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.

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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 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.

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.

a blue line

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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Can a simple, uplifting, tucked-in note be a huge gift?

Once again, they will go off to school. Carrying a backpack filled with practical supplies: pencils, paper, and pocket folders.Walking upstairs

Did you include a note for your child to find?

Perhaps when she opened her lunch? Or concealed in his pencil case?
Or tucked into the sleeve of a carried-along jacket?

One of several backpack or lunch box blessingsDid you know that your note can speak powerful words? The very thoughts of God: a blessing.

Writing a note is a special chance to bless your child.

Get a set of free Lunch box / Backpack Blessing Notes here. (Two samples are shown.)

Another backpack blessing cardBlessing your child empowers them — indicating who they are and who they are meant to be.


Tuck encouraging words into your child’s day.

Get your Lunch box / Backpack Blessing Notes here. Want to write them out by hand? Feel free to copy!


Photo credits:
Going up the steps by Jake Hills, who has released this photo to the Public Domain. Offered at unsplash.com.
Backpack blessings created with various Public Domain clipart from wpclipart.com.

How to hide reassuring words in our heart?

Put God’s Word in our heartThis week in Sunday’s school, we talked about hiding God’s Word in our heart.

Hide God’s word? What does that mean?

We call the Bible, “God’s Word” so this means we are hiding the Bible in our heart.

(If you’ve got a very literal kid they may wonder how one hides a book inside your body!)

How does God’s Word get into your heart?

It gets there when we know a verse (or verses) “by heart.” In other words, we have it memorized. This is not memory work like you would learn the facts for a test; this is a different sort of learning.

It’s the ability to roll right off of your tongue, a reassuring message from God.

This can be very useful when you’re faced with a challenge such as: Can I do this new task?

Open quote markI can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13


Open quote mark Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

So what are some ways to “put God’s Word in your heart?”

  • We used this one on Sunday: Learn the verse using Sign Language. We did this with Psalm 119:105 using signs for Word, Lamp, Feet, Light, and Path.
  • We also tried this one on Sunday: Say the verse using different accents or enunciations. Try using a British accent, a frog croak, a cowboy voice, a mouse squeak, a cheerleader yell, a Southern accent, opera style, and underwater. What others can you think of?
  • Use cup-stacking! (We also tried this one on Sunday.) Check out cup-stacking instructions for a 3-6-3 stack. (Refer to the free lesson we used on Sunday for a chart of how to count the cups.)
  • Also, check out this post and this post, for more learn-it-by-heart ideas.
What ways do you learn up-lifting words?


Photo credits:
Clip art heart in the Public Domain. Altered by moi and offered at Flickr.

Take me to where love is needed

Jesus told us to go and make disciples.

But what does it mean to “make disciples?”

(I hope it doesn’t involve Bible-waving. And, is there something that doesn’t take much time, that I can fit in between collecting a paycheck, caring for my family, car-pooling, and crashing into bed exhausted every night?)

How are we suppose to follow what is called “The Great Commission?”

hands held in the shape of a heart over the face of a child

By noticing the need for love.

Teach your family to be on the look out for situations where love is needed.

  • Sometimes it is obvious: The latest disaster in the news. A homeless person. A child in tears.
  • Sometimes it can be more obvious with some training that makes us more sensitive to what a need looks like: A sibling, troubled by hurtful words. A child, alone at recess. A parent, struggling to get dinner ready.
    Present scenarios of these situations to your child. Ask them: “What can you do to provide some love in such a case?” Guide them to think of possible answers.
  • Sometimes it’s about stepping back and asking deeper questions about a situation. What stress is going on in her life that would cause her to react that way? Can I see the underlying events that have led him to become homeless? Will I observe her behavior as not mean, but as trying to gain control?… These situations require further discussion about how our findings may affect how we offer love. Discuss these situations over the family dinner table.

Jesus counts on us to be his hands and his feet — to do good things in the world — in all sorts of ways!

Photo credits:
Heart hands by Fanny, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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The Great Commission says to go. You don’t have to go far. (Start at home)

Open quote markGo out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life.
— Jesus

United Methodists take Jesus’ words seriously. We say that our mission is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Sounds very lofty! How about we start at home?

How about we start by discipling the people who live with us?

It doesn’t have to happen in a formal, sit-down-and-study sort of way.

It happens when we apply faith to every-day life with our words.

For example, today, when springtime is bursting out around us, try pointing out God in simple ways.

a Redbud tree in bloomWhen you see bright colors…
Say: Notice how God is painting beauty all around us!

a single tulip next to a tree

See a single flower (all by itself)?
Say: God planted that one just to cheer someone up.

For the sounds of spring…
Say: Listen to the birds chirping; God gave them voices to announce spring.

When it rains…
Say: God is watering the flowers.

baby birds in a nestFor springtime babies…
Say: Jesus was resurrected from the dead because God promised new life. Isn’t it fun to notice new life?

fog in the morning in the valley

When fog swirls…
Say: God wanted to just kiss the trees.

For a sunset…
God’s got his paintbrushes out again.

a sunset through the trees

When Jesus says “Go” this applies to our everyday going about – going to church, going to school, going to the mall, going to play sports, or going to a concert – It means going about our daily lives. It is a process with rich rewards.

Learn the language of faith. Together as a family.

Photo credits:
Photos are from my archives.

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Advice from David: Stop and contemplate

In our Rotation this month, we’ve been asking how a person develops faith in God. So far we’ve covered some ways to grow our faith. Let’s expand on the one that suggests we spend time alone with God. How does one practice doing that?

What if you followed David’s lead?

Not the part about hitting Goliath in the head with a rock, but what comes before the actual battle: What David likely did as he picked out stones.

Stop. Think. Take time to ponder as you carefully choose your rocks.

A child contemplates rocks

The Bible doesn’t give us many details about the picking of these stones but I can imagine there was some thought that went into it. Let’s call it “Meditative Time.” Can we practice that? Yes!

You might first think of meditation as something that Buddhist’s do. It may be surprising to learn that meditation is found in all religious traditions. In Christianity it is the heart of the contemplative teaching of Jesus on prayer.

Here are the simple steps to begin meditation:

  • Sit with your back straight and lightly close your eyes.
  • Focus on your breathing.
  • Silently begin to recite a single word – a prayer word or “mantra.” Try the Aramaic [1] word that means “Come Lord” – Maranatha. Break it into four syllables:
    Breath In: Ma
    Breath Out: Ra
    Breath In: Na
    Breath Out: Tha
  • Let go of all thoughts (even good thoughts), images and words. When your mind drifts, bring yourself gently back and continue repeating your word.

(For a graphic with these steps refer to this website.)

Other questions:

  • How long should this last? With young children start with one minute. When it becomes apparent that they can handle one minute, “praise them and say that since they are so good at it now, you will reward them by increasing it to two minutes. Every time they are at ease with the length of time, increase it by one minute till you reach their age – 4 minutes for age 4, 5 minutes for age 5 and so on.” [2]
  • What if your child asks: Why say “Maranatha.” Is that some sort of magical word?” An answer.
Give David’s plan a try: stop and contemplate.

[1] Aramaic is the language that Jesus spoke.
[2] Suggestion from the website of The School of Meditation, of The World Community for Christian Meditation.

Photo credits:
Contemplating rocks by Hagerty Ryan, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Image is in the Public Domain, provided by Public Domain Images.

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