Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year's Eve 2012

i did it

For the first time, I did it. Wow.

A picture of the day for an entire year. (In 2012 I made it until eye surgery threw me for a loop).

It's amazing to see all of these pics.

Suddenly tonight, I'm having happy thoughts of how full my life is.

It's probably not surprising that my job as a children's pastor shows up as a major theme in the pictures. The other theme, friends and family.

God used this moment to remind me of my blessings.


Here are my photos in review.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Helping Children Deal With the Sandy Hook Tragedy

Expert Offers 8 Recommendations to Help Children Deal with the Sandy Hook Tragedy

Kaylea's Note: The following information was provided by Seedbed, a ministry of Asbury Seminary. You can read the original post here: - I wanted to make sure parents within my sphere of influence had access to the information.

A Note From J.D. Walt, Seedbed Editor: In the aftermath of this unimaginable tragedy in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, my mind turned quickly to another unthinkable tragedy related to children and the very first Christmas. In an effort to destroy Jesus, the child born King, the wicked King Herod ordered all baby boys in the region under two years of age to be killed. I'm trying to help my own four children grasp how the presence of God does not yet necessarily mean the absence of evil.

For this Saturday post, I (J.D. Walt) asked Kathy Milans, an outstanding children's therapist, to offer our Seedbed readers some guidance on how to help children (not to mention ourselves) process this devastating situation. Below, in her own words, she offers 8 practical ways to respond:

In the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, the excitement of Christmas may not penetrate the hearts of all children as they return to school on Monday. This time of year is usually magical for children as they stare peacefully into the manger of Jesus and eagerly await the presents on Christmas morning.

Limit media & news.
Their innocence and security have again been interrupted by mass media that will post agonizing pictures of families trying to seek comfort in the middle of tragedy. In order for children to cope, we need to turn off TV's, radios, and computers. Images will be shown over and over again which can produce vicarious trauma in children.

Observe and enter into their Play.
As caregivers it will be necessary to watch, listen, and join our children as they play. Are they trying to understand a chaotic world by playing out the scenes that they have just seen and heard about? If so, we need to enter their play and take the role of the emergency personnel who bring safety and stability. Having a set of emergency vehicles as part of their toy collection allows children to be in control of tragedy and yet deal with the reality of its existence.

Pay heightened attention to seemingly unrelated fears.
Younger children are egocentric; they can't think abstractly. In their concrete thinking, this shooting feels as if it is in their backyard and their school. This may translate into fear of robbers at bedtime, monsters under their bed, and tears as they board the bus for school on Monday.

Be mindful of your own stress and anxiety and how you process it.
Children are bonded to their caregivers and feel our stress. Praying "Come Lord Jesus, come" will remind us that the Kingdom of God is bigger than this world. As we deal with tragedy in this way, our children will see us as a calm and loving base from which they can find security in the midst of a country that is grieving.

Develop and communicate structured plans for safety at home and school.
Children need to understand that there is a combination of safety and a need for caution in their lives. Explaining home and school safety plans helps them to know that adults in their lives are planning for their safety the best as we are able.

Acknowledge the existence of evil while demonstrating the presence of God through your own gentle presence with them.
Remind your children that the world contains good and bad but we can trust Jesus to be with us in the midst of all difficulties. He is our shelter in the midst of any storm. Children will ask what they need to know. If your child has questions, answer them in a few short simple answers. Then hold them in your lap, hug them, and let them feel your love.

Pray with your children and model what it looks like to take our confusion to God in prayer.
Regardless of age, we all struggle to make sense of where God is in horrible events. Taking our confusion to the throne of Jesus connects us all as we pray for peace on earth this Christmas. Explaining to children that God made humans to be able to freely make choices, good and bad, is part of God's plan. There will be a day when all evil is destroyed and that is our hope in Jesus.

Go out and do good as a response to this evil act. God overcomes evil with good.
Since children are concrete learners, your family may concentrate on how to make this world a better place today in the midst of pain. That is how Jesus is at work. A visit to a local nursing home, putting change in the kettle of the Salvation Army, cooking a meal for a family in need, illustrates this in a way that children can grasp.

Kathy Milans has experience as an elementary educator, teacher trainer, adjunct professor, and has served as Family Resource Director for a major hospital. Along with a B.A. and M.A. in Education, she holds an M.A. in Pastoral Counseling from Asbury Theological Seminary. Kathy is certified by the state of Kentucky to provide pastoral counseling and is credentialed as a Registered Play Therapist by the American Association of Play Therapy.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Processing the news from Sandy Hook Elementary

The following will not be a unique statement. Others are sharing similar thoughts in the wake of what happened yesterday. But consider this 2.5 cents from someone who has worked as a journalist and is a children's pastor.

Please take the news from Newtown, Conn., in moderation this weekend. Over-saturation is not healthy in all aspects of life, and it is especially true this weekend. Continually watching the images will not help you process or deal with what happened, and may cause more harm than good. I think this is a lesson we are all learning, living in a post-911 news culture.

This is a national tragedy. As someone wisely put it last night, we all know of, have a, or have been a 6-year-old. Everyone, regardless of age, will be dealing with the grief of what happened in the Sandy Hook Elementary school in multiple ways.

Keep informed, but do so in moderation. Be mindful of what you not only expose yourself to, but also your children. If we, as adults, struggle to process the images and knowledge of what happened, imagine how they are struggling to do so even more. Yesterday's events are truly indescribable.

So consider this permission to unplug and do other things this weekend. Choose your news sources - and amount of news - wisely.

As you do that, remember, this weekend is the third Sunday in Advent - Joy. Obviously, for many, it will be hard to find joy in the midst of grief; but consider this permission to do just that.

Find ways to enjoy the children in your life. Spend time with them. Assure them. Love them. Pray with them. The key is to simply choose to be present in their lives this weekend (and beyond) - and remember it's ok to seek out joy, in the midst of these unthinkable acts of violence.

If you want to physically do something, find a way to do so in a positive manner. Support one of the churches in Newtown who are on the front lines of this tragedy or do something for a local children's charity/ministry and its upcoming Christmas outreach.

You could even do something as an outreach to local teachers or first responders who, I'm sure, are grieving over this tragedy with their Connecticut counterparts.

Remember, you can also pray for the families in Newtown. As the Rabbi from Newtown told a news agency, prayer for the families in the wake of this tragedy is abundantly needed.

The point to all of this is to remember, we all have choices. This weekend, I am looking for ways I can bring joy into the lives of the children within my sphere of influence.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. Be a light in this dark hour.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
Edited to fix a typo and correct the age to 6, 12-15-12 9:30 p.m.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Happy Moment For Christmas

A friend posted a link to this video on YouTube. It combines the song of a great Christian artist - Rich Mullins - along with the classic scenes from Charlie Brown Christmas.

Two of my favorite things, merged together.

Just what I needed on this crazy Advent day.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Blog Tour: Oliver Twist (Review)

I love audio stories - when they are told well. I love how the narrator, the dialogue and the sounds all work together to pull you into the story.

If done well, you truly feel like you are present in the action. You can feel the intensity of the situation, the angst of the character's trials and the elation at the resolution of the story.

The Focus on the Family's Radio Theatre presentation of Oliver Twist does just that and more.

As I listened to the narrator & actors (which honestly, can make or break an audio recording) I truly felt as if I stepped into Charles Dickens' world. The words and sounds of the drama worked together to truly paint a visual picture inside my mind. Recorded on location in London it has an air of authenticity that cannot be matched.

It is as if, a new wind blew through the familiar tale, giving it new life for me.

I believe the Radio Theatre dramas created by Focus on the Family showcase a media they not only do well with, but excel.

Oliver Twist is a superb addition to a list of dramas which include the seven books of the Chronicles of Narnia (I adore this series), as well as the lives of Derrick Bonhoeffer and John Newton.

As an added bonus, it also comes with a dvd that showcases behind the scenes views of how the drama was created - as well as highlights Focus on The Family's ministry to today's orphans.

I can see this drama being used on an upcoming holiday road trip, as well as a unique series of family story times. I can also see loading it on iPod/iPhone to listen to in a variety of ways and settings.

Ultimately, this is a story - and presentation - that will appeal to a variety of ages and genders.

On a scale of one to five, I give this drama a solid five.

From The Publisher
An audio drama of the highest quality, Oliver Twist was recorded on location in London with an award-winning cast. This classic story will steal your heart as the timeless characters are brought to life in Focus on the Family Radio Theatre’s edition of Charles Dickens’ beloved tale. This amazing audio production comes on five CDs, with a bonus DVD that includes behind-the-scenes production footage and the documentary Modern Day Oliver. Purchase of the product also benefits Focus’s “Wait No More” adoption initiative.

With cinema-quality sound and an original soundtrack, this audio drama tells the story of a young orphan sent from a child farm to begin life in a workhouse. After committing the unpardonable offense of asking for more food, Oliver is sent off to apprentice with a coffin-maker whose wife mistreats him. He runs away to London, where he meets the Artful Dodger and Fagin, who trains kids to be pickpockets. Despite his many trials and hardships, he finally gets his happy ending, bringing hope for redemption to all around him.

Online Resources
Read more about it @ The Publisher
Find out more about Focus on the Family's ministry to orphans
Purchase it at Amazon

Note: As a freelance journalist and children's pastor, I was provided a copy of this drama by Tyndale House. This review was not influenced by a free drama - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.  (Honestly, I would have purchased it myself - it's that good!)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Blog Tour: Nowhere But Up (Review) - Justin Bieber's mom's story.

Go anywhere where young teen girls gather, and in many cases you'll hear the words "Bieber Fever."

Let's face it, the music of Justin Bieber has saturated the lives of many tweens.

(I know of one specifically in my life, that loves his music so much she posed with a cardboard cutout of him at the mall - oh, someday she'll hate me for taking it.)

So it's not surprising that his mom, Pattie Mallette has written a book. What is surprising - maybe to some - is that the book is not only a memoir, but also a faith-based memoir.

Working with a co-writer, Mallette has documented her journey, which is not "picture perfect." I found her preface to the book refreshing. She lays it out for readers. Her book is a bit raw, it will talk about things in a frank (but not gratuitous way), and it shows - from Mallette's perspective of course - her relationship with many people in her life.

The one thing that truly surprised me is how she reminds people that it is from her perspective, and that for the most part, many of the people (including Mallette) have grown and matured through the years.

Her book is an interesting read. I read it because I wanted to know a bit more about Justin Bieber's mom, and in turn, maybe learn a bit more about him. (Remember, I work with tweens who listen to his music.)

Mallette is very candid about how things from her past, impacted her future. The book's description reads: "With raw honesty, she spills the truth about a lifetime of moments that were punctuated by pain yet permeated with grace--and the journey that's brought her to where she is today." I think this is true.

I'll admit, while I love memoirs, this is probably one I won't add to my "keep and read again" pile. However, it was interesting. The one thing that really did grab me - probably because I work with students - is Mallette's perspective as a teen mom. It was refreshing to see at least one person of faith, a youth minister at the local community center, who stood by her, even when others turned their back.

On the scale of one to five,  I give it a good three. I think Mallette has used her platform as the parent of a major pop star in a positive way.

Mallette's statement - part of the book blurb - wraps up her intent in a nice package:
t doesn't matter where you find yourself today--broken, hurting, wounded, or shamed. If God can help me find my way up, I promise, He can do the same for you.

Let's face it, looking at how a few parents of past pop stars (especially a few female ones) used their "15 minutes" in the spotlight, Mallette's approach is refreshing. 

More About The Authors
Pattie Mallette, known to most of the world as Justin Bieber's mom, is so much more than the mother of a world-renowned pop sensation.

As a young woman and a single mom, she overcame unimaginable obstacles and fought hard to rise above a life of poverty. Pattie has guided her talented son through the winding journey of fame, instilling faith and wisdom every step of the way.

She is impassioned by her vision to share what she has learned from the experiences of her youth and her son's journey. Follow her on Twitter (@pattiemallette).

An accomplished writer, A. J. Gregory has collaborated with fascinating high-profile figures on nearly twenty books. She is also the author of Silent Savior and Messy Faith.

Online Resources
Read an excerpt here.

Buy it online here:
Baker Retail - - -
Barnes & Noble- - -

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of these books by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

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