If every day were a day to remember

A holiday set aside for honoring men and women who died serving the U.S. military, Memorial Day got started in the late 1860’s. That’s legions of seasons for reminiscence!

Memorial Day 2011, at San Francisco National Cemetery

What if every day were marked as a day for remembrance? Could we do it?

Probably not. It would take scads of intentionality. Sticky notes everywhere?
A sticky note with the words - Today. Remember!

It takes work to call to mind even ordinary stuff. But reminders can help.

In the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, we read of people building cairns as a way of recollecting that God was at work in their lives.

Jacob built such a monument after distinctly experiencing God’s presence. He stacked stones and called the spot Bethel meaning “God is in this place.” Jacob would never forget that night.

In Joshua 4:1-7, God tells the Israelites to set up a “memento” made up of 12 stones. The purpose? So that when their children asked: “What is this memorial about?” they would then be able to tell the story of the great act that God had done to take care of his people. It was to be a reminder to those who were not there to witness this act, that God was great!

For times when you aren’t sure that God is real and present in your life. (Because those days happen, don’t they?) For questioning times.

a boy stacks stones on a beachThis month our Rotation key Bible verse is about remembering. Jesus advised his disciples and gave them a reminder:

Open quote markGo and make disciples of all nations … and surely I am with you always.   Matthew 28:19-20


What reminders can help us to not forget the every-day, great things that God does? That God is always with us?

What “memorials” — memory tools — can we set up to help us every day, to remember? Try creating something simple…

  • Stack stones: Go out for a walk to collect stones. Once back at home, in a family gathering (perhaps at the dinner table), artfully arrange your rocks while discussing God in your lives that day. Encourage contemplative manipulation of your rock pile.
  • Display a cross: Need a cross to display in your home? How about making one? Check out these ideas (goes to my Pinterst board).
  • Create an “altar” of sorts. Fill a space in your home with reminders of God at work. Allow touching and rearranging and additions and subtractions. (Photo on right is at the Nelson home around Easter time.)

Set up reminders to tell our children the stories of what God has done in our lives.

Photo credits:
A Memorial Day scene by Daniel Parks.
Sticky Note created from a Public Domain image.
Stacking stones by Roy Luck, on Flickr. Flickr images offered via Creative Commons.
Other photo thanks to the Nelson family.

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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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Your mission (should you choose to accept it) – The Great Commission

A painting, Jesus gives his disciples the Great Commission, by Otto Adolph Stemler

Our next Rotation follows right on the heels of Jesus’ resurrection.

Jesus appeared to his disciples and gave an important assignment we call the “Great Commission.”

These are marching orders for all of us! Read about Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:16-20. Here is how I paraphrase Jesus’ instructions:

Open quote markFor everyone you meet as you go about your daily life, train them in discipleship, teaching the practice of Christ-like living.

These are not mere suggestions. Jesus clearly states, “Do these things.”
Join us as we explore this story!

See a growing list of opportunities to foster faith learning at home for this story.

a blue line

On Sundays, at the downtown location…

Date Our workshops for 1st through 5th graders…
Writing Den Cooking Games Art
Starts in Room 215 & finishes in 211 Social Hall Room 204 Room 212
5/3 1st grade 4th grade 3rd grade 2nd & 5th grade
5/10 2nd & 5th grade 3rd grade 4th grade 1st grade
5/17 3rd grade 2nd & 5th grade 1st grade 4th grade
5/24 Worship with your family. It’s Pentecost.
Read the scripture from the book of Acts ahead of time.
5/31 4th grade 1st grade 2nd & 5th grade 3rd grade
6/7 Worship with your family. It’s Confirmation Sunday.
6/14 The big game! Are you smarter than a 6th grader?

And here’s what the 6th graders will be doing this month… (They’ll always be in the Pine Room!)

5/3 5/10 5/17 5/24 5/31 6/7 6/14
Discuss our up-coming visit to UMYF (United Methodist Youth Fellowship for 7th-12th graders on Sunday evenings) Art Workshop Assist the younger kids (preschoolers and K’s) with an art project It’s Pentecost! Worship with your family. Read the scripture ahead of time. Year end party! Confirmation Sunday.
Worship with your family.
The big game! Will we be able to beat the younger kids? Study up!

What’s happening in each workshop?

  • In the Writing Den Workshop students will learn about “bucket filling” and create instructional signs that that inspire others how to do kind acts. This portion of the workshop will take place in homemade “forts.”
  • In the Cooking Workshop students will make play dough and create sculptures of how Jesus would live his life today. This process will help kids to see how they might live a life that fulfills the Great Commission.
  • In the Games Workshop students will play a warm-up game that will help kids remember our Key Bible Verse. Then play a game full of energy and movement (based on Cranium Hullabaloo) that will help the kids learn the story details, Bible organization, and ways that they can be Jesus’ disciples.
  • In the Art Workshop students will create quilled-paper handprints, to remind kids that Jesus commands them to “go out” in everyday living and look for and use opportunities to teach others about Jesus.

On Sunday mornings at FUMC our Cool Disciples experience Rotation Model Christian education, as they learn about Bible stories and concepts through kid-friendly multimedia workshops. If you are in the area please join us for the fun learning at First United Methodist Church in Ann Arbor, MI.


Photo credits:
Jesus gives his disciples the Great Commission, a painting by Otto Adolph. Offered by pcstratman, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Have you filled a bucket today?

Updated to reflect newly available publications.

Child at the beach filling a bucket
I learned something new at a family program at FUMC in Ann Arbor, MI.

I learned how to be a “bucket filler.”

Even though this interactive presentation on bucket filling was right after the Easter egg hunt, this wasn’t instruction on how to garner the most chocolate eggs in your Easter bucket basket.

No, this event was about something far more important.


Here’s what I took away:

  • Work to keep my bucket full (by filling other people’s buckets)
  • Don’t be a “bucket dipper”
  • And keep my bucket lid close at hand.

So what’s all this talk of buckets?

It’s all based on the concept that everyone carries around an invisible bucket where we store our good thoughts and feelings about ourselves.

When your bucket is full, you feel great.

When your bucket is empty, you feel lousy.

When we are kind and do nice things for someone, we fill their bucket. In the process of doing “bucket-filling, the gratifying side-effect is that our own bucket gets replenished!

This is a great way to teach kids (even young ones) about the importance of being loving and considerate of other people. To keep your own bucket full you need to either receive scoops of love from someone or ladle love upon someone else.

Jesus told us to be a bucket filler: “Love your neighbors as much as you love yourself.” (Luke 10:27). I’m all for full buckets!

But, don’t be a bucket dipper!

What is not good is “bucket dipping.” When someone acts mean, in the things they do or say (or even simply ignores us!) they dip into our bucket, hijacking some of our happiness.

For kids, this describes bullies, but it also can describe the daily goings-on in our households. How about: “My bucket is being dipped when you don’t pick up your toys as I’d asked.” Or, “I see that both of your buckets are being dipped when you and your sister are arguing.”

What’s with the bucket lid?

This event turned out to be so much more than just another way of looking at the Golden Rule. The presenter from Bucket Fillers, Inc. empowered us to deal with bucket dippers by putting a lid on our bucket! What a refreshing way to visualize protecting your feelings—for kids of all ages.

As I have thought about this bucket concept, it occurred to me that God wants to fill to overflowing, all of our buckets!

Open quote markFrom the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. John 1:16

God needs us to do the work of filling each other’s buckets. I have just one question…

A bucket full of blessings


Some Bucket-filling Resources:

The book Have You Filled a Bucket Today?This is a great book to introduce bucket filling to your kids; for all ages (even adults!)


The book: Fill a bucketThis one is great for ages birth to 5.


Book - Growing Up with a Bucket Full of HappinessA chapter book for ages 9 and up.


Book - Baby's Bucket BookBoard-book for ages birth to age 2.

Baby’s have buckets too!


To purchase the above books and other products visit Bucket Fillers, Inc.

Photo credits:
Beach photo offered by RJ Bejil, who licensed this photo under a Creative Commons License.

Graphic: “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” – used with permission from Bucket Fillers, Inc.
Book covers – Not affiliate links (I get nothing for pointing you to the organization Bucket Fillers, Inc. Just trying to point you towards resources.) but these covers do link to the publishers’ web site. This, in my mind, keeps this in the category of fair use for educational purposes.