Monday, March 30, 2009

Let The Children Run

As my husband and I were returning from Arizona after my grandfather’s memorial service, we had a two-hour layover in Phoenix before the next leg of our journey. Knowing we would be sitting for the next four hours, we struck out for a brisk walk along the concourses. Trailing the moving sidewalk, we saw a dark haired boy who must have not been a day over three-years-old running along the moving sidewalk, his mom laden with baggage slowly ambling behind. He was running as hard and as fast as he could! I involuntarily sucked in my breath when he reached the end of the sidewalk, knowing how I always catch myself as the movement disappears into a solid step. Not this kid. He leaped over the edge, threw his hands in the air, and shouted, “Yaaaayyy!”

I commented to my husband, “Wouldn’t it be nice if the most exciting thing in your life right now was running along a moving sidewalk at an airport?’ I guess I was in a nostalgic mood anyway. I had spent the week with family, getting teary over family pictures, reminiscing about my grandfather and the precious moments we had shared over the years and enjoying multiple meals of food and memories as we did what our family always did – ate too much at our favorite Mexican restaurants.

Still, that little boy’s exuberance was the perfect exclamation point to the paragraph about life God had been teaching me all week. Enjoy the simple pleasures. Grasp each moment and celebrate. Run the journey with purpose yet abandon, then throw your arms up in a victory salute at the end of the sidewalk.

That wonderful mom taught me something too. I remember when my girls were little and we lived in a tiny, isolated town in Kansas, we had to drive an hour just to get anything more than basic groceries. One day, we took them to the mall and let them ride the escalators up and down because the girls were bursting with energy from begin cooped up in the car. Someone, maybe an employee, scolded me for allowing the girls to ride the escalators without purpose and without me right beside them. “They might get hurt.”

Yeah, well, so they might. So might that little boy running on that moving sidewalk. So might I when I take risks through my life. But that wise mom, knowing her child was going to be cooped up in an unrelenting airplane all too soon, wisely let him take the risk, confident that she was close enough to be there should he fall yet far enough away to let him be free to run, to fall and to learn to not fall again.

We need to savor the simple moments, relish our relationships and run the risk of falling and failing, confident that the painful moments, though unpleasant, will teach us and equip us on how to handle the next moment of life.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Karen Wingate's Current Projects

Grab a cup of your favorite brew and let’s do some catch-up. Let me fill you in on what I am currently doing in Children’s Ministry and in curriculum writing.

Right now, I’m taking a much needed indefinite sabbatical from teaching Sunday School. It’s been at least six years since I have had a break and I am already appreciating the chance to recharge my spiritual batteries. I’m still teaching in our children’s church program. We’ve done something different the last few months. Using Standard Publishing’s Anytime VBS program, we’ve spread each lesson over two Sundays. Each Sunday we tell the story in a different way. The first Sunday we have games and activities to reinforce the lesson. The second Sunday, we bring in a lady who does a craft with the kids. Our program has grown; last week, we had eleven children! We’re hoping to use this approach again by purchasing one or more VBS starter kits now available then use them throughout the year.

At this time, I’m writing Vacation Bible School material for Standard Publishing’s 2010 cycle. What’s the theme? I can’t tell you but I will tell you that I’m excited about the 2009 Standard VBS called Studio Go! Based on the theme of a game show environment, this game packed material is great for your more active, kinesthetic learners. I like using games in my teaching so I think it’s a great program.

Also, be watching for my three books published by Rainbow Publishing in 2010., three additions to the “Five Minute Sunday School Activities” series. If you need some quick lessons that take little time to prepare, these are the books for you.

I’m at a point in my life where I am moving away from writing curriculum. Two weeks ago, I attended the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference and had the opportunity to speak with several editors. I’m working on rewriting the first three chapters of a novel to then submit to several agents. I also have some writing to do for several magazines and hope to pitch a book idea on leadership to a publishing company soon.

On a personal note: Heaven has gained a wonderful believer in Christ and we have lost a dear member of our family. My 97-year-old grandfather who was, in many respects, a father figure for me, went to be with the Lord this past week. Our family will be gathering in Arizona for his memorial service, so it may be a couple of weeks before I am able to post to this column again.

Until then, keep teaching the children and continue to let them teach you. And keep the coffe can and tea bags handy!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Easter Activity: Art Exhibit

Have you ever noticed that the creative people who get the most attention in the church are those who can sing, speak or play a musical instrument? What about those Christians who have been gifted with the ability to move their bodies in expressive ways, who sculpt or use paint to glorify their Redeemer? Are they any less “Christian” than the one who can act or sing?

My friend, LeAnne Martin, has opened my eyes to the need to promote art in the church. She has a wonderful blog, Christians in the Arts, that promotes and highlights Christians who dedicate their lives to art and beauty. The local church, particularly Children’s Ministry, needs to provide outlets for those who are gifted in the visual arts.

Because of my own lack in the visual arts, I've come to truly appreciate those who are gifted in the arts. I still remember how a sculpture in an Austrian monestary of Jesus washing the feet of Peter tugged at my heart and taught me a deeper lesson about service. We need to provice those whom God has gifted an outlet to be able to express their faith through their art. In return, the rest of us will blessed as we are drawn to worship God on a new level.

For this reason, our local congregation is holding an art exhibit for Easter. We’ve challenged our members, both children and adults, to think how they might creatively portray their impressions of the Resurrection. We’ve entitled the exhibit, “Reminders of the Resurrection” and we are using 2 Corinthians 5:17 as our key verse.

We’ve invited people to submit paintings, sculpture, photography, poems and essays. We’ll put the works in the church foyer on Easter morning for the rest of the congregation to see and to worship God through the medium of art.

I plan to work with the children the first two Sundays in April. We’ll talk about reminders of the Resurrection so the children will have a concrete understanding of what we are talking about. We’ll help them sketch their ideas on paper, then provide them with watercolors and “good” paper for them to finalize their creation. I’m excited to see what they come up with. I hope, I hope this project works so that our congregation can rejoice in the Resurrection that morning through the music of the choir and through the art work of the children and others.

What are some ways you’ve encouraged worship through the arts in your congregation? Share your comments below or email me at I’ll share your ideas in a future post.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Teaching Children Not To Fear

My reading list this month includes Bill O’Reilly’s book, A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity. Now, before you label me as one of those screaming fanatical conservatives, hear me through. First of all, O’Reilly labels himself as an independent, one who chooses to be a free thinker. From reading his book, I would certainly agree with that. Also, O’Reilly’s book covers far more than his views on politics. He emphasizes our need to embrace self reliance, independent thinking and hard work.

In one chapter, he discusses our need to overcome fear. Many people don’t progress in life, he says, because of one simple obstacle – fear. Courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to walk through our fear, to not allow it to stop us from achieving what we want to accomplish in life.

A generation ago, says a
Family Life survey, children were afraid of such things as the dark, strangers, high places and loud noises. Today, says the same report, our kids are afraid of death, divorce, terrorism, war and disease. This second survey was taken around the time of 9/11. I can imagine that, today, children would add something about the economic crisis.

How can we help our children overcome fear? We need to show our children ways to constructively fight back at their fears, to teach them that they are not helpless. As Christian educators, we need to introduce them to the Father who can be depended on to be with them and who will protect them from whatever happens.

One final way we can help our children not be afraid is to look at our own lives, acknowledge our fears and learn to walk through those fears. Look at the lists again. How many of the fears on the most recent list do kids really understand? Divorce, yes. Disease, maybe if they’ve seen it up closes and personal. War? Not in our country. Many of these fears we project onto our kids. We’re afraid. We talk about the uncertainty so our kids pick it up too and parrot our fears. We can help our children overcome fear by determining to not let fear take hold of us.

Recently I attended a conference several states away. I knew no one at this conference. Before I had a breakthrough eye surgery that tripled my vision, I always used Special Assistance when traveling by myself. This time, since I’m not legally blind anymore, I decided I really didn’t have a good reason to ask for it, so I decided to go solo. On the other hand, I have never traveled by myself before. I’m amused at the number of people back home that were surprised that I traveled alone without asking for help to a conference where I knew no one. Some people would be too afraid to be that adventuresome. Why not? The only way that I could achieve the benefits of what turned out to be a wonderful experience was to walk through my fear and not let it stop me. I think Bill O’Reilly would be proud of me.

Our children will learn to overcome fear when they watch us not allow the scary times to overtake us. If we teach them to overcome the fear of falling off a bike by saying after the first fall, “Get back up and try again,” we need to remind ourselves to do the same with our own fears.