neighbors

 

Pretty sure that if I would have asked Jesus “who is my neighbor” today, he would have answered: “those rude, un-merry, pushy people at Walmart.”

Love your neighbor, even when you’re pretty sure they don’t merit it…actually, especially when you’re sure they don’t merit it. We all could benefit from kindness and joy!

Week #1 prayer Stations

Week #2 prayer Stations

Week #3 prayer Stations

Week four is when we celebrate love and light the love candle!

Station #1 Words About Love

Supplies: A set of magnetic poetry; metal surfaces (we use a pizza pan and toasters…so it can be anything really.)

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John 1:1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Using the letters, add words to the surfaces that represent ways you see God’s love, God Word made flesh, present in the world.

Prayer: God of love, help us recognize and celebrate your love in the world around us. Amen.

 

Station #2 Love Came Down at Christmas

Supplies: cut outs of the manger scene (I got mine at this link); crayons; scissors, tape

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In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered…

Joseph went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn…

 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night…

 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’…

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,and have come to pay him homage…’

(from Luke 2:1-20 and Matthew 2:1-12

From which perspective would you have liked to have viewed the birth and first hours or days of the Christ Child? Or, whom do you most relate to in the nativity story?

Choose a participant in the Nativity story and color their picture. Cut and tape and leave your representation at our manger scene. Consider the place where you now view the Christ Child. Where do you encounter Christ this season?

Prayer: God, your love came down at Christmas. From wherever we view the Christ Child, help us to trust in your redeeming love. Amen.

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Station #3 Love With The Light!

This station, once again, comes from my friend Rev. Ann Marie Montgomery!

Supplies: Tea Light Candles, a large candle (optional)

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“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” -Isaiah 9:2

Over 2,000 years ago in the small town of Bethlehem God’s Son, Jesus, was born. This baby was a sign of God’s unfailing love for God’s people. With the advent of Christ into the world, the world has been changed forever. A light has dawned and the darkness cannot overcome it! This light is profoundly simple- it is God’s light and it invades the corners of the deepest darkness. A light shining first in a small village, in a dirty barn, in a farm animal’s manger. A light shining now in our small lives, in our hurting communities, in the messiness of human experience. We cannot deny the darkness that is in the world, but we can celebrate the light that has come to us in Christ Jesus.

As you watch the flickering candle flame, think about your life and the ways that God has sent you light when you’ve most needed it. How has the love of God been shown to you through experiences, other people, etc.? How have you experienced the light of God’s love shining during the dark times?

LIGHT A LIGHT: As you “light” your own candle at this prayer station, remember that Christ has promised to be present with us. We light this candle to remind us that no matter how deep the darkness may seem around us, God’s love for us shines bright through Jesus Christ. The candles that surround our own candle remind us that no matter how deep the darkness, there are others who are also carrying the light of Christ.

Prayer: God, your light and goodness overwhelms me. Thank you for the people who shine your light into my life. Help me to be a light for others.

 

Station #4 is the Read About Advent Station we’ve used all along in Advent. You can see that station by clicking on the links for Advent week 1 or Advent week 2.

Advent is almost finished! May your continued journey be full of knowledge of God’s blessings.

Week #1 Prayer Stations

Week #2 Prayer Stations

Week 3 is joy week, so our prayer stations all had something to do with joy.

Station #1 Create In Joy

Supplies: Play Doh, some kind of cover for the table (optional)

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Philippians 4:4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

God give us joy! What are some of the joyful things you’ve been given?

Use the play-doh to create representations of these things.

Thank God for the goodness shown and celebrate these things today!

Prayer: God, you give us such joy! Help us to remember your goodness to us at all times. Amen.

 

Station #2 Words About Joy

Supplies: Bananagrams (a game with letter tiles) or any game with a large number of letter tiles.

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ISAIAH 35:1-6

1   The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus 2it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.

3   Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4   Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.”

5   Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6   then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

How can you create joy in the world? What can your joyful contribution be? We are called to be a people who bring good news. How can you be a part of that mission?

Using the letters, add words to the puzzle that represent ways you can bring joy to the world through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prayer: God of all joy, we are blessed to be a blessing. Help us to be a people of good news and joy. Amen.

 

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Station #3 Sending Joyful Messages

Supplies: A variety of Christmas cards, pens and a list of at-home members who would like to receive cards.

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At this station, we prepared Christmas cards for some of our members who are not able to get to church. All supplies were provided! People were invited to put the name of the recipient on the envelope. The cards were then either hand delivered or mailed.

Christmas cards are fun to receive and often bring joy to the recipient. Sending cards can be a joyful thing as well.

Prayer: God of comfort and joy, we pray for our members who cannot worship with us today. May they know your love and warmth now and always. Amen.

 

Station #4 is the Read About Advent Station we’ve used all along in Advent. You can see that station by clicking on the links for Advent week 1 or Advent week 2.

 

 

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“What’s on this table?”

Six year-old Nelson stood up from his chair where he had been coloring a magi cut-out for the manger scene at the family-friendly interactive prayer station and walked over to another table where a different, slightly more contemplative station was set up.

“Well,” I told him, “You sit and you think about all the ways God has shown love for you. Like, maybe through the people who love you or the good things that you have.”

He smiled at me, He nodded his understanding. Then he sat down in a chair and sat still for about 3 minutes, which is a very long time for a six year-old.

I watched him as he stared at the candles on the table and appeared deep in thought. I thought about how important it is to look for the signs of God in my life…and for Nelson to do the same…and for each of us to do the same.

God is good. But sometimes life is hard. Life is hard and it can be hard to see where God is or what God is doing. It can be hard to see when we are grieving or exhausted or overwhelmed or depressed. During this time of year, all of that can feel magnified. This is a hard time of the year if life is not all it was hoped to be.

So, sit and think of all the ways God has already shown love for you. Even if you’re not sure there’s anything current to add to the list, think of the things that have already demonstrated God’s love in your life.

Nelson thought of his mom and his sisters and his friends and toys and his house. I think of my family near and far, my home, the work I’m called to do and our sweet dog, Sam. How about you?

Just in case you think I’ve actually got this whole Advent thing figured out, I would like to point out that I’ve fallen behind on posting. To ice the cake of forgetfulness (is there such a thing? There should be. There should be a cake for all sorts of less than desirable qualities, I think. Cake of procrastination…cake of tardiness…cake of cheapskatery…), I never even took a picture yesterday for “prophet.”

But here’s the thing. On March 1, I didn’t take a photo for the word “prophet” either. But the word that day in the Lenten Photo-a-Day challenge was also “prophet.” So I’m reblogging my post from March 1. You can follow that link to read it, but I promise you, it’s exactly what is below.

Blessings to all the prophets God has used in my life!

 

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What is a prophet? Sure, there are official job descriptions and callings and titles that come to mind when I think of this word.

Yet, simply, the way I understand “prophet” is “mouthpiece of God.”

A prophet is one through whom God speaks.

At the risk of being sacrilegious, I would suggest that God speaks to me through you…and you…and even you!

You said something that made me realize what God had been pressing on my heart for some time.

You wrote something that caused me to pause and reconsider my perspective.

Your actions taught me what it was to be like Jesus.

Thank you!

Maybe you’re not always up to the description of “prophet,” but probably even when you didn’t realize it, God was using your words and actions to teach someone else.

To me, that prospect is both awesome and terrifying.

good news

 

I’m still seeking ways to quiet my life and remain focused on good news during this season of Advent!

Yesterday, I set up the prayer stations for Advent IV. This is one of them.

Read along in Luke 2:1-20 if you need a reminder of who we’re celebrating. A baby born to a young unmarried couple in a borrowed outdoor structure of some sort, celebrated by shepherds and angels.

Then go be good news to the people you’ll encounter today, remembering that God did not focus God’s lavish love on the “important” or the “right” people alone, but rather chose to entrust his greatest gift to the young, the poor, the simple, the unexpected.

It’s rainy here, which is not looking like good news for a lot of people as we’ve already received more than two inches and it’s falling fast and hard. Basements are flooding, people are being trapped on more rural roads and travel is more hazardous than usual.

Stay safe out there!

ornaments

 

Today, little sister Katie and I made glitter ornaments that she can give to her family members and friends at school.

Here’s the pin that links to the website I used to make them. I couldn’t believe how well it worked and how cool it was.

So where did patience figure in?

Well, have you ever poured floor wax and glitter into tiny little holes at the top of ornaments before?

Actually, have you ever poured glitter anywhere before? Oh, so much glitter. So, so, so much glitter.

Also, these ornaments are glass. Guess who sat on her bag of ornaments, all wrapped up and finished and ready for her family and school friends? (Yes, Katie.)

So guess who had to patiently get all of the materials out of the cabinets again and set up a workspace so Katie could make a new ornament for her mother and her baby cousin and whoever else lost their ornaments in “the incident?” (Yes, me.)

It’s a time of year when it can be hard to be patient. For me, Advent Fatigue hit yesterday afternoon hard. I’m so tired. Maybe you are, too. We’re tired of waiting in long lines. We’re weary of our to-do lists that are still only half-completed. Our hands hurt from writing Christmas cards and we’re tired of the commercials. We may be over the music and the lights and the flashiness of the season.

But we are still waiting. It is still Advent. Our patience is still required.

Today, I’m going to set my to-do list aside and spend time with friends. Coffee with one or two; lunch with another; dinner and board games with still others. I’m well-rested from a good night’s sleep and hopeful that at the end of it all, the particular fatigue I feel will subside some.

Happy Friday!

mercy

 

Ralphie shows no Mercy. In our quest to watch all of our Christmas movies this December, we watched this one last night. Did I pause it so I could take a good picture for you? No. Sorry. Life moves a long fast.

This was a hard one. When I read the word yesterday morning and said to Jason, “I have to take a picture of ‘mercy’ today,” he replied, “Give me your hand!”

Remember playing “Mercy” when you were a kid? I did not like that game. I always just said “mercy” because I’m not competitive and I have low tolerance for pain.

Mercy as a definition is tough, I think. A lot of people were trying to get to the bottom of its meaning yesterday in my social media circles. Some things I read about mercy yesterday (the day this word should have actually been posted):

Mercy is not getting what is deserved.

Mercy is not getting a consequence you were expecting.

Mercy is compassion.

Mercy is when someone is kind and you did not expect that kindness.

Mercy is forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

We have all been the recipient of mercy at one point or another. and the undeserved, unexpectedness of it may have changed your heart or your direction in big ways or small ways.

free

 

Music is freeing. Sometimes you can’t find the right words to say or describe how you feel…but then there’s a perfect song or lyric that speaks for you. There’s something about how music can be anything–any rhythm, any flavor, any words.  There’s music to dance to…and music to sing along to…and music that just requires listening…and music that happens too fast to comprehend…and music with confusing lyrics…and music you have to listen to sixteen times before you memorize it..and music you memorize after hearing it for the first time….and music that gets stuck in your head all day. And isn’t it beautiful that new songs are created every day? For all the music we have in the world, there’s still more music to be made. Your favorite song of all time may have not been written yet! You may even have a song inside of you that you’ll write down and share some time.

In case you’re wondering, I was not playing this monstrous piece of music…well, I was with my right hand, one note at a time. I was practicing because I’m singing it on Sunday morning. In English, mostly, in case you are worried about the Italian.

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“Show me what strong looks like,” I said.

The little boy, waiting for his mom to pick him up from our after school program replied, “Why, Chicken?”

He calls me Chicken. This is slightly confusing since this nickname came out of nowhere, but we had a 9 year old boy at our Parents’ Night Out on Friday night who started calling everyone Butt Cheek, so i realize now there are worse nicknames.

“Just…what does strong look like?”

He strikes this pose. Then growls for effect.

There you have it. Five Year-Old strong.

Of course, we all know that strong sometimes looks different than this pose. This represents physical strength to a degree, but we know that strength can sometimes come in the form of mental or emotional determination. Sometimes strength is signified by surviving. The strong don’t always win or have the biggest muscles. Sometimes the strong quietly keep on…keeping on.

Some people are being strong this season. As everyone around them gives into the holly and the jolly, they are the ones just hanging on, hanging in and doing their best to keep putting one foot in front of the other. We don’t always think of them when we’re “acting” strong, but their strength to keep going inspires me.