When Hearts Break

Friends, this has been a hard week for our family, our church family, and our community. We’ve had to face deep sadness. We’ve had to look death in the face. We’ve experienced gut-wrenching hurt and watch those we love experience the deepest pain.

In all of that, we’ve also seen God’s hand of grace through the body of Christ. I’ve watched as people have gathered around a hurting family with respect, honor, and love, being the hands and feet of Christ. Praying together for them, loving them in practical and meaningful ways.

These words I wrote last year have taken on new life and meaning for me. Perhaps if you find yourself in a place where you need to answer hard questions that children might ask, they can help you too.

We can’t let the sadness of the moments and our own confusion and doubt keep us from fully engaging with our kids.  To brush them off in this moment will leave them hurting and wondering, having to sort through on their own the fears and worries they can’t understand.  In these moments, we must take the time away from distraction to look them in the eyes, answer their hard questions as best we can, and gently lead them to the heart of Christ through prayer and love.

What can we as adults do when the questions come?

1. Process with them – There may be a lot of questions, there may be only one.  They may just want to talk.  Let them download on you rather than keep it inside.  In their innocence, it may appear as though these things aren’t affecting them deeply so you may want to brush over it and “not make a big deal about it.”  My heart in this is – it’s worth making a big deal about.  Give them the space to process with you and know that they are not alone. (For a more in-depth article on tips for taking with kids about death, click here)

2. Protect them – Kids are vulnerable to fears in ways adults aren’t because their minds don’t know how yet to separate reality from imagination.  When fear is made manifest, combat with with love.  The Bible says “Perfect love casts out fear.”  If need be, remind them of that favorite movie from last year where the heroine was defeated when fear ruled but victorious when love won (just don’t tell them to “Conceal don’t feel” – worst parenting advice ever)!  Be present with them and let them know they are safe with you and that no matter what, they are never alone.

3. Pray with them – Even if your conversation is only a few seconds long, don’t end it without saying, “Hey buddy, you know what, let’s pray for those people right now.”  Not only are you inviting God’s presence into the situation, you are teaching a valuable lesson about where to turn when life’s troubles come our way.  It will leave a lasting impression on their heart.

Friends, there are no easy answers.  When hearts are broken, we can only turn to one place for healing.  As we process the next few days and we consider our own hearts in these matters, let us model for our children what is is to be the Body of Christ.


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.

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One Day, Your Child Will Google You

My heart is heavy. This blog was never intended to be a place where I brought my personal concerns. Its intent from the beginning was to encourage the Church in its ministry to children, families and the corporate body and to help equip and resource parents/caregivers as they disciple their children at home. I never viewed it as a place to share my own opinions on society, politics, or world affairs.

But my worlds have collided.

Because, even as I have blogged about in the past, there is no neat and tidy division of sacred and secular, in spite of how we often live. There are no neat little lines that keep our spiritual walk from spilling over into our physical world. To the contrary, we are Christians, everywhere, all the time. As members of Christ’s body, as His ambassadors on earth, as His light in this world, His witness in the present, we don’t get to take time off, leave the calling at church, or decide we can take a break from being a believer. It just doesn’t work that way.

And because of that, and because my heart breaks for the generation that we are currently raising, and because I can no longer remain silent as I see what is happening on social media, on television, and in conversations, I feel I must share this simple reminder.

One day, your child will google you.

baby-84627_1920They will plug your name into a search engine and read what you have written, tweeted, blogged, and commented. Your “social” footprint will leave a legacy that they will one day find.  Mine will too. That’s a big reason why I am writing this today.

Because I want to be acutely aware of what I am leaving for them to find. I want to measure my words in a way that proclaims love and not hate, trust and not fear, grace and not judgment, hope and not despair. I want them to see that in times of uncertainty, I didn’t turn on my fellow man, but I loved that as God so loved the world and gave.

I’m not saying you have to agree with me politically or even socially. But if we are believers, Christians, disciples of Jesus Christ and the reflection of His love here on earth, than we do have to agree with Him.  Our lives should not be dualistic. It shouldn’t be difficult for others to see similarities between us and Jesus.

The same Jesus who said, “Love your enemy. Do good to those that hate you.” Or as The Message puts it…

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

The rhetoric I am hearing today from candidates like Donald Trump and leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr. does not sound like this. The hate-filled, fear-filled, shame-filled posts on social media do not sound like this. The cheering that takes place when things like waterboarding, torture, exile, killing, death and discrimination doesn’t sound like this. It doesn’t sound like this at all.

And while I am only adding my voice to the voice of many others who are denouncing the hateful words being said by leaders both in the church and outside of the church, I am choosing to add it for one main reason.

Because of my kids. Because they are watching.

Because one day, they will look me up to see what I did when these words of hate and fear were declared. Did I cheer?  Or did I mourn?  Did I shame others publicly? Or did I love others graciously?  Did I ridicule those I disagree with and make fun of them and belittle them in front of everyone or did I pray for them and honor them as those made in God’s image and loved by Him? Did I live out my God-created identity in a way that pointed everyone to Jesus?

I want to look back at what I have said, I have shared, and I have stood for and know that when my son or daughters read it one day, it will point them to Jesus. Let us not confuse pietism with patriotism; they are not the same. We are called to disciple the next generation in our faith, to create followers of Christ, not patriots of a country or cause.  What legacy are we leaving for them about what and who we are as believers?

As I shared in a blog post once before, we need to consider deeply what we say and do online.

Before we say, post, do, or act… let’s stop first and consider, “What am I teaching my child through this?”  And then react in the way you hope that they will react when they are faced with challenging and confusing situations.  Because they really are watching you and learning what it means to be a Christian in the everyday.


For more information about

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

About the author
Family(40).jpgChristina 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.

 

Beauty in the Broken

Every have one of “those” days?  Of course you have.  We all have.  Well, last year on this day, I had one of those days.  One of the days where the morning starts out on the wrong foot and from that point, recovery seems impossible.  On that day, I wrote this:

My daughter made Honors Chorus (yay) and today is their big day.

THIS MORNING WAS A DISASTER!
She didn’t lay out any of the things I told her to the night before. When I saw her outfit…oh my… she was wearing a fancy red shirt that was way too small, black pants that were too small and blue tennis shoes.
I told her there was “no way” she was leaving the house like that and to “go change” into her nicer shoes and clothes that fit. That led to a bout of complaining about how she can’t find her shoes, she lost the belt to the other pants, and oh, she couldn’t have her lunch in a regular lunch box (it had to be a paper bag) and her water bottle had to be something she could throw away (not the water bottle I had ready for her) and we needed to be at the school at by 7:45 not 8 am like I’d been told and her coat was missing and… you get the picture.
With no time to spare, we threw on a another shirt (that at least matched the tennis shoes), dumped her lunch into Walmart bag, gave her one of my old coats (which was way too big but whatever), poured the water into used empty water bottles (don’t judge.. I am ashamed), ran to the car and drove at speeds above the limits as I lectured her on why it’s important to keep her room clean and obey me so mornings like this don’t happen, etc, etc, etc.
We got to the school, tore out of the car, raced inside to find her teacher and then… for the first time that morning I really looked at my daughter.
Lord, forgive me (yes, I was crying as I wrote this). I saw before me a scared, nervous, fearful baby girl fifth grader about to leave me for the first time on an all day trip hours from our house to sing with 100 strangers for thousands more strangers (and she’s trying out for a solo) and as she walked away with her teacher looking back at me, my heart broke.
Why, oh why, didn’t I pray with her on the ride to school? Why didn’t I tell her how proud I was and how much I loved her and that everything was going to be all right? Why didn’t I hug her close and bless her like I do EVERY OTHER morning? Why didn’t I really see her until it was too late?
I sat in my office at work, tears streaming down my face. My mommy heart was breaking. Oh, I knew she’d be fine. She’s amazing. She was gonna rock. And I knew I’d see her that night, and hold her and tell her how sorry I was and how much I love her and how I know I messed up. And I knew we would both learn from this experience. But for the moment, all I could see is her big brown eyes, filled with trepidation and fear, screaming, “Mommy, don’t leave me! I need you!” and I walked away. And my heart was screaming, “What did I do? What did I do?”
So, have you ever had one of those days?

IMG_9602I felt broken… like a total failure at mommyhood.  And a family minister at a church?  Forget about it.  I cried through the morning.  I prayed through the day.  I waited for 8:30 pm when the concert would be over and I could wrap my arms around my precious child and say, “I’m so sorry!”  Imagine my relief when the young woman that met me that night was anything but sad. In fact, she was downright giddy.

She’d had a great day.  She was nervous yes, but she faced it and had fun.  She hung out with old friends and made some new friends.  She sang with 200 other kids from all over Kentucky and she beamed from the top row in her too short pants and her blue tennis shoes wearing the hot pink tee-shirt she’d been given by the school (she hates pink).
When I finally got a word in edgewise to say, “Hey, I’m sorry about this morning.  I messed up.  I should have prayed with you,”  her response was, “No, you were right.  I should have obeyed you and cleaned my room.”  Um, what?  Parenting win?  Lord, I’m confused.
And He said, “Do you truly think that your failure would keep me from doing My work in your daughter’s life or that her lack of obedience to you would keep me from doing My work in yours?  You both have room to grow and I will use you both to do My work.  Trust me.  I’m bigger than your mistakes.
Let Me do My thing in the middle of your mess because my best work comes in the form of redemption.”

As you know, if you’ve read this blog for any time at all, I have a genuine heart and I believe, call from God to serve in encouraging family ministry and discipleship in the home.  Over the past few years, I’ve watched the area of family ministry grow in popularity as studies have bolstered the need for the home to be the primary place of discipleship.  I have also seen fellow ministers and churches attempt to start family ministry and have it seemingly “not work” in their environment.

Because I firmly believe that the ideas that fuel family ministry are ordained by God, I also believe that family ministry not only can but absolutely should “work” in any church.  It is my hope that this blog will provide a place of support, equipping, resources and encouragement for churches who are embarking on the transitional journey from traditional age-segregated ministry to intergenerational family ministry.  I go into this knowing I will make mistakes.  I will fail at times.  But I am also learning that my God is bigger than my failures.  And my prayer is that He will use this blog/ministry as a place for others to come, to rest, to find hope and to keep moving forward in their own faith journey with Jesus.

As for my daughter.. a year later, we don’t really have the whole cleaning of the bedroom figured out yet and we’ve got fun new areas that we are growing in together, but God is with us…even on the days we are broken.  Beauty isn’t always found when everything is put together and perfect; beauty is often found in the everyday moments of normal life, in our imperfection and in our brokenness.


Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused, intergenerational ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge 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 ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.

You’re Not a Horrible Parent

And with the stroke of midnight and the turning back of the clocks…it happened. Somehow we magically moved into the mysterious time we call the “holiday season.”  In just three days my Facebook feed has lit up with posts about Christmas, posts against Christmas, and posts pitting Thanksgiving and Christmas against each other. Christmas music has started playing on the radio and Thanksgiving turkeys are starting to show up in grocery stores.  The whirlwind begins.

Keep in mind, dear friends, that I LOVE the whirlwind. I embrace it like a moth to a flame. The busy isn’t busy to me – it’s rich and full and bursting with life. Time with friends and family becomes the essential instead of the extracurricular and food, fun, and fellowship the norm rather than the exception.

But the is also the time of year where I see Stress get a capital-S. Because while all those things above happen, so does all the other stuff that goes on year-round. It’s not like we hit the pause button on life so that we can celebrate; instead the celebration gets piled on already busy, stressed-out lives.

A recent study by Pew Research has found that in nearly half of two-parent homes, both parents work full-time.

pewresearchHow does that affect the family?  The same research found that:

  • Of full-time working parents, 39 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers say they feel as if they spend too little time with their children.
  • 59% percent of full-time working mothers say they don’t have enough leisure time, and more than half of working fathers say the same.
  • 56% percent of all working parents say the balancing act is difficult, and those who do are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful, and less likely to find it always enjoyable and rewarding

One mother interviewed by the New York Times said this, “You basically just always feel like you’re doing a horrible job at everything. You’re not spending as much time with your baby as you want, you’re not doing the job you want to be doing at work, you’re not seeing your friends hardly ever.”

When we add in the holidays, and all the stuff I mentioned that I love, on top of this…for many it is overwhelming.

And then, if we add in on top of that the calling for parents to intentionally lead and disciple their kids at home, using this time of year to teach them about gratitude, serving others, compassion, self-sacrifice, and giving through things like serving at a mission or participating in a food drive or giving up presents…for many, it feels impossible.

stressholiday

Parents, may I encourage you?  

For a brief moment, before we are rushed headlong into this season, can I give you this small respite of grace?

You don’t have to do it all.

You don’t have to do it perfectly.

You don’t have to make all the best choices, provide the best experiences, or present the best opportunities.

(deep breath)

But, if you can step back and before it all starts simply say, “Jesus, this year, with our family and our children, show us how to invite you into our everyday holiday season. In what we are already doing, show us how to have You be a part of it.  Be present in our presence;” if you can do that, my bet is at least part of the weight will lift from your shoulders.

Some simple ideas, using those everyday moments from Deuteronomy 6:7 “when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” could transform your holiday season without you feeling like you do a “horrible job” at everything.  Things like…

When you sit at home:  Doing a Thankful Pumpkin at dinner (see “how to” here), Watching a Christmas movie and looking for Jesus in it (see ideas for movie night discussion here), Wrapping gifts for family members and praying for each one while you do. 

When you walk along the road:  Listening to Christian Christmas Carols and asking what part of the Christmas story it was about, Looking at Christmas lights and talking about how Jesus is our Light (check out this Christmas lights scavenger hunt if you have a long drive), Handing out Blessings Bags to those in need. 

When you lie down:  Create a wall of blessing that you add to each night at bedtime (just tack up a piece of posterboard and let kids decorate with stickers, pictures, etc. and list the year’s blessings, one each night/week), Start reading the Christmas story on December 1 until Christmas Day, Add one ornament each Saturday night to the tree that has special meaning to your family.

When you rise: Use an Advent Calendar and open a door each morning before the day starts, Pray together for everyone you sent Christmas cards to (one person or family per morning/week), Put Christmas cards in your kids backpacks (you can get packs for $1 at Dollar Tree) with notes of blessing for them all season long. 

(Want more ideas: Click here)

The reality is that the holidays are coming, will come, and will pass. Memories will be made. Life will happen. What January looks like for your family will in some way be dependent on what November and December looked like as they passed.

Don’t allow stress and shame steal the joy and opportunity of the season.

Realistically, no family can do it all. But realistically, we can all do something.

If we are unable to do “the big things,” let’s invite Jesus into all the little things and embrace the celebration for His sake.  It will look different for each home, as it should. But in each home, Christ desires to be the respite, the rest, the peace no matter what season it is.


For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused, intergenerational ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge 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 ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.

The Shameful Art of Public Shaming

I’m not sure when public shaming became the new vogue passive-aggressive way to express to others one’s disapproval of who they are, how they act, or what they do but it has. I don’t care if you are scrolling through Facebook, glancing through Twitter, or listening to a PRESIDENTIAL (come on folks…really!?) debate, public shaming is the new “thumbs down” from society.

Reteengirlscently, I saw a picture posted of a few teen girls who were taking selfies in the bleachers at a baseball game, with captions that ranged from “Is this what society has become?” to “Why even bother coming to the game? All you care about is yourself!”  Wide-sweeping judgment of these young ladies, who reminded me of my own daughters, spread like wildfire across the internet, earning them a place of “shame fame” (yes, that’s an actual term nowadays) and the public scorn of the social media world.

Of course, once the whole story came out, it was clear that we had overstepped a bit. In truth, the girls were participating in a selfie challenge hosted by the baseball game to win free tickets. In reality, they were only doing what EVERY SINGLE OTHER PERSON in the stadium was doing in that moment. And these young ladies showed their huber by using their “shame fame” to raise awareness about domestic abuse and donated their free tickets to a domestic abuse shelter. But that story has received only minimal coverage while the original photo continues to be posted, and judged, and they continue to be publicly shamed.

So what do I mean by “public shaming?”  

To be clear, I’m not referring to sharing with others what personal beliefs about God, your political stances, or your concern for society, in a respectful and thoughtful manner that invites dialogue and further conversation. On the contrary, I think that is exactly what we should be teaching our children. It’s what I hope to accomplish when I blog, when I talk with others about my beliefs, and when I share an article or start a conversation on social media. That’s healthy interaction even if what you are saying is potentially controversial.

I’m talking about something far less inviting and far more harmful.

A photograph of a single moment with a caption loaded with accusation and disapproval of a generation or person with no regard to their entire being.

A meme maliciously making fun of a political party, a group of people, or a way of life with the intention of saying, “Look how wrong/stupid/ridiculous they are and how right/smart/perfect I (and others like me) are.”

Sweeping judgments made about entire societies, classes, races, and peer groups based on single observations or just something another person doesn’t like.

Mean-spirited in nature. Out to prove a point and walk away. Taking the art of bullying to a whole new level.

People’s lives have been ruined because of this; absolutely destroyed because of one mistake, thoughtless misstep, or simply doing something that someone else finds abhorrent or objectionable. And often, later, when the whole story comes out, we find out…oops, we were wrong. What was so self-righteously declared “wrong” was actually “right” or at least not wrong and those lives destroyed on social media, network media, and people media are forever ruined.

You know, Paul had his own public forum. In Acts 17, Paul sat in Athens, in the public square, under the shadow of the Parthenon, temple to the goddess Athena, surrounded by “a city that was full of idols,” in a place where “all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest idea.”

I cannot help but see the comparison to our social media platforms today. Is that not our public square, full of idols, where people spend their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest idea?

So we must ask, how does Paul act in this situation? As God’s messenger to the Gentiles, this was exactly the group he had been sent to with the gospel. Surely, he in this situation, he went in guns ablazing right?

Nope, not at all.

Paul was “greatly distressed,” but when he spoke to the people gathered there, he did so with utmost respect and in a conversational tone. He quoted their own authors, referred to their own gods, observed that they were “very religious” and invited them into a longer conversation. When the some in the crowd sneered at him, he didn’t lash out at them, but he left the public forum and continued speaking with those who wanted to hear more. Some of the people there ended up becoming believers; some did not.  Paul moved on to Corinth but left a legacy of Christianity that remains to this day.

Personally, I think we as Christians have a lot to learn from Paul in this instance.

What if we modeled this behavior for our children in the interactions we have in our public forum?

What if we observed people’s desire for “more” in this life and invited them into a conversation about where we have found it, instead of posting an article lambasting them for being wrong or a meme that passes judgement on them from afar?

What if we invited thoughtful discussion instead of public shaming?

And what if, instead of battling things out in 144 characters or less, we took the conversation to a new level of actual discourse and when some sneer, invite the ones who want to know more to continue the conversation in another arena?

I often share that as adults we must realize that everything we do, even the unintentional and accidental things, are teaching our children what are good, right, and normal ways of acting and interacting.

Social media has the potential to be a place of great discipleship for our children, a place where we can teach them respectful and generous ways of living out our faith.

One day, they will be our friends on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram, or join our circle on whatever new frontier of social media awaits. They will have access to all we’ve said, done, and posted.

Let’s be sure that what they see there will teach them to love God and love others.  Public shaming has no place in that way of life. Let’s disciple them well even before they get there. 


Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused, intergenerational ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge 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 ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.

Back to the Future (and by Future, I mean, Present)

It’s “Back to the Future” day!

backtofuturePictures of Deloreans and hoverboards and clocktowers are filling my Facebook feed. The police officers in Michigan had a good time with it, reporting that they pulled over a silver Delorean for going 88 mph in a 55 mph zone. Lots of people are wondering why we don’t have cars that fly or jackets that shrink or pizzas that rehydrate yet. Some seem legitimately disappointed that these things don’t exist yet; one man said he had waited his whole life since he watched the movie as a kid for this date so he could see all the cool stuff (smh).

Most of us just laugh, recognizing that this kind of imagination is just that…fantasy. For the few whose hopes were unrealistically raised, today is a disappointing day. The future is here…but it looks a lot like the present.

I cannot help but look at my kids and the kids at the church where I serve.  In a very real way, we are providing for them a “Back to the Future” moment each time we teach them, train them, disciple them in their growth as both humans and believers. I’ve heard it said that we are not raising kids; we are raising future adults.  That being said, I wonder what exactly it is we are raising them to.

Every apocalyptic movie I’ve watched over the past decade or two paints a pretty bleak picture of the future.  It’s always either dark and dusty or artificially bright and platinum.  Most people are dead or dying. Disease, war, and pollution have decimated the planet. It’s not a happy place (just check out the 2015 of Back to the Future II).

Not much hope to pass on to the next generation.

Tomorrowland, a movie released by Disney this summer, kinda said the same thing.  Check out this quote by Nix (the villian)

To save civilization, I would show its collapse. How do you think this vision was received? How do you think people responded to the prospect of imminent doom? They gobbled it up like a chocolate eclair! They didn’t fear their demise, they re-packaged it. It could be enjoyed as video-games, as TV shows, books, movies, the entire world wholeheartedly embraced the apocalypse and sprinting towards it with gleeful abandon. Meanwhile your earth was crumbling all around you….In every moment there’s the possibility of a better future, but you people won’t believe it.

Tomorrowland’s answer was a political and ecological one.  And while I am not opposed to these things, I don’t think it is the only answer.  The reality is that, yes, while bad things are happening, there are also good things, amazing things, miraculous things happening all around us. 

But those things don’t get play on media.  The feel-good movies don’t get the high ratings.  The positive stories don’t get headlines.

They are out there…but buried under piles of negativity.

That means, if we want your kids to see a future that’s not the only future being portrayed by the media and projected to them every single day…we’re gonna have to dig those things out and share them.

We are going to have to show them through our own lives and actions that however seemingly small the action or service is, it can make a difference.  We are going to have to tell them that there is more than one story of the future and assure them that what awaits them doesn’t have to be awful and they have a part to play in that. We are going to need to remind them that they have Jesus and his kingdom doesn’t fade, doesn’t rust, doesn’t end in ruin.  We are going to have to live like that kingdom is available for us “on earth as it is in heaven” as long as we are willing to be a part of it.

And then, when they get to their future, instead of being disappointed or disillusioned, they will simply be living into the reality of the present, being the hands and feet of God in this world, no matter what it looks like, and seeking to welcome God’s kingdom to earth through their very lives.

I’m not talking “pie in the sky” or “head in the sand” theology. I’m talking about the very real fact that God is present, always and forever, and we are never without hope of a better and brighter future because of Him.

This is what I shared a few months back in a blog entitled “Here’s What’s Wrong

But for me, I think I want to change the tone of the conversation.  Instead of starting with the “Here’s what’s wrong” routine, I think I want to start from the “Here’s what’s right” standpoint.  Instead of pointing fingers, I want to extend grace as it has been extended to me.  I want my kids to know what’s right in this world and that all hope is not lost because we serve a God of future and hope. 

Let’s get back to the future…the real future…and give our kids the tools to face whatever may come; good, bad, boring or exciting.  And, if flying cars and rehydrated pizzas are there…well, yay for them!


Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge 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 ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.

When Your Kids Cry: Practical Discipleship In Disappointment

I couldn’t really make out the conversation, but I could tell that something was going on, something…unpleasant.  Soon I heard sniffles and sobs, next stomping feet and then a door slamming.  I gave myself a quick “mom” pep talk (you know, the one that goes – You’re the big person, you’re the mom, you gotta handle this one...) and shot a quick prayer to heaven (you know, the one that goes – Please…help?) and headed in the direction of the tears.

As it turns out the offender in this case was my computer.  Not so much my computer as the spelling program running on it that she had to complete for school.  Not so much the spelling program as the voice inside her head telling her she was stupid because she couldn’t spell a particular word right.  And not so much the voice as the fact that she believed it.

Isn’t that the worst feeling, parents?

Hearing your child, who you love and you think is pretty great, believing that they are less than who you know they are? They didn’t make the team or their friends left them out or they didn’t pass the test and they start hearing that voice and believing it. And knowing that even if you speak truth in that moment, they will brush it off saying, “You have to say that; you’re my mom.”

Ugh.  I hate it.

I hate that the same internal voice I struggle with and the same lies I hear (and you hear), that voice that preys on my inadequacies and exploits my weaknesses and accentuates my flaws, is now talking to my beautiful, frustrated daughter.  It makes me angry and sad and feeling helpless all at once.

So what are we to do?

And how in these very difficult moments can we disciple our kids in truth?

Here’s some advice I’ve been given from those who have come before me; simple ways to invite Jesus into the moments where hurt is raw and real and anxious thoughts threaten to overwhelm their tiny hearts.

Love them

mom-comforting-childJust love them.  Don’t try to fix it. Don’t try to argue with it.  Just pick them up and love them. Be Jesus to them – the Jesus who says, “Come to me and I will give you rest.”

One thing that has really helped me with this is understanding my children’s love languages. For this one, touch is her love language.  As big as she is, nothing makes life better than to curl up on Mommy’s lap, lay her head on my chest and I stroke her hair and just snuggle.  It’s not as cute and comfortable as it was years ago, but that moment of touch is more healing and more soothing to her soul than all the words in the world.

For more information on discovering your child’s love language, check out Love Language profiles from Gary Chapman here

Speak truth

Speak truth and life to them throughout their days so that when you speak into the moment, it carries more weight. The best way to combat a lie is with the truth, but often when we are feeling overwhelmed and anxious, the truth seems more mocking than comforting.  But if throughout the day we are consistently affirming and calling out our kids’ giftings and uniqueness, they will have more tools in their arsenal to defend themselves against the lies.

This idea of speaking life into your child and helping them see their identity in Christ isn’t a once-and-done deal.  This article from Focus on the Family gives great practical activities for each age level to help you talk to your child about how God made them unique and special, and open the door for deeper conversations as they grow.

Watch yourself

What words are coming out of your mouth about…yourself?  Do you talk down about yourself in front of your kids?  Is negative self-talk a regular occurrence in your own life?

Look, I’m going to be totally transparent here and say, yes, this is a struggle for me.  And my sensitive child hears it even when I don’t.  She points it out and tells me not to say that because it hurts her.  Why then am I surprised when she reacts in the same way when she is struggling?  Discipleship happens, all the time, even when we are not being intentional about it… so, watch yourself, and don’t allow those lies to define you either. Speak the truth in love, even to yourself.

I read this blog post once about a typo, and it really spoke to me personally about negative self-talk and personal condemnation. It’s fun, like the author, but it drives home a good point if this is something you struggle with. 

Tonight, as I snuggled with my daughter, I could feel her relax against me. She was content to just be; safe in her mom’s arms and at peace.  I told her how Paul in the Bible said that when we were anxious, we should talk to God about it, with thankfulness for the good things we have and with honesty in asking for his help.  So we did, together.  She was thankful for friends. She asked for help with spelling. I was thankful grace and asked for help with parenting.  We invited Jesus into our moment and He came with his peace.

Discipleship at home doesn’t always look like dinner conversations and intentional talks and God-moments captured.

Sometimes it looks like snuggle time on the couch after tears have worn us out and hearts have been a little broken.  

But those times are just as formational in teaching our children about who this God is that loves us unconditionally, creates us with purpose, and calls us His own.

Invite Him into every space and welcome Him into your everyday.

Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge 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 ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.

God is Not Bored with You

“Do it again!”

The cry of every child who sees a funny faces, watches a “magic” trick, listens to a silly voice, snuggles with mommy, plays with daddy, swings with grandma, and rides a bike with grandpa.  I can’t tell you how many times we watched the same episode of Dora with our middle child or read the same book with our oldest.  Just this morning, my youngest son and I built the same Lego structure for the same Hotwheels cars to race all over in the same pattern we did yesterday.

boys-286179_1280Tell me you understand this weariness.

I love my kids, but I should not be able to quote every line of Dora’s exciting plan to find Grandma’s house or Dr. Suess description of uniquely colored food.  And as much as I love cars…  Well, you get the picture.

It gets old.  It gets monotonous.  It’s…boring.

But yesterday I read a thought from G. K. Chesterton, celebrated theologian, author, and philosopher of the 20th century, that changed my perception of this repetition forever. His words challenged me to look at God, my kids, and eternity in a whole new light and consider my own walk of faith.  He writes:

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. (AMEN!)

For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. (Oh…)

It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. (...Wow…)

For me, this one of of those #mindblown moments…

The words forced me to look back on those times that had so bored my grown-up mind and think about my kids…and yes, sure enough, each repetitious moment, each repeated action, brought the same reaction – the joy of seeing it and hearing for the very first time.

There was no boredom. There was only genuine delight.

We are told in Scripture to have faith like a child.  Jesus surrounded himself with children.  I can’t help but imagine in those moments where He was healing people, the children laughing in delight and saying, “Do it again Jesus!” And I can’t help but imagine Jesus’ pleasure at hearing this.

And I can’t help but think…wouldn’t He like to hear that again, from His children?

Perhaps you’ve grown weary in this calling, as a parent or minister or both? But you can remember a day when the call was new and His Spirit was fresh and you were filled and flowing over.

Do it again, Lord.

Perhaps you have seen your church, your family, racked with pain or sorrow, fear or hurt, worry or dismay, but you can remember times where God’s presence was tangible and His comfort near and His love over all.

Do it again, Lord.

Maybe you remember the excitement of your first commitment to follow Christ and the fellowship you had with God and others, but your love has grown cold and friendships grown old and you have lost your first love.

Do it again, Lord.

And maybe, you’ve experienced healing, seen revival, led others to Christ, lived intentionally in your home, or loved intentionally in your community but are in a dry place without vision.

Do it again, Lord.

God isn’t bored with you.

Each outpouring of love, each song of praise, each whispered prayer, and each step of faith for Him is as new and fresh as the one before and the one to come.

My mom tells a story of me as a child, waking up from a nap and telling her that “Jesus is ‘cited about us, but we aren’t ‘cited about Him.”  Maybe that childlike faith was speaking the truth of eternity; that God is new and fresh and excited and ready to “do it again” if only we ask.

If you find yourself in a weary place, a dry place, a lonely place, maybe it’s time to exercise that “faith like a child” and look up to your Father and say… “Do it again.”

He delights in His creation. He says “It is good!”  And He delights in us.  He rejoices over us with dancing.  He is NOT bored. “For we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

So…

Do it again, Lord.  Show your glory in this generation.

Let us be the ones who are excited about you. Amen – so be it!


Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge 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 ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.

What Welcome Looks Like: What the Church can Learn from Germany

If you’ve been on social media at all today, you’ve probably seen it.  Within a few short hours of its release, millions watched the video documenting Germany’s welcome of Syrian refugees into their homeland.  Hundreds gathered with signs and banners, singing “Say it loud, say it clear: Refugees are welcome here!” to a crowd of weary, worn people who for the last few months haven’t been welcome anywhere.  As they stepped from the train, they were not met with blank stares or words of frustration, but with cheers and applause and a genuine welcome.

Tears couldn’t help but stream from my face, as I’m guessing they did for so many.

 And I couldn’t help but think, “Now that…that is a welcome.”

I’ve written many times about including children in our corporate worship, creating space for youth to serve in our churches, and welcoming the younger generations into our community of faith.  Of all the blogs I’ve written, these topics seem to strike the deepest chord with parents and ministers alike and more often than not, I get the question, “How?”

I’ve always heard this question as more of a “How to?” and have offered suggestions on ways that church can do that.  But, this morning as I watched these German citizens welcome “the least of these” to their country, I heard the question in a new light…because, my friends, that. is. how.

Without reluctance, but with great joy.germanwelcome

Without frustration, but with cheers and applause.

Without hesitation, but with open arms.

Because for all the practical ideas that can be incorporated into a church, if the heart is not one of welcome, then there is no welcome.  A bag of crayons and a paper to color carry little weight if not accompanied by a heart that says, “We want you here.” A bulletin insert or a children’s moment in the service have little meaning if it’s just a concession made or a tradition upheld.  These things, which are good, do not signal welcome and do not create relationship or foster community.

They are just things.

But names beings spoken.  Hugs being given.  Words like, “I’m so glad you are here” and “We need you” and “We are excited that you are worshiping with us today” spoken in the midst of great need to a group of people that are often pushed aside, disregarded, and unwelcome…those are not things; those are open arms and cheers and applause and joy and welcome.

I’m not saying that every time a child or youth walks through our church doors we need to bust out signs and sing songs of welcome (although – wow – wouldn’t that be cool?) but I am saying that our hearts need to be doing that so our actions demonstrate it.

Because of all the places in this whole world that children and youth should feel like they belong, shouldn’t it be the church?  Instead of walking away and saying, “I don’t belong there” as so many millennials have, shouldn’t they know that is where they belong most?

Our welcome should not be our last line of defense against them being a distraction but rather our first line of defense against a world that wants to capture their hearts.

Our place should be THE place they run to knowing our arms are open and our space is theirs.

It should be as if we are welcoming Christ, and indeed the Father, himself into our space.

Or as Jesus put it, “Whoever welcomes a child like this one, welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me, does not welcome Me only, but the One who sent Me.” (Mark 9:37)

Our hearts should leap within us when we see a child coming into a place of worship.  Our arms should open wide to embrace them and incorporate them into who we are.  Church, we should be singing, “Say it loud, Say it clear: Children and Youth are welcome here!”

Because that…that is welcome.


Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge 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 ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.

One of “Those” Days

Tonight was one of “those” nights.  I’m sure your family has them too.  Nights where you are so tired that even the niceties of normal life seem arduous and exhausting.  As we gathered around the dinner table and began our suppertime ritual, I mustered up the words, “So, everyone, what was your high today?”

I was met with a collective groan.

Yup, that’s right.  A groan.  No matter that mom is a blogger for family ministry.  asleepatdinnerNo matter that discipleship in the home is her favorite battlecry.  No matter that dinners together top her list of important times for Faith Talks and God Moments.  Tonight, even the thought of trying to find those “highs and lows” to spark on conversation felt like a chore.

And so…we didn’t do it.

We didn’t ask the questions.  We didn’t have the conversation.

We didn’t do it “right”.

We actually ended up laughing over some ridiculous thing someone said and discussed how good the grilled chicken was and quibbled over whose turn it was to do the dishes and then went our separate ways with nary an intentional word about God or church or the Bible or any of that important stuff I’m always encouraging you to do.

I’m sharing all this because I want you to know that I am not some parenting-genius extraordinaire.  Far from it.  If you don’t believe me, ask my kids.

As much as I love and celebrate intergenerational worship, yesterday, I left my kids home for our church’s praise and prayer night.

The other day, I definitely did not remember to pray for my kids before sending them off to school because the morning was, well, one of “those” mornings.

Oh, friends, as much as I want to be intentional in my parenting, sometimes I’m more accidental.

Sometimes, life crowds out the best of intentions and I’m left thinking, “Hmm, really missed the mark on that one.”  But I was reminded this week about a few crucial things; things that when I consider the larger scope of life take on a much more significant role than my frequent missteps.

Keeping Christ at the center is important, but letting Him infiltrate everything is life-changing.

I heard at least three sermons this week on keeping Christ at that center.  And I affirm every one of them.  But Christ needs to be more than just the center of our lives and our home; He needs to permeate every space, even the tired, weary, exhausted space.

The reality is, our spirit may be willing when it comes to intentional parenting, but our flesh may be weak sometimes.  But if Christ is in each space, even in the tired moments, his Spirit of peace and rest can be found.  That may mean you forego some things, but it doesn’t mean you neglect Jesus.

Welcoming Jesus into your home, doesn’t necessarily mean He’s welcome in your everyday.

We’ve all heard the story of Mary and Martha.  Martha invites Jesus into her home but is too busy and distracted by so many things, that she doesn’t even spend any time with him. Meanwhile her sister is hanging on His every word, spending time with their guest and learning from His teachings.  Martha gets irritated by this and offhandedly mentions it to Jesus (ahem) and Jesus gently shares with her that Mary has chosen wisely and He won’t take that away from her.

Here’s the difference – Martha invited Jesus into her house; Mary invited Jesus into her life.  We can do the same.  We can “Christianize” our home, monitor our media, prominently display Scriptures and Bibles, and welcome Jesus into our house.

But He wants more.

He wants welcomed into the nitty gritty of the every day. He wants to be there when we are too tired to talk and when we are too sad to laugh.  He wants us to be with Him and He wants to be with us.

It’s more than just welcoming Him to a space.  We need to welcome Him into every area of our life.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Learn from the journey.

Let’s be realistic.  This day, tonight’s “less-than-intentional” dinner conversation and that morning when I forgot to pray and that church service that my kids missed…those things are not going to make-or-break us.  They’re just not. My kids aren’t going to look back and say, “Yeah but that one time you forgot to pray…that was what did me in.”

The journey is a lot longer than a day.

Give yourself some grace and grasp the opportunity tomorrow.

If you read this blog at all, you know I am passionate about parents discipling their kids in the faith and kids learning to worship in the larger community.  And it’s not because I am an expert in the field.  I’m still learning too. It’s because I am convinced that the result of those things done with intention and purpose will leave lasting impressions on our kids of God’s love. 

But I’m also passionate about this: God is bigger than our moments, stronger than our greatest weakness, and more gracious than we could ever deserve…and He loves our kids even more than we do.

So when we have one of “those” nights or “those” mornings or even “those” days, we can lean into Him and know, He’s got this.

Rest in His grace.  And trust in His love.


Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge 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 ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.