holidays


This week has been very exciting for us because it is the first Easter we have implemented the Easter Box and Passion Week Candles.  I remember hearing about the Cordell’s Easter Box a few years ago (read Dana’s post below) and thinking that was such a creative and purposeful idea. 
Before I go on, I want to encourage us all to learn from other families who have traditions already in place.  It is okay to duplicate someone’s idea. If their idea works for you then use it!  The point is that whatever you do, it should cause you and your family to fall more in love with Jesus. May we seek humility in this area and not feel as though we have to come up with something out of thin air to call our own for fear of not being the most creative person on the block.  So, be a copycat if it will help you to treasure Christ!
So, I confess!!!  I’m a copycat!!!  But I have a few things to add…
Our neighborhood is always active with children.  It’s either active with children playing basketball in the cul-de-sac, or a few of them in particular enjoy playing inside our home with Nathan.  On the second night of our Easter celebration the kids were still playing inside, so they joined us for our Family Worship time.  We laid out a blanket for the kids to sit on and they attentively watched and listened as we lit our 6 candles (one of them was not lit) and read John 8:12 about Jesus being the light of the world.  We explained that we would blow out one candle each day to represent sin overshadowing the light and it being another day closer to celebrating Jesus’ death, but that Jesus would not stay dead, He would indeed rise and we would light all of the candles again on Easter Sunday!  For it is in his resurrection that we have hope. 
We had a lot of great questions from the kids like, “Why did Jesus have to die?” and “What is sin?”  What an opportunity!  We thoroughly enjoyed shepherding these kids and answering their questions that we pray will one day soon help to change their heart’s disposition toward their Creator.  We sang some songs, but did not get to the Easter Box before the kids had to go home for the evening.  The next day they came back requesting to take part in Family Worship.  What a blessing and encouragement to us.  We’re so thankful that God has helped us to be diligent in planning for Easter this year.  It is because of our obedience to accomplish a few simple “Easter planning” tasks this year that we have been able to share Jesus with the neighborhood kids.
So, may God lavish grace on you as you vision for and carry out any type of family tradition.  And… be on the lookout for those who are hungry and thirsty for the One who will satisfy, and invite them to be a part of your family traditions this year.  It will bless them and give you an overwhelming amount of joy! 

~ julie

This Spring we will celebrate Easter in a special way, but one of our favorite Spring holidays is celebrating Pentecost. I will share with you about both….

One thing that has been helpful for us to establish our family traditions and holidays is to calendar out planning time for each holiday. At the start of the new year, my husband and I always sit down and write on the calendar (about one week before the anticipated holiday) “plan for ______.” So this year, I know that the Monday before Easter, Danny and I will sit down together after the kids are asleep and plan out that day. Then, I can be prepared with all the necessary materials, and he feels prepared to lead that day.

So….Easter. We love celebrating Easter! For Easter, we always invite a family from our church over for lunch then we go on a “Promise Hunt.” The Promise Hunt consists of 7 bottles each stuffed with colored construction paper with one promise of our coming Messiah found in the Old Testament. Five of the promises are written on orange paper, one on black paper (a prophesy of Christ’s death), and one on yellow paper (a prophesy of Christ’s resurrection). Then we top the bottles with the lids and Danny hides the bottles in the backyard. The kids then proceed to hunt for all the promises, and after collecting them all in their baskets we sit down in our living room to open them and read the promises together. We read the orange promises first, then the black, then the yellow…thus we end with the resurrection of Christ. We enjoy the simplicity of the day with a focus on celebrating Jesus. We are thankful that God always keeps His promises. We are thankful for the promised Christ.

Our Family Traditions Calendar continues. One of our favorite holidays is celebrating Pentecost. It is believed, according to church history, that Pentecost happened about 49 days after Easter. We host a Pentecost Party at our home and invite others who we know would enjoy being thankful for the third person of the Trinity with us- the Holy Spirit! The purpose of our Pentecost Party is to celebrate the outpouring of God’s Spirit and His empowerment to the Church. Our Pentecost party has a decoration theme of red, fire, and wind for the Spirit. We light lots of candles, make spiritual gift wind mobiles, sing songs in different languages, read stories of “old guys” who had unique encounters with the Spirit, and (last year) Danny read Acts 2:1-21 then read excerpts from a book about the New Hebrides revival. After that we spend a good time in prayer together with those present, asking for the Spirit to do a work in our hearts, our church, and our community. It is always a very sweet time that ends with a red “snack” of some sort…last year it was strawberry ice cream (not hot, but red) 🙂

Easter is almost here and a few years ago i felt quite convicted that we made a huge deal of Christmas, but Easter seemed to sort of sneak up on us before we knew it. Christmas is so much fun but let us not forget, Easter is the reason we live!!!! I pray that these ideas spark more ideas in your heart to make Christ the center of all our celebrating! I am so encouraged by many of you who are striving to think and have purposes behind what you do during every day life and extra special days/holidays we celebrate. May God only increase your desire to make much of him with how you live!

Here’s what we do…During Easter, we use two practical things, candles and the Easter Box.

At Christmas we light candles for advent. During the season we always talk about how Jesus, the Light of the World was coming into the world to save us from our sinful hearts. Each week as we would light a candle we would turn off all of the lights and say, “Look how much brighter the world is getting. We are getting closer to celebrating his birth.” Then on Christmas morning we would have all of the candles lit and the kids would run downstairs to see that Jesus has been born. We would sing and “blow out the candles”. It was fun. But now, it is Easter. The Light of the World has been with us, and the world did not know Him. So we use candles differently. We set out 6 candles ( I use tea lights and set them on top of our piano). On Palm Sunday we have all 6 candles lit. Each day as we approach good Friday we snuff out a candle…the world is growing dark again. On Good Friday we have a special family worship and have the children sit a few minutes in darkness. It has been very powerful. Then on Easter Sunday morning…”the Lord is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed!” This is the way we awaken our children, we tell them that He is Alive. Then we run down the stairs to see all of the candles shining bright once again. Thank you Jesus, that never again will we have to sit in darkness!

Each night of the week before Easter we also have a special family worship time, where we do the candles and the Easter Box. The Easter Box is just a box with a lid that we painted and decorated (you can get a cheap box at Michaels or AC Moore). Each night there is something different inside the box. The kids get to open the box nightly and there are objects in the box that tell the story of the last week of Jesus’ life. This has been helpful to our family, to walk the road with him the week before his crucifixion. Here’s what is in the box each night…

Sunday- palm branches (Triumphal Entry) I have one palm branch for each child
Monday- bird figurines and money (Cleansing the Temple) We found some wooden birds at michales and use coins.
Tuesday- pouches with 30 pieces of silver in them (Judas makes plans to betray Jesus) I have some cloth pouches and put 30 nickles in them, again, one for each child.
Wednesday- Bread and Cup (Last Supper). I pained some wooden peices resembling bread and cup, found at Micahels.
Thursday- Rock and Rooster Feather, or picture of Rooster (Gethsemane and Peter’s Denial).
Friday- nails and thorns (Crucifixion). We cut the thorns off of some rose bushes at my parents home. This way they can feel what nails would have felt like and how thorns must have felt in his forehead.
Sat- linen cloth and put it in a tomb (We make a little mock-tomb out of a canister with lid, and put the linen cloth in it)
Sunday- empty tomb! The Lord is Risen!!!! CANDLES ARE ALL LIT!

These are just our ideas. We typically act out the story as a family or have books to go along with the story that i have found at Christian book stores or just in our children’s bibles. We also sing songs each night, pray, and do our scripture memory. As our children are getting older we use the Bible to read instead of picture books.

I am so excited about celebrating Jesus this Easter! Each year this time grows sweeter and sweeter and the questions get deeper and deeper. God truly uses these things in each of our lives to increase our wonder at His sacrifice and love for the gospel!

Longing to behold His glory face to face…

dana cordell

by Charity Starchenkco

One thing I have come to realize about New Year resolutions is that they are inherently self centered. It’s like a personal health and wealth plan. Lose weight, stop smoking, enjoy myself more, eliminate debt and you’ll be beautiful, happy and rich. As the new year approaches, people look deep and hard at themselves and make a list of things they want to change about their lives, and then set out to change it with gusto. But their enthusiasm wanes as it gets harder and harder to achieve their goals the and sacrifices necessary to achieve it are more painful than the desire to change. This is not a new problem. Ben Franklin made resolutions that he planned to live by, except that he called them virtues. 

ben_franklin

You see, Ben was really into the ideals of the French Revolution, one of which was that man could be perfected by discovering (through rigid observation of nature) the natural laws of the world and following them. It followed then that if man could be perfected, so could society. So it made sense that Ben would develop these resolutions or virtues. Who wouldn’t want to perfect themselves? He even took some of his virtues from the Bible. Here’s a few of them: Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation. Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates. 

This seems like a good plan at first glance. But the problem with Franklin’s resolutions is that they are self-centered. Franklin wanted to glorify and perfect himself. He fell victim to the lies of prevailing philosophy at the time, as John warns against in 4:1 of his epistle when he says to check ourselves against the prevailing spirits of the time. The same goes for us: We do not find strength outside of ourselves in diets or investment bankers. In fact, resolutions made apart from relying on God’s sovereignty in our lives, and made to glorify the created rather than the creator a total waste of time and energy. In the end, resolutions, the holiday symbol strength and empowerment are really a guaranteed failure that ultimately serve to point us to God. Franklin got as far as acknowledging his failure saying, 

“I enter’d upon the execution of this plan for self-examination, and continu’d it with occasional intermissions for some time. I was surpris’d to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish….I mark’d my faults with a black-lead pencil, which marks I could easily wipe out with a wet sponge. After a while I went thro’ one course only in a year, and afterward only one in several years, till at length I omitted them entirely, being employ’d in voyages and business abroad, with a multiplicity of affairs that interfered; but I always carried my little book with me.” 

His faults might have diminished in his opinion, but they were never eradicated in the eyes of God, and Franklin died believing himself much improved merely for the experience of it. But more importantly, he never paused to consider his failure outside of himself. He accepted it for what it was, but not Who it pointed him to. That’s the worst kind of self complacency a person could have. 

As Christians, we know instinctively that resolutions should be Christo-centric. Does that mean we cant have our own personal goals? NO! We should make goals for our lives. Our bodies are the temple of the living God and the spirit of God dwells in us. We should feel free to lose weight, be better organized, and eliminate debt. But we should do those things not for our own satisfaction and of our own volition, but because He enables us to do so and for his own glory!These are the ways in which we carry out God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves, to spread the gospel, and pursue godliness with all diligence. Healthy bodies, organized households and a good financial footing are all intrinsic to helping spread the good news of Jesus Christ among all people to the glory of God

So if we make resolutions at all, what should they be? Let’s take ours from the Bible: 

We should resolve that “our chief end is to glorify God and (or BY! Thanks, John Piper!) enjoying him forever.” We can do this by resolving that: 

*Godliness with contentment is great gain! (I Timothy 6:6) 

*Easting drinking and doing all to the Glory of God alone! (I Chor. 10:31) 

*We will with God’s help, cast out idols of the heart and give glory to no other! (I Chron. 16:29) 

*Submitting joyfully to our husbands, parents, and church leaders. 

*We will seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness! (Matthew 6:33) 

Resolve that by God’s grace you will pursue Him wholeheartedly in 2009. Let nothing hinder you this year.