Thanksgiving 2017: Psalm 118

Each year at our family Thanksgiving meal, we try to do some kind of activity that reminds us that we give thanks, not just in general, but also specifically to God.  This year, we will do this through an art project for the picture window in dining room.

A few weeks ago, I introduced the idea of giving thanks to my kids with a craft I found at Michael’s:

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We hung them on the inside of our picture window, facing out, along with some leaf stickers on waxed paper.  The kids couldn’t wait to take a picture:

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They have been so excited to share their art installation that I thought we would include our family members who are joining us for Thanksgiving.  Before dinner, each person will get a stack of paper leaves:

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Here is the file to print the leaves out:  Leaves for Thanksgiving 2017
I printed them on card stock in “Spice Market” colors.

Everyone will also get something to write with, and the instructions to write what they are thankful for, one thing on each leaf.  While they work, I will play this song from Psalm 118 for inspiration:

When it is time for the meal, we will take turns going around the table and saying what is on our leaves, with the rest of the family responding “Thanks be to God.”  The kids will use gift wrapping tape to secure the leaves to the window as we pray.  We will conclude our prayers with a “repeat-after-me” version of this prayer:

Thanksgiving Prayer for Harvest Time
Loving God, all that we have
comes from your goodness
and the work of those who love us.
Bless us and the food we share.
Watch over those who care for us.
Open our eyes to the needs of the poor
during this time of
harvest and thanksgiving.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.
(Elizabeth McMahon Jeep, Blessings and Prayers through the Year, Liturgy Training Publications 2004)

May God bless you and your family as we celebrate!  May it be a holy time for you.

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Advent 2017: #jesusbirthatoz

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This Advent, our entire parish is diving deeply into the story of Jesus’ birth, including all of the stories around Jesus’ birth from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.  I am in the process of writing a daily devotion for the entire parish, which is gathered weekly into our “The Story of the Birth of Jesus from Beginning to End” flip book.  The resource is written toward my confirmation students, who are in fifth-eighth grade, but each day has elements that can be appreciated by younger children and adults, as well.

In our house, we have decided to make it a daily time at supper.  After our meal prayer and while the food is being served, our second grader reads the Bible verses and the questions for the day and shows us the picture.  As we eat, each of us has the opportunity to answer the questions for the day at our own level (I sometimes have to rephrase them for our four-year-olds).  Before everyone leaves the table, one of the children leads us in the prayer for the day repeat-after-me style (I whisper it into the ears of the ones who can’t yet read).

We are only a few days into the devotion, but I am encouraged by how interested they are in it.  We will be talking about it at church, as well, and given opportunities to decorate it each week as we wish.

If you and your family would like to use this resource, you can find it at https://goodgodideas.wordpress.com/category/jesusbirthatoz/

New devotions will be available each week until January 21, so check back often.  I hope that this season is meaningful for you and your family!

Gideon’s Army: Judges 7

**For the next three weeks at Family God Time, we will be reviewing the Bible stories that we learned at Vacation Bible School this summer. Our curriculum was Group’s Maker Fun Factory.
You can find week one of this series here: God Creates Us https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/god-creates-us-genesis-1-psalm-139/
You can find week 2 here: Rahab and the Spies
https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/rahab-and-the-spies-joshua-2/

Gathering Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, we thank you for time to feed our faith as a family, and time to learn about Gideon’s army. Help our time together to be a holy time. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Bible Story:  Judges 7
Read the story of Gideon’s army in a children’s Bible, your own Bible, or you can find the story here:  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Judges+7&version=ERV

We reviewed the video that our parish made during VBS for our Bible story time. You can find it here:

Now, read Joshua 1:9: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua+1%3A9&version=NIV

Discuss as a family:
Who was Gideon?
What was Gideon’s army?
How did they defeat the Midianites?

Song: Be Strong and Courageous
Our focus verse for the day at VBS was Joshua 1:9. Here is a video to remind us of this verse:

Activity: Gideon’s Torches and Noisemakers
My favorite part of this story is when a small group of 300 people defeats an entire army by using their brains instead of their strength. We thought it would be fun to pretend to be that army for God Time.

To make the torches, gather a small, inexpensive LED flashlight, a roll of red tulle, duct tape (we used the orage tape from last week), and a scissor. For noisemakers, we purchased glowing whistles from the seasonal section of WalMart. I could have just used glow wands for this craft, but I wanted something that they could play with again and again. The glow whistles still work long after the glow stick part has faded.

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Wrap the tulle around the end of the flashlight to look like the flame coming off of a torch. Secure the tulle to the flashlight with the duct tape. Open the whistles and crack them to make them glow.

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Our girls then had a wonderful time running up and down a darkened hallway yelling “For the Lord and for Gideon!” I surely would have run away in fear!

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Thanks for your commitment to faithfully feed your family’s faith! I hope that this time was holy time for you. Join us next week for another VBS-themed Family God Time!

Closing Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, we thank you that you give us strength and courage. Help us to always stand up for what is right. In your name we pray, Amen.

 

Rahab and the Spies: Joshua 2

**For the next four weeks at Family God Time, we will be reviewing the Bible stories that we learned at Vacation Bible School this summer. Our curriculum was Group’s Maker Fun Factory. You can find week one of this series here: God Creates Us 

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Gathering Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, we thank you for time to feed our faith as a family, and time to learn about Rahab. Help our time together to be a holy time. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Bible Story:
Read the story of the creation of people in a children’s Bible, your own Bible, or you can find the story here:
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua+2&version=ERV

We reviewed the video that our parish made during VBS for our Bible story time. You can find it here:

Now, read Romans 8:31: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+8%3A31&version=NIV

Discuss as a family:
1. Who was Rahab?
2. Who came to her house?
3. What did she do for them?
4. How did she ask them to help her?
5. What did they tell her to do?

Song: God is For Me
Our focus verse for the day at VBS was Romans 8:31. Here is a video from Lifetree Kids to remind us of this verse:

Game: Sardines with Spies
A large part of the story with Rahab was how she hid the spies that Joshua had sent so that they would be safe. We played a version of hide and seek called “Sardines,” though we adapted it to be “Spies.” One “spy” went to hide while all of the other spies counted to ten. Then, we searched for the first spy. When we found that person, we hid with them instead of calling attention to them, since the spies hid on Rahab’s rooftop. The last person to hide with the group was the next spy to hide. We played until all of our family members got a turn.

Activity: Rahab’s Wristband

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Another important part of the story was Rahab’s rescue plan. The spies from Joshua told her to hang a red rope from her window so that, when the Israelites conquered the city, the army would know where to find Rahab and rescue her and her family. I thought it would be a neat reminder of the story to wear a red wristband or bracelet that we could carry with us. However, when we went to buy supplies, they were out of red duct tape. We agreed that blaze orange would have been very easy for the army to see, so that’s what we went with.

We got the idea of how to do them here: http://happyhooligans.ca/duct-tape-cuff-bracelets/

My girls are hard on jewelry, so we added an extra layer of duct tape inside to make it more sturdy. Thanks to me, they also have tiny wrists. I added a tie to keep it on their wrists. To make the tie, cut off an 18 inch strip of duct tape. Fold it lengthwise so that the sticky side is on the inside and cut it into four marrow strips. Use an awl or something sharp to poke holes in the ends of the bracelet. Thread the tie through the holes and tie a bow. Trim the ends.

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My girls liked these so much that they asked us to make tiny ones for their stuffed animals:

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We made them thinner (half of the width) and cut a little more than an inch off of the length of the bracelet. The tie only needed to be 9 inches long. They especially love the stuffed animal bracelets, because they report that they are able to find their beloved animals at night when they fall out of bed.

Thanks for your commitment to faithfully feed your family’s faith! I hope that this time was holy time for you. Join us next week for another VBS-themed Family God Time!

Closing Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, we thank you that you are always with us. In your name we pray, Amen.

Jesus Goes to Heaven: Acts 1:1-11

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Gathering Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, we thank you for time to feed our faith as a family, and time to learn about when Jesus went to heaven.  Help our time together to be a holy time.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Bible Story:  Acts 1:1-11
Read the story of Jesus’ Ascension in a children’s Bible, your own Bible, or you can find the story here:  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+1%3A1-11&version=ERV

We used the Kid’s Bible App for our devotion.  The story was called “Into the Clouds.”  The Kid’s Bible App is a free app that you can find here:  https://www.pinterest.com/breensipes/online-faith-resources/

Discuss as a family:

  1. Who did Jesus promise would come to them?
  2. When will Jesus come back?
  3. Where did Jesus go?
  4. Where were the disciples supposed to go after Jesus left?

You might also take this story as an opportunity to begin teaching your children the Apostles’ Creed.  It tells the important parts about Jesus’ life that help us to know that he really is the Son of God!  This is how we say the part about Jesus in our church:

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Song:  Lord, I Lift Your Name on High
This is my favorite song for Ascension Day, because it reminds us of all of the important events in Jesus’ story.

Activity:  Ascension Day Celebration
In our family, we love making things go UP for Ascension Day.  In the past, we have done rockets (the air pressure or Dollar Store hand pressure kind), helium balloons (make sure they don’t have strings that will get tangled up with wildlife, and released butterflies (Earth’s Birthday Project is a great source, though it takes some planning:  http://www.earthsbirthdaystore.org/d/7/butterflies.htm)

This year, my girls saw me preparing a coloring sheet for Sunday worship, and asked if they could do that for a project.  I figure that if they are enthusiastic about something having to do with God, that is the right thing to do.  We couldn’t resist giving it some kid of upward motion, though, so here we go!

  1. First, print out the coloring sheet on card stock: Ascension Window Coloring

(I found the original at http://www.familyholiday.net/ascension-of-jesus-christ-coloring-pages/, but colored in the “leading” sections so it would be easier for my kids to color.  I also added the back page.)

  1. Next, color both the front and the back coloring sheets. Cut them out.

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  1. Cut a 2 yard length of string or ribbon. Put a knot in one end.
  2. Use a glue stick to make the back of one of the coloring sheets completely tacky. Line up the ribbon or string along the center with the knot at the bottom.  Press down.

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  1. Add the other coloring sheet, face up. For extra strength, I recommend one staple at the top and bottom of the ribbon, to prevent it from shifting.

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  1. String the ribbon over a curtain rod in your home. Let your children help Jesus to ascend to heaven, saying “Jesus went back to heaven!”  Then, have him descend and say, “Someday, he will come back again!”

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Thanks for your commitment to faithfully feed your family’s faith!  I hope that this time was holy time for you.

Closing Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, we are happy that you ascended into heaven, and that some day you will come back to take us with you.  Help us to celebrate you every day.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Jesus Breathes the Spirit: John 20:19-31

Gathering Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, we thank you for time to feed our faith as a family, and time to learn about a time when Jesus breathed the Spirit onto his disciples.  Help our time together to be a holy time.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Bible Story:  John 20:19-31
Read the story of Thomas in a children’s Bible, your own Bible, or you can find the story here:
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+20%3A19-31&version=ERV

We used the Whirl Story Bible for our devotion.  The story was called “Thomas Wonders.”  You can purchase your own copy here:  http://store.augsburgfortress.org/store/product/19372/Whirl-Story-Bible

Discuss as a family:

Why were the disciples afraid at the beginning of the story?

What did Jesus say to them?

What did the disciples receive when Jesus breathed on them?

What do you think about Thomas?  Would you like to see Jesus for yourself?

Song:  Peace Be With You

During the season of Easter, we sing this simple little song as we pass the peace to remind ourselves of this story.  You can do it too!

Activity:  Breathe the Spirit
I thought it would be fun to practice breathing the Spirit onto one another, so we used that thought to play a game.  Each family member got a party horn (pictured below).  We took turns being a disciple or Jesus.  The disciple closed their eyes and the person secretly chosen to be Jesus breathed the Spirit onto the disciple through the party horn.  The disciple then had to guess who had done the breathing.  Then, the person who had been Jesus closed their eyes as a disciple, and someone else took a turn.  It was a simple game, but girls are still playing it a few days later.  Amazing how a simple idea can get your family to reenact our stories of faith!

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Thanks for your commitment to faithfully feed your family’s faith!  I hope that this time was holy time for you.

Closing Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, we thank you for appearing to your disciples, and for giving them peace and the Spirit.  Send your Holy Spirit to us, that we may spread your peace to the world.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Lent in a Dish Holy Week: Jesus Died and Rose Again

I’m not going to lie; the seed sprouting thing did not work out for my family.  We didn’t have any potting soil in the garage, the soil in our garden is full of clay, and my very thorough helpers saturated the soil in our cups so much that I don’t think it will ever dry out, even in our dry climate.  This is what I get for publishing a post before trying it out for myself.  Luckily…

Did you know that my six-year-old is brilliant?  She came up with the following idea for Holy Week, and we can’t wait to do it (yes, I tried it first this time 😊).  May this week be a Holy Week for you!
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This year during Family God Time, we will be using a resource from St. Cuthbert Episcopal Church in Houston, TX, but with a Family God Time twist.  It is called “Lent in a Bag,” but we will be creating our own “Lent in a Dish” projects.  I thought of the dish because of the beautiful Lenten garden that my daughter created in Sunday School last year, and thought that there could be a way to use both resources to create something meaningful over the course of several weeks.

You can read more about the original “Lent in a Bag” resource here:  http://www.buildfaith.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/in-a-bag-trifold-Cuthbert-4-1.pdf  You can read more about the Lenten dish gardens here:  http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/blog/2013/03/mini-resurrection-garden-easter-craft.html

Gathering Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)

Dear Jesus, we thank you for time to feed our faith as a family, and time to learn about the day that Jesus died.  Help our time to be a holy time.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Bible Story:  Matthew 27:27-66

Read about being the day that Jesus died in a children’s Bible, your own Bible, or you can find the story here:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+27%3A27-61&version=ERV

We used the Spark Story Bible for our resource.  It was the story called “The Day Jesus Died.”  You can purchase your own copy here:

http://www.wearesparkhouse.org/store/product/8122/Spark-Story-Bible-Sunday-School-Edition?c=285812

We will revisit the burial of Jesus in our activity today, so there is no need for an extended discussion unless your children have questions.

Song:  Were You There

This is the perfect song to go with these verses.

Activity:  Burying Jesus

For this activity, you will need an empty toilet paper roll, your rock, human figure, and candle.

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After Jesus was crucified and died, his friends buried him in a cave called a tomb.  Today, because we are also Jesus’ friends, we will remember this day by doing the same.

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Place your empty toilet paper roll in the center of your dish.  Use the candle to seal one end of the tube.  If you have enough sand, you could bury the tube with the empty end sticking out.  You could sing “Were you there when the sun refused to shine?” if you want to.

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Place the human figure in the “tomb.”  You could sing “Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?” if you want to.

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Seal the tomb with the stone covered in hearts.  This reminds us that Jesus died because he loved us.  You could sing “Were you there when they sealed the tomb up tight?” if you want to.

**Depending on the age of your children, you could stop here and wait until Easter for the rest of the story.  I plan to set up the next part of the activity on the night before Easter so that Jesus has risen when they wake up on Easter morning.  We will celebrate with “Empty Tomb Rolls,” which you can find here:  http://pleasegivepeasachance.blogspot.com/2010/04/empty-tombsresurrection-buns.html

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If you plan to continue right on to the next part of the activity, remind your children that Jesus stayed in the tomb for three whole days.  Count to three together.  Then, use a scissor to cut the toilet paper tube right up the center.  This reminds us that when Jesus died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two and God made his home with his people, wherever they might be in the world.  After you have done this, crack the tube in half and set it up, as shown.  Jesus is alive!  Alleluia!  If you want to celebrate, you could sing this song:

Thanks for your commitment to faithfully feed your family’s faith!  I hope that this time was holy time for you.

Closing Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)

Dear Jesus, we thank you for this time to learn about the day that Jesus died (and rose).  We thank you for loving us enough to die (and rise) for us.  In your name we pray, Amen.