Month: June 2014

Birthday Blessing: A Simple Tradition


I can’t believe my little guys are two and three already! It really is true that the days are long and the years are short. In the book, I have a birthday tradition that is fabulous and it allows children to think about others on their birthday. This birthday blessing idea, though, is one of the things that ended up on the edit reel. Maybe I’ll but something like it if I do a second book, but I wanted to share it here in honor of Clayton and Sam’s second and third birthdays, respectively. It’s really simple. Just choose a time of the day and say this blessing (or your own variation) to your child. I think as the children grow older, we’ll tell them the remarkable stories of their births and then conclude with this blessing. It’s a simple way to remind your children how important they are and acknowledge the gifts God has given.

A Birthday Blessing 

________, Today you turned __ years old. I give thanks to God for another year of life and give you this blessing: May you always know that your mama and your papa love you. May you always know that your friends and family love you. May you always know that God and Jesus and the Spirit love you. This year, may you have peace in your heart, rest in your mind, and health in your body. May you have these things not only today, your birthday, but every day of your life. Amen.





A Mary Carol: A Delightful Christmas Pageant by Katherine Willis Pershey

Mary and Joseph Ride to the Templesharefaith

I’m delighted to be reviewing Katherine Willis Pershey’s new Christmas Pageant A Mary Carol written for small to medium sized congregations. I’ll get to all of the reasons I love this pageant, but first, a little about the author.

Katherine Willis is Associate Minister of First Congregational Church of Western Springs, IL (A few train stops over from where I grew up!) She is also author of Any Day A Beautiful Change: A Memoir of Faith and Family, published by Chalice Press in 2012. She writes beautifully and from the heart. Check out the book or her blog!

Ok, on to A Mary Carol. So much to love about this Christmas pageant.  Before we get to the gushing, let me just say: I received a copy of this script for free so I could give my honest review. No other compensation was received for writing this post. I say this 1., because of the FCC, but 2. Because the gushing is going to make it sound like I was bribed or paid or something… it’s really just that great. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way. Here are five reasons I love it:

1. It’s written to be played by adults, youth or both. Rare, in my experience, is the Christmas pageant that is interesting enough for adults to enjoy and simple enough for children to present. To me this is the hugest selling point of A Mary Carol. If my congregation were presenting this, I’d absolutely advise it be done as an intergenerational play. How great would it be to get the adults and children together in presenting this story?

2. It’s not fussy – Seriously, don’t we all have enough to do at Advent without hunting down a zillion props or harassing our congregation members to sew special costumes? The cast of characters is traditional (more on that in a minute) so most churches will have the costumes lying around. There are a few props, but nothing that can’t come together in a couple of emails and a phone call. Done.

3. Refreshing, but traditional – This is another balance that is hard to achieve, in my opinion. We want the basic story to be told in Christmas pageants, but we want to present this really familiar story in refreshing and new ways. It’s hard to make something new without it turning corny or far removed from the original story. This pageant isn’t at all corny or far removed. The storyline focuses on the the night of the Annunciation, and Mary has the opportunity to learn about who Jesus is from the past (oh! Isaiah is a character in this script. What?! It’s awesome.) the present and future.

4. It’s funny – Not *groan* funny a lighthearted “I love this!” funny.

5. It’s a good value. Ten dollars and you can make as many copies as you need for your congregation. Seriously? Ten bucks. You can get it here.

Thank you, Katherine, for allowing me to review your lovely work. It is truly a gift to churches who are looking for something “just right” for their church this Christmas.

(Oh, if you’re wondering why I’m reviewing a Christmas Pageant in June, it’s because, well, summertime is when many of us start planning this stuff. It’s true!)




The Things We Don’t Talk About at Church…


Here’s something I’ve noticed, and maybe you have too… there are some things that we don’t talk about at church. When I say church I don’t mean Northwood Presbyterian Church in San Antonio or First Baptist Church of Anytown or Hope Bible Church in Largecity… I mean church in general. Any church. Some things are freely talked about and others are talked about in hushed tones, if at all. 

I’ll give an example… cancer. Cancer seems to be firmly planted in the “acceptable” camp. When our family members get cancer (and so many do) it seems like something we can talk about. We can say to someone “my nephew has cancer” and everyone will hear it, repeat it, and agree to pray about it. I say, from the pulpit (after getting permission) “Let’s pray for Mr. Jones, Mrs. Garcia’s nephew. Mr. Jones has cancer.” 

But what about… say… depression. Depression seems to be planted firmly in the “we don’t talk about it” camp. When our family members become depressed (and so many do) it seems like something we can’t talk about. Rarely will someone say “my spouse is depressed,” or “I’m depressed.” Have you ever heard a pastor say, from the pulpit (after getting permission) “Let’s pray for Mr. Jones, Mrs. Garcia’s nephew. Mr. Jones is depressed.”? 

Why is that? We know the answer: it’s because mental illness is hidden from plain view not just in the church, but in society at large. Cancer = acceptable. Mental illness = unacceptable. In the example above about depression, one could easily substitute any one of a number of mental illnesses or taboo things that people struggle with: eating disorders, addictions, phobias, relationship problems, financial problems, family problems, fertility problems, and so many more. 

There’s no easy answer or solution to making sure that the things we don’t talk about in church are talked about, but we know this to be true: the things we don’t talk about in church are precisely the things we should talk about at church. They are the things that weigh us down and occupy our minds and hearts. They are the things that make us cry out to God. If God cares about these things (and we believe that God does care about them) should not the church care about them too? Let us continue to work toward a world where every struggle is acceptable to name, out loud.