Thursday, July 2, 2015

Retreat! We all need a little solace.


Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!" Mark 1:35-37


 When life comes at you like a freight train - full speed ahead - it's all you can do to hang on tight. There's barely time to think, no warning, no preparing or packing a bag - only time to react and latch onto whatever is in front of you until the train stops.

The unexpected happens all the time - life and death - but when they couple themselves together and come one after the other, our minds can't catch up with our hearts. In every crisis, whether good or bad, there's always stuff to be done - responsibilities and loose ends to tie up - for those holding up the arms of loved ones.

And when that freight train comes to a screeching halt - even for a brief moment - we find ourselves disheveled, speechless, utterly weary and maybe even a bit numb. We feel neither joy nor sorrow because we've been so busy caring for others that we pushed our own emotions aside. All we want is solace. Quiet. Retreat.

Retreat with me today at Encouragement Cafe...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

I Want It!

"Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift..." Ephesians 4:7(MSG)
Screeches and screams erupted from Little Brother who, only moments earlier, quietly occupied himself with the wooden train. I find him tussling his train out of Big Brother's firm grip. My sudden presence prompted Big Brother to sentence himself to the time-out chair.
"Why did you take Little Brother's train?" I asked.
Between sobs and shame he answered me. "Because I want it." 
(Today I'm playing trains over at Christian Children's Authors blog. Join me? I promise to share.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Forevermore-Pleasures

You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 NKJV
We welcomed the long holiday weekend with its blank calendar and no particular place to go; no demands or deadlines or distractions. Only time, a full gas tank, and an open road lay before us—a perfect weekend in our book.

Escaping the hectic pace we meandered along quiet country roads—some familiar, some not—soaking up every nook and cranny of God’s creation. Like a touch of heaven, beauty poured forth from every direction.

We bathed in radiant sunshine that warmed our winter-white skin as we drove beneath robin egg blue skies finding occasional relief from leafy green tree tunnels that arched high above our heads. We found red-barn farmlands that bragged of freshly plowed earth and sleepy neighborhoods with pristine gardens dotted in rainbow hues. We even hopped aboard a rural ferry to cross the river just for fun.
CT RIver's edge, Deep River

Moorings @ Deep River Ferry, CT
CT River, Deep River, CT

Compared to the serendipitous pleasures we enjoyed along the way, our destination seemed insignificant. For it’s through those experiences we catch a glimpse of heaven, isn’t it? It’s as though God’s foreshadowing what’s to come in the here and now; inexpressible pleasures on a simply perfect day that fill our lives with joy and peace and beauty.

We climbed aboard life’s merry-go-round two days ago and it started spinning, making it more difficult to see all God’s beauty.

This morning I spun past the dining room hutch towards my office—a hutch whose dishes tell stories of family history and journeys past. An English tea cup my daughter brought back from London caught my eye. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to drink my coffee from that cup?” (I know, it’s sacrilegious to drink coffee out of an English tea cup, but that’s not the point). I dismissed the thought mid-spin, but as I sat down in my writing chair, God whispered, “Enjoy a cup of coffee in that pretty tea cup! It’s a simple pleasure for a daughter of the King.”Teacup
Now, as weird as it might seem to you, sipping my coffee from that beautiful cup ushered me into God’s presence because I knew He offered me that pleasure from His heart. In the midst of my every day, my mundane, my pressures and deadlines, God offered me His personal thoughtfulness and love—a simple pleasure that gave me just a glimpse of all the forevermore pleasures He has in store for me.

Here’s how Sarah Young describes it: “Why would you want to follow a man-made path when My path of life is wide open before you? This path glows with My radiant Presence and it stretches all the way into eternity. As you persevere along this way with Me, I give you samples of forevermore-pleasures” (Jesus Lives, 2009 Thomas Nelson).

What forevermore-pleasures has God shown you lately? Has he whispered his approval on some frivolous pleasure that, like me, you would easily dismiss? God so wants to spend time with you. Take the time to enjoy His little glimpses of heaven throughout your journey today.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Honoring Isn't Optional

Honor your father and mother - which is the first commandment with a promise - so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Ephesians 6:2-3 NIV 
 Father's Day knotted my stomach. Facing troves of "greatest father ever" greeting cards I'd sigh, mumble something like, "Yeah, right!" until I found the most generic card I could find. At least when I was younger all I had to do was scratch my name at the bottom of my sister's card and slide by the honoring part on her coat tails.
Until I was in my late forties, honoring my father never came easy and knowing the statistics of divorce, maybe it doesn't come easy for many of us or our kids. (Now, I'm not saying that it's only fathers that gain a child's disdain in a divorce, if at all, nor am I saying divorce is the only situation that causes us to dishonor our fathers. I only know my story and I'm writing a Father's Day article, so please allow me a bushel of grace).
Since God created the commandment to honor our father (and mother), honoring isn't optional. So, how do we honor our fathers (and mother) when we feel they fall short (divorced or not)? Or as mothers, how do we teach our children to honor their fathers when we feel they don't deserve it? 
(Be brave and join me at the Christian Children's Author blog for the complete article).

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Meet Award-Winning Author, Pam McGlagan

What do two women living on opposite coasts have in common? Our passion for children and writing. 

Today I'm excited to introduce my dear west coast friend, award-winning author, Pam McLagan! 

Pam is a brilliant teacher and author of two bible lesson workbooks, BluePrint Bible Lessons for Kids, Vol. 1 and 2If you're looking to challenge your children with deeper spiritual bible lessons, then her books are exactly what you've been looking for! 

Not long ago, Pam lived but one town from me before moving back "home" to Oregon. We shared many conversations  about family and ministry and flying (her husband's passion) while huddled up next to our fire pit enjoying ice cream. Little did we know we'd be traveling the writers journey together. 

Listen in on our conversation and send her some love in the comments below...


Where did the idea for these books begin?
About twenty years ago, I was coordinating children’s classes at our church and was co-teaching a precocious group of four and five year olds. Most of them had been “born in the pew” and were bored with curriculum that took six weeks to teach creation and never get to the Fall.  As I had experienced with my own children, these 4s and 5s were quite capable dealing with more than that, and they were certainly capable of memorizing longer passages of Scripture than “God is love.”   So in volume 1, the first three lessons are: 1. God creates the world; 2. God creates people in His image: the Trinity; and 3.  Adam and Eve disobey God… and that includes the promise of a Savior.  Also in volume 1, during the lessons about Jesus as our Teacher, the children learn the Lord’s Prayer.

What prompted you to write these books?
After using the lessons for several cycles with the original congregation, the lessons resided in boxes and envelopes of photocopies for many years.  About six years ago, they came out again and began to be used in two different churches in our area.  The children’s ministry coordinators and teachers were so enthusiastic about the format and organization that I began to think in terms of a broader audience.  I thought about small congregations like ours that didn’t have a lot of money to spend on curriculum and considered that something like this could be of help.  It was at that time, that I decided to pursue publication.

What makes your books unique?
Each book contains 52 (volume 2 has 53) lessons … that’s a year’s worth of Sunday School lessons, or mid-week or Bible Club lessons.  Most lessons take up only one page, so what people find is a BluePrint, not a script.  That also makes it easy to adapt presentation to whatever group of children a teacher has.  Each lesson page has the Scripture passage, the memory work that usually goes for several weeks, a “consider” section which gives the teacher something to think about, an “our children” section to relate the message of the lesson to kids, and a “something to make or do” piece to make things concrete.

Each book also contains a “teaching with style” portion to help presenters hone their skills.


Who might find these books most useful?
Children’s ministry coordinators find these books helpful as they can be used with a range of ages of kids.  They started out for 4s and 5s, but in the past years, our congregation has used them up through grade five.

Homeschooling parents have found these lessons helpful to provide a baseline for the Bible portions of their own broader curriculum.

Christian Preschools have used them as their Bible curriculum.

Grammas have purchased them to use with their grand-kiddos.

 Are they crafted for use in all denominations?
YES! I’ve tried to stay out of areas that could be “denominationally” problematic.  In volume 2, there’s a series of lessons linking the original Passover and coming out of Egypt to the Last Supper with Jesus in the upper room, and then to modern day practice.  I include several different terms for “communion” and do not specify any particular method, but mention “your group’s practice.” 

Have you won any awards?
In May, BluePrint Bible Lessons for Kids (volume 1) was named Winner in the Christian Non-Fiction category of the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and was also named as a Finalist in the Education/Academic category.

Would you share some positive feedback from users of your books?
One children’s ministry coordinator said, “The simple and short lessons give each of my teachers the opportunity to use any activities, crafts and teaching styles they are comfortable with.  The timeline approach has been very effective in establishing a solid foundation for Bible truth in all our kids.”

A homeschooling mom wrote, “…it’s neat how adjustable [BluePrint] is to different age groups.  It has been easy to use.  I have been teaching in children’s ministry off and on for 20 years, and what I like about BluePrint Lessons is that it gives me the guideline and allows me to find my own supplements, crafts, activities, etc.”

Another homeschooling mom said, “The kids love it and remember the lessons—which is the truest test of a good resource!”

So, what's next, Pam? 
Next on the list is a group of lessons for Tweens and Teens.  They are at an age when they need more than someone telling them the story; they need to be learning to dig into the scriptures for themselves.  It’s mostly in the planning stages at the moment.

Thanks for talking with us today, Pam, and introducing us to your new award-winning books!

###

About Pam and her books:

Pam is a mom and grand-mom and wife who has been teaching something-or-other since she was fourteen.  She’s been teacher, education coordinator, and director of Vacation Bible Schools in the congregations she has been a part of.  Professionally, she has taught in public and private high schools and is currently adjunct faculty in her community college’s English Department.  She is the author of BluePrint Bible Lessons for Kids: 52 Lessons for Preschool through Grade 5 (volumes 1 and 2). Pam lives in Albany, Oregon with her husband, Bill.

You may connect with Pam on Facebook for further questions or to invite her for an author event. 

Her books are available at:  Halo Publishing International, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How this Author Gets Her Story Ideas

A book-buying customer once asked me, "How do you get your book ideas?" Like it was as natural as breathing, my answer rolled right off my tongue. "They just find me," I said. 
While I'm not a veteran author of hundreds of books, like many on this blog, I have published one children's book, the second is well into the illustration process as I write this article, and my third story has a tentative late summer publish date. Even so, I've written more that won't see a publishers desk and the ideas keep coming.
So, what do I mean when I say the story ideas find me? 

(Follow me over to Christian Children's Authors blog and I'll tell you my secret...)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I Thought I Knew What Love Looked Like


The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them. John 14:21

"Most live life with love gone much unsaid." These narrated words from a new BBC series pricked my heart as I thought about all the years I withheld my love from my father; repressed my childhood affection from the one who walked away and yet returned with a repentant heart. We'd lost so much time play-acting our roles as father and daughter all those Saturdays of my youth, that when he returned in my college days, I didn't know what to do. Showing affection was awkward, at least, and risky. I allowed the fear of rejection to build an impenetrable fortress around my heart, keeping everyone at arm's length, especially my father.

We lived most of the rest of his life with love gone much unsaid until God took hold of my heart about nine years ago. That's when God pried open my soul and revealed to me my earthly father through His eyes. For the first time, I was able to accept him for who God created him to be and honor all his traits in me without shame. But it wasn't enough to only ponder these revelations alone. God challenged me to forgive my father face-to-face and to speak my love out loud to him (talk about fear and risk). It took me a long seven months of God working on me to gain the courage to face my father and risk it all, but I'm glad I did.
My earthly father passed over a year ago knowing how much I loved him and forgave him. We left no words unsaid, he and I. I thought his passing restored all lost love between us and ended my father journey, but recently God taught me differently. 

(I'm honored to tell the rest of the story on the {re}fresh blog, today. God's doing amazing things...)