Ella Toe Head

Just For Fun, Leaving a Mark

Just for fun

Ella Toe Head

On a morning just like any other morning, Ella woke up an got out of bed. She looked in the mirror and screamed! “AHHH! When did I grow toes on my head?”

Ella made her way downstairs. Her mother walked past her and didn’t think twice as she smiled at her daughter and said, “Ella, my dear don’t your toes look nice.”

Ella was quite confused at what her mother had said. She thought to herself, “Toes are not supposed to grow on your head!”

They live on the end of your sweet little feet, hiding in your shoes and under your sheets.

“Maybe Daddy will know about these toes up there. He always has wisdom and insight to share.”

Back upstairs little Ella did creep with her toes on her head and toes on her feet.

Her father was sitting in his chair with a book. And he said to Ella without taking a look.

“Ella my dear what have you done. You grew toes on your head. My, my what fun.”

They laughed and they giggled and they rolled on the floor. And then big brother came bursting through the door.

“Doesn’t anyone else think it is strange,” he said. “That Ella has grown three toes on her head?”

“Cut them off now, make them go away. Ella, toes on your head look weird, I must say.”

Father and mother looked at big brother and said, “We love your sister Ella even with toes on her head.

“Some people are different than you and me. Some are quite tall, others short as can be.

“Some can grow hair while others have none. Some like to walk, others like to run.

“So we love your sister, toes on top and all. Nothing can change that however big or small.

“You see big brother, our love is from God who gives it without fail. And we love you too even though you grew a tail!”

 

by Mark T. Collins
written in Gatlinburg, TN sometime after having a conversation with Ella’s dad about a dream she had

© 2016 Mark T. Collins All Rights Reserved

Ezra tells an Easy Rabbit Story

Easy Rabbit, Leaving a Mark

cropped-easy-rabbit-horizontal.jpgImagine three children nestled into their bed’s. Mommy and Daddy are there with the youngest. His name is Ezra. He is fun-loving, imaginative, and surprisingly articulate for a two year old boy. He says that he wants to tell us a bedtime story about Easy Rabbit, a lovable bunny who lives in a hole with his family and adventures into the woods with all of the woodland creatures. Naturally we all agree. I grab my phone so that we can capture this moment. I love stories and this one just entered my top ten of all time!

Ezra tells us the story of a rabbit, a skunk, and a four-wheeler. Here is your first taste of Easy Rabbit from the mouth of a two year old. Remember that you are listening to a two year old – give it some time!

Cyrus Maxwell

Just For Fun, Leaving a Mark

Cyrus Maxwell Edited

Cyrus Maxwell

Cyrus Maxwell is a lovely lad.
Even though his breath smells bad.
Garbage for supper then straight on to bed.
In the morning you’d’ve thought his insides were dead.

Cyrus can hardly keep a buddy
’cause his words smell so cruddy.
If you go too far, it might make him yell
and everything in sight will be dead from the smell.

What’s that you say? I exaggerate
this poor boy’s odorous fate?
Well, let me ask you one question right now,
Have you ever been near the rear end of a cow?

Once when he was twelve he gave a speech
on “How to Lengthen Your Reach.”
His arms did not heed his soliliquy
for his toothbrush and paste has yet to meet his teeth.

Poor Cyrus is as sweet as can be
despite the stench ‘hind his cheeks.
Mints can quickly fix his one fatal flaw
until the next time he dines in the rubbish stall.

 

Mark T. Collins
written in the Veranda at the Rabbit Hole and in the school room at the Rabbit Hole

 

© 2016 Mark T. Collins All Rights Reserved

Sing the Bible with Slugs and Bugs, Volume 2!!!

Leaving a Mark

Sing the Bible Volume 2Is it okay for me to listen to my kids music in the car all alone when my kids are far, far away from me? Absolutely! But, only if that music is one of the albums by Slugs & Bugs.

Randall Goodgame, the creative force behind Slugs & Bugs has accomplished something incredible by doing for music what C.S. Lewis and A.A. Milne did for literature and what Pixar did for film. He has recorded music that is enjoyable for kids and equally enjoyable bigger kids (adults). The whole family can enjoy his music together travelling down the road in the mini-van, cleaning the playroom, or during family worship. Mom and Dad, feel free to listen alone without any guilt. It’s ok. I promise. No seriously, you can turn it up louder. Don’t even worry about that car beside you giving you strange looks. It is completely normal for a grown adult human to sing at the top of their lungs about Mexican Food or Bears.

For his last two albums, Randall Goodgame has written and recorded scripture to music. What a gift to have the precious words of Scripture joined with quality music echoing through your home and the hearts and minds of you and your children. My two-year old can quote scripture. Yep, you heard that right. It’s crazy.

Sing the Bible Volume 2 will be released on March 18th, 2016. The theme of the album is a Musical Handbook for the Christian Home. It features scripture from Isaiah 40 (Do You Not Know), Matthew 5 (Let Your Light Shine), Ephesians 2:8-10 (Masterpiece), The Ten Commandments, and much more.  The fourteen songs on this album could quite possible represent more scripture than you have ever memorized up to this point in you life. Just think of the possibility of sharing that with your children. King David wrote, I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:11).” Perhaps you have been searching for ways to “store up” scripture in your heart, Sing the Bible Volume 1 and 2 will help set you on this path.  

Sing the Bible Volume 2 is not just an album that you will want to buy for yourself. You will want to buy multiple copies and give them away to your friends, family, and strangers who have children (well, maybe you should introduce yourself to them and then shortly after that you can hand them a CD).
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Dads helping out at Slugs & Bugs LIVE!

If you live in the Statesville, NC metropolitan and surrounding areas, Slugs & Bugs LIVE! is coming on Friday, March 18th. Yes that is the same day Sing the Bible Volume 2 releases. You can find out more information and reserve free tickets for you and your family at www.westernavenue.org/slugsbugs. If you are reading this and know of anyone who would enjoy Slugs & Bugs Music or Slugs & Bugs LIVE!, please pass this along to them.
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Slugs & Bugs LIVE! is interactive for the whole family

To learn more about Slugs & Bugs news and music at www.slugsandbugs.com
To sign up Slugs & Bugs newsletter, (The Slugs & Bugs Bacon) visit www.slugsandbugs.com/the-bacon/ 
To purchase Sing the Bible Volume 1, visit Slugs & Bugs store!

 

Look Up!

Leaving a Mark, Uncategorized

light-man-new-year-hope

During the summer before I entered the fifth grade, my cousins were home. Their dad was in the Air Force, and they were preparing to move to Japan. I always loved when they came to visit (still do). We played, laughed, talked, and enjoyed that time. There was one particular day that I remember well.

My young brother had been playing in a plastic swimming pool earlier in the day. He has a great imagination and if my memory serves me correctly, he was pretending to play baseball. He would pretend the ball was pitched to him. He would pretend to hit the ball and then he would round the bases. Home plate was the swimming pool of course. There was always a play at the plate, and he would have to make a head first slide into the swimming pool in order to beat the tag.

Well, he left all of his gear in the pool. Or at least he left his bat. This was not your typical plastic wiffle ball bat. It was a molded plastic bat made to look as though it had wood grain in it. The plastic was thicker than a normal wiffle ball bat. You couldn’t bend it over your knee like you could a wiffle ball bat. As the bat sat in the pool all afternoon, it slowly began to fill with water.

That afternoon, my older cousin, my brother, and me were out in the yard. My cousin began to swing the water-logged bat. For some reason my Atlanta Braves hat was in the pool as well. My cousin picked up the hat had tried to hit it.

I was standing about twenty feet to his left. Almost in perfect position to be playing third base if we were playing on a short field. For a second, I looked down. I looked away. I cannot remember if I happened to look back at what he was doing or if someone called my name. I am leaning toward the latter. As soon as I looked back toward him, I saw the bat flying through the air, spinning.

At this moment all things turned to slow motion. It felt like a minute before the bat got to me, but it had to be a split second because I had no time to raise my hand to block the bat.

BAM! The bat crashed into my face leaving those fake wood grain impressions.  As I grabbed my face, I could feel blood running through my fingers. I screamed!

My dad and my aunt were in the front of our house painting shutters. They didn’t move when they heard me scream. I guess I must have screamed a lot. They just thought I was being dramatic. So, my older brother obviously disturbed by the blood ran and got my dad. When we got the bleeding stopped, I got into the car and he took me to the doctor. I looked into the mirror of our Volkswagen Beetle and my nose obviously no longer straight. The doctor popped it back into place and then followed up with surgery a week later.

For a split second I had looked down. I often wonder what would be different if I had been looking up. What if I would not have taken my eyes off of the bat? There is no way of knowing what the outcome would have been. I only like to think that I could have had time to pull my arms in front of my face. Maybe I could have walked away that day with two bruised forearms instead of a broken nose.

In Daniel chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar looks down from his rooftop to his kingdom below. He sees the great Babylon – the city that he built, the palace that he built, the hanging gardens that he built – his kingdom. He boasts of his greatness and his glory. And his kingdom was great. He did had two of the ancient wonders in his kingdom – the forty-foot-high double-encased walls that chariots could ride on and the famous hanging gardens. By worldly standards, he was on top. He had everything that anyone could want. He was the most powerful man in the world. So, he did what powerful men do. He looked down and he admired the kingdom that he had built. He was distracted from looking up by all of the wonderful and glorious things that he had built.

But, as he looked down, he was about to receive a lesson from above. A year prior to his rooftop boast, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. It was a horrifying dream. It was a dream that Nebuchadnezzar could not figure out. It was a dream that was about his future. No one in the land could interpret the dream for the king except for Daniel, the man of God. Daniel explained to Nebuchadnezzar that his dream was a prophecy about his fate. A tragic fate that would leave him humiliated. If he did not change his arrogant ways, he would be driven out from his kingdom and made to eat the grass like the oxen (Daniel 4:4-27)

Nebuchadnezzar looked down on his kingdom and he boasted arrogantly about how great he was. In Daniel 4:31, the words of his greatness were still in his mouth with a word from heaven came down and decreed his fate. Nebuchadnezzar was immediately driven from men and began to eat grass like an ox (Daniel 4:33). How humiliating! At one point he was at his highest height. At another point, we was brought as low as you could possibly get.

What do you look down on? What kingdoms have you built that you take pride in? We build kingdoms of friendship, grades, sports, and reputation. We build kingdoms of wealth, houses, jobs, and families. We take pride in how much money we have. We take pride in how big our house is. We take pride in how good our children are. We take pride in how good our grades and our jobs are. We look down on these little kingdoms, and we like Nebuchadnezzar declare how great we are and how great our little kingdoms are. We look down on our social media profiles and we admire the number of notifications that we get. We live and die by the number in those little red circles. They give us a false sense of security about how great we are.

Others don’t look down on little kingdoms and say, “How great I am!” You look down on yourself and think about all your shortcomings. You look at everyone else’s kingdom and think that you are not worthy. You don’t like the life you’ve been given and you certainly don’t enjoy it. You would probably never be caught boasting and bragging about how great things are. But, you too are looking down on your kingdom, and perhaps you would do everything in your power to keep your life miserable. N. D. Wilson has a quote in his book Dandelion Fire that says, “Self-loathing and self-worship can easily be the same thing. You hate the small sack of fluids and resentments that you are, and you would go to any length, and betray anything and anyone, to preserve it.” Self-loathing – looking down on yourself – is still a form of worshipping your own little kingdom.

What happened to Nebuchadnezzar after his humiliation is a lesson for all of us to learn. In Daniel 4:34, Nebuchadnezzar says, “At the end of the days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to the heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him who lives forever.”

Nebuchadnezzar looked up. He looked up to the heavens and realized who was really in charge. He confessed that God is the Most High. He took his focus off himself and looked up to God.

Nebuchadnezzar’s fall and restoration is a lesson for us all. Let’s learn from his mistakes so that we are not humiliated like him. Take your eyes off of yourself and your kingdom. Look up. Look up and see the world around you, nothing you have built is greater than the world that God has built. Look up from your phone. Look up from computer. Look up from your job. Look up and recognize that God is the King. Look up to Jesus, the one who was lifted up for your sins (John 3:14-16).

Looking down leads to destruction. Looking up leads to life.

Look up!

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Treasured Possessions

Christian Identity, Christian Living, Hope, Leaving a Mark

blankieI am almost ashamed of all of the things I have accumulated over my lifetime. As I look around my office, filling the shelves are lots of books that I love. Also, pictures hang on the walls, sports figures and toys have stepped out of my old toy box onto the shelves to constantly remind me of my childhood. I believe I could make it if they were destroyed (as I just wrote that I am not quite sure that I am ready to test that theory). However, I have a two-year old son who has a possession that he treasures. He cannot survive without it (I take that back. I imagine that he could survive, but he would make survival difficult for everyone else in our family).

His possession is dingy. It is dirty. It often smells. It is pink. It’s his blankie, but it doesn’t look like it belongs to him.

I can’t exactly remember when he first became attached to it. When he was born, we had been given several smaller security blankets (one with taggies all over it and another that had a sock monkey head). He never really took to them. Then one day, it seemed that he had to have the pink blanket. This wasn’t a hassle at all. I mean it was bigger than he was, so it was almost impossible for him to take it anywhere when he was crawling around. It had one small tag on one side that is almost always impossible to find. No big deal.

When he finally learned to walked, he started to drag that blanket around everywhere – across the yard, across the floor, across the carport. It got dirtier and dirtier. Sometimes it gets so bad that we have to strategically plan times for the blankie to get a wash.

In all of his two years of existence, it is still his most prized possession. He has to have it – in the car, in his backpack at school, during his naptime, as he goes “night night” it is there. It is stained, cumbersome, and impractical, but it is his. And don’t you even act like you are going to take it from him. He will only cling tighter and give you a look that could quite possibly kill you.

It is pink with hearts because it belonged to his older sister at one point in time. Of all the blankets in all the house, he chose that one. His sister hardly used it, so he chose it. He redeemed it from the pile of under used blankets. He gave it purpose.

Many times over the last several years, my kids have been great illustrations to me about the love of Christ. As I watched my son carry around that blanket and treasure that blanket, I began to realize that I was like that blanket in the hand of God. God chose me. He redeemed me. He gave me purpose. Though I am dirty, dingy, and broken, God has called me his treasured possession.

Those who believe in Christ and follow him are like that blanket. You are God’s possession as we read in 1 Peter 2:9. God loves you. God treasures. God has redeemed you and given you purpose. You are his. He will never let you go.

Sometimes I forget who I am. I am sure you do too. I don’t forget my name or anything like that. But, I do forget my identity in Christ. There are many voices in my head and in the world that try to compete for my attention. They try to identify me and tell me who I am and who I am not. I am quick to succumb to every one of these voices instead of the voice of God. I need to hear his voice – His word. This is why it is important for Christians to read the scripture. Not just to check it off of a to do list. Read the scripture because it speaks the truth. It tells you who God is, who Christ is, and who you are.

Some days I feel like an old dirty blanket. That’s okay, because I also know that I am God’s dirty blanket.

I preached a sermon on our identity as followers of Christ. You can listen to it here if you like.

Just Give it Time

Hope, Leaving a Mark, Parent

I was sitting in High School Bible Study and the teacher asked this question: “Who do you turn to when things are going crazy in your life? When you need advice?” Some students answered friends, adults, or Google. Then the teacher asked, “What about your parents? Do you ever go to your parents?” There was some muttering in the room so I raised my hand and said, “Yes, I turn to my parents.” Everyone over the age of twenty in the room was in full agreement with me. We all had reached an age where we know something that our teenage friends haven’t learned yet.

It seems that somewhere between the age of twelve and fourteen, aliens come and abduct our children. They implant an inhibitor chip deep within their brains. For the next five to seven years teenagers think that their parents are embarrassing, stupid, and absolutely out of touch with reality. Most think that anyone else in the entire world has more skill, more wisdom, and better answers than their parents.

Parents, in the middle of those teenage years there will likely come a time when you may be convinced that you are dumb. You might even catch yourself thinking,”Maybe all the teenagers are right. Maybe it isn’t them. Maybe it is me who lost my mind. Maybe I have lost my grip on reality. Maybe I don’t really understand what it is like.” Fight that temptation. Slap yourself in the face or get someone else to do it for you. Don’t fall for that trickery. Just pull out an old journal or think back on your high school days. You will remember quickly that you were a teenager and that you do understand.

Then somewhere around age twenty to twenty-two, that inhibitor chip miraculously disappears or is somehow reabsorbed into the bloodstream. All of a sudden, parents have all the answers. They know what to do when you get in a wreck or the car breaks down. They know what to do when your boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you. They know what to say to calm your nerves when you have a big interview for your dream job. They know how to help you cope with a child who will not sleep and they even take that child for a night or two so that you can sleep. They know how to have a good conversation. They have wisdom and good words of advice. They are still parents, but they are much more than that.

But for now, the struggle is real. I want to encourage you to stay the course. Continue to love your children. Care for them. Seek what is best for them. Don’t mortgage your child’s future because you want to be their best friend. Discipline them if they need it. Encourage them when they need it. Laugh with them when they need it. Cry with them when they need it. Pray with them and for them because they will always need that.

Don’t just batten down the hatches and weather the storm of the teenage years. Step on deck, look that storm in the face, and say give me all you’ve got. Be that stalwart consistency that your son or daughter needs when the turbulent winds of Middle School assail them. Be that safe haven of refuge they need in High School when they feel like everyone is out to get them. Love them with the love that only Christ can give you.

Teach them His word and his statutes. Rebuke them when they sin. Correct them when they have strayed off of the path. Teach them how to follow Christ. Train them in righteousness. So that as they grow they will be servants of God who are thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

And always remember this: It is only time that separates them from turning to you for help, answers, and friendship.

New Music: The Burning Edge of Dawn by Andrew Peterson

Leaving a Mark, Music, Uncategorized

The Burning Edge of Dawn

In the summer of 2000, I first heard Andrew Peterson when I listened to his second album, Carried Along. In 2002, I first saw Andrew Peterson in concert not long after his third album, Clear to Venus, was released. Joined by Laura Story and Gabe Scott, he opened that concert with “Land of My Sojourn” by Rich Mullins from his A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band. I had just finished a biography about Rich Mullins. At the same time, I had also discover half.com and I was in the middle of completed my Rich Mullins CD collection.

Andrew Peterson’s music and storytelling struck a chord with me then and it still does now. So, when I hear that he is releasing a new album I immediately pre-order it. The Burning Edge of Dawn is Andrew Peterson’s first full length album since 2012.

I have been listening to three of the songs from the album since early September, and I have had a quick listen through the album this morning since the full download was available. His thoughtful lyrics have already encouraged me.

While I am sure that all of these songs will be my favorite at one point or another, here are a few tracks that have grabbed me so far.

#3 “We Will Survive” – We have all been in a place of cloudy uncertainty. In those times, we need someone to remind us of God’s goodness – to tell us the story we need to hear. We need a voice of clarity to call out above the many voices within us and tell us ” there is nothing left to fear and nothing left to hide.” We all need someone to look us “in the eye and say we will survive.”

#8 “Be Kind to Yourself” – This is a song that he wrote for his daughter. An encouragement for us all to be kind to ourselves, even “when the voices in your mind are anything but kind.” While the love from a father for his daughter shines through, the message of God’s love for his children is crystal clear.

#10 “The Sower’s Song” – This is a powerful song from Isaiah 55 and John 15 with images of God as a gardener who will bring about his purposes.

I am looking forward to many more listens through this album. Listen, download, and buy this album here

Also read Andrew Peterson’s interview at the Gospel Coalition here

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Tell the Story

Christian Living, Evangelism, Leaving a Mark, Uncategorized

When I have exciting news to tell, I cannot keep it in. I have to tell somebody or it feels like my inside will explode. I am sure that most of you are like me. When something fantastic happens to you, you cannot wait to tell it. When you have good news you have to tell someone. Our instatwittersnapface culture has pushed people into a new realm of pressure that says we must find new and creative ways to share news. Our news feeds and pages are cluttered with newly engaged couples, newly expectant couples, and others who just have to tell their stories. We have a motivation to share our good news because we want our friends and family to experience the joy and live in the moment with us.

You will likely never receive a text from someone that says, “Hey, the most amazing thing happened to me, but I’m not going to tell you about it.” There are two reasons you probably will never receive a text like that. One, the grammar is correct, and it is written in a complete sentence. Two, no one has a life changing event and keeps it to themselves.

In Daniel chapter 4, King Nebuchadnezzar has a life-changing event. This man of great power makes a proclamation about the God of the Universe to the entire world. He declares this message “to all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all earth (Daniel 4:1).” As we continue to read in chapter 4, we see a man who has been personally affected by the almighty God of the Universe. He is humbled, and God reveals to Nebuchadnezzar who he really is – a powerful, mighty, great God whose kingdom is everlasting and whose dominion endures from generation to generation.

As a followers of Christ, we have been changed by a personal God. Jesus Christ came to this earth as a man, went to the cross, and stood in our place. He carried the weight of our sin and in exchange he gave us his righteousness. In Christ we have the guarantee of a new life and a hope of a resurrection. This is the best news ever. This is life changing. This is a story that has to be told.

The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a story that must be told “to all peoples, nations, and languages.” This is the greatest story ever told.  The almighty God of the universe, the greatest author of all time, has written us into His grand story. And he has privileged us to be his storytellers.

Book Recommendation: My Father’s Dragon

Books, Leaving a Mark, Reading

This week, my son Knox and I read a fabulous book called My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. The narrator tells a fun tale about her father, a young boy named Elmer Elevator. Elmer travels to Wild Island at the recommendation of an old alley cat for the purpose of rescuing a baby dragon. Laughs and giggles from you and your family are sure to follow as you tag along with this clever boy on his journey.

Our intention was to read the book over several weeks by reading a chapter each night. However, Knox and I were so enthralled that we read the book in two sittings. He could not wait until we had time to sit down and read it. I must admit that I worked a little faster at putting the dishes away to have more time to finish the book (okay a lot faster!).

If you have little ones and love to read out loud to them, this is definitely a book that you will want to pick up. The story is witty, and the dialogue is perfect for reading with children (giving unique voices to each character of course!).

Pick up a copy here  or check with you local library.