Archive for category Holidays

Taking a Break!

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Away for a little break today…  YOU should try to catch one too, while the Summer weather lasts!  See you next week!

Image courtesy of:   FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Happy 4th of July!

Let Freedom Ring 2

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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May God richly bless you, your loved ones and the precious work He has called you to in 2013!

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Merry Christmas!

nativity-baby-jesus-christmas-2008-christmas-2806967-1000-5581May the wonder of God’s amazing love bring you peace…

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

I pray that you are NOT on the computer, over-working as we leaders tend to do!  Instead, my prayer is that you are enjoying your family, taking a break, and pondering the countless ways that God has blessed you.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and to all those you hold dear!

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Ready for the Holidays?

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It’s one of the most challenging seasons of the Church calendar — Thanksgiving-Advent-Christmas.  If you are on a calendar year for annual budget, those numbers are currently being crunched and put into place.  Annual year-end donation appeals are being prepared and sent out.  Appreciation of volunteers is often made known during this season as parties are held and gifts are given.

In addition to all of the behind-the scenes work, there is still the programming.  This is an especially challenging and even difficult time of year for families who have a loved one with any sort of diagnosis.  Even typical kids are overstimulated by the lights, sounds and sweets of the season.  Add to that diagnoses such as Sensory Processing Disorder, Crohn’s Disease, Diabetes, and you have stress.  Medication and treatment schedules can be off.  Sleep deprivation is common.  The critical input of extended family pressures people in increasing measure during these months.  With relaxed or abbreviated hours, it can be tough to get in to see physicians.  Is it any wonder many find this a time of dread rather than joy?

As I so often do, I come back to the question, What are YOU doing about it in your ministry?  We are Christ’s ambassadors.  Celebrating His incarnation is one of the most amazing meditations in our spiritual lives.  How can we facilitate that for these dear families?  Here are some thoughts:

  • If you don’t provide respite any other time of year, DO IT NOW!  These families desperately need a pressure valve in this season.  Respite can be just that.  Make certain that respite doesn’t contribute to getting the kids overwhelmed with more stimulating food, sounds and activities.  Instead, plan on recruiting enough volunteers to let a kid sit on their lap and enjoy a Nativity reenactment or quiet nativity video.  Do crafts focused more on Advent and getting our hearts ready for Baby Jesus.  Slow the pace down.
  • Poverty faces many of our families who spend a disproportionate amount of their funds on medical bills.  Gift baskets, gift cards and collaboration with other charities can help put food on the table for celebrations and gifts under the tree that would otherwise not be there.  Get an early start because it takes time to collect names, ages, sizes, needs and then subsequently coordinate how all or part of those requests might be answered.
  • Be a listening ear.  Clear your own calendar to the best extent you can or call in extra volunteers who might meet this need.  Give a call to those you serve saying, “Hey, I was just checking on you to see how you’re surviving the holiday season.”  Sometimes, just the care and concern of another can be the greatest gift and the most visible example of Jesus that anyone can receive.
  • Think outside the box.  Might you have volunteers help clean people’s homes during this season or assist them in wrapping presents?  Could you have someone help those you minister to address their Christmas cards?  One church I saw even offered a free, relaxed photo session for families to have a portrait taken.  That’s a big deal when a typical photo studio may be too expensive or overstimulating!  There are so many ways we can get creative with our service to the population we love.
  • Help families strategize on church attendance during this holy season.  Getting to church is frequently a huge piece of the stress that these families are dealing with.  What might be the service with the lowest attendance so these families don’t have to deal with lack of adequate seating?  Is there a special children’s celebration?  If so, might that children’s celebration be a good or poor choice for that family’s child?  How might special child care be provided by a competent, trained volunteer so that the rest of the family can fully worship during the Thanksgiving, Advent or Christmas services?

As you can see, there are so many different pieces to the overall puzzle of blessing those we serve in this season.  Do it with purpose and wise planning.  It just may be the best gift you give all year.

We always like to hear what YOU are up to!  Please, leave us a comment and share how your organization or church is preparing for the holidays here.

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Making Easter More Than Bunnies

Direct your children onto the right path,
    and when they are older, they will not leave it.

Proverbs 22:6, NLT

How often as parents and leaders of children do we hear Proverbs 22:6 quoted?  We often frame that Bible verse in a way that focuses on wisdom and discernment, which is good.  However, do we ever see that Bible verse in the light of pain?  In a culture where our kids are brought up with virtually instant and never-ending gratification, I would hazard to say that they are quite poorly equipped to deal with discomfort.  Clear evidence supporting my view is the constant uttering of the indignant phrase, “It’s not fair!”

While I am not implying that we should not have a strong sense of justice, I do believe that we need to impart to our children that we live in a fallen world that is not heaven.  Things in life may seem unfair, but the world is not here to meet your every whim.  And one of the most fabulous things about Jesus is that He can use every pain, every unfair situation, to create something good, including making us better people.

Few times of year are better for laying this groundwork with our children than the Easter season.  Many Christian denominations observe Lent (which I personally find extremely enriching), but even those that don’t have Holy Week and the time around Easter to share with children how Jesus dealt with pain.  Many families have become fond of Resurrection Eggs, which contain small objects that remind children of the Easter story.  This is an excellent tool for smaller children, those who are at a younger cognitive level or those who need concrete visual examples to retain information.

Above, I have a picture linked to something that has become one of our family’s favorite tools for this time of year.  JOURNEY TO THE CROSS:  The Complete Easter Story for Young Readers by Helen Haidle contains 40 entries that begin just before Jesus enters Jerusalem and a plot is hatched to kill him.  Each of the 40 stories contains a biblically referenced narrative that is written for an audience of 8-12 year old children.  Beautifully illustrated, there are separate details before and after each passage of cultural customs and components that help the story come alive for kids.  A Bible verse and brief discussion questions end each narrative.

One of the reasons I have come to love sharing this book each year is that it spawns open discussion with my children.  Even if  they have difficulty with social processing, as is the case in my youngest child, their faith becomes their own the more they talk through these troubles that Jesus is facing.  I love getting my kids talking with me!  Discussing these disappointments, heartaches, challenges and identifying the godly way of dealing with them is the perfect way for children to be trained to walk life’s path when they have graduated out of our care.  And as we all know, life frequently leads down a path right through the heart of pain.

What are your favorite tools of this nature for training children?  It would be great for us to share!

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