Just Stop It!

A grandfather asked if I had a few jobs his granddaughter could do for me while she visited the week before Thanksgiving. Still building relationships at my new church, we made arrangements for the following Tuesday afternoon. Sweet girl arrived right on time and started making halos for Christmas Eve, helped me set up the Kid’s Welcome Center for Sunday since Preschool was out, and released quarters to be rolled from coin envelopes collected during the previous month’s stewardship campaign.

Come to find out she attended a church where I knew people. Rattling off names, I asked if she knew them.  She did not. One family I knew had endured a horrific and very public loss over the last year, so I found it odd she didn’t know them. I then asked if she went to youth group or middle school group since she was in 8th grade. She said she didn’t have time because of all the other things she’s involved with. “Like what?”, I asked.

She is part of two organizations. One requires 10 hours of community service per semester, and the other 40 hours. 50 hours of community service…per semester! Wow! When I asked how she got involved in the one requiring 40 hours of community service, she said she was invited due to her good grades and it was a high honor to be included…at 8th grade. Pressing further, I asked if she knew of the time commitment ahead of time when she joined? She said, “Yes, but it’s a high honor and I need it on my college application.” I asked, “Can you get your community service hours at your church?” She said, “No. I have to get them at other places.” And would I mind signing this form to get credit for her service hours today?  She pulled out a clean, folded chart filled with 1 hour here, 2 hours there. As I wrote in her 2 hours with me, my heart hurt for her. No doubt she was a ‘good girl’, but she was missing out on the deeper relationships with her local church, the Titus 2 men and women of her home church, and I was the only faith-based organization on her list. What in the world?!

Just the year before a college freshman who was one of my main volunteers for special events told me he could not use all his hours serving in his own home church for community service to receive his ‘cords’ at high school graduation or on his college application according to his high school guidance counselor. So he was scrambling to get the required community service hours in with everything else he was doing as a senior in high school. His team sports hours counted, but his service to his home church did not….except for Vacation Bible School. What in the world?!

Rant coming: Can we just step back and stop it! Stop the busyness and over-crowded schedules of our kids at such a young age especially for the sake of getting into a good college and the honor of being invited to join the elite dance team, elite junior beta club, and elite travel sport team? I know that academics and team sports are important and there is much to learn, but are the ‘honors’ of that taking priority over their deepening relationships with the Lord and His people in His church? It’s the ‘taking priority’ that saddens my heart. Every parent wants the best for their kids, but we get sucked into following the many voices of academia et al as if they know what’s best for our kids. My own kids were average students, not great students in primary, middle, and high school, but they were growing into great people, because of the people who spoke into their lives deeply and shared lives over time at their home church. When they got to college (they still got into good colleges) they knew how to balance their lives, had great devotional skills, and had wonderful people who loved on them through those early years because of the relationships they built in their home church through children’s and youth ministries. When they graduated college, they graduated with the ‘cords’ they didn’t have at high school. Today, they are both highly trained in their vocational fields AND serving local churches, along with their spouses because they had living, breathing, authentic examples of men and women who love the Lord with all their heart as young people. Moms and Dads are doing the best they can. Can we just help them choose Jesus and not apologize for guarding that priority in their lives? Can we just stop saying, “It’s ok,” when it’s not? Can we choose to raise adults committed to the Lord and the gospel rather than over-committed to what? A form? A team? An honor club? Grades? Can we just stop it! Rant over.

As a young mom, I read the following from a source unknown…

Satan called a worldwide convention. In his opening address to his evil angels, he said, “We can’t keep Christians from going to church. We can’t keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. But we can do something else. We can keep them from forming an intimate, abiding experience in Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken.”
“Here is how I want you to do this. Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day.”
“But how shall we do this?” shouted one of his angels?
“Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent numerous schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered.  “Steal their time. Persuade them to work long hours and every day of the week. Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, then borrow, borrow, borrow. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their families fragment, soon their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work.”
“Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still small voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive, to keep the TV, the VCR, their CDs going constantly in their homes. And see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ. Fill their coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day and invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, sweepstakes, mail order catalogs, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes. Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from it exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week.”
“Don’t let them go out in nature. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts and movies instead. And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotion.”
“Let them be involved in soul-winning. But crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Christ. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family unity for the good of the cause.”
Well, in the end it was quite a convention. The evil angels went eagerly to their assignments, causing the Christians everywhere to get busy, busy, busy and rush here and there.”

Not on my watch!

“My zeal wears me out…” Psalm 119:139


2018 Faith Milestone Schedule

Faith Milestones are those moments in time when we can stop to say, “This skill is important for me to learn and understand to continue to grow in my faith in Jesus Christ.” Celebrating these specific faith milestones helps bring an awareness of God’s presence into our homes and highlights the rituals of daily faith formation experiences shared by the family of faith. Just as learning to tie shoe laces, learning to pump your legs on the swing, riding a bike without training wheels, and learning to drive, milestones give us the confidence to say, “This is important and I can do this!”

For 2018, this is the schedule:

January – I Can Pray (1st grade) 1/17 5-6:30pm
Engaging children and families to grow in relationship with Jesus through various prayer practices. Establishing prayer as a normal part of a family’s daily routine and tradition for passing on and experiencing the Christian faith.

February – 5th Grade Rock Solid Retreat (5th grade) 2/3-4
Outdoor ministry is a memorable, formative, and vital part of a child’s faith journey. The experience of going away to camp can renew and enhance spiritual growth.

February – I Love My Church (2nd grade) 2/28 5-6:30pm
Families are invited to come for this special event where they tour the church, learn more about things like baptismal fonts, Bibles, Sunday School rooms, and choir. Memories are created reminding your child of this special place where they hear God’s promises and learn to live and love like Jesus.

March – Bible Ninja Warrior (3rd-5th grade) 3/18 3-5pm
Learn how to use your Bible with the skills of a Ninja, both physically and mentally. At each station resembling the TV show American Ninja Warrior, students will learn the basics of studying the Bible as part of every day, thus building their spiritual muscles as a follower of Jesus.

Princesses of the King 3rd-5th grade Friday 3/23 7-9:30pm Secret Keeper Girl Mother & Daughter Conference @ FBC Woodstock

May – I Can Serve (graduating 5th graders & middle school youth) 5/16 5-6:30pm
Graduating 5th graders, as well as middle school youth) can serve as co-leaders in VBS after learning how to lead and serve our smallest disciples. Students will learn Safe Sanctuary guidelines and appropriate child care-giver systems.

July – Day of Service Retreat With Ms. DeDe (rising 5th & 6th) 7/17 10am-5pm Ambassadors will prepare spaces and supplies for fall children’s ministry programming and last week of summer kid’s camp happening the following week along with fun, fellowship, and learning what the Bible says about being a true blue friend.

July – I Can Go To Sunday School (K4) 7/29 12:15pm-1pm
A special time to welcome preschoolers and their families to Sunday school. This meet and greet event includes hearing a Bible story in The TreeHouse, singing songs, and meeting Sunday school teachers.

August – Blessing of the Backpacks (all K5-5th grade)
Wear your backpack to the Children’s Message at any of the worship services and receive a special blessing as the new school year begins.

September – Fall Camp Glisson Retreat (3rd-5th grade)
Outdoor ministry is a memorable, formative, and vital part of a child’s faith journey. The experience of going away to camp can renew and enhance spiritual growth. Students will attend overnight camp from Friday pm through Sunday midday with other students from North Georgia Conference local churches.

October – Bread & Juice Class (K5 & 1st grade) 10/10 5-6:30pm
Learn the how and why we say, “Yes!” to Jesus as He invites us to the table as his friends for Holy Communion.

November – Ambassadors (4th-5th grade) 11/7 5-6:30pm
Students are offered an opportunity to take on various leadership roles in the year to come. Expectations and learning to serve using their gifts and graces in their home church and in the world.

What else would you add?

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Party Sundays

If we can agree that every Sunday should be a party, some Sundays are even more so!

Christmas Eve morning there will be one service with multiple services that same Sunday evening. Wanting to make the morning special with my kids, we’ll ‘go tell it on the mountain.’ We worship and serve a God of celebration, so let’s do this!

Immediately after the children’s moment in the one service, we will enjoy birthday cake (picked up from BJ’s), party hats and horns (picked up from Dollar Tree), play ‘decorate the Christmas tree’ by wrapping little people with green crepe paper with a bow on top (picked up from Dollar Tree), and making megaphones from paper cups. The kids will decorate their own cups with stickers and such, use a sparkly pipe cleaner, and go around making noise like nobody’s business. Jesus being born is worth making some noise about! Our lesson will be on The Great Commission as we heard the shepherds did just that (Luke 2:20). Go and tell…go and tell!

New Year’s Eve morning we will be back to regular programming, but Sunday school will be a large group celebration since the volunteer base will be lower than usual. AND it gives my weekly faithful Sunday school teachers a break from Ur (usual routine).

Wearing our pajamas to church, eating from a plethora of pop tarts, we will also decorate snowman cookies and play in snow. All to celebrate how Jesus loves us SNOW much! We will cut paper snow flakes and use cars, trucks, spoons, and more in tubs of fake snow. Oh, and we’ll sing and dance!  These are just a couple of our favorite dance praise songs:

What are your favorite praise dance songs?

By the way, the winner of Glenys Nellist’s new book ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas (blog giveaway) is Misty Dolph. Misty is a preschool worship leader at West Cobb Church and a preschool teacher! Thank you and Merry Christmas to everyone who commented.

“They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 145:7

Family Tacky Christmas Party

The goal of the first Christmas Party at my new church was to offer a sticky (excuse the pun) faith formation experience with the children and their families where we serve one another and take a break to play together. When we play together we learn we belong together. Between the games and the food, we accomplished our goal.

Using tacky sweater stickers from Oriental Trading, the photo backdrop from the Preschool’s Breakfast with Santa, and the chance to decorate their own small Christmas tree cookies (tea cakes recipe) with squeezable icing, there was more than enough to do with families lingering as long as they wish in each station.

These were the station signs:

Christmas Card Station: We are so glad the witnesses to Jesus’ birth told the story and someone wrote it down for us to know and to have in the Bible. Who do you think it was that told about what they had seen? Write a Christmas card to someone special. Tell about your family and what’s going on in your life. Then sign it, take it home and your parents can write the address on the envelope to mail this week. (Gel pens, various blank Christmas cards.)

Guessing Station: There were so many people in Bethlehem that Mary & Joseph couldn’t find a room at any inn in Bethlehem. Yet when the baby was born, they knew what to name him: Jesus. Jesus is the sweetest name we know! Write your name on the line and guess how many pieces of candy are in each jar. (One jar filled with miniature candy bars, one jar with skittles, and another jar with starbursts.)

Voting for Tacky Christmas Tshirt or Sweater: Funniest, Largest, Scariest, Clever, Most Original, Most disturbing.

Census Station: Mary & Joseph went to Bethlehem because they had to take a census. A census is an official count or survey of a group of people giving details about the people. Please take this census as a family (I don’t remember where I got the questions, but these are fabulous)…

Game Station: What is your favorite card game and how did you learn to play? Choose a game, find a place to play, and invite others to join you to join in the fun. (UNO, regular deck of cards, Pass the Sweater Game)

Chili Fritos Station: What is your favorite Christmas food? Comfort food is food that makes you feel good and reminds you of people and celebrations that make you feel good. Celebrations like Christmas always have special foods that make the season so very special. (Chili, Fritos, shredded cheese, sour cream, bowls, spoons).

Coloring Station: What’s your favorite Christmas color? Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus colors our life brighter when we follow Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our love, all our minds, and love our neighbors as ourselves? (Enlarge multiple ornament coloring sheets.)

Hot Cocoa Bar: Knowing Jesus came to earth to show us how much God loves us makes us all warm and fuzzy inside! (Candy canes, Swiss Miss in a crockpot, marshmallows, spoons, etc.)

Gingerbread Nativities: Why is the frosting so important to this station? Just like we needed frosting (aka meringue powder found at Michael’s) to hold the nativity together, we need Jesus to hold our lives together. He came at Christmas to be born for us so we can be saved from a life of sin and selfishness. At Easter Jesus died on the cross to forgive us our sins and selfishness so we can have a forever friendship with Jesus and one another both here on earth and in heaven. That’s a reason to celebrate! Where were you born?

Nativity Craft Station: What happened on the day you were born? Jesus was placed in a manger by Mary & Joseph because there was no room in any inn in Bethlehem. Enjoy making a manger for your family to take home. Use the model as an example, but change it up as you see fit. (Lots of ways to do this station based on what is already in your storage/supply room. Pinterest it!)

Minute to Win It cup games made for a hilarious way to close out the night and even the youngest siblings could play with inexpensive, yet colorful props for photos. We had a ball! A home-school mom even asked to borrow much of what we put together for this event for her home-school group. I considered her asking as the ultimate compliment.

“Sing to Him a new song! Play your best with joyful shouts!” Psalm 33:3 CEB

We’re Going To Bethlehem!

We’re going to Bethlehem…Bethlehem, Georgia, that is! At our October children’s ministry networking luncheon, Kate suggested we partner with one another and take older elementary students to Bethlehem for Christmas. Bethlehem United Methodist Church presents a live nativity in downtown Bethlehem each year, so we are travelling to Bethlehem on the Friday before Christmas!

Each church has promoted it among their own, secured or are sharing transportation, picked up glow necklaces, and ordered tshirts for everyone: Christmas green with white print…United Methodist Church logo of cross and flame on the front pocket…”Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:15 on the back. We wanted something that could be worn beyond the Advent season.

The plan is to leave our churches early Friday afternoon and meet up at Fort Yargo State Park just outside of Bethlehem, Georgia for hiking, playing, snacks, and putt putt golf. $60 reserved a covered pavilion to share with $5 parking per vehicle. This gave us a great first destination to meet up not knowing what holiday traffic in Atlanta would look like.

After contacting the fabulous Children’s Ministry Lead there, we have all been invited for a hotdog dinner at the beautiful Bethlehem United Methodist Church. We’ll play get-acquainted games, share some table-life, then all head to the live nativity together for the 7pm presentation.

With Chick-Fil-A around the corner, the plan is to stop for ice cream before heading home.

I love the creative connection of our Children’s Ministry teams! Ever been to Bethlehem for Christmas?

“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:15

‘Twas The Evening of Christmas: A Book Review and Giveaway

Ever gotten your hands on a book with so many possibilities it got hold of your heart? Well, that’s exactly what happened the first time I laid eyes on Glenys Nellist’s new book ’Twas The Evening of Christmas. Glenys Nellist, an English gal engaged in fabulous ministry with children in Michigan, is a grandmother, a mom to four young men, and Coordinator of Children’s Ministry for the West Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church. Glenys has written several children’s books based on scripture. Her books fill my shelves because her words in rhyme make the Bible sing.

A poem published anonymously in 1823 as A Visit From St. Nicholas, is affectionately known by it’s first line, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. In 1837, Clement Clarke Moore claimed ownership. Glenys wrote the birth story of Jesus with this cadence and rhythm. She has a true gift of poetry, especially using child-friendly phrases that children (and I) love.

I got my hands on this book in October, just as I was planning the Kids and Candles Christmas Eve service. The very next day I was joining a team of long-time children’s ministry folk and the book made its way around the table in no time. Since then, several of us have collaborated on the many ways we’ve incorporated it into our advent events and Christmas Eve.

Glenys shared 3 of her top ideas to use ‘Twas The Evening of Christmas in the classroom is 1) Students act out the story as a narrator reads, 2) Read aloud in a service with images shown on the big screen (permission can be obtained from Zonderkidz), and 3) Make it interactive by reading each stanza, but omit the last word and have kids fill in the missing rhyme. We are doing #2 with a spontaneous nativity as children come forward with various headpieces as shepherds, angels, stable animals on Christmas Eve. I shared the story at our Preschool last week as the Mystery Reader with idea #3. The children LOVED it!

Elena Selivanova has illustrated this book with great beauty and uncluttered images. The focus is on the baby and isn’t that the way it should be? I especially loved the way Elena depicts Mary always looking at Baby Jesus and the eyes of the shepherds as the angels come to bring the good news of His birth.

I’ve already ordered several copies TWICE, and am giving them as gifts this season. What’s next? Glenys will be adding to her Love Letter series with Easter Love Letters From God to be published January 30th. Just in time for Lent! This latest book in the Love Letter series has seven stories with seven lift-the-flap love letters from God, beginning with the ride into Jerusalem and ending with the resurrection.

I’m thrilled to share as part of this blog post, Zondervan is providing a free book giveaway of ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas! Comment below with your favorite part of the Christmas story and you’ll be entered to win. The winner will be announced next week! (This giveaway is open to residents of the USA only, who have a physical street address…no PO boxes).

“As Mary and Joseph got ready for bed, they snuggled their baby and kissed his sweet head.” – Glenys Nellist, ‘Twas The Evening Of Christmas

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

Gingerbread Nativities

Little people can make the traditional Christmas season gingerbread house OR we can get our “Jesus is the reason for the season” on and do a little something different: edible nativities aka gingerbread nativities.

The base is important, so line a deep-dish paper plate with foil to keep the ‘hay’ in place.

Prepare the stable using the graham crackers and the frosting onto the foil-lined plate using craft sticks. Be generous with the frosting and it should harden well for the little people to continue to decorate without fear the thing will collapse. In my new church, I have a dear friend who is helping me set up with homemade, edible ‘paste’ after church, but before the grand event this week.

Must-haves for decorating: M&Ms/Skittles (pop of color), pretzel sticks, animal crackers, and the Pepperidge Farm People cookies (found ours at Publix). Leftover candy from the fall festival is good place to start. This year I’ll also pick up fruit tape and chocolate chips, raisins, and anything else that would make for a fun stable. When all the decorating is finished, top it off with a good crunching of a Shredded Wheat bar over it all for hay. Then all goes home in a 2.5-gallon Ziploc bag.

Christmas Bible Question: According to the Bible, what animals were in the stable the night Jesus was born? Answer: No animals are listed in Luke 2.

This station will be one part of our Kids Family Christmas Party this Sunday.  There will be chili Fritos, T-shirt shaped Christmas cookies, games, and a tacky Christmas T-shirt/Sweater contest.

“You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.” Psalm 128:2

Worship History In The Making

A couple of Sundays ago, I attended the soft opening of a new worship service which will fully launch on Easter Sunday, 2018. Like a new pair of shoes, it fit, but it felt awkward. It felt just enough different/new to let me know this may take some getting used to.

I’ve never been one with expectations for worship. I’ve never understood those who insist worship has to be a certain way. Liking all kinds of music, offering the tithe in all kinds of receptacles (once in a kiddie pool), prayers, and greeting folks with a smile or a handshake, a well communicated Bible-based message, these are staples to every worship service I’ve been part of. All that happened. Which is why I can’t even explain why it felt awkward.

The space is unfamiliar. The order of service is unfamiliar. The sights and sounds are unfamiliar. The people we seek to reach may be unfamiliar, too. That’s the most exciting part for me. My role? To offer support and resource the children’s experience so that it jives with the new service, yet still has the level of excellence and enough shared DNA to know we are all part of the same family of faith of the local church I serve. The opportunity to collaborate with lots of voices makes me downright giddy!

What will the new, Sunday, 1pm service truly look like, sound like, smell like, and feel like come Easter Sunday 2018? I have no idea. But I get a front row seat in the movement of the Holy Spirit. I’ve met and begun to share life with both the clergy and the laity called to champion this endeavor. I think about it a lot, which prompts me to pray through my jumbled thoughts. That’s a good thing.  This I do know: I have been invited into history…a remarkable and sacred moment in the life of the local church family I now call home. I’m excited about it! Stay tuned. Or better yet, will you pray with us as we answer God’s call to reach the world with the love of Jesus…even if it’s in MY awkward-unfamiliar?

“But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way,
    who can’t see where they’re going.
I’ll be a personal guide to them,
    directing them through unknown country.
I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take,
    make sure they don’t fall into the ditch.
These are the things I’ll be doing for them—
    sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.” Isaiah 42:16, The Message
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Kay’s Thanksgiving Routine

We moved to New England 25 years ago the first week of November. I had never lived north of I-10 and was truly a southern fish out of warm water. Family staples like grits, Jimmy Dean pork sausage with sage, Rotel tomatoes, and Duke’s mayonnaise were not to be found. This young mama was just trying to feed her babies!

Three weeks in and it was Thanksgiving. My mom had her hands full when we were younger and I don’t recall a Thanksgiving meal being prepared. Most of our holiday family traditions came from my step-mother, Ms. Bobi. She could set a feast on a table like nobody I’d ever known and use every pan in the cabinet to do it. Sweet memories of all the women folk cleaning up and belting out “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” So, breakfast with cheese-eggs, bacon, and blueberry muffins I could pull off without a problem. But it was my mother-in-law who taught me the most important part of Thanksgiving: How to have everything ready and on the table at the same time. A quick phone call on our first New England Thanksgiving morning, I wrote it down as she dictated to me Kay’s Thanksgiving Routine.

Depending on what time everything needed to be finished and ready for the table, the day begins with the pie. Really!  The pumpkin pie sets the day in motion. All the details of rubbing oil and sage all over the Butterball to the gravy from the pan drippings are written down. Kay’s Whittlesey family of independent women also had a dressing they prepared with white bread, sausage, apples, and sage. It’s lethal, but oh, so delicious.  It took me about three years to perfect it. My hand-written notes get pulled out each year and I still hear her voice. Oh, how I miss her.

Yesterday I was texting with a friend and I shared that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Food and family are the only expectations around a table that is set with my mother-in-law’s china that just so happens to match mine. Interesting, she was with me when I picked it out. As the day goes on and the number around our table increases, I tell the stories of the china, those cold days in New England, and the silver pieces. Family history around the table. Many recipes pulled out for this day written in the handwriting of so many who have gone on to Glory.

Sally Clarkson writes in The Life Giving Table Experience, “The story of our family has been written at tables. Not with pen and paper, but with words and people, food and fellowship, talk and time. When we sit at our tables, we’re not just an aggregate of individual family members eating and drinking to stay alive; we’re a congregation of communing souls hungering and thirsting to experience the goodness and beauty of the life God has designed just for us. It’s not just about the physical act of eating, but about sharing and enjoying life as God designed and gave it to us. That is the essence of the lifegiving table.”

May your table give life this Thanksgiving and the Lord find us faithful to give thanks for those who set the table before us.

“She has set her table.” Proverbs 9:2b International Children’s Bible

Star Follower

Movies are the one thing that can give my brain a reset because I get all involved in the story. When I got the evite to attend a preview showing of an animated story of the Baby Jesus, I was all in. As I registered for tickets, I was encouraged to bring kids. So I met the grands and their sweet Mama at The Varsity for dinner and we settled in for their first theater movie.

Sony Pictures Animation has a winner here. The story of the first Christmas is told from the animals’ perspective. Once Bo (short for Boaz) is befriended by newlyweds Mary and Joseph (six months into the pregnancy) the story moves quickly. Bo’s sidekick is Dave, a dove with lofty aspirations. Bo and Dave dream of joining a royal caravan, but when they see that Mary is in danger of a big meaner with two angry dogs, they head to Bethlehem to warn her. On the journey to Bethlehem they team up with Ruth, a loveable sheep who has lost her flock, as she knows there is something special about that bright star in the night sky. So much so that Ruth is now a lone sheep far from her flock.

Snippets of subtle Christmas music is throughout the story. The animation prompts me to want to touch the screen because it. is. beautiful. The fur, the eyelashes, Mary’s freckles, Joseph’s expressive eyes, the lighting draws you into the story immediately. The humor is plentiful and thankfully, nothing is crude. This totally impressed me in the storytelling. Even the sinister Herod and the meaner with the dogs never crossed the line of creepy-scary. When the wisecracking camels sarcastically called Herod, “sinister”, that’s enough to let you know who the villain is. His meaner henchman never says a word and I can’t even recall him making a sound. He wears an iron mask (yeah, think Man in the Iron Mask) and is just a huge guy who leads the two meaner dogs who undergo a transformation by the end of the movie because of the kindness of Bo.

The laughter of all the kids in the movie was a beautiful sound to hear because this movie is SO funny, but clean, encouraging, and not sassy. I admit to tearing up twice…at an animated movie! My grandson’s favorite line happened toward the end when the meaner dogs want to see the newborn king. Just as the scene could turn me into an emotional mess as the other animals let the meaner dogs near the manger, a wisecracking camel jumps in and yells, “Look only with your eyes!” which caused us all to roll in laughter. I heard the phrase a dozen times on the walk to the car in the parking lot.

THE STAR is precious. It is beautiful. It is hilarious. It is younger-elementary and preschool friendly. Our three-year-old granddaughter got startled at an action scene toward the end because she had dozed off in her Mama’s lap. She loved Mary and the camels, and was most excited about the colored pencils and coloring sheets that came in the swag-bag.

The facilitator of the preview said the movie was still in post-production so there will be more to come when it opens this weekend on November 17th. The preview was less than an hour which is a good time for preschoolers. At the conclusion of the movie we answered a question about the biblical account to get an early-reader book which my grandson started reading as soon as he was locked and loaded in his car seat.

The closest theater showing The Star to my local church is not close, but I am going to try to put together a trip for us all to enjoy. Road trip anyone?

Additional Resources: http://www.thestarmovie.com (includes discussion starters)

“Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.'” Luke 5:26