“Pastor Jeff, I never got a stuffed animal.”
You see, I have this practice. I’m not sure when I started it, but it’s been years.
Kohl’s has stuffed animals for sale near their checkout areas for $5 each. Sometimes they are “people” like Charlie Brown or PigPen, other times Disney, Dr. Suess, or other notable characters. So I buy a couple every time I go and stock them in my office. I let children come in and pick a stuffed animal from my caché.
I’ve given stuffed animals to boys as old as ten, or to toddlers as young as two. But every kid can get one from me. So far I’ve been able to limit it to just one. Sometimes months will go by between opportunities, but it’s always a highlight for me to give a stuffed animal to a kid in my church.
When I give a stuffed animal to a kid, I tell them things like:
- “Be careful, he bites.”
- “Make sure you hold her at night, or she might be scared.”
- “I’ve heard him talking in the cupboard to the other animals, so don’t let him keep you awake when you’re supposed to be sleeping.”
- “She likes you, she told me yesterday that she hoped you would pick her from the others.”
- “He likes to look out the window when you take him on car rides.”
- “Make sure you don’t leave her with your little brother, she’s afraid of wild boys.”
- “If you take him to the store, watch him in the checkout line, he likes to snitch candy bars!”
So when Susie said to me this morning, “Pastor Jeff, I never got a stuffed animal,” I stopped dead in my tracks, (somewhat shocked that she had actually spoken to me!) invited her in to look at the collection, and let her pick out the little dog from 101 Dalmatians, whose name escapes me at the moment.
We had a short conversation, but SUSIE TALKED TO ME! We made a connection, and she walked out happy with her doggie. Her dad told me on the phone that afternoon that she hadn’t put it down all day.
I’m a pastor so that I can help children develop an idea of what God is like.
God is happy. God loves them. God wants to know them. God likes to give them gifts. God is always there.
I try to show happiness to kids, and love them, and get to know them, and even give them a stuffed animal at least once. And, I believe that a long pastorate helps kids to know God better.
Susie’s words to me, expressed through wide, wondering eyes reminded me why I want to be a pastor, in the same church, for a long time.
The second conversation was after church. With a young mom. She was walking across the lobby, and when I reached out to her to say hello I saw the tears in her eyes. “Oh, you’re crying… I’m sorry,” I said. “I know, I probably need to talk with you. Could we maybe talk right now, maybe in your office?” she replied.
Well, of course.
We spent about fifteen minutes as I listened to her fears and concerns. She was uncertain, confused, discouraged, and maybe just wanted to quit on this whole “God and the Bible” thing. What should she believe anyway? It was all so confusing.
My heart went out to her as I realized that she was in the same place my wife has been, and I have been. She was deconstructing much of what she was taught as a child, and the theological reconstruction in her heart was very hard, very confusing at times, and quite unsettling.
I encouraged her to talk with both my wife and I about this – “this is right down my wife’s alley!” I told her. She was happy to make an appointment to talk with us later this week.
I am seriously, severely, vehemently, and voraciously looking forward to it! J
This young mom reminded me why I wanted to be a pastor!
I want to help people make sense of the Scriptures, and of God the Father. I want them to know Jesus, and his love. I want them to walk in the Spirit. I want them to have the joy of the LORD even in the midst of life’s inevitable crises, burdens, and trials.
I want people to be freed from their burdens!
The Pharisees placed huge burdens on peoples’ backs and did not lift a finger to help them carry the load. I don’t want to do that. With the Gospel of Jesus, we can remove her burdens, and lighten her load.
Jesus’ yoke is easy, and his burden is light. Yeah. What Jesus said! I like it.
One young girl. One young mom. Thanks to both of them, I am reminded again, and happy again, to be a pastor at my church.
Two conversations that remind me the Kingdom of God is for people today, and I get to declare it to them, and share it with them.
Why do you want to be a pastor? Share what fires your pastoral heart in the comments section below…