The Power of a Moment: Where Discipleship Happens

Last night, I glanced out the window and saw the tell-tale pink glow of the promise of an amazing sunset. I absolutely LOVE the sky and love all the things that happen there from storm clouds swirling to sunsets waning. In fact, one of my neighbors stopped me once to say, “I love how you are always looking up!” And I do. I love the sky.

So, in true form, I bounded from the couch and ran out the door, camera (okay, fine, phone) in hand. The sky was an orange-pink color as the setting sun bounced off the low-hanging clouds. As the sun went lower, the clouds changed from light orange to bright orange to dark pink. The whole sky rippled with the colors of sunset, changing the whole atmosphere into a magical pink paradise.

And then, it was over. The clouds returned to their gray color. The sun sunk below the horizon. The dim light of twilight took over. The awe-inspiring show of beauty and light was over just minutes before it started, captured only in a few photos and the swelling of my joy-filled heart.

Go ahead and grab your phone. Take a few minutes and glance through the moments you’ve captured there.

A birthday party?  A visit with a friend? A few silly selfies with your kids?  That time when you snuck in and got a picture of your little one sleeping?  A couple of cameos just for fun?

 

My guess is these were fleeting moments too.

Times where you grabbed the phone to capture a full heart in a still picture.

The thing about Time is that it doesn’t stop moving forward. As one kidmin conference noted a couple of years ago “It’s just a phase…so don’t miss it.”

That sunset I saw will never happen again. I could have glanced outside and said, “Oh look, a sunset” and moved on. I could have taken a picture and posted it on Instagram to prove I was there. Or, I could have done what I did – reveled in the moment. Fleeting though it was, it filled my soul.

Our moments with our children are likewise fleeting. Even those pictures on our phones can be deceiving, because being present and being there are two different things. I think the missionary Jim Elliot put it best when he said, “Wherever you are, be all there.

Discipleship happens in the moments, not the photographs.

It happens in the stolen minutes before bed, the shared meal around the table, the movie night in the living room, the car ride to practice, the quick hug before the school day begins.

It happens when we invite Christ into these precious times. These passing moments can be soul-filling if we let them be, not just for us, but for our kids. The opportunity to be “all there” presents itself all the time, the soft glow of family calling us back to each other, for moments that can bring us awe.

When I look at this picture of sunset, I don’t just see a beautiful sky or a gorgeous sunset. I feel the moment in my heart. I feel the awe. And that’s because I was truly there. img_5315

What do we feel as we scroll through those pics on our phone?  Why not grab your child and go through it with them?  Feel the awe of the moments together. And make that determination to be “all there” no matter how fleeting the time may be


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

The Aftermath of Easter

Our front yard is littered with pieces of broken plastic eggs. Our trash can is full of shiny aluminum wrappers. There’s pieces of brightly colored “grass” in various places around the house. The fridge is full of leftover ham and mashed potatoes. And the Christ candle is not flickering with light. Let’s not even talk about what my office at church looks like.

The aftermath of Easter.

Just a reminder, He is still risen. He’s just as risen today as He was yesterday.

But our attention wanders. I mean, for the last forty days, we were in a season of Lent, looking towards one thing – Easter. The celebration of Christ’s resurrection.  And now, Easter is past. We have moved on.  But, He hasn’t.

You see, He is the same; yesterday, today, and forever.

He is risen indeed every single day. 

Yesterday, I heard children running around saying, “He is risen!” just because they knew an adult would answer “He is risen indeed!”  It was so fun for them. When my girls were little, we even had them yelling this during our Easter egg hunts. We told them just like the eggs were hidden, Christ was hidden in the tomb, but He didn’t stay there, so when they found an egg, they should yell, “He is risen!”  I could always find my girls during public Easter egg hunts as they shouted excitedly with each egg they found.

Easter flower crossAll that to say, I think it is vitally important that we keep the excitement of our risen Savior alive for our children. If we just continue on now, since Easter is past, without continuing to acknowledge the incredible miracle that is our salvation, we lose the chance to keep their excitement piqued and attitude expectant, not about eggs but about Jesus.

So what are some ways we can celebrate Christ’s resurrection in the every day?

Talk About It 

Don’t save the story of Christ’s resurrection for just one day. Celebrate it throughout the year. Talk about the HOPE we have because our Savior lives. Thank the Lord aloud that He is always with us and can never die. Bring it up whenever there is a God Moment with your child – consistently remind them that we serve a risen Lord. Bookend your Faith Talks with the resurrection truth.

Thank Him for this miracle at the dinner table, before bedtime, in the car, and when you get up in the morning. Make the resurrection part of the family vocabulary just like saying “Amen” and the end of a prayer or “Dear God” at the beginning.

Celebrate It

Who’s to say the only day we can celebrate the resurrection is Easter Sunday?  Do you know that in many Christian traditions, Sunday is a weekly day of this celebration?  What if we looked at Sunday as our mini Easter celebration every week?  What if we were intentional about reminding each other that on the first day of the week, Christ rose from the dead, so we gather to celebrate (not “go to church”)?

When our kids ask, “Why do we have to go church?’ instead of saying, “We get to go to church” and explaining our freedoms in this country (all good things) we said, “Because when they nailed Jesus to the cross, He didn’t stay there. He made a way for us to live with God forever in peace and love for all eternity. He rose from the dead!  And we gather to celebrate that amazing miracle every Sunday. We get to throw a Jesus party every week!  He’s alive and that is worth celebrating!!”

Live It

One of the greatest truths of our faith is that Christ’s resurrection means we have undying hope in the fact that we have all of eternity with God and with one another. Peter says it this way: In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” (1 Peter 1:3, 4).

There are times in this life that we can feel tempted to be hopeless. The stressors of life, things like bills and budgets, calendars and schedules, loss and grief, can cause us to lean towards hopelessness.  But because of Easter, we are never truly without hope. And if that’s all we can say in the difficult times, if all we can do is re-state what we shouted on Easter Sunday, that “He is risen!” then let us do that so our children see and hear that our hope is anchored deep, deeper than this world, deeper than these trials. Our hope is in the resurrection, anchored in eternity, deeply in the heart of God. 

What if the aftermath of Easter was just a continuation of a celebration, rather the culmination of one?  Even after the eggs are gone, the chocolate is consumed, the flowers fade…we still celebrate because 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

Let Them Feel: Experiencing Good Friday with Children

Two years ago on Good Friday, I awoke to the sounds of thunder, lightning and torrential downpours.  My phone was lighting up with flood alerts and I could hear what sounded like a small river in the gutter outside my window.

My first thoughts on this dark stormy morning were that it was Good Friday and how appropriate the dark weather was to experience on this day.  My heart went to Mark 15 where we read:

“At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “”Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? “”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:33,34.37-39)

cross-1375765_1920The sorrow of this day is commemorated at churches all over the world with darkened
services, candlelight vigils, readings from Scripture that cause us to ponder anew the sacrifice made by Christ that day.

There is something palpable about the beauty and mystery of Good Friday.  Sometimes, it is our tendency to shield our children from these dark emotions, from the sadness and the heaviness of the crucifixion.

Don’t.

I realize that they won’t understand it all.  I know that it could make them sad.  I understand that they are young.  But the depth of understanding goes beyond our emotions on this day.

When we allow ourselves to remember the darkness of this day, the sadness of this moment that, if we are truly honest, not one of us completely understands, we create space for God to do a deeper work that our minds can understand.

Children are young.  Cognitively they don‘t understand.  But their hearts are attuned to God’s love.  Their understanding of spiritual things goes deeper than we adults sometimes give them credit for.  Throughout Scripture, we are told that infants praise him, the faith of children is pure, little ones know him, and we should be like them.  In children, the kingdom of God is made manifest so, trust me, they may not understand the theology, but they understand the heart of God and the love that was given.

Ever been outside when a storm rolls away and the sun breaks through? 
Does it ever shine brighter in that moment?

On Good Friday, we experience sadness. But only for a moment.  Because on Sunday we will experience unspeakable joy.  No matter the depth of sorrow we feel on Friday, our rejoicing on Sunday will far exceed those limits.  And if we want our children to truly know the JOY that is Easter, we must let them also experience the sorrow that is Good Friday.

It’s okay for them to feel.  Feel with them.  It’s okay for them to cry.  Cry with them.

BUT, cry with hope.  Feel with expectation.  And Sunday morning, before Easter eggs and bunnies and chocolate and flowers, before dinners and tulips and fancy dresses and suits and ties, before all of that… let them experience the OVERWHELMING, LIFE-CHANGING, HEART-POUNDING Joy of crying out, “He. Is. RISEN!!” 

Rejoice!  Cry out!  Dance a little.  Celebrate with your kids in a way you never have before.  Let joy swell in your hearts and come out as shouts of praise. Let them experience all the wonder and mystery wrapped up in God’s love for us on these three days.  Don’t let it just pass by unnoticed.  Don’t let your fear of their sadness keep them from experiencing the immensity of Easter Joy!!

Make this day a day they will never forget and they will long to experience for years to come.

Make the words of Ps. 30:5 come alive this year: “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning!”

For He IS Risen, just as He said!  He is Risen.. Indeed!!


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

What Does It Mean to “Welcome” a Child?

What does it mean to “welcome” a child?

Then they came to Capernaum. While Jesus was in the house, He asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had been arguing with each other which of them was the greatest.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last of all and the servant of all.” Then He had a little child stand among them. Taking the child in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes not only Me, but the One who sent Me.”       Mark 9:33-36

As someone who works with children, I cannot read this passage of Scripture without getting goosebumps.   Honestly, I feel as though I could write endlessly about this beautiful picture of Jesus’ ministry to all ages, but I want to focus on one word in particular: Welcome.

What is welcome?

There has been much written about this word, but I want to share an experience I recently had. A friend texted me; she needed to talk. I opened my home and invited her to lunch. We had a wonderful time together, but at one point she made a comment that it “really felt like” I wanted her there. I asked what she meant and she shared, “You didn’t just open the door and let me in. You cleaned your house, turned on music, lit a candle, set the table, made and served me lunch and dessert, listened when I shared and truly welcomed me into your home.”

To her, there was a difference between me making space for her and me welcoming her.

child-2054256_1920I see that in this “Jesus story” too. I see Him take a child, and have this child stand among the people gathered in the home, and then, very intentionally, take the child in his arms. And after that very intentional moment He says, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name, welcomes Me…” (If I were a Psalmist, there would be a “Selah” after that).  

Think about that! Jesus modeled for us something very important. When we talk about welcoming a child, it’s not about just making room for them to be present.

It’s not about just making space.

It’s not even about making sure that there are enough volunteers for the nursery, teachers for the Sunday school, crafts for each attendee, and activity packets for each worship service.

No, Christ’s welcome went beyond that.

It wrapped that child in His very arms.

It said, “You are not only allowed to be here, you are WANTED here!”

It said, “You are not merely present in this space, you are embraced in this space.”

As we consider children in the context of the church and the larger faith community, it would be wise for us to reflect on this moment. We can say, “Children are welcome here” with our words and we can have all the right things in place. We can open the door and say, “Come on in!” But if we don’t combine that with a culture that says “You belong here”, a message of grace and honor, our welcome may fall flat.

It has to be more than just making space for their presence. It needs to be a felt welcome, an embrace.

And what happens if we do that, and by we, I mean all of us – parents, leaders, lay people, seniors, teens, all of us? I mean, just listen to Jesus’ words!! “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes not only Me, but the One who sent Me.” We not only welcome that child, we welcome Christ himself and the Father who sent Him. We welcome God!

If your church is looking for some ways to help welcome children more fully into the midst of your congregation, here are some ideas of where to start.

1. Welcome the kids, every week, by name – This may sound redundant, but there is much to be said for a personal greeting from a friendly face and welcome to the service

2. Engage the kids in worship– Kids love to be a part of something.  Give them the opportunity to help lead worship, hand out bulletins, take up the offering, participate in communion, help with the sound/lights, read Scripture, share a testimony – anything that let’s them know they are a vital part of the congregation.

3. Reaffirm your covenant– When children are baptized or dedicated in churches, often the church will recite or affirm a covenant with them to walk with them as a community of faith.  Every now and then, let the kids hear you re-affirm that out loud and with your actions.

4. Engage the congregation– If having kids in service is new to your church, give the congregation fair warning, provide a time for them to meet the kids (put faces with names and parents with kids) and encourage a time of fellowship for all before adding the kids to the service.  Some churches start with once and month and grow from there.

5. Give kids a voice– You’d be surprised how much we can learn from children but often we still follow the “Kids should be seen and not heard” rule. Give kids an avenue to share what God is speaking to them by affirming to them that they can and do hear from God and giving them a space to share that.  A bulletin board where they can hang a picture they drew in service or a note they wrote about what they learned can create a space where the whole church can hear and affirm their hearts for God.

(List adapted from Practical Ways to Welcome Kids to Church posted here. This article first appeared at d6family.com on 4.4.17)


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

Practical Holy Week: Telling Your Kids the Story

Starting soon, the church across the world will begin a celebration of Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.  This week is arguably the most important on the Christian calendar, representing for believers that pivotal moment with death was swallowed up in victory!  It is the very foundation of our faith, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

However your church or your family celebrates Easter, this time of year is the perfect time to tell your kids THE STORY of all stories.  The great story of Scripture, God’s Great Rescue Plan! 

A couple of years ago, I shared the following message with our families in church but there is no reason you can’t do the same in your home.  Invite your kids into the greatest story of all times and let them be drawn into the wonder and mystery that is our faith.

“The Story”

Props: 2 red hearts, one black lightening bolt, one brown cross.  (I cut mine out of construction paper)photo

Gather your family together and pick one parent to be the story teller.  Everyone else will help with the props.

Okay you guys, I need your help today to tell a story. And this isn’t just any story; this is THE STORY. The story of all time! And you get to be a part of it!! So, who wants to be my first helper?

(Choose child to hold Red Heart)

All great stories have a great first line. Usually we say “Once upon a time” but… How about we start it this way… In the beginning, God created… EVERYTHING! He created the earth and the sky, the bugs and the fish, the trees and the flowers, and then he created us. And when he did, he looked at us and said, “Man (because there was only a man at first) I love you!” And Man looked at God and said, “God, I love you too!” And everything was perfect.

(Choose child to hold Black Lightening Bolt)

Then one day, something terrible happened. Everything was perfect. God loved Man and Man loved God and all was well until… Well, as you know, every story has to have an evil villain so we are going to call our evil villain.. SIN. (refer to black lighting bolt).   Sin snuck right into that perfect world, being the sneaky villain that it is and it BAM! Came right between God and Man!! God still loved man very much but man choose Sin over God. Things were not perfect any more. It was a very sad time. Man was sad and started doing sad things, more and more sad things, and SIN kept pushing Man further and further away from God.

But God… he’s the good guy in our story… God still loved Man very much. He knew that Sin was out there trying to steal Man’s love and even before Man had chosen Sin, God had a plan in place to bring Man back to Him. God did something absolutely amazing, like a total SUPERHERO move!

(Choose child to hold Brown Cross)

God did an amazing thing. He decided to leave His place in heaven where he was safe and come to earth as a Man, and Man called Jesus, and fight the evil villain. It was an epic battle.   Jesus told the villain he couldn’t’ win, that he would defeat him, and Sin fought by telling Man to do evil things until one day, one very sad day, Man put Jesus on the cross because of Sin. Man killed Jesus. It seemed like all hope was lost.

Now, we’ve watched some great Superhero shows right?   Those shows, they are basically getting their story line from THE STORY, so you probably know what’s going to happen. Because in those movies, when the superhero looks totally defeated by the villain, what happens? (Kids might say things like the superhero comes back to life, or gets stronger, or beats the bad guy)

That’s right!! Sin isn’t strong enough to beat Jesus. Just when we think all hope is lost TA-DA, the grave opens and JESUS ISN’T THERE because He is Risen!! Sin is defeated!!!! God Wins!!!  Oh, wait, but what about Man?

(Choose child to hold Red Heart)

Because Jesus beat Sin on the Cross, Man has an amazing opportunity. If we want to, we can have that perfect love relationship with God again. Sin cannot stop us from loving God and it could never stop God from loving us. We can go to God anytime we want because of Jesus’ victory on the cross and say, “God, I choose to love you and hate Sin. Jesus, you’re my superhero!”

(Have the kids lay all the signs out on the floor in a row)

Now, you may ask, why I told this story today. Because right now, on Palm Sunday, we are right in the middle of the story. We are right here.

(Point between lightening bolt and cross)

This week we will remember the moments that led up to Jesus being put on the cross by Man because of Sin. We will remember some sad things. On Maundy Thursday, we will remember the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples. On Good Friday, we will remember Jesus dying on the cross. I don’t know about you guys but I always cry at that part in superheroes, you know, when the superhero gets hurt and you wonder if He’s going to be okay. And I will probably cry this week too as we get to that part of our story.

BUT… and this is so important

Next Sunday we will celebrate the BIGGEST SUPERHERO VICTOR OF ALL TIME!! Next Sunday we will remember that SIN was defeated! That our HERO came back to life and SAVED the DAY! And that we can be in the perfect love relationship with God again.

So this week , as you go about your days and you think about the Story, take time to remember. You might even cry. But know this, The Story doesn’t end in sadness. It ends with a LOVE SO BIG it wins every time! And you get to be a part of that story!!

This story may spark some great conversation in your home.  You might want to prepare ahead of time to answer questions about how they can choose that perfect love relationship with God, what is Sin, and other questions about salvation and God’s love.  The Story provides the perfect way to get into some amazing conversations with your kids and Holy Week is a great place to springboard those Faith Talks!

Many blessings to all of you as you prepare to celebrate with one another and the entire Body of Christ!

(This article originally appeared on March 27, 2015 on this blog)


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

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