Saturday, December 23, 2017

Watch This Christmas TV Special!

As we conclude the Advent season, I am thrilled to pass along this Christmas TV special! Hear an encouraging sermon, popular Christmas music hits, and a live nativity narration to ground your holiday in the true meaning of the season. Sermon highlight: "Christmas is like a fresh rainfall in the tired, dusty sands of our wilderness." Discover how you can renew a Christmas hope in your own life right where you most need it.

Watch HERE

This special is courtesy of my church, Central Presbyterian Church, and their contemporary WAVE worship team. I am blessed to serve with them!

Looking for more Christmas inspiration? Check out last week's post or the post from the week before!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Resources and News

I can't believe that Christmas is less than a week away! As you prepare for the festivities, I hope you're considering ways to nurture the true meaning of Christmas in your families. It's here that we can reap the richest blessings of the season.

This year, my family took part in the Living Nativity at our church. I loved the idea of dressing up and sharing the joy of the Christmas story with the community.

In case you're wondering, my boys and husband were shepherds and I was a lantern angel. (I'm still trying to figure out what a lantern angel is!) If you are looking for ideas to tap into the true meaning of Christmas too, I encourage you to:

Read this.

Watch this.

And wait for an Advent worship service link from Sunday coming soon!

You can also consider this. It was in this interview that Laura Sassi, the author who guest posted on the blog last week, relayed her life story and love for sharing the Christmas message with children. A lucky winner has been chosen and contacted for the free, signed copy of her book Goodnight, Manger. Congratulations to S. Rogers of Georgia! She works at a school and is looking forward to sharing the book there!

This contest adds Georgia to our long list of other winning states: Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Texas, Indiana, Kansas, Illinois, South Carolina, and Arizona. So keep registering when giveaways come along — it doesn't matter where you are in the country, you could win next!

As I thank author Laura Sassi for contributing here, I am excited to announce a new collaboration coming this spring: New York Times best-selling author Leonard Sax will be appearing on my show, Chaos to Calm, for a series special! Stay tuned, and in the meantime, learn more about his impressive background here — I'm delighted to have him!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Guest Author Post and Christmas Giveaway!

Author Laura Sassi

As a parent, I often wonder this time of year how I can creatively reinforce the true meaning of the season. I'll be exploring that question in the next couple of weeks on my blog leading up to Christmas. My guest today will help us do that by giving us entry points into the Christmas story itself. Welcome back Laura Sassi; Laura is a trained teacher, the children's book author of Goodnight, Manger (among other titles), and a dear friend. Here are her meaningful words, followed by the giveaway information:

SIX Nativity Themed Activities for Older Kids (Ages 6 - 8)

Thank you so much for having me back today for this special GOODNIGHT, MANGER giveaway. My Christmas bedtime story, about trying to put a weepy baby Jesus to sleep in a very noisy stable, was inspired by watching my then preschooler play with the sturdy little nativity we take out each Christmas. Her sweet play led to some wonderful kid-friendly conversations about the true meaning of Christmas. Inspired by that, I previously shared with your readers 8 Nativity Activities to Teach Little Ones about Christmas. Today I’m delighted to be back with a six more ideas — this time for slightly older children. Enjoy!
  1. Play “What’s Different at the Manger?” Begin by arranging your family’s indoor nativity with your children, taking time to name and explain the significance of each figure in the nativity. Reflect together at the wonder of the Christmas story. Then, take turns having one family member be the “finder.” The “finder” leaves the room, while the “changer” changes one small thing in the nativity. The “finder” returns. Will he/she be able to figure out what’s different? Take turns until everyone has a chance at both roles. 
  1. Ask 20 Questions “Nativity” Style. First, gather around the nativity with a stack of index cards. Then, brainstorm together single-word components of the nativity. Examples include a manger, Bethlehem, angels, shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and a star. Have the children write a word on each card. Then shuffle the cards. One person selects a card. Without seeing that card, the others must guess what the word is by asking YES/NO questions. After twenty questions, the round is over and the person with the card can share what their word was.
  1. Compare Stories. Pick a nativity-themed picture book to read together. Then compare it to the actual account of the Christmas story from the Bible. See if your children can find three ways the picture book is similar/different from the Bible story. The picture book, for example, may reconsider the story from a different point of view — such as the POV of the animals in the beloved nativity-themed picture book Who Is Coming to Our House? Or it might imagine “what would happen if..." such as in my Goodnight, Manger where I imagine what might have happened if baby Jesus cried. Be sure to wrap up the discussion with the reminder that the deeper truth behind each picture book is that Jesus, our savior, is the amazing gift of Christmas.  
  1. Build Your Own Nativity. This is a big, fun project that can be done individually or as a group and will occupy a nice bit of an afternoon (perhaps while you put your feet up and sip some tea). First, have your children list all the parts needed for a nativity. Next, have the kids decide what their building materials will be — Legos, clay, felt, cardboard? The possibilities are plentiful. Third, decide who will build what (if you are working together). Finally, build! Afterwards, have the children take turns retelling the story using their own handmade nativity.
  1. Go on a Nativity Hunt. Here’s an engaging STEM activity that will get you and your children outside on a crisp day. Walk around your neighborhood (or drive around town) looking for nativity lawn scenes. Younger children can name the figures you see and older children can keep a tally of each distinct finding. Their tallies, for example, could include the number of stables, stars, angels, sheep, and baby Jesus figurines they find. Afterwards, they can create a colorful pictograph to show their results. Be sure to wrap up the conversation with praise and thanksgiving that Jesus loves us and came to save us, and that’s why we celebrate Christmas.
  1. Create a Nativity Book of Poems! A Family Book of Nativity Poems is a great way to celebrate Christmas and create a family heirloom at the same time. Using sturdy drawing paper, have one child design the front cover. Another can design the back cover. Each page of the book will contain an illustrated poem. Using the index cards you created for activity #2, have each child select a nativity-themed word. That word will become the subject of their poem.  Have them write the title of the poem — the word — across the top of the page. Then let each child decide on their poetic form. The poem could be as simple as a deeply felt phrase:  

    Example: (for angels) “The angels sang for joy! La, la, la, LA!!!”

    Or, they might choose an acrostic:

    Example: (for Mary)

    Mother of Jesus
    Amazing grace
     Resting by the manger
    You smiled at Jesus’ face

    Finish off each poem with a beautiful illustration and bind everything together with ribbon through punched holes. 
And now, do you want to win a free, signed copy of Laura's book? Fill out the form by clicking here before Sunday at noon EST — and watch for bonus entries! 

Want more? I interviewed Laura on my cable TV show, Chaos to Calm. You can watch the episode here. Listen as she shares her heart-felt life story and more tips!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Watch An Encouraging Sermon On Demand Here!

I am pleased to announce my first televised sermon! Please watch, share, and give a thumbs up for this exciting new venture that will only be getting better from here! Special thanks to the WAVE contemporary worship team at Central Presbyterian Church in Summit, NJ and HomeTowne TV who made this happen. 

For those of you tuning in, discover how the everyday image of a rock can provide you with an invaluable spiritual lifeline in uncertainty. Uncover powerful biblical promises through poignant life stories. This on demand recording includes inspirational worship music, a children's message, a sermon and prayer. You can watch this half hour recording here:

I'll be preaching a Christmas service later this month — stay tuned for the link!

TODAY Video Clip