Ideas and stories

Over the past few years, Pinterest has become one of the leading social websites. It’s platform allows the user to “help you discover and save creative ideas.”  And, based on the popularity of the website, it’s clear that as a society, we love to collect and share creative ideas. Why are we so fascinated with finding and trying the best food, craft, or birthday party idea?

What’s behind the implementation of these ideas are the hope that memorable events will be created, and stories will be passed down of that time when things just worked, everything tied together perfectly, and our family shared a significant moment together. That’s what we long for.

ECRC’s Education Committee started this blog with the intention of assisting your family grow in faith in your home. Our first request was for ideas to celebrate Advent. We hope that as you have read through the blog ideas, that your imagination was stirred and you implemented an idea or two during the past Christmas season. And while implementing the ideas are great, what’s more important are the faith-nurturing stories that can be cherished and shared.

Sharing our stories of faith moments with each other has a far deeper impact than sharing the latest family devotional idea. First, it helps us to be aware of those moments in our busy family lives when we are touched by the presence of God. Second, it helps us to develop a “faith language” – words and phrases which help understand and deepen our relationship with God. Third, our sharing stories of faith moments invite others into your celebrations, and encourage others to grow in their faith as well.

I invite you to share with us (either through email, or feel free to comment below) some of your stories of how you implemented an idea which was shared on our blog, or other moments of faith growth that you experienced as a family this past Christmas season.  And a reminder that the content of this blog directly comes from requests from our congregation about methods and strategies to nurture the faith of your family. If your desire is to see those in your home deepen their love and knowledge of God, and you would like some ideas to spur on your faith moments, please let us know.

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Advent: service ideas

“Do you remember why you need to brush your teeth?” I’ve probably asked this to my kids a hundred times. I typically follow up with a powerful 3 point sermonette, concluded with a poem and a song. We’ve also had powerful moments concerning table manners, cleaning your toys, and changing your socks regularly.  Why? Not because I want to be a nag. I desire that my children grow healthy, with good hygiene, organizing, cleaning, and social skills.  More important than the lecture, however, is that my children see me doing what I desire of them.  If my children don’t see me following my own words, why should they?

Spending time giving back to the community, serving and caring for others as a family also falls into this category. Not only is it something we are called to do as Christians, but it’s something we must pass down to the next generation. They need to see us give our time, our gifts, our finances. And ensuring that they understand our reason why is equally as important. It’s not because “it’s a good thing to do,” but because God has richly blessed us to be a blessing, and because all people deserve dignity, love and respect, simply because they are God’s children.

The advent season provides a perfect opportunity for your family to take the extra effort to love and serve those in your neighbourhood and city.  Here are a few simple ideas to get you thinking how your family might be a blessing to others.

  • Here are two great “Reverse” Advent calendar ideas. Vibrant Faith At Home has an option for a number of small boxes, or you could get some enough liquor boxes from the LCBO to make a calendar, and each day place some food in it for the local food bank.
  • Here’s another advent calendar from Nourishing Joy that suggests 25 simple service ideas for families with younger children.
  • Generosity can be offered to many people, including your next door neighbours! Why not take some time to make some baked goods for a neighbour that you don’t know, or for those you know that are having herds of family coming for holiday festivities.
  • Have you considered a family fundraiser? This might be a great time to bake Christmas cookies for charity.  (Hint: Don’t put a price on them. “Donation amount of your choice” works much better!)

There are so many local service opportunities that you can do with your family. What is something you have done? What are some other ways that your family can bless others?

Advent: family discussion ideas

 

One of our most treasured morning rituals is a hot cup of coffee, just after the hectic rush of getting the children out the door for school. It’s at this time my wife and I sit for a few moments to talk, share, and take a few moments before we both head of to our own busy schedules for the day. For us, it’s important, even necessary, for us to connect, to talk, to be present together. And on occasion, when the kids have a day off, or on weekends, our children like to join in with a cup of tea (well, half tea, half sugar) or hot chocolate, and participate in our sacred time.  And it’s great to include them, especially when we can use that time for some good conversation.

It’s important as family to have moments of good discussion, and the waiting time that is naturally present during the advent season provides great opportunities for family discussions. (I’m reminded of the premise of Forrest Gump, which essentially happens on a park bench while Forrest is waiting for the bus, and some tremendous story-sharing and conversation follows.) Keep watch for those moments, listen for the “I can’t wait!” exclamations, and use them as launching points for some great conversation with your family.

Discussion doesn’t just happen around the dinner table. Great conversations can happen almost anywhere, given a sufficient window of time. Going for walks, doing the dishes, bedtimes, or even going out with the family to take some creative winter photos of God’s creation can be opportunities to share with each other how we experience and anticipate the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Here are a number of great resources to assist you in creative family conversations this season.

Vibrant Faith At Home has tremendous resources and ideas to use right in your home.  Here are some weekly advent discussion questions to use (with your advent candle lighting, if you choose). The link to the article is dead, but here is the article that is suggested.

Why not try having some great discussion about Advent while taking photos with your family!  LECFamily invites you to daily submit themes photos to help “Picture Advent.”  Grab a camera, send them in, and see what others submit too.

#Adventword offers a similar idea with their Global Advent Calendar. Check out the video explaining it below.

What other Advent conversation ideas have you seen or used? When do you find is an ideal time for faith discussions in your home? How might this advent waiting time be an opportunity for great discussion about Jesus birth and return?

Advent: The power of rituals

In our family, we’ve developed an annual routine of pulling out the decorations, lights, Christmas music, and get the whole house into the seasonal vibe – all at one time, in one day. And the day is filled with laughter, food, and the wonderful moments of remembering different Christmas memories with family and friends, moments of recalling who made this ornament or which pet ate that one.  And this all happens on the first weekend of Advent. And it’s at that time – and not before – that the Christmas CD’s come out and get into high rotation. This annual family event is highly anticipated by our children. So much so, that they can hardly stand it. So much so, that they have broken into the Christmas music a few weeks early, cranking Bruce Cochburn and Harry Connick Jr’s yuletide offerings far, far too early!

And yet, I love their anticipation for the big day, and doing what they can to catch a glimpse of what is to come. And it’s through the efforts of developing this ritual that has made this day so significant for our family.

Rituals come in all shapes and sizes. They can be grand annual events or small repetitive moments during a period of a few weeks.  Rituals ground us, they give us a sense of regularity. And when we allow God to be present in our rituals, they become holy moments for families to reflect on God’s hand in their lives. And it’s it’s important that we consider how we might make our existing Advent and Christmas rituals moments of faith-nurture for our family, or consider starting new rituals or traditions.

Advent Prophecy Boxes are a great way to open gifts each day, each with an object and a scripture verse.  Check out the detailed instructions here.

“Elf On A Shelf” has become a huge success over the past few years, and it’s become an advent tradition for many families. If that’s you, why not consider giving your elf new marching orders this year.

Music is one of the more important Christmas rituals in our home. While there are great advent songs and hymns, there are few full advent albums. However, Rain For Roots has just released an advent album entitled Waiting Songs. Here are my two favourites from this album:

Other than that, finding other great “waiting songs” are more typically found in Christmas or seasonal albums. Check out these gems!

(and I’m going to throw this one in, just because it’s fun)

What are your family Christmas and Advent rituals? How might they be transformed to become holy moments?

What are some of your favourite Christmas or Advent songs or albums that are a part of your seasonal rituals?

Advent: Devotion ideas

With the hectic pace that the pre-Christmas time can bring, it’s important, even necessary, to regularly slow down and pause. Why exactly are we rushing about? What exactly are we preparing for? Who exactly are we doing this for?

This year, I invite you to try something different. I invite you to make a less-than-perfect Christmas meal. You have permission to decorate the Christmas tree as unsymmetrical as you dare. Drive the speed limit (or lower) to your next Christmas gathering.  And make time to prepare yourself and your home for the blessing of the greatest gift that God has given to us.

If you find it difficult to carve out time, why not invite Jesus into your busy schedule?

  • As you write Christmas cards, say a short prayer of thanks for the many people in your life (or write your prayer in the card).
  • Once your family has decorated the Christmas tree, grab some pipe cleaners and make a few more decorations through this prayer exercise:
  • While you are driving to and from family events, pray with those in the car for those at your family gathering.

There are also many creative ways in which you can have meaningful advent devotions by yourself or with your family.

  • The CRC Office of Social Justice can email you a daily devotional: “Displacement and Belonging” – or you can check out their advent devotional archives at the bottom of the page.
  • Here are two Advent Chain crafts (from Vibrant Faith to create yourself, and a pre-printed one from Kids Corner) where you tear off and use a link as the devotion for the day.
  • Making a Jesse Tree  isn’t too difficult, and it’s a great way to understand Jesus’ family tree.
  • Remember that advent wreath you just made?  Here are two weekly devotionals (from Vibrant Faith, and from Building Faith) that you can use as you light the candles.

What other devotions have you used for advent?

What prayer practices have you found helpful during the advent season?

How does your family recognize and celebrate the advent season?

_______________________

EDIT: Re:Frame Media invites you to have A Calmer Christmas with their devotionals that will arrive in your email.

Check out The Advent Project, an engaging way to pray, read, and listen through the advent season.

Easy Advent Ideas

Advent is wonderful time of the church year, and it’s nearly upon us. It’s a time when our worship committee pulls out all the stops with special music, choirs, special presentations, and our annual candlelight service. It’s the time of year that we get to belt out seasonal hymns for a few weeks, and we feel comfortable being a little extra cheery to fellow shoppers. Most importantly, it’s the time we wait expectantly for the celebration of the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

But it’s also a very busy time. In addition to our regularly scheduled busyness, our calendar soon fills up with countless Christmas parties, last-minute gift-finding expeditions, children’s performances, family gatherings, more family gatherings…

How can we possibly bring Advent faith practices in our home during such a busy season? With all the busyness of the season, the idea of adding more to an already jam-packed season sounds exhausting, and finding intentional faith-growing ideas can simply deflate us.

Here are some simple ways that you can bring advent practices to your home:

  • Set up an advent wreath in your living room. They’re not difficult to make. It might take a bit of time, but it’s something that you’ll use for years to come. Alternatively, you could buy an advent wreath kit.
    • Some ideas: Sundays, before or after church, are a great time to light the candles of the wreath.
    • Take a few moments to read a portion of the Christmas story, or sing an advent or Christmas hymn, as you light the candle.
    • have a short conversation on what the significance of each candle is to you and your family (hope, love, joy, peace, Christ).
  • For those with children (and for those of all ages), The Jesus Storybook Bible works perfectly for Advent – and here’s a 24 day reading plan that you can read through December.
  • Purple is the liturgical colour of Advent.  Why not consider decorating a small table with a purple cloth or runner and candle (and while you’re at it, get a green, white, and red one ready for the rest of the year?)  

What other simple ways do you make the advent season meaningful in your home?

Welcome to the “Faith At Home” Blog

A few weeks ago, Ebenezer CRC’s Education Committee set forth on a new experiment, with the intention to grow our congregation’s faith in new ways, and launched our new “Faith At Home” initiative. Every member of the church received a letter, inviting you to consider ways in which they might grow faith in your home. In that letter we wrote,

We believe that the church can assist your household grow in faith by providing quality programming, and by resourcing you to integrate faith into your family and home life routine, regardless of the age and size of your family, or the uniqueness of your family structure.  Your church desires that you and your household enhance the five core family faith practices, defined by John Roberto, president of Lifelong Faith:

  • Faith Conversations – “Listening and responding to the daily concerns of family members make it easier to have meaningful conversations regarding the love of God, and are ways to express God’s love to others.”
  • Devotions and Prayer – “Family devotions and learning provide a way to learn more about the Bible and Christian tradition as a family, and apply the teachings to daily life as a follower of Jesus Christ.”
  • Service – “When parent and child/teen together perform service activities, the child/teen sees the parent’s capability, faith, and values in action. The cross-generational bond takes place not only in the service event, but also in the retelling of the event through the years.”
  • Rituals and Traditions – “Family rituals and traditions speak volumes about what the family values, believes and promotes, and how much the family values its faith.”
  • Meal Time – “So many of the family’s faith practices happen around the family meal: having conversations, praying, reading the Bible, celebrating rituals and traditions, to name a few. The family meal is one of the few rituals that allow families to act out their concern for each other, and their need and desire to be together. The family meal is the time when family comes first, establishing, enjoying, and maintaining ties.”

This blog will serve as the place in which we distribute resources, and you are encouraged to consider them for use in your home.  And we invite you to interact with the Education Committee. If there is a specific area that you would like some more information on, or if you have something that you and your family enjoy doing that we can share with our church family, please feel free to contact us.

Over the next weeks we will be sharing some resources and ideas about Advent and Christmas.  We look forward to hearing your stories of how this initiative blesses your home!