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!

--------------
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.

How To Add More Intention To These Ordinary Days

‘Tis the season for vacations! Though perhaps in these COVID times, they are only virtual? But hopefully, you’ll have a chance this summer to spend time building family stories. You know; the sagas that start with: “Remember the time…”

lots of air time at the state fair

Back in the days when we could go somewhere on vacation, you planned for it, right?

What about the other, oh-so-ordinary family-together-times?

  • Meals around the dinner table?
  • Trips to the grocery store, post office, and other mundane errands. Maybe not with the whole family but at least with you and the kids? (Thinking of pre-COVID days!)
  • Chore time, reading time, or just hanging-out-together time.

All these seem pretty routine and ordinary. What about using them as a chance to build memories of a different sort?

Spiritual growth memories.

Can some intentionality be brought into play? (Let’s face it, raising kids takes a little bit of planning!) How about some of these ideas:

  • Perhaps at the dinner table you play a game that leads to discussion? (Try this one or some of these.)
  • Perhaps as a part of your next walk around the block, you allow a certain happenstance (every dog seen or every blue car) to spark the announcement of a grateful. And let that lead into talking about how being thankful is good for your health! (Read here for other family-friendly ways to practice gratitude.)
  • Perhaps the next time you are chilling together you brainstorm a place in your home to remind you that God is near?

How are you using every day, even ordinary, non-vacation days, to intentionally work on building your family’s spiritual growth?

--------------

Photo credits…
A remember-when story in progress, copyright by my niece, Sarah Clouse. Used with permission.

Want an easy habit for 2017 that will bless your kids?

the sun rises over Lake Superior

As the sun rises, are you ready for the start of a New Year? Are all-systems-go in the annual building of resolutions? How about just one more easy habit to take on for 2017 – one that I guarantee will generate good-feelings in your child.

AND, this intention only takes about 30 seconds. And, it’s flexible: it fits into your morning, or your evening routines, or whenever. What could be better!

What is this simple practice?

Bless your children.

Blessings are simply saying good things to your kids, on behalf of God. It’s giving them a daily stamp of approval! Like swearing on a Bible, you state truthful words; language your children desperately need to hear.

Easy instructions: Get started today! Trace with your finger, the sign of the cross either on their forehead or on their hand, while saying their name and something up-lifting about the new year ahead. Try this…

'You are a very special person, created by God to do good in the world. May you eagerly approach the New Year, open to change and excited by new beginnings.

Tomorrow, either repeat the same words or use something else.

Want to know a secret?

You can even use these affirming words to bless yourself!

(I’m thinking that I’ll start off the new year doing just that.)

Whatever words you use, start an easy, new habit and bless your child every day.

-------


Photo credits:
A sunrise over Lake Superior by Sharon Mollerus, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

How to add one small (but critical) thing to your day?

When was the last time you gave yourself a pat on the back? Really! After all, you do hard work in the trenches — shepherding kids! (Whether they are yours or someone else’s.)

Shepherd with sheep

Nurturing children transpires into a mighty challenge! You spend time with them, read to them, carpool them all over town, offer healthy foods, make sure they brush their teeth, enforce a respectable bedtime… you love them! You are doing a great job, especially because you push through when it gets hard.

Because, sometimes you don’t have all of the answers.

It is the same way with talking to our kids about their spirituality. Do you feel inadequate? (I do.)

I’m giving you permission to add one small, but critical thing, to your parenting portfolio.

Keep on trying to add conversation about faith issues.

Figure out where you are regularly gathered all together. (In the car, at the dinner table, or at getting-ready-for-bed reading time). Make a new daily habit.

Ask just one question: Where did you see God today?

That’s all you have to ask. Just listen. (And don’t worry if it doesn’t happen every day.)

Allow time for digging deeper. Empower your family to wonder at the mystery of what God is up to and how he wants to be in your life!

a blue line


Photo credits:
Shepherding sheep by Biegun Wschodni, who has released this photo to the Public Domain. Offered at unsplash.com.

Are you seeing ads? They are not from me! They are placed by WordPress, who otherwise offers a free platform from which to share lots of good-ness. If you see an inappropriate ad, please report it to support@wordpress.com. Include the URL, the date/time the ad appeared, and a screenshot of the ad.

How to persist and hold the story in the limelight?

Our parenting-speak often sounds like a broken record. The phrase I’d say to my kids over and over (that always evoked a groan) was, “Make a different choice.” Either that, or it was when I’d break into song — à la Mr. Rogers: ♫ Let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting… ♫ (Can I get an encore?)

But that’s the way it should be.

Repeating keeps your story in the forefront.

You place a high value in reminding them that what they do/say is important in the world. (After all, they are a child of God!) You want them to be loving, kind, and to remember a few table manners.

One way to grow disciples of Christ is by keeping a Bible story front and center. It’s why we use the Workshop Rotation Model for Sunday Cool — persistent recurrence! You can use a similar reiterative scheme at home. Here are ideas to use with our just completed Rotation on the miracle of Jesus feeding over 5,000 people.

fish symbolThe next time you have food remaining after a meal, ask about the 12 baskets of leftovers collected after everyone had eaten their fill. What do you suppose people thought about all the leftovers? What about the disciples, what would they have been talking about? What do the leftovers tell us about Jesus?

fish symbolHear the story. Over and over. Read it at the dinner table or as a bedtime “book.” Each time you read, ask a couple questions.

  • Let’s put ourselves into the cast of characters that were there: Philip… Would you be annoyed with Jesus when he asked you about where to get food? (I mean, Duh. They were in the middle of nowhere.) Andrew… Would you feel almost silly announcing that fives loaves and two fish were available? The small boy… Would you feel scared? Curious?
  • How would you report this story if you were there and you had modern-day internet capabilities? What sort of Twitter post or text message would you write? What emoticons would you use? What sort of hashtag would you assign to this event?
  • When is it hard for you to share? (Include your own example, adults!)
  • In the beginning of the story it doesn’t seem like Philip and Andrew have much faith in Jesus to handle the problem of so many hungry people. When is a time when you forgot about your faith in Jesus?
  • Jesus could have created bread and fish in the basket of every person there, but he didn’t do it that way. Why do you suppose Jesus deliberately used a method that brought the disciples into the work?

fish symbolCreate a snack for a neighbor, or a meal for a family in need. Teach your kids to ask: What do they need?

Feeding the 5000 - cooking workshop

 
fish symbolput the fish in orderMake a game to put the story in order. Print out some storytelling fish shapes and challenge your household to work together to arrange them in the correct order.

If you have non-readers in your household, provide them with a sheet of paper divided into sections. Encourage them to draw each part of the story. Cut apart the sections. Can they put them back into story order?

 
fish symbolWatch together the various renditions of dramas presented on our story. As you view each one, what pops out as a new factoid about this story? What part of the dialogue did the disciples likely not say??

If reading this in an email, you can watch the 4th & 5th grade video on YouTube.

 

You can watch the 3rd grade (with few 5th graders) in this video on YouTube.

 

Or watch the 2nd grade video on YouTube.

 

(Or watch the 1st grade video on YouTube.)

 

How will your household grow disciples of Christ?

a blue line


Photo credits:
Photos by Beth Pascoe.

Are you seeing ads? They are not from me! They are placed by WordPress, who otherwise offers a free platform from which to share lots of good-ness. If you see an inappropriate ad, please report it to support@wordpress.com. Include the URL, the date/time the ad appeared, and a screenshot of the ad.

4 practical ways to help your family grow faith

Faith is caught, not taughtNo amount of teaching will do it. Faith is primarily caught, not taught.

Your kids are watching.

They will do as you do.

 
Here are ways for your family to hook a little faith…

A check-boxRedbud blossomsAsk: Where did you see God today?
Take notice of God at work and call out his wonderful miracles in creation. If you don’t spend lots of time with your kids, make a point to share a group time of recalling and naming God as a part of your life. When you notice, they will pay attention.

A check-box Tie life to a Bible story.
For example, our latest story is teaching us about the miracle of sharing. When more than 5,000 people were fed with just a little bit of lunch, perhaps Jesus encouraged a bestowing behavior? For preschoolers this means labeling sharing as it happens. (“You and I are sharing some grapes.” Or, “Let’s share our stories about our day.”) Intangibles — taking turns and working together on a project — are also a form of sharing. Use Bible stories to remind your child of the greater story: Living as Jesus taught.

Feeding the 5000 - games - fishing   Feeding the 5000 - games - put the fish in order

Note: Please don’t bring up this story as an impetus for sharing, as in: “Let’s be like the boy who shared his lunch.” That’s a forced event — a connection that may not be remembered as good!

an adult Bible readingA check-box Nurture your own relationship to God.
Allow your child to “catch you” at prayer and/or reading the Bible. I have a strong memory of the response of a peer, whom I’d interrupted while praying: “Just a minute. I’m talking to God.” Her reply has stayed with me for 45 years! Model the importance of conversation with, and continued learning about God.

A check-box Engage in rituals.
At home your rituals probably already include a bedtime routine. Add bestowing a blessing on your child. Rituals within your spiritual community may include regularly serving at L.O.V.E. Thy Neighbor. Worshiping together as a family is a biggie. Making time for rituals connect us to God.

kid at youth worship

a blue line


Photo credits:
Faith is caught rendition (cropped and words added) is based on a photo by Virginia State Parks. Woman reading a Bible by Ariel Waldman. Both on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
Games Workshop photos by Beth Pascoe.
Rest of photos from my archives.

What can happen if we share? A beautiful miracle?

Look! Have you seen? Our earthly surroundings are awakening in miraculous re-birth! Point out these miracles to your family — and your friends — with awe in your voice…

Look at those tiny flowers! God has told the earth to wake up.
What other spring miracles can you find?

Make a daily habit to put God’s name with the miracles you see.

A Bleeding Heart prepares to bloom

Use instances of God at work in spring miracles as an opening to talking about the miracle we are studying – Jesus feeding over 5,000 people. Again, with awe in your voice…

God planned for plants to wake up in the spring. What a miracle God has given us!

Miracles point out a powerful God at work. What sort of power do you see happening in the miracle of Jesus feeding over 5,000 people?

A painting of the Feeding of the 5,000+

The obvious answer is that with a simple act of thanks to God (John 6:11a), Jesus unpacks a young boy’s lunch of five small loaves of bread and two fish, into a meal for more than 5,000. (There were even leftovers from this meal! 12 baskets of uneaten food.)

But could this multiplying have happened in a surprising but equally powerful way? Scholars have debated about what is the real miracle in this story. Is it that Jesus multiplied the bread and fish, or that the people really did bring along a little lunch and ended up sharing it?

Rev. Doug Norris shares this:

Open quote markPerhaps the little guy inspired others to share. Wouldn’t it be something if the miracle was a miracle of sharing, as people, one by one, pulled food out of their backpacks and shared with those around them? Perhaps Jesus walked through the crowd, encouraging, touching, blessing, visiting, and the stingy, the selfish, and the hoarders gradually warmed up, and realized their potential by not only sharing their food, but by experiencing the joy of doing something significant with and for Jesus.

A miracle made possible with sharing. We can participate in this!

But the sharing habit needs to be taught. Here are some possibilities for building sharing muscles:

  • Go grocery shopping together to bring a food item to the worship service on the first Sunday of every month. This month, the L.O.V.E. Thy Neighbor program, which makes lunches for the homeless and distributes them at Saturday morning breakfast at St. Andrews, will benefit from our food sharing.
  • Make a meal for a stressed family. Involve your kids in planning a meal, shopping and preparation and delivery. I still remember a church member who brought us a meal after I had been in the hospital. She very patiently unloaded our supper and her small children and brought them to the door to deliver the meal. What a great lesson her kids learned that day – service!
  • Set up birthday parties with gifts to designated for others. Have party participants bring a wish-list item for the Human Society.
  • Spring clean inside the house by selecting out-grown clothes or toys to donate. Include the kids in dropping off the delivery.
  • Spring clean outside by involving the family in tidying up an elderly neighbor’s yard.
In what way will you create a beautiful shared miracle?

a blue line


Photo credits:
Bleeding Hearts flower is from my archives.
The Feeding of over 5,000 people by Jim Padgett, from now-out-of-print Read’n Grow Picture Bible, via Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Released under a Creative Commons License.

Are you seeing ads? They are not from me! They are placed by WordPress, who otherwise offers a free platform from which to share lots of good-ness. If you see an inappropriate ad, please report it to support@wordpress.com. Include the URL, the date/time the ad appeared, and a screenshot of the ad.

Should Epiphany only be celebrated in the dark?

A beautiful blue sky day in winter

Happy Epiphany! Such a bright, sunny day—how rare for these parts in winter! How do you plan to celebrate Epiphany?

On Epiphany we remember wandering “wise men” who tracked a star and “followed its glisten and gleam all this way to worship him” (Matthew 2:2, The Voice).

Did you know that the stars are always shining, even in the daytime? It’s easy to forget isn’t it? We need a total solar eclipse to be able to see them, but they are there! Epiphany, with it’s focus on stars, do we have to wait until dark to celebrate?

The word Epiphany literally means to show or to make known or to reveal. It gets this name because the magi had finally reached their long-traveled destination. They were searching for a child, born to be God among us, and they had finally found him! They worshiped Jesus, presented gifts suitable for royalty, and thus revealed to the world that Jesus was a king.

Three wise men on camels ponder a star in the sky
If they were focused on a star, I wonder how the magi navigated during the daylight hours?

Was the star bright enough during the day? Or did they only travel at night? (The Bible doesn’t tell us.)

Was their arrival at our Savior’s doorstep a dark-night happening?

We think of daylight as a time when it is easier to see; to find our way. We label “darkness” as scary and to be avoided.

Can we find comfort in our darkness — the kind that occurs in broad daylight — knowing that the stars are always there?

Light a candle at the dinner table tonight. Think about and discuss ways we can be God’s light helping others along the journey.

--------------
Photo credits:
Bright, daylight photo, copyright, from my archives.
A Star in the East, a painting by W. L. Taylor, 1900, in the Public Domain.