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Category Archives: Christian Family Traditions

God’s Word…Life and Truth

Do you know that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday?

Lord, out of the mouth of children___This week I asked my grandchildren what they wanted for Christmas. Before they had time to answer, Max, our 4-year-old grandson, looked up at me and said, “Do you know that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday?” Touching my heart deeply, I responded, “Yes.” Then I asked Max what kind of gift(s) he would like to give Jesus. He instantly replied, “A heart box.” I said, “Oh that sounds very nice; I think Jesus will like that.” Pausing for a moment, Max continued, “How do we get our gifts to Jesus?” “And does Jesus have a cell phone?”

I believe Max’s question requires some introspection.

As we busy ourselves with gift-buying and endless holiday gatherings, let’s remember to intentionally celebrate the birth of our dear Savior, Jesus.

Max’s Heart Box for Jesus

Nana’s Instructions

Help children make a Heart Box. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, fill the box with special “gifts” for Jesus. Place the box under the tree and open on Christmas morning. Family members take turns reading or sharing the gifts given to Jesus.

Suggested prayer: Dear Jesus, thank You for coming to our world. These gifts are for You, in honor of Your Birthday. For You taught us, whatever we do for those in need, we do for You.

For similar ideas, see the “Sparkle Box” story at: http://www.thesparklebox.com/

Gift Ideas for Jesus:

  • Showing love to others.

  • Sharing.

  • Obeying parents. (Picking up toys, not fighting with siblings, etc.)

  • Helping others in need. (Purchase a gift for a needy child.)

  • Give canned goods to a local homeless shelter. / Serve at a homeless shelter.

  • Donate new or gently used toys to the Salvation Army, etc. / Volunteer ringing bells for S.A.

  • Pray for the special needs of others.

  • Visit a nursing home or shut-ins, taking homemade cookies.

  • Tangible items (Younger children: rocks, colored pictures, birthday cards, etc.)

  • Make a card for Sunday school/school teachers, etc.

  • Be creative! And let your child come up with his/her own gift ideas.

Store the heart box in a handy place, so that you can get it out every Thanksgiving.

HEART BOX FOR JESUS

Materials Needed:
Wood box with latch (Michael’s or Hobby Lobby), or make own.
Wooden heart
Paint (Various colors, including red for heart.)
Picture of child
Shellac or Mod Podge
Glue
Typed label or handwritten (FOR JESUS) under the heart.

 – Paint the wooden hearts and the wood boxes.  Let dry.

– May choose to decorate boxes with markers, etc.

– Glue picture of child on hearts.

– Shellac (Mod Podge) pictures / and if desired, the entire box. Let dry.

May the Psalms draw you near to God.

“LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants…” (Psalm 8:1-2 NIV).

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God’s Word…Life and Truth

“Give Thanks”

 “Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1).

Thanksgiving is a time to remember all the blessings in our lives.

Let’s begin now…and continue all year long.

Our daughter started a new Thanksgiving tradition last year. Their family makes a Thankful Tree. The children find a tree branch and place it in a homemade container and then cut out leaves made from construction paper. Each day the children and their parents write something they want to thank God for on a leaf and then hang the leaves on the tree branch.  — Adapted from Changing Seasons In Me, article originally written Nov. 13, 2014.

 

Jack and Julia

I’m not fond of the winter months. In fact, my wardrobe is indicative of this, having many more summer clothes than winter. My hands shiver when walking down the freezer aisle at the grocery store…in the summer!

A thankful spirit often requires a different or new perspective on life’s familiarities. Otherwise, we may find ourselves taking for granted the blessings right in front of us….our family, the changing colors of autumn, a red bird perched on a snow-covered branch, and so on. While driving home from work the other day, my husband called and told me to look outside at the beautiful sunset. I ran out on our deck, only to be disappointed I had missed the window of opportunity.

To keep our children from missing the windows of opportunity, we (parents and grandparents) have the awesome responsibility to train our children to have watchful eyes, for the many blessings we receive each day. This takes intentionality! Children and adults not fully surrendered to Christ, are naturally self-absorbed and can easily miss the joy God intends. Looking at the world through eternal lenses portrays true and lasting blessings. The following story depicts two diverse perspectives from ten men who received the same blessing.

Jesus Heals Ten Men with Leprosy – Luke 17:11-19

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[b] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

After reading and contemplating the two varying responses to the lepers’ healing, ask yourself how you may have responded? Would it be more like the nine, or the one?  I’d like to propose two diverse perspectives—the temporal and the eternal.

The temporal perspective:

“The nine” cleansed lepers missed their window of opportunity to receive an even greater blessing, far beyond their physical healing. Here are a few possible reasons “the nine” didn’t go back to thank Jesus.

  • Being in isolation for so long, their minds were solely focused on returning to their former lifestyle.

  • They may have thought Jesus was simply doing what He was “supposed” to do…heal people. Therefore, they took their healing for granted.

  • Some may have said something like, “I’m sure God wants me to get busy fulfilling the plans He purposed for my life.”

The eternal perspective:

“The one” leper who came back to thank Jesus not only recognized the miraculous healing in his life, he experienced the greater blessing—the presence of a loving and merciful Savior. His perspective was filled with overflowing gratefulness, a direct result of being Christ-focused rather than self-absorbed.

The following quotes are from the book, Love Made Perfect—Foundations for the Holy Life (1997), authored by Dr. William M. Greathouse (April 29, 1919 – March 24, 2011), minister and emeritus general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.

“Self-love is the disease of original sin.”  “Idolatrous self-love is our sickness, but it is a sickness God wants to cure.”

To help our children develop a grateful heart like the “one leper,” I believe we must first explain that everyone is born with a sinful nature. The sinful nature will naturally dispose every human heart toward being self-absorbed. The only cure for a self-absorbed life is full surrender to Christ. I recommend reading Dr. Greathouse’s book, Love Made Perfect, for a fuller understanding of loving God with one’s whole heart, strength, and mind—a love perfected in us through Christ alone.

Secondly, we need to stop and “smell the roses.” I love this definition for the idiom “smell the roses.”

To take time out of one’s busy schedule to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of life.

Parent Challenge

Take time to thank God throughout your day. Don’t let the busyness of your schedule or life’s distractions keep you from missing out on the blessings of life. Begin by thanking God for your precious children, spouse, friends, church family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Practice pointing out the blessings of life to your children, as you drive along the road. The changing seasons exude with God’s blessings.

My new perspective of winter:  I love sitting by a fire on a cold wintry day with my husband. Building snowmen with our grandchildren imparts cherished memories of innocent smiles and silly giggles into my heart. Christmas brings the greatest blessing of all, as our family gathers together to sing happy birthday to Jesus. God warms my heart throughout the winter.

More Traditions

Thanksgiving tablecloth. Using the same tablecloth every year, each family member writes what they are thankful for on the tablecloth. The little ones love to make turkeys as they trace around their hands. Use permanent fabric markers or pens.

Indian Corn: Our grandchildren help me place several kernels of Indian corn by each table setting. Before eating our meal everyone shares something they are thankful for and then they place a kernel of corn into a decorative basket. Our basket goes around the table several times because the children have such thankful hearts.

 wreathThe first Sunday of Advent is November 29 this year (2015). There are limitless resources available to help families prepare their hearts to celebrate Christ’s birth. The Advent wreath is one of my favorites.

Check out Christian Book.com at:

http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/easy_find?Ntt=Advent+devotionals+for+families&N=0&Ntk=keywords&action=Search&Ne=0&event=ESRCG&nav_search=1&cms=1

 

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“Nana, look, there’s blood on Jesus.”

 

Max with cross 2

A crucifix (from Latin cruci fixus meaning “(one) fixed to a cross”) is an image of Jesus on the cross, as distinct from a bare cross. The representation of Jesus himself attached to the cross is referred to in English as the corpus (Latin for “body”) — Wikipedia

Several years ago, a friend made a ceramic crucifix for us. The crucifix depicts an image of Jesus bleeding from his side, while dying on the cross.  Since that time, I set the crucifix out in our home during the Lenten season.  It serves as a visual reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for me, our family, and for the entire world. Jesus suffered and died a horrible death, so that we could be reconciled into a loving relationship with our Heavenly Father.

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

This year, I placed the crucifix on our kitchen hutch. I thought to myself, “This will be a good location for it, so the grandchildren won’t knock it over and break it, yet still at eye level so they can easily see it, from a distance.”

The first week passed and nobody noticed it, or at least they didn’t mention it. A week later, our four-year-old grandson, Max, pointed to the crucifix and said somberly, “Nana, look, there’s blood on Jesus.” We walked toward the crucifix, and I said, “Yes, isn’t this sad?” We then dialogued about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins.

max 1The following week Max asked his mother to come and see Jesus on the cross.  As they walked over to the hutch Max said, “Look mom, Jesus is bleeding. He died on the cross.” There was a slight pause,–then the most beautiful declaration of “He is risen!” resounded from my precious grandson’s mouth: “But Jesus isn’t dead anymore!” My heart began to melt as Max realized the Easter message with such an exuberant simplistic faith.

I have to believe that this special encounter between our Savior and Max put a big smile on the face of God.

Each Easter my heart is full of thankfulness and gratitude to our LORD, who loved me, our family, and the entire world, enough to reconcile me (a sinner), to the One True God, through His (Jesus’) death and resurrection.

I encourage parents to display Christian symbols, especially the cross/crucifix, pictures, and other home décor inscribed with Scripture, around their homes. This is a simple, yet very effective way to share the love for Jesus with family and guests.

The Saturday before Easter morning, I will remove the crucifix and replace it with an empty cross or an empty tomb. Just like Max said, “Jesus isn’t dead anymore!”

The cross of Jesus Christ symbolizes the epitome of love and self-sacrifice. “Greater love has no man, than that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus’ death on the cross is the ultimate sacrifice of love that reconciles us to God. Crosses and crucifixes are powerful visual reminders of God’s love and serve as a witness of hope to the world.

I invite my blog friends to reflect upon God’s love while reading through the following Scripture and notations.

Peace and Hope (Romans 5: 1-11)

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

The Crucifixion (Notation of Mark 15:15b-32) – From Bible Gateway:

The brevity of Mark’s report is striking. Jesus chose to endure death fully conscious rather than drink the sedative offered him (see Pr 31:6). The division of his garments (see Ps 22:18) underscores the humiliation of the Crucified One. The notice affixed to the cross, the taunts of the passersby, and the mockery of the chief priests and teachers of the law are all ironic. They communicate a fundamental truth that would not have been lost to the Christians of Mark’s day: In the suffering and weakness of the Cross, God’s power is manifest.

15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified” (Mark 15:15).

 The Crucifixion of Jesus (Mark 15:21-32)

21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.

25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.

27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. [28] [a] 29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!” 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

The Death of Jesus (Mark 15:33-39)

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[b]

35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,[c] he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

 Jesus Has Risen! (Mark 16:1-6)

16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.

Romans 6:9-11

9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

May the remembrance and affirmation of Christ’s death and resurrection bless you and your family this Easter.

He is risen!

All Scripture is NIV unless otherwise stated.

 

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40 Days Introspection

40 DaysMy 10 year-old granddaughter, Ella, reminded me yesterday that my mind is possibly becoming “mush!”  While discussing ways our family could observe the Lenten season, my daughter, Ella’s aunt, asked me about the meaning behind the 40 days of Lent. After stumbling through a couple of my own thoughts, Ella, in her sweet humility said, “You know, it’s about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness for 40 days.” Of course, I knew that, but why the brain freeze at that moment.  Could it be the emphasis of Lent is not where it should be?

I’d like to believe that I will set aside the 40 days leading up to Good Friday, as a time of personal introspection. I’d thought about the common “self-denial” that is often recognized as something we give up (or deny ourselves from), but then, this doesn’t quite appeal to me this year. Would I really draw nearer to Christ if I gave up eating sweets for 40 days, or if I fasted from social media? Possibly, but I’m really needing to give up more than those things that enter my body internally.

God drew me to the book, Holey, Wholly, Holy, A Lenten journey of refinement. My husband read this book last year and I noticed it lying with all our other seasonal reading materials. After reading only the notes from the author, Kris Camealy, the introduction, and some of the chapter titles: You Can’t Hurry the Holy, Self-Examination (Holey), There’s No shortcut to Holiness, I knew I’d found the right Lenten resource for my 40 day journey.

Although my present personal struggle has permeated my mind over the past several months, it is my desire to use this Lenten season to hear the voice of my Savior as I intentionally quiet myself before Him. Too often, the noises around me are so loud that I can’t hear His loving and authoritative voice.

I like the prayer that Kris has written in the front of her book. 

Father God, you are most perfect and Holy. We cannot fathom the depths of your love that sent your own Son through the horror and suffering of the crucifixion, in place of lowly sinners such as us. Lord as we search for our place alongside you this Lenten season, I ask that you would mercifully lead us (me) into your will, that you would draw us (me) ever closer to your heart, through your gentle humbling. Make us willing, Father, help us (me) to receive your grace. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

To receive a copy of Holey, Wholly, Holy, A Lenten journey of refinement and learn more about the author:  http://kriscamealy.com/ebook/

Activities for LentIn our family sharing of ideas for the Lenten season, I came across these ideas from a fellow blogger. I especially like the White Flowers & Red Food Dye.

http://ihavenogreaterjoy.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/a-fun-kick-off-for-lent-and-more-easter-activities/

 

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Christmas leads to the Cross….

Hello Blogger Friends,

I recently came across this video, from Billy Graham.  The Cross, a message of hope.

The Cross and the ManagerAs my heart readies for the celebration of Christ’s birth, I’m reminded of the reason Jesus first came to earth. I encourage you to pause and take a few minutes to watch this video. For Christmas truly leads to the Cross….and our Savior’s glorious resurrection.

Click on link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bba2Dqaw6SI

Merry Christmas!

P.S.  If you’re still looking for a new Christmas tradition to begin with your family, please check out this blog site from my friend in the Lord, Sharon Glasgow.  Bringing Good Tidings of Great Joy to the Brokenhearted

 
 

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What, no “real” Christmas tree this year?

churchBreaking tradition is difficult for me, especially when it comes to family. For as long as I can remember, there has always been a “real” Christmas tree in all my homes. My earliest memory of this tradition actually flashed into my mind just the other day. My grandfather, who was a Shriner, helped sell Christmas trees at a local grocery store. The proceeds went toward the Shriner’s Crippled Children’s Hospital. He would bring home a tree for us to decorate. Fast forward to my married with children days. My husband and I began our own family tradition of packing up our kids in the car and heading to a Christmas tree farm, where we picked out the most “perfect” tree on the grounds and then we cut it down. Some years, however, the trees were not so perfect, like the one in Colorado. The trunk was so crooked it caused our “perfect” tree to tumble over in our living room (every time we were away from home). Oh my, fun times!

Well, this year I’ve been struggling in my spirit with the issue of buying gifts with money we really don’t have to spend. Going through some difficult transitions with job changes and playing catch-up with some financial obligations, the money just hasn’t been there to buy “all” those gifts to put underneath the tree. What tree? When it comes right down to it, going to the Christmas tree farm and cutting down a real tree isn’t cheap. This is what we’ve done, though, with our kids and now grandkids. Not this year!

While thinking of ways to cut back on spending this year, but still capture some favorite family memories, this idea came to me.

Family Church (4 Generations Collage)

Family Church (4 Generations Collage)

Several years ago, my husband, Jeff, inherited a wooden church that his great-grandfather made as a carpenter; he was also a Baptist pastor. This beautiful wooden church has been passed down from generation to generation (now to the 4th generation). One of my most favorite memories of this church is when Jeff’s grandparents had it. They always had an artificial tree sitting in the chimney of the church, decorated with old-fashioned bubble lights. That’s it! This year, we will sit the church in our living room, where our “real” Christmas tree normally sits, and possibly we will put an inexpensive little tree in the chimney. Since we receiving the church, I purposefully display my hand-made nativity set. My grandchildren love to play with the various pieces, especially placing baby Jesus in and out of the feeding trough.

It never ceases to amaze me how God cares for even our little family traditions. My God is the Master Creator!

This year, we may not have a “real” Christmas tree, but we will focus on Christ. Instead of placing our gifts under a tree, we will place them around the church. And on Christmas day, Pappy (Jeff) will share the story of the greatest gift of all—Jesus, by reading the Gospel accounts of His birth from Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-11.

  • What are some of your favorite, or new Christmas traditions? Please share some in the comments.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2013 9: 12 pm - in Christian Family Traditions, Christmas, Seasonal Celebrations

 

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Passing On The Passion…To Serve Jesus With a Joyful Heart

Joy in Serving Jesus

Joy in Serving Jesus

Serving Jesus with a joyful heart is one of my greatest passions in life. I have come to realize though, that having a joyful heart is not always a given. There are times when serving Jesus can bring much pain, criticism, and ultimate rejection. Of course, this is exactly what Jesus experienced while living among us, as he demonstrated his sacrificial love toward all mankind. The following passage of Scripture is a vital reminder of this.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3). Praise His Holy Name.

For me, this puts everything into perspective. Jesus, being fully man and fully God, contemplated the pain and suffering he would experience long before he went to the cross. And yet, the love Jesus has for the Father, and for sinful man, gave Him the power to persevere under the most severe circumstances (death on the cross), in order to redeem the human race from eternal death and hell.

When I begin to consider the scorn and severe suffering Jesus endured for me, my temporary trials and testing of my faith grow dim in comparison.

I believe God helps us to persevere in our faith as we serve Him with a joyful heart in our everyday activities. For instance, our church is preparing for Vacation Bible School. And as the children’s ministries director, I decided that we needed to distribute flyers in our area, inviting children to our VBS. Prior to this effort, a good number of our church family gathered together to work on decorations and props for our event. Included in this group, was my 9-year-old granddaughter, Ella. Afterwards I encouraged everyone to take some VBS flyers to hand out in their neighborhoods.

The following week, I received a text from Ella’s mom, (my daughter, Janée), telling me that Ella had went door-to-door in their neighborhood, delivering the VBS flyers. Joy filled my heart. This past weekend I planned to meet some people at the church to distribute the flyers in our church neighborhood. My daughter, her husband, Seth, and their two youngest children showed up at the church and off we went to distribute VBS flyers.

Do you know how blessed I am, in realizing that my daughter and her family are living out the same passion that I have…..to serve Jesus with a joyful heart. We don’t have to look too far, to experience joy in serving Jesus. God is good…..all the time!

Parents and Grandparents, you can realize this joy as well. Faithfully serve Jesus daily, during the good times and not so good. Our children and grandchildren are watching!

Recommended to Men — A new blog site for dads written by my son-in-law, Seth.  http://www.daretodad.blogspot.com

 
 

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