Showing items filed under “family life”

After Your Child's Dedication :: Tips on Raising Christian Kids

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After your child has been dedicated (like we do at our church periodically), you might be thinking about your next steps and guiding them until they meet the age when they are ready to commit their lives to Christ and be baptized.

We’ll talk about what to do, things to look out for and just have fun, enjoy your little one confident in the knowledge that the Creator of the universe is watching over him or her every hour of every day.

Parental Unit Roles

In Proverbs 22:6, the Bible tells us to, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” As parents who follow Christ, we should ensure that as our children grow, we provide them a great example as we follow Christ. Every day they should see more of God and less of us. Children tend to copy behavior they see and are exposed to the most and that typically starts at home. Let us know as we have been entrusted with their care, that we are leading them in the way God wants us to.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

As a new dad, I did not know what to expect. I am the eldest of 6 and had minor roles in looking after my siblings but was never responsible for someone’s well-being 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. My tendency was to worry about everything, what my new daughter would eat, what she would wear, what school she would go to.

In Matthew 6:34, we are told to not worry about tomorrow – so don’t. In Philippians 4:6 we are also told to not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. God’s got this, he took care of you and he will take care of your child. I’m sure some of our guardian angels look pretty shook up after some of the scrapes we came through and we have to give thanks for them – they deserve hazard pay. J

In a recent Luvs commercial, a mom constantly fusses over her first child, breaking out the hand sanitizer at a moment’s notice. When the second child comes along, she is a lot less fussy and even hands off the second child to an auto mechanic while she signs a check.

You may not be handing your young child over to a mechanic anytime soon, but trust God as you go through your daily routine that he will look after your little one.

Breaking all da Rules

Kids break rules, they push boundaries, they try to see how far they can go. This is a natural fact of life. Be aware of it, be ready for it and have a plan to correct it. Every parent goes through the same situation.

When we step off the path that leads to eternal life, God corrects us, because he loves us. As our children grow, they will develop their own personas and identities and challenge your authority, even break the rules that you set. In Proverbs 3:12, we are told that, “…the LORD reproves him whom he loves...” We love our children, so we must correct them. We provide great examples, set boundaries, and have to correct them once rules are broken.  

It Can Take a Village

You have chosen godparents for your child, and you want to ensure that you stay on the same page as far as raising your child in a Christian home. Be sure they know what is expected and encourage them to do the following:

  1. Pray for their godchild regularly
  2. Set an example of a Christian life
  3. Help him/her to grow in the faith of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  4. Encourage them to follow Christ and to encourage others. 

Everything’s Gonna be Alright

Somewhere between all the 3 a.m. feedings, nightly changes, nannies, daycare, after school sports, doctor visits and years and years of education, they will turn out ok. God has a plan for you and he has a plan for your child. Seek his will in everything and watch him work.

 

If you have questions about helping your kids know who Jesus is, or if you want to get them plugged into our children's ministry, please contact us and we will help you!

 

Serving at Winter Relief as a Family

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At the end of last October, I took my family to serve for one evening of the Winter Relief program. It was a very remarkable experience and as I reflect back on it, there are three main takeaways that made a huge impact on my family. 

First and foremost, there is power in serving Jesus together as a family.

The world has a way of sucking me into believing that I am the center of the universe—that it’s all about me. Often I end up translating that into my family too! My world begins to revolve around my family and my priorities become my wife’s needs, my kid’s needs, schoolwork, soccer practice, family dinner and girl scouts. These are all wonderful and important activities. But serving as a family is different.

We prepared two large honey baked hams, then brought them to church and helped serve the homeless people who had gathered there. Doing tangible service as a family together meant that everything else had to be put on hold and serving other people took priority. It was a challenge and each person had to sacrifice something they’d rather be doing in order to serve. That’s what being a follower of Jesus is all about, choosing to follow him instead of my own desires.

Second, my children got to see me model service.

The reality is that my family is always watching me. They take notice of everything; what I do, what I say, what I like, what excites me, and my attitude towards something. Sadly, I often fall short in the example I want to set for my children and my wife. But this was one night where I felt confident in saying, watch me and do what I do. As I began to truly enjoy serving and interacting with the people at Winter Relief, my family followed suite. Soon I looked over at a table and saw my daughters (aged 9 & 6) taking seats next to a lonely young girl sitting by herself, offering to get her a drink. My son (aged 16) was doing a wonderful job serving everyone who came through his line. My wife was bringing people anything they might have missed like utensils or napkins. 

Third, my family was able to encounter real world brokenness and offer the love of Jesus in response.

Before we went to serve for the evening, my wife and I had to have some meaningful conversations with our children about the homeless. They don’t encounter homeless people very often. While all humans experience disappointment and brokenness, homelessness is a very upfront and external brokenness. I wanted to teach my children that it doesn’t matter if the brokenness is internal and hidden well or external and visible to all, the answer is the same. When people are in need, Jesus calls us to serve them in whatever way we can to reveal him.

 

Serving at Winter Relief was undoubtedly a meaningful and positive experience for my family. Even though we had to step outside our comfort zone and make some small sacrifices to get everyone there. In the end, we were able to do something to tangibly serve others and we had some wonderful and very meaningful conversations along the way.

At that moment, when my whole family was serving together, I couldn’t have been more content.

 


 

Winter Relief will be here again soon! There is a big need for Severn Runners to fill—bringing food, cooking, serving, and most of all connecting with our guests. This is an amazing opportunity for our church community to Love Well and Live Jesus! Get more information and sign up to fill a need when you follow this link:

YES!
I’M HELPING WITH
WINTER RELIEF!

 

The Little Christmas Tree: A Story for Christmas Eve

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It was a cold, dreary November evening when the shipment of Christmas trees arrived at the lot in the middle of town. Most of the people were getting ready to celebrate their Thanksgiving meals. All of the trees being unloaded off the trucks were handsome trees of all varieties. Some of them were spruces, other were firs, and others pines. Only the finest of trees had been selected and cut down to be brought to the lots for sale. One of the workers off-loading the trees picked up a large and magnificent spruce tree and put it on his shoulder. He took it over to the spruce section and set it next to the other proud trees already there. As he returned to the truck, where the spruce once lay, he saw an unsightly little tree that barely qualified as “merry”. It was, in fact, quite homely and just shy of 5 feet tall. It looked as if it had been a bit mangled under the other trees, because a few of its branches were broken. The man wasn’t quite sure what to do with the tree, but it wasn’t his place to decide, so he shrugged and carried it out to the lot and set it off to the side of the others. It was very cold that evening, and the little tree shivered all alone as the other trees huddled together for warmth.

The next day the lot was prepared for an early morning opening. The lot owner frowned when he saw the little tree off alone in a corner, for he knew that it paled in comparison to the others, and he likely would not be able to sell it.

Potential customers began emerging from their homes at the first signs of light, all bundled in their warmest winter clothes, which were perhaps a bit tighter after the previous night’s festivities. The little tree could see them coming, and wished that he could warm himself as they did, but he was hopeful that perhaps one of them would take him home, wrap his trunk in a tree skirt, and warm him by the fireplace. The little tree had heard the stories. It was a pine tree’s greatest triumph to be selected as a Christmas tree. And so he waited patiently, trying to spread his branches and look as tall as he possibly could.

One by one the customers came. Day after day they gave him little notice and grabbed the much taller and fuller trees off the lot and took them into their homes. Soon it was the day before Christmas Eve, and only a few trees were left on the mostly empty lot. All the trees left had some small defects, but none of them compared to scrawniness of the little tree. He had never even been considered by any of the people that had come. A few procrastinators came by and grabbed the last of their trees, and eventually only the little tree remained in the center of the lonely and empty lot.

That night was the coldest night that it had been so far, and the little tree wondered why such a terrible fate had befallen him. What was so wrong with him that no one wanted him to come into their home? Why did no one want to decorate and lay their presents under him? The little tree had hoped once, but now he only felt despair. The cold wind that blew bit to his very core, and the tree knew that he had nothing left to live for. He began to feel himself drifting off slowly into the darkness from which he knew he would not awaken, and at this point he didn’t even care anymore.

As the tree faded off into an eternal slumber, some sort of sound awoke him. It was a sound that he was not familiar with, and it went, “Tap, tap, tap.” The tree fully awoke and noticed a small, frail man who had hobbled onto the lot with the assistance of a walking cane. The man must have been nearly 80 years old, and he seemed nearly as weak and small as the little tree. The lot owner had been inside his booth counting all the money from the trees when the little man tapped on the glass. The tree could see the two exchange for a moment, but could not make out what they might be saying. The lot owner shook his head as the little man asked him a question. Then they both looked in the little tree’s direction and the old man pointed to the little tree. For a moment, his heart skipped a beat. Was there a chance? Could he really find a home after all?

The owner shrugged his shoulders, but nodded to the old man and went back inside his booth. The old man began walking towards the little tree. As he approached, there was not the usual look of distaste as the little tree had seen so many other times from previous customers. The little man smiled and said, “Look at you. You may seem small and incomplete, broken and frail, but I see what the others could not. All they saw was brokenness, but I can picture you whole, decorated with all of my ornaments and gleaming like the finest of Christmas trees. Besides, I could not carry any of those other bigger trees on my own. The others did not appreciate you, but I…well, I understand you. For you and me both are alone in this world. But now, no longer. Let’s get you home and celebrate Christmas.”

And with that, the little man grabbed the tree by his trunk and began slowly dragging him home. It was slow progress, for the man relied frequently on his cane to support him, and pulling the little tree was not an easy task for his tired muscles. The little tree could see the struggle that the man was going through, and he thought that he caught a hint of pain etched across the man’s brow. But no matter how hard it seemed, the old man keep walking, leaning on his cane, and dragging the little tree along. After a little while the man stopped in front of a quaint little cottage near the heart of the town. The house was quite small and plain, squished between two large department buildings, but it looked warm and friendly.

The man dragged the tree up to the front porch and dropped it. He walked up and opened the door and disappeared inside for a few minutes. The tree waited eagerly for his return. The old man dragged the tree inside, and the little tree could feel the warmth of the fire as they entered through the door. The old man had set up a corner in his living room next to the front door, opposite a small fireplace, which was where the little tree was to go. The old man set down his cane and picked up the tree, slightly leaning on it for support. The little tree tried to be as stiff as possible, so that the old man would not fall, but he was not very strong and buckled a little under the weight. However, they made it to the tree stand safely. The old man once again struggled with the tree, barely able to get it into the tree stand. The little tree saw him wince in pain as he finally got it in.

Once the tree was in the stand, the old man bent over and quickly tightened up the screws that held the little tree up straight. Finally, with a sigh of relief, he was finished and crawled over to his chair to rest for a few moments. He stared at the little tree for a long time without saying a word. The little tree stared back and wondered just what the old man might be thinking. Perhaps he had second thoughts about the little tree now that he saw him in his house?

Finally, the old man spoke. “I think we’ve had enough excitement for one day, don’t you think? Perhaps we’ll both rest now and I’ll get to decorating you tomorrow. Sleep tight little tree, and I’ll see you in the morning. Aha ha, but first…you must be thirsty!”

The man hurriedly went into the kitchen, filled a cup, and brought it back and poured it in the stand. The little tree hadn’t realized just how thirsty he’d gotten, and he started soaking up the water almost immediately. It felt good to finally be warm and have some water back in his branches. The old man smiled at him and went off to bed.

That night the little tree thought about everything that had happened to him so far. He didn’t feel hopeless anymore. He had a hard time resting, for he was terribly excited to get decorated tomorrow and finally celebrate Christmas as a true pine tree should. As the fire in the fireplace was burning its last few embers, the little tree finally dozed off.

He awoke to a start the next morning to sounds coming from the kitchen, and some sort of pleasant smell wafting about. The little tree was not quite sure what was transpiring, but it seemed wonderful. After a short while the old man emerged from the kitchen from the opposite side of the room and walked over to the fireplace. He put several logs in the fireplace and got a small fire started. He got up, turned to the little tree, and smiled, then returned to the kitchen. As the old man was away, the little tree watched the little fire slowly grow and crackle. The tree had never seen such a sight, and wondered what it was like to burn. He supposed that that might have been his fate if the old man had not brought him home. The old man emerged from the kitchen with a tray of food and sat down in his chair.

The tree watched him eat slowly, and the old man watched the tree as he ate. After the old man had finished, he got up and went down the hall. He came back all dressed up to go outside. He looked at the tree and said, “I’ve got to go buy some things from the store. I think you deserve an extra special Christmas, so I want to go buy some more decorations.” And with that he left.

After what seemed several hours, the old man finally returned carrying several bags. He set them down next to the tree and took off his coat, hat, and gloves. He threw another couple logs on the fire and got to work on the decorating.

It was the little tree’s proudest moment. He could not believe all the effort that the old man was going through to lavish on him all this attention and splendor. The little tree could not see himself completely, but he could see the decorations a bit and felt very proud of the way he looked. The old man finished and took a step back to judge his work. A large smile formed across his face, and the little tree’s heart melted. He had only known the old man less than a day, but still felt like he had known him his whole life.

The man spoke with a soft voice, “This is how I’ve always seen you. The others did not take the time to see what you could be, they only saw what you appeared to be. But I knew all along that you could shine just as bright as the rest of the trees.”

As soon as the man said that, the strength of his tried bones seemed to fail. He slumped down in his chair and sat for a while looking at the tree, his breathing slow and steady. The little tree wasn’t sure if he was ok, for he barely moved a muscle or made a sound other than his breathing. After what seemed an eternity, as the fire slowly faded, the man closed his eyes and all was silent in the house. The little tree could see outside the window that it had begun to snow, and he was excited that tomorrow was Christmas. He was very much looking forward to see what would happen, for none of the trees on the farms quite knew what happened on this glorious of days.

At the first light of dawn the little tree awoke. The old man still sat in his chair, eyes closed. As the light began to creep slowly in through the window, the man still did not stir. For 80 years Christmas had come and gone for the old man. He’d had had wonderful years with his family and kids, and they’d spent many Christmases just like this one next to the warm fire, which now sat cold. They’d spent many years decorating trees as he’d done the night before, but this time by himself. He’d had many Christmases alone with his wife as the kids moved on, though occasionally they’d return to celebrate for a day or two. None of the Christmases had been quite the same since his wife had died nearly 6 years ago. Except for this one. The little tree would never know just how happy the old man had been to share this Christmas with the little tree that he’d found a home for. The little tree would never know that he was the first tree the old man had had in the house since his wife had died. And the old man would never know how happy he had made a poor, lonely little tree feel, when on his darkest of nights, someone had cared enough to sacrifice all they had just to make him feel special.

Outside the world began to awake. Children rushed downstairs to see all the gifts that Santa had brought the night before. Parents rolled over in the beds as the light of the sun reached in their rooms, and the excited sounds of children hit their ears. People of all ages got out of their beds and warmed themselves with fresh cups of coffee next to the fire. The world was ready to celebrate another Christmas, just as it always had. Few would know or care, that on this morning the ultimate sacrifice had been given, all so that one, broken little tree could experience the greatest of Christmas gifts…love.

 

The Meaning of this Story:

Christmas time can be a joyous and wonderful experience for many people, but it can also be a stressful and lonely time for others. Perhaps you, like the little tree, feel alone and unwanted. Know this; that Jesus came into a world full of lonely little people, and like the old man, he would not ignore the ones that so many other people might. He does not see you as broken, he only sees you as you could be, as a child without fault. He doesn’t not see our flaws, and he does not want you to be alone. We may not always understand why these things happen to us, but there’s hope that there is always someone who will love and cherish us beyond anything we could ever imagine.

The holiday season can be crazy, and it’s easy to lose ourselves IN all the hustle and bustle that the world has created in celebration of Christmas. But just remember this: Jesus came into this world, in the humblest of ways, all so that he could die on a cross to keep us from being separated from our heavenly father who will never disown us or let us down. And the best part of it is, we’re not an only child. There are people out there, brothers and sisters of all races and colors, who are fellow children of our father in heaven. And let me tell you, it’s the best family that you could ever have.

So, if you’re feeling alone and lost this holiday season, try to find comfort in the presence of a Father who loves you unconditionally, and of an adopted family who’s always willing to welcome you with open arms.

 

Making Christmas a Little Bit More

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When I was nine or ten years old, the most desired item on my Christmas list was a Dr. Dreadful Food Lab. It was a lab kit that you could make all kinds of jello molds shaped like spiders, worms and all kinds of unappetizing things that kids can't get enough of. Now being, by far, the most mischievous child my parents produced, I spent much of my time searching out the place my mom hid our Christmas presents. This particular year, she went with hiding them under her bed (c’mon mom, you gotta try a little harder than that). After I spent a few minutes sifting through what was surely gifts for my older brother and sister, I saw it.

My Dr. Dreadful Food Lab. And I couldn’t believe it!

My parents are generous givers but by nine years old, I had learned that there was no guarantee of receiving what you had on your Christmas List. But this year I had, and of course I was too excited not to share. I ran to my older bother and told him what I had done and what I had seen. Once I had gone, he went to my mother and told HER what I had done and seen. My mother took this as an opportunity to teach her young daughter a lesson and without saying a word, returned the food lab and let me discover this on my own when come Christmas morning I had nothing to make jello in the shapes of spiders and worms.

I am sure many people can say the same but, growing up there were some years of plenty and some years of less when it came to the number of gifts under the tree. And you know what? To this day, there are only a handful of presents that I remember.

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!” -Dr. Seuss, How The Grinch Stole Christmas!

Keeping Christmas special in a culture that teaches us it is better to receive than to give and that more is never enough, is a challenge. So how do we keep Christmas special in an over-commercialized society?

Give Christmas back to Jesus

There are so many things vying for attention during the Christmas season. Between mom stressing over out of town guest, parents stressing over how to pay for gifts, Santa and those reindeer and Elves on shelves, there are no shortage of distractions. Give all of Christmas back to Jesus. Not part of it. All of it. Make time to celebrate with your children and family the birth of Jesus. Make a point to talk about and obsess over the fact that Christ came to the earth in the form of an infant to save us all. Be passionate about this and stop to think about two scared teenagers who traveled a considerable distance on a donkey to give birth in a smelly, dirty stable to a baby who would grow up to redeem us from our sins.

Turn off the TV and stick to family favorite Christmas movies

We generally only allow our kids to watch approved movies. When they watch cartoons on regular TV, they are bombarded with an endless barrage of crazy toys on commercials that they are convinced they need. Literally year round I was hearing, “I want this! I need this! Can I get this for Christmas?!” Once we cut out TV with the commercials, the constant comments of “I want! I want!” were significantly reduced. It is a difficult task of raising children who are grateful for what they have, it is even more difficult when we put things in front of them they don’t need. We have a long list of Christmas movies that we regularly watch in our family. Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, The Small One (a story about the donkey Mary rode to Bethlehem), the old claymation Rudolf, Lord of The Rings (For adults only at this point. I have no idea how or why we started watching this at Christmas but we snuggle up with the lights off, a fire in the fire place and enjoy watching goblins, orcs, hobbits and all of the amazing Christian symbolism that J.R. R. Tolkien’s beautiful mind gave us) and last but not least, my personal favorite, The Muppets Christmas Carol. It doesn’t get much better than a bunch of sarcastic puppets telling a great story.

Or better yet, turn off TV and read books together

My Mother is a Reading Specialist and she has a knack for finding the most amazing books. There are several that I read as a kid that are still popular today:

  • The Wild Christmas Reindeer, by Jan Brett
  • The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Bear Stays Up For Christmas, by Karma Wilson
  • Letters From Father Christmas, by J.R.R Tolkien

And of course, by far the best Christmas story happens in the book of Matthew and Luke.

Celebrate Advent as a family

Growing up in the church, I remember the Advent wreath at the front of the sanctuary with four candles that someone would light every Sunday while reading a scripture verse. At the end of the service my sister and I would get to blow out the candles (blowing out candles and drinking the left over grape juice after communion were perks of being the Pastor’s kids). We get Advent from the Latin word “adventus” meaning “coming," it is the time for preparing for the coming of Christ and I can’t think of a better way to teach children and family about the birth of Jesus than inviting Advent into our homes. The advent calendars counting down to Christmas filled with chocolates are great but if you are looking for something more substantial, LifeWay.com has an article- 6 Ideas for Celebrating Advent as a Family, you can download a free Advent Family Guide that includes family activities, weekly devotionals and daily readings.

Create your own family traditions

Today with free WiFi, tablets and smartphones, it has never been easier to jump online and peruse the hundreds of websites and blogs filled with family friendly Holiday ideas. Do some good old fashioned research and find some ideas that fit your family. Some of my favorite traditions with my family are making Christmas cookies for our neighbors (that the kids decorate themselves...which make for some interesting looking cookies, who knew Christmas trees could be orange and purple?), my oldest daughters and I make a large batch of homemade cinnamon rolls to enjoy on Christmas morning, Maryland has several great places to see Christmas lights from the comfort of your car (adding some hot apple cider sounds even better). This year I want to try a hot cocoa party, where we get all bundled up, stay up late and drink hot cocoa, look at the stars and just spend time together.

In the end, the key to making Christmas special instead of commercial is time and a little preparation- take extra time to slow down this Christmas to really connect and make memories with family, friends and the community around you.

Fun Holiday Ideas For the Family

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During the Christmas holidays it is custom that we listen to Christmas and winter themed music. Many of us go out and decorate, purchase greeting cards, and look for ways to see close but distant family members. What we also try to do is make lasting memories with our children and spouse.

Many of the memories we make with our families are not planned and can be things that just happen. But as you know, even God had a plan. Setting things up for a nice craft or evening in couldn’t hurt. Planning an outing is even a plus. But even those can become tedious, everyday things for some people.

Matthew 2:10 says, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Who doesn’t want that reaction from their family while creating a lasting memory?

If you are looking for something a bit different for this season of giving, gifts, and love, here are some ideas for memory making and family time.

  1. Indoor Campfire – Light a fire and complete the experience with hot chocolate, marshmallows, and s’mores. This can also be a time to read stories to each other, make ornaments, share a favorite Bible verse/story or watch the Nativity Story.
  2. Kindness Elves - The Kindness Elves leave an idea for an act of kindness or service they hope the kids will do that day. It can be anything from smiling to everyone at school, making their siblings bed, or taking cookies to a neighbor.
  3. 12 Books of Christmas – Wrap a book for each of the 12 nights before Christmas. Each night unwrap a book and read it as a family. It will bring the family closer and create a love of family reading.
  4. Christmas Eve Game – Unwrap a new game and play it on Christmas Eve. Learning the rules and playing something new will be exciting and thrilling for the family. It could become an amazing tradition.
  5. Jesus’ Stocking – Everyone has a stocking, right? Why not leave one up for Jesus? Every day or so, family members can drop in slips of paper saying what they are thankful for or what their gift to Christ is this year. Each one is anonymous but they can be read aloud on Christmas Eve.

However you look at it, it is important to keep the Christ in Christmas! Spending time with family and sharing the love of God with them is one of the best ways to do that. Spend time in prayer with family and remember to have fun! 

Merry Christmas!

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