Just Tired

This Sunday a friend who I love broke down in tears in the hallway at church. Why? After searching for a reason, what it really came down to was that she was tired. Bone weary tired. And haven’t we all been there as parents? I couldn’t help but think back on this post I wrote two years ago and let the words of truth and encouragement wash over me. Are you tired? There’s a Jesus for that!

r e F o c u s

I looked across at her worn weary face.

“You okay?” I asked.

She looked up.  It seemed as if she were searching for a moment to come up with the “right” answer until she finally landed on, “You know, I think I’m just tired.  I really think that’s all.”

I have been there, both with the being tired and the searching for an answer.  It seems at times as Christians we have to have some reason for why we are acting the way we are.  Often our theology tells us there is a root cause or a need for healing that is leading to our tired eyes, our weary glances, our terse outbursts and our spiritual apathy.

But, sometimes… sometimes I think we are just pure and simple tired.

Parenting is exhausting.  Discipling your kids on top of that is even more demanding.  Being intentional TIRED-MOM-facebookday in and day…

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What We Remember About Easter

The other day, my daughter and I were reminiscing about Easter celebrations past, specifically about our Easter egg hunts. I used to wake up early on Sunday morning and hide eggs throughout the woods behind our house and then, after the kids woke up, they’d go outside and find them. And each time they found an egg, they would yell out, “He is risen!” as loud as they could, a reminder that when the women went to the tomb on Sunday morning, they found it empty because Jesus had risen.

Now that she’s older, she finds it funny that she used to yell that, but I’m really glad she did. Because now, for the rest of her life, she’s going to associate something as secular as an Easter egg hunt with something as sacred as the resurrection of our Savior. She’ll never just see Easter eggs; she’ll always see an empty tomb!

easter-1237603_1920A lot time of times when we talk about discipleship at home, parents say to me, “I don’t know how to do devotions with my kids” or “I don’t know what to say about Jesus.” My answer for them is simply this; don’t look at discipleship as having to do something more, rather as a chance to invite Christ into what you are already doing.  And on Easter Sunday, it is very likely your family will engage in some predictable behaviors. So here are some ideas on how you can take what you are already doing and welcome Christ into your Easter celebration!

So, to find out what memories really stick with us as we grow, I turned to my friends on Facebook and asked, “What do you remember about Easter as a kid?”  Here are some of their answers along with some ideas on how to make these memories ones that are filled with Jesus.

Dressing up for Easter Sunday

A lot of my friends mentioned that they remembered dressing up for Easter and getting new clothes, new hats, and new shoes on for their trip into church and taking lots of pictures.

But here’s a fun way one mom turned it into a discipleship moment: “My mom each year got us a new dress to represent new life in Christ.”  Many years later, this woman still remembers the deeper meaning of her Easter clothes!

Eating delicious food

So many brought up Easter dinner, Easter desserts and yummy Easter treats. Here are some ways my friends and their parents turned the food into a lasting memory of the real meaning of Easter.

I used to make empty tomb cookies with my boys on the Saturday night before Easter morning. You put them in the preheated oven. Seal the oven door with tape and turn the oven off. There are Bible verses that go along with the ingredients like vinegar and the verse about Jesus being given sour wine on the cross. The next morning when the oven is unsealed, we would pull out the ” tombs” and break them open. They were hollow and empty, like Christ’s tomb. (Wanna try?  Here’s the recipe and readings.)

Easter dinner!!! Some of the best fellowship is had over food. And I come from a tradition of providing hospitality to another family for Easter dinner each year.

Going to Church

Okay, so this one seems like a no-brainer. Of course going to church would stick with kids, right?  Quite a few of my friends mentioned that, while they did go to church, that wasn’t what stuck with them, or if it did, it was a negative memory, not a positive one. Here’s an example:

Waking up to get the Easter basket wondering what would be inside and after church doing an egg hunt. Sadly I do not remember much of the point of the day, just the traditions surrounding the bunny

So, how can we help it to be positive and more meaningful?

I think this is the simplest answer of all. Be excited about it. Be excited about Easter. Be excited about the opportunity to go to church and celebrate the risen Savior. Our excitement will make these memories stand out as what is most meaningful about this day!  For those who remembered their Easter church experience positively, what made it that way was the excitement shown by their parents and others who were in church.

My Dad was really big on going to the sunrise service and our church did it at a park so it was almost always horribly cold. But I remember always being glad we did it, because it was beautiful. Then we would go to the big service at church. I remember everyone being so excited and so happy for the day. It has definitely always been a joyous celebratory day.

Singing “Christ Arose” and “He Lives” are happy memories and those songs still make me cry. Hearing a choir lady sing “He could have called ten thousand angels” as Jesus was hanging on the cross always made me cry thinking of His sacrifice. I just teared up writing this.

The memories that were remembered where the ones that were happy, where there was joy and excitement. And we get to do that! We get to share our joy over the resurrection with our children. We get to invite them into a celebration like no other, a joy with no compare, an excitement that will last a lifetime.

So, don’t fret about adding something new to the celebration. Just invite the risen Christ and all the joy He brings into what you are already doing! Happy Easter friends.

He is Risen!


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

Easter Photo Scavenger Hunt for Families

Since we are getting close to Easter, I wanted to share this photo scavenger hunt again. We’ve all got our smart phones in hand; why not put them to good use and use them to tell our children the story of Easter?

easterloveI put together this family-oriented scavenger hunt offers for the families at my church so they could use it to help their kids engage with Christ while also spending quality time together. After they find each “clue” the family takes a selfie together with the object they found so that by the end, not only do they have fun, faith-filled memories, they have seven new family pictures.

Feel free to use this scavenger hunt with your church and/or family and may we all be blessed as we consider together the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord!

Clue #1 – Birth – Luke 2:6-12

This story begins in a different way

The Baby Jesus was sleeping on Hay

He was the Messiah, God’s Only Son

But His journey began as a quiet, humble one…

With your family, find a barn or manger and take a selfie together beside it. Think about what it meant that Jesus wasn’t born rich or mighty, but as a humble baby, just like us. Talk about why that is important to us as we follow Him.

Clue #2 – Baptism – Matthew 3:13-17

As He grew, he gained respect from God and man

And His calling to save us, He began to understand

He declared He came to set the captives free

And was baptized by John to begin that journey.

John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. See if you can find a stream, a pool, a river, anything with water for your family selfie. Take some time to think about what happened when Jesus was baptized, how God spoke from heaven and what John said about Him.

Clue #3 – Ministry – Matthew 4:18-20

Jesus began to teach all the people

They’d come to hear him, no building or steeple

He’d talk in the mountains and down by the sea

And to those who would listen, He’d say “Come, follow me!”

 Jesus went to places where people were to talk to them about God’s Love. If Jesus were here today, where do you think he would teach? Take a picture of your family in the place you thought of and write down a little explanation of why you picked that place!

Clue #4 – Miracles

Many people came to Jesus in need

Some sick and some lame, some broken indeed

And often Jesus would heal, touch or feed

News of Him spread around Israel with speed

There are many stories of Jesus’ miracles in the Bible. With your family pick your favorite story and read it together. There are several ways to take your family selfie – you can all point to the Scripture reference and take a pic; you can re-enact the story and take a pic; or you can take a video of your family reading or telling the story!

Clue #5 – Last Supper – Matthew 26:20-30

But some of the people did not like God’s Son

And started a plan to get rid of the One

So Jesus gathered his friends for a Passover meal

And shared what would happen; it seemed so unreal

During the Last Supper, Jesus explained that he would die and rise again, but the disciples didn’t understand his words. It was here that Jesus first described communion – the bread representing his body and the juice representing his blood. After this, he left and went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before the soldiers came to arrest him. With your family, go find a garden or a patch of flowers. Take your picture together and consider how just a few weeks ago this ground was cold and dead, but today there is hope and new life.   Jesus came that we might have new life and have it for all eternity!

Clue #6 – Crucifixion – Matthew 27:32-56*

Betrayed by a friend, Jesus was arrested

He was tried by a court and his death was requested

On that saddest of days, our Savior did die

But within that dark moment, our salvation did lie

When Jesus died on the cross, his disciples and his friends lost all hope. But God had a bigger plan. A beautiful plan that was way bigger than they could see in that moment. We remember the cross as a place of suffering but also as a place of hope for all eternity. With your family, find a cross and take your picture and talk about how we can have hope in Jesus.

*Parents, this can be a difficult subject to approach with children. You know your kids best and what is the best way to share this part of the story. While I have included the Scripture reference, use your discernment and discretion when you share.

Clue #7 – Resurrection – Luke 24:1-12

Some may think that our story is done.

But they would be wrong! It has only begun!

For after 3 days, Jesus rose from the dead

To give us New Life forever…just as He said!

Our greatest hope comes in knowing that we will get to spend all of eternity with Jesus and with all who follow him! We don’t have to be slaves to sin. Jesus can help us to live with joy and life now. That is what Easter is all about! Take a picture of your family celebrating with GREAT JOY that Jesus is ALIVE!

Want a fun and unique way to tell The Story of Scripture with a perfect set-up for Easter? Check out this re-telling using just four simple but memorable symbols to tell the story


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook. 

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

Why I’m Not Mad At Disney

Beauty and the Beast: The Controversy.

As I scroll through social media or engage in conversations with many of my readers, I can’t help but title the new movie this way in my head (accompanied by the sound of ominous music). It seems like everywhere I look, I see opinions raging, most expressing disappointment, some reacting with outrage, some with support and many with apathy.beautiful-963893_1920

So there it is. The Controversy. In the live action version of Beauty in the Beauty, there is a nod to Same Sex Attraction (SSA). You can go look up the details if you haven’t heard about it yet, but if you haven’t, I’d be shocked.

I have a few people ask me for my take on this. Specifically, I had someone ask me “Doesn’t it just make you so mad?” And, I had to look at them and say, “No, not at all.” And here’s why:

  1. Disney is not an evangelical Christian company – They never have been. It’s not in their DNA. They are a company that has always reflected the culture and the things that are important to the culture.
  2. Disney is not beholden to me for….anything – They have not entered into any kind of arrangement to offer me what I deem family-friendly entertainment or promise me that they will express my values in their movies or television shows.
  3. Disney is not raising my children – I’m doing that. And there have been MANY Disney moments where I’ve stopped the movie and said, “Hmm, what do you guys think about that? Is that how Christ would have us act or respond? What do you think Jesus would have done in that situation? What about you?”
  4. Disney is pushing an agenda – Of course they are! Everything and everyone is! Friends, we are. Walmart is. Chick-Fil-A is. The trash company is. Everyone is. Part of the beauty of our country is that we can. And part of the beauty of our republic is that our right to do so is protected and our right to not engage with something is also protected.
  5. Disney is primarily a business – They want to make money. Lots of money. And as we know, any publicity is good publicity. Those who have hit the airwaves and social media calling for a boycott and spreading inflammatory articles and blog posts have helped create a storm of publicity for them that will help them meet their ultimate goal. To make more money.

I can’t be mad at Disney for doing what Disney does any more than I can be mad at any other company for doing what that company does.

Friends, we are called to be “alien and strangers” in this world (I Pet. 2:11). We are supposed to be the odd ones out. We are supposed to be different. It’s not the world’s job to conform to us. It’s our job not to conform to it (Rom. 12:2). Expressing outrage over the world being the world is like expressing outrage that a bird flies.

If outrage is to be expressed, let it be for things that truly break God’s heart.

He LOVES the world, so much that He sent his only Son to say it in the loudest way possible. Look at how Jesus approached life.

He didn’t say, “Boycott the world!” He said, “Love your neighbor, do good to those who come against you.” (Mt. 5:44)

He didn’t act in ways that said, “Withdraw from society” but rather he ate dinner with outcasts, with “sinners”, with the ones no “righteous” person would associate with (Mark 2:13-17).

He did not expect the world to be like Him. Instead, He went to them wherever they were and stayed who He was without shaming them (Luke 7:36-50).

There are things that do break God’s heart.   Jesus wept over Jerusalem because the very people He came to love, didn’t see Him, didn’t know who He was (Luke 19:41-44). He wept in the garden because the cup He had to bear was so difficult but His overwhelming love for the world was stronger (Luke 22:44). He wept when a friend lost his life, even though He knew that life would be returned to him (John 11:35).

Jesus’ heart breaks for people.

His outrage was expressed only against those who claimed to love him and acted in ways unlike Him (Mt. 21:12-13, Mt. 23). Whether we choose to watch the movie or not, let’s be sure that our actions, our words, reflect Him and His love for the whole world and all the people in it.

Because that is our agenda – that is what we are called to do (Mt. 22-36-40).


Want ideas on how to turn any Family Movie Night (Disney or otherwise) into an intentional discipleship moment at home?  Click here!!

For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

Engaging Children in Worship

The other day, my son and I were at a community center that had, as part of the building, a small room called the “Children’s Chapel.” Inside the room were a few instruments (mostly drums), a number of boxes that had Bible stories inside of them, and several benches with chairs. When we went in the room, my son asked if he could play the drum. I agreed, but I reminded him that this space was sacred, which meant is was set aside to tell God that we love Him and for us to hear from God, so if he played the drum, it had to be for Jesus.

That was all the instruction he needed. He understood the space was set aside for holy purposes. In a few moments, he was joined by two young girls and together they held church. No really, they did. They used the drums there to make up songs to sing to God. His song lyrics said, “Oh God, I love you with all of my heart. You made me and take care of me. You love me and I love you.” One of the girls sang, “You are high in heaven but you made me and my friends and my mom and my dad and my sisters. And I praise you and I love you. You are great and amazing.

Then my son pulled out one of the story boxes and proceeded to tell me the story of the Good Samaritan that he had learned in small group at church today. Then together we explored the story of the Good Shepherd and talked about all the ways Jesus was our Good Shepherd.

It was a beautiful unexpected time.

It was church, in all of its fullness.

The worship was pure and from the heart. The preaching was convicting and interactive. And the faith like a child was evident in all.

I am becoming more and more convinced that children need spaces like this where they can explore who and what God is to them, unscripted and unhindered.

church-1499312_1920They hear a lot. They have the chance to listen to stories and sermons, hear songs and hymns, and do lessons and games. But this unhindered space with no direction other than, “Do whatever you want, but do it for Jesus” opened the door for these young children to worship Jesus in their own words, tell the stories as they understood them, and learn in a way that enraptured their hearts.

How can we create space for children to explore God in unhindered ways?

We can give them permission

Kids have a lot of structure in their lives. Rules as school. Responsibilities at home. Ways of behaving that are expected. But if we give them permission to have freedom in expressing their worship of God, it opens the door for them to experience more.

Ideas for how to do that? Give them a blank piece of paper and tell them they can draw whatever they want for Jesus. Offer them an instrument and invite them to write or sing Jesus a song. See if your church has a felt board you could use, and let them re-tell the stories they’ve heard.

We can give them space

As believers, we know that we can worship God anywhere at any time. But it can be helpful if we create space for those special moments in our homes.

Maybe there’s a corner in your home, a part of a bedroom or office, a wall that could be turned into a prayer wall or a worship space. Fill it with items like instruments, paper and crayons, notebooks and journals that are set aside for worship, for listening and for prayer. And model it for them by spending some sacred time yourself, worshiping God unhindered, in your home.

We can give them awe

Nothing draws us into a story more than mystery. We love to be drawn into the unknown. And nothing is more mysterious and full of awe than our God. Sometimes our Bible stories made to be accessible to children can unwittingly remove that sense of awe and make God nothing more than a superhero or really great adult. But God is so much more.

Take a look at the night sky and wonder together about a God who calls each star by name. Watch a thunderstorm and wonder about a God who can calm the storm by just using His voice. Imagine together what the moment of Creation was like or how the earth shook when Jesus rose from the grave. Invite your children into the mystery and let them experience the awe of our awesome God!

In Matthew 18: 1-3, the crowd asked Jesus, “Who will be greatest in the kingdom of God?” Jesus responds by placing a child in front of all of them and basically says “Whoever knows me like this little one.” In Luke 18: 15-17, people are bringing children to Jesus and the disciples try to send them away, as The Message puts it, “Jesus called them back. “Let these children alone. Don’t get between them and me. These children are the kingdom’s pride and joy. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.

There is something to a child’s unhindered faith that we, the adults, need as much as they do. Let’s give them space to explore and worship their Jesus so we can get to know our Jesus better.

This blog was originally written for the D6 Family blog, March 7, 2017 and can be accessed here.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

Reframing Repentance for Our Kids

When it comes to being a parent, I think one of the trickiest lines to walk is the line of confession and repentance. I mean think about it. We want our kids to come and tell us the truth but we also feel that they need to experience consequences for the actions they’ve done. We want them to acknowledge when they’ve hit their brother, knocked over the lamp, went outside their boundaries, or lied about what happened BUT we also want to reward them for owning up to it and telling the truth.  So we are in the tricky spot of saying, “Thank you for telling the truth but here’s your consequence for the behavior.”

I’ve always struggled with how best to do this and let me say up front, I don’t have the answer. But I’ve been challenged lately to consider my approach.

As we move into the season of Lent, we can’t help but hear a lot of talk about confession and repentance. This idea of coming before the Lord, acknowledging our sins, confessing our wrong doing, and reflecting on this for the forty days leading to Easter becomes central to many who celebrate Lent.

But I can’t help but think; if it is a tricky situation for me as a parent, perhaps there’s more to this Lenten journey as well.

When I think of confession and repentance, I tend to conjure up thoughts of sackcloth and ashes and sadness and despair. But maybe that’s not the whole story? I love these thoughts shared by my husband in a devotional he recently wrote.

Repentance is a difficult subject for us in the modern world. More than that, I think that it’s a difficult subject for many of us in the Christian faith. I mean, we know that it’s important and that it has something to do with salvation but I’m afraid mostly it still conjures up memories of shame, images of us beating our chests and crying out for mercy, reminders of our brokenness and of our inability to do anything about it.

But what if this vision of repentance was somehow misleading? What if repentance in the Christian tradition had less to do with our failure and more to do with God’s infinite grace?

What if repentance, far from being a season of sorrow, was actually a period of release, of freedom, of liberation?

What if it was the very life of God transforming our lives and others’ lives and the very life of the world? What if it was an invitation to God to move marvelously? How might that vision repentance change the way we approach topics like confession, or remorse, or restitution?

In Isaiah 30.15 we read that it is in repentance and rest that we discover our salvation. How can we teach our children that there is rest in the act of repentance?

In Matthew 4.17 we find Jesus saying, “repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” How can we help our children see that repentance is related to experiencing the kingdom of God?

In Acts 3.19 we are exhorted to “repent… so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”  How can we allow our children to experience times of refreshing as a result of repentance?

Maybe there is a way for us to teach our children that repentance isn’t all gloom and doom, sadness and despair, but rather an invitation into a deeper experience of God’s grace, His unending Love and His infinite mercy.

I think it needs to begin with me, with us.

freedom-2053281_1920Because if my view of repentance is primarily one of beating my chest or memories of shame, I can inadvertently put that on my children. But if I begin to allow Christ to help me see confession and repentance as the first step on a journey of freedom, of rest, of refreshing, and of experiencing the kingdom of God, then perhaps I will begin to instill this vision in my children.

Psalm 30:5 reminds us that God’s “anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” The sadness and shame, the guilt and the sorrow of confession and repentance similarly need only last for a brief moment, but the freedom and joy and rest for an eternity. In fact, Paul tells us that “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation”; sorrow precedes repentance but repentance precedes salvation, an experience of great joy! (2 Cor. 7:10).

Repentance isn’t the end of joy; repentance is the beginning. It’s the gateway to freedom. Confession isn’t the start of shame; it’s the resounding end of it!

What if we could re-frame that for our children? How much greater would their experience of confession and repentance be?  How much more eager would they be to move quickly from sorrow to joy?

As we go through this season of Lent, let’s ask God to help us understand more fully the gift of repentance and experience more richly the freedom it brings so that we can pass it on to the next generation.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed