Category Archives: Seasonal Celebrations
Breaking 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.
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.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
It is unclear (at least to me), who first coined the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” however, this is what comes to my mind while writing this journal entry.
Seven years ago my husband received a gift, of sorts, enabling him to purchase a beautiful canvas reproduction of In the Wilderness painting, by artist Ron DiCianni.
The large framed painting of Jesus hangs on the hallway wall leading to an upstairs bedroom and office. The “picture” of Jesus can actually be seen from our front entryway, but it draws the most attention when I carry my grandchildren upstairs for their naps.
Each time I walk up the steps holding one of my grandchildren, I stop and point to Jesus and say something like, “Jesus loves you and He is always watching over you.”
Our two and half year-old grandson, Max, recently exclaimed to me and to his cousins: “Jesus is here!” as he joyfully ran around our house pointing to the picture of Jesus.
Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words…and so much more, when it depicts the love and truth of Christ.
4 “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.[a] 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” Deuteronomy 6:4-9
I believe it is very beneficial for Christian parents/grandparents to display images (décor items) in their homes, symbolizimg their faith in Christ. In doing so, it opens the door to share one’s faith with children, grandchildren, friends, and neighbors.
Parent Challenge: Purchase a picture of Jesus and hang it in your child’s room or in another visible location in your home. There are so many nice ones to choose from. Visit your local Christian bookstore, or shop online. For more paintings/prints from Ron DiCianni, go to this website: http://www.rondicianni.com/
Faith Forward: Talk with your children about what Jesus may have looked like (as a child, a teen, and a young adult). I’ve always thought it interesting that most of the pictures we see of Jesus are very similar. Maybe this was God’s plan, to help us connect with Jesus on a human level. Watch the following film about the life of Jesus, as told through the eyes of children. http://jesusfilmmedia.org/video/1_529-cl-0-0/english/the-story-of-jesus-for-children (Resource from The Jesus Film Project)
Ideas from Others: (Thanksgiving — “Our Thankful Tree”)
I love the idea of cultivating praise and thanksgiving with our children. One month before Thanksgiving, which is about now, we began to decorate our “thankful tree.” With our young children, we roamed the woods until we found a good sized evergreen limb we called our thankful tree. Each day, the children would think of 1 thing they were thankful for. I or they would write it down on a leaf…leaf design cut out on colored construction paper. I’d punch a hole through it, pull a piece of yarn through the hole and hang it. By Thanksgiving the tree was full of thankful leaves. We’d take turns reading our leaves on Thanksgiving Day. (Submitted by Pam Enderby) To meet my friend and author, please visit Pam’s blog site at: http://www.pamenderby.blogspot.com
Halloween – A Mixed Bag
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
Personal Reflection: A couple of days ago my oldest granddaughter asked me where Halloween originated.
I’ve enjoyed helping create some of her costumes over the past few years. One year, she dressed up as a scarecrow (but the straw was too “scratchy”); and our favorite costume was Annie. I also have fond memories of making my own children’s costumes (a pumpkin, leopard, and a crayon).
So, where do you stand on Halloween, to celebrate or not? It’s definitely a mixed bag.
I first faced this dilemma when our children were in elementary school. I had recently learned that some modern-day Halloween practices were associated with pagan roots. My initial reaction was one of fear. So my husband and I quickly decided to “opt out” of Halloween. Since my memory seems to fade with years, I asked our oldest daughter if she remembered how we handled Halloween “back in the day.” Her text read: “I remember at some point you stopped letting us dress up.”
(The history of Halloween below is very brief, so I urge parents to do more extensive research.)
History of Halloween
Some of today’s popular celebrations associated with Halloween have pagan roots originating from the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain. This harvest festival of the Druids escorted in the New Year, starting on the evening of October 31, with the lighting of bonfires and the offering of sacrifices. As the Druids danced around the fires, they celebrated the ending of the summer season and the beginning of the season of darkness. It was also believed that at this time of year the invisible “gates” between the natural world and the spirit world would open, allowing free movement between the two worlds.
During the 8th century in the diocese of Rome, Pope Gregory III moved All Saints Day to November 1, officially making October 31 “All Hallows Eve,” with some believing this was a way of claiming the celebration for Christians. However, this feast commemorating the martyrdom of the saints had already been celebrated by Christians for many centuries prior to this time. Pope Gregory IV broadened the feast to include the entire Church. Inevitably, some of the pagan practices associated with the season persisted and have been mixed into modern celebrations of Halloween.
Fast forward nearly thirty years, I am once again faced with the same dilemma–to celebrate Halloween or not. The answer to my granddaughter’s question, why do we have Halloween, was simple and to the point. I told her that a long time ago there were a group of people who did not follow God, but rather, worshiped other gods, by practicing evil rituals, and unfortunately, some of these rituals still occur on Halloween. I went on to tell her the meaning of the word Halloween. Hallow is to make or to declare something or someone to be holy. And Halloween is a form of All Hallows Evening, or All Hallows Eve; Hallowe-‘en, which is the evening before All Saint’s Day, typically observed on November 1.
Speaking to a nine-year old, and wanting her to grasp the truer meaning behind my somewhat vague answer, I left her with this statement. “We don’t celebrate evil or anything to do with pagan beliefs, but rather, we celebrate God and His Holiness, lived out through His holy people, who are called Saints.”
I love this quote, popularized by Eleanor Roosevelt. “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
Parent Challenge: Please don’t take every tradition at face value. Educate yourself first, by researching traditions/holidays such as Halloween, to learn the history (past and present) behind them. Also, make it a matter of prayer, study God’s Word, and at times, seek wise counsel from a trusted Christian advisor about any tradition or holiday that you have little or no knowledge of.
Faith Forward: Teach your children clearly, the distinct differences of good and evil. Do a word search as a family, looking for the words good and evil. Use individual Bibles or use an online Bible program such as Bible Gateway. This is also an opportune time (if age and maturity warrant) to discuss the meaning of sin, and God’s wonderful remedy for sin. See suggested resource below.
Here are a few suggestions for families who choose to observe some form of Hallows Eve.
– — Always give careful guidance by helping your child select friendly type costumes. Absolutely no costumes that would signify evil in any way.
– — Rather than participating in scary haunted houses or other like events, choose a family friendly fall festival or other Halloween alternatives, that many churches offer their communities.
– — Use the month of October/November, to read together as a family, about one or more heroes of the faith from the Bible. (Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Esther, Daniel, Jesus, Paul) Others may also include: Susanna Wesley, John Wesley, Jim Elliot, Corrie Ten Boom, Mother Theresa, etc.
Torchlighters® are animated DVDs, true-life stories of Christian heroes retold for young people. (Adults are also inspired by them.) Each Torchlighter® episode comes with a documentary and other features. May be purchased through Nest Learning: http://www.nestlearning.com/torchlighters-faith-heroes_s221.aspx
“My Best Friend, Jesus” Booklet (Leading a child to Christ) published by Word Action.
“To enjoy the gifts without the giver is idolatry–and this can never satisfy the human heart. Enjoyment without God is just entertainment and it doesn’t satisfy. But enjoyment with God is enrichment and it brings joy and satisfaction.” Quote by: Warren Wiersbe
I praise God for all of my grandchildren, and for the joy He has given me through their young lives.
“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps” Proverbs 16:9 NLT.
Many people begin the new year by making resolutions (to make a firm decision to accomplish something). I found myself typing up a list of goals for 2013, composed of two broad categories: Personal and Ministry.
Oddly enough, beginning a new year does give people the sense of “starting fresh” or “starting over.” It’s amazing how many commercials are currently airing weight loss programs. That’s no doubt a biggie on many people’s lists, mine included. So far, I’ve eaten more oranges in the past 7 days than I did in the past 7 months. Getting off to a great start! It’s funny how most of us start out with great expectations and enthusiasm to carry out those things we’ve determined to conquer, but then something happens. Our get-up-and-go gradually diminishes to good intentions, and thoughts such as “there’s always tomorrow” or “I may have bit off more than I can chew.”
This brings me to my New Year Plans blog entry intent: “Mother, May I?”
A few years ago I was scrambling to come up with some impromptu games to play with some energy-filled children at church. In doing so, I recalled some of my favorites as a child, including “Mother, May I?” It dawned on me while playing “Mother, May I?” that I could adapt the game to include some biblical life principles. I changed the name to “Does it please the Lord?” and instructed the children to take X-amount of baby/scissor steps, etc. towards me after including a potential scenario such as: Johnny’s mom told him to clean his room on Saturday before going to his friend’s house. The child then says: “Does it please the Lord?” And the leader answers: “Yes, it does please the Lord….because God wants us to obey/honor our parents (5th Commandment). The child is then able to take their allotted amount of steps toward leader. Another scenario: Carol planned to go to the skating rink with some friends during Christmas break; however, she spent all of her money on a new outfit. Carol decided to sneak some money out of her brother’s piggy bank and use it to go skating. Again the child says: “Does it please the Lord?” And the leader responds: “No it does not please the Lord…because God’s Word tells us not to steal (8th Commandment). The leader then instructs the child to take X-amount of steps backwards.
Okay, you say, what does the “Mother, May I?” game have to do with New Year Plans (resolutions and goals). Glad that you asked. While making out my Personal & Ministry Goals for 2013, I was reminded of the revised game, “Does it please the Lord?” After looking over all the things I had included on my new year goals list, I ended up deleting some and revising a few others. I then prayed this prayer and added it to the top of my 2013 goals list. “Lord, if these things are pleasing to you, then give me the wisdom and the strength to carry them out in 2013.”
I believe it is God’s desire for His people to set goals and make plans that will honor and bring glory to Him. For me, this includes taking care of my physical body (1 Cor. 6:19-20), sharing my faith in Christ with others (Matt. 28:19-20, 1 Peter 3:15), along with my life passion: to intentionally pass down my faith in Jesus to our kids and grandkids.
May God bless you in this new year, 2013, as you seek to know God intimately, through an authentic life-changing relationship with His Son, Jesus. And may your new year be filled with many goals and plans that are purposefully directed by our Father in Heaven. Charmé