I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.... I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
(Psalm 119:11, 15-16)
Knowing God's Word helps us
...when difficult times come,
...when sin threatens to overwhelm us,
...when others question our faith, and
...when we want to share with others.
I am so thankful for the ability to search for scripture on my phone, tablet, or laptop. However, sometimes we lose our phones, have dead batteries in our tablets, and leave our laptops home.
Sometimes we need a verse to use immediately, and even the delay of a minute to look it up may cause the momentary need to pass. I don't want to miss those opportunities.
We should be ready with God's Word when we need it. Although technology helps, it is not always reliable or available. The best way to keep our minds focused on God and to be prepared to use scripture is to commit it to memory.
Choose a favorite.
Review some you already know.
Enlist a memory buddy.
Use an app.
Make it a priority.
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.
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.
Looking for ideas for things to do with your family or a group of friends? Look no further.
Here are 18 activities to help you have fun, create memories, and bless others.
(Download the list here.)
1. Participate in a daily Bible Reading.
The most important thing you can do this Christmas is to keep your focus on Jesus during the busy holiday season. To help you do that, we created 25 Bible Readings for Christmas. If you haven’t started the readings yet, don’t worry. You can start any time by starting on the reading for today or by reading more than one each day until you are caught up. The important thing is to spend time in God’s Word refocusing your attention on Jesus.
2. Work Christmas puzzles.
One of my fondest memories from childhood comes from the inevitable snow day—a day during our Midwest winter when school closed because of vast amounts of snow. Every year on that first snow day, my mom would magically produce a brand new jigsaw puzzle. Then she would join my sisters and me for an afternoon with that puzzle. I instituted the same tradition with my children.
Our tradition has a little different twist than the one my mom began. Somewhere along the line, my family acquired a large snowman shaped jigsaw puzzle. Within the body of that snowman is a scene full of woodland animals in caps, coats, scarves, and mittens. Those appropriately clad animals are enjoying a snow day complete with sledding, skiing, skating, and snowball fights. This puzzle even has theme-shaped pieces like candy canes, Christmas trees, and snowmen. It has become a tradition in our house to work that puzzle every winter, usually on a snowy day.
This season, find a Christmas-themed jigsaw and spend an evening (or whole day) putting it together with your family or a group of friends. If you are not into jigsaw puzzles, find some puzzles to download. The internet is full of sites with crosswords, word searches, and other puzzles. You can find some here (free membership required) and here and here. For more fun add some Mad Libs like these. Of course, it will increase the fun if you include hot chocolate and popcorn, order pizza or put soup (like one of these) in the crock-pot early in the day!
3. Attend a Christmas program.
There always seems to be some program, or multiple programs, we have to attend because some family member is involved. Those are a special part of your family’s life and well worth your time. However, why not attend a Christmas program that no one you know is in? It could be a new holiday movie at the theater, a musical (Elf is playing close to us this season), The Nutcracker, or a special production at a local church. Attending a Christmas program when no one in your family is involved allows every member of the family or you and a group of friends to relax and enjoy the shared experience. Consider getting dressed up and going out for dinner, too.
4. Act out the Christmas story.
Bringing the Christmas story to life is a wonderful way to focus your collective attention on the reason we celebrate this season. This can be as simple or complicated as you desire. Unless you are really into memory work, everyone can read their part directly from the Bible (Suggested scenes: Luke 1:5-25, Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:39-56, Luke 1:57-89, Luke 2:1-21, Luke 2:22-40). Assign parts (including a narrator), assemble costumes and props, grab your Bibles, and start a new tradition.
Consider inviting another family or a group of special friends to join you and prepare a simple meal to kick off your evening. A simple Israeli meal like Mary and Joseph would have eaten might include: lentil stew (like ours), yogurt, pitas, almonds, and dates. Although it is doubtful Mary and Joseph had dessert, if you must include it, try finding baklava or making your own (recipe here and here).
5. Make Christmas ornaments.
I always enjoyed making ornaments. They were a fun way to connect with my children or with other ladies. When they were made with my children, they were also something to pass on as they married and needed ornaments for their first Christmas tree. You can find options for all skill levels here and here. Consider having a snack that won’t make fingers messy, like Grinch Kabobs or Chocolate Rice Krispie Gingerbread Men Pops or substitute Popsicle sticks for the peppermint sticks in this brownie Christmas tree recipe.
6. Make Christmas decorating a group event.
Decorate your home and tree with the help of others. For years I assembled our artificial tree, strung the lights and tinsel, hung the fragile ornaments, and put out all the household decorations (the way I wanted them) before having my kids hang decorations on the bottom half of the tree. Then I would go around and move things until the tree looked the way I wanted it to.
One year I realized my children were not enjoying the experience and had no reason to want to help. Their efforts were not appreciated because I wanted to have the perfect tree. Ever since that realization, we assemble the tree together, and they put the household decorations out. Is it the way I want it to be? Technically, no. But doing it together while playing Christmas music and sipping egg nog has brought many more happy memories than any perfectly decorated tree or home ever could.
If you find yourself alone this holiday season, invite some friends or nieces and nephews over to decorate together. Include time for everyone to make an ornament to take with them. Have a potluck or order take-out and enjoy the eggnog or hot chocolate mentioned above. Share the joy of the season with someone else.
8. Buy socks and deliver them to homeless people or a shelter.
Here is a wonderful article on why you should consider giving socks to the homeless, what type to give, and how to give. If you choose to approach a homeless person on the street, please be smart and safe. This does not mean homeless people are dangerous, but I do recognize that the areas where you will find them may not be. Do NOT go alone. If you are not comfortable meeting strangers like this, don’t let that stop you from giving! You can still buy those precious socks and donate them to your local homeless shelter. Don’t forget to ask if you can pray with them.
9. Take a drive and look at Christmas lights.
Pack the family or some of your friends in the car and start driving around and looking at Christmas lights. See if you can find a living nativity in your area and finish with that. While driving around, discuss how you can each be a light for Jesus during the next year. Round out the evening by stopping for dessert or a late dinner. Or, have Crock Pot Apple Cider and popcorn waiting when you get home.
Consider delivering thank you notes to homes that display a nativity. If you do, have everyone sign it. (Remember to hang it on a door or mailbox. It is illegal to put anything in a mailbox that hasn’t been sent via USPS.)
11. Pack a gift box for a deployed service member.
Let our dedicated military know you are thinking about them as they serve our country far from home this holiday season (or any time) by sending a care package. There are many organizations you can use to do this. If you would like to explore this and other ways to support our military, check out organizations like Soldiers Angels and Operation We Are Here or this list of programs. Consider blessing a military family in some way this season. Don’t worry if your gift doesn’t make it in time for Christmas. It will be appreciated whenever it arrives.
12. Decorate an outdoor tree.
Gather the family or some friends and make animal-friendly ornaments for an outdoor Christmas tree. Find ideas for your wildlife ornaments here, here, and here. Make two batches of popcorn. One to eat. The second without salt or butter to make popcorn strings for the tree. Listen to Christmas music while you work.
13. Have a Dollar Store Christmas.
One year when money was especially tight, we gave everyone the assignment of finding a Christmas gift for everyone else. There were just 2 requirements: 1. each gift must cost less than $2, and 2. when the gifts were opened, the giver had to tell why they chose that particular item. Then, we all wrapped our gifts. On Christmas day each gift was opened, and the giver told their reason for the gift.
One of the gifts I received was a bag of clothespins. Not an especially thrilling gift, I admit, but why my son chose that gift (and the note he included) made them special. I always called the pile of laundry on my bed Mount Never-rest (because with 6 people in the house, it was always there waiting to be conquered). The clothespins made him think about all the fun we had (reading books or just talking) while working our way through that pile of laundry. Hearing that was a wonderful gift!
So pick a day to have your Dollar Store Christmas. Drive everyone to the local dollar store (or thrift shop) and have everyone buy a gift for every member of the family or group. Set a limit of $2 per gift. When you get home, wrap the gifts. Order pizza or have a “dollar” meal of mac and cheese (or pull out your crock-pot to try this recipe). Then, sit by the tree and unwrap the dollar store finds. Allow plenty of time for everyone to explain why they chose each gift.
14. Make, sign, and address Christmas cards or create a family newsletter.
If you choose to do this, make sure it is a family project and not just your attempt to create the perfect card with a picture of the perfect family on the front. While the final result might indeed look perfect, remember that it is about the shared experience, not the product. Despite the childish scrawl and smudges, let each person sign their own name. Yes, even if there are dozens of cards.
If your children are older, assign everyone the task of writing a paragraph about their year so you can assemble a newsletter. Have them each draw a picture to be included as clip art. The important thing is to have fun and make positive memories.
If you are on your own this year, host a Christmas card party. Invite some friends over and create beautiful cards to send to everyone on your list. Have everyone bring items to use for the cards and their favorite salad or snack to share.
For some card making ideas to get you started, try these or these. Or check out this idea for creating a card making station.
My daughter and daughters-in-law love to get together to bake and decorate Christmas sugar cookies. My daughter has also hosted a cookie baking day for her friends. My son’s family creates a gingerbread village. If you enjoy baking and decorating traditional Christmas cookies this is a great way to connect with family or friends. Here are some recipes to try.
Try setting up a place to decorate containers to put the finished cookies in. Deliver them as a family or group. (Include an invitation to your church’s Christmas services.)
17. Do a Christmas photo or art challenge.
Try our 12 Days of Christmas Photo Challenge or turn the list into an art challenge. If you have older children, give them 2 weeks to take (or create) pictures from the list. Don’t forget to take pictures yourself, and remind everyone a few times during the week. If you have younger children (or just want this to be a family activity), spend a day finding items on the list. Then, let everyone take a picture of it however they want to (yes, a close up is okay). Pick a day to share your pictures while sipping one of these drinks or sharing one of these dips.
18. Bless someone.
Give a homeless person a cookie, toiletries, and a small gift card for a place to eat. Take a meal to a shut-in or a family who needs it (look here for ideas). Purchase gift cards to a restaurant or gas station as a gift for someone going through a health crisis. Buy, wrap, and deliver gifts to a family who otherwise would not get anything. Don’t forget to pray with the person who receives your gift.
Share it with us!
We would love to hear from you. Let us know what your favorite Christmas activities are in the comments below. Or share your selfies from the 18 activities above!
Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas posts here.
Last week April and her friend, Monica, talked about visual prayers. Since this may be a new idea to many of you, we put together a few suggestions to help you get started. If you are intrigued by the idea of visual prayer but don’t know how to begin, just download our Visual Prayer Starters.
April started the conversation about Visual Prayer here and continued here. You can watch her interview with Monica here.
We would love to see some of your visual prayers. If you would be willing to share them with us, please pin them to our Project Prayer Pinterest board.
We have created the 30 Day Prayer Challenge and the 30 Day Prayer Challenge Journal, because we wanted to provide you with tools to begin, help, or challenge you on your personal prayer journey. You can start the challenge at any time but plan to commit to 30 days of prayer.
Start by downloading the 30 Day Prayer Challenge (here) or use the 30 Day Prayer Challenge Journal (here) as a tangible guide and memento of your personal 30 days of prayer.
Each page of this journal includes quotes about the day’s theme, suggested music to listen to, and a passage of scripture to help you focus on the theme for the day, but feel free to use other verses (and record them). Then, we begin a prayer to get you started. What you pray about and how you do it are totally up to you.
You can use the journal as a place to write your prayers or to record your insights for each day or to create a visual prayer. If you need more room, you can easily download and print extra pages (here).
Unless you choose to share your journey with someone else, you will be the only one to see these pages. The prayers, insights, and visual prayers you record in the Journal are between you and God.
Regardless of whether or not you use the Journal, the 30 Day Prayer Challenge will help you to focus your daily prayer time on a particular topic and provide you with a 30 day prayer plan. You can use the Challenge for your own personal time or use it as a guide for yourself and a friend (or group of friends). Combine this Challenge with a reading of the blog posts during Project Prayer for an even deeper prayer journey. But, don’t stop there. Continue your prayer journey by going through the 30 Day Prayer Challenge more than once or using the Prayer Checklist (here) or by following your own method. Whatever you do, pray!
May you be richly blessed as you focus on prayer over the next 30 days!
We would love to hear about your experience in the comments:
How did it work for you?
What did you find the most challenging part?
What was the best thing about your personal 30 days of prayer?