Sell All

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Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” Matthew 19:21-22

 “Sell all.”

The immensity of that two-word phrase has been rolling around in my head and weighing heavily on my heart for several weeks now. Maybe that’s why I’ve been silent here for so long.

Lately, I’ve been taking a very serious, in-depth look at my Christianity. I hope to share more of this with you as time and the Holy Spirit allow, but for the last four to six months, I’ve been examining every part of what I believe and assessing why I believe it.  I want to be sure that all of it is in Scripture; that all of it is well pleasing to the Lord.  I must be certain that my life is lining up to His Word, and I deeply feel the urgency of this.

Why? Because at the end of the day (that Great and Final Day), the only thing that will matter is whether I was faithful to the Lord.  Whether I was obedient to His Word. All of it. Even those parts that are hard or uncomfortable; those that may be unpopular, and even cause people to question my rationality. The Lord has been faithfully reminding me that His earliest followers did the things that were hard; sacrificed their comfort (and often their lives) for the sake of the Gospel. They were considered, by most, extreme; by many, crazy, and by others, rebellious.

“Rebellious.” That is the word that I have struggled with the most. I desire deeply that people know that my intentions are pure. I have come to accept, however, that some may not, and I am resolved to be OK with that.  Rebellion is something that is addressed very strongly in the Bible.  It is condemned on the same level as witchcraft. When I consider this, though, I know that following Jesus, taking Him at His word, and putting those words into practice is the exact opposite of rebellion.  The world’s perception is upside down, and let’s face it – the more like Jesus we become, the less the world at large will like us. But it’s not just the world. Even the modern Pharisees, (those who are more worried about the “traditions of their fathers” than obedience to the Word of God,) will hate us! Perhaps, as in Jesus’ experience, even more than the unbelieving world. They may try to discredit us, defame us, question our character and sincerity, or even destroy us.

Shane has been going through a similar journey, and when he brought this Scripture to me, and spoke the words, “sell all,” I  must admit that the words that I desperately wanted to speak were: Please! No!”

I have read the story of the “rich young ruler” many times. I have heard those words of Jesus recounted to me by preachers, Sunday school teachers, and my parents since I was in pigtails. Just about every time that I considered his reaction to the Savior, I would think, How sad! Or He could have followed Jesus! He gave him a personal invitation to come with Him! And He was righteous, but got hung up on his STUFF! What a fool he was!

This time, however (rather than hurl accusations at a Bible page), I was compelled to ask myself a few questions.

”Am I really so different? What would I have done differently, in the same situation?  How might I have responded to Jesus?”

But, these hypothetical questions are just that…hypothetical. They don’t give me a real picture of where I am. So I must ask myself another question: “How have I responded to Jesus?”

Many of us have been taught to expect the blessing of the Lord when we are following Him, and we can! But what exactly does the blessing of the Lord look like? Is it material?  Can I hold it in my hands? Is it a large bank balance? Are riches really even a blessing at all? What if Jesus looked you in the eye and told you that YOU needed to sell YOUR house, car, stuff, to inherit the Kingdom of God? Would you do it?

That is the exact crisis we have been facing.

But…that’s missionary level stuff, right? That’s pretty radical. Do I really need to go that far?  When I am honest with myself and read the Great Commission, that is exactly what Jesus calls His followers to – missionary level.

In Mark 16:15, Jesus says, “Go YE into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.(emphasis mine)

Yes, there is work for me to do here, but am I treating the place that I live as a true mission field? Or is it too easy to think that my children are my only ministry and to be satisfied with that? Do I wake every day thinking about the needs of the people in my neighborhood? Am I asking myself how I can minister the love of Jesus to my community?

What about that homeless person on the corner? Am I guilty of the words and inaction of James 2:16?

“Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”

In a word…yes. 

True, I no longer drive past these people that Jesus loves without looking them in the eye, but, am I giving them an empty “God bless you,” or “God loves you,” and neglecting to put shoes on their feet or food in their mouths? Have I taken the time to actually get to know these that God has fearfully and wonderfully made? Will I ask them for their name, and tell them mine?

What about the widow I know? Do I consider her loneliness and call her? Am I making her a meal or cleaning her house when she can’t? Am I helping her with errands?

What about the orphan and the fatherless? Will I give them what they need? Do I invite them, not just to Sunday school, but into our home to play with our kids and to have a meal when they would otherwise be alone? When they come over at an inconvenient or difficult time for me, do I turn them away with my words and expressions, or do I joyfully invite them in anyway?

Friends, the Lord has really nailed me on this one. Because we have literally adopted three of the fatherless, I thought I was OK. But there are so many kiddos that my kids come into contact with that are practically orphaned. Even if they live in the same home with a living parent, many of these need an adult in their lives that are invested in them, who will welcome them, stand by them and show them the love of an eternal Father.

Do I make this life of serving Jesus look appealing or like a real drag? Do I have a smile on my face? Am I kind to the checker in the grocery store? Am I in such a hurry that I get irritated when someone’s debit or EBT, or WIC card won’t work in the line? Am I reacting in a godly way when someone cuts me off in traffic? Do my neighbors see me smiling and waving or do I have a furrowed brow? When people sell door to door, do I listen to them because they’re PEOPLE? Or do I shut them down because I don’t have time?

Every one of these questions are ones I have been asking myself lately. And I feel like I have been “weighed in the balances and am found wanting.” That may sound extreme, as those of you who have read Daniel know that Belshazzar ended up dying in condemnation when that phrase was spoken to him. But if I refuse to do the things that Jesus commands in Matthew 25, here lies the true rebellion that I should fear. If I rebel against these things, I will face the separation of the sheep and the goats based on my apathy toward the “least of these, my brethren”. Am I giving a cup of cool water? Feeding the hungry? Clothing the naked? Visiting the sick and imprisoned?

What if the biggest reason that salvation looks so empty and void to the world is that they don’t see these things in ME?

God forbid.

So, dear Mama Friends, I now relay the invitation that Jesus gave to the rich young ruler; that He has given to me; that He has given to you.

I am not Nehemiah Mama. We are Nehemiah Mamas, as we do our part where we are.  I ask you to walk this road with me, and as I share with you my challenges, successes and failures, I ask you to do the same.

I am truly excited to see where Jesus leads us as we follow Him closely; as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus, together!

 

Blessings and much love,

Mama

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Why I Kicked Chick Flicks and Classic Movies To the Curb

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“I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” ~Psalm 101:3

For some reason, I was alone in the bedroom folding laundry. Either Shane took over watching the kiddos in the living room, or actually took them out somewhere. I can’t remember. But I decided this was a great opportunity to watch a classic movie on Netflix. “Touch of Mink”…I don’t think I’ve ever seen that one…Doris Day, Cary Grant? Ah…Perfect.

OK, so before you read any further, if Touch of Mink is your favorite movie, #sorrynotsorry for the rest of this post. My soul was grieved by what I watched. I simply cannot be silent about what I saw.

It started out OK, I guess. But less than ten minutes into this movie, it was clear that there was a problem.

“Oh, that blonde, ditzy Doris Day character, she’s so pretty and dumb, it’s only a matter of time before she gets raped.” Uttered by her best friend. Not even kidding. No, that’s not a direct quote…but creepily close. When she finally gets hooked by the almost predatory creep played by Cary Grant, who happens to be rich and thinks he can buy people, he proceeds to buy her glamorous clothes, (his limo had splashed mud on her dry-clean only outfit),  and then takes her on a series of out-of-town trips to “make it up to her”, where it becomes all too clear that he will expect “payment” of a different kind for his generosity. Are you catching this? He tried to buy her. Like a prostitute. One such out-of-town trip, she, being an innocent virgin, breaks out in hives in fear of what was expected of her and a doctor was called.

Haha. So funny. Is it really?

At that point, I was so sick to my stomach that I couldn’t finish watching the movie. That evening I remember distinctly feeling utterly betrayed. Cary Grant, an actor I had grown up loving and adoring was playing a certifiable jerk. Doris Day, who I had always viewed as beautiful and wholesome, was making both attributes appear naive, foolish and nothing but a trap. Yes, they were just actors. But they chose these roles for whatever reason. And we came to see. In droves. “Touch of Mink” is a classic. And we have made it so.

Because I didn’t finish the movie, I had to look up how the movie ended so that I could post this. According to what I could find, in the end, she “finagles” a proposal out of him and everyone lives  “happily ever after.” But is it not disturbing that she sought a proposal from someone who thought he could buy her?

And in true Hollywood style, she was made out to be the heroine who tamed the wild, handsome, ignorant womanizer. What a prize he was.

Now let me say that this review has been burning in my chest since before Christmas. It was here in my soul to share LONG before the Women’s Marches, so please don’t misconstrue this as a response to them. It is simply not.

But we have a serious problem. The disease of hatred and sexism we are experiencing in this current age is a precipitation of something that started many, many years ago. And it’s not just a conspiracy. It was an agenda. Make no mistake.

Have you ever heard of Hegelian dialectic? You can look it up, but it’s essentially this: A fake problem is created, you are then accused of being the cause of that problem, and then the one who made it up in the first place poises themselves as the solution to your problem.

Abusers use this method all the time.

Hollywood has artfully and painstakingly proposed its own philosophy, manufactured a conflict surrounding it, making us the “unenlightened,  uneducated, prejudiced, bigoted, etc., etc., etc….problem” and then has proposed itself as the solution…a way to redeem ourselves. It has set itself up as a religion all its own.

My friends, we are in an abusive relationship with Hollywood.

In the 50’s and early 60’s, feminism presented us as the heroes. Women were the angels that men, who were really animals, needed in order to be tamed.

In the late 60’s through the 80’s, it presented us as the oppressed. Men were evil. They created the bras that we must burn. “Women need men like fish need bicycles…” Remember that Gloria Steinem quote?

From the 90’s through the present, Hollywood has presented itself as the solution to our problem. We can speak of our oppression through the art of film and music. Movies, award shows, TV shows and entire stations are now dedicated to “self-awareness” and to freeing women from the slave bonds of men.

Men have been vilified and stupefied. Dump him… Leave him… He doesn’t deserve you… He doesn’t love you… He’s so stupid, he can’t clean, shop, cook or take care of your kids. That’s right. The children have his DNA, too, but they’re exclusively yours. You don’t need him to help you raise them. He shouldn’t even get to decide if you keep them. You are the strong one. He is the weak one. Why bother with him at all? Who needs him?

We have been told that we are objects that are constantly being judged for our bodies, our skin tone, our weight, our job, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum. And you know whose fault it is? The MAN. We’re better off without him. We don’t need him. All we need is chocolate, coffee, a sexy dress that makes us feel beautiful, the right make-up, the right movie, the right food…Good thing those things are available for us to consume.

Sound familiar? Now I ask you, who is the real oppressor? 

The sickening thing is that the “classic” I watched could have been made last year. Feminism hasn’t improved any of this. Don’t believe me? Think about the movies that have come out in the last twelve months. The TV shows. Watch the commercials.

It’s sick. It’s twisted. It’s trashy.

It’s time to recognize that we’ve been in an abusive relationship for nearly 75 years. It’s time to break-up with Hollywood. And get a restraining order. And MOVE ON.

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

*images OK’d for re-use

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Family Priorities

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Happy New Year, Dear Friends!!

2016 was a good year for the our family. Shane and I celebrated our 15th Anniversary, and got away alone not once, but TWICE in one year…which we haven’t done since we got the kiddos. And it was amazing.

We successfully potty-trained a toddler.

All three kiddos got back into therapy with a wonderful Christian counselor and many difficult issues have been improved or altogether reversed.

Both boys went back to Dallas Public Schools and KILLED it in their respective jog-a-thons. They also were big winners with their Scout Pinewood Derby.

Pickle and I got to see the Broadway musical, “Newsies”.

Our family got to see Crater Lake in August (four of the five of us for the first time) and got to spend Thanksgiving in Grants Pass with dear friends.

Shane was hired as a permanent employee with the State of Oregon in December after nearly two years of hard work and a lot of waiting on the Lord.

I completed a very challenging and inspiring 7-week devotional written by my 8th Grade teacher, Jane Poole, called, “Ancient Wisdom.” It was written with entrepreneurial women in mind, who often find themselves in a chapter of life where they are home, but still have a calling to write or create. I strongly encourage you to try this lovely devotional. You won’t be the same. Visit Jane’s site here. 

AND, I finished reading the Bible through for the first time since I was a teenager. (And I’ll be honest…I did it to say I did it back then and did it to get to know my Jesus better this time.)

God is so very good to us. 

I’ve been reflecting on a sermon Shane preached a few years back for New Years. It made such an impression on me when he preached it that I came home and made a family manifesto for us. I printed it out and placed it in several prominent places in our home. It is still all around our house, but we’ve tuned it out over the years. It’s become part of our walls. I felt like maybe it was a good time to revisit it. And I thought you might enjoy seeing it, too.

Our Family Priorities

We will put God first in our…

  • Decision-Making
  • Plans and time spent
  • Finances
  • Relationships

This means that we will…

  • spend quality time in God’s Word daily. We will listen to God.
  • spend alone time with God every day in prayer. We will talk to God.
  • strive to know and take advantage of God’s promises. We will memorize Scripture!
  • make assembling with the Saints a top priority. If given the choice between going to church or doing another activity, we will choose to be in our places at church. 
  • make our home a welcoming place for others. We will be inviting, hospitable and look for ways for make others feel the love of Jesus in our home and family. 
  • use our resources for the furtherance of the Gospel. We will give to God of our firstfruits. We will make sacrifices to bless others. We will be good stewards of our God-given resources. 
  • recognize that we have bought the truth…and we won’t sell it for anythingWe are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” (Romans 1:16)

My prayer is that we will have a very Happy 2017. However, if I had to pick, I’d choose to have a Holy 2017. Praying you have both!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

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The Jesse Tree: Wrap-up

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Hello, dear friends. I’m praying that you had a wonderful, blessed, Christ-filled Christmas. 

Our family had a wonderful time doing this project and we achieved the goal we had set out to accomplish: to keep the focus on Jesus. It was truly meaningful. And I am so glad we did it. It was, however, a learning curve!

It seems like a good idea to come up with a conclusion to the Jesse Tree series to remind myself of a few things for next year. Every time I finish a project or event (like the Sunday School Christmas Program) I think, I need to make a list of things that worked and things I need to do differently next time. And then I never do it! Having you all here has kept me accountable. So in case you are doing the Jesse Tree, this list may be helpful to you, too.

1. Split the activity into two parts – Morning and Evening. In the morning, pull the ornament, hang it on the tree and read out of the story book or read the Scripture. In the evening, do the song, activity and read what wasn’t read in the morning.

2. Sing more songs / Christmas carols. I was so intent on finding songs that fit the theme that we missed our usual singing by the light of the tree time.

3. Find meaningful activities to do less often. The activities overwhelmed me a bit. Some seemed too grandiose to do within a day, while others didn’t seem to fit or were less meaningful. And honestly, I would rather do more difficult stuff less frequently if it has meaning. Our Passover meal and Lights Out nights were incredibly special and the kids got a lot out of the parallels. I’d also like to find more crafts to do for next year.

4. Have the kids make their own Jesse Tree ornaments. Our family ornaments that Shane and I made are special, but I will want my kids to have their own for years to come.

5. Replace ornaments instead of adding. The tree got really, really full and the kiddos didn’t know how/where to place the ornaments. Had I told them to simply replace one of the plain colored balls I had already placed, it would have made for a less crazy tree. 

6. When in doubt and time runs out, Scripture is the most important. There were days that we were rushed for time and were trying to cram it all in. In the end, the Bible says it best.

Did you who did the Jesse Tree along with us come up with good tips? PLEASE share them here! If you did any activities or came up with different songs that you’d like to share, I’d LOVE to hear from you!

Happy New Year!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

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The Jesse Tree: Day 22 through Day 25

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Day #22 – John the Baptist

Scripture: Luke 1:5-25, 39-80

Ornament: The Dove – Although the dove represents the Holy Spirit, it is also relevant for John the Baptist. His mother received the Holy Spirit while carrying John the Baptist, and later when he baptize Jesus in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove.

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Dumbstruck”, pages 69-71 and “Jumping for Joy”, pages 75-77

Song: See Suggested Activity

The point: John the Baptist was key in the fulfilling of Messianic prophecy. Jesus had to have a forerunner as we discussed on Day 21 with the minor prophets. John the Baptist was also literally in Jesus’ family tree because he was Jesus’ cousin, (per Scripture, it appears that they were second cousins), and was from the tribe of Levi.

Suggested activity: Watch “John the Baptist Sing-Along.” It’s about 6 1/2 minutes long. (Watch it here)

 

Day #23 – Mary

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38, 2:15-19, 33-35, 46-51

Ornament: The Pondering Heart – Mary “pondered all these things in her heart.”

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Mary”, pages 72-74

Song: “Silent Night”

The point: The character of Mary is clearly key in Jesus’ family tree. She was His mother. And God chose her for a reason, or perhaps many reasons. We don’t know a ton about her, but we know, based on our brief glimpse of her, that she was humble, submissive and obedient to God, courageous, and thoughtful. In a few different places, we see that she “pondered these things in her heart.” What a precious weight to carry in her womb and on her shoulders. As a side note, it’s neat that Mary’s lineage from Levi and story are in Luke, where Jesus is presented greatly as a Healer and Priest.

Suggested activity:  Watch one or more versions of “Mary Did You Know” and/or “Breath of Heaven” and discuss what Mary would have thought or felt. Here are a couple of our favorite versions.  Pentatonix or Mark Lowry with Voctave singing “Mary Did You Know”, and Sara Groves singing “Breath of Heaven.”

 

Day #24 – Joseph

Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25

Ornament: Carpenters’ Tools 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “The Worst of All Possible Times”, pages 78-80

Song: 

The point: Joseph was a very special man. In very few verses, his character is fleshed out as a man of honor, faith, courage and tenderness. Although he knew that Jesus was not his flesh and blood, he raised Him as his own and was His adopted father. He taught Jesus his trade, for one. As a side note, it’s beautiful that Joseph’s lineage from Judah and story are in Matthew, where Jesus is presented as the King of kings.

Suggested activity: Watch “A Strange Way to Save the World” and similarly to yesterday, focus on Joseph and how he felt or what he thought. 4Him’s version is probably my favorite version. (Watch it here)

 

Day #25 – Jesus

Scripture: Luke 2:1-40, Matthew 2:1-23

Ornament: The Manger

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Wonderful News”, “The Cunning and the Wise”, “Angels” and “The Brightest Star”, pages 81-93

Song: Sing as many favorite Christmas carols can today!

The point: JESUS. He IS the point of all of this. The Jesse tree was created to show the 

Suggested activity: Read the entire Nativity story today.

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The Jesse Tree: Day 16 through Day 21

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Day #16 – Solomon

Scripture: I Kings 3:5-28, I Corinthians 1:18-25

Ornament: The Scroll – This represents all the wisdom which Solomon wrote, especially the Proverbs.

Story: The Jesse Tree, “The Wisdom of Solomon”, pages 57-60

Song: “The Wise Man and the Foolish Man” (Watch it here)

The point: Beside Jesus, Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived. It’s important to point out to our children that wisdom didn’t come with age, but because he asked for wisdom over riches or fame. We can also point out that we can do the same as James says that we should, (James 1:5-6). In addition to Solomon’s wisdom, this is a good devotional to discuss that preaching of the cross is foolishness to this world. It could indicate why God chose lowly shepherds to be Jesus’ first visitors. 

Suggested activity: Have your children color a picture about this story. There are many to choose from on the internet. Just Google “Solomon asks for wisdom coloring page”. 

 

Day #17 – Elijah

Scripture: Matthew 11:13-15, 17:1-13, Luke 9:28-36

Ornament: The flame – The flame represents the fire that fell from Heaven on Mt. Carmel to 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “The Idol and the Still, Small Voice” & “War and Peace”, pages 61-68

Song: “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (Watch it here) 

The point: Elijah was a key prophet in the Old Testament who delivered God’s judgement on the Kingdom of Judah. He is key because it was his spirit that fell on John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. He is also one of the two, Moses being the other, that appeared to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus met with a representative of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) and He came to fulfill both. 

Suggested activity: Under construction

 

Day #18 – Major Prophets

Scripture: Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7, 11:1-10, 35:5-6, 40:3-5, 53:3-5

Ornament: The Lion of Judah – This ornament was originally made to represent Daniel, but the more I studied, the more I feel that Isaiah was just as key, if not more so in relation to Messianic prophecy. One of those prophecies, (in Genesis and Revelation, interestingly enough) refers to Jesus as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. 

Story: The Jesus Storybook, “Operation “No More Tears!”, pages 144-151

Song: See “Suggested Activity.” However, this is a nice sing-along-video with lyrics to one of my favorites”the Messiah,” called “For Unto Us a Child is Born” (Watch it here) 

The point:  The major prophets really flesh out what Jesus would look like when He came and what His character would be. They made clear what it was we were to look for in the Messiah. Isaiah especially says that Jesus would be born of a virgin, the wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, of the root of Jesse, called a Nazarene, a healer and preceded by a forerunner. Jeremiah had more prophecy relating to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Daniel is important for two reasons. First, he very clearly lays out that the Messiah would come according to a specific timeline, both for his first and second comings. He also was a wise man in Babylon. Tradition says that he started a school and that the wise men that came from the east very likely knew the prophecies foretold about the Messiah and followed the star because of Daniel’s influence on Babylon. Interesting thought, at least.

Suggested activity: Watch/listen to the full “The Messiah” throughout your evening. Many of the beautiful prophecies are skillfully put to music by Handel.

 

Day #19 – Esther

Scripture: Esther 1-10

Ornament: The scepter – Just as the scepter was extended to Esther so that she could approach the king, Jesus blood is an extended scepter by which we can approach the King. (Hebrews 4:16)

Story: Neither The Jesse Tree or The Jesus Storybook, have Esther, but like Rahab, Esther played an important part in Jesus’ story and it’s good to include her. Read the Scriptures

Song: “What would I give” (Watch it here) (I had never heard this, but it’s lovely and worth a listen.)

The point: As mentioned above, Esther is not mentioned in either book. But like Rahab, Esther played an important part in Jesus’ story and it’s good to include her. Although God is not once mentioned in the book of Esther, His fingerprints are all over it. Had Esther not been willing to submit to God’s will and approach the king, the Jewish people would have been destroyed, and with it, the tribe of Judah specifically. 

Suggested activity: If you can, read the whole story of Esther. It’s written so beautifully in the Bible that it’s as readable as a children’s storybook simply as written. 

 

Day #20 – Ezra/Nehemiah

Scripture: Ezra 7, Nehemiah 8-10

Ornament: The Watchtower

Story:  The Jesus Storybook, “Get ready!”, pages 170-175

Song: “Nehemiah’s Song” (Watch it here) 

The point: Nehemiah and Ezra completed rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, which was also necessary for the Messianic prophecies to be fulfilled. There is no 

Suggested activity: See song – this is almost seven minutes long. It’s less a sing-along and more a story set to music. Kinda neat. 

 

Day #21 – Minor Prophets

Scripture: Hosea 11:1 (Matthew 2:15), Jonah 1:17 (Matthew 12:38-41), Micah 5:2 (Matthew 2:2-6), Malachi 3:1, 4:5-6

Ornament: Bethlehem

Story: The Jesus Storybook, “Get ready!”, pages 170-175 (This is repeated because it covers both yesterday and today. You do not need to read it twice.)

Song: “O Little Town of Bethlehem,”  (Watch it here) and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”  (Watch it here) 

The point: There were many prophecies given in the minor prophets pointing to Jesus. Hosea is the one who said that he would be called out of Egypt, Micah prophesied that he would be born in Bethlehem and Malachi that he would be preceded by a messenger/Elijah. In addition to those, Zechariah and Jonah prophesied of his life, death and resurrection.

Suggested activity: As a family, make a list of things we must do to be ready for when the Messiah returns. Read the story of the Five Wise and Five Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).

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The Jesse Tree: Day 7 through Day 15

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Day #7 – Jacob 

Scripture: Genesis 28:10-22

Ornament: Jacob’s ladder 

Story: The Jesse Tree,”Stairway to Heaven”, pages 26-29

Song: “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” (Watch it here)

The point: God repeated the promise that He had given to Abraham and promised Jacob that his seed would be as the dust of the earth and that through his seed (Jesus) would all the nations of the earth be blessed.

Suggested activity: 1) Be a blessing to someone and write a note to someone to remind that person how much God loves them. 2) Find a big, semi-smooth rock and have your children try to lay their heads on it like a pillow and think of Jacob’s fitful night and eventful encounter with God.

 

Day #8 – Leah 

Scripture: Genesis 29:16-35

Ornament: Tender eyes – Leah’s tender eyes or a veiled face. The Bible makes specific mention of Leah’s eyes. And it is likely that they were the only thing Jacob saw when he married her. 

Story: The Jesus Storybook,”The girl no one wanted”, pages 70-75

Song: “Something Beautiful”

The point: It’s intriguing and special that although Jacob’s favorite was Rachel, God favored Leah. He opened her womb and honored Jacob’s first wife. The Bible says that she had “tender eyes” and her name literally means “weary.” God saw how she suffered and blessed her with children. And she gave birth to Levi (Mary’s ancestor, representing the priestly line) and Judah (Joseph’s ancestor, representing the kingly line.) It’s also a beautiful thing that by the time she had Judah, she was no longer pining for Jacob’s, but gloried in God’s love and named her son, “Praise.”

Suggested activity: Look into a mirror and try to see yourself as God sees you.

 

Day #9 – Joseph 

Scripture: Genesis 37:3-36, 50:15-21

Ornament: The coat of many colors

Story: The Jesse Tree, “The Dreamer” and “Famine & Plenty”, pages 30-36 / The Jesus Storybook, “The forgiving prince”, pages 76-83

Song: “Joseph” (Watch it here) 

The point: Although Joseph’s coat caused great jealousy among his brothers and was the catalyst for Joseph being sold into Egypt, God saw the big picture and what they had meant for evil, He meant for good. Jacob’s (Israel’s) people were preserved through the famine because of Joseph’s position in Egypt. God makes provision for His people.

Suggested activity: Rehearse as a family some “bad things” that have happened to  you and discuss how the Lord has turned it into something good for you all. 

 

Day #10 – The Passover 

Scripture: Genesis 

Ornament: The blood on the mantel

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Let My People Go!” pages 37-41, The Jesus Storybook, “God to the Rescue” and “God makes a way”, pages 84-99

Song: “When I See the Blood, I Will Pass Over You” (Watch if here) or “How Did Moses Cross the Red Sea” (Watch it here) 

The point: Although the Passover doesn’t point to Jesus’ birth, it certainly points to Him, the ultimate Passover Lamb. God saved His people from extinction by delivering them out of Pharaoh’s hand.

Suggested activity: Have an authentic Passover meal and/or Communion as a family (with parental discretion). We actually just looked up the instructions in Exodus 12 and prepared them instead of following a traditional Seder.

Day #11 – The 10 Commandments 

Scripture: Exodus 20:1-21

Ornament: The stone tablets

Story: The Jesus Storybook, “Ten ways to be perfect”, pages 100-107

Song: “The Perfect Ten”

The point: Discuss that God desired to write His law on the hearts of the people even in the Old Testament times, but the people “stood afar off”, but “Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.” The blessing was on Moses because he desired to draw close to God above all else. The people feared the awesomeness of God, but were was clearly a heart problem with the people. But when Jesus was crucified, the veil in the temple was rent in two from top to bottom and allowed us to approach God. Now His law can indeed be written on our hearts.

Suggested activity: Do a memory game and try to arrange the commandments in order. You can also discuss how the first four commandments deal with our relationship with God and the last six are about how we relate to others. 

 

Day #12 – Rahab 

Scripture: Joshua 2:1-24, 6:20-25

Ornament: Red cord (or red ribbon) It’s hard to tell here, but this is a clear globe with a red ribbon filling it. You could do something like this or simply tie a red cord to a branch.

Story: Neither of the two books that we’re referencing had Rahab represented, so we are just going to read the Scriptures.

Song: Under construction

The point: As mentioned above, Rahab isn’t in either version we’re reading. But Shane and I both felt that her story is essential. She is indeed an ancestor of Jesus and it was entirely due to her obedience and not her blood-line. She shows that no matter how deep and dark the sin of your past, when you choose to make God the Lord of your life and turn from your sin, you are part of His family. 

Suggested activity: Look around your house as a family for as many red things as you can find. You could even split into teams and make it a contest.

 

Day #13 – Ruth

Scripture: Ruth 1:8-22, 2:4-20, 4:13-14

Ornament: I didn’t have any barley, but I just filled this empty globe with grains of various kinds. I would like to eventually replace it with barley.

Story: The Jesse Tree, “The Foreigner,” pages 42-45

Song:  “The Song of Ruth” (Watch it here) 

The point: As with Rahab, it was Ruth’s obedience that made her a part of Jesus’s ancestry, rather than her blood-line. She chose to make the God of Israel her God rather than the gods of Moab. Because she honored her mother-in-law, she was married to her kinsman redeemer, Boaz, a type of Christ. And as a result, she was the grandmother of King David. 

Suggested activity: Have a “lights out” night except for your Christmas lights. Notice how the the light seems brighter in the darkness and think about how God shines His light in our darkest of times, just as He did for Ruth amid the loss of her husband.

 

Day #14 – Samuel 

Scripture: I Samuel 3:1-10, 16:4-13

Ornament: Anointing oil – The part of Samuel to focus on is that he anointed David to be King, apart from Saul’s blood-line. 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Speak, Lord, For Your Servant is Listening,” pages 46-49 / The Jesus Storybook, “The teeny-weenie…true king”, pages 116-121

Song: “Little David, Play on Your Harp” (Watch it here) and/or “Only a Boy Named David” (Watch it here)

The point: No, Samuel was not in Jesus’s direct bloodline. But he was the one man in those days that heard directly from God and it was he who anointed David to be king. He played an essential role in the plan. It was he who heard God tell him, “…For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”

Suggested activity: If you use essential oils at all, you could have your children smell cassia oil, which was a common anointing oil in Bible times. 

 

Day #15 – David

Scripture: Matthew 22:41-46, John 10:7-19, Acts 13:22-23

Ornament:  The staff & the crown – This represents that David was both a shepherd and a king. It beautifully pointed to the fact that Jesus would be both for us as well. He is the Great Shepherd and the King of kings. 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “The Shepherd King” and “Dancing”, pages 50-56 / The Jesus Storybook, “The young hero and the horrible giant” and “The Good Shepherd”, pages 122-135

Song: “King of Kings” (Watch it here) and “I am the Good Shepherd” (lyrics as follows)

I am the Good Shepherd, I am the Good Shepherd

And the Good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep (repeat)

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, Jesus is the Good Shepherd

And the Good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep (repeat)

The point: Besides the above-mentioned parallel, it is also important to point out that David was a man after God’s own heart. Although he fell at first, it’s important to learn about his character and follow his example of humility and repentance. 

Suggested activity: Recite the 23rd Psalm together and discuss.

 

Friends, I need help! The “Under Construction” places are areas where I don’t have ideas. If you have one, please comment!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

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The Jesse Tree: Day 1 through Day 6

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Hello, Mama readers!

I have changed the original post dramatically. I tried to keep it similar, but I just couldn’t. Here’s why. 

So here’s what I’m doing: I’m updating the order, symbolism, Scriptures, etc. And I’m only giving alternatives from The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones. And as I stated in the aforementioned link, we’re mainly following The Jesse Tree, by Geraldine McCaughrean. Pick your favorite for each day and enjoy!

Here are the first six days.

Day #1 – Introduction – The Jesse Tree

Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10

day-1

Ornament: The Jesse Tree – This ornament can either show a stump or a tree. It’s important to have both the roots and the branches showing. 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Introduction”, pages 8-9 / The Jesus Storybook, “The Story and The Song”, pages 12-17

Song: “Come, Thou, Long Expected Jesus” (Watch it here)

The point: Jesus was not only the Root of David, but the Branch. David called him LORD, yet was descended from David. Such a wonderful mystery!

Suggested activity:  1) Plant a seed and talk about roots and shoots as you do. 2) Make a list of people you feel really need to know about God’s love and care throughout the Christmas season and put the list up for the family to see as a reminder to pray for and look for ways to bless them.

Day #2 – Creation 

Scripture: Genesis 1:1-5, 26-27

day-2

Ornament: The World (or the Sun & Moon) – This ornament can either show a stump or a tree. It’s important to have both the roots and the branches showing. 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “The Jesse Tree”, pages 10-11 / The Jesus Storybook, “The beginning: a perfect home”, pages 18-27

Song: “The Seven Days of Creation” (to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”)

On the first day of Creation the Good Lord gave to me… His light so we all could see.

On the second day of Creation the Good Lord gave to me… the sky up above and His light so we all could see.

On the third day of Creation the Good Lord gave to me…land, sea and plants, the sky up above and His light so we all could see.

On the fourth day of Creation the Good Lord gave to me…sun, moon and stars, land, sea and plants, the sky up above and His light so we all could see.

On the fifth day of Creation the Good Lord gave to me…birdies and fishies, sun, moon and stars, land, sea and plants, the sky up above and His light so we all could see.

On the sixth day of Creation the Good Lord gave to me…animals and people, birdies and fishies, sun, moon and stars, land, sea and plants, the sky up above and His light so we all could see.

On the seventh day of Creation the Good Lord gave to me…a day to rest…and…praise Him… (pretend to sleep)…animals and people, birdies and fishies, sun, moon and stars, land, sea and plants, the sky up above and His light so we all could see.

The point: Jesus is part of the godhead and as such, was present at Creation. He has always been.

Suggested Activity:  1) Create something special, cookies, an ornament, etc. and think about how special this thing is to you when you are done with your work. Think about how God felt after creating us. (I had already planned to make ornaments and have a baking day with the kids, but didn’t see this until I had already made plans.)

Day #3 – The Fall 

Scripture: Genesis 3:6-9, 14-15

day-3

Ornament: The Forbidden Fruit and the Serpent – This ornament can be any variation of this theme. Last year I just had a red apple. This year I thought, “Maybe the forbidden fruit was purple??” Beside that, I wanted the serpent represented as well because the prophecy says that it is his head that Jesus would bruise.  

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Paradise Garden”, pages 12-15 / The Jesus Storybook, “The terrible lie”, pages 28-37

Song: “Satan is My Enemy” (Watch it here)  

The point: God had a plan for our redemption through Jesus from the very moment sin entered the world. In His punishment to the serpent, God prophesied of Jesus coming as our remedy.

Suggested Activity: Write a letter to God thanking Him for His plan of salvation for us.

Day #4 – The Flood 

Scripture: Genesis 6:5-8

day-4

Ornament: The Rainbow or Ark – The actual book we’re following shows the ark instead of a rainbow. I had already made the rainbow so I kept it, but I like the idea of the ark because it represents God’s provision for the righteous. But, the rainbow is more colorful and represents His promise to us. (And, it’s just pretty.)

Story: The Jesse Tree, “A Boat Full of Animals”, pages 16-19 / The Jesus Storybook, “A new beginning”, pages 38-47

Song: “Arky, Arky” (Watch it here)

The point: Although God cannot stand sin and had to destroy it, He made a plan of deliverance from His wrath for the righteous.

Suggested Activity: I didn’t really find the activities suggested for this day to make sense. There were “parallels” drawn that were not parallels at all. I would suggest making a list as a family of as many promises of God that we can come up with and hang them somewhere prominent throuth the Christmas season (and beyond!)

Day #5 – Abraham’s promise 

Scripture: Genesis 12:1-4, 7, 15:5

day-5

Ornament: The Stars in the Sky – Later on there will be a single star, but this ornament shows the many, many that were shown to Abraham. I just got a glittery ball ornament and dotted it with a gold pen and it turned out really well. 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Strange Visitors”, pages 20-22 / The Jesus Storybook, “Son of laughter”, pages 56-61

Song: “Father Abraham” (Watch it here)

The point: God promised that the whole earth would be blessed by Abraham’s seed (Jesus) and that his descendants would be innumerable like the stars in the sky.

Suggested Activity: Stargaze as a family and try to count the stars for a minute. Think of the enormity of God’s promise to Abraham.

Day #6 – The Sacrifice

 Scripture: Genesis 22:1-14

day-7

Ornament: The Ram – Last year we used a sheep ornament that I had made in the 4th Grade. I decided to attempt to draw a ram this year. 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “A Test of Love”, pages 23-25 / The Jesus Storybook, “The present”, pages 62-29

Song:  “There is a Redeemer” (Watch it here)

The point: God asked Abraham to offer up his only son Isaac. Instead, God provided a substitute for Isaac, a ram. God offered up His only Son, Jesus, which provided the ultimate substitute for us.

Suggested Activity: As a family, come up with a list of 10 days the Lord has provided for you. Hang this in a place for you all to see it and remember, or place it under the Tree to represent His gift to us.

More to come!

 

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

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The Jesse Tree: Ummmmm…this isn’t going as planned.

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Hello Friends!

This Jesse Tree adventure has been a learning curve for me. And being the perfectionist that I am, who HAS to see patterns and meaning in anything like this, I’m getting frustrated really easily with this tool.

It’s Day 5 and I am already giving up on Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, by Ann Voscamp. It is WAY too ecumenical for our family. Almost every story is leaving out KEY Scriptures. And there are omissions that I just can’t get past, (like the fact that Abraham was blessed because of OBEDIENCE, not just because he was “special.”)

Anyway, mid-week, we are switching to The Jesse Tree, by Geraldine McCaughrean as our primary outline. I love the story format better in this book and the symbolism is more clear. I can already foresee one or two changes that I will need to make with this one as well, but Shane and I already feel better about this.

Did you know that the Jesse Tree concept has been around for more than 1000 years? Basically every early Christian church had one in some form, be it a carving or stained glass, etc. Because many people were illiterate and unable to read the Bible for themselves, the Jesse Tree gave pictures that allowed people to follow the whole story from Creation to the Birth of the Savior.

Knowing this has given clarification that I was lacking. And it helps me to hone in and focus on what we want to cover in these 24 days leading up to Christmas.

PLEASE bear with all of the hiccups this year. Our 2017 Jesse Tree should look less confusing…I hope!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

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The Jesse Tree: Introduction – “A new family tradition”

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“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots…” ~ Isaiah 11:1  

Have you ever heard of a Jesse Tree? I hadn’t before last year. I can’t even remember where I heard about it, but the more I read, the more fascinated I became.

Our family has always had a Christmas tree. I love everything about it. The hunt for that perfect one. Placing the lights just so. Lovingly placing each special ornaments, some heirlooms, some new. Watching a Christmas movie while stringing cranberries and popcorn to hang on it. Some years we have themes. Other years are just a hodge podge. And, oh, the wonderful smell it brings into the house! Although I must admit that my allergies KILL ME every year…artificial next year? *sniff*  After all of this, comes my favorite part of all — turning all of the living room lights off, save the tree, the village (if we put it up…this year we’re not) and the nativity lights, and singing songs together as a part of our evening devotions.

But over the last couple of years Shane and I have been struggling with just how much we want to focus on this time-honored tradition. Do our kids treasure the nativity scene as much as they do the tree? Are we perhaps placing it above the true meaning of Christmas? We didn’t like the thought of that.

One thing that adoptive and foster parents will relate to, is that we typically don’t have full influence over our children from birth. In some cases, Jesus is not taught at all and Christmas is all about Santa and reindeer. And the tree.

As a family, we kicked Santa to the curb, along with all of his reindeer (or caribou, as Shane likes to refer to them, tongue in cheek) a long time ago. DISCLAIMER: We DO NOT judge friends and family who celebrate that stuff. No, we do not worry about your spiritual condition and pray for you to “see the light.” Seriously. It’s just that as a family, with SO MUCH worldly influence already poured into our sweet children before we ever met them, we are just dialing that way back. WAY. BACK.

But the tree? I just felt that there was a way we could totally redeem that tradition so that our children could enjoy it while still completely focusing on Jesus and the reason He came for us, by such humble means, no less.

And then I found the Jesse Tree! There are different versions, but essentially, all of them have an ornament and Scripture and/or devotion for every day (some beginning the day after Thanksgiving, others starting on December 1) that show how the Old Testament points to the promise of a Savior, and more specifically, Jesus.

As I mentioned, I have come across several versions. Some have crossover with symbolism (i.e. a dove representing Noah on one list and John the Baptist on another…you can see where it would fit either), some focus only on people of the Old Testament, others more on events. Some only have male characters on the list while others have Ruth, Rahab and Esther. So I looked at several lists and haven’t settled on one for sure yet.

Last year we followed The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones and loved it. However, it wasn’t intended for the Jesse Tree and continues several stories after Jesus’ birth. Which is great. And I loved that Leah is honored, as well as Daniel.

I was really excited about using The Jesus Storybook Bible again, but at the last minute…like within the last two or three weeks, it disappeared into thin air. Seriously?! NOW what was I going to do?!

Well, in my search at the library, I found, not only said book, but one simply called, The Jesse Tree, by Geraldine McCaughrean. I haven’t had a chance to read it, but plan on following this one as well to see if I like it.

However, this year, I’m super excited to follow along with Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, but Ann Voscamp this year. I am already finding things that I wish were there, (like Leah and Daniel), but others are included in this, like Jonah and Zechariah & Elizabeth.

So basically, my kiddos and you are my guinea pigs. Aren’t you thrilled?! Next year you may see that I have morphed a calendar of my own. But for this year we’re following a “plan.”

Now, if the book is readily available, why check on my blog? First, although activities are suggested in the Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, we like to add songs for the kids to sing, so I will have a song suggestion for each one. In addition, you can purchase ornaments for the Jesse Tree, but honestly, they’re spendy and our family couldn’t afford them this year. So I’ll show you the ornaments I have made and give suggestions along the way for you to make your own.

We have decided to start with the introduction tonight, November 30, and the ornaments and stories will officially start tomorrow, December 1.

Thankfully, we already had a HUGE advent calendar that I made out of a clear shoe organizer and they’re super easy to make! Here’s where I found how to make it. In each slot I put the ornament for the day and will likely also put the Scriptures on 3×5 cards for the kids to look up. I also put a 3×5 car with an activity on it for them to do, unrelated to the Jesse Tree, (i.e., We’re watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” tonight!)

2012-12-04 22.53.15

Speaking of ornaments, last year I decided to go through my many, many ornaments to try to find ornaments that were already special to our family that would fit the symbols needed. For the missing days, I am decorating plain glass ball ornaments to fill in the gaps. This year I took the time to paint nice “set” of ornaments to use for years to come. This has been a learning curve for me, but hopefully what I learn can be useful to those of you who wish to start this tradition for your family.

Regarding the Scripture readings: Last year when I was searching for a good plan to follow, many of the readings  felt too long for our kiddos’ attention spans and so I tried to find the stories in our Children’s Bible whenever I could. One HUGE benefit to Ann Voscam’s versin is that the Scripture reading is concise, but an integral part, nonetheless. I do encourage you to have children actually find the Scripture in the Bible. It’s good practice and helps their brains connect that what we are reading is God’s Word and not just a storybook.

I am so excited to share this experience with you, my friends!

More to come!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

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