Stocking Stuffer #1

We have 25 days until Christmas – or is it 24? I'm bad with math.
Anyway, we have until December 25th, and so I thought that in addition to some regular postings, it would be fun to throw out there 25 things that could make the list this year. These items may be costly, or they may be cheap; they may be from the past or from the present, or stolen from some list somewhere.
To start us off, let's see what the kids are into this year. Some ten years ago, the infamous "Tickle Me Elmo" phenomenon sky-rocketed the idea that there is ONE thing out there that every kids wants. This was fuelled a year later by Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie "Jingle All the Way" (in which an action figure is referred to as a "doll" – I took great offense at that growing up). Before Elmo there were the Cabbage Patch Dolls and the Power Rangers. In more recent years, this trend has declined somewhat.
Black Friday has passed – today is CyberMonday – the Black Friday of online shopping.
So, for Stocking Stuffer #1 – we have Amazon's most wished for item and as of this hour is the number two top selling toy:
Hyper Dash – from Wild Planet – a game that encourages speed, skill, memory, etc. Take a look.
Hyper Dash from Wild Planet

Give it up!

What?!  I'm gone for ONE weekend and Journey comes through with HUGE sacrificial giving to build the Arise Africa orphanage Phase One? That is incredible! If you haven't checked out Jimmy's comments on his blog, go there now and do so (jimmycarroll.org).  I guess it's actually a "vlog" this go round.
If the term "vlog" scares you, then let's not even discuss "twitter".
We have so much to be thankful for and there is no better way to show that we are thankful than to surrender to what God would have us do, and give generously.  How crazy is that?  In fact, this month in Kidz Gig we have been learning about Gratitude – next month, it is all about Generosity!
You know, kids are amazing.  This month we have brought in a lot of canned goods and clothes for "With Love from Jesus".  Kids are generous people, believe it or not.  So many times, kids come in bringing pictures or cards, or some other item for their small group leaders.  It's a big deal!
And in case you missed it I encourage you to click here and check out the story on this kid.
And yes, the mountains were wonderful!  Thanks for all of you encouragement whilst I was away clearing my head!  More on that tomorrow (or today, as it is 1:38am…)
(Now, 1:39am…)
"Climb Every Mountatin" - an annoying song, but a great idea!

Hiding in the mountains. . .

I've gone into hibernation for the time being.  I am spending the next few days in the mountains of NC and TN with some friends and dead authors.
Right now, I'm in an independent bookstore in Asheville.  That's not saying too much because everything in Asheville is pretty much independent.  It's an art town where you can buy custom shoes, paintings, toys, and cookies.  The only "chain" I have seen is a SUBWAY – likely to appease a few wary tourists in need of something familiar.
On every corner there is a guitarist and a homeless man.  Sometimes they are one and the same.  There is an art gallery on every street, and an outrageously priced restaurant that, after eating in it, you find is completely reasonable.
I haven't had a time to just flush my brain in a while.  I need that every now and then.  I need to put pen to paper and just write.  I realized today that I don't necessarily have to leave town to do that – but when you are surrounded with so many things famliar, isn't it easier to just keep going?  Isn't it easy to say, "I can do that later.  Right now, there are these urgent matters to attend to!"
And – I am in flip-flops.  It's twenty degrees outside or something like that.  I'm in flip-flops.  The barista at the bookstore looked at me.  The first thing she said was, "Are you crazy?"
"No.  Why?"
"You are going to get sick."
"Oh.  The flip-flops."
"It's twenty degrees outside."
"As long as it's not under twenty."
"Where are you from?"
"Raleigh."
"Hm."
The. end.?

When I rule the world…

During the monts of October and November, preschoolers in TheBLOCK and MiNi CiTy have been learning about how God made the world.
What has been most fun for our leaders (especially those in TheBLOCK) is that when you ask a 2 year old, "Who made the animals?", the first response is, "I did!"
Granted, they did in fact make an animal – out of Play-dough.  But, ask again.  "Who made the world?"
"Me!"
What's interesting to me is that sometimes, I wake up and find that my world, my day, is only going to be what I want it be.  I am making my own world.  I make it by choosing to do what I want to do, and not necessarily surrendering to what God's plan is for me that day.  See, it's cute when a 2 year old says, "I made the world!".  When you're 25 and saying it, it's just disturbing.  If I get to be 40 and I'm still saying it – well, I like to think I will have learned better by then.
So, who makes your world?  Do you?  Or do you, like me, find yourself having to say out loud, each day, "Who made the world?  God made the world."
. . . and there was light.

A Large Small Large Group

A Good Time
In Kidz Gig, as in MiNi CiTy, we go from a small group format to large group, then back to small group. Saturdays are usually hit and miss on this front.  Some nights there are 17 kids.  Some nights 5.  Tonight we had a total of 6!
Now, with only 6 kids, our large group is actually pretty small – but not small enough to not be considered large.  As Justin noted, a small large group would be one.  So, it was a great time to hang out with our kids, literally with a one-to-one ratio (including Dave Roeder – who is our Kidz Techie – but so much more!).
We not only enjoyed learning about Gratitude, but we were able also to interact more with our kids and we enjoyed an awesome time of singing songs to God – some of our favorites – as we kind of had a jukebox night with the six kids who came.
I love times like these.  Having six kids and six leaders bring in the same amount of energy as 50 people – that's a good time!  (P.S. – If you have never worshiped with kids, you are missing something wonderful.  They are uninhibited, and wide open! So many times, they are what we strive to be in our own lives.  It's no wonder then that Jesus says to come to Him as a child.)
Tomorrow we will enjoy a fun time with our 4th/5th graders.  I'm looking forward to spending time with our oldest crew, and enjoying the company of our awesome leaders!

O! Disney!

My small group is currently studying the book of Mark with a new walk through that offers some springboard discussions.  We are looking at Christ as the Hero-Redeemer (a familiar archetype in literature and great stories throughout the world – fellow english majors can relate).
So, the question to start us off was "What are some stories/movies that have a beauty that needs to be rescued?"  (Let me pause there:  Doesn't "beauty to be rescued" sound much better than "damsel in distress"?)
Immediately, all the great animated classic Disney films were mentioned.  Sleeping Beauty, The LIttle Mermaid, Cinderella, Snow White – you get the idea.  And I began to think about how influential these movies are to us in our lives as we grow up.  Even now, as adults, we are looking back to them to help us understand how much God loves us, how His Son had to overcome death and the grave to rescue his beauty.
So families, plan a family night.  Dads, put on your prince charming crown – moms, put on your queen's tiara – let the kids face adversity in the lost art of old Disney movies – then talk about how God is our hero.  Jesus is a great hero sent to rescue us from our poor despair.  Our cottage in the woods is easily turned to a castle in the kingdom.  Our rotting, leftover, carved, pumpkins become a carriage in which he can sweep us all way.  He is a Hero-Redeemer, you see?
As a note:  My personal favorite – I can't lie – of the aforementioned – is Sleeping Beauty.  I think mainly because the prince has to battle a dragon at the end.  That has to be it.  That's the only reason though.  The only one.  Honest.
- it's the fire-breathing dragon that does it for me -

Why I hate Electronic Toys for kids…

Earlier today, I was scoping some of our rooms.  There are so many toys for preschoolers with flashing lights, and strange noises.  At what point did they become so popular?  There is a great fascination of electronic toys for preschoolers, and while there are many studies that say they do more harm than good to developing minds, I think this commercial says a lot about children and electronic toys.  They can be creepy sometimes…

potty humor

Potty HumorThis is what my roommate brought home today from his bathroom at work.
In case you can't see it:
"HELP!  I'm trapped in a toilet paper packing plant!"

my brain

My brain is hard to explain.  Thoughts travel really fast so it's hard for me to focus in on one thing.  For example, I can pick up a sheet of paper with stuff I personally have written down for me to do, such as goals I want to accomplish for the day.  I'll travel to a spot to sit down and focus on it, get sidetracked somewhere along the way on the 10 feet trip, and when I get to wherever it is I am going, the paper is lost and I have no idea what was on it.
Fortunately, I have some awesome help to keep me focused.  Deanna and Tonya are my left and right arms on keeping my brain straight.  In particular, Deanna and I set out to do the unthinkable – take care of all the programming for our small groups in a two-day period for the entire month of November.  That means, gather all supplies, organize them, for both campuses, for all environments, and put them together so the rest of the days can be devoted solely to people, vision, strategy, and discussion.
Wow.  We pulled it off by calling in the awesome leaders we have who stepped up in the past month or so to take it to the next level.  It was a long two hours for them, but they have no idea how much they helped us out.
We still have a few more to go, but it will be done on Wednesday.  It's a great feeling to feel "ahead" of the game, but even when ahead, I feel so far behind.
Back to sticky note reminders for me…

Quite Incredible

I am overwhelmed often by the amount of volunteers we have and still the amazing opportunities that we have for people to be involved in our children's ministry.   Journey Kidz has nearly 200 kids and about 80 volunteers at both the Warehouse location and the Theatre.  Even still, there is so much to be done!
Each week more and more families come and I am blown away by how well they respond to what we do.
Today was my first Sunday morning back at the Warehouse site to lead the large group environments for our Kidz Gig STUDIO.  I was completely energized by the new faces that have been coming!  So many of them I had not met before.  I have been at our theatre site since it's launch.
We have an amazing group of leaders in Journey Kidz.  What an amazing team that God has put together!  I could not be more proud to work with such an awesome group of people who give of themselves each and every week.  Each week, I ask, "What's next for us?"
Each week, I am amazed at the answer God gives us.