Chick Night: A Night of Blush & Bashful

ChickNightSeveral years back, in a conversation between our youth ministry leader and I, we wanted to offer a way to involve the women of our church with the youth ladies of our church. We also wanted to connect my 5th grade girls with the girls of the youth group since they’d be headed that way in just a few short months. And we wanted to initiate a culture of invitation so that when we had a future event, our folks would be more apt to invite new folks and not just insiders. That conversation birthed our annual spring Chick Night.

ChickNightTableWe begin promoting it several months out at a registration rate set on a ‘per couple’ basis to encourage inviting new ladies to participate.  Registration must be for at least two..no singles…and you must be in 5th grade or older.  The 6:30pm-9:30pm event includes dinner, games, game prizes, a message, and a take home t-shirt at a cost of $35/couple.

Last year’s theme was based on Breakfast at Tiffany’s with breakfast food, black dresses and pearls, games involving jewelry, and a message on pearls of wisdom for women of faith by one of our very own ladies’ bible study teachers. Oh, and the Tiffany blue punch with sweetened condensed milk was divine!

ChickNightPinkThis year’s theme was based on the movie ‘Steel Magnolias’ with a southern garden party theme, hats/flowers/fascinators/head bands, simple magnolia table decorations, and we called it, “A Night of Blush and Bashful at Wesley Chapel.” Food included chicken salad, raw veggies and ranch dressing, dill-cucumber and pimento cheese sandwiches, deviled eggs, pink cupcakes, and fuzzy pink lemonade. White table cloths, white Christmas lights, white and pink paper products along with magnolia leaf centerpieces with Steel Magnolia table conversation tents made of cardstock folded into tents with various quotes from the movie.

ChickPeopleBingoGames included a Steel Magnolia People Bingo game I came up with after watching the movie for the upteenth time for folks to mix and mingle and get to know one another. Two rolls of toilet paper and a roll of tape for each table to come up with a Project Runway wedding dress to be worn by a model at each table (ended up not having time for this one, but gotta have backup games just in case), a Pink Party Ring-A-Bell search list (the person who is wearing the darkest pink nail polish, wearng the most pink accessories, and the most letters of the word ‘pink’ in their name.)  And no evening is ever complete without the pocket-book scavenger hunt.

ChickNightArmadilloThe message was presented by a precious woman of faith born and raised in the Atlanta area, known by our youth ministry leader raising four girls to whom we paid an honorarium.  My favorite line of the evening: “Southern women know how to show up…in life’s highs…and in life’s lows. Love one another well.” ~ Paige Knudsen

ChickNightCaroleOnce we set the theme, put it on the calendar, and set the scripture for the night, we split the responsibilities.  I take care of the marketing, the money, the registrations, the tshirt sizes, the table assignments, the tshirt tags, and the games.  Our uber creative youth ministry leader takes care of the registration form, table and room decorations, arranges for the food, designs the tshirt, and secures game prizes.

How do you connect your girls with your Titus 2 women?

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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A Ministry With Children Challenge

WinterBallBFFI love my kidmin colleagues. My kidmin colleagues are more like close friends and family. We share a passion in making Jesus real to little people and offering easy wins equipping their parents to do the same. We take on a Target after-Halloween sale like crazy people for discounted costumes. We creatively make water and condiments and fruit rollups into holy elements. We submit to the pastoral and laity leadership authority over us. We could each write a book on the 100 uses of pool noodles just off the tops of our heads.

This morning five of us will rendezvous at a Starbucks at 7am to carpool to a challenge prepared to help us connect to an even greater gathering of resources and relationships intentionally prepared to move each of us to the next level.  Many of us will have already connected through social media, but now get a face to face. I couldn’t be more elated to spend time with those who have encouraged me, hoped for me, laughed with me, shared losses and gains with me, and even sent gracious emails and messages to me over the last week since the sudden passing of my mother-in-law.  Yep, I love my kidmin colleagues.

Several of us who’ve been doing ministry with children for a while have been invited to be a mentor to a small group for the next six months.  I have some idea of what will be in store for us today, but most will be a surprise.

This I know: We are better together.  Starting out: We are better together. Celebrating professional gains: We are better together. Enduring professional challenges: We are better together.  Persevering through the personal while fulfilling the professional: We are better together.

This is my first social gathering since my family lost our matriarch just ten short days ago. I can’t focus for long periods of time yet. The memorial service isn’t until next week. My heart is aching and the tears still come out of nowhere.  But as my personal and professional BFF texted, “A little laughter as we travel together will be good for your soul.” Yep, we are better together.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1

 

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Reflections (Not the deep ones) on Easter 2016

EasterWilliamAll the planning, all the shopping, and all the cooking and it’s now the week following Resurrection Sunday. Though I am wired to begin planning for the next big thing, it is most healthy and helpful to evaluate all that led up to and including Resurrection Sunday. These will be quite random…

  1. After several years renting a tent for the Sunrise service, we bit the bullet and took advantage of the spring sales at Tractor Supply by purchasing two outdoor carports with side panels. Total cost was less than two year’s rental and now we have some space coverage for more outdoor activities. Makes this KidMin chick very happy and the creativity is burning rubber in my head!
  2. Even one of my regular volunteers never saw the Sunday school special announcement for Easter Sunday morning I’ve been running for months in the bulletin, the newsletter, the weekly Mailchimp announcements, nor the multiple emails or facebook posts. (Insert a heavy sigh here.)
  3. Glad I kept a list of the numbers and kinds of palms and flowers to order from the local floral distributor for Palm Sunday and the Easter Sunday flower cross.  Making the updates from this year and writing in the handy address book. I use an address book because it is laid out in alphabetical order to keep these numbers. Everything having to do with Easter is under E. Everything about Christmas is under C, banking under B, funerals under F.
  4. Easter Egg hunt happens on Palm Sunday and down to a science. The January meeting of CLUB345 has the students putting the eggs together and filling paper bags with a baker’s dozen for the congregation to begin to take on Ash Wednesday (Ash Wednesday was the plan, but the first Sunday in Lent was the reality this year with Easter coming so early) and the following Sundays in Lent to fill with wrapped candy, stickers, toys, (no chocolate, please) and return before Palm Sunday. Pour eggs into sealed storage bins and fold up bags for next year (this lets me easily count how many eggs we have, too, to tease the kids).  Awesome youth take the bins and hide the eggs during Sunday school hour of Palm Sunday. Little people hunt for eggs after the 11 am service. Attending the Missions Lunch, little people take the goodies from the eggs and return the eggs to the storage bins for the next year’s CLUB345 January meeting.
  5. Worship Committee Team, the Worship Leader, and our Senior Pastor rocked the lily pickup and delivery, the flower cross flowers were clipped and put in water, the furniture was moved, the outdoor space was readied and packed up with awning, chairs, keyboard, music stands, and technical equipment; frilled out Palm Sunday to bare Maundy Thursday to uber-frilled out Easter Sunday. This made for multiple lay people visits during Holy Week.  Note to team: Gotta order the ferns and the palms weeks before Holy Week when they cost only $10 at the local WalMart.
  6. Anticipating multiple lay folk visits during Holy Week in the office, it was wise to prepare bulletins and other timely items in the weeks prior so to be the hostess-with-the-mostest and ready to assist as needed.
  7. Even Easter banana pudding has enough sugar in it to bring back sciatic nerve pain. Step away from the banana pudding, DeDe. No dessert is worth it anymore! Well, maybe a petit four.
  8. Sunrise Services continues to increase in number so it’s helpful to have little people show hospitality by handing out the hot chocolate.  No need to plan for this, just see who is there and grab ’em. Quick Trip will fill a standard coffee pumper for around a $1 with the best hot chocolate ever. Two coffee pumpers can fill a sleeve of Styrofoam cups for about 50 folks.
  9. Glad that everything is prepped and laid out for the morning, so I could engage in face-time conversations with youth and adults I don’t usually get to chat with.
  10. Palm Sunday bulletin was focused on ‘in-house’ marketing of events and news. Easter Sunday bulletin was focused on ‘guest’ marketing of events and news.  That way, the Easter Sunday bulletin is not filled with insider jargon, but easy items of intentional first entry into the family of faith with larger fonts and intentionally invitational.
  11. When we promoted the services on social media, we made sure we included the address to make it easy to GPS. We can’t assume everyone knows, especially new folks, where we are exactly located.  Aha moment: Even though I posted the times for Easter Sunday services on the church Facebook pages and groups the week before, I got an ask for them again at 9pm the night before on my personal page.  Easy enough then to ‘share’ it on my personal page the evening before.  In the words of Donald Miller in the 5 Minute Marketing Makeover, I can’t expect people to burn a lot of calories to find the basics of info.
  12. We had one child in Sunday School, but a bunch in every worship service. We had one child in Sunday School on Easter last year, too.  I won’t be discouraged with all the planning and prep that goes into it, because we are a family of faith that worships together and I am so proud of that.  It’s not just what we do, it’s who we are. Just know that the multiple bags of skittles will probably be showing up through the summer until Trunk or Treat. There were multiple ways the children were part of the services and it works for us.My families love each other, enjoy each other’s company, share life as one, and what we do together makes for family traditions and memories that make sacred celebrations sticky…I couldn’t be more thrilled.

What are some of your ‘notes to self’ for next Easter?

“This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:17

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Easter Family Traditions

EasterEggsWatching The Passion Live through the streets of New Orleans got me to thinking about family traditions. South Louisiana was my home during my teen through my young-married years. The creativity had me glued to my seat throughout and I eagerly downloaded the soundtrack from iTunes midway through.

I don’t remember much of Easter Sunday as a child. My parents were very active as Sunday school teachers in our local church until their divorce when I was 10.  In my teen years we engaged in a wild Easter egg hunt with a money egg, ate ham, made multi-colored egg salad, and a basket of beautifully painted ceramic eggs decorated the center of our family table.

When Baby Girl and #1 Son were little people, our Easter celebrations centered around an all-day church day with food, dressy clothes, fantastic music, and lots of kids in Sunday school as we lived in New England. By the middle elementary years, we were in the Atlanta area and we joined a church that celebrated a season of Lent in addition to Resurrection Sunday.  We began a new family tradition of attending the Sunrise service in the parking lot on our own lawn chairs with hot chocolate. The adults didn’t dress up and most of the kids were still in pajamas.  It was intimate. It was different. It was powerful. We sang the same songs every year and huddled under blankets to keep warm. The message was delivered by a lay person who has now answered the call into full time professional ministry and leads a spirit-filled church about 20 minutes away.  Frankly, that sunrise service was the most uncomfortable service of the year… we remembered it….and we loved it.

Serving on a local church staff, there are now multiple services. Lots of planning. Lots of flowers. Lots of greenery. Lots of beautiful music and lots of preparation for church guests and church family. But it’s the Sunrise service that makes my Resurrection celebration.  Now I’m the one to stop at the Quick Trip to fill the pump carafes with hot chocolate (just a few dollars to fill each one), roll a cart with sleeves of Styrofoam cups and paper towels to the outdoor site.  People walking their dogs, stop and take a seat. We sing. We shiver in the cold. We hear the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

What are your Easter Family traditions?

“Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.'” John 20:21

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Book Review: A Girl’s Guide to Best Friends and Mean Girls

51rVObA-D3L__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A colleague at last month’s children’s ministry networking lunch suggested a book series for tween girls. Always looking for new books for the Saints Book Club, I ordered it, read it in a day, and made this book our month’s reading choice. I was not disappointed.

The book is laid out in six small chapters about BFFs and Mean Girls followed by 6 small chapters of My Best Friend, Jesus – Bible Study which includes a scripture passage to read with puzzles to apply it.  I love puzzles! Authors Dannah Gresh & Suzy Weibel invite the reader to be a meditator: ‘a meditator studies the bible and then asks God to help her understand it while she prays. A wise pastor once told me that meditation is what happens when studying and praying crash into each other!’

The chapters include easy reading for tweens to choose their team (Jesus didn’t wait to be chosen, but chose His team) and how we can follow Jesus’ example of how to deal with jealousy, wounds, how to be a good friend and not a mean girl, and what it means to be a fruitful friend of and to Jesus.

At Saints Book Club we were able to talk about being an extrovert/introvert, our closest friends, the friends we chose, the friends who chose us, when we were hurt by friends, when we forgave, and were challenged to pray regularly for our friends.  ‘Friends, by the way, were intended to make us better people’ was one of my favorite lines.

There are several other books in this series and we’ll choose another.  I found the book to be very relevant to my group of tween girls (3rd-5th grade) without going into situations that were more teen-appropriate.  Their Secret Keeper Girl’s website is amazing and promotes a Crazy Hair Tour for moms and daughters.  They are coming to our town, but I have a commitment that day, so I’ll have to wait until they come by again. The meditation part with Jesus as the model provided a best friend context for my girls.  It made for great conversation over a Wendy’s frosty. Yes, we will definitely read another.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

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Prayer Walk On Campus

2016PrayerWalkPraying together on campus can happen beyond the Sanctuary and Sunday School classroom.  For flip-flop night with our CLUB345, we prepared prayer books with dollar-store soft photo albums with prayer images and the following instructions. Then sent our 3rd-5th graders out in pairs to prayer walk our campus.

Page 1:  Did you know that you can talk to God?  Well, you can.  Talking to God is called PRAYING.  God loves it when you talk to Him. God loves kids. The Bible says so.  That’s why He always hears a child’s prayer.  In fact, He tells adults that they should act like children in their hearts if they want God to listen to their prayers.  You may be small, but your prayers are important to God.  That’s why when you pray, big things happen.

Page 2: Prayer Walk Suggestions 

You can take the prayer walk by yourself, but a partner is always more fun.

  • First, choose who will be Reader #1 and who will be Reader #2.
  • When you arrive at a location, do everything the book asks.
  • Then, take turns reading the statements and questions outloud.
  • Read the prayer aloud together.
  • Part of praying is listening. Listening to God from the scriptures and listening to each other’s answers.
  • Wait one full minute before going to the next location.
  • Take your time and don’t be in a hurry to finish.

Page 3: Go to the stage area in the sanctuary where weekly worship services happen

Reader #1: On this stage, weekly, the leaders present God’s Word in song and preach the Scriptures.

Reader #2: Go stand where Mr. Michael typically stands.  Look at the church or congregation from his view.  Do you know how much time goes into preparing the worship music weekly?

Reader #1: Go stand in front of the pulpit and see what Pastor Jimmy sees on a weekly basis.  Can you picture where any of our people sit?  Point them out and name who you know.

Prayer: Lord, let Your Word be taught clearly.  Let the people respond to the Good News of Jesus.  Let our worship be pure and let us be ready to hear.  Amen

Page 4: Go to the Grateful Bread Kitchen

Reader #2: This is where we share a meal with our church family.  When was the last time you ate here?

Reader #1: This is also where the basketball league is open to the community.  Have you ever seen a basketball game here in the gym?

Reader #2: This is also the place where the youth hold their classes and small groups.  Where do you hear about Jesus with your friends?

Prayer: Father God, thank you for giving us food to eat and friends to eat with.  May we always be grateful for the people who teach us about You.  Amen

Page 5: Go to the Playground

Reader #1: This is where little people play.  This is where we play.  The preschoolers will grow to be kids and the kids will grow to be youth, then adults.  We need to set good examples for them how we play here.

Reader #2: It’s important to always be friendly to little people.  They are watching us in everything we do and don’t do.  Say out loud like a cheer, “Yay! Jesus!”

Reader #1: Remember when you were a really little child?  What questions did you ask of God, then?  They were probably different from the ones you ask now.

Prayer: God, help me to remember that you have the answers to all of my simple and hard questions. Help me to trust You like I did when I was a little kid to __________. Amen.

Page 6: Go to the Parking Lot

Reader #2: What does a parking lot represent?  It can represent visitors or new people, regular attenders, a place to park your car, or even a place to come hang out.

Reader #1: From our parking lot you can hear/see Sandy Plains Road.  How many people drive by who know someone from the church?  Count how many cars drive by in 1 minute.

Reader #2: Of the people that drive by, how many know and are walking with Jesus?  How many will never come to church unless someone invites them?  Why?

Pray: Dear Lord, we pray for the people who just drove by our church.  We pray that they know about Jesus.  Help me to tell people that I know You and the good things that are going on at Your church to teach us about You.  Amen.

Page 7: Go to the Pastor’s car, or someone else’s car that you know and put your hands on the car

Reader #1: This is how __(name)___ comes to serve here and how they go home.  Share with your prayer partner where you usually park when you come to the church campus.

Reader #2: This is where ___(name)___ spends a lot of time traveling all over to tell people about Jesus. ___(name)___  listens to music, talks on the phone, and runs errands to help them do ministry in this car.

Reader #1: Did you know that they pray for you by name?  They love Jesus very much and always need your help to pray for them.

Prayer: Father God, please keep ___(name)___  safe in their car.  Please keep them close to you because they love you so much.  Help him/her to __________ . Amen.

Page 8: Go to the top of the steps on the back side of the Christian Education Building

Reader #1: This is the highest place on the church campus.  Can you see the parsonage (where the Pastor’s family lives) to the right?

Reader #2: Can you see Sweat Mountain to the left?  It is the 2nd highest point in all of Cobb County behind Kennesaw Mountain.  What is the highest you have ever been?

Reader #1: Jesus went up on mountains to pray all the time in the Bible.  Have you ever climbed or hiked up a mountain?

Prayer: God, thank you that today the sky is________. Thank you that I can walk this high.  Help me to ________. Amen.

2016PrayerWalkBookletPage 9: Go to the Outside Chapel area and sit on one of the pews facing the cross

Close your eyes.

Take 7 slow, deep breaths.

Reader #1: Romans 8:31 asks us the amazing question, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Reader #2: This question is a source of great encouragement for people who believe in Jesus.  If God is for us, what else do we need?

Reader #1: Read these other endings to the phrase aloud.  If there are any that don’t feel true to you, tell your prayer partner.

Page 10: Read together aloud:

If God is for me, …

I will always have hope.

He will hear my prayers.

Life is an exciting adventure.

He will defend me.

I can view myself as His treasured possession.

My future is bright

I can expect things to work out for good.

I have no limitations.

I can expect His help as I live out the plan He has for me.

I cannot out-dream God.

He will not try to make me feel bad about myself.

Addictions can be overcome.

Nothing can separate me from God’s love.

He approaches me in love.

Stepping out in faith is natural.

He is rooting for me.

He is crazy about me.

Which phrase is your favorite?

Page 11: Go to the CLUB345 Classroom and find the knotted rope

Reader #1: Sometimes life seems to bring one difficulty or disappointment after another.  Going through a crisis can make us stronger, but there are also times when we seem to crumble under the weight.

Reader #2: We can encounter what at first appears to be a fairly small problem.  Then somehow it becomes overwhelming as we try to fix it on our own.

Reader #1: Such a circumstance is like tangles or knots that become tighter and more complicated as we struggle to sort them out.  Do you have a knot that seems hard to sort out?

(Get ready to untie a knot in the rope as you pray)

Prayer: Father God, as I untie a knot in this rope, please give me the courage to become stronger in the circumstance.  Amen.

Page 12: Go to a broken tree outside

Reader #1: God wants to speak to us more than we realize.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I thank you that You love me.  Thank you that you hear me when I talk to you.  Help me to learn to pray more.  Help me to pray about everything.  Thank you for your answers to my prayers.   Teach me to hear you speaking to my heart and guiding me every day.  In Jesus’ name I pray.

Dear Lord, the other things I want to pray about today are _________… Amen.

Page 13: Go to at least 2 of the following 4 locations

Go to the prettiest tree near the playground – What makes it pretty? Define beauty. Name 3 items/objects of beauty to you.

Go outside the gym. Do you see the tall cross on the outside of the gym wall? What does it look like? What does it remind you of?

Go to the sidewalk steps between roses alongside sanctuary wall and 2 rose bushes to the left of sidewalk steps. These rose bushes were given by the landscaping company in memory of Mrs. Vickie’s husband. Have you ever had someone die who you loved very much?

Go to the silver box in the ground on the front lawn of the Sanctuary. This is the power box to the road sign along Sandy Plains Road. What gives you the power to shine for Jesus?

Page 14: Go to at least 2 of the following 4 locations

Go to the bird’s nest on the outside of church office window unit. What reminds you of Spring?

Go to the Sanctuary. Did you notice the artwork in the Sanctuary tells a story? What story? Where is the beginning and where is the end?

Go to the technical booth. What is the last movie you went to the movies to see?

Go to the Coosa Dogwood tree on the front lawn. Did you know this type of dogwood tree blooms AFTER Easter.   What are your plans to celebrate Easter?

We mixed up the pages in each book so everyone was headed to a different location throughout the night.  Last Sunday was the perfect weather to be outside. We did have  adult volunteers located in the Sanctuary and outside to help our prayer partners along their way if necessary.

2016PrayerWalkFeetIn our debrief we discussed the places they had not known about before and the stories of their favorite prayer places.  We also discussed what it meant to follow in someone’s footsteps. Would they be the witness and friend of Jesus that someone else would follow?  If so, we used sharpies to write our names on the bottoms of each other’s feet as reminder that our friends and family follow our footsteps to Jesus…and He can count on us!

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good  news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!'” Isaiah 52:7

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10 Reasons to Join a Professional Organization

professionalOrganizationsThis I know: I can’t do everything. I can’t come up with every new idea. I can’t be my own teacher. I can’t glean all I need to be successful in my call into ministry from a facebook page or a blog. I can’t be all things to all people and to myself.  I want to continue to grow in my field, I want to offer my best to the Lord who gave His best for me, and I can’t do it alone. Here are my 10 reasons for joining a professional organization:

10. Best Practices – Around a table, I can join the conversation of what is acceptable in my industry when it comes to budgets, conflict, social media, call to professional ministry, and Safe Sanctuary, to name just a few.

9. Updates on Policies and Legislation – I’d like to go back to the time when peanut allergies were a children’s ministry director’s greatest concern. With mandated reporting requirements and age level cutoffs, we need to be in the know in our county, state, and denomination.

8. Industry Trends – We can offer insight to how our industry works, industry trends of what’s to come, and hear and tell the stories of how to deal.

7. Jobs – We’d like to think we are where we will retire. Experience tells us differently because the one thing we can depend upon is change. A professional organization will offer references, job postings of what and where is it healthy and where it is not.

6. Mentoring – To grow in our profession in vision, in personal boundaries, and in professional kindnesses, mentoring up and mentoring back is essential. Who is speaking truth of your calling into your life? Who’s life are you speaking truth into?

5. Security & Trust – A professional organization will offer a sense of security and trust as you support and help one another set and meet your professional goals. You’ve got goals, right? This is where you can be equipped to cross the line of surviving to thriving in your call into professional ministry.

4. Share – This is the best place to share ideas, ask advice, offer stories and testimonies, meet and brainstorm with others. This is especially where we can give back and receive. If you think you’ve arrived and don’t need any new ideas, you may be someone else’s answer to prayer just by your presence or sharing your testimony. This community of sharing conveys you are committed to your career field and shows your desire to learn and improve and your desire to help others do the same.

3. Make a New Friend – ’nuff said.

2. Strength in Numbers – A professional organization will offer an established support system of experienced people who are motivated to get things done. This is when you can glean from all kinds of learning styles and personalities.

1.Team Who Rally For Your Success – Everyone needs a team of cheerleaders. Everyone needs a laugh, a shot of encouragement, and a community of fellow Jesus followers who are travailing the same journey.

Are you a part of a professional organization? Can you afford not to be?

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

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Lent Praying on the Go Bags: Prayer Garden

2016PrayerGardenStonesWith the season of Lent as part of our church liturgical calendar, I wanted to give my parents some easy wins with their little people. So let’s engage in some habits of reflection.
Supplies: 5-6 rocks/stones/pebbles, a quart Ziploc bag of sand (leftover from the Christmas Eve luminaries), and an LED candle.
Place everything in a bag with these instructions:

Pour the sand into a wide, shallow container.
Place your candle in the sand.
Each night at dinner or some other regular time during the day, turn the candle on and say a prayer out loud.
Maybe choose a rock and pray for a special concern or a thanksgiving before adding it to the garden.
This I know: when hands are busy, minds are calm. So keep your eyes open and talk to the Lord out loud just like you talk to Mom and Dad. Draw in the sand with your fingers.
The candle reminds us of Jesus – the light of the world.
If you can get to your family’s Nativity Scene in the Christmas decorations, place the shepherd and the sheep back on the mantle to remind us of Jesus being the Good Shepherd.

2016PrayerGardenInside the bag, we also included a list of Lenten season activities ranging from the Jelly Bean Prayer to the recipe for Resurrection Rolls. Finding ways for parents to enjoy easy wins to pray with their little people is a beautiful thing.  Praying On The Go bags help us do just that.

“Jesus looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” John 17:1

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Sticking With Prayer for Lent

2016prayOur pastor has been preaching a series about the characteristics of a Christian disciple. The ‘prayer’ sermon will be offered on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. On our staff retreat last fall, as we made plans for 2016, a fellow staff member shared an experience at a previous church to stick with prayer during lent. So we’re doing it!

Picking up large, wooden craft sticks from the local craft store, we wrote names on each stick. We used the directory, the phone list, the youth list, even the regular visitor sign-in sheets, to write names on the craft sticks. We’ll have them placed in red galvanized buckets (only because that’s what I’ve got in the basement…and it’s February!) throughout the sanctuary during lent for folks to pick a stick and pray for that person or couple.

On Palm Sunday, we will have our egg hunt, donkey appearance, and missions lunch following the last service of the morning when folks can bring their sticks and meet up with the one they’ve been praying for during lent. I know…not everyone will come, but maybe they will.

What are you planning to build family and community for the season of Lent?

“They all  joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Acts 1:14

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When and How Do We Worship?

2016MiriamWe were created to worship – to bring glory to God, putting Him first in all things and all areas of our lives. Not forsaking the gathering together, it says in Hebrews, but more than just ‘going to church.’

Before I served on a local church staff in weekend ministry, I entertained some crazy thoughts about when and how to worship our great God. I attended a traditional service where I thought, “If I sing louder, I’d be worshipping God more.” Nope. It was good, but that wasn’t it. Then I began attending a contemporary service where I thought, “If I stood more, I could worship God more.” Nope. It was good, but that wasn’t it. I even took sign language classes at the local recreation center, three seasons of sign language classes with my high school daughter, where I thought, “If I moved more, I could worship God more.” Nope. It was good, but that wasn’t it.

It really wasn’t until I studied Revelation 5 last year that I figured out a way that I could tell if I am really worshipping the Lord…not just a feeling, not just a noun, not just a service, but the when and how of worship.

“Then I (John) looked and heard, the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand (THAT’s community!). They encircled the throne and the living creature and the elders (serving a God of order.) In a loud voice they sang (singing is still a part): Worthy is the Lamb (Jesus) who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Revelation 5:11-12 NIV

This was revealed to John of how Jesus will be worshiped in Heaven. Doesn’t He deserve the same worship from me, from us, here on earth now? I am SO visual, it gives me a great picture of what it means to really worship our great God.

So I ask myself these questions:

How can I worship Him today in power? With my emotions. I have power over my emotions, my disposition, and whom I will please. What I have power over, I can worship Him in joyful obedience. Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours. Then give me opportunities where I have the power to do something about it.

How can I worship Him today in wealth? With my money. We give because we serve a generous God and He desires for us be a generous people (John 3:16). He calls us to give regularly, in percentages, and cheerfully. He has chosen the local storehouse, the local church, and that is where we are to give. Returning to Him which was His in the first place is an act of trust and obedience. Giving is the act of returning. Giving is worship.

How can I worship Him today in wisdom? With my mind. Romans 12:2 reads, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Jesus understood that any authentic transformation will happen for all of us in our minds first. When I am regularly in The Word, learning the language and vocabulary of God, transformation takes place. This one is seriously on me. If I claim I am not hearing from God…If I state that ‘I don’t get fed at church’… If I hold on to the idea that my personal preferences for Sunday morning worship determines if I worship or not… I am SO out of sinc with what God intended worship to be. When in study, in bible reading, in Sunday school, in ANY way of learning the language and vocabulary of God, I am in worship.

How can I worship Him today in strength? With my body. I am 54 years old. I KNOW my triggers. Peanut M&Ms are my Judas sin…you know, sin that comes at you looking like a friend, kissing you on the cheek, then turning on you. I may not be able to scale a 10 foot wall, but taking care of my body is worship. Thank you, Fitbit, for the accountability help.

How can I worship Him today in honor? With my deeds. I honor our great God when I bake a cake, write a note, make a phone call, send an encouraging text, share a casserole (this is how we really share love in the south, right?), bring a flower, go above and beyond in my work, drop off a 24-pack of toilet paper when my neighbor has house guests due to a funeral or a wedding. How and when I serve should bring Him honor. Once a week, won’t cut it for me. God’s abundant love has ruined me for the typical, the ordinary, the mediocre.

How can I worship Him today in glory? With expressions of hope, encouragement, and forgiving well.  Glory has a weight to it, a leaning-in quality. Ephesians 4:32 reads, “Be ye kind, one to another, tenderhearted, and forgiving one another, just as in Christ God forgave you.” So I give Him glory when I extend the same forgiveness He gives me. This is when worship doesn’t come easy.

How can I worship Him today in praise? With my words and my speech. The power of words and the way words are shared move entire countries to do amazing things or bit by bit, inch by inch to tolerate and promote unbelievable atrocities. That may be taking it a bit too far, but this I know: my words can heal or hurt, my countenance when sharing those words can help or hinder, my heart is heard by my words.

I can worship our great God in ways that are measurable. Not in a legalistic sort of way, but rather, an accountability sort of way. And because we are ‘better together’, I can present this worship best in community. This makes me downright giddy!

Jesus alone is worthy of this kind of worship; God the Son. Worship is not where I go, it’s how we are to live. Not once a week, but every single day!

“Here I am to worship. Here I am to bow down. Here I am to say that You’re my God.” Phillips, Craig & Dean…now imagine Mr. Bob stepping out into the aisle to give me plenty of room to worship in sign.

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