Where will Jesus show up today?

They didn’t expect to see him. So they didn’t notice?
Just like I almost missed seeing the Dutchman’s Breeches.

A wild flower known as Dutchman's Breeches

There they were! At the edge of the walkway. How long had they been out?

How had I missed seeing them?

Dutchman’s Breeches are a tiny, early spring flower, getting their apt name from their appearance: petite, white, hanging-upside-down, pantaloons strung on an invisible clothesline. I hadn’t expected to see them yet. (Spring is rather slow in coming to these parts.)

Where will Jesus show up for you today?

The same sort of abrupt awareness came to the two disciples who were traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They hardly noticed that an indiviual had joined their journey. They were so caught up in their grief-filled discussion over the death of Jesus, their expected rescuer. They didn’t realize that Jesus was walking besides them!

These Dutchman’s Breeches stir up deep connections for me. Do you treasure your grandmother’s recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies? Do stories gush forth when the making happens? The emergence of wild flowers does it for me. Memories flow.

My Aunt Doris brought me a Dutchman’s Breeches plant from her garden many years ago. I recall her bending to the soil to poke them into earth. Doris has since gone on to her heavenly home. Seeing the delicate white flowers brings to mind Doris and her love of Jesus. The way she so readily and passionately shared her faith!

A wild flower known as Dutchman's Breeches

What reminders of Jesus’ love are you almost missing today?

Keep watch! He’s closer than you think!



Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Other photos from my archives.

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Accept mistakes and celebrate grace

It’s a nasty train of thought that I’ve carried with me for a long time:

But it’s not perfect!

All of my life I’ve been a perfectionist. In the 2nd grade when we were creating self-portraits at school, my mother was mystified by my insistence that I wear the same dress for several days in a row. (I wanted to get the details just right.)

I recall in 8th grade getting a “D” in Art class because I couldn’t finish my projects; I couldn’t get them to be perfect.

It’s a disease and I know that others suffer from it too. (Like the 5th grader I worked with who was afraid to estimate an answer to a mathematical problem because, well, it could be wrong!)

I think perhaps it is something that we teach ourselves to believe?

Here’s the pitch I’m repeating these days: Jesus is bigger than any mistake.

Try this at the family dinner table (or wherever your family is gathered together): Have everyone (adults included) share a mistake that they made that day. Repeat the process on a daily basis.

Child tends broken seedling

Exposing and naming our goof-ups teaches our kids that:

  • Everyone makes mistakes;
  • Home is a safe place to confess our sins;
  • When necessary, forgiveness can be extended;
  • We can all celebrate God’s gift of I-love-you-anyway Grace.

It’s not too late to learn: Jesus is bigger than any mistake. What learning is happening in your family?


Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Broken seedling by D. Sharon Pruitt, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Don’t wait for Confirmation class!

Last Sunday we celebrated Confirmation Sunday, the unique worship service where a milestone is reached – our youth affirm the faith of the church as their own!

a youth gets confirmed
Pastors & parents place their hands on a kneeling youth as she is confirmed.

 

Nineteen youth became professing members. Among their assertions…

They said, I do to:

  • a rejection of all evil,
  • regret for their sin,
  • confession of Jesus Christ as their Savior.

And I will to:

  • serving as Christ’s representative in the world,
  • and faithfully participating in the ministries of the church.

How did they get to this milestone in their faith journey?

How did they come to this powerful, public pronouncement?

 

Was it the spent weeks in Confirmation class, learning everything there is to know about the Christian faith.

Well, I’m hoping that we didn’t pin all of our hopes on a few months of classes! Or even a few years of Sunday school. It takes more than that.

Their faith will stick won’t it?

Well we can’t be sure. It is between God and each individual, but you can up the odds.

Don’t do like I did. Don’t leave the religious teaching to the “experts” at church. Don’t be hampered by your own lack of understanding (who am I to teach??) Don’t wait for Confirmation class to start the journey.

Here are a few basic examples of what you can do for your kids now:
Their age (roughly) Your words Your actions
Birth “God loves you” Your care provides a foundation for trust in God.
Toddler “God created all things” Point out all of God’s creation all around them.
Preschooler “The Bible tells us about God and his son, Jesus Christ.” Read Bible stories at home.
“We can talk to God whenever we want and he will listen.” Model and teach about prayer.
And the list goes on…

Don’t wait for Confirmation class!

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Photo credits:
Photo from Confirmation Sunday from my archives.

Merry Christmas!

In the pews at a Christmas eve service with candles 
 
Every year, it never fails.

I always cry.

 

The church all in darkness . . .

except for candles in the pews.

Light that comes at Christmas, to each of us.

Open quote mark…a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born.
The Message, Luke 2:10

Celebrate this good news!

Merry Christmas!

–Love, Carol


Photo credits:
From my archives: My family together at worship last Christmas eve.

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A changed way of thinking

Have your kids grown taller in the last year?

measuring to see how much a child has grown taller

Ask your kids what other ways they have changed recently.

  • Gotten better at math facts perhaps?
  • Become more proficient at playing an instrument or a game?
  • Or possibly changed their mind about something?

Change can be surprising.

In the Cooking workshop this month, with a little "shaking up," kids have been changing ordinary ingredients into a tasty snack: individual servings of ice cream in a bag! (Actually, a lot of shaking was required.)

Making ice cream in a bag Making ice cream in a bag

Our woman at the well was a bit shaken up by Jesus’ radical way of noticing her/including her/acknowledging her. A change occurred in this woman – an “inside” change as well as an “outside” change. The outside change was obvious: She was able to over-look judgment and went running to tell others about Jesus! (John 4:28-29)

The inside change? Well, we can’t know for sure, but she likely changed the way she felt about herself; the words she used to describe herself. She was no longer a loner, a loser, someone over-looked and to be ignored.

I believe that getting closer to Jesus, changes us inside.

It’s why I write this blog! (Despite my uncertainty and the disparaging words I’ve used in my past to describe myself.)

“Living water” is what Jesus offers us: a close relationship with God – assurance that God loves us, no matter what. Over time, it can change how we describe ourselves. Can you say this?

I am God’s masterpiece!

How does knowing this change you?
Please, pass this knowledge on to your kids!


Photo credits: Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Measuring by Woodleywonderworks, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Learning the language of faith

When my kids were little I had a inkling that we should be discussing God and having faith-talks, but how was I to start? I didn’t remember anything from my childhood Sunday school! What was I suppose to say?

Does talking about faith with your family seem foreign?

Are you in this sort of quandary? If yes, might I recommend a seminar I am co-leading on Saturday, March 24th at the downtown FUMC church. It’s part of a workshop called Building a Better Family. Read more about it here. Register on-line here. One of the sponsors of this workshop is the preschool at our church, FUMCN, however that doesn’t mean that only parents of preschoolers need attend! It applies to all ages!

In the meantime… back to the foreign language of faith… and a motto to adopt as you face this dilemma with courage!

I’ll bet you’ve acquired a host of different “languages” along your life journey; some simple, others complex. Back when I started my first “real” job I had to learn the difference between a frappe and a milkshake. (Yeah, I was a soda jerk.) In college I drank in the language of trees and plants; I could present on the pessimistic prospects of a bushy Euonymus alatus vs. rabbits. (This was in the days before concerns about landscaping with non-natives. This plant, otherwise known as the Burning Bush, is now considered invasive in several states!)

The shrub known as the Burning Bush, in its red fall color

Later, after some soul-searching I changed careers and learned more new languages: communicating with computers. COBOL or Fortran anyone? (I guess I just dated myself).

Has your path been like mine? Acquired any new vernaculars along the way?

Since those days, my lifework has changed… again. I’m pursuing another language. It includes a burning bush… but of a different sort. This language includes words that I am often confused about like Incarnation, Annunciation and Atonement. You too?

When my children were little I’m certain that I didn’t try very hard to speak the language of faith because of uncertainty, and embarrassment and a bit of fear.

I don’t want you to repeat my mistake. So here is a motto to repeat to yourself, over and over:

Stumble if you need to.

Go ahead and make a mistake or two or more. It is a process with rich rewards… learning the language of faith… together as a family.


Photo credits: Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
A horticultural Burning Bush by Jennifer Murawski, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

I dare you to notice God at work

Now that we are turning the calendar page to February, how are your New Year’s resolutions coming? I personally have already given up on daily exercise. (Such lofty thoughts!) There is one area however, where I am going full speed ahead: Noticing and counting God’s gifts.

I’m pursuing the “Joy Dare”

A real dare! It goes like this: in 2012 can I make a conscious effort to write down one thousand gifts? (That means roughly three a day!) These gifts are more than just things, they are graces from God.

Can I mark that many ways that God shows me love?

I’ve been writing down gifts for the last three years. But my annotations were intermittent. (It took me two years to get to 500.) Climbing to one thousand more in 2012 takes an effort! But this dare is aptly named: A Joy Dare, because I’m finding real joy even on days filled with chaos and confusion; I look for beauty in the ugly mess. It’s become for me a habit: repeatedly giving God praise – for everything.

Then it occurred to me that this tallying of thankfuls is a way to notice God in our lives! Exactly what we are trying to teach kids in our current Rotation on Moses.

It’s not too late to start this dare. Perhaps it could be reworded?

I dare you to notice God at work in your life.

share the dare
Click on this button to find out more about the dare.

Some of my list (from its beginnings back in November 2008 but with up-to-date photos)…

a family gathering

6. A healthy family

11. Authentic refried beans

35. Blue sky days

 
a blue sky fall day

702. Texting blessings

279. Family discussion with tears

833. Smiles noted when someone unexpectedly lends a helping hand

1010. Foot pain

1013. A cheerleading friend.

 
Want to start this dare in your family but worried about where to find God’s graces? Might I point you to help? Click here for a wonderful list – a way to capture God’s gifts – three a day all through February!


Photo credits:
Photos are from my archives.
Button from onethousandgifts.com

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Is blessing your child awkward? Practice blessing yourself!

Perhaps you never heard words like this when you were growing up…

You are very special in God’s eyes. God loves you very much!

Could that be why saying blessings to your child(ren) feels awkward?

Would it help if you first received a blessing for yourself? I’ve written one just for you! It’s a little gift to get you started on blessing your kids.

Sunset through the trees

(Are you ready? Just insert your name in the blanks as you read this to yourself.)

A blessing for caregivers…

_______, may you see every day as a new gift.

A new chance to be guided by God through all the moments,
both the taxing and the tranquil.

God is constantly whispering to you.
Do you hear?

stained-glass border

“Hello _______. Today, let me use you to touch the lives of little ones around you.
(And the not so little ones too.)

You are perfect for the job I have for you.
Did you see the way I painted the sky with shades of pink, purple and orange?

You too are one of my limited editions!
I love you just the way you are.”

~~ Love, Carol

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Photo credits:
Sunset photo is from my archives.
Stained glass was adapted from a photo offered in the Public Domain (CC0 1.0) at Pixabay..

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363 days until next Christmas!

Christmas is over for another year; it’s the perfect time to plan for next year!

Really. I’m not kidding.

While everyone is still thinking about Christmas, is an ideal time to pitch a different way of doing gift-giving next year.

Reduce the number of gifts under the tree and change the way we celebrate.

I’ll let this short video from an organization with a radical name – The Advent Conspiracy – explain it…

Can’t see the video? View it here.

It’s about moving away from the shopping, and lines, and lists that go along with Christmas gift-giving, and replacing presents with presence. (It’s what kids really want/need.) You’ll be less frazzled, frustrated, and flat-broke. You’ll have more time to celebrate God with us. And the best part: reduced spending on gifts allows us to give more – to those with real needs.

This Christmas the adults in our family got a small gift and a note about a donation made in their name. I actually enjoyed the “shopping” this year – choosing charities! It made my happiness run wild when I received an email from the Executive Director of Community Action Network (CAN), our gift to my brother and sister-in-law, excerpted below:

I cannot tell you how panicked I was last week Tuesday, December 13, when I discovered 40+ CAN families had not been sponsored for Christmas. I could only imagine how devastated parents would be when we told them we had no presents…But after we put out our plea for help, the response was overwhelming…
Here at Community Action Network, we experienced our own Christmas miracle: you. You made Christmas (for the) families come true this year. You saved Christmas.

The way we celebrate Jesus’ birth can change the world.

spend less...give more


Photo credits: Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Advent Conspiracy poster and video from here.