Find a Treasure

Looking for an excuse to get out of the house and walk off some of that candy you scored last week? Well, consider going on a treasure hunt. Who doesn’t love a good puzzle and treasure hunt? I can guarantee your kids do for sure. So use this as an excuse to get out there and do a geocache with your family. If you’ve never done a geocache, it’s a great way to open up some God conversation with your kids.

All over the country, people have hidden containers filled with little trinkets. They post the GPS coordinates and some clues, then hikers using a GPS unit go on a treasure hunt to find what’s hidden.

You’ll discover things like erasers, pens, key chains and other trinkets in weather proof containers hidden along trails all over the country. When you find the cache, you put a treasure in, and take one out, then sign the “I found it” log and read what others have written. We’ve cached all over the country, from Mt Rushmore to an island off the Florida keys. It’s always fun. Here is a picture of Uncle Gene and Grandma finding a cache in North Carolina.

Here are a few websites if you need some help getting started

https://www.geocaching.com/guide/
https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/gps-geocaching.html

I encourage you to try it out with your kids and use some of these questions to start conversation along the way:

  • Was finding the cache easy or difficult? – Did you feel like giving up? – Why/When?
  • Did you notice there weren’t a lot of people out here looking for the treasure? – It’s like that with God too. Why do you think not many people look for him?
  • Do you know other Christians at school?
  • Do others know you are a Christian?- Why or why not?

Here are some verses to think about too:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.

Psalm 34:4-5

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

Get out there, find a treasure!  The real treasure is connecting with your kid and opening real conversation about the God who is so easy to find.

Don’t Overlook this Weed

If you have ever taken a hike in a park, or just wandered through the woods, you have likely passed one of my favorite flowers. It’s not flashy, you never see them in a bouquet, but these happy little orange slipper-shaped flowers are a quiet unassuming messenger from the creator who loves you.

It’s called Jewel Weed, or Impatiens Cenesis. They grow about waist high where the shadowy woods gives way to the light of an open area. When you ask the experts why it’s called Jewel Weed you get a variety of answers.

First if you take a leaf and immerse it in water, you’ll find it turns a silver color.  A second reason it may be called Jewel Weed is that when water from rain or dew sits on the leaves the water beads up and looks like thousand shining diamonds in the sun.  But my personal favorite reason it may be called Jewel Weed is found in the best part of the plant, the way it re-seeds itself.

Jewel Weed develops long pods that contain tiny seeds, and in the fall months the seeds ripen and turn brown. When that happens, the pods become highly sensitive, and a light brushing against a ripe pod will cause it to explode and throw seeds far and wide. This is why it is sometimes called a “Touch-Me-Not”.  As a kid (and I admit still as an adult) I loved touching the pods and watching them scatter their seeds.  When your out next time, give it a try, just find a pod like you see here and put your fingers on the top and bottom.  If its ripe enough you won’t even have to squeeze!

Jewelweed flowers, ripe seed pod, exploded seed pod, ripe seed and peeled ripe seeds

Now, to the jewel.  The ripe seeds are very small and brown, but if you carefully peel back that top layer and look beneath it, you find a lovely turquois nut at the center. I’m told this is the only place the color turquois occurs in any plant.

God has packed many lessons in this little flower if we pause and take the time to think about it.

The leaves turning silver when immersed.

When we allow ourselves to be immersed in Christ, completely saturated with His Spirit, we are transformed into something priceless. God no longer sees the way we’ve messed up, or our faults, he sees Jesus. Paul says it like this

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ

Galatians 3:27

Raindrops

You may have heard it said that in every life a little rain must fall. Trying times can be a difficult thing in life, but when we follow Jesus those difficulties don’t beat us down, or make us lose heart.  Instead they can sit on our lives like the beads of water on a leaf, and when the light hits our momentary troubles, they can shine like diamonds for the glory of God. Because we know that life doesn’t end here. We rest in the confidence of something better waiting for us.

 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

Why?

Many of us feel like we don’t have much to offer. We view our lives like the Jewel Weed’s seeds… small….brown…. unremarkable. But God knows differently. He knows that hidden just below the surface is a beauty that doesn’t exist anywhere else but inside YOU! And he wants you to brush up against the lives of others around you:

  • so they can see how  you are as valuable as silver when you are immersed in Jesus
  • so they can learn how troubles don’t defeat you but shine like diamonds in your life

And when you do engage with others around you, you will scatter the seeds of God’s Good News to a world that needs it desperately.  You will say like David:

Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.

Psalm 66:16

The next time you go past this happy little flower…. pause….. make one of the seed pods explode and let your heart remember who you are.

Take a Hike

IMG_0647

This time of year in Ohio is spectacular. The air starts to cool down, the trees start to put on their colorful clothes, and I feel the pull to get out of the house and onto the trails. I love to hit the parks, fields and other places to just get away and connect with God.

The God we serve is a very interactive God. He put his fingerprints all over creation, and calls to us to come and find Him. Everything in nature tells us about who He is, and what He's like. God knows we need the opportunity to search for him, and he promises that when we search, we will find him.

It reminds me of how kids play hide and seek. You know what I mean, they sit in the middle of the room, giggling away under a blanket. When we go looking for God, there He is in the middle of everything, plainly visible to anyone looking. That's exactly how he designed it. He wants us to see him and talk about him, especially with our kids.

I'd love for you to go with me on a couple walks, metaphorically of course. So pack up your water bottle, and grab your kids. Let's take a hike and explore what we can learn about God. Because you see, we are called to talk about Him, to discuss his principles while we do life. Deuteronomy 11:18-91 says it like this:

 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

So come with me as we walk along life's road and talk about the God who loves us so much.

Over the next couple weeks we'll explore simple lessons you can learn along the trail. Things that can teach lessons to your kids and maybe you will gain some insight too.

Defining Redemption

In my opinion, the word that captures my relationship with God better than any other I know is “redemption”. I love the words to that old camp song:

I’ve been redeemed – I’ve been redeemed
By the blood of the lamb -By the blood of the lamb
I’ve been redeemed- I’ve been redeemed
By the blood of the lamb-By the blood of the lamb
I’ve been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, filled with the Holy Spirit I am
All my sins are washed away, I’ve been redeemed

But, what exactly does it mean to be redeemed?

The Greek word “lutroo” is commonly translated redemption, and means gaining release by the paying of a ransom. In ancient Greece, during war-time, men of importance held hostage as slaves until a bounty was raised, and paid to the victor to redeem them from bondage.

That is exactly a picture of our lives, right? We are held hostage by our poor choices and the sin in our lives. Then Jesus steps in and pays the ransom for our freedom. Peter says it like this:

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. ” I Peter 1:18-19

Here is a little exercise you can try with your kids or grandkids to help them better understand redemption. I suggest you use it with older children. Choose something of great value to the child in your life, perhaps their favorite stuffed animal, or maybe a video game, or even (gasp) their phone. Take it and hold it hostage. Set the redemption price high. Make it money, or chores, whatever is appropriate for your child. Don’t return the item until the ransom is paid, then have a discussion using some of these questions:

  • How did you feel when your important item was taken away?
  • How do you think God feels when sin takes you away from Him?
  • How high of a price would you be willing to pay?
  • Read I Peter 1:18-19 together.
  • What does that tell us about the value God puts on YOU?

Watch this little video “Twice Owned” it brings a picture of redemption in an old story to life.


Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Phipps Philms is a trade mark http://www.facebook.com/PhippsPhilms

From <https://www.youtube.com/user/PhippsPhilms/about>

Defining Sin

From our earliest days watching cartoons we’ve known that sin is bad. Watching that little devil, dressed in red, with horns and a pitchfork talking the innocent hero into doing wrong, we knew in our hearts, that sin is bad.

Now you’re a bit older. Maybe you have a little “cartoon watcher” of your own, and you realize your view of sin could use to grow up some too.

Take a moment and do this little exercise. Find a few pieces of paper. Now wad them up into balls. Go set your trash can across the room. Next throw your paper balls into the target. Did you make it? Great! But if you fell short, then you just demonstrated the word we translate “sin”.

Hamartia is the Greek word for “sin”. It means to miss the mark. It was an archery term. The very center of the target is called the “Mark”, today we call it a bullseye. Any arrow that did not hit the “mark”, or the Bullseye, anything that fell short, or flew too far, or missed even a fraction of an inch, was Hamartia…sin.

So, if sin is to “miss the mark”, then what is the mark for my life? What is the target or the standard? The Bible gives us some insight into God’s standard for our lives:

I Peter 1:16

“Be Holy because I am Holy”

Ephesians 4:22-23

 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Sin in our lives extracts a terrible price. There can be physical consequences like anger, addiction, violence, broken relationships. There are always spiritual consequences, Paul says in Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death” – Sin separates. Like death separates us from those we love, sin separates us from others and from God himself.

You see, God by his Holy nature cannot have anything to do with sin. It is like light and dark. When you turn on the light in a dark room, where does the dark go? – I’s just gone. This is how God and sin operate. Sin cannot exist in the presence of the Holy God. And if sin is there…God is not.

Well then. If God won’t be where sin is, what hope is there then for my life? I certainly don’t live up to the standard Jesus set. I do things I don’t want to do, and I don’t do what I know I should. Both of these “miss the mark”. So why even try?

Because at the heart of the Good News , we learn that Jesus paid the price of our sin. One perfect gift for us all.

2Cor 5:21

We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

I know when we look at sin and then at our own lives, it’s so easy to become discouraged. But DON’T STOP READING our definitions. Trust me, as you look at more of those mystery words we use in church, you will find a freedom and joy you never imagined possible.

Hang in there, we’re on this journey together.


Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Saint

Summer is a wonderful time of the year! I especially love the picnics where everyone shows off their very best recipes. I bring my Mother-in-law’s famous strawberry pie. Well, I bring it if I can keep it unmolested until it’s time to eat. I can’t count the number of times I’ve found a little hole in the perfect red surface, evidence that someone has plucked a strawberry from its nest of yummy goodness. Luckily some well-placed whipped cream has covered a few sins now and then.

Over the years I’ve gotten smarter and now I make two pies. One is for our immediate enjoyment, and the other is set aside, with a note that says Hands off! Reserved for the picnic!

I tell this little story because it paints a good picture of a word we use in church, and over the years have lost sight of it’s true meaning… Saint.

Most of the time we use the term Saint to talk about someone who is perfect in their behavior, a character who might be “holier than thou”, but the term actually comes from the Greek word Hagiazo, which means to “set apart for a specific purpose”. Hagiazo shows up in scripture in a variety of forms:

  •  As an Adjective – we translate it Holy
  • As a noun – we translate it Saint or Holy People – that’s YOU!
  • As a verb– we translate it sanctify, make holy, or consecrate

So you see, being a Saint is not about what you DO, it is about who you belong to.

What does all this mean? YOU are God’s strawberry pie! Set aside for a sweet relationship with Him, with a sign for the evil one that says “Hands Off! This one is mine!”

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy (hagion) nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. I Pet 2:9

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Words: Making “Churchy” Words Simple

God has this thing about the spoken word. When you get right down to it, words are what God uses to actually create things.

Go back to Genesis, and we learn:

”In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit God was hovering over the waters. And God SAID “let there be light” (Genesis 1:1)

What did God use to create? – Words. Over and over the phrase “God Said” is repeated.

What God wanted, expressed out loud with words, brought all of creation into being.

If we fast forward to the Gospel of John, and read the first part of the first chapter.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made.” (John 1:1-3)

What God wanted… expressed out loud, in the person of Jesus, brought all of history into relationship with Him.

You see, God has a thing about words. And if God thinks words are important, then we should too.

I understand, it’s hard enough trying to figure what’s going on today when you’re ‘earjacking’ your ‘hipster’ ‘boomerang child’ making a ‘duckface’ wearing her new ‘kicks’ while she’s ‘chillin’ with her ‘bestie’.  And yet, we expect ourselves to fully understand what a middle eastern, nomad who lived over 3,000 years ago, meant when he wrote part of the Bible!  Don’t be so hard on yourself! It takes work, and time, and often a friend to walk alongside you.

So let’s go on a journey together.

Over the next few weeks we’ll feature common “religious” vocabulary words and take a deeper dive into what they mean.  We’ll look at how they are used in scripture and sometimes even outside of scripture.  We’ll try to look at things in simple terms and stories, so whether you have been in church your whole life, or are just starting out in your God walk, you’ll find something to help you.

Hey, drop us a line if there is a word you want us to explore. We want to hear from you. After all, we’re on this journey together!

Go to the GPS page, and see the “Words: Making Churchy Words Simple” article to follow our study.


Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

 

The ONE Thing God Wants for Christmas

“What’s the ONE thing you would like for Christmas?”  Every year I ask at least one person that question kids, my spouse, sometimes friends… I wonder how God would answer?

I imagine God would say, in his big God voice, “There is one thing…  One thing I want for Christmas more than anything else…”

3……God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.

If you have a family, or are part of a family, God has given you a very important task.  He told us what he wants, to ensure that the next generation “knows the truth” about God.  He wants all our children to know a God of extravagant grace,  a God overflowing with generosity.

Then He gave us the perfect tool to use to teach those truths…Christmas.

Everything about Christmas tells wondrous stories of God:

  • The way we make our homes beautiful is a picture of how the grace of God takes ordinary lives and makes them beautiful.
  • We wake in the morning to find a room normally empty, miraculously filled with gifts.  It’s a picture of lives once empty, suddenly filled with blessings too numerous to count.
    People all around us, treating one another with kindness, and courtesy, living in peace is a picture of what life is supposed to be like.
  • From the lights, to the decorations, the world filled with music and united in celebration,  everything about Christmas points to God  calling to His creation.

And the ONE most important picture…a child sleeping in a manger reminds us He doesn’t want heaven without us.

YOU are God’s ONE thing…. This Christmas make sure He is your family’s ONE thing too.

 

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas posts here.

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

4 Games for Your Gift Exchange

 

Does your family gift exchange need a little excitement? Try one of these 4 ideas to inject some extra holiday fun.

1. Dice Game

Everyone brings 2-3 wrapped gifts (can be white elephant or something nice). the more gifts, the more fun.

All the gifts are piled on the floor in the center of the room.  Guests sit around the gifts in a circle (so they can easily reach the person next to them).  You need a pair of dice for every 4 guests.  Pass out a pair of dice on a small plate for rolling spaced out as evenly as possible.

The game is played in 2 rounds.

ROUND 1: At the same time, those with dice, give them a roll and then pass the plate with the dice to the left.  If you roll doubles you pass the plate to the person on your left and go and grab a gift from the pile.  Place the gift on the floor in front of you but DO NOT OPEN IT!!  The play continues until all gifts are distributed.

ROUND 2: Set a timer for 5 minutes and start rolling again.  This time, however, each time you roll a double you get up and steal a gift from someone else.  When the timer goes off, the game is over and each person gets to keep the gifts in front of him.  There may be a bit of re-distributing to do, so that everyone gets one or two gifts. Use this as a teaching time about giving and generosity.

Go around the room one person at a time and open the gifts.

 

2. Left- Right Nativity Story

Use a nativity story to make gift giving fun and exciting.  Everyone stands in a circle holding their own gift.  Read the story provided and any time you say “left” – players pass their give to the left, and if you say “right” they pass the gift to the right. Use this story of the nativity (click HERE and print out the story), or find your own Christmas story to read.

 

3. Trading card game – best for groups of 10 or less

Sit in a circle (or around a table). Each person has his/her own gift. Place a deck of cards in the center. Ensure the cards are at least twice the number of players. Take turns drawing a card from the top of the deck and following the rule aligned with the card drawn. Print out the instruction sheet so players will know what to do.

Click HERE for a printable instruction sheet.

 

4. Musical Gifts – best for groups of 20 or less

You will need your phone or other player, loaded with your favorite Christmas music.  Everyone starts in a circle, and you pass one of your gifts round the circle while the music is playing.  Stop the music at a random time and the person with the gift opens it and then leaves the circle. Repeat till the final gifts are won.

 

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas posts here.

 

11 Great Recipes for Christmas

So many Christmas gatherings to get to! Have you ever looked around and wondered what you will bring? Time is short, and you need ideas that will WOW your family and friends! You may even need a little help for dinner tonight. Here are some of our tried and true favorites.

Appetizers

1. Erica’s Crockpot Buttered Mushrooms – from April Smith

What’s not to love about these buttery, spicy mushrooms. Easy to make, easy to eat!  Thanks, Sis for handing over this recipe! Click HERE for the recipe

2. Crab Tartlets (yields 24) – from April Smith

These little bite sized snacks go fast. Mix it up! Swap out the crab meet for chopped ham, or broccoli and cheddar! Click HERE for the recipe

What’s for dinner?

3. Tortellini Soup – from April Smith

This hearty soup is my favorite. Pair it with a crusty bread and a snowy day. Guaranteed to warm your insides. Click HERE for the recipe

4. Ham & Potato Crockpot Casserole – from April Smith

Use up your ham left-overs with this easy crockpot recipe.  Sure to be a hit! Click HERE for the recipe.

5. Easy Meatball Stroganoff – from April Smith

Who doesn’t love noodles in a creamy stroganoff sauce, especially when it is made in the crockpot with only 4 ingredients (plus noodles)?  Click HERE for the recipe.

How About Breakfast

6. Monkey Bread – from April Smith

Your kids will LOVE shaking the cinnamon sugar mix onto biscuits, especially when this holiday favorite comes out of the oven! Click HERE for the recipe.

Desserts & Treats

7. Grandma’s Rice Pudding – from Cindy Snyder

This family favorite was made by my Grandma every Christmas. It was one of those dishes you just have to have. Just to make it special she always had lingonberries on hand to top it off. Click HERE for the recipe.

8. Low Carb Chocolate Mousse Tarts – from April Smith

These bite sized gems can be made with ANY flavor of pudding!  Add a surprise like an almond or strawberry on top. Click HERE for the recipe.

9. Trisha’s HOMEMADE Caramels – from Trisha Knaul

I LOVE Trisha’s caramels.  Try them out for a treat your whole family will love too! Click HERE for the recipe.

10. Divinity – from Bev Pomering

Even though my mom has been gone for eight years now, she feels near when we cook her favorite recipes.  Here is one. Click HERE for the recipe.

11. Molasses Drop Cookies- from Bev Pomering

 Click HERE for the recipe.

 

What are some of your favorite holiday recipes?

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas posts here.