The Lord Looks on the Heart

Year B, Third after Pentecost: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13, Lectionary reading for June 13, 2021

Last week we read how Israel demanded a king so that they could be ruled like the other nations. God gave in, but not without first issuing a stern warning through Samuel. Enter Saul, who, on the surface, looks like the perfect king, but his character flaws quickly become apparent. He is prideful, dishonest, and has no integrity. In the verses just before today’s passage, God rejects Saul as king and pledges to find a new, better king for God’s people.

God tells Samuel to travels to Bethlehem to meet Jesse’s sons. God will select one of these sons to be king, so Jesse brings forth his three oldest sons, thinking surely God would want someone tall and strong, but God passes over the three brothers and Samuel asks if there is another. Jesse answers, “there remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” Does God really want to make a king of a little shepherd boy?

Yes. God isn’t interested in how someone looks; God is interested in our character. God wants a humble, obedient king for the Israelites, someone to make up for Saul’s pride and dishonesty. This story reminds us that God doesn’t care how impressive we look, God only cares about our hearts.

As much as we like to think we are similarly focused on character rather than looks, we all have deeply held biases that are difficult to overcome. We can’t control the external messages we get as children about people who differ from us, but we can interrupt and challenge our biases when we notice them. Little kids are lucky though, because most of those biases haven’t yet taken hold, and they are like Cyril the squirrel in Cyril and Pat.

Cyril is a lonely squirrel in Lake Park until he meets his new friend, Pat. Sure, Pat doesn’t look exactly like him, but Cyril doesn’t mind, because Pat is so much fun to play with! They ride skateboards, play hide-and-seek, and outwit Slim the dog. The other animals in the park notice Pat is actually a rat, but Cyril never hears their warnings because he’s too busy pointing out all of Pat’s great characteristics!

Eventually, the other animals get the message across: Pat is a rat, and squirrels can’t be friends with rats. Pat slinks back to the city streets, and Cyril’s life just isn’t the same. He misses his friend’s big heart! Pat comes through for Cyril in a crisis, and finally the other park animals realize that Pat is more than what they see on the outside.

Cyril, like God, looked past appearances and saw straight to Pat’s heart. It didn’t matter that Pat’s fur was ragged and dirty. Instead, Cyril saw Pat was clever, a great joker, and a brilliant sharer. Without the biases of the other animals, Cyril found a great friend where no one else was looking.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • How can you tell if someone will be a good friend?
  • Can you tell if someone is kind just by looking at them?
  • Has someone ever warned you to stay away from a certain kind of person? How did that feel?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Why did Pat leave the park?
  • Why didn’t Cyril defend Pat when the other animals were being mean?
  • How can we make sure we give everyone a chance, no matter what they look like?

Gravett, Emily. Cyril and Pat. Two Hoots, 2019.

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Ends and Means

Second after Pentecost, Mark 3:20-35, Lectionary reading for June 6, 2021

Satan can not cast out Satan, only God can cast out Satan; you can not do good through evil means.

This passage of scripture comes early in Jesus’ ministry. He hasn’t been teaching and healing for long, but word has spread. There are so many people crowded around him, his family can’t get close enough to check up on him and see for themselves if all the rumours are true. His family wonders if he’s out of his mind, and the scribes think he’s possessed by demons.

But hang on a minute. Moments ago he healed a man with a withered hand, and before that he performed several other miracles: he healed a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28), healed many others at Simon’s house (1:29-34), cleansed a leper (1:40-45), and restored a paralyzed man (2:1-12)! The religious authorities accuse Jesus of using the power of Satan to do these works, but Jesus points out what the crowd already knows: these miracles are only possible through God’s power.

Satan can’t achieve evil ends with good works, and neither can we achieve positive outcomes if the path is one of evil, deception, or cruelty. Whenever humans try to use just a *little* evil in the name of the greater good, things fall apart. It’s as though Satan is waiting for us to steal that money we promise to use to help widows and orphans, only to pounce and really get us in his grips, and convince us that stealing a little more won’t hurt, and neither will spreading that rumour or starting that fire. If you want to do good, you gotta do good!

While this is a tricky idea to get across to little ones, I found the perfect story to make the concept easier to understand. The Snatchabook is a little critter who desperately wants a bedtime story, but doesn’t have anyone to read to him. His solution? He will steal some books! The families of Burrow Down miss their books and want them back. What’s worse, they accuse each other of stealing the books, leading to suspicions and hurt feelings. Eliza stays up all night to solve the mystery and meets the Snatchabook. She explains that stealing is wrong and helps the little fellow make amends.

There’s nothing wrong with needing a bedtime story! But the Snatchabook learns that stealing stories isn’t the right way to go about meeting that need. Once the books were all returned and the Snatchabook made his apologies, the families of Burrow Down welcome him into their homes for story time. The wrong way often seems like the easy way, and it takes guidance from caring adults for children to learn that doing the wrong thing only ever leads to more wrong things, while doing the right thing, even if it seems like so much more work, will lead to even better things.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • Do you know anyone who has stolen anything? Ask for stories without names.
  • Why do you think people steal?
  • Do you think there’s ever a good reason to steal?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Would you let the Snatchabook into your home after he stole all of those books? Why?
  • What do you think the Snatchabook should have done instead of starting to steal?
  • When you can’t think of a good way to solve your problem, who can you go to for help?

Docherty, Helen. The Snatchabook. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2013.

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Adopted into the Kingdom of God

Year B, Trinity Sunday, Romans 8:12-17; Lectionary reading for May 30, 2021

To get a handle on this passage of scripture, it’s important to define two key concepts: slavery and adoption. Why does Paul use these two words to encourage the community of Roman believers?

Slavery was a common practice in Rome; in fact, 30-40% of the population was estimated to be enslaved. Slaves completely depended on the whims of their masters for survival. They had few rights and could be executed for disobeying their masters. They could be tattooed or branded by their owners, and had a life expectancy of only 17 years, while many Roman citizens lived into their 60s.

And adoption?

In Rome, during Paul’s ministry, they considered an adopted child equal in every way to a biological child—with full rights of inheritance and to the family name. Since having children the good old-fashioned way was unpredictable, wealthy Romans frequently adopted boys to insure they could pass down their fortunes and family names. When a child was adopted in Rome, they immediately gained the status and power of the adoptive family. There was no stigma attached to adoption in first century Rome; rather, adopting out a child was one way for a family to gain status!

Paul used these two familiar practices to demonstrate the shift we experience when filled with the Holy Spirit. We are not slaves to God, only doing God’s bidding out of obligation. We are not slaves to sin, dependent on greed, gluttony, and lust for satisfaction. Instead, we are adopted! When God adopts us into God’s family, we are loved unconditionally and have access to God’s status and power. We inherit the Kingdom of God!

What a great day to talk about adoption in our contemporary lives! Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale by Karen Katz is a touching depiction of adoption based on the author’s own experience. This book pulls readers into the excitement of waiting for the new baby to arrive along with the parents and their community. The mommy and daddy have dreamed of this baby and love her unconditionally, just as God dreamed of us and loves us conditionally.

Over the Moon can spark discussions about family diversity with the kids in your ministry. Children’s literature has come a long way towards better representation of diverse families, but adopted and foster children are still too often left out of the conversation. If you would like more recommendations for books featuring adoption or fostering, leave me a comment and I will send you a list.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What is adoption? (Be prepared to hear about pets!)
  • How many kids can a parent love?
  • Does God love some kids more because of who their parents are?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Why are the mommy and daddy so excited to meet the new baby?
  • What will the mommy and daddy give the baby as it grows?
  • What does God give us as we grow?

Katz, Karen. Over the Moon: An Adoption Story. Square Fish, 2001.

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Here I am! Saying Yes to Hard Things

Year B, Trinity Sunday, Isaiah 6:1-8; Lectionary reading for May 30, 2021

Image Description: a mountain with forests in the foreground, with the text from Isaiah 6:8 overlaid: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!”

Following Jesus is hard work. Yes, we have been set free and born again of the Spirit, but no one said life would be roses and sunshine henceforth and forevermore. In fact, if we are to follow Jesus, suffering is inevitable. God transforms our suffering to bring us closer to the Kingdom, but it is still suffering—rotten, terrible, painful, suffering—just like Jesus experienced on the cross (well, hopefully not to that extreme).

God transformed Jesus’ suffering from death to life to show us that our lives follow the same pattern of death and resurrection. I’m not just talking about physical resurrection or even eternal life in Heaven, but the kind of resurrection we experience all the time right now: those moments when we’ve lost all hope, but… plot twist! Things work out. We experience these moments of resurrection throughout our lives, and I believe they are meant to give us hope that all our suffering is redeemed. That belief didn’t make my ankle hurt any less the moment it broke in three places, but as I suffered through surgery, recovery, and physical therapy, I trusted God would somehow transform my suffering; and God did. My experience with that pain and limited mobility deepened my resolve to make my community and the world more accessible and inclusive.

Isaiah has no illusions about what God asks of him. God asks Isaiah to tell painful truths to the Israelites, truths they won’t want to hear. But Isaiah is a faithful servant and doesn’t hesitate to answer God’s call, despite the difficulties ahead. The last sentence in this chapter summarizes what Isaiah knows about suffering and doing God’s work: “Israel’s stump will be a holy seed” Isaiah 6:13, NLV.

And which book is the undisputed champion of inspiring kids to do hard things?

Watty Piper’s classic The Little Engine That Could has a fresh new look thanks to one of my favourite author/illustrators, Dan Santat, but the text remains the same. The funny little clown still does his best to convince The Shiny New Engine, The Passenger Engine, The Freight Engine, and The Rusty Old Engine to help pull the toys over the mountain, but none will put aside their own comfort for the broken down train. The toys don’t give up though, and ask one more engine, The Little Blue Engine.

My favourite part of this book is that The Little Blue Engine has never gone over the mountain before, but agrees to help the toys. She takes a chance and chugga-chugga-chuggs over the mountain, answering the call despite uncertainty and inexperience. Can we do the same? Are we willing, like Isaiah, to say yes to God, despite our own uncertainty and inexperience? Can we submit to difficulty, even suffering, trusting that we will be transformed?

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What’s the hardest thing you ever had to do?
  • Do you always want to say yes when your family asks you to do something?
  • Who encourages you when things get difficult? Who do you encourage?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Why did the Little Blue Engine say she would help?
  • God sometimes asks us to do difficult things. How can we say yes to God?
  • How does God help us get over the mountains in life?

Piper, Watty. The Little Engine That Could. Grosset & Dunlap, 2020.

Storybook Ministry is reader supported! I may receive a small commission from purchases made through the links on this page as a part of the Amazon Affiliates program.

Can’t You Understand Me?

Year B, Pentecost Sunday, Lectionary reading for May 23, 2021: Acts 2:1-21

Pentecost is one of my favourite days of the liturgical year. I can’t help but imagine the excitement of the scene; the joyful chaos of all those people suddenly understanding each other! I have lived in and traveled to many countries, and without exception, the language barrier is the hardest part. I remember buying a bottle of pop in Korea and really wanting a straw, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember the right word. Finally, I had it! “Une paille, chusayo!” Except I asked for the straw in French and said please in Korean. Sigh.

I lean towards believing in biblical miracles like this one, but even if you don’t, there is so much power in this story. Fifty days after the resurrection, still struggling to find direction, the Holy Spirit fills the disciples and they can communicate! God removed a tremendous obstacle from the path of their evangelism. They could ask for the straw and say please in the right languages!

Even if the disciples weren’t actually speaking languages from Mesopotamia and Cappadocia and every other nation under heaven, somehow they understood and were understood. Something bridged the difference between the disciples and all the other Jews in Jerusalem. They could communicate and spread the teachings of Jesus and the good news of the resurrection, without the usual barriers.

I look at all the languages of the world as more evidence that God loves diversity. But while diversity makes life beautiful and exciting, sometimes it also makes it messy and difficult. Sadly, many people have a tendency to assume that people who don’t speak English fluently are less intelligent. Immigrants are often judged by how quickly they acquire the language of their new home, and meet with frustration rather than patience when they are learning.

Do we really need to learn multiple languages to understand each other? It would help! But God gave us a universal language; one we were all born with. Kindness, empathy, compassion, patience: even when we speak different languages, these character traits help us understand each other. This lovely book by Karen Katz states toward the end:

All around the world, children want to go to school, to walk in their towns and cities, to play outside, and to share food with their families. They want to do all these things and feel safe. No matter how we say it, we all want peace.

Karen Katz

Even if the disciples didn’t spontaneously start speaking other languages, the Holy Spirit filled them and showed them that all people want the same things, no matter where they are from and what language they speak. The same goes for us. When we slow down and take the time to get to know the people in our communities and around the world, it becomes clear that no matter the language we speak, we all want the same things: faith, hope, love, and peace.

Can You Say Peace? is meant to be read on World Peace Day, September 21, so you might need to adjust how you read the first page, but I hope your little congregants will enjoy this trip around the world! The book teaches 11 different ways to say peace, and lists even more at the end. Maybe people in your ministry will know even more! Even if everyone speaks the same language in your ministry, this book helps remind us all that God’s children around the world may speak differently, look different, and behave differently, but we all want peace.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What language do you speak at home? Do you speak any other languages?
  • Have you even tried to talk to someone who doesn’t speak your language? What was it like?
  • How can you communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your language?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Have you visited any places where people speak a different language? What was it like?
  • What are some things other than peace that you think every child needs?
  • Choose one word for peace and encourage the children to practice it and see if they can remember it for next week!

Katz, Karen. Can You Say Peace? Square Fish, 2016.

Storybook Ministry is reader supported! As an Amazon affiliate, I may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this page.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Year B, Pentecost Sunday, Lectionary reading for May 23, 2021: Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

I try not to let my faith get too self-centred, but geez, am I glad God created Earth! Humans have been gazing up at the stars forever, and even with all the astronomical advances that came after Galileo pointed his telescope skyward in 1609, we haven’t found a single planet that even comes close to Earth’s life-friendly characteristics.

Psalm 104 is a song of praise to God’s creation, so let’s celebrate along with the psalmist! Today’s book is a tongue-in-cheek autobiography of our planet full of details that will captivate not just the children of your ministry, but the whole congregation.

Stacey McAnulty and David Litchfield first introduce us to Earth’s family, and then take us back to Earth’s time as an explosive, gassy, and very cranky baby. It takes awhile to get to us humans, but don’t worry, Earth likes us, even if we forget to play nice and clean up after ourselves sometimes. After all, we are the first species that has ever been interested in learning about Earth!

Questions to ask before you read:

  • How do you think Earth came to be?
  • What do you think Earth was like when Earth was a baby?
  • Would you like to live on a different planet?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Did God create Earth just for people?
  • What do you think is the best thing about Earth?
  • What can we do to protect Earth?

Whether or not you add this book to your children’s ministry, please consider sharing this post with other people so Storybook Ministry can reach more churches, families, and schools. I want to make children’s ministry easier on the adults and more fun for the kids!

McAnulty, Stacy. Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years. Henry Holt and Company, 2017.

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Plant yourself by streams of clean, fresh water

Year B, Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 16, 2021: Psalm 1

The bible is full of water imagery, from the parting of the Red Sea to Jesus having breakfast at the lakeshore after his resurrection. Biblical writers understood something about water that contemporary people, particularly those in the global north, often forget: water is not a resource; water is the source of life. Have you ever lived in a community under a boil water advisory? Nothing makes you treasure water quite like it. As of March 2021, 33 Indigenous communities in Canada are still under boil water advisories—the longest of which has been in place since 1995.

Worldwide, the situation is even worse. Some statistics from the World Health Organization:

  • 785 million people have no safe drinking water available within a 30-minute walk.
  • At least 2 billion people depend on water contaminated with faeces.
  • By 2025, half the world’s population will live in water-stressed areas.

How can we prosper like a tree planted by a stream of water if our own water sources are contaminated, or worse, gone?

This award-winning, best-selling book is not without controversy. It is clearly anti-pipeline. If you aren’t sure about how you feel about pipeline projects, I get it. Our society depends on oil for a dizzying array of products and conveniences. It’s difficult to imagine a life without oil, even a life with less oil. But it is impossible to imagine a life without water—because life is impossible without water.

I believe God calls us to protect creation.

The Lord God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and take care of it.

Genesis 2:15 (CEB)

All of creation belongs to God, and deserves our reverence and protection. We make an idol out of oil when we choose our dependence on oil over our need for water. That dependence on oil isn’t going away any time soon, but we can take a stand against the further expansion of it. We still need oil to fuel our cars, heat our homes, and manufacture the million little plastic trinkets in our lives, but we don’t need pipelines to get oil from one place to another at less cost. It is time we accept the cost of what we already use and accept that alternatives might, for a while, cost more.

Let us delight in the law of the lord so that we can be as trees planted beside streams of water, yield our fruit, and prosper. Let our dependance on the allegorical water of God inform how we protect the physical water of the earth which sustains all of life.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What are some things you can’t live without?
  • What are some things you would actually die without?
  • What happens to a tree that gets lots of water?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • What happens to a tree that doesn’t get enough water? What about one that doesn’t get any water for a long time?
  • What happens to our bodies if we drink dirty water?
  • What can you do to help keep the world’s water clean and safe?

When we refuse to criticize our dependence on oil and refuse to demand safer ways drill for it, move it, and use it, we fail to live up to God’s command to care for creation.

Lindstrom, Carol. We Are Water Protectors. Roaring Broom Press, 2020.

Storybook Ministry is reader supported. When you buy through links on this site, I may earn an affiliate commission.

Eating Macaroni in the Bathtub

Year B, Sixth Sunday of Easter, Acts 10:44-48, Lectionary reading for May 9th, 2021

The Jews in Jesus’ time thought they had a monopoly on God. They were the chosen people. They were in covenant with God and knew how to follow the rules to stay right with God. They had high standards of conduct, and if you did not live up to the standard, you could be denied entry to the temple— and therefore, God. Several scenes in the book of Acts report how this understanding of God and who God loved changed for Jesus’ followers. Peter has a vision to help him understand all are welcome, Philip baptises the Ethiopian Eunuch, and here, the Holy Spirit falls upon Gentiles (non-Jews).

The followers of Jesus needed to hear the lesson that all are welcome in the Kingdom of God repeatedly, and I don’t judge them for that one bit. Are we not the same, 2000 years later? Throughout human history, from long before Jesus walked the earth up to the present day, we have struggled with us/them thinking. WE have the answer; THEY are doomed. WE are civilized; THEY are barbarians. WE are human; THEY are animals.

You don’t have to look very hard to find cute videos of Black and white children hugging each other or claiming to be twins because their shirts match. They are heartwarming and give us an opportunity to pat our collective selves on the back. “See, we do live in a post-racial society!” The older those cute little children grow though, the more aware they become of differences around them, and how adults judge those differences. It doesn’t take long for them to realize that most of the world thinks different=wrong.

Fighting back against that thinking is a critical task for parents, teachers, and those who minister to children. The Holy Spirit flowed out upon the Gentiles and Jews alike, because God loves the diversity of creation. Why else would God have created so much diversity?

I wish a single storybook could innoculate our children against fearing and hating difference, but it takes consistent messages of acceptance over a lifetime to fight against the persistence of ‘othering’. Still, a storybook is a pretty good place to start, isn’t it? When Todd Parr writes and draws about diversity, you can’t help but be pulled into the message. His bright, silly illustrations lighten the mood and open our hearts to a deep truth: we are all human, even if we eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub.

Todd Parr’s message of self-confidence, inclusion, and acceptance should be read once a week for best results, but even if you only read it once in your children’s ministry, you are helping to break down the walls we build between US and THEM, and making the world a little more loving.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What makes you different from anyone else?
  • How do you feel when you meet someone who looks or acts differently than you?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Why do you think God made so many different kinds of people?
  • What can you do to get to know people who are different than you?

Thanks for reading my blog, and I hope you will use It’s Okay to Be Different in your ministry! Please consider subscribing to get email updates every time I write a post, and remember to share posts with your friends in children’s ministry! If you click on the book image, you can purchase the book and help support my work with a small commission.

Parr, Todd. It’s Okay to Be Different. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009.

How do we lay down our lives? Y’know, without actually dying?

Year B, Sixth Sunday of Easter: John 15:13-14 Lectionary reading for May 9, 2021

A couple of years ago I read a meditation about the nature of the Gospels that forever changed how I read them:

The three synoptic Gospels are largely talking about Jesus, the historical figure who healed and taught and lived in human history. John’s Gospel presents the trans-historical “Christ.”

-Fr. Richard Rohr

I wanted to start with this statement of how I interpret the Gospel of John because it speaks further to my rejection of dogma (see my post from April 10th). I don’t think John ever intended for his Gospel to be read literally; rather, it needs to be read with a much wider lens.

Jesus the Christ laid down his physical life for his friends as an example for how we are to live, putting love ahead of all else. I would hope as adults, we would agree that there is no higher love than laying down our lives for a friend, but we can’t look at in terms of binary goodness: martyrdom good, staying alive to fight another day, bad. With children, we need to talk about how Jesus sacrificed his life for his friends, but also introduce them to the metaphorical understanding of the crucifixion as well: doing hard things, sometimes REALLY hard things to help our friends and do what is right.

There’s so much to love about What Can a Citizen Do? Dave Eggers’ book features gloriously diverse kids drawn by Shawn Harris who work together to build something none of them could build alone. The words describe how citizens have responsibilities to each other, but the art shows something more: how we are sometimes called to put our own comfort aside to make life better for our friends.

A citizen’s not what you are—a citizen is what you do.

Dave Eggers

The book never specifies the location of citizenship, and I think this is a great opportunity to talk about how, while we are citizens of our communities, we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God, and that holds us to even higher standards. The book demonstrates that while laying down our lives for our friends can be uncomfortable and challenging, it is critical if we want to live the Kingdom of love during our lives.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What is a citizen?
  • What communities are you a citizen of?
  • What are your responsibilities as a citizen?

Discussion for after you read:

  • Tell about a time you when it was hard, but you helped someone anyway.
  • Tell about a time someone put their own comfort aside to help you.
  • What can we do to make sure everyone feels welcome in the Kingdom of God?

Thank you to everyone who has subscribed to this blog, my Facebook page, and my Instagram. Your support means a lot! Please forward this post to others in your circle of friends who may find it useful in their work with children. As always, if you click on the book covers, you can purchase the featured book at Amazon and I will receive a small commission that helps pay to keep this site up and running.

Eggers, Dave. What Can a Citizen Do? Chronicle Books, 2018.

Love, Especially When It’s Hard.

Year B, Fifth Week of Easter; 1 John 4:7-21; Lectionary reading for May 2, 2021

When my kids were 6 and 8, we unexpectedly took in a 5-year-old foster son. A little boy in my kindergarten classroom could no longer stay with his current foster family and was going to spend Christmas at an emergency care home 2 hours away. I reached out to his social worker to see if he could spend Christmas vacation with us so he wouldn’t be with strangers, and he stayed with us for 8 months. It was wonderful, heartbreaking, hard, and we needed to do it for one of ‘the least of these.’

Big D had the warmest smile and was born to cuddle. He loved listening to stories as long as he could wiggle, and could dribble a basketball like nobody’s business. He was always on the move, but put a kitten in his lap, and he’d stroke her fur long enough for us to get supper on the table. He had a hard time remembering things like how to spell his name or count to 5, but he memorized our family prayers within days of moving in. He was easy to love.

But Big D was also a handful. He needed constant close supervision because his behaviour was so unpredictable. He told so many lies it was hard to tell when he was being truthful. He stole things. A lot of things. Thankfully, he always hid them in the same place! Despite the best supervision we could provide, he still stole a friend’s iPod, a lighter from the hardware store, and $100 from the hot lunch cash box at school, along with countless small, shiny things from around the house that we’d find under his pillow each day. He was hard to love.

I needed to remind myself daily of this passage from 1 John. Christ lived in that little boy, and I had to love Big D no matter how tough it was. Abiding in Christ wasn’t just a theoretical experience during those 8 months; it was a daily necessity. While I have spent many years cultivating a loving, positive outlook and manner, loving Big D the way John commands every day felt impossible. By leaning on God, I succeeded more days than I failed.

I found this little book a couple months after Big D came to live with us, and I have complete faith the Holy Spirit put it in my hands. At first, I thought it would be a great book to read to my son Tim, who struggled with jealousy. He had a hard time believing I could love another kid without me loving him any less. I think it helped Tim, but mostly, when I picked this book at bedtime, I was reading it for me.

God loves us so completely he sent us Jesus. God loves us no matter how many of us crowd onto the planet; God loves us even if we eat fast food and watch too much Netflix. God loves us so that we can learn to love like God does. Just as it doesn’t matter how many children are in a family, a parent’s love expands to fit them all, we all have an infinite supply of love when we abide in Christ.

Ok, ok, I’ve made this post way too personal and if I keep going I’ll likely cry, so to wrap up: the kids in your ministry need to know that God will always give them more love than they can ever give away, and the adults in your ministry? They need to hear the same message.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • Who gets more love: a kid with no siblings or a kid with lots of siblings?
  • Does God love you when you are naughty?
  • Does your family love you when you are naughty?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Is it always easy to love the people in your family?
  • Can you love someone you’ve never met?
  • How do you show love to someone you don’t know very well?

I am morally obligated to inform you of my little money-making scheme with Amazon, the one where you click on a book and I earn a 5% commission, but since no one ever actually does, these extra words are just for fun. This book is less than $10 though, so if… let’s see… carry the 1… if 154 people bought this book, I could pay for my domain name this year!

Docherty, Helen. You Can Never Run Out of Love. Scholastic, Inc. 2017.