Posted in Kids Ministry

Dragging Crosby

Crosby at bird bath

We had a golden retriever named Crosby. And although he was fully grown, he still lived the life of a well-meaning teenager. Crosby was more than a little egocentric. He had no idea of personal space, so when he walked into a room he stood on your feet, knocked into you, and wanted to be the first one to pass through every door. He believed that his needs superseded those of everyone around him. As a mom, and someone whose career path has always included working with children, this type of behavior is not unfamiliar to me. Crosby was not into obedience so much as he liked to play. He fetched, but mostly when he felt like fetching. He could carry more than one toy in his mouth at a time; a feat that he doggedly pursued before mastering. He dropped things into the pool just for the joy of taking them out again, and most endearingly, he liked to be with his family.

Crosby decided fairly early in life that he didn’t want to be separated from his family whether to go to sleep at night, or to be put outside if the people were inside. If you called him for one of these purposes he would lay belly up on the ground and roll over with his tail between his legs in what appeared to be submission. In reality, this was a manipulative ploy. “I am so cute. I love you so much that I don’t want to be away from you. It would be mean and unkind to make me go away from you. The party is in here where you are!”

Like Crosby, we crave the closeness of others. We are afraid of missing out. We like to have our own way. Also like Crosby, we are reluctant to obey even if it is for our own good. Each time Crosby rolled over with his tail between his legs and his sad puppy face on full display we would grab him by the collar and “drag” him to wherever it is that we wanted him to go. Literally, we were dragging him into obedience.

When is the last time you were dragged into obedience? Is it hard to “find time” to spend in the Word? Is it hard to say no to media and cutural influences that you know are really not good for you? Are you insisting on controlling your family and every aspect of home life so that you can have order? Are you selfishly insisting on your own way in relationships?  Are you guarding your time so jealously that you are not serving in the way that God is clearly calling you? There are so many ways to disobey, and many are so subtle that we don’t even realize it.

One form of disobedience is inaction. We simply think about something for so long that the thought drifts away into nothingness. That though of calling a friend in need? Time passes and we miss the window of opportunity. Sending a card of encouragement? More than a week passes and another opportunity is lost. Thank goodness God’s hands are not tied by my inactivity. He will absolutely use someone else-but I miss out on the blessing. Don’t mistake this: I shouldn’t take action or obey for the resultant blessing. I should take action out of my love for God and my love for others. The very great love he has shown me should cause me to desire to serve him through loving others. When we choose inaction over participation we lose the blessing that participating with others would bring.

Obedience really is for our own benefit. As a kid I believed that being obedient was all about what the other person was asking of me. “Sit still”-a teacher, “stop talking”-a teacher again, or maybe my mom calling me to do chores. Obedience seemed to be all about the task or about what I should or should not be doing. Now I see that obedience is about love, respect, my heart condition, and frequently, about submission to the authority of someone else in my life. I respect you so I am willing to speak more kindly. My heart is soft toward others so I can use my free time to serve people. I am willing to submit to authority in my life out of respect for others. By practicing these types of obedience my heart stays open to what is going on around me and not tangled up in bitterness and spiraling narratives in my heard.

Obedience is key to our walk as Christians. John 15:15 says, “If you love me, keep my commands”. The implication is that love leads to obedience. Because God loves us, he wants the best for us, which includes obeying his commands. As we grow to know and love God more, the less time we spend being dragged into obedience. The more we understand his great love for us, the more we want to willingly and cheerfully obey.

 

Posted in Kids Ministry

Simply Jesus

As we approach Christmas, just 2 days and counting, I am trying to keep my focus on Christ. He is the actual reason for the beautifully decorated tree in my living room, the twinkling lights and the presents and goodies everywhere I look.

I think of what I’ve told the kids about Advent in these weeks leading up to Christmas: hope, peace, love, and joy. One outspoken kid asked one Sunday, “Why are we having the same story every week?” Clearly, 4 weeks of “baby Jesus” is too much. He, at least, is underwhelmed. Possibly it’s all a little too much. Maybe we’ve put too many details and bows on the story. It is simply the story of Jesus’ birth. Kids don’t seem to care about, or need to know, for example, that there is fullifilled prophesy involved. They hear and see truth in front of them and simply believe.

Simple belief is something kids are good at. As someone who teaches children, I constantly remind myself to keep it simple. True, accurate, relevant and simple. Love is as simple as Jesus’ birth in Luke 2. Love is as simple as God’s great love for us expressed in John 3:16 & 17 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.” Love wrapped and lying in a manger. Love hanging on a cross and wrapped in a shroud. Love revealed through Jesus Christ. Christmas is simple. It’s simply Jesus.

Colossians 3:11b “Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us.”

Posted in Kids Ministry

Thankfully His

cecile-vedemil-IKuS39pxVOY-unsplashOn this fabulously fall day, even with so much turmoil in the world around me, I would prefer to dwell on all the reasons I have to be thankful. Something I started in the privacy of my own journal a few months ago is to list the things I am thankful for. I think we can agree that we could all come up with a long and thought provoking list. For me, however, it’s not that kind of all-inclusive list. Instead, I have chosen to list the five things I am thankful for on that given day in that moment. I try to be honest as I choose them.

The list is different each day, just as each day is a new adventure. I find that if I am not looking it is easy to see each day as “groundhog day” and dwell only on the sameness or frustrations instead of the things I am truly thankful for. In the movie Groundhog Day the same day is lived over and over until the main character “gets it right”. Praise God we do not have to relive each day until we get it right! I would probably be stuck somewhere in 1993 huddled in a blubbering mass on the floor knowing that I would never be able to get through even a single day perfectly correct and right!

The Bible tells us in Lamentations 3:22,23 that God’s steadfast love never changes. His mercies (Thank you Lord!) never come to an end. “They are new every morning. Great is your (God’s) faithfulness”. I am so thankful that God’s mercies are new every morning. I did not have to get it perfectly right the day before; the day begins with new mercies, and new reasons to be thankful. Today I am thankful to be His, and I am thankful for these five things:

  1. Fall weather
  2. A delicious cup of tea
  3. The friend I am meeting this morning
  4. My husband and son
  5. My cozy dog curled up at my feet while I am writing this

What five things will you choose to put on your list today?

Posted in Kids Ministry

5 Second Rule

shutterstock_154979021

Summer has felt a little illusive this year. Already we have arrived at the end of July, and I haven’t checked off more than a handful of the things I would counsider to be part of a typical summer bucket list. Truthfully, it can leave me feeling a little blah. What happened to summer days filled with friends, campfires with roasting marshmallows and giant water slides with children screaming gleefully? What happened to summer vacation and time at the beach?

I think, before we sink too deeply into the depths of despair we need to apply the five second rule. The five second rule is grace. Grace given to the last piece of caramel corn you really wanted to eat; but first it fell on the ground. It is the bun for your best friends’ burger that may have scraped an acquaintance with the gravel in the side yard before coming to rest gently around their burger. The five second rule provides a little perspective. I was recently eating ice cream cones with a friend who dropped the last pointy bite of her cone on the ground. Immetiately sadness crept into her face, and then, with a shrug of her shoulders, picked it up, checked for shrapnel, and took the last glorious bite. Perspective. I can handle a little dirt, but I don’t want to miss this treat.

The five second rule seems to be applied nearly exclusively to food and things like dropped pacifiers. What if we began to apply it to more? What if when faced with a grumpy person I thought for 5 seconds before blasting him with my best disdainful look? What if when I’m confronted with someone who disagrees with me, I respectfully choose to agree to disagree and move on–even if they want to cling to the idea of an argument. What if I apply the 5 second rule to my family! Heaven help us all when our kids or spouse or yours truly is unreasonable or difficult to  live with. Maybe taking the five seconds, minutes, hours or days to pause, regroup, think, and PRAY could be the difference between angry words and calm and deliberate conversation.

It’s just possible that the grace of the five second rule isn’t exclusively for a dropped Twinkie. I think I can apply the grace of the five second rule to almost every area of my life. The next time I am grumpy or faced with someone who is grumpy, irritated, fearful or thoughtless I can stop and give the five second rule a try. Imagine the gumpuses of the world like a fallen Cheeto. Is it necessary to grind it to dust beneath my foot, or can I apply the five second rule and put some of this God given grace to work?

The five second rule, this grace, is given to us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Seriously, this magical response is already ours. Grace, freely given to us, can be freely shared by us. In this way, the grace of God is shared with others. As believers we are given the Spirit and the Spirit lives through us, enabling us to share the fragrance of Christ with those around us.

2 Corinthians 6 says this, “We live in such a way that no one will stumble becasue of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit witin us, and by our sincere love. We faithfuly preach the truth. Gods power is working in us.”

This is a truth I cling to. Without the power of God at work within me, I am hopelessly unable to show love, understanding, patience or kindness in any form to those around me. I cling to the knowledge that God is at work within me each day giving me the ability to let his grace live through me. The next time you drop a treat on the floor and someone yells out, “5 second rule”, stop and thank God for the grace He has so freely given and consider how you will share that grace with those around you.

Posted in Kids Ministry

Life at Home

dad and kids in tentI have been watching webinars and reading a lot about living as a quarantined family. There is an overwhelming amount of information about how to live well, happy, and sane with your kids and spouses during this time. As I have been reading, some patterns have emerged. Here are some of the things I have found that seem to be the most helpful:

  1. Get up and get ready for the day! The most impactful way I heard this stated was during The Quarantined Family webinar on the ParentzMatter facebook page on Monday night. “Pajama days are for special days, not for every day”. Everyone feels better, and it feels more like a typical day when everyone gets up, gets dressed and gets going.
  2. Make a schedule. Everyone seems to agree that life is easier if there is some sort of order to the day. It is good to have set times for things like school work, play, outdoor activities and chores.
  3. Set goals or to do lists for each day. What do you plan to accomplish each day? It could be as basic as “don’t lose it with my kids today”, or it could be something like: weed the garden, do laundry, bake with the kids, etc. Checking something off of a list makes it feel like something actually happened! You might consider making a weekly list: Monday-laundry & rooms, Tuesday-baking, etc…
  4. Don’t over schedule. While it is important to have a plan, over-planning usually just frustrates the one who made the plan. Let the whole family speak into the daily goals and plan. If you want everyone to embrace it, then everyone should speak into it.
  5. Schedule time for quiet. When you are setting your schedule be sure to set an actual time for quiet activities. I think that this is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Pick a time when everyone (to the best of their ability) is doing a quiet activity so that you can have five minutes peace! Coincidentally, I highly recommend the book “Five Minutes Peace” by Jill Murphy. You can watch it being read aloud here.
  6. Talk to your kids. Your kids are listening to every word you say, whether you think they are paying attention or not. Remember that they will take their cues on how to deal with the unknown and this circumstance from you. If you are frantic, worried, or anxious then they will be too. Signs of an anxious child include: restlessness, irritability, not sleeping, bed wetting, and acting out. It can be difficult to know how to differentiate these behaviors from the usual misbehavior of kids who have been cooped up too long, but it is important to keep an eye out for deviations from the usual “go to misbehavior” of your child. Philippians 4:6 & 7 says, “Do not be anxious for anything but in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” God doesn’t promise us a lack of things to worry over, but he does say he will guard our hearts and our minds. It means that we can walk through difficult circumstances with his peace wrapped around us. Worry and anxious thoughts will not completely disappear because we are human. However, they will not overtake us and consume us if they can’t penetrate our hearts and minds because of the peace of Jesus in our lives.
  7. Live life together. Don’t just spend your time on different screens in different rooms, or with everyone doing their own thing. This is a valuable moment in the life of your family. It is time to bond, communicate and build new habits together. Do you wish that you all ate at the dinner table together? This is your moment. Do you want to spend more time playing games, engaging each other in a real way, learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby? This is the moment.

We get to choose how we will live out these next weeks. Let’s choose to thrive in this time. We will need to be intentional. We will need to persevere. We will need to figure out coping mechanisms for tough days. We will need to cling to Jesus.

Psalm 63:8 “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Kids Ministry

The Anchor of My Soul

man in stormThis morning I was reflecting on the changing world around me. We have gone from a world that is bustling with “places to go and people to see” to one that is saying, “you have nowhere to go and no one to see”. In essence, the world is telling us to hunker down-to prepare to be in one place for a long time, for our own protection. We can and we should be mindful of all that is going on around us. We probably shouldn’t mock, but carefully consider our response to the real fear and anxiety caused by this thing that we cannot see.

Why simply hunker down at home when you can also hunker down into Christ? The Bible is full of passages that remind us, exhort us, and command us to trust and follow God through whatever circumstance we find ourselves. Not easy, but absolutely imperative.

2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.”

We tell our kids to have self control all the time. We expect them to control their actions, their behavior toward others, and even their tongues. We grown ups can also have self control, specifically over our thoughts and fears. We can hold every thought captive to Christ. He tells us not to have spirit of fear. A spirit of fear is when we let our fears overtake us, and in essence, keep us from moving in any direction. God knows each of us, and He knows that even though we are told to not have a spirit of fear, fear will sitll inevitably come. I believe that it is because He knows that fear will come that there is so much said about it in scripture. In our fear, Psalm 56:3 tells us to put our trust in Him. Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Psalm 46;1 reminds us that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

In Mark 4 we are told the story of the disciples and Jesus being out on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is asleep, and the disciples are consumed by fear of the storm. They are tossed about, water is coming on board, and their very lives appear to be in danger. In their panic, they ask Jesus, “Don’t you care that we are about to drown?” He responds by getting up, and then “rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to  his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?

He commanded the storm to calm, from right beside them. Jesus is also right beside each of us. We may have to weather a few storms, and we may feel tossed about, but we have Him to walk beside us, to provide the calm in the middle of the storm, and to carry us through.

Hebrews 6:18, 19 “Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.”

 

Posted in Kids Ministry

Forgotten Gifts

manger 2019

There are many gifts of Christmas. The gift of the Messiah seen by Simeon,the gift of a son to Mary and Joseph, the three gifts of the magi to Jesus. Then there are the gifts we give each other. These come in many forms: toys, clothes, books and footy pajamas, all expressions of love to our family and friends. We look at the Christmas story and say that the birth of Jesus was the greatest gift of all.

In our family, I notice that after we open our gifts on Christmas day a couple things happen. Presents that we are very excited about are immediately used or assimilated into our wardrobe, room, garage or kitchen. Some gifts just seem to linger under the tree. Sometimes, these gifts are left for days. Opened, oohed and aahed over, and finally, abandoned and forgotten under the tree.

I can’t help but feel that we often treat this gift of Christmas-the birth of Jesus-the same way. Each year we prepare to celebrate by decorating our homes, buying gifts, baking treats, gathering with friends and family, all in preparation for Christmas. And then, we hear the story. We read it together. We sing of his birth. We celebrate this amazing gift, and then we leave it under the tree. Days after Christmas the tree is down; packed away in the garage or lying unceremonioiusly in the gutter waiting to be collected.The season of Christmas is over, and so is my gratefulness for this gift. The Christmas story is packed away like a manger scene and so is my awareness of all He has done for me.

This gift, like every other one, has to be opened and used to enjoy. It is not enough to simply be aware that Jesus was born. The bigger gift, the best gift, is the one that we can receive after his death and resurrection. Forgiveness for all we have done and ever will do. Hope in a future with Him. These gifts we are told to remember. These are the gifts that Christmas has ultimately brought to us.

Ebenezer Scrooge famously says at the end of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” It’s a lovely sentiment.

1 Corinthians 5:21 & 6:1 say this, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it.”

This Christmas, let’s not leave anything under the tree. Let’s not receive a marvelous gift and then ignore it.

Posted in Kids Ministry

Fall

 

fall family fun

In the Sacramento Valley we wait not so patiently and yearn for the arrival of Fall. Those of us who are natually optimistic wear things like boots and scarves and sweaters, and those of us who know better, see the rest of you removing them one by one as the “fall weather” soars into temperatures more suited to months like May and June. We obsessively watch the forecast as if we expect the weather girl to say, “Wow! Now that’s unusual. It’s 62 degrees outside in October. Time for heavy sweaters and hot apple cider!” Instead we get, “Today’s high is 82 which is average for this time of year.” Heavy (scarfless & bootless) sigh.

In order to fully invest in fall before Thanksgiving arrives, we have compiled a list of things we consider to be fall fun.  We hope you will find some new things to enjoy, and let us know in the comment section if you have ideas we can try. Happy Fall!

  1. Carve pumpkins
  2.  Roast pumpkin seeds
  3. Go tree shaking
  4. Go for a fall foliage walk
  5. Go to Apple Hill
  6. Pick apples
  7. Bake yummy things
  8. Light candles and put twinkle lights all over the house
  9. Decorate for fall
  10. Create something (Pinterest is loaded with craft ideas for grown ups and kids)
  11. Bake pumpkin pie
  12. Watch football (I’ve added my favorite team’s schedule-you’re welcome!!)
  13. Nap in cozy blankets
  14. Make a blanket & pillow fort
  15. Backyard bonfire
  16. Fall organization 
  17. Trick or Treat
  18. Movie marathon or watch It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
  19. Make and/or eat caramel apples
  20. Plant bulbs
  21. Plan for Thanksgiving
  22. Take a flashlight walk at night
  23. Be the Great Pumpkin (anonymously gift a friend a fall treat)
  24. Set a reminder to plant pumpkin seeds next spring
  25. Attend fall festivals
  26. Celebrate Friendsgiving (a silly link, enjoy!)
  27. Eat homemade cookies by candle or firelight

 

Posted in Kids Ministry

Faith, Trust, Pixie Dust?

dandelionHave you ever dreamed of flying? Honestly, with money and a little planning, you can fly anytime. And, traveling by plane is one of my favorite things. To me, a plane ticket equals a departure from the usual and the possibility of new adventures and experiences. You only have to look at history to see that humans have always had a bit of a love affair with flying. This idea, the ability to fly, comes up in a popular kids move called Peter Pan. With a little “faith, trust and pixie dust” adventure awaits!

Sadly, there is a catch. This adventure is rooted in childhood dreams and impossible but exciting situations: pirates, mermaids, a giant alligator, sword fights, and ultimately, a return to reality.

God’s word offers something quite different. Rather than faith, trust and pixie dust, the Bible tells us that faith and trust lead to perfect peace. Not as whimsical as pixie dust, but imminently more valuable.

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you.” Faith, trust & perfect peace don’t quite roll off the tongue in the same rhyming sing-song way, but this peace has the advantage of being absolutely perfect. Perfect peace doesn’t look like a perfect life or perfect circumstances. Instead, perfect peace comes as that bone deep knowing that ultimately God is in control and everything is going to be all right. It may not be all right in the way we hope or dream of, but it will be released to us through the Father’s hands, accompanied by perfect peace that only comes from Him. This peace seems like a necessary ingredient to the adventure of life.

Romans 15:13 says, “I pray that God, the source of hope, fills you completely with joy and peace becasue you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

So, no pixies, but instead, the Holy Spirit. A constant companion and reminder of the hope that is mine. A reminder that I can be overflowing with hope because of the joy and peace that have already filled me completely becasue I trust in God.

Faith, Trust and Perfect Peace? Adventure awaits.

Posted in Kids Ministry

Summer Bucket List

You hear about bucket lists all the time. What better season to have a bucket list than summer! My favorite sort of bucket is definitely a sand bucket, hopefully accompanying me to the beach. Our Kids Ministry team put our heads together to think of a list of mostly free, must-do summer outings and happenings. We hope that you will consider Giddy Up Gulch, this summer’s Kidtastic Adventure, to be at the top of your list!

pool ring

  1. BBQ with neighbors
  2. Play in the pool (yours or someone else’s)
  3. Go to the beach
  4. Build a sand castle (don’t forget your bucket)
  5. Have ice cream cones on the longest day of the year (June 21) we like Taylor’s in Loomis
  6. Make homemade push pops 
  7. River Cats lawn tickets
  8. Bike ride on the American River Trail
  9. Day trip to Lake Tahoe to escape the heat
  10. Visit Giddy Up Gulch at Sunrise Community Church
  11. Roast s’mores
  12. Play in the sprinklers
  13. Have a water balloon fight
  14. Hike to Lake Clementine
  15. Light sparklers on the 4th of July
  16. Go to the Drive in movies
  17. Make sidewalk art with chalk or paintbrushes and water
  18. Go to Livermore Park in Folsom
  19. Go fishing
  20. Have a backyard sleepover or campout
  21. Tie dye something
  22. Check out the Folsom Rodeo and cattle run
  23. Take a flashlight walk after dark to enjoy a perfect evening after a hot day
  24. Roast hot dogs outside
  25. Go camping
  26. Go berry picking
  27. Go to storytime at the Train Museum
  28. Go to Fairy Tale Town
  29. Check out Historic Folsom movie nights and events
  30. Attend Sunrise Summer Family Swim Night on August 2nd