The Birdcage

Children’s Ministry changed a ton over the twenty years I worked in it. What started as flannel boards with little flannel people became stage, lights, and technology. The methods changed, but the message didn’t.

Somewhere between flannel boards and technology, children’s sermons were “the thing.” All the kids would come to the front of the church auditorium during the adult service and I’d present a creative five-minute object lesson. It was during one of these children’s sermons that this event occurred.

The lesson was a tough one…death. I was on my knees so that I’d be on the kids’ level. I was wearing my yellow ruffled skirt. I had lots of stuff—a huge birdcage, my pink Bible, and a bright yellow bucket of candy bars to give the kids as they returned to their seats.

“Imagine that you are a little yellow bird,” I began, holding the birdcage. “This big gold cage is your home. You have everything you need in this cage. You have a food dish, a mirror, and a swing. Then one day a little girl carries your cage into a rainforest. Your cage is surrounded by splashes of sunlight, tall green trees, sweet-smelling flowers, sparkling waterfalls. And flying everywhere are thousands of birds.” I paused and then asked slowly, “Can you imagine wanting to stay in this cage? It is comfortable. It is familiar. But it can’t compare to the magnificent rainforest.”

I explained that life here on earth is very similar. We have everything we need. It is comfortable and it is familiar. But it can’t compare to what heaven is like. I concluded with a Bible verse, handed out the candy, and dismissed the kids to their seats.

At that moment, something snapped. At first I wasn’t sure what it was. Then I quickly realized it was the elastic in the waist of my skirt. “Ok,” my mind calculated. “How am I going to get up off my knees, hold my skirt which is already slipping down my hips, carry the birdcage, my Bible, and the bucket, make it to the front row to sit down, and do it all with one hand?” Six hundred people and a TV camera awaited my answer.

With all eyes on me, I pressed my prosthetic elbow hard against my hip to hopefully keep my skirt from slipping any lower. I positioned the birdcage on the stage for decoration. I grabbed my Bible and the bucket with my real hand, stood up, and made a mad dash for the front row. I made it.

 

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

Fusion Kids’ Ministry at my present church– Crosspoint Church

Green Fingernails

Green. I like green. Especially lime green. Actually I enjoy all lively colors, as is obvious with a glance in my clothes closet. (Today I’m wearing a daffodil yellow fleece jacket.) A peek at my shoe collection further confirms it: turquoise moccasins, graffiti Converses, khaki hiking boots with purple and pink accents, tie-dye Reeboks, and pink boots. But it’s not only my clothes and shoes. I drive an electric blue car. My bedroom is pink and orange. My office is orange and lime green. And I have a hot pink stripe in my hair. As I said, I really like bright colors.

So when my daughter Cassie, twelve at the time, asked me to paint my fingernails lime green like hers for St. Patrick’s Day, I was all for it. My prosthetic left hand was a conglomeration of mechanical parts covered by a realistic-looking “glove” made of silicone. I didn’t know if polish would adhere to the rubbery surface. I tediously painted each nail and—it stuck! Then I held the handle of the polish brush in my mouth and painted the nails on my right hand. (Try it. I dare you!) Both hands turned out beautifully.

Cassie and I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by sporting our pretty lime green fingernails. She got lots of attention at West Morgan Middle School, while I received several raised eyebrows on my job at First Baptist Church. I loved it. The fun and the polish lasted a few days and then it began to chip off. I located the polish remover, dabbed some on a cotton square, and swiped the nails on my prosthetic hand. Almost immediately I knew something wasn’t right. The green polish was coming off, but the green color wasn’t. I gasped as I realized the polish had stained my silicone glove. My fingernails were permanently an ugly shade of yellow-green! I felt sick deep down in my stomach. Gloves cost $400 and I had just ruined mine with lime green fingernail polish.

 

There before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Revelation 4:2-3 (NIV)

Cassie and Becky 12/09

Dumbest Question

I have been asked a million questions in my lifetime. The most frequent one is, “What’s wrong with your arm?” When I’m in my usual good mood, I smile and say, “I was born with one arm.” When I’m in a particularly ornery mood, I have to restrain myself from responding, “What’s wrong with your nose?” I’ve never done that, but I chuckle thinking about it. Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t mind inquiries from family and friends. And I don’t mind inquiries from kids—after all, I was a kids’ pastor for twenty years. However, when a total stranger walks up to me in Walmart and asks me a very personal question, I have to admit, it agitates me a bit.

Then there’s the “How Do You __________?” question. Just fill in the blank with anything you’d like; I’m sure I’ve heard it. On one occasion I was at the airport with my daughter Cassie who was five at the time. A little boy about the same age struck up a conversation with us. It went something like this: “How do you drive? How do you cook? How do you take a shower? How do you tie your shoes? How do you swim? How do you carry stuff?” It was like talking to Dennis the Menace. He hardly took a breath between segments of the interrogation. With each additional question, Cassie grew noticeably more aggravated. Finally, after Question #6, she grabbed my right elbow, pulling my real hand out of my pocket. She shoved my hand about four inches from the boy’s face and gave him the “duh” look.

But of all the questions I’ve ever been asked, this one is ultimately and eternally the dumbest: “Are you left-handed or right-handed?” When someone inquires that, all I can do is stare at them for a few seconds with my head cocked to one side and my mouth slightly open. I mean, if I was left-handed, how would I know? I work really hard to get out the words “right-handed” without making a funny face. I just flat gave up when one woman replied, “Well, it’s a good thing!”

No matter how many times I am presented with “the dumbest question” (and you’d be surprised at the number), it always catches me off-guard. So I decided to come up with a creative, pre-determined answer. I discussed it with my brother-in-law Phillip and he thought of the perfect retort. To the next person who asks, “Are you left-handed or right-handed?” I am going to respond, “I’m ambidextrous!”

 

“Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Matthew 6:3 (NIV) 

This is how I cook– I delegate!
(Isaac and Tim)