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what i'm saying to volunteers {after alton, philando, dallas, nice, and baton rouge}

for the past 2 sundays, i've spoken during our volunteer morning huddle -- on the importance of raising a new generation to notice, respect and care for each other. 

it's been important to me to not lead sundays as i typically do, going along as if these sundays are the same as the others, because they're not. people were {and continue to be} senselessly killed. i'm not able to teach kids about jesus and his ways -- without mentioning these horrific events. 

if it's helpful to you -- here's what i'm saying (to volunteers): 

today, we have the opportunity to raise a new generation. a generation of kids who will notice each other's similarities and differences, and in the act of noticing, see the image of God. what we do today is our contribution to changing the way the world is currently operating. one in which people's differences are seen as threats, not signs of beauty. 

we have the chance today, to encourage kids to see each other, care for each other, and be reminded that we're all interwoven. that your well-being is my well-being. that the full image of God can not be represented in this world without each person living the life God created and intended.

what we do today is not babysitting or free childcare {because i'm not interested, really, in either of these} -- what we do today is our contribution to fixing what's broken, and helping to bring God's kingdom to this earth. today, we raise a new generation to be leaders, advocates, and allies for those who are mistreated and marginalized. what we do today matters. BIG TIME. 

here's what we can do practically: when a child notices another child -- encourage him/her! even if the specific noticing creates tension or awkwardness. affirm that a child has really seen another child, and say, "he/she is created in the image of God. the differences we see in each other show us the full picture of who God is." 

also, today we can create safe spaces for kids to ask questions about the shootings, even if we don't have answers or if it creates discomfort in us. i believe, church should be the safest place {for all of us} to ask questions and express doubts. let's provide this for our kids.

finally, we can teach children what it looks like to follow jesus, and walk in his ways as peacemakers. sarah bessey in her book out of sorts says that we are not called to be peacekeepers {maintaining status quo, not causing disruption, not speaking up for injustice}, but called to be peacemakers. peacemakers MAKE PEACE where there is none, which typically involves speaking up, leading up, and calling out what's broken. ask kids to identify the brokenness, the ways in which the world is not as God intended, and think about how they might create and bring peace. affirm their idenity as peacemakers. 

this is the way of jesus {i believe}, and hope for my own life, and for this next generation of kids. 


on {my} curriculum process {part 1}

over the weekend, i went to a workshop on writing children's ministry curriculum, and got to reflecting on my own writing process and even how i got into this crazy adventure. 

so -- between the summer of my jr and sr year at bible college, i asked the children's ministry associate director at my church if i could do an internship. she said sure! why don't you write the age 4/5 summer curriculum. to which i replied, huh? i'm a college student with no degree and no experience. and besides, are you crazy? and she said, great -- you're perfect! we start tomorrow. 

and, that's how i began my career in curriculum (!!). 

now, almost twenty-years later, i'm reflecting on the great blessing that writing curriculum has been in my life, so grateful that PAT CIMO took a crazy chance on me. writing has been a unique way for me to express my teaching and creative gifts for the sake of kids + families. i'm thankful for opportunities along the way to work with publishers, to create something entirely from scratch, and now! the chance to write original work for the kids at my church.

over the years, i've noticed 2 key factors that have contributed to my writing growth + development: 

first, experience. nothing beats writing over + over. when i first started writing lessons at willow creek, each week i'd submit a month's worth of curriculum that would be edited and evaluated by a very large group of people. it was intense. and great. and most days i cried over their tough comments. but, their feedback shaped me as i started out and gave me the foundation i needed to develop my own voice. as time went on, i kept writing and writing as much as i could, taking on side projects with publishers and churches so that i could learn to write for various theologies, contexts, and formats. soon enough, the experience, the routine -- what works, what fails miserably, how to best write for volunteers, all of it added up to growth. 

second, education. ongoing classes in the field of child development have been the other most helpful resource in my own writing. classes at erikson, online workshops at early childhood webinars, and one-on-one time with local school teachers, therapists and parents have continually challenged and improved my writing. specifically, discovering how children learn and grow from perspectives outside the faith community have been the most helpful. i can take these proven, researched methods and principles and apply them to faith-centered lessons and activities. 

so, that's me. tomorrow, i'll post about my specific writing process. how i start with nothing and end up with something. like a great magic trick with less smoke and absolutely no disappearing acts. 

and, you? what has been your journey towards writing, editing, tweaking curriculum? 

also! a video {from the back in the day} on customizing your curriculum.


{women's} panel

a few weeks ago, we celebrated women's history month at willow chicago with this panel. it was such a joy to be part of this---spending time with these women shaped and challenged me. enjoy!

follow these fantastic women online:

Chi Chi Okwu: @chichiokwu

Sarah Benibo: @gc3s

Karin Straehl: @kkovitvo


easter {wednesday}

It's not difficult for me to imagine having a last meal with a friend who's about to move. In my transient city community, people leave ALL year long. this week: i received 3 emails from friends who in my church who are moving/graduating school/leaving the city for a job change. 

Last Suppers are very familiar to me. 

I'm familiar with eating, laughing, talking, blessing, praying, wishing each other well. All the usuals of a special, final farewell meal together. 

But, washing feet. Not so familiar. 

John 13:1-17

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

I just LOVE Jesus. I imagine Him at His final meal, with friends gathered around Him, each one expecting tearful goodbyes and memories shared, and instead JESUS, washes their feet, one-by-one reminding them to serve each other in love after He's gone. This is love, He says, and I hope you'll carry on in this love even after I'm gone. 

Consider Carrying on Jesus' love by serving someone as he/she leaves. Help a friend move, or offer to pack for a neighbor going on a short trip, or make a meal for a friend who's accepted a job offer. Bless as Jesus blessed by serving in love. 

*originally published in Awana Lent Devotional 2015


easter {tuesday}

I was recently at a gathering of leaders for the purpose of strengthening our personal leadership skills. As you might imagine, we covered all of the usual leadership suspects: candor, culture, failure, team. We're all church leaders so we walked away re-committed to leading the best we can for the sake of the kingdom. 

And then I read Mark 1:1-11, this week's Lenten reflection passage. And, I remember Jesus is God's chosen leader. He's radical, and unexpected, and wonderful. 

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus, beloved Son of God, born to lead and love and challenge and care. His leadership is filled with grace and peace and wisdom. And, I think of Jesus as leader, after a few days reflecting on my leadership, and I see the gaps. I strive, and push, and work hard to excel, often with great cost. I'm selfish, and critical, and filled wtih judgement. 

But, Jesus. God's chosen leader demonstrates that kindness and strength are not mutally exclusive. That really, to lead well you simply must love well. 

I just love Jesus. 

This week: Consider the context in which you lead: at work, at school, at home, in church. Ask Jesus to fill your mind and heart with his leadership ways. That you might extend His kingdom in your sphere of influence. 

*originally published in Awana Lent Devotional 2015