Celebrating Earth Day with Faithful Families by Traci Smith

In my work with children, youth, and families, I was always searching for great ideas and resources to share with others. One of the resources that I highly recommend is Traci’s Smith, Faithful Families. In this new book, you’ll find all the information you need to create a variety of spiritual practices for your family or for yourself. My review of the book will be shared soon, and in the meantime, I’d like to highlight one of the practices from the book.

Earth Day is coming up soon and Traci does a wonderful job of helping us combine celebrating Earth Day with God’s love of creation. (In fact, all of the practices are ways of acknowledging God’s presence and our connectedness to God and each other in our regular, daily lives).

Earth Day-Feeding the Birds begins with a brief reflection and introduction. “This practice is designed to help children honor creation every year on Earth day by reading the creation story and making a bird feeder” (56). This practice is recommended for ages 4 and up and can be completed with only pipe cleaners and O-shaped cereal. You can make this bird feeder in about 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll want to gather your family outside on Earth Day with a Bible and bird feeder making supplies. Read Genesis 1 together. Next you’ll talk about creation as a family. You can use the question provided like “What is your favorite part of creation?” (56) or use your own questions. To create the bird feeder you simply string the cereal on the pipe cleaner and bend it into the shape of a ring. Place your bird feeder on a tree and say a prayer together.

Each practice includes notes and variations to help you. The practices are written as a script so you can easily follow along or pass the book to older children or other family members to share the reading responsibility. The script includes options for everything you need to say including prayers, introductions, and questions. As you can see from the Earth Day practice, the intention of the practices in this book is to make it easy for your family to find ways to “create sacred moments at home.”

I hope you’ll spend some time out in creation on Earth Day creating sacred moments. And I hope you’ll add the book, Faithful Families,  to your family library and your church library. For more information about this book and many other resources, please visit http://www.traci-smith.com.

 

 

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review of this book.

Look for Jesus This Holy Week

Look for Jesus This Holy Week
This week can be difficult for people of faith. We know what is coming next Sunday, and we look with joy to Easter. And yet, we can get so busy looking ahead to what comes next that we aren’t present in what is happening now. The stories of this week are familiar to those who have spent their whole lives in the church and less familiar to those who haven’t.
This week I encourage you to look for Jesus. Look for him in celebrations and parades and times of joy. Look for him eating with his friends and laughing. Look for him among those whose friends have abandoned them. Look for him among the dying. Look for him among the lonely. And finally, look for him among the living, in surprising places, and in familiar places. If you keep your eyes open this week, you just might see Jesus in many, many people.
Loving God, We are looking for Jesus this week. Guide our steps, so we may see him in the people we meet, in the people we ignore and overlook, and hopefully in ourselves. Change our paths and routines, Holy One, so we follow where Jesus leads. Be with us this week as it is so hard to understand and comprehend the events of this holy week. Open our eyes to see the beauty and tragedy of this time. In the name of Jesus who first walked this journey, we pray. Amen.

Scripture to Guide the Week

Psalm 20:1

This week as I was reading Scriptures with a patient I read Psalm 20:1 from the CEB. “I pray that the Lord answers you whenever you are in trouble.” This verse has stayed with me. It has been my prayer this week for all I meet. And it is my prayer for all of you reading this. “I pray that the Lord answers you whenever you are in trouble.”

What Scripture has been sustaining you this week? What word or phrase has stuck in your head and heart this week?

40 Things in 40 Days

40 Things in Lent

 

Each year in Lent I strive to give away 40 things. This practice combines my love of making lists with my love of giving things away. I have very few rules around what constitutes a “thing” I give away. One day I might clean out my t-shirt drawer and donate what I do not need. Another day I might sort through the pantry and collect a box of food to share with someone else. If the opportunity presents itself, I’d love to give away a lunch to someone who is hungry. Often I give away many things to the recycling containers too. And I love to surprise a friend with something I give away in a package I send.

I use Lent as a time to give away and get rid of stuff so I can start new in Easter. And in response to my statement I was challenged by this thought from my friend, Brad. “Great idea but the real transformation would be to not start new in Easter with replacing what you cleaned out!” And the challenging thoughts continued with Jim’s statement, “I wonder if that would affect what I give away.”

I am seeking transformation this Lenten season, and so I am going to give away 40 things in Lent with no plans to replace them when Easter comes. I’m going to seek to inspire my sense of giving over these next 40 days.

How are you observing this season of Lent?

Lenten Countdown with Post-its

Lenten Countdown with Post its

 

Those of you who know me well will know that I love post-its. I keep (at least) one pack in my purse in case of a post-it emergency. When I was doing youth and children’s ministry, I found many ways to work post-its into my lessons. Here is one example I first used a few years ago at St. Giles Presbyterian Church.

 

You will need 47 purple post-its for each person.

An Easter Sticker for each person.

Sharpie or pen to write.

 

Helpful Hints-

If you can find purple post-its that have 50 sheets, use those! I found 100 sheet purple post-its and split them in half.

I did this as a children’s message one Sunday morning and created all the countdowns myself. It took some time! If you have friends, a committee or ministry team, or a way of copying onto a package of post-its, I highly recommend doing it another way.

 

We are creating a countdown to Easter for our children/youth/families or yourself. Now the tricky part is that the 40 days of Lent do not include Sundays which is why you need 47 post-its. On the first post-it, you’ll write 40. On the second post-it, you’ll write 39.

 

Here’s the countdown for you-

40, 39, 38, 37, Sunday, 36, 35, 34, 33, 32, 31, Sunday, 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, Sunday, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, Sunday, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, Sunday, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, Sunday, 6, 5, 4, 3 (Maundy Thursday), 2 (Good Friday), 1, Easter!

 

After creating all these countdowns, you’ll be ready to hand them out or you could have people make their own at a Lenten Fair. I recommend giving them out the Sunday before Ash Wednesday (February 26) and having some available on Ash Wednesday (March 1) and the first Sunday of Lent (March 5).

 

If distributing them to families during the children’s message, talk with the children about the season of Lent and how they’ll observe it. Talk about how we are all preparing for Easter in these 40 days and Sundays. Since 40 days is a very long time for most children to understand, this is a visual example of how long we’ll be waiting and preparing.

If you’d like to give this a try and your Lenten plans are already done, make one for yourself and try it out this year. See if the daily act of taking one more number off the pile helps you to visualize and live into this holy season.

 

A Month of Letter Writing

A Month of Writing Letters
When I walk to my mailbox each night, I am hopeful that something fun will be inside. Somedays I open the mailbox, and it is empty. This happened just last night! When my mailbox is empty, I always assume it is a holiday that I didn’t remember. Somedays I open the mailbox and find only advertisements. On the best days, I open the mailbox and find a card or letter from a real person. It makes my day.
I love writing letters, and I love getting mail. For those two reasons, I enjoy participating in A Month of Letters Challenge. During the month of February, I sent out (at least) 23 handwritten letters or cards. As I write I think of the joy I am sending to another person. As I write I pray for the person who will receive the letter. I appreciate that in this wintry, cold month I have a goal to accomplish, and it is spreading cheer across the country.
I invite you to join me this month in writing at least one handwritten letter. Together we can share joy with others who just need a reminder that they are loved.

Writing a Letter-A Spiritual Practice

Writing a Letter-A Spiritual Practice
When I have too many thoughts running through my head, I write a letter. Other people may write in a journal or go for a run or write a song or find another way of clearing their heads. As someone who enjoys letter writing anyway, writing a letter as a spiritual practice makes sense. Sometimes the letter is to a person about whom I’ve been thinking. Sometimes the questions I’ve been pondering are answered as I write the letter. I don’t have to send the letters I write or then again I might. The letter can be to myself, to whom it may concern, to God, or to someone I know. The letter I’m sharing is to my best friend, Kristi. I needed some help working through something and I knew she’d know what to do. I commend to you the spiritual practice of letter writing as a way to soothe your soul and quiet your mind.
A Letter to My Friend
Hi you!
Is the nearing of my 39th birthday the reason you are on my mind so often lately? When I think of 39, I think of you. You’ll always be 39. You’ll never have to admit you are 40 because you are always 39. How can I have caught up with you? You were always 5 years older and soon I’ll be the age you were when you died. And that makes me realize that it has been (almost) 5 years since you died. So lately, I’ve been thinking of you.
This birthday feels different. I’m not afraid of getting older. You know that. I’m grateful for every year. I guess I just want you to say it is okay for me to be the same age as you and then get older than you. Of course, you’d tell me it is okay. You never held me back. You were always pushing me outside my comfort zone to new places, new experiences, and new people. So I’m going. I will turn 39. I will celebrate being 39. Thank you buddy for living all of your 39 years with reckless abandon. As I blow out my 39 candles (hopefully just a 3 and 9 candle because we don’t need the fire department involved or do we?), I will be grateful for the years I have lived and the people who have walked with me, and I will look forward with anticipation and excitement to my next adventures.
You know I have ninety-two billion other things to tell you, and so for now, all I will say is thank you for helping me prepare for 39. Thank you for helping me clear my head and my heart.
Susannah

Sitting by the Christmas Tree

Sitting by the Christmas Tree

In our home, we celebrate the season of Christmas by leaving our tree up until at least Epiphany. I love the practice of celebrating the liturgical season of Christmas (December 25-January 5). I feel like I have more time to sit by the Christmas tree after everyone else is done celebrating Christmas. The presents have all been unwrapped and the must do list is done. I’m sitting in the living room with all the lights off except the Christmas tree writing this now. It is a silent night with time to think about hopes for this new year and time to give thanks for those I love. It is a holy night feeling God’s love in the midst of this sacred time. It is a time to remember Christmases past and ways I have celebrated throughout my life. Merry Christmas!

What traditions of this season make it meaningful for you?

How do you celebrate in unique ways?

Happy New Year!

A New Year!

When the year draws to an end, I want to mark the occasion. My husband and I remember the year that is ending through the memories we have collected in our jar. While I don’t want to add another item to my to do list, I do want to look ahead to the new year with hope.

To prepare for this prayer for the new year, gather some paper and a pen and find a comfortable place to sit. When the questions come up in the prayer, pause. Take time to write and reflect.

God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow,
A new year is approaching. After reflecting and remembering this year, I want to look ahead with hope. I wonder what this new year will bring. For your guidance as the new year begins, I pray.
What are my hopes for myself for the new year?
What are my hopes for those I love for the new year?
What are my hopes for where I live, my country, and this world for the new year?
Faithful God, hear my hopes for this new year. Amen.

Words of Love – Advent 4

Love

“When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.

‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’

He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’  –Matthew 22: 34-40

Leviticus 19:18 – love your neighbor as yourself

Deuteronomy 6:5 – love God with all your heart

Deuteronomy 10: 19 – love the stranger

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 – time for everything including love

Micah 6:8 – love justice

Matthew 5: 43-48 – Jesus reminds us to love our enemies

John 15: 9-17 – “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you…”

1 Corinthians 13 – the love chapter

photo 2-17

What surprised you about how and where love is mentioned in the Bible?

Where do you find love this Advent season?

How will you share love this Advent season?