Children


NYC Breakout Preview: Faith through Imagination

This begins our series of previews for our Mockingbird NYC Conference this April. It comes from the one and only Melina Smith.  

Until a character becomes a personality it cannot be believed. Without personality, the character may do funny or interesting things, but unless people are able to identify themselves with the character, its actions will seem unreal. And without personality, a story cannot ring true to the audience. – Walt Disney

We can all recall being small people and being captured through imagination. For me this experience came through vivid stories and films my father shared with me as a child. I can honestly say faith did not come through Sunday School. I can recall being disappointed in the presentation of your average Bible story– they came across as stale, rigid, and lacking in any creativity. As a child I preferred being in the big church; it was there, at the very least,that I heard more compelling and imaginative readings of the Bible. Sunday School felt like a threat–a boring one.

Walt-Disney-and-Mickey-Mouse-at-Disneyland-walter-e-disney-6626898-400-512Fast forward to 2007 when I find myself in the basement of the church, working with a couple of volunteers to create Sunday School programing. I call upon my own childhood, remembering the felt board Jesus, watching Salty, and reading through the KJV. I knew going forward we would not be using materials I grew up with. As our small team continued, we bought curriculums, and worked with Godly Play, the programs we used were good, but I found something was missing.

Why is it that in the Christian subculture we miss our opportunity to capture the imaginations of our youngest members during the time when its development is MOST vivid? As children we are not bound to what’s “real”–we are open to story. Take Walt Disney for instance: you could argue the world of Disney is its very own religious sphere. Disney said, “Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards – the things we live by and teach our children – are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.” He was onto something here. Disney understood the power or imagination, he knew how to communicate the impossible with the hope of plausibility.

Children and grown-ups are captivated by the strength of a story. Sure, the Bible may not include singing lobsters, but each story includes enough drama and risk to capture any listener, if the story is told well.

Join us for “Faith Through Imagination” at the 2015 Mockingbird conference. Jackie DeMarco and I will share how our team has created programing that captures the imaginations of our youngest members. The imagination is the natural way to the heart of our youngest members. Can you imagine creation, the stormy story of Noah, and Jonah’s time in the belly of a whale? Children can so long as the story is told well. Join Jackie and I as we share our process, our vision, and hope for sharing the Gospel through story.

Every child is born blessed with a vivid imagination. But just as a muscle grows flabby with disuse, so the bright imagination of a child pales in later years if he ceases to exercise it.

My Relationship With God Is Better Than Ever

My Relationship With God Is Better Than Ever

(This essay was originally published in issue 3 of The Mockingbird. All issues and subscriptions, including issue 4 which ships tomorrow, are available available here).

“We can permit ourselves to be more romantic than the romanticists and more humanistic than the humanists. But we must be more precise.” —Karl Barth, “The Christian’s Place in Society”

image courtesy of Lutheran Satire

Every recess for eight years, I was picked last on the team for two-hand-touch football. The turning point came in the ninth grade, when recess was replaced by study hall.

But, before that, there was another turning point I had blundered right past: the opportunity…

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Girls Rule the World?

Girls Rule the World?

I saw the original Pitch Perfect on a spring afternoon, taking advantage of a day off work and a child in daycare to indulge in some solo popcorn-eating and foot-tapping in the darkness of a movie theater–one of this introvert’s favorite refuges. Now that this introvert is a mother of two, I watch movies in thirty-minute increments via On Demand from the “refuge” of my bed–a decidedly less interruption-free zone than that inviting theater. Perhaps this is why I so enjoy the movie trailers that I watch on my phone these days during nursing sessions or in stolen/guilt-ridden moments on…

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The Ever-Blurring Line Between Workweek and Weekend

The Ever-Blurring Line Between Workweek and Weekend

As our fourth issue of The Mockingbird makes it way to you, here’s a glimpse at what’s headed your way, the Opener from yours truly.

In an upcoming 2015 documentary called The Land, Vermont filmmaker Erin Davis is capturing the nature of play and risk-taking on an unusual playground in North Wales. The one-acre plot of vacant property, called “The Land,” is known as an “adventure playground,” which allows children of all ages the free space to roll down hills in old tires, to light fires in rusty oil drums, and build forts in trees with hammers and nails. As for…

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Nationwide Law

Nationwide Law

It’s the day after the Super Bowl, and if you’re dragging yourself back into the office after a night of rough sleep, you’re not alone. But wow, what a game! So glad I stayed tuned in until the final seconds.

Did you catch that Nationwide commercial everybody was/is talking about (above)? I’m not sure what was worse–that throw-on-the-one-yard-line play call from the Seahawks or this PSA advertisement hybrid. Right in the middle of America’s biggest nacho-stuffing, beer-chugging, calorie-ignoring partyfest, Nationwide Insurance wants to start a conversation about dead children. Talk about a buzzkill. In fact, a day later, we (read: the…

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“Excuse Me, Ma’am, But That’s TMI”: Four Favorite Moments of 2014

“Excuse Me, Ma’am, But That’s TMI”: Four Favorite Moments of 2014

With three young kids, one who’s a toddler, I don’t get out to the theater much. Being absolutely exhausted at the end of the day, I can barely finish a glass of wine let alone a good novel. I solely rely on Pandora for my music selection and Netflix for TV programming ideas, so I’m not quite “up-to-date” on what’s hot and what’s not in the entertainment industry. But, what I can give you as a year-in-review is, well, me. Before we get any further into January, what follows are some of the moments from this past year when I…

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From the Magazine: The Message of Mercy in Children’s Books

From the Magazine: The Message of Mercy in Children’s Books

This list can be found in Issue 3 of the magazine. It comes from the inimitable Rev. Matt Schneider.

I’m picky about children’s books. There’s a lot of pablum out there, but once in a while my wife and I will find a surprisingly good book for our daughters. The standouts usually have an intangible quality to them, often corresponding with paradoxical acts of mercy between one character and another (and the positive effects). This is an incomplete list of some favorite books that you might consider picking up for your child, niece, godson, grandchild, or maybe even for yourself.

The Pout-Pout…

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2014: A Year in Review

2014: A Year in Review

I once was a fan of New Year’s resolutions–made a list (also a huge fan of lists!) every year. Every year, that is, until grace invaded my life and wiped the sheen off all my self-improvement projects. Now I’m more accepting of my constant work-in-progress state of being and the hand-in-hand partnership between my submission and God’s plan.

But if I had considered such a list twelve months ago, it would have been brief and it would have gone like this: Make 2014 less sucky than 2013. This time last year, I was finishing up a 2013 that included a suspicious…

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Conceiving Advent Differently

Conceiving Advent Differently

As I stumble through the door of the fourth baby shower or “sprinkle” I have attended in the last two months, wobbling atop a pair of rarely worn pumps, my eyes dart immediately to the buffet. I survey the landscape and breathe a sigh of relief: there are mimosas. And pimento cheese. Praise Jesus. Five minutes later, I am balancing a champagne flute in one hand, a blue paper plate in the other (It’s a boy, duh), and am trying to use my pinky finger to transfer a Ritz cracker to my mouth when the grandmother-of-the-honoree pauses her dialogue about…

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Waiting for a Baby: Pregnant at Christmas

Waiting for a Baby: Pregnant at Christmas

This is the second time in my life I have been pregnant during Christmas. With the first, I was only a few short weeks into the process and so mostly just doe-eyed, exhausted, and power-eating Chick-fil-a. This go-round though, I’m at 18 weeks and still running for the toilet every time I eat anything with sugar, change a diaper, or drink liquid with too much vigor.

Nausea aside, being pregnant during “The Season” sheds so much light on “The Reason.” The season leading up to Christmas, what we call Advent, is a season of waiting and anticipation. Easter is probably supposed…

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An Imaginative Festival of Lessons and Carols

An Imaginative Festival of Lessons and Carols

A yearly Christmas pleasure is King’s College at Cambridge’s famous Festival of Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve, nine lessons and nine carols with a beautiful choir and traditional music. For those who just can’t wait, here’s a bit of the rationale of the King’s College service, followed by an Mbird-friendly, fresh and down-to-earth spinoff to tide you over:

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918. It was planned by Eric Milner-White, who, at the age of thirty-four, had just been appointed Dean of King’s after experience as an army chaplain which had convinced him that…

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A Black Friday Bonhoeffer Sequel: Redemption by Christ(mas List)

A Black Friday Bonhoeffer Sequel: Redemption by Christ(mas List)

As I write this, Thanksgiving is almost upon us. I feel as though I am standing on a precipice of sorts, waiting to be pushed over into the rush of the season. I’ve already received my Black Friday Preview Sale emails. I’ve added BUY BREAKFAST CASSEROLES to my calendar for December 23rd. And on top of all of the other “ambitions” I have for the season, I am determined to give my family gifts they actually want.

Last year gift-giving was kind of a bust at Casa Condon. I was working full time and pregnant. So I just got online and…

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