Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Sign Painter's Dream - A Modern Tale of Giving

Before I was the children's ministry director at our church, I worked in the children's room at our public library. I discovered some great books there. I often developed programs around the books to engage the children in the story. I wrote this post several years ago for a homeschool blog, and thought I would share it here.

The Story
The Sign Painter's Dream, by Roger Roth, is a little known gem in the world of children's books. The story is heartwarming and the illustrations capture the characters well. In my opinion, the picture of the sign is worth the price of the book. You might have to pay a great price to purchase it these days too, because it is out of print. We first discovered it at our local library. There are used copies available though at a fairly reasonable price. I found my copy at a library's used book sale.

Here's the story line: Clarence is a crabby, old sign painter who loves history, especially Revolutionary War history. One day a woman walks into this shop and asks him to make a sign...for free.

"FREE?" he boomed. "Why should I do it for free? Do I look like Santa Claus?"

The apple lady seemed surprised. "But I give away my beautiful apples for free, don't I?..."

That night Clarence has a dream and General George Washington himself enters the shop. He orders a sign saying, "SEND SHOES TO VALLEY FORGE!" And of course, he wants it for free. He sets Clarence straight using some of the same words the old apple lady had used. Clarence wakes up and has a change of heart.

Working through the night, Clarence arrives on the woman's property the next morning and erects the new sign - for FREE of course. And here it is:

It is the classic change of heart story, like Ebenezer Scrooge. People stopped calling him crabby and he got lots of new orders. And once in awhile he even makes a sign for fun - and for free.

The lessons to be learned from the story:

  • It is more blessed to give than receive. (God blessed Clarence's business after he made the sign for free. More importantly, Clarence is blessed by being changed as a result of his giving.)
  • God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). Clarence became a cheerful giver. Was the apple lady a cheerful giver? Do you think her attitude helped to change Clarence?
  • How do you think making the sign for free helped to change Clarence? How did that act of kindness help to become less crabby?
  • Doing nice things for others can help us to become nicer people. Ephesians 4:32

Why not have a colonial picnic in celebration of this book? You can do your own research and find other colonial foods, but here is a suggested menu for a colonial picnic:
Journey Cakes (also called johnny cakes)
Maple syrup (for the journey cakes)
Baked Beans (a favorite in Boston, along with brown bread)
Apple Cider
Apple Pie (or apple tansy if you are real daring)

Make the journey cakes (also called johnny cakes) at home. You will have to eat them cold unless you can devise a way to keep them warm. Same with the beans.

Pack it all up and head for the park. You might even live within driving distance of a park with colonial ties. Google it to check.

So we have our colonial food (sort of), our book, and now we need some games from that time period.
  1. Graces was another popular game. You can make your own set using dowels and embroidery hoops. If you can sharpen one end of the dowels, you will be able to fling the hoops better. Tie some ribbons onto the hoops. To throw the hoop, with one rod in each hand, place the hoop over both rods, then let the hoop slide slightly down the rod and cross them in an X shape. The hoop should be on the lower triangle of the X shape. Then pull the rods apart quickly. The hoop should slide up and shoot away from the player in the direction he aimed for. The other player tries to catch the hoop using one or both rods. First player to catch hoop ten times is the winner. Hoops are generally 9 inches and rods 15-24 inches. 
  2. Hop Scotch - which was known as Scotch-Hopping was popular. Take some giant sidewalk chalk in case you can find a place to draw a board.
  3. Jump Rope - this site has a rope and book with colonial day rhymes and games.
  4. Marbles - If you want to really be authentic, you can purchase clay marbles like children would have used in early America.
  5. 9 pin - outdoor bowling. Take 9 bowling pins and a ball and play it on the grass.

Dressed up for my What's Cooking At the Library? program.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


I was thinking of Tangled when we did this activity. Usually I see something and visualize how we could use it in our lesson, but I was outdone by my co-worker on this one. The story was about Rahab, the spies and the scarlet cord.

Monday, January 28, 2019

DIY Empty Tomb

Our neighbors gave us this pop-up tent years ago for the girls and I to sleep out in the back yard. We used it once for that. But in children's ministry I use it at least once a year. Next to duct tape and a kiddie pool, it is one of the most versatile tools I have used in ministry.

It has been the inside of a cave.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

For the Love of Camels and Rebekah

After spending one year in the New Testament, I find myself back in the old with a whole set of new children. I have visuals from some of these lessons, but the children are younger now, so I am finding that I have to change things up.

I always start to prepare by reading the Bible story first. As I read, I try to visualize the story happening in my mind's eye. When I read this story of Abraham's servant going to find Isaac's wife, I was struck by the fact that he took ten camels. The Bible is very specific to mention that. It is also very specific that Abraham's servant watched closely as Rebekah drew water for those ten camels. Why? That was a lot of work! A camel can drink 20 to 25 gallons in 10 minutes and up to 40 gallons in one session. And there were 10 of them. The camels are key in understanding the story.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Musings from the Laundry Room

The laundry room, in a children's blog, really? Well, this musing is for everyone, children's workers included. And it is free, so it fits the frugal part of this blog.

Most hometown papers has several columns written by local contributors. Ours has one called, "The View from Hickory Hill" written by a woman whose home is located on, well, Hickory Hill. She shares her viewpoint on all manner of things from class reunions to haying to hand-me-downs.

One day this past summer, while we were in North Carolina on a medical leave of absence, I was inspired to write my own the laundry room. So I thought, if Miss Hickory Hill can write a column about the view from her home, I can write one about my view from the laundry room. I have named it, "Musings from the Laundry Room," just in case I ever get inspired to write another post while in the laundry room. 

Our own laundry room was right in our apartment in Chapel Hill, complete with a new washer and dryer and wire shelving on an entire wall.  One day while I was doing the wash, I pulled the bottle of Purex laundry detergent from that shelving and a memory came flooding over me. I had gone to the Walmart in Chapel hill by myself to buy that bottle of detergent because I knew I could get the size and brand I wanted there. I remembered the heat. I remembered clearly where I had parked the car. I remembered the traffic when I left the parking lot. But most of all, I remembered it was well over a month ago that all of that happened. We still had a lot of time in Chapel Hill. Leaving to go home was not even on my mind that day at WalMart. 

As I set about washing towels for perhaps the last time in Chapel Hill, and as I poured out the depleting liquid into the lid, this wave of emotion just came over me - like when you are at the Jersey shore in the ocean, and you don't see the wave coming up on you until it is too late. It came out of nowhere and its dark shadows spread over my spirit that had been so gay a moment before. Our time in North Carolina was almost gone. We were leaving in six days. 

As I stood there with the bottle in hand, I felt how we cannot hang onto anything, I felt the fleetingness of life and moments. I felt my total lack of control over any of it, try as I had to hold onto all the moments and seize the day. The day was still coming that we would have to leave. A sadness hung over my spirit. And then I was comforted by God. Strengthened by the knowledge that come what may, God will never be moving or leaving or changing or depleting. He is a surety, a stability - one I can anchor my soul in. The rock that is higher than I am. He is the ONLY sure thing in my life, or any of our lives. But what a surety he is. And my soul was opened by the warmth of his love and presence and the knowledge of who he is that will always be by my side.

No wonder that David wrote in the Psalm 62: 
Hear my cry, O God
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower...

I don't know what life has brought your way, but I do know that none of us can control it. I hope that you have found the rock that is higher than you are and are anchored in Him so that come what may, you have anchored your soul in God. When those moments come - and you never know when they will - remember the one who never changes and pray with David, "lead me to the rock that is higher than I." Thank God that because of who he is, he IS higher than us, he IS a rock and he can ALWAYS answer that prayer. 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

I Quit!

National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA

OK, be honest, how many of you have a letter of resignation hidden away in a drawer somewhere? I have been in the ministry long enough to know that almost every pastor out there (lead, senior, youth, kidmin or otherwise) has seriously wanted to quit at least once in their lifetime (for some it might be every Monday morning).

Every once in awhile I come across this file in my documents entitled, "Letter of Resignation." Hmmm, what's that I wondered the first time I saw it. So I opened it. It was a letter I had hurriedly typed to our governing board. It was only a rough draft, but there it was, typos and all. "Wow." I thought as I read it, "Did I really feel like that?" And so I decided to keep it, just to remind myself when I get down, that I have been down before, and kept on.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

To Have Children's Church, or Not To

Hamlet's famous line, "To be, or not to be:" rings through the ages. As a children's director in a small church, one of my biggest questions is, "To have children's church, or not to: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler to make workers suffer the slings and arrows of a work force already stretched thin, or to take up arms against the congregation and subjugate them to noisy children in the service." OK, I confess, that is a totally wrong view of ministry to children for either side of the argument, but it was fun to write.