Who me? Deny Christ?

a person writes a to-do listDo you start off your day with a list of what you need to do? I do!

But I wonder… in all of my busy, everything must be perfect, planning… have I left room for God?

Is “cultivate my faith” on my to-do list?

Am I denying God entry into my life?

Peter pretended like he didn’t know who Jesus was. Now, that is denial. But do my choices make me just as guilty?

The Denial of Saint Peter-Caravaggio (1610)

Paraphrased from John 18:16-18, 25-27, Peter said…

Open quote markAre you talking to me? I don’t know who that man is!

What does denying Christ look like for us today?

Here’s a discussion for your family, at the family dinner table (or wherever your family is gathered together).

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  • What does it mean to deny that something happened? (It means saying that something is not true, when in fact, it is true!)
  • Tell about a time when someone pretended like they didn’t know you—they denied that you were their friend.
  • What do you suppose it would feel like to have someone say, “No, I don’t know that person?”
  • Have you ever denied knowing someone?
  • Adults: share a story from your growing-up years. And then share Peter’s story.
  • It is easy to see that saying you don’t know someone is denial. Do you suppose that we ever deny Jesus? How about when we…
    • speak harshly?
    • are quick to follow the crowd – trying to make them like us?
    • forget to pray?
    • turn the other way when someone needs our help?
    • are mostly concerned about our needs?

All of us, through our lifestyles, actions and attitudes, have denied Jesus. But, be reassured, there is hope!

Open quote markSo turn to God! Give up your sins, and you will be forgiven. Acts 3:19

I am thankful for God’s grace!

Stay tuned for the rest of the story: Forgiveness!

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Photo credits…
To-do lists by John Athayde, originally licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).
The Denial of Saint Peter by Caravaggio, circa 1610; in the Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Darkness and light; so goes life

Dark and light. Polar opposites, yet we can’t have one without the other.

I remember a picture book that I used to “read” to my kids when they were young: Fast-Slow High-Low, by Peter Spier. It was a book of few words, inviting discussion over the meaning behind its numerous artful drawings.

Cover of the book Fast-Slow High-LowWe often would make-up lively stories about the various opposites portrayed—leading to interesting tales! (I love wordless books for young children. They invite imaginative thinking.) Light and dark were illustrated in an expected way: with a lamp “on” and “off.”

I don’t recall that dark and light were depicted beyond the brightness of bulbs; it would be hard to sketch light and dark as a way to describe life circumstances!

The contrast of light and dark is evident when one does a Rotation on Peter’s view of Easter. (This story is a good one to do post-Easter, as a follow-up to other Easter stories.) It’s about Peter, who was one of Jesus’ disciples, the one Jesus called the “Rock.”

Peter had reason to want to hide in the dark.

Our story starts off in the dark. Well, sort of—it did take place in the evening. There is probably some light as the disciples gathered with Jesus in the Upper Room to share the Passover meal; the one that we call the “Last Supper.”

Jesus and his disciples recline at the table during the Last Supper

Peter tells Jesus I'll never deny youBut there were “dark” moments during that gathering. Like when Jesus tells his disciple Peter that he will soon deny him. Can you imagine Peter’s shock? “Who me?, Peter says, “Never! I am ready to die for you.”

“Really?” (Can you imagine the incredulous tone of voice that Jesus uses?) “Really? You’ll lay down your life for me? The truth is that before the rooster crows, you’ll deny me three times.” John 13:38

Peter denies knowing Jesus

Then there is the dark moment in our story when Peter does deny Christ. (John 18:15-18 and 25-27) Let alone the darkness that envelopes Jesus’ followers to see their beloved Jesus hanging on a cross.

But on the third day, morning comes, and with it, light! Great light!

Moments before sunrise

Jesus is alive! He visits his disciples, several times over the next few days.

But how is Peter feeling? Luke’s Gospel has Peter weeping bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62)

We will find out that Jesus forgives Peter (John 21:1-17). But it brings to mind an apply-it-to-our-life question:

What do you do with failure?

Pass it off as I’ll do better next time, or continually beat yourself up?

Thankfully, Jesus offers forgiveness!

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Photo credits…
First image, from my archives—a photo of the book.
Story images by artist Paula Nash Giltner, from Free Bible Images, licensed under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND 4.0). Photos are here and compiled from here, offered by a joint venture of Good News Productions & College Press Publishing Co.
Moments before sunrise by Vincentiu Solomon, released under Unsplash License.

Easter has come: Now run towards Jesus!

Mary Magdalene has reported that Jesus’ tomb is empty! Disciples John and Peter waste no time in quickly running towards the tomb; wondering what they would find (John 20:1-4).

Disciples John and Peter on their way to the tomb on Easter morning

Of course, they didn’t find his body at the tomb, because Jesus is alive!

Later they would see the risen Jesus several times. And once more Peter would find himself “running” towards Jesus. (Okay, there was probably some swimming involved, more than running, see John 21:7.)

How often do you find yourself wishing for an opportunity to run to Jesus?

When things are rough.
When it seems like everything is turning against you.
When you are ready to give up…

What is holding you back? Don’t walk—Run!

When was the last time you reminded your family members, your friends, and even yourself, that running towards Jesus is always an option?

When you are weary.
When it looks like there is no hope.
When you can’t think of a better way…

What is holding you back?

Quote marks So turn to God! Give up your sins, and you will be forgiven.
Acts 3:19

Quote marks But the people who trust the Lord will become strong again.
They will be able to rise up as an eagle in the sky.
They will run without needing rest.
They will walk without becoming tired.
Isaiah 40:31

A cross decorated with palm branchesAn Easter blessing:

On this day and every day,
regardless of where you are at,
or how you are feeling,
may you turn and run to Jesus.

Happy Easter !
— Carol

 

 

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Photo credits…
Disciples John and Peter running on their way to the tomb on Easter morning, a painting by Eugène Burnand. Offered by crazyapplefangirl, on Flickr licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-ND 2.0). Palm-tied cross is from my archives, offered here.

I love a parade, don’t you?

It’s Lent!
Rather than giving something up, how about adding daily family faith discussion.
Make it your Lenten investment!

Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey on what we now call Palm Sunday

If you are doing a Rotation on the events of Holy Week, you are covering a lot of scripture! So this post will be the start of several which will provide mini reading plans for small portions of each story in the “Events of Holy Week.”. Included are discussion questions for use around the family dinner table. (Or wherever your family is gathered together—perhaps in the car on the way to soccer practice?) Use the chart below to read and talk about this portion of our story… in stages… over the course of several days.

First up: What we now call Palm Sunday!

If you’d like to print out this reading plan/discussion guide, click here.

Read Talk about or do…
Matthew 21:7-9 This is like a parade! Describe a parade you’d like to be in.
What town is Jesus entering? (Jerusalem)
Why is this first event in Holy Week called “Palm Sunday?” How do you plan to celebrate Palm Sunday?
Matthew 21:8-9 Imagine the excitement! Does the Bible you are using have a footnote that explains the meaning of the word “Hosanna?”
In Hebrew Hosanna means “save us now,” although over time it had come to be an exclamation of praise. What words do you shout when you are excited and full of appreciation? Shout some worshipful words!
Mark 11:1-6 Take a look at a Bible map (here’s one). Find Jerusalem, Bethany, and Bethphage. Jesus and his disciples walked everywhere. How far did they walk between those towns? What is the furthest you’ve ever walked?
Luke 19:28-34 What would you think if someone asked you to do what Jesus asked? Would you wonder how you’d ever find this colt? Would you be afraid of being accused of stealing?! Would you be anxious to see Jesus riding a never-been-ridden-before, animal? I wonder why Jesus felt that these details were important?
Matthew 21:1-5 Does the Bible you are using help you to discover which prophet said these words? (Hint: Look at Zechariah 9:9)
What sort of king were the people expecting?
+++++A) a riding-on-a-giant-horse, ’m-going-to-whip-everybody-into-shape sort of a king OR
+++++B) a gentle-loving riding-on-a-donkey king?
What sort of king did Jesus turn out to be?
Matthew 21:10,11 Obviously not everyone knew about Jesus! The people had been waiting for hundreds of years for the Messiah! Look up the word “Messiah” in a he dictionary (there is usually one in the back of a Bible).
Matt 21:8,9
Mark 11:8-10
Luke 19:36-38
John 12:12-16
What differences do you notice between these four accounts of this story?

Why do you suppose these differences exist?

What do you make of John’s reference to looking back on this story after Jesus’ resurrection?

How does it feel to add faith talk for Lent?


Photo credits:
Palm
Sunday, originally posted by Waiting For The Word on Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

How to prepare for Hosanna-ing with a bit of make-believe

Christ's Entry into Jerusalem Hippolyte Flandrin-1842

I like this painting that depicts the inaugurating event of Palm Sunday, because it includes children. Look over on the upper, right-hand side. Notice the man holding a baby(!) up over his shoulders? (One can easily miss seeing!)

Show this picture to your kids and point out the taking-flight toddler.

Close up of Christ's Entry into Jerusalem - a painting by HippolyteThere are other kids. Can you find them?

Notice this child in particular… (The one designated with the red arrow in the close-up shot.

Have your child pretend that they are that kid. Place yourself in the painting!

You are witnessing Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem!

What do you see?

What do you smell?

What do you hear?

There were of course, lots of people. Some happy and others not. And probably the usual noise a loud crowd makes.

(“Is he coming yet?” “I can’t see!” “Excuse me, you are stepping on my foot!”)

palm waving-2The Bible tells us there were loud cries of “Hosanna!” (John 12:13). Which was like saying “Save us!”

Go ahead and shout some Hosannas!

Practice for this coming Sunday at FUMC.

Do you suppose there were people at this “parade” who wondered what the Hosanna hoopla was all about?

Why do we celebrate Palm Sunday? (If you’re not sure, go ahead and click on that link to learn more.)

Why did the people greet Jesus with such enthusiasm?

How would you greet Jesus today?

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Photo credits:
Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem by Hippolyte Flandrin, 1842, from FreeChristImages.org, used under license.
Palm Sunday photo copyright from my archives.

How can your family prepare for Easter?

I recently learned something new:

The 40 days of Lent is a tithe of the year.

40 / 365 = 0.109589041096

Lent is indeed pretty close to one-tenth of the year!
(I had to prove it to myself by doing the math. Broke out my trusty abacus.)

These 40 days (not including Sundays) before Easter, is a time when we traditionally prepare our hearts and minds for the awesome truth of Easter; a day that is so special that it deserves ahead-of-time forethought.

A tithe is one-tenth of something, traditionally thought of as one-tenth of one’s income given to support the church and other charitable organizations. In this case we are talking a tithe of time; taking time-out to think about the meaning of Easter.

Of course it’s not possible for most of us to spend all day, every day during Lent, contemplating Easter. What can your family do to intentionally put God at the center of your life – say for about for 10 – 15 minutes a day?

Here are ideas for your family’s Lent experience. Try one (and repeat daily)!
  • Ask questions: Agree to spend 12 minutes a day with your family discussing the story of Easter. Use these discussion questions as a guide, or dig deeper into the reading-the-Bible-a-bit-a-day plan for the story of Holy week.
  • Experience God in nature: Go for a walk outside. To give your walk some focus make it a discovery walk (to notice one new thing) or a smelling walk (what smells come to your attention) or a prayer walk (pray for everyone whose house you pass).
  • Journal through Lent: Leave an open notebook on the counter with a pen handy. Ask everyone to jot down or draw instances where they have seen God at work in their daily life. Review the entries over dinner.
  • Bless your child(ren) and yourself! Read about this way to enrich your child’s life here. For blessings to choose from check out here.
  • Give up something: Can you fast from using anything dependent on electricity? Can you turn off the phone, the TV, the refrigerator? (Hey, it’s only for a short time. As long as you remember to turn it back on!) Eat dinner by candlelight. Tell stories of past Easter celebrations.
  • Add something: Silence. Can everyone agree to be silent for a set amount of time? (Okay, age appropriateness may come into play here.) Ask everyone to think of when they experienced beauty. In their mind return to that particular scene. Study it in silence. Talk about it afterwards. Where was God in your picture?
  • Improve upon your “silence” experience by having everyone chip in to create a “sacred spot” in your household. What visual reminders will enhance this place? A cross here, scripture written on an index card there? Allow touching and rearranging and additions and subtractions.
  • Serve others some happiness: Look for opportunities to be the difference in someone’s day. Compliment janitors at work on how nice the building looks, how you appreciate the work they do. Whom else can you thank?

How will your family prepare to take in the full meaning of Easter?

Need more Lenten family activities? The list continues here.

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Photo credits…
An old-fashioned way of calculating by Leo Reynolds, licensed under Creative Commons (BY NC-SA 2.0).

For Lent: Add one small thing

Coffee and chocolate

We are in the season of Lent. Have you heard the standard question?

Open quote mark What are you giving up for Lent?

Rather than giving something up…

what about adding something?

Just one small thing, every day?

If you’ve been around these parts you have read what I have to say about blessing your child(ren) and/or yourself. And about how…

  • Offering a blessing for someone means you see them as very valuable.
  • Blessings are words that communicate your child’s (and your) high value to God.
  • They are special words that your child (and you) can take with you into the world.

I’d like to suggest that the small thing you add for Lent would be to bless your child(ren) and/or yourself. But I know that that can be hard to start. (For those of you who already practicing blessings… Bravo! Keep it up.)

For those who haven’t yet started, may I suggest a small something for you to add for Lent?

Give yourself a blessing.

Here is one to try. This blessing was written especially for you. It is based in part on 2 Corinthians 13:14, in the Message translation. Print it out if you’d like, here.

Fill in the blank with your name. Post it on the bathroom mirror or the fridge. Go ahead, speak these words to yourself; out-loud if you’d like! Every day.

Add one small thing for Lent.

Open quote mark _______ the amazing grace of Jesus, the extravagant love of God, and the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, are always with you. Go, be a child of God, reflecting God’s love to all those around you.

Lenten blessings!
— Carol

A cross decorated with palm branches It’s Lent! Here are some resources for the season:

Lenten activities for your family.

Short spiritual practices to try during Lent.

A way to tell the Easter story using plastic Easter eggs.

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Photo credits…
Coffee & chocolate by Andrew Crookston, licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).
FUMC’s palm-covered cross from my archives.

Why is it called Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is approaching.

Your family is invited to the Ash Wednesday service at 7 PM at FUMC at the downtown location…

Yes, kids are invited to attend.

Which means they would get something out of it.

Are you squeamish—for your kids—about the part with the ashes? (You know, the part of the Ash Wednesday service where the pastor using ashes, marks a cross on your forehead.) Okay, I’ll admit that back in the day, I was.

The sign of the cross in ashes on a forehead

Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubble

What is it with the ashes on Ash Wednesday?  What is that all about? And what is “Lent” anyway?

Here are some details to share with your family. Print out a copy of this discussion guide here.
(Why not a cheat sheet to have with you when you talk about Ash Wednesday/Lent?)

Even if you don’t plan to attend the Ash Wednesday service, this is still important material to look over and share. (And don’t feel bad if a family discussion doesn’t happen until Thursday or even Saturday next week! Or whenever!)

  • What is Ash Wednesday? It is the first day of Lent.
  • What is Lent? Lent is the 40 days before Easter. (For the fact-checker, Sundays are not counted.) It marks the time period when we “prepare” ourselves for Easter. This preparation can be a deeply personal event, or it is okay to share your thoughts with others if you feel like doing so.
  • What are we preparing for? It is not about stockpiling lots of chocolate bunnies! It’s about asking ourselves tough questions like how much do we invite God into our daily lives? What are ways to foster a closer relationship with God? (Because God would really love to be your close friend!) It’s about putting our hearts and minds in order, so that when Easter finally arrives, we are ready to celebrate—to shout Alleluia!
  • Why do we celebrate Easter? It’s an important holiday because of what happened on the first Easter. Jesus was crucified on a cross. But rather than this being the end, the cross is a way of showing us the full extent of God’s love. In Jesus’ suffering on the cross he demonstrates a love that will not give up! The happiest news: After three days Jesus rose from the dead! Jesus showed us that God’s love and forgiveness is more powerful even than death.
  • What is the significance of Ash Wednesday? Since it starts off Lent, it specifically reminds us of our need for the whole point of Easter: we all make mistakes. We all sin. (Sins are anything we do that separates us from God; that pushes God and/or other people, away.) We all need forgiveness, over and over again! At the Ash Wednesday church service we hear that it is okay for us to admit we aren’t perfect; we can let go of what has happened in the past.
  • Why ashes? Ashes are produced when something is burned. It means that something has “died.” In Bible times when people were very sad or sorry, they put ashes on their heads and dressed in “sackcloth”—very scratchy clothes. (Read about such an instance in Esther 4:1.) It was a symbol of how bad they were feeling. When the ashes are placed on your forehead the pastor will say, “The old has died.” Your response can be to say, “The new has come.”
  • Why ashes, in the sign of a cross? It is a symbol of your need for God’s love and forgiveness. Because the ashes are marked in a cross this says: “There is hope. Though I have messed up, I am marked as a child of God. I will try, during Lent, to live closer to God.”

Even if your family doesn’t attend the Ash Wednesday service or if your child balks at getting marked with ashes, how about following the following routine during bedtime prep:

As your child washes their face, place your hand on their shoulder and say… God washes away all of your past mistakes. God loves you and promises to help you live as a child of God.

By following this simple step…

You have just blessed your child!

Click on a box if you would like to…
A check-box Satisfy your curiosity about why you should bless your child.
A check-box View other suggested blessings.

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Photo credits…
Forehead with ashes by mtsofan, licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0).