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.

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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!

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

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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?

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Photo credits:
Photos by Beth Pascoe.

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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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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 save his people from sin, 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.

The wise men follow the starIf 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 be God’s light helping others along the journey.


Photo credits:
Bright, daylight photo from my archives.
Wise men, a painting by W. L. Taylor. Offered via “Waiting For The Word” at Flickr under a Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) License.

A challenge: What does your Advent look like?

Advent Collage for #pictureAdvent

Advent is here!

Rather than posting weekly on the blog, I’m participating in a photo-a-day challenge based on Advent themes. For example, today is “Prepare” and tomorrow is “Abound.” This has been fun!

Take a look at my photos so far. (If you click on a photo you can read my thoughts that go with each theme.)

Join in if you’d like, just tag your photos with #pictureAdvent. Or have your kids draw a picture that represents the day’s theme. You may also choose to read the short Bible passages that go along with each day’s word.

Days of Picture Advent 2015Here are the daily Advent words.

 

One of the best distinctions of Advent? There is no reason why you can’t talk about Jesus every day!

Use some of these family-friendly Advent ideas to help out.
    Wandering wise men

  • Follow along with the antics of these guys on a whimsical quest to find the infant king — the Wandering Wisemen Balthazar, Melchior, and Gaspar along with their faithful camel, Hezekiah. (You don’t need to be a Facebook user to see these daily posts.)

    Why not make use of the characters in your manger scene/crèche? Take turns moving them (not just the magi!) around your home on their way to the stable. What adventures will they experience?

  • A grazing sheep made out of LegosThere are a multitude of ideas here, for LEGO®-maniacs, bookworms, and “RACK”-makers! (RACK stands for “Random Acts of Caring Kindness.) Oldies but goodies.
  • More ideas including ways to find peace amongst all of the frantic-ness. Yes, I need this!
  • Live Nativity

  • Plan on attending the comedic drama performed by our youth at 5pm on Sunday, December 20, 2015, in the downtown Sanctuary of FUMC.

    Afterwards there is a live nativity and Christmas caroling. Carlos the donkey will be there.

What is your Advent looking like?


Photo credits:
Photos in collage are from my archives. Challenge list from pictureAdvent.com. Wandering wisemen borrowed from the creator of the series. Sheep from LEGO® bricks, by Leo Dorst. Reproduced by permission.

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How to make bold, Ruth-like promises to people we care about

Naomi had packed up her belongings, and with her two daughter-in-laws, was heading to Bethlehem. What a trio – three widows without any children! (People hearing this story in Bible times knew about the perilous predicament of a widow without a son to care for her.) These three likely hadn’t gotten very far before Naomi urged them to make a different choice.

Go home. Go back to your families. What possible reason would you have for returning with me? (Ruth 1:11)

One of the daughter-in-laws does just that. She returns to her home in Moab… to her mother… to what was well-known… to her gods (Moab was a land of multiple pagan gods)… to a place where she wasn’t likely to be shunned (Israelites looked down on Moabites). She was looking out for number one – herself. Nothing to be faulted for that!

Meanwhile, Ruth makes a bold, surprising promise:

Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God. Ruth 1:16

Two kids make a pinky promise (by linking their pinky fingers)

Such an extravagant commitment!

This is a story about love, loyalty, devotion. And it’s about making hard choices.

What “Ruth-like” promises have you made for the people in your life?

While this strategy can apply to everyone in the family, I’m specifically talking to the parents here. How about making one (or all) of these promises:

  • I’ll attend worship with my family every week – even though the kids might squirm, sigh loudly, and make a fuss. (Because worshiping with your kids is good parenting in action.)
  • I’ll make sure that I am cultivating my own faith and I’ll talk about my faith journey with my family.
  • I’ll ask my child every night, “How can I be praying for you?”
  • I will daily invest in blessing my child.

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a Ruth wheat braiding projectIf your kids attend FUMC as Cool Disciples, they are mentally absorbing the basics. Each week they hear the story details. As they craft wheat creations or knead barley biscuits, they are learning definitions for widow, famine, and gleaning; they are hearing Ruth’s bold statement of trust.

But, with only (at best) 45 minutes in class, we can’t dig deep enough. We try, but we don’t have the time.

 
We need parents and caregivers to continue the learning.

We need you to make some Ruth-like promises, to ensure your child’s spiritually is nurtured.

Here’s my Ruth-like, stretching-myself promise to you (because I care about your kids): I’ll keep bugging you to grow your kids faith!


Photo credits:
Pinky promise by Cheryl Holt, in the Public Domain, offered at Pixabay.com.
Other photo from my archives.

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