Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter Basket with Meaning

I saw this idea and thought it was WONDERFUL! Instead of doing the Easter Bunny basket theme, try giving your children a meaningful Easter basket filled with reminders of the true meaning of Christ's ressurection. Include a card with a description of the meaning behind each item:

A Lamb: This represents the Lamb of God who came to take away our sin.

In a plastic egg: Jelly Beans that are the following colors:
  • black : Stands for the darkness of our lives before Jesus when we were still in sin

  • red: Stands for Jesus shed blood

  • white: Stands for our sins that are washed away

  • yellow: Stands for streets of gold in heaven

  • green: Stands for growing in Jesus
Bookmarks or story books that represent the story of Easter.
Rock candy to represent the stone that was rolled away.
Chocolate coins to remind us of the 30 pieces of silver.
An empty plastic egg with a marking pen write "He is Risen" on the outside. The egg is empty for the "Empty Tomb."

Children remember EVERYTHING and are sponges for knowledge. Use this as a time to teach them about Christ and all that He means to us!


Monday, March 29, 2010

Easter Preparations

Easter Sunday is just six days away!
What are you planning to do this week to prepare?
My kids and I will be talking throughout the week about the meaning of Easter and what Jesus did for us on the cross. Though they are young, my children all try to understand as much as they can grasp at their age. We are going to read Matthew 26:11-66, Mark 15:1-47, Luke 23:1-56, John 18:28 - 19:42 and discuss what the Bible has to say about Good Friday and Easter. I encourage you to read these verses with your family this week and remember what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Another thing we like to do as a family to grow our faith is to reenact the Last Supper. I love reading the scripture and hearing my kids repeating back to me what they learned or already knew. I am amazed how much they discover every time I read them this scripture in the Bible. Each time we talk about it they learn so much more and pick up on another little concept.

Easter is a very exciting, amazing day when Jesus rose from the dead three days after He was laid in that tomb. We will have a celebration on Easter Sunday and rejoice that Jesus is a living Savior and He is no longer dead! We will continue to teach our children about the Biblical meaning of Easter and every other holiday, until they can fully grasp the power and love of our Savior. And I invite you to join us on this journey of growing our faith.
Yes, Easter is just six days away. I hope some of the ideas I have shared today will help you this week to prepare!


Friday, March 26, 2010

FUN with Dinner

Next Thursday is April Fool's Day. Do you know what you're having for dinner?
How about CAKE?

Actually, this delicious looking treat is two meat loaves, baked in 8-in. round cake pans, and frosted with mashed potatoes. I decorated it with ketchup and mustard dots.
My children look forward to cake for dinner every April 1.

And for dessert?
We'll be having taco salad. (Don't have a picture. Sorry!)
Scoop ice cream into waffle bowls and decorate them with coconut which has been colored green and yellow. (To look like lettuce and cheese.) Maraschino cherries serve as tomatoes, cut up licorice will be your black olives, and whipped topping looks like sour cream.

Give it a try. I promise, your family will love it!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Quiet Time or Family Time - One and the same?

Last summer I took my boys to Lake Lansing Park because they wore me out with their begging asked me to. I had gone through a rushed and hectic morning and hadn't been able to have my quiet time with God. Figured once the boys were happily settled with their fishing rods, I could sit and enjoy the quiet with God.
Yes. It all sounded great to me!
Upon arrival at the park, however, while Joshua ran quickly to the fishing dock, Matthew begged asked me to throw the football around with him.

But what about my quiet time??? I whined inwardly.

Throwing the football was not what I had in mind. I wanted to be alone with God. Wasn't that the better thing for me to do? I wanted to pray and draw close to Him!
Sounds all nice and spiritual, doesn't it? But do you see how selfish the above statements are? I, I, me, and I.
The Holy Spirit graciously pointed out my selfishness, and prompted me to put down my Bible and pick up the football. And do you know what happened?
I discovered that I could love God by loving my son. As I threw the football around with Matthew, I prayed for him. I prayed that he would grow stronger in his faith every day. I prayed for myself, as Matthew's mom - that God would use me to reflect His love to my son.
And even though I wasn't quiet, even though I wasn't reading my Bible, I was very aware of the presence of God. I'm sure I saw Him smiling on my son and I. It was a wonderful time of communion with God - playing football with my son.

In what ways have you sensed God's presence by serving your family?


Monday, March 22, 2010

Gratitude and Grace

In two recent Wednesday posts, I’ve shared a bit about how I’m learning to better listen to the Holy Spirit during day-to-day interactions with my husband.

There’s a brief space of time between my husband’s communication and my response. It’s during those brief moments that I can choose to listen to the Holy Spirit . . . or not. And after listening, I can choose the respectful response . . . or not.

Reflecting on these experiences brings to mind a short story by Christian author Flannery O’Connor. In “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” O’Connor’s main character is a contemptuous old woman who is shot dead by a drifter. Only at the moment of her death, do her heart and mind open to God.

As she dies, her killer says, “She would have been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

While that short story has a somber plot, it resonates with me. Yes, I’m thankful for the many delightful gifts God has given me: my husband, our children, our extended family, our friends, my job, and our home. I’m also thankful for the simple pleasures that each day typically brings. I have so much, an outpouring of God’s grace.

But, I’ve come to conclude that the real evidence of God’s continuous grace in my life is the constant nudges from the Holy Spirit that convict me of sin. Sometimes they come during real-time interactions with the people I meet over the course of a day. Other times they come while I’m in prayer, or studying my Bible, or sitting in the sanctuary at Trinity on a Sunday morning. Just a few of weeks ago—during our sermon series on Reasonable Sins—I was prompted to write an apology note for some ungracious speech.

Often, those nudges are like being shot. They’re humbling. They’re an assault on my pride and my independence.

But because they are all of those things, they drive me to a greater dependence on God and a deeper appreciation of His love for me. They’re what I need to grow as a Christian.

For this outpouring of grace, I lift up my hands in gratitude.

John 1:16 (ESV): And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Family Fun Coming April 20!

Here is a great opportunity for families to expand their global perspectives and support a worthy cause. Trinity Church is hosting a concert by the internationally acclaimed African Children’s Choir on April 20th at 7:00 pm. As their website states, "The African Children’s Choir™ is made up of some of the neediest and most vulnerable children in their countries. Many have lost one or both parents to poverty or disease. The African Children’s Choir™ helps these children break away from the everyday cycle of poverty and hopelessness."
There is no admission fee to the concert, but you do need a free ticket to come. The tickets will be available at Trinity Church's office and after worship services, beginning April 5th. There are a limited number of tickets available. A free-will offering will be taken to support the choir’s efforts back in Africa. For more information about the African Children's Choir, visit their website:
Come with your family and be a part of a wonderful evening of music and hope. Come and be a part of supporting these children. If you would like to volunteer on the evening of the concert as an usher or product table assistant, contact Carolyn Kersten by clicking here.

See you at the show!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Let Your Words Be Few

We arranged for a baby sitter, but hadn’t decided what to do on our date night.
My husband suggested a bike ride.

I wanted to suggest some the other options. “You’re right, we could go on a bike ride. But, we could also—”

I wanted to analyze the pluses and minuses of the bike ride. The sun still sets pretty early. Can we really make it from Hawk Island Park to the state capitol—and back again—before the park closes?

Then I remembered the space between stimulus and response—that brief moment between my husband’s suggestion and the reply I would make. Perched right in the middle of that moment, I should take time to consider how my husband would receive my words. Could I say a Christ-like response instead?

The previous day, I tried to dream up with some ideas for our date. Drawing a blank, I reluctantly defaulted to “Well, there’s always a movie.” But, after scanning the movie reviews, I didn’t see a movie we’d both like.

In contrast, my husband had just made a marvelous suggestion on one of the first warm evenings of the year. I couldn’t think of anything I would rather do.

So, instead of firing a series of questions and comments at my husband that would come across as disrespectful of his insight, I decided to simply affirm him by enthusiastically saying yes!

Sometimes, we should keep commentary to ourselves. There’s a time for discussion, but often simple affirmation blesses our husbands.

It’s all about love and respect, as we listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit during that brief space between stimulus and response.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Faith Like A Child

My husband and I joined the Parents Community at Trinity last Fall and learned about Leading a Child To Christ. Mark and I found that we often struggle with issues like "What age should we talk about salvation with our children?" or "When is the appropriate age for them to ask Jesus to be their Savior?" Here is a tidbit from the article they gave us.

You may wonder, "Can a young child understand the meaning of salvation?" Here is where we are mislead. We think that a child must "understand" rather than "believe" the message of salvation. Where does it say in the Bible that we must "UNDERSTAND" in order to be saved? It does say, however, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." Salvation is God's gift to us. Have you ever noticed how quickly a child will accept a gift? He happily reaches out and accepts it, without wondering what he needs to do to earn it.

Children can be lead to Christ. God made the message simple so that even a child could hear and respond/believe. Take every opportunity to present this wonderful message to your children while their hearts are eagerly open!

There is no magical age that a child is old enough to accept Jesus as their Savior. Don't shove all the information that you can into the child, expecting them to "understand" everything before they can accept Jesus' gift to them. If they say they believe......that is enough! That is all Jesus expects and wants from believe and accept His gift of salvation!

What have your experineces been as you've talked with your children about faith in Jesus?

~ Betsy

Friday, March 12, 2010

Family Fun at MSU

How often are you and your family on the MSU campus? Do you experience MSU in the same way that NYC residents typically experience the Statue of Liberty . . . it’s nice to know it’s there, but you haven’t taken advantage of what’s available?

If so, this post is for you!

MSU has a wide variety of activities for families. For example, kids can tour MSU Farms and pet baby animals during Small Animal Days. The Junior Spartan Club provides free admission to selected sporting events and a variety of special perks. The 4-H Children’s Garden has an interactive butterfly exhibit each year . . .

Intrigued? These activities—and many others—are included in a booklet available for browsing or free download at the MSU website. (Limited info about regional activities is also included.) In addition, you might want to check out the Spartan Youth Programs website, which includes a variety of MSU educational programs for children.

Finally, did you know that MSU’s Grandparents University offers courses every June? For three days, your 8-12 year-olds and their grandparents can take kid-themed courses and stay overnight in an MSU dorm. Our family hasn’t participated, but we have friends who rave about the program. Signup usually takes place in early December, and popular classes fill almost immediately. But it wouldn't hurt to check even now!

What MSU fun have you had?


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In Marriage - Decode!

My husband sent a short email, “The conference has been cancelled.”

I quickly responded, “Thanks for letting me know. Now we’re free to go up north!”

I then deleted my husband’s message and accepted an invitation from friends that we’d been about to decline. The entire process took under two minutes. Kudos to me for my time management skills.

But my spirit wasn’t at peace. And that usually means that I missed the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit.

Scientists tell us that there is a fraction of a second between the receipt of a stimulus and our instinctive response. In the Christian life, we can capitalize on this short period of time to listen to the Holy Spirit and discern whether the response we’re about to give will honor Christ.

In the context of marriage, Love and Respect President Emerson Eggerichs describes this opportunity as “decoding.” Wives—who instinctively respond with love—should ask: Will what I’m about to say sound respectful to my husband? Husbands—whose instinctive responses are respectful—should ask whether the response they’re about to give is loving. Ephesians 5:33 (NIV) supports these recommendations: “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

As I reviewed my reply to my husband, I thought about the importance of decoding. Had I been respectful? My upbeat email opened by thanking my husband for sharing the schedule change. So, why did I have a lingering concern?

Then it dawned on me. My husband was supposed to speak at that conference. He adds value at work this way, but for reasons outside his control, the conference had been cancelled.

He sent me an email about his desire to work and achieve, a desire that God has placed deep within his soul.

A typical wife, I responded with an email about the importance of family.

While family matters to my husband, I realized I’d missed his heart. I didn’t initially perceive that he actually shared a setback at work, not an update about his schedule.

So, I emailed an apology that acknowledged my husband’s disappointment, as well as my admiration for his commitment to his job. He accepted my apology.

But it would’ve been so much better if my first response showed appreciation for my husband’s desire to work and achieve.

It would have been so much better if I had used the space between stimulus and response to decode.


RECOMMENDED RESOURCE: Love and Respect, Emerson Eggerichs (Integrity Publishers, 2004)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Love & Faith

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6

I have probably breezed by this verse in Galatians many times and missed the importance of it. It lines up perfectly with 1 Corinthians 13! Isn’t it wonderful that God repeats truths he doesn’t want us to miss?
1 Corinthians 13:2 says “if I have faith to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Faith to move mountains is nothing to sneeze at, but if that faith is not born in a heart of love, it means absolutely nothing.
Hebrews 11 presents a long list of saints such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and Rahab - among others. Their acts of faith were forever written in Biblical history, but it wasn’t empty faith that accomplished these great miracles. It was obedience to God out of a heart of love which caused Noah to build an ark when he had never seen rain; which moved Abraham to lay his son of promise on the altar; which motivated Moses to deny his earthly heritage and take up the cause of people in bondage.
I don’t know what miracles you need in your life today, but faith expressed through love can move your mountains. Love in action shows your faith, and faithful obedience pleases the heart of God.

May you seek to please His heart today!

~Nicole Hamlin, Family Life Ministries Intern

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pancakes for Dinner

Sometimes we just like to have pancakes for dinner.......and it's usually when my husband, Mark, is out of town. However, he does enjoy them with us once in a while. :)
In case you'd like to try pancakes for dinner tonight, I thought I'd share my recipe with you from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

Combine 1 cup flour, 1 T sugar, 2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt.

In a separate bowl whisk together 1 egg, 1 cup milk, 2 T cooking oil, and I like to add a little vanilla.

Pour the liquid into the dry mixture bowl and stir until combined.

......and start making pancakes.....mmmm.

........and keep making them.....because your kids eat about 5 mine?

We like to eat our pancakes with butter and powdered sugar.....sometimes syrup and sometimes peanut butter with syrup. How do you like to eat your pancake?

Of course you can always add blueberries, cinnamon, chocolate chips, etc. to the batter (not all at once though...hee! Choose ONE! :) and make something special for your family! :D Enjoy!


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Promise Worth Keeping

The good-looking kid (gets the looks from his mother) you see in the picture is my son, Micah. Last year he developed a love affair with baseball. One Thursday he asked me to work on his pitching with him. I told him that I would after I finished working out. I finished my workout, got something to eat, showered and before I knew it, time had slipped away from me. Now, I was rushing out the door to get to the office. As I was walking out the door, I heard his innocent but maturing voice, "I thought you were going to work on my pitching with me."

Now, I had every intention on playing with him, but had conjured up several "good" reasons why we should postpone his pitching session: I was running behind schedule, he had just finished eating, and it had been raining earlier (Now, it really hadn't rained long and hard enough to prevent us from playing). "Son, can we work on your pitching when I come back home this evening?" He said, "All right, dad." Although his "all right" sounded like he understood, I knew it was laced with disappointment. His "all right" sounded like a hope deferred, and I was the one who had deferred it.

When he conceded, I knew I was about to break a promise to my son. But, the Holy Spirit would not let me. He nudged me to put down my bag, my blackberry, and my afternoon snack and pick up my glove and work on pitching with my son. I obeyed. It was the best ten minutes of my day. Yes, it was inconvenient. Yes, it interrupted my flow. But, something more important than my schedule and my flow was at stake. My integrity was at stake. My example and reputation of being a "father who keeps a promise" was at stake. (I know another Father who has a reputation of keeping promises.) This was about more than playing catch. It was about making and keeping a promise to my son. I told him I would, and I needed to keep my word. It was a promise worth keeping.

What promises have you made to your spouse, children, family and friends, you need to keep today? What inconveniences or interruptions have you allowed to prevent you from keeping your word? What baby steps can you take to fulfill your promises?

~Pastor Marvin

Monday, March 1, 2010

Love With Actions

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:18

Not yet being blessed with children ourselves, my husband and I take great delight in our 20 month old niece. She stayed with us overnight recently and as I was getting ready for work in the morning, she followed me around from room to room. I gave her a kiss and when said I had to go to work, she began to cry and say repeatedly, “Come?”

Her plea melted my heart.

Lately, God has been convicting me of how I love, or rather, do not love others as He has commanded. I may say that I love them, and perhaps believe that - for the most part - I have loving feelings toward them. But in actuality, I am not showing love to certain people because it’s difficult, uncomfortable, or requires something of me. It is easy at times to love with words but much more difficult to love with actions.
Not having fully developed vocabularies, young children love so well with their actions. My niece demonstrated her love by following me, crying, and clinging to me as I tried to leave. I knew for certain that she loved me and showed me that the best way she knew how - through her actions!

I want those around me to know that I love them by my actions toward them. I want them to have the distinct impression that they are loved by me, by Christ loving through me.
Love with actions means being patient with our children, being kind to our coworkers, and not being envious of those that appear to be better off than us. Love with actions means seeking another’s well being before that of my own. Love with actions means refraining from anger when my husband offends me. It requires that I keep no record of wrongs.
Loving people God’s way goes against our human nature, but through Him all things are possible!

How have you experienced love through the actions of another person? How have you expressed love with actions?

~Nicole Hamlin, Family Life Ministries Intern