This year, we are trying prayer stations in the Church Fellowship Hall on Sunday mornings that worshipers are invited to explore before or after (or during, I suppose) church services.

Here are the stations from Week 1 (December 1)

Station #1 Bubble Wrap Advent Calendars

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Note: I borrowed this idea from Theresa Cho’s blog.

This is a great interactive station for families to do together. The objective: make a bubble wrap Advent calendar!

Ahead of time, I cut trees out of Bubble Wrap:

BubbleWrapAdvent

I also held onto the scraps and put them in baskets on the table because it can be hard for kids and adults to resist popping bubble wrap and I wanted the trees to be safe. Providing an alternative to popping the trees worked out well.

The instructions:

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent starts today, December 1, and begins a period of time when we wait for Jesus to be born. Children all over the world will count down the days until December 25.

1. Take a tree-shaped piece of Bubble Wrap from the bowl.

2. Choose a sheet of circle stickers and write 1-24 on each sticker.

3. Stick a circle sticker on each bubble (in order or mix them up!).

4. Hang it in your house and each day, pop a bubble!

Prayer: Lord, waiting is hard! Help us to celebrate each day because it is a gift from you. Amen.

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Prayer Station #2 Read About Advent

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Ahead of Time: Gather a variety of books about the Nativity Story.

Objective: look through and/or read the books provided and consider the story from various points of view.

There are many present in the story of Jesus’ birth in the Bible. The shepherds. The angels. The Magi. Mary and Joseph. The animals.

Take time to look through the books about the birth of Jesus, sharing and remembering the story of the birth of the one called Emmanuel.

Prayer: God, your story is amazing! Help us to learn it and to know you through it. Amen.

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Station #3 Darkness To Light

I borrowed this station from my minister friend, Rev. AnnMarie Montgomery.

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Set up: Blindfolds (bandanas) and tea light candles (I used battery candles)

Objective: Experience darkness. Celebrate the light that is coming into the world through God’s Son, Jesus.

Romans 13:11-14

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Our Advent journey begins in almost complete darkness. Darkness can come in the forms of depression, discouragement, loneliness, addiction, disappointment, broken relationships, grief, regret, sin, failure, or…

When you are ready, put on a blindfold. (If you don’t want to wear a blindfold, close your eyes and put your hands over them.)  Think about the limitations of darkness. Sit in the darkness, even if it makes you uncomfortable, and consider what a gift light is. When you are ready, open up your eyes and welcome back the light and the ability to see.

Light a candle. The candle reminds us that Christ is our hope. We hope, we believe, we trust in God’s saving grace through Christ Jesus. Sit with the light as long as you like.

Prayer: Lord, let this candle be a reminder today of my hope in your coming. Amen.

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Station #4 Words About Hope

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Set up: I have a set of magnetic poetry, so I used that. And then I searched the kitchen for metal surfaces that were magnetic. These toasters were my find of the day!

Objective: Place hopeful words, phrases and sentences on the metal surfaces.

Psalm 122:1-9

I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’
Our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there the thrones for judgement were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.’
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.

Prayer: God of all who hope and long to hope again, this Advent season, we need you. Amen.

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These four stations made a great start to our Advent season.

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AdventReady

 

Short and sweet today. I’m ready to leave the house for the first time since Thursday morning. We’ve had 6 inches of snow, which is a bit more treacherous here than some other places.

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When I open my eyes in the morning, often I go through the old camp check-list:

Alive

Awake

Alert

Enthusiastic!

This morning, I’m all of those things. It is sleeting hard here in Henderson, KY. It started around 11:00 last night and it seems it’s kept up all night until this moment (8:16 a.m. by my clock currently). I took this picture after I let Sam out and watched him slip and slide all over ice-covered patio. He was also alive, awake, alert and enthusiastic! That dog loves snow and cold weather. 

I think about how the list is a progression. And I think about how in my walk with Jesus, sometimes I’m merely alive. There’s no awake, alert or enthusiastic about me. It’s as though I’m merely surviving. I’m not awake to what God is doing. I’m not alert to the needs of those around me. I’m not enthusiastic about participating in the ministry to which I’m called.

Yet, we are called to be more than alive:

Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed alert and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. Matthew 24:40-44

Every day, we have the opportunity to see God’s Kingdom coming around us. We have the opportunity to be aware of what God is doing and participate enthusiastically. It is a gift that God gives to those who remain awake.

 

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Here in Henderson, we’re expecting a variety of types of weather…but flooding isn’t one of them. I don’t guess our kayaks will be much help when it comes to snow and ice!

Except now I’m wondering what it would be like to sled down the hospital hill in a kayak.

Stay warm and safe out there!

Mallory MoonToday, our After School Club kids decorated the Christmas Tree in Hoffman Hall, the wing of our church that has the gym, as well as several children’s rooms and the youth room. “Time for it to be night!” Mallory declared as she held this moon ornament up to the window. In December, children always remind me about waiting and how the passage of time is so relative. Mallory wants it to hurry up and be night so that tomorrow will come faster…and then Christmas will come faster. I can’t believe it’s already December…actually, I can’t believe it’s already 2013! Where did the time go? Mallory knows. She can’t wait for time to pass. She wants to be old enough for youth group…or middle school…or to date or get a driver’s license. She wants it to be Christmas already and she can hardly wait!

Waiting is not something we do well in our society. We like to be going, going, going and doing, doing, doing. We get impatient when our phone screen takes more than 2 seconds to load. We DVR television shows so we can fast forward through the commercials. We rush and we try to find ways to be more efficient and use our time effectively so we don’t have to wait.

But, sometimes, when we skip waiting and try to get right to the main thing, we miss something beautiful.

Advent is about waiting. We are waiting for the promised Messiah. We are waiting and reflecting and searching our hearts. It is about encountering the holy in the quiet and the still and not yet.

Advent is hard in our society where store Christmas decorations go up in August and Thanksgiving night is a time to stand in line to get the biggest, best deal at Target. December gets busy and we forget about the waiting and rush to get to the main event. When you were a kid, it seemed like December 25 would never get here. Now that you’re an adult with to-do lists that thicken in December and all the responsibilities that go along with preparing a perfect holiday, you may easily miss out on the waiting as the day seems to come way too quickly.

Today, I’m reflecting on time spent waiting. Waiting gives us time to think and reflect and know ourselves better. I hope you’ll take time every day this month to wait a little.

 

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I couldn’t NOT post a picture of my dear friends’ Peace Lights for “peace.”

I thought a lot today about peace.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14:27

I have God’s peace, given to me by Jesus. I don’t have to be troubled. I don’t have to be afraid. I don’t have to become un-peaceful.

Yet…

A guy with bright green headlights decided to drive right on my tail through the school zones I passed through on Green Street on my way to the middle school this morning.

The ATM would not recognize my card when I inserted it at the bank.

The zipper on my boot got stuck and I spent about 5 minutes trying to fix it.

I worried and played the “what it” game about a situation that I’m concerned about handling.

All of this threatened to keep me from remembering the peace that I have from Jesus. I do not have to be troubled. I do not have to be afraid. I can cling to the peace that Jesus gives me.

And then there are bigger, actual problems that would “steal” our peace.

A high school friend reaches out for prayer when she receives terrible news about her pregnancy.

Another friend announces that the diagnosis is cancer.

A man comes by the church, struggling to pay rent and utilities and feed his family and find a job.

In this world, you will have trouble. But take courage, for I have overcome the world,” Jesus says (John 16:33)

We have peace because Jesus left us peace. Possessing peace does not guarantee that everything will always go smoothly or peacefully for us. It means we have something to cling to when the world gives us trouble. Not that I can adequately explain that to a friend who is saying goodbye to her baby girl born too early or a friend wrapping her mind around a cancer diagnosis or someone simply trying to keep his family warm and fed.

What I hope is that you and I can take courage, knowing that the one who gives us peace has overcome the world and all the cancer, and all the financial problems, and all the horrible, crap things that happen here.

I can’t read either of the Scriptures above without getting this song stuck in my head.

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I am the Christmas Tree Sale Chairperson for BSA Troop 280 in Henderson, KY. This means that I coordinate most aspects of the tree sale, from the ordering to the scheduling shifts to the wringing my hands and worrying if the trees aren’t selling fast enough.

When the trees are delivered, they are bound in twine and netting. Obviously, this is for easier shipment and loading and unloading. It also ensures that the branches are not damaged during transport and all of the loading and unloading.

It’s pretty easy to unbind a Christmas Tree. The guys take their pocket knives and rip through the netting and twine and pull it all loose. The branches unfurl and the tree experiences freedom. The Scout will shake, shake, shake the tree and the branches begin to relax. Unbound, the tree returns to it’s beautifully created state. Unbound, the customers can see the tree for how it really is. Of course, this means that the customer can also spot any flaws in the tree, but that’s the price the tree pays for being unbound and free, I suppose.

I sometimes wonder what it must be like to have to bind a Fraser Fir or a Scotch Pine in twine and netting. To take what was beautifully free and wild and wrap it up tight for shipping and consumption. Do the branches protest? Surely it must be more difficult to bind than to unbind…

We’re sometimes bound creatures as well. We are bound by expectations or by trials. Bound by sin or by our own bad choices. Bound up tight with little or no ability to move.

Until we are set free. Until our netting and twine is ripped off and we can rest in the knowledge that we are now, once again, what we were created to be.

This is a season where I’m reminded once again that I have been set free by God’s good love and grace. I can be who God created me to be, flaws and all. I no longer have to be bound by expectations or by sin.

Thanks be to God.

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Green means “go,” Red means “stop.”

We learn this from the time we are small so that on the day we’re finally holding a set of car keys in our hand, it’s ingrained in our understanding of how to navigate roadways.

Green

and

Red

Two colors we see a lot of this time of year.

In the Holiday landscape, it can seem that both colors mean “go.” Gogogogogo!

Errands. Parties. Gifts. Trips to the mall. School programs. Church programs. Bake cookies. Take pictures. Wrap presents. Take the kids to see Santa Claus. Make lists and check the items off…

Go. Go. Go. GO!

But what if we stopped? What if instead of gogogoing all the time, we slowed our pace so that we were no longer rushing and moving and shaking.

If we look at the beautiful things of this season–the reasons we celebrate it, we realize nothing in that has to do with GO.

The family we love to be with…the smiles on the faces of children you love…candelight and treelights…the Christ child, whose birth we celebrate–all beckon us to STOP.

May the red and the green of the Christmas season (or the Advent colors of purple and pink) all be an invitation to stop. Or slow down anyway.

Blessings on you as you begin this Advent/Christmas journey!

 

note: today is December 1. I’ll be blogging every day during Advent (Dec. 1-24 this year) as part of the Rethink Church photo project. Today’s word is “Go.” Tomorrow’s is “Bound.” Join me in this project!

Rethink Advent

November 29, 2013 — 2 Comments

Rethink Advent

Back in February and March, I did the Lenten Photo Project from Rethink Church. It was incredibly meaningful and caused me to spend time each day reflecting and considering the day’s word. Some days seemed impossible at first, but inspiration came when it was needed. Some days turned out to be very fun themes, even though I hadn’t expected that to be the case. Some days, it was at the last minute that a photo op came!

Rethink Church has done this again for Advent. What you do is simply take a picture every day that brings to light the day’s word.  Then you post it…somewhere! Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, your own blog or website…

For all of the ways to connect with Rethink Church and all the ways to post your photos, click here.

It’s fun to see how people interpret the words so differently every day. This is something anyone can do! If you want to experience Advent in a different way this year–and would like to spend some time each day during this busy season considering the reason we celebrate–join in!

(And if you plan to participate, let me know!)

Christthanksmas 021Ten favorite Thanksgiving Traditions:

1. The Turkey Trot (Presby Church at 9:00 Thanksgiving morning)

2. Sweet potatoes

3. The Macy’s parade

4. Turkey

5. The ornament exchange after dinner at Jason’s aunt’s house

6. Post-Turkey Trot nap

7. Time with family

8. Coffee all day long

9. Picking out our Christmas Tree

10. Everyone’s thankful attitudes

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!