Monday, April 6, 2009

Easter Eggs and Baskets

Holy Week is upon us and I wanted to share with you all some fun ideas the might help you keep the focus on Christ. Our salvation is a gift given through the events we have entered into a celebration of. I pray that we can learn to dwell on this for the whole year and that the entire Holy week would actually feel like a Holy week due to the concentrated time and attention we give it. I'm not there yet with my family but each year we try a little harder to grab the kids attention (and our own) off of "life" and onto the giver of it.

Please remember this is not to make you feel guilty or take away any of the fun for your family but it is simply my way of getting your creative wheels spinning.

Spring/Easter Baskets

I have 5 kids and about 2 kids ago we realized that giving each of them an Easter basket full of fun toys, clothes and candy (that I wouldn't even let them eat) of their own was a bit over the top. Here are a few basket related ideas to encourage you to simplify and help you come up with your own way of doing this.

- Instead of each family member getting a basket try doing one basket for all to share. Include something that reminds you of each child in it but encourage them to share it all because it is for them all.

- Skip the basket thing all together!

- If that last one was too hard try doing a Spring Basket at the beginning of spring. You can put all the silly eggs, bunnies, chocolates and goofy stuff in it but give it in the name of the fun season rather than on the most Holy of days! It might be fun to make that a tradition and each year to get a new book your family is going to focus on through the spring season.

Easter Eggs

Resurrection Eggs are a fun set of eggs full of symbols that tell the story of the Easter Season. When you buy them they come with a devotional that helps you talk through the events of Holy week with your child. Here are some fun ways to use them as a family:

- Instead of sitting down and doing them in one night use it as your Easter countdown. Do one egg per morning as a family devotional and of course on Easter morning your kids will be delighted with the best egg of all - an empty one... reminding us that Christ has risen indeed!

- The last couple years we decided to do a scavenger hunt for them. We pulled out the carton like we were going to look at our resurrection eggs and in the carton there was a note from one of the eggs. It said that some guy who doesn't love Jesus had egg-naped them and taken them away so we wouldn't think about Jesus this year. The egg also left a note that if we didn't hurry and find him he might get cooked (hint hint). So the kids ran to the kitchen to save the egg (which they found in the oven) and when they brought it back we opened it, talked about what was inside and then read the note the next egg had given that egg for us. Each egg they went searching for we assigned a new head investigator so that our oldest didn't get to find all of them. It was tons of fun and really kept all of their attention!

- I was also thinking that this year we would do Easter Egg hunts for fun throughout the season but on Ressurection Day we might just skip that and leave the focus where it belongs - on Christ!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Easter Celebrations

I plan on coming back in here (eventually) and making these more detailed and informative but this is all just taken from notes I used in a class taught to 4th graders last year. This might help you explain to younger ones all the wonderful days of reflection and celebration the Easter season has in it. May God be glorified in this season by us all!

Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday is the 40 days before Easter, not counting Sundays. It is the first day of Lent and is always on a Wednesday (duh). It was a biblical tradition to throw ash over your head to show repentance and at a lot of church services on this day the pastor will use their finger to put an ash cross on our heads while saying something like "repent and hear the good news".

Lent is the 40 days, leading to Easter, not counting Sundays (didn't I just say that above?). The Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday. It symbolizes the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert. Lent is a time for people to reflect and prepare for Holy week (the week we celebrate the events leading up to Christs' death and resurrection).

Easter is the celebration of a wonderful gift from God. His love for us should be our ultimate source of joy and contentment. During Lent it is a common practice for us to fast from one of the things in our lives that we think brings us joy. Missing out on that food, activity or thing can be a constant reminder to us that indeed our Joy is in the Lord (or at least it should be!).

Palm Sunday
The Sunday before Easter is Palm Sunday. It is the first day of Holy week, a day when we celebrate Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the back of donkey. Crowd of people lined the streets waving palm branches and shouting "Hosanna" to Jesus. Sadly later the same crowds shouted "crucify him".

Maundy Thursday
This is the day we celebrate the Lord's Supper where Jesus introduced the breaking of bread and drinking of wine in remembrance of what He was about to do for us. The word Maundy comes from the latin word mandatum meaning commandment. It was on this day that Jesus said "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you".

Holy Thursday, as this day is also known, is also a time to reflect on Jesus washing the disciples feet ( a humble act of service), Jesus suffering in Gethsemane, and also the betrayal of Judas.

Good Friday
This is the day we reflect on Jesus' crucifixion. Although that is a very sad thing to think about, because it is our sins that put Him on the cross, there is also such joy in knowing that he was willing to do that for you and I and most importantly there is hope for us all because he conquered death and is truly a king of kings!

St. Patrick's Day Symbols

Blarney Stone
- The Blarney Stone is a stone set in the wall of the Blarney Castle tower in the Irish village of Blarney. Kissing the stone is supposed to bring the kisser the gift of persuasive eloquence. The legend says that an old woman revealed the power of the stone to reward a king who had saved her from drowning. Kissing the stone while under the spell gave the king the ability to speak sweetly and convincingly. It's difficult to reach the stone, kissers have to lie on their back and bend backward or downward while holding iron bars for support.

The Shamrock
- An Irish clover. There is not actually one type of clover that is a shamrock.

- This symbol stems from a story that Patrick used a three leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity. He used it to show that although the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three separate people they can still be one.

Rainbow with a pot of gold
- All I know is that we need to quit seeing this as a symbol of anything other than the Creator of it! St. Patrick's Day or not there is great joy in knowing the same God who made this thing (or not a thing but an pattern of light on rain???) also made me, knows me by name and loves me! I believe the rainbow should remind us of God's love over us and the pot of gold is a reminder of the richness when you rest in it!

- I don't have much to say about this except I sure loved hiding green somewhere in my outfit when I was in school so people would think they get to pinch me and then I got to point out I had a dot of green pen on my shoe and ruin all the fun! Ha Ha - what a great sense of humor I have always had huh?

Easter Books

Here are two Easter books I HIGHLY recommend... they are both written for younger kids and our family has already read them both several times this Lenten season. The first one is super cheap and the second is not expensive but it's around 10 dollars. The only suggestion I would give is when you read the title and everywhere in the book it has that phrase I change it to "Easter is for YOU and ME"... in fact the kids love that part because I say the "Easter is for YOU" and they, as well as dad, yell back "and ME".

The one above is written around all the activities we do around Easter time and how they all relate back to the meaning of the season and the one below is written in a format telling the story of Jesus. It says things like "when he called the disciples to follow Him, I think he was calling me (obviously I change that to "I think he was calling you" and the kids yell back "and me". It also has a page saying how he healed the lame and "He knew He would need to heal me" it is super good with great pictures as well.

Friday, February 20, 2009

St. Patricks Day

Okay... here is your brief history lesson on who St. Patrick really was and how he became known as the patron saint of Ireland. Obviously this is history and some parts are disputed but overall most of my research has led to this basic conclusion.

Around 390 A.D. a young boy named Maewyn Succat (later to become Patricus also known as Patrick) was born to Calpernius, a Roman-British army officer. It is believed he was born in either Scotland or Roman England. One day while growing up in Britain he was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. He is believed to have been a slave for around 6 years and the stories around his escape/freedom are varied. That is not the point. The point is that at some point God intervened in this young mans life, he studied to become a bishop and felt God calling him back to Ireland to convert people to Christianity and a relationship with Jesus. He also set up schools and churches all over the area. Ireland was a very pagan nation and the Celtic's really didn't appreciate his teaching or good doing. He was arrested several times and escaped each of them. St. Patrick spent about 20 years traveling Ireland preaching the word of God. March 17th is the day he died and the day chosen to celebrate him.

So, this St. Patrick's day I encourage you to talk less about green things, leprechauns, and gold and spend more time talking about:

- Loving the lost and having a desire to see them saved. Learn the great commission as a family.
- Who the Irish people are - learn about their culture not just the rumores about them.
- What it means to be pagan and how confusing it can be for seekers to find truth with so many pagan beliefs out there.
- How even when things seem horrible we need to stay true to God and have faith that He has a plan and will use all things to bring glory and honor to Himself. We are the tools but he is the master planner.
- Unlike Leprechauns who keep their treasure hidden we are called to be lights leading the way to the ultimate treasure.

No promises but I will try to get on here soon and post some fun holiday ideas. And don't forget that I said spend LESS time not NO time talking about all the silly stuff. My sister-in-law lets her kids have Lucky Charms (a forbidden sugar cereal in our home) and I might just do that as well this year.

Don't turn Jesus into a party pooper - He delights in our family fun - just don't forget to HONOR HIM ALWAYS and include Him in the party!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Valentine's Day - Valentines

Well, I hope you all had a Happy Valentine's Day! Here are a few fun "Valentine" ideas.

Instead of candy why not give something their moms might actually let them keep this year. Kenyon gave out pencils with a note that said... Kenyons "write" you are AWESOME! The ones pictured show a different saying but I realized it sounded funny and changed them.

Adia being 10 and very emberassed to give boys anything lovey decided to make stress balls (balloons full of corn starch) and attach a not saying... Don't STRESS - I'll be your friend!

For the girls she made bracelets (strips of ribbon hot glued to felt - then she added velcro circles to make them attach) in a bag with a candy ring and the note said "I'm all wrapped up in this friendship" and some said "This friendship has me all wrapped up".

Avery went with the candy and made candy filled rocks with an attached note saying "Friend - you rock!". These were a bit more time consuming and messy but lots of fun. You take small candies, wrap them in tissue, wrap that in foil and then dip it in prepared plaster of paris - when that dries you paint them to look like rocks. We made our red and pink rocks to stick with the theme. Also to make sure people knew to break them open we put them in a bag that said "Break Me".

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

"Without justice, there can be no peace. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Pretty soon we will all have a 3 day weekend in honor of one of our nations heroes. I am embarrassed to admit that most of my life I never cared about this holiday or what it represented but I do remember when all of that changed. I was planning out a lesson for Adia, our first year homeschooling, and I remember thinking how important it was for her to grasp the injustice that MLK fought so hard against. Well, when the day came to actually teach her about it we had a biography on him to read and as I started reading (with the goal of opening her heart to issues of justice) the tears came streaming down and I couldn't even talk. I was overwhelmed at the importance of what this hero fought for and had so much guilt that before this day I never really cared. Obviously by wanting so badly for my daughter to "get it" I knew it mattered but I honestly just didn't ever think about it. Soon after that we read our first American Girls book about Addie (a slave girl who runs away with her mom and has to leave behind family) and once again my heart was being torn for what people have gone through over the ages and how much I take for granted my life of little worries. At first I seemed to just wonder if I really would have been a part of the problem or the solution back then. Now 5 years later God has opened my eyes even more and shown me that I don't just have to wonder how I would have reacted then... the fact is slavery still is exist (and in bigger numbers than before), evil injustices are taking place all around us TODAY and just like many back then I have not been a part of the solution, I have closed my eyes to it and I am horrably humbled and sorry for allowing this disconnect to take place in my mind that allows me to know this and yet go on as if I do not.
Wow! That was kind of deeper than I meant to go but hey - it's my heart and I had to share.
So here are a couple fun things you can do to start softening your childrens hearts to these matters.
For the little ones,
There are some cute poems and books out there based on a box of crayons and how the crayons didn't like one of the colors to begin with until they realized the value each of them had and how boring the world would be without each of them. This is a simple way to help our young children relate to racism and how mean and ugly it is.
Box of Crayons:
poem #1
Wouldn't it be terrible? Wouldn't it be sad? If just one single color was the color that we had? If everything was purple? Or red? Or blue? Or green? If yellow, pink, or orange was all that could be seen? Can you just imagine how dull world would be If just one single color was all we got to see?
poem #2
While walking in a toy store the day before today, I overheard a crayon box with many things to say. "I don't like red!" said yellow. And green said, "Nor do I!" And no one here likes orange, but no one knows quite why." "We are a box of crayons that really doesn't get along," said blue to all the others "something here is wrong!" Well, I bought that box of crayons and took it home with me and laid out all the crayons so the crayons could all see. They watched me as I colored with red and blue and green and black and white and orange and every color in between. They watched as greenbecame the grass and blue became the sky. The yellow sun was shining bright on white clouds drifting by. Colors changing as they touched, becoming something new. They watched me as I colored. They watched till I was through. And when I'd finally finished, I began to walk away. And as I did the crayon box had something more to say... "I do like red!" said the yellow and green said, "So do I!" "And blue you are terrific so high up in the sky." "We are a box of crayons each of us unique, but when we get together the picture is complete." NOW IF WE COULD JUST LEARNFROM THIS BOX OF CRAYONSTHIS WORLD WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE. by Shane DeRolf
When we read these poems last year I printed them out in color for the kids. We read it, talked about it and then did a craft coloring our own crayons to put in crayon box and hang up on the wall... I don't have a good picture of ours but this is all over the internet so you can just google the topic and you will find lots of cute ideas to do with it.
For the Older Children,
Justice Gathering
There is so much you could do... this year I am having some kids over and we are going to focus on what MLK stood for. We are also going to talk about William Wilberforce and the amazing story he has as well. This holiday is not just to honor Martin Luther King but to also honor what he stood for and that is JUSTICE! So when I have the kids over (ages 10 and up) we are going to...
- talk about MLK and discuss what he stood for, his courage and how he honored God by lovingly seeking justice.
-watch the movie Amazing Grace which is the story of William Wilberforce and discuss how he fought for the majority of his life for one cause and let nothing get in his way. WOW!
-lastly we are going to talk about slavery today and all sorts of injustices that are happening now. We are going to discuss that God hates injustice (the Bible is very clear on that!) and that we are all called to do something!
Great Book... Be the Change
This is a book written by a young man (12 at the writing of it I think) who when studying abolitionist realized that we still need them today and began a program called Loose Change to Loosen Chains. He has an amazing heart for God and has done much to open awareness to things like slavery, abortion, sex trafficking and so many other things MLK would have stood with him to fight!
Get Involved
There are a ton of organizations that continue to fight to fee the slaves today and I would encourage you to get involved with them at some level... even if that is just receiving their newsletters and praying for the ministry
- International Justice Mission
The founder of IJM, mentioned above, is Gary Haugen and I would strongly suggest reading any of his books on the topic. Starting with The Good News About Injustice (they have a youth edition).
This is a group started by a group of people who went to India to see for themselves some of the major oppression taking place their. When they went into a brothel posed as customers they were horrified to see not only were these little girls for sale they had their names taken away and were only given a number. Most of the girls looked like they had given up the fight - they had been there too long and had lost who they were... but #146 seemed like she still had fight left in her eyes and must have been new to this evil world they brought her to. This website will help you find ways to support the cause to end sex trafficing, learn more about it and so much more.
Read and Reflect on Matthew 25:31-46 (New International Version)
The Sheep and the Goats 31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
May we all learn to care more, do more and sacrifice more for the people in this world who need us!