For Palm Sunday: The Donkey’s Story

The donkey has a story to tell about the crucifixion on Palm Sunday. This skit requires two people, the donkey and a translator.

To pull it off effectively the person in the role of donkey must be willing to look foolish and to bray his/her heart out as he brays with excited enthusiasm one minute, brays in fear another, and brays in contentment and peace another.

The translator’s job is to translate the braying into language the children will understand. For props I made two brown paper ears and pinned them to my head (yes, I was the braying donkey) and I held my hands (hooves) up to my chest with fingers hanging down as if I were walking on my hind feet. (This probably looks more like a begging puppy, but children have good imaginations.) A rope leash could be around the donkey’s neck as the donkey leads the translator into the church.

It isn’t easy to bray the donkey’s part ahead of the translator and keep it all straight, so I printed notes on a 3X5 card to keep myself in the right place.

The Donkey’s Story

Donkey and translator enter, donkey eagerly leading the way…

Translator: (apologetically) We don’t usually bring animals to church with us, but this donkey insisted on coming with me today. He says he has quite a tale to tell us.

Donkey: Haw He Haw (Try to give inflections of excitement in voice.)

Translator: The donkey says, “Wow! What a day I’ve had today!” (turning to donkey) Won’t you please tell us about it?

Donkey: (Bray trying to give inflections of fear.)

Translator: The donkey says, “It started when two strange guys came and took me away.  I’m a young donkey and have never been away from home.”

Donkey: (Bray: curiosity)

Translator: The donkey says, “These guys led me outside the city where I met a man who was different from any man I’ve ever met. He had the kindest eyes I’ve ever seen. And they looked sad too.”

By the way, do you have a name, Donkey?

Donkey: (Bray: brief – matter of fact)

Translator: The donkey says we can call him Jake. Do you have more to tell us?

Donkey: (Bray: fear followed by wonder of wonders & peace)

Translator: Jake says, “The two strangers helped this kind man to sit on my back. Nobody has ever ridden on my back before, so I started to jump around and toss him right off. But this man was different. I felt peaceful, and I just wanted to do whatever he wanted.”

Donkey: (Bray: excitement)

Translator: Jake says, “He headed me along the main road into the city, and soon there were people everywhere. Everyone was shouting ‘Hosanna’ and ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ It was like this guy was a king on the way to being crowned. I wondered if this could be the Messiah?”

Donkey: (Bray: wonder, distant recollections)

Translator: Jake says, “Then it came to me… Messiah! Yes! Didn’t I remember my mother telling me about something that happened to her grandfather long ago? Mama said her mama told her about it. Jake thinks that a donkey carried the Messiah’s mother to Bethlehem the very night he was born. She said the donkey told about seeing the baby Jesus being born. And then there were shepherds who came and told about angels on the hillside to tell them about baby Jesus.”

Donkey: (Bray: awe)

Translator: Jake says, “Wow! He chose just a little donkey like me to ride! But it couldn’t be, could it? I mean, I’m just a plain ole donkey. Shouldn’t a king be riding a great stallion?”

Donkey: (Bray: as if praying)

Translator: Jake says we should pray… Our Heavenly Father, we thank you for coming to us and for showing us your love. Bless these children and draw them closer to you every day.

Donkey: (Bray: motioning with head to invite to follow and praise Jesus)

Translator: Jake says we can praise Jesus just like the people did on the road to Jerusalem. Let’s shout “Hosanna” and praise Jesus too! (Give each child a palm leaf and lead them around the church saying “Hosanna” and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”)

Written by Janice D. Green, author of The First Christmas and The Creation.

Radical Forgiveness and the Ripple Effect

Recently I had the opportunity to be part of a radio interview based around an article I’d written for Priority! magazine. The article, entitled “Radical Forgiveness,” relates the story of my friends Chuck and Auburn Sandstrom. In 2009, Chuck was brutally attacked while having a car towed from a rental property he owned. He went into a coma for a time and suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury. Today he is alive, walking and talking, however, the affects of the attack still remain.

The amazing part of Chuck and Auburn’s story is that they chose to forgive Chuck’s attacker. And rather than looking to get him a longer sentence, they actually fought to have his sentence lightened, believing that what he needed was not time in prison to make him more bitter, but rather help for his problems with alcohol and the chance to provide for his family.

I have a great respect for both Chuck and Auburn, and their choice to forgive. And yet I know that forgiveness is not easy. It has to be a daily choice. I imagine Auburn having to wake up each day and think of what was stolen from her during that attack, and as a wife myself, I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to choose forgiveness on a daily basis.

And yet the amazing thing is how far the ripples of forgiveness extend. During the radio interview, many people were on the phone line in addition to myself. Amongst them were Chuck and Auburn, their pastor, the woman who replaced Chuck at his former job, and the girlfriend of Chuck’s attacker, Erika.

Erika described the change that she had seen in her boyfriend, Michael. How he was now much slower to speak and quicker to listen. How he cared about other’s opinions in a way that he hadn’t before. How he was blown away that someone could forgive him after what he had done and how once he got out of prison he wanted to live a life that Chuck and Auburn would be proud of. A life deserving of the forgiveness he had received.

Erika shared her own shame over being the girlfriend of a man who could do something so horrific. And yet, not long after she had found out about the attack, she discovered that she was pregnant with Michael’s second child, which only doubled her feelings of shame. She described how four times she had driven to the abortion clinic to terminate her pregnancy and how four times she had driven away, unable to go through with it.

As she spoke, I had goosebumps. And I couldn’t help but think about the amazing power of forgiveness. I wonder — how might Erika have felt or reacted differently if Chuck and Auburn had been bent on vengeance and retribution? How might she have chosen to deal with her shame if they had chosen to see her as the enemy instead of embracing her as a friend (which is what they have done)?

The power of forgiveness cannot be contained. Instead, it moves out in ripples that stretch farther and farther beyond ourselves, having an impact on more lives than we can imagine. During this season of Lent, we celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ would leave His place in heaven to walk among us and to die a criminal’s death so that we might be forgiven. The awesome forgiveness of God has spilled over into new life for us! And we who have claimed that life are called to forgive as He forgave, and continues to forgive, us. I like the way that Michael put it when he said that he wanted to live a life worthy of the forgiveness he received. That should be the aim of every believer.

This Lent as you celebrate the awesome miracle of new life that we have in Christ, stop and think about the power of forgiveness and what it has meant in your own life and in the lives of those around you. Think about how God has forgiven you, of course, but also think about the times when you have been forgiven by someone that you wronged or hurt and how that has affected you. And if you have the opportunity to extend forgiveness to someone, don’t delay! For there is no way to measure the impact that one act of forgiveness can have as it continues to ripple outward.

If you are interested in reading the article “Radical Forgiveness” or listening to the radio interview, you can find both at the links below:

Or, to learn more about Chuck and Auburn and their ministry, visit:

Fabulous Grandparenting from a Distance

My first experience with being a long-distance grandma came in 2007 when our daughter and her husband returned to their home in Bosnia with their seven-week-old son. A friend saw the photos we took that day. “The grief is palpable,” she said.

A month later, my husband and I traveled to Bosnia. We loved on that baby every day … and then, of course, we had to fly home.

Circumstances changed. A few months later, our grandson and his mom and dad returned to the States … and moved in with us! Joy … and lots of fun and bonding. Then their little family found a place of their own about 20 minutes away.

I could handle that!

But now they are several states from us, a 12-hour drive if we push it. I’m a long-distance grandma once again.

Do you have a grandchild (or more than one) living far from you? In our mobile culture, most of us do. It’s not easy to be a long-distance grandparent, but we can still have strong, enjoyable relationships with faraway grandchildren if we put our minds to it.

Here are 5 tips for being a fabulous grandparent from a distance.

1. Believe that having a relationship with you is important to your grandchildren. All children benefit from the unconditional love and acceptance of a caring grandparent. A grandparent links a child to his family history. Plus, a Christian grandparent can influence the development of a child’s faith. When Pharaoh continued to harden his heart during the plagues God brought on Egypt, God told Moses,

“I’ve also done it so you can tell your children and grandchildren about how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and about the signs I displayed among them—and so you will know that I am the LORD” (Exodus 10:2).

2. Resolve to be proactive. OK–you don’t get to see your grandchildren as often as you’d like. But you don’t have to take a backseat in this relationship. Be the family matriarch or patriarch. Find ways to connect across the miles and do those things. Tell your grandchildren’s parents that this relationship is important to you and ask for their help. Initiate and persevere, without becoming overbearing.

3.  Use technology to stay in touch. When my young grandson wants to “call G” (that’s my grandma name), he means he wants to Skype. Skype and other video calling programs let you hear AND see each other on your computer or mobile device. It’s easy to get started, and it’s free. You’ll need a web cam and a microphone–many newer computers have those built in or you can purchase them to plug into your computer’s USB ports.

Younger children won’t want to talk a lot every time you Skype together. Don’t worry. As they grow older, especially as you show sincere interest in their lives in this and other ways, they’ll be calling you.

Here’s another way to connect over the Internet. Reading together delights grandparents and grandchildren alike. I’ve tried it holding the book in front of the camera, but it’s awkward. This week I discovered Readeo. Here’s a short video to show you how it works. I have to say that I’m impressed and I can’t wait to try this out!

4. Stay on the hunt for new ways to connect with your grandchildren. Three good resources I’ve found are Long Distance Grandma by Janet Tietsort, The Long Distance Grandmother by Selma Wasserman, and, especially this post.

Ask other grandparents for ideas too. When I co-wrote Parents of Missionaries, I asked POMs with grandchildren to share ideas that had worked for them. Some of those I’m now using with my grandson, like making him a book with photos and captions from each visit that we have together.

Be sure your grandchildren have their own photos of you. One Christmas we gave our children photo portraits of my husband and me. Our grandson asked his mom if he could have it for his room. Even though he has since moved, the framed photo still sits on a shelf in his new room.

5. Pray, pray, pray. God has ordained the importance of grandparents. He will help you find the best ways for you to love, enjoy, and influence your grandchildren from a distance! (A good book to help you pray for your grandchildren is Grandma, I Need Your Prayers by Quin Sherrer and Ruthanne Garlock.)


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© 2012, Diane Stortz

Easter candy: Are there any healthy choices?

If the Easter Bunny visits your house, you may be wondering what kind of candy he will bring. By nature, all candy contains sugar, and maybe preservatives, artificial colorings, and/or unhealthy fats. But thankfully, some kinds are a smidgen healthier than others.

If candy is part of your Easter plans, here are my “a little-bit-better-for-you” ideas for older children and adults:

PayDay® bars have peanuts as the first ingredient, not sugar. They have no artificial dyes and the snack size bars have less than 100 calories each.


Goobers® contain peanuts, too, although milk chocolate is the first ingredient. The label boasts 5 grams of protein per ¼ cup serving. They also contain real cocoa, unlike some chocolates.

Raisinets® get some of their sweetness from raisins (yay, fruit!) Again, they contain cocoa.

Hershey’s® kisses® and Hershey’s ®Milk Chocolate Eggs™ are packaged in child-sized portions, with only about 25 calories per piece.

A few traditional Easter sweets contain sugar and corn syrup as the first two ingredients: jelly beans and colored marshmallow animals. One kind of jelly beans I checked listed 10 dyes in the ingredients. Yikes! Any artificially colored candies contain dyes, so even though they’re pretty to the eyes, they are not healthy. When in doubt, read the ingredients list.

Beth Bence Reinke, MS, RD (registered dietitian)


CAUTION: As noted above, these candy suggestions are for older children. Keep in mind that nuts, raisins and small, hard or chewy candies are choking hazards for babies, toddlers and even some preschoolers. These foods may be dangerous for any child whose ability to chew and swallow are not completely developed. In addition, anyone with food allergies must check product labels carefully. And to avoid cavities, kids should brush their teeth after eating candy.  

And of course, a disclaimer: I have no connections to the candy companies represented and these opinions are my own.

Teachable Moments: Lost and Found Bunny

My daughter’s independence-driven, unsupervised bedtime routine went smoothly. Bath? Done. Jammies? Check. Bedtime snack? Finished. She even helped herself to a drink from the refrigerator without spilling!

Marching proudly upstairs to bed she climbed under the covers. I settled in next to her and started reading from Little House on the Prairie when suddenly, panic rolled over her little face.

“My bunny! Bunny is gone!” she cried with big tears rolling down her little pink cheeks.

“Where is she?” I asked.

“I don’t know. She’s just gone!” she sobbed.

Calling for bunny like she was a beloved family pet, our family’s frantic search began. We searched the bathroom, under the bed, the closet, her dresser, laundry piles, behind the couch, and even in the garbage. EVERYWHERE! No Bunny.

“Oh, dear God please help us find Bunny! Please!” I prayed.

“Did you have Bunny when you poured yourself a drink?” I asked.

She thought a minute and shook her head “yes” and flung open the refrigerator door.

Bunny sat chillin’ on the top shelf next to the juice carton staring back at her with a frozen smile.

“You silly little bunny!” she exclaimed snatching lost-and-found Bunny off the shelf.

I’m especially fond of this memory because God taught our family three things:

  • No concern is too small for God. Although our children feel small, they need to know that if something’s important to them, it’s important to God, too.
  • God shows up ̶ present and alive–when we call on His name. Teaching our children to pray, even in the small things, allows them to see God at work in their lives.
  • When we’re lost, God stops everything to look for us. Seizing these teachable moments helps children tangibly grasp God’s love for them.