Month: March 2014

Sermon Remix: Jesus is a Brother + Jesus is Messiah

sermonremixgenericSo… I missed a week on the sermon remix and people noticed! Yay! I promise this was not a test to see if people would notice, but it’s nice to know that a little remix of the sermon is a good thing.

This week I’m offering up a double remix! Wooot!

Last Sunday we talked about Jesus as a Son and a Brother. Isn’t it true that we don’t often think of Jesus as being a part of an earthly family? I certainly don’t think of that very often. We talked about families. And then we talked about the 11 words that families need to say most often to each other:

I’m sorry.

I love you.

Please forgive me.

I forgive you.

I mentioned a podcast interview of a man who talks about people who are at the end of life who wish they had said those words more.

I also mentioned the ancient practice of ho’oponopono which is also based on those words.

This week we talked about Jesus as Messiah. I explained that Messiah means “anointed one.” We talked about the fact that there are many many prophesies in the Old Testament that talk about what the Messiah will be like.

We also talked about miracles this morning, particularly this fantastic miracle of Jesus rubbing spit on a blind man’s eyes. I wondered aloud if that’s the only reference to spit in the Bible and guess what?! There are many more instances of spit in the Bible and miracles! Coming soon: Blog post on this topic!

This morning I couldn’t help but reference what I believe is a true miracle, and that is the safe return of a classmate and confirmation buddy Michael Blodgett whose story of being lost and then found again has inspired so many of his former middle and high school pals.

 

April Fools’ Day Conversations

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My parents always succeeded in getting me to fall for age-appropriate April Fool’s Jokes. I still remember the first one, I was very small. Five years old, maybe younger. “You have dirt on your face! Go wash it off!” I went to the mirror and looked “No I don’t!” I said to which I heard the resounding “April Fool’s!” When I was older my dad said “Traci, there are some ducks out in the backyard.” I was wiser and so I said “No, there aren’t, it’s April Fools’ Day!” but when he left the room, I had to look just to be sure. 

There are a lot of great and silly April Fools’ jokes for families to do together, and I’m linking to them at the bottom of this post. It occurs to me, though, that April Fools’ Day is also a wonderful day to talk to kids about kindness and compassion. Some kids love jokes, some kids are sensitive and feel picked on if they don’t understand them. Here are five pointers for April Fools’ Day Conversation with Kids:

1. Talk about how April Fools’ Jokes should never hurt the person (physically) or hurt their feelings. Ask children: What kind of jokes hurt feelings? Have you ever had your feelings hurt by a joke? Explain to children that they can tell you if a joke ever hurts their feelings and tell them that you will tell them if their jokes ever hurt your feelings.

2. Talk about mutuality in practical jokes. It’s not kind to always play a joke on someone that can’t also play a joke on you. Explain that you can’t play the same types of pranks on children much younger than you because they might feel hurt or left out.

3. Talk about asking permission to play jokes. Parents can be accomplices in helping children play pranks on siblings or family members, but sometimes jokes can cross the line. Establish a culture of asking permission.

4. Talk about the difference between playing a joke and telling a lie. I saw a clever April Fools’ Activity for parents that involved making a “sunny side up egg” from a cut peach and a pile of whipped cream. Is it a lie, or a joke? How do you know the difference?

Note: This article was referenced in my monthly Seamless Faith Newsletter. This month there is a free download to an Easter Activity for New Subscribers. 

For Further Exploring:

Fun April Fools’ Activities 

 

Traci Smith is Author of Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life 

 

Seamless Faith Virtual Book Tour

All packed up and ready to take a trip around the internet!

All packed up and ready to take a trip around the internet!

Let me count the reasons I love the Internet… connection to people and friends around the world. All the time. Skype with grandma and grandpa nearly every day for my boys. Recipe finding.  And now, the most recent thing I love about the internet… the virtual book tour! That’s right, my book is going on a tour. I won’t be jetting in to various TV studios across the country, or sitting on John Stewart’s couch — (one day, my people… one day) but the book will be taking a “stop” on a variety of different blogs and websites.

As the posts go live, I’ll link up to them on the website (www.traci-smith.com) and on my twitter and FB pages, but I thought I’d post the whole schedule here so you can get ready! (Ok, truth, the main reason is just because I’m so darn excited about it. It’s true. I can’t wait.)

 

 

 

Virtual Book Tour 

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April 1 – Fidelia’s Sisters – Young Clergy Women Project
April 2 – Melvin Bray – (Traci Guest Post)
April 4 – Jerusalem Greer
April 5 – Saturday
April 6 – Sunday
April 7 – Open – Could be you? Seriously, get in touch if you want your blog here or on April 5 or 6. I’ll make sure you have a copy of SF to review.
April 8 – MaryAnn McKibben Dana (Q&A)
April 9 – Flame Creative Kids  (Guest Post)
April 13 – Sunday
April 14 – Dave Csinos 
April 16 – On The Way Home Blog

 

Heaven… ticketed guests only?

A Ticket to Heaven... The Worst Idea I've Seen in a Long, Long Time.

A Ticket to Heaven… The Worst Idea I’ve Seen in a Long, Long Time.

Like just about anybody who works in a church, I get a lot of catalogues. I mean, a lot. I usually flip through them quickly before dumping them in the recycle bin, but this week, a particular catalog caught my eye. It’s not important which one, but it was for children’s spiritual formation-type things: Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, children’s church and other similar things. I took a look at it while I was waiting for the rice to boil and it turns out that my blood ended up boiling right alongside the rice when I came across the product pictured above (side note: I just read some sort of article that suggested I use the time waiting for water to boil to “see how much I cleaning you can get done in your kitchen.” Ha. Ha ha ha.)
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So… color your own “Jesus is my ticket to heaven” tickets for kids. Let me count the ways this product is upsetting to me. I wanted to let this one go. I really did. After all, there are a lot of Christian products for kids out there that aren’t my cup of tea. A lot of it is cheesy, or poorly made, or not my style. This “Jesus ticket” is not your run of the mill Jesus Junk, it’s actually offensive (in my oh so humble opinion). Some thoughts:
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1. I don’t want my children (or any children I minister to) to get the idea that they need a ticket to get into heaven: Not a “be good” ticket, not a “believe exactly this” ticket, not a “if you’re not doing it right you won’t get there” ticket, and certainly not a paper ticket. There is a view out there that you have to have some sort of “ticket” to get into heaven. I think it’s hogwash.

 

2. Though adults can clearly understand that this craft is meant to be “symbolic” (of a ridiculous concept, see point #1) Many young children will view this as a  literal ticket to heaven. Sound ridiculous? It’s not. This is an object lesson, and many object lessons are too complex for young minds to grasp. For more on this, see Fowler or any other writer on faith development. Young children need safety and security not an implicit “You need this or you might not get to heaven” message. If even one child leaves the ticket making activity with the impression that they need that actual piece of paper to make it in to heaven, that is one child too many.

3. Jesus as a ticket to heaven completely misses everything Jesus was and is about.

So… what do you think? What am I missing here?

5 MORE Techie Tools for Pastors (and everyone!)

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After seeing how much everyone enjoyed the last post of tech tools, I thought I’d offer up five more tools that I use on a regular basis. We’ll keep the series going until folks get sick of it, or I run out of tools, whichever comes first!

Zamzar is a file conversion tool. It works with audio, video, photo, document and music files. I use it most often to convert various document files into JPGs. When I was on a PC instead of a Mac, I used it regularly to convert files to PDFs. If you’re wondering “Can I convert this to a ______” file, check zamzar, and you probably can. Here’s how it works: You upload your file to zamzar, enter your email address, and when the file is converted, you are emailed a link to download the file. Because of the system, I don’t consider it to be super secure, but since I’m not converting state secrets or anything, I don’t worry about it. I’ve never had a problem with spam or any other issues. Zamzar is free for small files and costs for larger files (such as videos).

Tweetymail – Tweetymail is a service that allows you use email to post your tweets. I use this to solve the problem of having to sign into and out of twitter accounts to post status updates. Since my church twitter account is connected to tweetymail, all I have to do is email the status update and the church’s status is changed. Easy! A nice feature is that it will email you and refuse to post if you go over the required # of characters for twitter.

Mailchimp – A lot of people know about mailchimp, but I thought I’d throw in my two cents for anyone who was on the fence between Mailchimp and Constant Contact, because I’ve used both. Both Mailchimp (MC) and Constant Contact (CC) are programs used for email newsletters. In my view mailchimp is far superior, and for “light” users like small or medium sized churches (less than 2,000 subscribers) it’s free. Constant Contact is $20 a month after the initial period. Not only is Mail Chimp cheaper, it’s better. CC limits the number of images that can be used at one time (without an additional fee) MC does not. MC’s templates are better looking, the emails are easier to edit, and the support is better. I’m not aware of anyone who has used both that believes CC is better. Anyone?

Blockposters – This is a fun one that churches and schools might find a great deal of use for. Take a JPEG, upload it to blockposters, and it converts it into a multi page PDF that can be taped together to make a giant image. Though it’s a little time consuming (and can be difficult to line up, depending on the image) it’s cheaper than paying to have a poster made, and the result looks fine.

Swift Publisher – This is a final “bonus” for Mac users. Swift Publisher is a desktop publisher for fliers, newsletters, posters, brochures, etc. I make a ton of fliers and manage the church newsletter, and Swift Publisher is the best program I’ve found. I downloaded at least 4 others before SP, so I know! It’s intuitive, forgiving, and has a lot of flexibility.

Like these? See the first installment: 4 Techie Productivity Tools for Pastors (And anyone who has a lot of different, unconnected things to organize.) 

Sermon Remix: Be loef

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In today’s sermon about belief, I referenced Marcus Borg’s book Speaking Christian. I read this specific quote:

“Believe comes from the old english be loef which means ‘to hold dear.” To believe meant not only confidence and trust in a person but also to hold that person dear — to belove that person. Believing and beloving were synonyms. Thus until the 1600s, to believe in God and Jesus meant to belove God and Jesus. Think of the difference this makes. To believe in God does not mean believing that  a set statements about God are true, but to belove God. To believe in Jesus does not mean to believe that  a set of statements about him are true, but to belove Jesus. This meaning goes back to ancient Christianity”

I also retold the incredible story of Anna Bagenholm who was trapped in freezing, icy waters for over 80 minutes. The head of emergency medicine at the hospital she was treated at said this: “She has completely dilated pupils. She is ashen, flaxen white. She’s wet. She’s ice cold when I touch her skin, and she looks absolutely dead,” Gilbert said. “On the ECG [electrocardiogram], which the doctor on the helicopter has connected her to, there is a completely flat line. Like you could have drawn it with a ruler. No signs of life whatsoever. And the decision was made. We will not declare her dead until she is warm and dead.”  I wondered out loud what it would mean to say about something in our lives: it’s not dead until it’s warm and dead. What happened to Anna Bagenholm is incredible. She was hooked up to a heart/lung bipass machine, and her blood was warmed up outside her body before it was put back. Though it was many months and a long recovery, she lived. If it hadn’t been for the faith and skill of the doctors that decision to not declare her dead until she was warm and dead, there would be no story here.

I came upon Anna Bagenholm’s story via an interview on the program Fresh Air.  That entire interview is worth listening to. It features Dr. Kevin Fong, author of a book called Extreme Medicine. I was struck when Dr. Fong was talking about this story and was asked “Is it fair to say she was dead?” He paused for a little and hesitated and then said “Her condition was indistinguishable from the condition of death.” Wow.  Anna Bagenholm’s story is just one of many fascinating stories in that interview.

For further reading and watching:

Video summary of Anna Bagenholm’s incredible story 

Summary/Review of Borg’s Speaking Christian 

You’re Not “Doing it Wrong” (A quick reminder)

A tiny human  © Traci Smith

A tiny human
© Traci Smith

Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to be reading a lot of articles and blog posts recently that imply I’m “doing it wrong.”  Reading them makes me feel like a worse parent, not a better one. Just this week I read articles that told me I’m doing it wrong with regard to the following: potty training, nutrition, and bilingualism. (Never mind all the ways I was doing it wrong last week and the week before that).  Here’s the thing though. I’m not doing it wrong. (at least not all the time.) And neither are you. In fact, I think we’re doing a lot of things right. We’re entrusted with the lives of tiny humans and it’s an impossible task. We need (God’s) help. Raising tiny humans  is made even more impossible by the constant chatter of “you’re doing it wrong.” So let me be a voice in the wilderness saying something new: Good job mamas and papas. You’re doing it right! High five!

Here’s a prayer for all of us as we try to figure it out:

Dear Lord, Forgive me when I do it wrong. Forgive me for telling others they’re doing it wrong or even implying they’re doing it wrong. Help me to recognize when I do things well when it comes to raising tiny humans. Help me to be a positive and encouraging voice for other tiny human raisers. Amen!

Sign up to receive my monthly newsletter with ideas, tips and positive encouragement on raising kids in a spirit-filled home. 

“Where’s my free copy?” “How much money are you making?” and other awkward questions… answered! (sorta)

 

 

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So… my book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life is done being printed and is now available for purchase and reading. I learned a lot in the writing and publishing process. More about that next week, but for now, I thought I’d answer a few questions here about some of the nitty gritty of this book since, well… you’re asking. Some of you are asking for real and some of you are asking in your head, so I thought I’d just answer you!

Can I have a free copy? Probably not. Nope. Sorry, no. This isn’t because I don’t want you to have a free copy, it’s because I don’t have any. I really don’t. Ok, that’s a lie, I have a few free copies. You know who gets them? People who created me (hi mom and dad!) or were subject to me kicking them under the table when we were kids and then lying about it (hi Scott!) and people who smell my morning breath (Hi Elias!) and then a few people who are listed in the acknowledgements of the book because they contributed significant sweat and blood or influence to the book. Then there a few people I begged to read it in advance so they could say nice things. They get one too. That takes up all the free copies! Darn! Wish I had a free copy for everyone, but I do not. One great thing about this, though: If you sign up for my newsletter you can get some free excerpts to see what all the hubabaloo is about and decide if you want to buy a copy for yourself or your church or your friends (because you will!)

Ok, so since you’re not giving me one, I’m going to buy one. Where should I buy it? Depends. If you’re local, you should buy it from me! No shipping fees AND I can sign it and put a smiley face in it. Otherwise, get it from Chalice Press or any other big online book place. You know the ones.

How much money are you making off of this book? I’m simultaneously making not enough money and too much money from this book. Not enough money because, really, when we consider the number of hours I spent writing, editing, marketing, discussing, obsessing, emailing and organizing this book, I would definitely be making more money by doing a variety of other things. On the other hand I wrote this book and wanted it published for one reason and one reason only: I want the ideas out there. You guys, I really believe in this book. I really believe that parents who think they don’t know anything about how to teach their faith to their children really know a lot. I think that by doing really simple things as a part of every day life, parents can create a world for their children where faith is natural and normal, and just… life. So for me, making any money at all is sort of “too much” because what I really want is the platform and the opportunity to distribute these ideas to parents and ministers and churches. I’m not discussing numbers on the blog because I don’t know if it’s fair to other authors to discuss specifics like that in such a public forum, but if you know me and you want to know, ask me and I will absolutely tell you.

Are you going on a book tour? Yes! Ok, so a virtual one. In the beginning of April, I’m sending it around on a few blogs where people will write about it and review it and excerpt it. If you think your blog (or a blog you know) is a good candidate, let me know and I’ll see if we can get it on there. 

Will you sign my book? YES! You buy it, I’ll sign it. I’ll even put a smiley face or a heart in it.

Is it a good book? Tell me the truth: It really, really is. When I wrote it it was a pretty good book and then a lot of really awesome people edited it and designed it and made it into a really good book.

How can I help you make the book a success? OK, peeps, you are my peeps, so I want to tell you a secret: I want you to review the book on Amazon.  I don’t want you to say you liked it if you didn’t, I want you to say what you really think about it. You know why? Because people read those things. You’re my friends and my family and people who know me and are going to be reading it first, so put a review up! Do it! Also mark the book as “to read” on your bookshelf for Good Reads, share it on Facebook and talk to your friends about it.

Thank you for sharing my joy! Yay!


The Parable of the Pot (Sermon Remix)

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On Sunday we concluded our sermon series on the creeds by concluding with the Brief Statement of Faith. I highlighted the beauty in the phrase “In a broken and fearful world” and concluded by offering my own retelling of the parable of the pot. 

Bonus link. I’ve really been enjoying this version of Take My Life and Let it Be, by Chris Tomlin

 

On Noticing…

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On my way to a Presbytery meeting in Austin this week, I knew I’d be in the car for a few hours, so I burned a couple of the podcasts that were on my “to listen to” list to CD to bring with me. One of the podcasts I heard was this episode of On Being by poet laureate of New York, Marie Howe. One of the things she talks about in this episode is the inability we have, at times, to notice the everyday. Either we miss it completely (because we are too busy or preoccupied or multi-tasking) or we want to overanalyze it. We don’t notice the simple details of life, she argues. It’s true.

Then, yesterday, with that podcast still echoing in my ears, something remarkable happened: the ice cream truck passed by. I was so moved by it, I wrote this little letter to Clayton and Sam. I thought I’d share it here, in the hopes that it inspires some of you to take note of that which is ordinary, realizing that it might be, in fact, extraordinary.

Dear Clayton and Sam –
You are almost two and almost three. I can’t believe it. You’ve both had a lot of “firsts” already.. They seem to be flying past! Your first steps, your first words, your first teeth, your first trips to the ER, your first birthdays. I remember a lot of your firsts and we have a lot of pictures of them, but today we had a first that was so precious to me, I wanted to write it down so I could remember it forever. Today we had our first ice cream from the ice cream truck! We’ve heard it drive by before with the music, but we’ve never flagged it down and bought the ice cream. I was waiting until just the right day. Today was the day! We heard the music and I opened the door to see if the ice cream truck was really going to drive by our house, and there it was! I took both of you outside, one on each hand and held you tightly around your wrists so you wouldn’t get too far ahead. Daddy came out too and we each carried one of you across the street to the ice cream truck. I held you, Clayton, and Daddy held you, Sam. We got each of you an ice cream cone with cookies and creme. The best part was when we sat down on the front porch to eat them. You both were talking about the ice cream truck and listening to the music as it was driving around the neighborhood still. It was such a surprise to you that we bought the ice cream from the truck that plays music! You also let mama take lots of bites from your cones. In fact, you thought it was as fun to give me bites as it was to eat the ice cream yourself. Every time I took a bite, you would open your little mouths too and giggle and laugh. You got the ice cream all over your faces and your hands and it dribbled down your shirts.