyone at my funeral to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. This song tells it.

6. Time for the encore. One last song that makes you, you.
I think in many ways, this is the song that may change for us over the years, as we go through different seasons of life. I chose "Sigh No More" by Mumford and Sons, because the lyrics are beautiful and the music is haunting. "Love that will not betray you // dismay or enslave you // It will set you free" - this is the love of Christ.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

in which i crawl in and out of myself.

Sometimes being an introvert is a pain.

During May and June (as I have many, many times before) I crawled into myself and stayed there. I was a functioning introvert. I still went to work and small group and church and a few social things. I still taught a class on Galatians, lead a book club discussion, lead a 9-week study in my small group, counseled several hurting people and even did a few social things here and there. I was upright and talking (maybe with my eyes glazed over a bit) with a coffee cup in my hand and an ache in my heart. But – I remained inside of myself.

I closed off that ache to the rest of the world. I remained a servant letting no one serve me. I didn’t tell anyone what I was going through, partially because I didn’t fully understand it myself. See, us introverts have to process it all inside our brains and our hearts first before we can even begin to think about sharing it with someone. Then comes the arduous process of figuring out who to share it. Will it be the best friend? The pastor? The mentor? The counselor friend? The mom? “Who will it bother the least?”, are the questions typically asked. “Who will judge me the least?” “Who won’t repeat to anyone?” The introverts always asks “Who can I trust with my heart?”

The introvert usually has the solution worked out in their head already, whereas the extrovert talks to get to the solution. So the introvert (me) doesn’t always even share the issue with anyone… why bother, since the solution is already figured out? All it will do is take up someone else’s time for no reason… because for the introvert (me again) the reason must have a tangible end goal. Never mind that sharing may help create community with you (ahem, me) and someone very special.

This is what happened to me last week, over peach tea and a pita pocket, after a shopping trip to Trader Joe’s and Hobby Lobby. An extrovert pointed out to this introvert that she felt left out. And in doing so, reminded me that I needed to ask her for help. This made her feel like I was truly her friend, like I was needing her and in relationship with her. In doing so, this also helped me ease the burden I’d largely created myself – unnecessarily.

Friends who push me to be better (and less introverted) are how God caused waters to flow.

this post is part of the he caused waters to flow project.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

stories, glitter and plumbing

This is my absolutely favorite children's bible. I hadn't read any sort of children's bible since I was a child myself and when I was looking for something different to use in Children’s Church, I knew The Jesus Storybook Bible would be the way to go. It was highly endorsed at seminary, and several friends of mine use it in Children's Ministry at their church. Sally Lloyd-Jones tells the story of God rescuing us over and over throughout this bible in a beautiful and thoughtful way.

 I've never liked kids. I've never wanted to have them, never wanted to work with them. I only do so now because it's a small percentage of my job, and thankfully God has made me not hate them in the process. Today I talked to the kids in Children’s Church about how our sin separates us from God. We read the story of Jonah running away from God and how that's just like when we sin - we get further and further away from him. These kids just love this book. They love the pictures, the way she writes (it truly is a story bible) and the crazy way I give characters funny voices. How did I get here? I have no idea.

 Thursday my plumber came to replace my garbage disposal. As he was working I was cutting up a paper towel core, putting slits on each end and putting them together to make an ichthus. Then painting it with glue and adding glitter.

 I'm single, 37, never wanting to have kids and this is my life. I work on kids’ stuff for church.

 I'll admit, if I didn't have to I wouldn't be doing it. It's most certainly not in my sweet spot. Give me an adult asking me my opinion on the Northern or Southern Galatia theory any day. But I have learned, in writing curriculum for children, how it reminds me that if I can't explain it so children can understand it, they I don't understand it myself. Watching those kids today gobble up The Jesus Storybook Bible and the story of Jonah gave me water for my soul. So did my cute new plumber who said to me, “man… you can make something out of everything if you try,” as he watched me get glitter on my face.

 “He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers.” (ESV)

This post is part of the he caused waters to flow project.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

in which a monsoon causes waters to flow

I spent most of the morning on my back patio, watching the rain fall down over the dry desert land, talking on the phone with my loved ones far away and re-reading Blue Like Jazz.

It's 75 degrees outside right now. And it's July. In ARIZONA. Never, ever happens.

Monsoon season is strange to this Midwestern girl. I'm used to storms, most certainly, but these are very different. There is usually a great deal of lightening and very little thunder. Most of the time it’s just small and big haboobs, caused my lungs to fill with dust and sneezes for days after. Never have I experienced a monsoon day that is cool like this one. I know this is God’s gracious care for me filling my heart. My heart that was desperate for a filling up. The air smelled like I was back in Nebraska this morning and nothing has ever felt so sweet.

 It not much… just a little rain. For right now I’ll take it. Because rain has come to symbolize something for me since I moved to the desert. It’s come to symbolize home.

This post is part the he caused waters to flow project

Saturday, June 30, 2012

finding waters in Embrace Me, puzzles and coffee

Friday was a pretty awful day, with a garbage disposal failure (plumber can't come until NEXT THURSDAY and I will be out of town) and the discovery of a major leak in my drip system. After the week I had, it just made sense this will all happen to me yesterday.

Tuesday I had the women's book club to set up and run. I was up all night Monday worrying about it, as it was the first time I'd done this kind of thing and it was very new for this church and this culture. I was getting asked on Monday, "Where do we get the book" "Do we come with it read?" After I'd been advertising for two months. Ugh. People are frustrating. 

Tuesday went fine but was very stressful. Wednesday was another stressful day with two unexpected meetings eating up my morning and Wednesday night's class not quite prepped yet. By the end of class that night I was done for, so when two young women in the class asked to be let back into the church while I had an armful of class material in the pouring rain, I very nearly lost it in front of them. Instead I decided to go to the grocery store and call my mom on the way. I sat in the parking lot for 45 minutes crying to her about how much this job was killing me inside.

But it’s not the job, really. It’s the constant neediness. I didn’t grow up in a household like that. I grew up fending for myself, and being told to get it done – and figure out a way on your own how to get it done. The fact that people need their hand held through something as simple as a book club makes me want to scream. And cry.
A friend asked me to come over for a game night on Thursday. I just couldn’t do it. All I wanted to do was sit at home and cry. While I’m sure the invitation was sincere, it felt like just another obligation to someone in the church who needed me for something. Another friend texted me Friday afternoon and asked if I would go shopping with her this morning. Knowing I needed to get out of the house after my crappy day of household breakage, yard work and more frustration, I agreed.

I open the door this morning to her and two other friends, with donuts, puzzles and smiling faces.“We’re kidnapping you.” They pushed their way into to my home, began to make coffee and set up a puzzle. I was stunned. It took me a while to process what they were doing, so much so I couldn't really even enjoy the fact that they were here because they were worried about me, knew I was struggling and wanted to be there for me. I was stunned because this has never happened to me. Honestly, never. With the obvious exception of my family, I’ve never had friends put away their own concerns and needs for mine, so much so to sacrifice a morning just to heal me. I really didn’t know what to do with that.

We talked, ate donuts, drank coffee and put together two puzzles. They left at noon. I’ve been reading and watching TV to spoil myself for the rest of the day.

I finished the book Embrace Me by Lisa Sampson. Wonderful stuff. I’m putting it on the book blub list for next spring. Lots of redemption and a wonderful story for God’s ability to transform our heart and forgive others.
Tomorrow is full of more neediness. I have to run children’s church and sing opera at a colleagee's going away potluck. I am, however, refusing to bring a dish for it. I am not superwoman.

 This post is part of the he caused waters to flow project

Sunday, June 24, 2012

dry bones

This last week was a very frustrating and difficult time for me. There was a big event going on at church. It was not one I was in charge of, but one in which I was more of over-seer and a support of a volunteer who was in charge. It was a week full of complaining (you get that a lot when you're on the staff of a church) quite a few truths stretched and spome back-biting and gossip I just don’t appreciate. All in all, I'm really glad the week is over. So as I sat down to write the next post in the waters project, I found myself... dry.
I had a week full of so many "to-do" lists and so much chaos that I barely had time to breathe and be refreshed.

I worry that one day I will forget how. Forget to breathe. Forget to slow down. Just... forget.

So what I am to do? I t am I to do about a week that I know God caused waters to flow, but I neither had the presence of mind nor the heart to see it?

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” (Ezekiel 37:1-3 ESV)

Sometimes God gives me times of dryness not because he’s angry with me or because he’s forgotten me. He does it because he’s testing me.

And he wants me back.

Reading Ezekiel 37 at this point in the waters project is transforming, because it is reminding me of that my own dry spirit is not the point, that my own spiritually dry heart is not what it’s about. It’s about what God chooses to do. It’s about the power of his presence, and how in it, we are able to live.

Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:12-14 ESV)

This time of dry bones is reminding me that he is the Lord. I belong to him, even when I fail to see it and he is mine, even when he feels far away. Even when it seems the waters aren’t flowing.

This post is part of the he caused waters to flow project.

Monday, June 18, 2012

in which a "kid" takes care of me

Thomas is the first person I've ever hired. I didn't do it by myself - I put together a committee of four people to help write the job description, go through resume submissions and then ultimately interviews and the hiring. We could only afford to hire a part-time youth director, so we knew it would be tough to find the right person. Thomas was that person.

As I was on my way to Starbucks Saturday morning (I managed to wake up with sun at 5:30 on my “day off” – though I spent most of the day working on VBS) and I hit the stop light just outside my subdivision and there he was to my right in his little red car… heading the same direction as me. Thomas has always been an early riser, so I wasn’t too surprised to see him out and about. He waved at me, and when we stopped at the next stop light together, he laughed and smirked, undoubtedly hearing my Mumford and Sons music blaring. Early in the morning in Arizona, you relish having your windows down because of the cool weather.

Thomas has been a refresher for me. He’s young (22) and mature in his faith, a big kid inside but I also joke about him being a 40 year old man inside as well (he goes to bed at 9:30 and it more responsible that most 40 year olds I know, especially for a youth pastor). He’s quite conservative and I know he wasn’t much for women leadership in the church before he met me. We have one mind theologically otherwise, and also both have a passion for worship. It’s like having the little brother I always wanted but never had.

After Starbucks I made a quick stop for my vice and rare indulgence – a BoSa’s glazed donut. By the time I got home I had a text from him, “Get your morning coffee fix?” He knows me well.

It’s amazing how moments like this can water you. I realize I’m not like most people – I’m quite introverted with an outgoing personality with a staying power against burnout I don’t fully understand. God has made me amazingly resilient, and I’ve found I rarely only break not from working too much but from lack of people caring for me.

Thomas is someone who cares for me.

I don’t ask for much when I’m sick or when I’m having a bad day. I don’t expect people to come take care of me or to run my errands or even really commiserate with me. But when the people considered close friends can even be bothered to check on me? That’s what breaks me. 4 months after I hired him I got very sick during a difficult time a work. Thomas was the only one in my life here in Arizona who called to make sure I was ok. He sends me encouraging text messages each time I preach and I regularly get a text from him tell me he’s praying for me. That’s not bad for a 22 year old kid. I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate working with him.

This post is part of the he caused waters to flow project.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

in which i fall in love with jr. high kids

Some days I feel like I have my hand in just about every area of the church (which I guess is bound to happen in a church our size - 500 - when you and the senior pastor are the only full-time ministry staff) Last night I did one of the staples since I took this job – family movie night.

Last week I had a helper in children's church who was telling me about how she was about to start meeting with the Jr. High girls part of the Seeds of Hope ministry - a ministry in town that seeks to provide opportunities and help to those in poverty and/or challenging home situations. She asked if one of the mission projects she could do with the girls was come and help with movie nights this summer. I love the Seeds of Hope ministry, and I love Debbie, so my answer was an immediate yes. 
So last night Debbie and the girls arrived about an hour before the movie to help me set up the room, pop popcorn and get the sodas ready for the concession stand. I already knew 3 or the 4 girls she brought, which was a bonus. I hadn't seen them since last year, though, and I noticed what beautiful young women they are turning into. Sweet spirit, sweeter smiles and wonderful respectful attitudes about everything.
All night they were a wonderful help. Constantly asking me what they could do... making an effort to look around and make things as nice and organized as possible. Then after the movie we threw the volleyball around a bit, vacuumed up the popcorn and went home.
These wonderful girls don't have much of a chance in life. Teenage pregnancy is extremely common in this part of the world, and one of the girls was telling me that she had eight siblings at home, not including a sister who just left (she turned 18) and a mom now pregnant again. The Seeds of Hope ministry works to give them chances they wouldn't normally have, and Debbie meets with these girls and several others twice a week in the summer to mentor them, share Jesus with them, and be a wonderful presence in the lives.
Ah… this is water for my soul.

This is part of the he caused waters to flow project.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"he caused waters to flow" - a project

When I lived in St. Louis, I grew very tired of the rain. The humidity I could deal with, (sort of) having grown up in the mid-west. It's never pleasant, but it is simply part of living there. But the rain in St. Louis? But the time I graduated I was over it.

God has a great sense of humor; because of course after that experience with the rain he put me in the desert. It's been here that I've realized just how much I am emotionally affected by the physically environment around me. Some of what I’m experiencing right now – inside – I’m sure is due to my season of life and the calling I’ve received in my vocation. As these two aspects of my life collide, I find myself in fear of remaining “in the desert” so to speak – in a place of dry bones, of a dry heart and a dry soul.

So I am beginning a new writing project that I hope will inspire me and turn me from the desert growing inside my restless soul. I’m calling it the “he caused waters to flow” project. While it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, I’m basing in on Psalm 78:16 which reads “He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers.” (ESV) What I love about Psalm 78 is how is recounts all the ways God is faithful to his people. That will be a big part of this project, without a doubt, but it will also be about focusing on the water in our lives, not the dryness. I will be looking for uncommon things that are balm for my soul, that quench my thirst, and inspire me to follow a God who is always faithful, even when I am not.

Here’s how it will work: I will do my best to post at least twice a week throughout the rest of the summer on the things that are helping me seeing how he is making the water flow in my life. You, reader, are welcome to join in whatever fashion you’d like. Feel free to use the image I’ve created as part of your post, and please link back to the original post so that perhaps your own readers will like to join in as well. I will also do an evaluation at the end of the project on how God has transformed my heart. (I believe he will transform instead of just hoping!) In the word of a great writer and blogger, Leigh Kramer, “I am beyond tired of running into the same wall. I am tired of the hours and, sometimes, days that catch me not living like the woman God created me to be.” So I am doing what i can to change that. I'd love for you to join me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Processing the Gospel

My small group just began the 9-week study "The Gospel-Centered Life" by World Harvest Mission. I've gone through the 36 week version of this study (Gospel Transformation) twice, once as a learner and once as the teacher. I've also taught another small version of it called "Living in Light of the Gospel Story." These are some of my favorite studies, as well as some of the best reformed explanations of the gospel I’ve ever encountered without ignoring one great aspect of the person: the heart. All too often, reformed theology shoots for the head and forgets that we are holistic people. These studies balance both in a great way.

 There were some tears during the first lesson, as one group member was recounting a painful experience she had in the church many years ago that has since stunted her growth in the Lord. When I asked her if she’s had the chance to really grieve it, she said she said. She said many many tears were shed over the experience.

I’m not a “fix-it” kind of small group leader… I prefer to guide the discussion, but help people get there themselves. So I wasn’t going to go into counseling mode. But I did say this “Sometimes we can grieve something without really processing it. So maybe this study can help you process the experience and we, as your small group, can support you in that.” Now, as a teacher, I regularly say stuff without realizing exactly what I’ve said. I’m sure some of it is the Holy Spirit and some of it is just me spouting off. But one of the other groups members needed to sit in that for a while. “Dang. That’s true. You really can grieve something without really processing it. What made you say it that way?” he asked.

“Therapy,” was my quick and dirty answer. See, once upon a time I was the processor and not the griever. I would analyze, pick apart, grow through the experience... all without ever grieving what I lost because of it. This woman was doing the opposite. And this was preventing her from moving forward in a number of ways, including in her spiritual maturity. Since the experience involved a bible study were she was the leader, the idea of doing more bible study (in the same way) was unthinkable to her. I’ve watched her, in the last 10 months, be emotionally removed from the conversation and from the previous studies, each time we met. But the questions asked in lesson one of “The Gospel-Centered Life” forced her out of that. She was finally letting the gospel process her.

 This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I do what I do. This is why I pursue discipleship and education in the church. This is why I love getting to teach people in all seasons of life, all in different places in their walk with Christ. I do it because I get to see the joy and the pain of God working in someone’s heart. I get to see the gospel process someone’s heart. And I get to let it process mine, too. I can’t think of anything cooler.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Chaos and My Teachable Moment

... And Ashton's meltdown began.

We were frosting cookies for the nightshift at the police station tonight. We were doing this as a thank you for all their amazing work keeping us safe.(Which means a lot in our town.)  Ashton had used his knife once as a sword. I gave him a warning "It will be taken away if you use it as a sword again." 5 seconds later out came to sword and I became the bad guy.

Working with kids was never something I’ve been drawn toward. I had some horrible babysitting experiences as a kid that traumatized me. Kids were always the aliens I never wanted to deal with after that. But this job has thrust me into that arena, as I’m over all the education of the church from nursery to adults. More than once I’ve doubted my skill, but I never doubt what God is doing. I try my best to just step back and let he Holy Spirit do his thing, because the good Lord knows I don’t have a clue what to do with kids.

But tonight have a 7-yr. old boy’s snot on my shirt and I am glad for that.

After Ashton’s meltdown of tears began, I asked Gayle to watch the class as they continued frosting their cookies and I took Ashton into the hallway and asked him to talk to me. His tears were more than just me taking away his sword. He had “the worst day ever’” because all of his friends made fun of him (expect Evan, the son of a couple in my small group) and because he had to quit baseball. “And all I wanted to do was frost cookies for the police offers!” he wailed.

He grabbed onto me and cried and cried. I hugged him back and did my best to sooth his tears. Once he seemed to get most of it out, I said some things that I hoped were comforting. Then I took his hands, looked him in the eye and said that he should talk to his mom after we were done about how he was feeling and that even though he couldn’t frost any cookies, he could eat one just like everyone else. Then we had a game to play.
When we returned, Seth and Evan had frosted his cookie to eat, and frosted his two cookies to give to the police officers. I could not have been more moved by their kindness.

After the game, two police officers came to talk to the kids about what they do and how it’s important they do their job well. They showed the kids a police car which was the “coolest thing ever”. The chaos of frosting cookies and having the police officer there made the night a little nutty! The kids went crazy with all the special fun. (This was not a normal Wednesday night…) All I could do was smile and be thankful for that.

Tonight’s bible lesson was on Cain and Abel, and how God cursed Cain for killing his brother. The lesson was “God cares what we do.” I saw that in action from some very active and precocious young boys who sometimes make me want to pull my hair out. The frosted cookies were to help us live out the lesson, but those boys were already living it out with Ashton. It took everything in me to not let Ashton frost cookies because I knew that’s what he wanted. Crying kids break my heart.

After the night was done, I talked to Ashton’s mom and she said they had indeed had a rough day. (It’s tough to be 7!) I then pulled Evan and his mom aside and told him how proud I was that he was Ashton’s only friend that didn’t make fun of him.

I got a whole lot of grace in the midst of some crazy chaos. Not the kind of grace you need when you screw up, but the kind of grace you need when you doubt everything about yourself and God reminds you: “I got this.”