Easter for Families

Easter Blog for Families
 
“He is risen! He is risen indeed!” or “Jesus Christ is risen today. Hallelujah.” What does this really mean to the average 5-, 6-, 7-, or 8-year-old? Though on one hand really very simple conceptually – God made Jesus alive again. And on the other hand, the resurrection is a HUGE and somewhat overwhelming, even for adults.
 
So, how do you talk to your kids about Easter? First you start with your own comfort level with Easter, how comfortable are you with the enormous complexities? Could you explain Easter to another adult? If the answer is yes, then you’ll do ok with your kids. Next, consider your child’s age and stage as well as who they are – how sensitive they are and to what kinds of things.
 
At it’s most basic the Easter story is John 3:16, “This is how much God loved the world: he gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed, by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life…He came to help, to put the world right again.” The Message, pg.1561
 
If appropriate, read the Easter story aloud with your child: Matthew 26:14-28; Mark 14-16; or, Luke 22-24:12. These all tell the story from just before the Last Supper through the Resurrection. Just read through it, if you are calm and relaxed, they will be too. You don’t need to dwell on the gorier parts, but they are part of the story, Jesus suffered and he did so because he loves us. And then God made Jesus alive again – there is your focus.  
 
God loves us so much that God sent us Jesus, God’s only son, to show us how to love God, how to love each other and how to love the natural world like God does. God sent us Jesus so that we could be reconciled to God. When we believe in God – creator, sustainer and redeemer we are forgiven, we will have eternal life.
 
Young children are concrete thinkers and using activities that tie the idea of resurrection to something concrete will help them understand. Children in Montgomery County are all very invested in the ideas of recycling and composting – these are concrete examples of transformation – maybe try melting old broken crayons in the microwave and turning them into brand new crayons; try your hand at composting, it doesn’t have to take a lot of room, uses up your vegetable scraps and makes great new dirt for growing your vegetables later in the year; plant some seeds, or spend some time poking around creeks looking for tadpoles, and later in the year keep your eyes open for chrysalis, all wonderful examples of transformation.
 
However you approach it, let your focus be on God’s amazing and transformative love for each and every one of us – and that we just need to open ourselves to that love. Whatever and however you talk to your children about Easter, I encourage you to end with a simple prayer something like:
 

Dear God,

Thank you for loving us so much that you sent us Jesus.

Jesus thank you for showing us how to love God, each other and the natural world.

Please help us to be the people you put us here to be

Help us to love you, other people and the world like you do

And help us be Kingdom builders here on earth.

Amen.       


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Unplugging for Families, Parents, and Children

Unplugging for Families
 
You have probably noticed that all of the Spiritual Practices have a couple of things in common they are all about making space for God, so we can connect with God and so we can be transformed by God. They all require a little (emphasis on little) change on our part. Fasting, Praying, Listening for God, Simplifying and Unplugging are all similar in that they are a step back from the world for a brief break with the divine. Jesus was quite good at this, he very regularly and literally stepped away from stuff and went somewhere quiet to pray.
 
How will you and your family practice unplugging? Here are some small, relatively easy ideas:
 
  • Put your devices in a basket for a couple of hours around dinner time. Spend a couple of extra minutes at the table talking and sharing about your day, and then read a chapter from the Bible and talk about it!
  • Go for a walk or a bike ride without your devices. Before you start out, read some Scripture to think about while you walk, like a walking Lectio Divina
  • Declare the couple of hours before bed electronics free, do quiet relaxing non-electronic things so that by the time you are ready to go to bed your mind has slowed down enough to talk with God meaningfully. Added benefit: the time away from the blue screens will genuinely help you fall asleep faster and sleep better.
  • One Sunday a month declare genuine Sabbath – go to church, have a Sunday lunch together, discuss the sermon and/or Sunday school lesson (they will all line up while we are using the Follow Me curriculum). Then hang out together as a family with no electronic interference, maybe play a board game or frisbee or go to a pool. You will be surprised how much fun it is, how easy it is, how much your kids will enjoy just being with you and how much easier it is to hear God when all the other noise is turned off.
 
 
Unplugging for Parents
 
I must admit right at the beginning that the irony of me, of all people, writing last week about Simplicity and this week about Unplugging is NOT lost on me. I am terrible at it. I have lots of very good reasons why, and the fact remains, I am still terrible at it. So I am publicly committing that I will really and truly be taking my own advice – honest.
 
We all must remember this is not punitive, this is to give us time to step away from all the rushing and busy-ness and constant activity of our lives and to rest in the presence of the divine.
 
Here is my own plan for unplugging:
 
  • no more than 8 hours of screen time a day of any sort, including my Kindle – I am definitely going to have to dust off my library card.
  • at least one day each week with NO computer time – when that is simply not possible, I must deduct from another day that amount of time. And that day might be in addition to taking a genuine Sabbath Day each week.
  • though I will take my phone with me when I walk for safety’s sake, I will NOT make a call or listen to anything. It will just be me, Eddie (my dog) and God
  • I will make quiet time a PRIORITY, time for my own personal reading of Scripture, for listening for God and for talking to God
 
In some ways unplugging is not that big a deal as I am not a TV watcher and I don’t play any video games. But I do love googling stuff just because I can, and I read A LOT mostly on my KIndle or my phone. I will also admit that I may well listen to music and it will almost certainly be through an electronic device, but for some reason that doesn’t seem to be quite the same thing. Please feel free to call me out if you think I’m wrong – I may be.
 
I must say I am looking forward to these changes, and I hope you will consider making you own and look forward to hearing what your changes are and whether you feel a change for the better in yourself.
 
 
Unplugging for Kids
 
Most of us, whether we admit it or not, like a schedule. We more or less like to go to bed at the same time, we more or less like to get up at the Same time, we more or less like to eat at the same time and so on. If we know what our schedule is it’s kind of fun to not follow it sometimes – like when we are on vacation – and again, if we are honest, it’s nice to get home and get back to our regular routine.
 
Unplugging is like a mini-vacation. It means not being near your phone, or your tablet, your laptop, or your tv. It means letting your brain just go where it goes. One of the most important things that can happen when you unplug is that you to slow down long enough, you quiet your brain enough to listen for and talk to God.
 
Communion is a way of being fed by God – a way of being recharged by God – a way of being filled up by the Holy Spirit. Unplugging is another way – it is a way you do it pretty much by yourself, and communion is something we do with others, but the being recharged is very similar.
 
Unplugging can mean a lot of different things, but it’s important to learn what it means for you so you can just stop, and listen to and talk to God. Some of us like to do this while we are moving – walking, running, riding a bike, swimming, or maybe even doing yoga. Some of us do this by just sitting still – strange as that sounds to me, it’s true. Some of us can unplug by doing art, or playing music and still some by reading the Bible. None of these is better, and none of these is wrong and it is NOT a complete list.
 
When you take this time to unplug, and then when you plug back in, it’s like you get to see your life like it’s all shiny and new. You remember how much fun you have playing with your friends and how great it is to have dinner with your family and how nice a warm bath feels at the end of the day. Unplugging helps you remember all the blessings God has given you, it helps you to remember to tell God thank you and helps you be the person God put you here to be.
 

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PDA Mission Trip #29 (New Bern, NC): Day 5

Day Five – Time for Some Reflecting!

Today we start on a serious note. All the work that we are putting our hearts and hands into is to restore the home of Ms. O. She is 62 years old, uses a wheelchair, and was denied monetary assistance to repair her home four times. The title of her home was in her son’s name not in her’s, because he was supposed to outlive her. But that wasn’t God’s plan. Without her name on the title, she couldn’t quality for financial assistance. Thank goodness for the reasonableness of the Craven County Disaster Recovery Alliance, and their willingness to take on her case. Her son is buried across the street from her home, and she finds comfort in being able to see this place of rest.
 
Our own Laura Wilson penned these thoughts after she and Abby visited the grave.
 

Draped through the pine trees, and brush, the lavender wisteria perfumed the drifting air.

Sun filtered through the glen, and lit the raised concrete sarcophagus adorned in weathered plastic flowers, and inscripted with family fingerprints.

The young man’s photograph gazed from the tomb to his home across the street from where his mother had kept watch.

Destroyed in silence by storm and flood, the home was now alive with sounds of workers, hammers, and saws – breaking through the past, disturbing the quiet – to open doors and windows to new life.”
 
Tonight, we also remembered Bob Wasik, on this, the first-year anniversary of his passing. We were privileged to share a zoom memorial with his wife Mary, other family members, and a few close friends. Bob and Mary had organized so many of our previous mission trips. They swelled our volunteer GPC roster with several friends and family members. One of our devoted cooks, Ella, is Bob’s cousin. Mary said that with all the wonderful vacations they shared together, Bob always relished the mission trips more. And we relished him right back. We all have our warm and wonderful memories of Bob that lighten our hearts and still brighten our work trips.
 
Lifted up by those warm memories, we pack our bags tonight and get ready for our final half-day of work tomorrow. I bid you good night with this cliffhanger…will Fletcher finish the kitchen countertop, will Jerry and Lucille finish putting down flooring in the hallway, will Laura finish the mudding in the purple-walled bathroom, will Mary Beth and Lisa finish painting the doors, will Carl complete the railing on the front ramp, and will the hole in the master bath get repaired? Keep positive thoughts for us faithful blog followers…please, keep positive thoughts.
 

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PDA Mission Trip #29 (New Bern, NC): Day 4

Day Four – The Clock is Ticking!

Our fearless construction leader Fletcher Tukes, who personally feels responsible for getting as much work done at our house each day as possible, is fond of saying, “Time is not your friend!” In other words, we are racing the clock to complete as much of this house as possible before we leave on Friday. Did we kick it up a notch today? We tried, but everything seems to take longer than anticipated.
 
Does that dampen our spirits? No way. Each of us took on our assignments with a goal of moving them along as fast as we could. Did more painting, mudding, vinyl floor laying, trim installing take place? Yes, it definitely did. But added to our caper chart today was a very precise cutting of the countertop for the kitchen, removing the subfloor in one bathroom, and adding a moisture barrier wallboard to the other, as well as adding another level of side railing to the outside wheelchair ramp.
 
We all felt busy and productive. What about the ladies who are working themselves to the bone back at the church? Let me just say this, if you have a power sander in your house, hide it if Mary Beth comes to visit. She is now an expert sander and will want to show off her new skills every chance she gets. She and Lisa not only sanded doors but started painting those doors today. They are anxious to have them ready for the house. Ella, Carol, and Marjorie finished their “Won’t Stop till it Glows,” appliance detailing work. Mr. Clean could take lessons from them.
 
We were all ready (and most of us showered) for the delicious dinner of Hawaiian meatballs and rice, salad, and cornbread. Topped off with caramel nut brownies and ice cream for dessert. True, we may work hard, but we eat even hardier! Of course, we must be fortified. Because, can you believe it, tomorrow will be our last full day of work!  
 
                

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PDA Mission Trip #29 (New Bern, NC): Day 3

Day Three – In the Zone!

I think everyone slept well last night, and we found our work rhythm today! The first day is always a little choppy as we figure out what needs to be done, how to do it, and who should do it. But today faithful followers, we were in the groove. Some of that groove, I must say, was pretty messy.  
 
Those priming walls and painting trim today (Elisa, Abby, Charles, Maxine, and Karen) couldn’t get the paint to wash off their hands, so we certainly expect it will make a lasting impression on the homeowner’s walls. And I think everyone would agree you haven’t really experienced messy until you mud wall board and then sand it. Just ask, Carl whose hair turned white, and his blue PDA shirt turned light blue as he put his whole efforts into the job. Others of us (Edco, Bob, Jerry, Laura, and Lucille) tackled installing vinyl strip flooring — sort of like laying out a giant floor puzzle with no pretty picture to enjoy upon completion. 
 
And then there are the volunteers with varied engineering backgrounds (Stuart, Steve, and Bruce) who spend a lot of time planning with Fletcher and googling how to do some of the specialty projects, and then just follow how Fletcher has told them to do it. Seriously, thank goodness we have so many men and women who know their way around a renovation project.  
 
Back to the mess, Lisa joined Mary Beth in the sanding of eight doors that will be painted and rehung in our home, as well as sanding down two other doors for a totally different project. Our revered cooks, Ella Bastine and Carol Bunch, joined by the always capable and game-for-anything Marjorie Tanner, cleaned and sanitized donated kitchen appliances which they brought back to appliance store showroom condition.
 
If you are thinking, “What in the Sam Hill are they going to be working on tomorrow?” I can assure you that there is still plenty more to occupy our time. We need to put flooring down throughout the whole double-side trailer home, install the painted trim pieces, finish painting, install those doors, and kitchen appliances, and…. you get the picture. We definitely welcome your continued prayers.
 
                                                    
 
 

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