Month: March 2015

Holy Week 2015 | Tuesday: Betrayal

FOP2015_400TUE • MAR 31


Read Luke 22:3–6.

So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present. (v. 6)

On Tuesday, Judas agrees to betray Jesus. This is the day he negotiates with the Sanhedrin. As I reflect on Judas’s story, I wonder about what might have been going on in his mind between Tuesday and Friday. When we are reminded that Judas made plans to betray Jesus on Friday, we must remember that Judas’s actions were premeditated and calculated. There is really no room to think that perhaps Judas was merely caught up in the last minute. He made plans for evil. He made plans to betray his (and our) savior and to turn him over to the authorities who would torture and kill him.

We can easily point the finger at Judas, but Scripture also reminds us that none of us is without fault: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Introspection may not be a pleasant exercise, but we must remember that Lent is a time for us to look deep within our souls, that we might be brought back to full reconciliation with God.

Our story doesn’t have to end the same way for us that it did for Judas. For us, it is still Tuesday. We still have time to change our minds about the evil we may be planning for Friday, or Saturday, or next week, or next year. We always have the opportunity to stop,make a course correction, and go another way.

Will you accept the invitation this day, this Tuesday, to change your course and go a new way?

Gracious and loving God, thank you for the spirit of discernment you have put into each of our hearts. When we feel that we’re going in the wrong way, make us brave enough to change course. Amen.

These Holy Week Posts were published in the Fellowship of Prayer 2015 published annually by Chalice Press. Check out some of Chalice’s recent (and amazing) offerings such as: Sandya Rani Jha’s Pre-Post Racial America,Brian Christopher Coulter’s Be Holy,  and Stephen Ingram’s Organic Student Ministry. Of course, my book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life is also published by Chalice Press in 2014.

The Hardest Stories to Tell #EndFamilyDetention


The stories we most need to tell are often the hardest to tell. I’ve struggled mightily to figure out how and when to tell this story. I’m sure there will be more to tell, later, but for now I tell it for a simple reason: Patricia and those like her want their story to be heard. I translated this story into Spanish for Patricia and she corrected a few minor details. Everything told here is with her full consent and permission.

I met Patricia in October of last year, while she and her son, Mario, were detained in Karnes Family Detention Jail. Immediately, I was struck by her smile and her positive energy and bright eyes. Though she was optimistic and happy, it was impossible not to feel the deep sadness within her. We didn’t talk about the details, then, but I knew they must have been horrific. She fled El Salvador with her eight year old son, Mario, because his life was in danger. He would be forced into a gang if she didn’t get him out, and quickly. Mario is eight years old. He has a sister they had to leave behind.

I went to visit Karnes several times, and I brought someone new with me each time, first my colleague, Kelly, then a parishioner from my congregation, Melissa, next my husband, Elias, and finally my two and three year old boys, Clayton and Samuel. This is the part in the story where I want to be crystal clear that I was taking my toddlers to a to a jail where other children their own age and younger are detained as prisoners.

In the visitation area there is a play kitchen and mismatched toys. The three boys played together.  I wrote this in my journal that day:

We sat on the carpeted space with the toys and the little refrigerator… we didn’t talk too much this time about Patricia or El Salvador or what she left behind or what she’s going toward, we just played with the kids. We laughed when Clayton identified a piece of pretend meat as a watermelon. We scolded Samuel for taking a toy away from Mario. We praised Mario for saying ‘That’s ok.’ We pretended we were normal friends, not in a prison.

But we were in a prison, a fact that was painfully and viscerally evident when Clayton asked “Why is the door locked?” I said nothing.

The night after my husband and I brought our boys to Karnes Family Detention Center I had a dream that we were all back there again and when it was time to leave the guards wouldn’t let me take my children out. They said when children come in here, we don’t let them out, ever. You can’t prove that they are yours.  When I woke up the next morning, I told Elias that I was never bringing the children to visit Mario and Patricia again.

I changed my mind and we continued the visits. The nightmares continued, though.

Mercifully, thanks to the dedication of RAICES lawyers and the bond fund, Patricia and Mario were released to come live with us on January 1 of this year, after five months in jail.

I have vivid memories of dinner on New Year’s Day. Some El Salvadoran friends told us that El Pollo Loco was a good choice, and so we got roast chicken with all of the sides. I remember Mario gobbling up every morsel and seconds. We found something for Mario to sleep in. They came to us with the clothes on their backs and some legal papers.

The first few nights with all of us under the same roof were intense and emotional. Elias was out of town for a week and so Patricia and I had a lot of time to talk. She told me about the violence she fled. She told me about the journey. She told me about the incredible sense of isolation and hopelessness she felt in detention and how hope filled and happy she was when we would visit.  She talked about El Salvador and why she had to leave. I journaled about the terrible details of other stories she has shared but I cannot bear to read them.

There has been a visible transformation in eight year old Mario since he has been out of detention. When he was inside, his mother said he was getting sadder and sadder every day, but here, the opposite has been true. Just eight days after getting out of detention I wrote this in my journal “Today at dinner Patricia said “his face is filling out a little bit. he doesn’t have as much of that sad look in his eyes anymore. I wanted to ask her, ‘will there come a time when he doesn’t have it at all?’”

Since January we’ve felt an outpouring of love and support from our community. The church I pastor has showered us with gift cards to the grocery store, clothes, school supplies for Mario, money for vaccines and warm smiles. The Interfaith Welcome Coalition brought hot meals, listening ears, legal help, and a guest house for them to stay in when my parents were in town for an extended visit. We’ve formed a strong bond, and so have our children who play together and fight together like brothers.

Yet, these months have not been without challenge and struggle. It’s not easy to squish two families who barely know each other together in a modest home. We’ve all had moments of stress, misunderstanding and sadness.

At times I felt buried under an avalanche of pain, which has led to tremendous guilt. Why is it, I wondered that I am feeling so much stress when I should be rejoicing that things are getting better for Patricia and Mario? Part of the answer, I think, lies in the fact that seeing Patricia and Mario every day is a constant reminder that there are hundreds of children and their mothers locked inside for-profit (yes, for profit) immigration detention centers like place we first met in Karnes City.

In a few weeks, Patricia and Mario are moving on. They’ve gotten some things situated, they’ve made some choices, and now they’re headed for beautiful Seattle. You can help them get there. My family has never been to the pacific northwest, but now we have the perfect reason to visit.

If you would like to contribute to Patricia and Mario’s relocation fund, there is a Go Fund Me site set up. Donations of any size are welcome. 

Other Ways to Help

To Donate to the Refugee Backpack Program, go HERE.

If you are a faith leader, sign this letter.

To learn more about Family Detention, here are some good places to start:

What I Saw at the Detention Center

Locking up Family Values, Again



Holy Week 2015 | Monday: Cleaning House


MON • MAR 30

Cleaning House

Read Matthew 21:12–14.

Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of he money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. (v. 12)

Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of he money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. (v. 12) On Monday Jesus clears out the temple. “You are making my father’s house into a den of robbers” he says. Jesus is angry in this passage, violent. There is no way to sugarcoat that reality. Jesus in the temple isn’t docile and gentle, patting the heads of children who sit lovingly on his knee. He’s mad. Furious, even.

As we start our journey of Holy Week, pastors and priests, contemplatives, and devotionals often call us to be quiet and reflective, to go inside and undercover. What if, instead, we got mad? What if we got angry this Holy Week about all that is wrong with the world? Jesus shows us what it means to have a holy fury (often softened into “a righteous indignation.”) When we hear about mass hunger and war and human rights violations in our world, a right response might be a holy fury. We have the right (and perhaps even the obligation) to turn over the tables when we read of the sale of children into sexual slavery, robbing them of any opportunity for a normal and happy childhood. We have the right (and perhaps even the obligation) to turn over the tables when our rivers and streams are full of trash or when hatred and oppression snuff out the voices of love and freedom.

Think differently about what it means to observe this Holy Week faithfully.Take some time to think about what makes you angry. Where is your holy fury? What tables need to be turned over?

God of joy and anger, thank you for reminding us that there is a time and a place for a holy fury in our lives. Help me to be angered by the things that anger you. Amen.

These Holy Week Posts were published in the Fellowship of Prayer 2015 published annually by Chalice Press. Check out some of Chalice’s recent (and amazing) offerings such as: Sandya Rani Jha’s Pre-Post Racial America,Brian Christopher Coulter’s Be Holy,  and Stephen Ingram’s Organic Student Ministry. Of course, my book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life is also published by Chalice Press in 2014.

Mindful Parenting Practices + 50 Days of Mindfulness Ideas for Families #SeamlessFaith

IMG_1838 editedsmaller

Mindfulness, the practice of “tuning in to the present moment” is a word that I hear kicked around a lot in articles, podcasts, and conversation. Studies seem to support that mindfulness can ease anxiety and stress, something that is all too present in my life recently.  I’ve been experimenting with some practices of mindfulness in the past few weeks, particularly as it relates to the ways in which I interact with my children. Being aware of them and present with them is one of the greatest hopes for my life. Yet often I come home from work exhausted or start the day with a million plates spinning, already. I offer these practices for you with the disclaimer that I’m working really hard to implement them myself. They are challenges, to be sure, but I have really found them to be helpful.

Mindful Parenting Practice #1: 3 Snapshots in My Brain  – On my wedding day someone (can’t remember who) said “Try and find three moments today that are just perfect and take a picture of them, but not really, just in your mind.” I’ve been doing that recently in my ordinary moments with my boys. Before we get to the park, I’ll think “I want to capture three perfect moments in my mind while we’re here.” Sometimes I also take photos with my cell phone, but sometimes the idea of taking photos in my mind actually frees me from the urge to take a photo on the cell phone. I have some amazing pictures in my brain from the last few weeks. Pictures of Sammy folding his pancake like a taco, a picture from yesterday when I asked Clayton to apologize to his brother and they gave each other this incredible bear hug that must have lasted at least three seconds, a picture of Sammy trying to get a ball off the shed with a broom and struggling and struggling until he finally got it. You didn’t get to see those photos, but I promise you, the were something special.

Mindful Parenting Practice #2: Put the Phone in Time Out:  Raise your hand if your cell phone beeps and dings and hisses and buzzes and vibrates at you all. day. long. Yes, me too. I think it’s no big deal, but sometimes I think the constant wondering about what all of those buzzes and beeps and dings are about steals more energy than we want to admit. What to do? I’m struggling with this. I’d like to be able to put my phone away for hours at a time, but I’ve not gotten there yet. How about you? Here’s one thing I’ve been doing: set the timer for a determined amount of time and turn the phone off completely, (for me it has to be all the way off, or in another room, or literally under the bed), then set the timer for 2 minutes to respond to whatever “needs” to be responded to, and set the timer again. I started out with 10 minute chunks, worked my way up to 30 minute chunks. Cell phone detox. We need it.

RELATED TO DO: Buy a watch, not an apple watch or a smart watch but an old fashioned stupid watch that only tells the time Haven’t done this yet, but it’s my goal. I’ve noticed that one of the barriers to putting the phone in a time out is that I rely on it as a timekeeper. I have a theory that with a real watch and taught myself how to use it, I wouldn’t go down the “while I’m checking the time, I may as well check twitter, facebook, instagram, and respond to 5 emails while i’m here” rabbit hole. Anyone have some advice about this?

Mindful Parenting Practice #3: “Well this is not turning out as expected” laugh breaks – Sometimes I think we have an “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to parenting. I know I do. Either my kids are well dressed and happy, eating nutritious food and being engaged in some sort of mentally and emotionally stimulating activity OR they’re crying and cranky, eating processed cheese from a can and watching junk TV for hours on end. It’s not all or nothing, we can try the best we can and then laugh when it doesn’t work out. The other day I was trying to play with Clayton and Sam for a few minutes before I had to run out to a meeting. I thought we’d sing some songs and do some finger rhymes. They usually love it. Instead, it was a disaster. I started to get frustrated, I could feel my blood pressure rise, but then, who knows why, I just said out loud “Well THIS is not turning out as expected!” and started to laugh. Thankfully the boys laughed too. I started saying it a lot, in my brain, when things go astray. It’s helping.

I have a few more, but I think those are good to get started, let me know how they go for you!

Also related to mindfulness: This month in my Newsletter, I gave a simple idea for families to practice mindfulness. Here’s how it works: each day look at the “thing to notice” and tell it to everyone before they start their day. Then at night or at dinner, talk about what you noticed! It gets you in the habit of being a person who notices things. Get the 50 Days of Noticing Suggestions Here. 


Q&A With Glenys Nellist, Author of Love Letters from God… and a Giveaway!


I love the internet!  One amazing connection that happened via the internet is a connection to children’s book author, Glenys Nellist. Glenys connected with my author page on Facebook and pointed out that we share a common interest in children’s spirituality. I took a look at her book Love Letters from God (Zondervon: 2014), and I was intrigued. I wrote to Glenys and asked if we might exchange books. She agreed and when I received her book in the mail, I fell in love with it. I put it high up on a shelf so it would be a “special book” that the boys and I could read together.  I’ve been reading one letter per night to my boys. Samuel calls it the “Baby Jesus loves you” book. I adore it. I’m beyond excited to not only review it but to give a copy away.

The book highlights 18 beautifully illustrated Bible stories, each with a personal letter from God to your child. The letters are love letters. It’s exactly the kind of message and Bible story book I want my sons to internalize. Here’s an excerpt on the letter about Adam and Eve in the garden “You are my precious child, and nothing you can do will ever stop me from loving you.” Letter after letter, love after love. This book is beautiful, and I will buy it for baptisms, recommend it at workshops, and share it with the world. I’m excited for you to read this Q&A with the author and have a chance to win a copy! So let’s get started!

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog, Glenys! Let’s get the formal introduction out of the way. What does the bio on the back of your book say about you? 

My bio reads: Glenys Nellist was born and raised in a little village in northern England. Her stories and poems have been published in children’s magazines where her writing reflects a deep passion for bringing the Bible to life for young children. Glenys lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, David.
Ok, now for two interesting and quirky facts about you that is NOT on the back of the book… 
 Well first of all, when I was a little girl I had a pet gerbil called Coochy. We were not allowed to have pets at home so I had to hide her from my mum. Coochy lived happily and quietly in a little sewing basket in the top of my wardrobe. I taught her to jump on my head. Secondly, now that I am all grown up, I have no pets, but I do I have four sons and three grandsons, so if and when we have a girl added to our family, she will be thoroughly spoiled!
I love that you had a gerbil living in a sewing basket in your house. Hilarious! We had gerbils growing up, too. I fear this post could take a weird turn if I start talking about it though, so let’s get to the reason you’re stopping by the blog in the first place, your amazing book. I love the idea of children getting “mail from God!” It’s the sweetest and so full of whimsy and fun. How did you come up with the idea for the book? 
When my four sons were little, a wonderful book was published in England, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, called The Jolly Postman. It was written in rhythm and rhyme and told the story of a postman who rode his bike to deliver letters to Nursery Rhyme characters. The ingenious and innovative part of the book was that the pages were actual envelopes that contained the letters. My sons loved to cuddle on my lap as we shared this book together. I can still see my youngest son reaching his chubby little fingers into the envelopes to take the letters out. And I still have my battered 1986 copy. That little book, which is still in bookstores today, became the inspiration for Love Letters from God. When I first had the idea to write a children’s Bible, I knew that I had to come up with something unique. I felt that God brought that little book back to the forefront of my mind, and whispered: use the idea of letters, from ME!  And so that is what I did!
I loved the book before you told that story. Now I love it even more. The book is beautifully illustrated and designed as well. Can you talk a little about the collaboration with the illustrator and book designers? What was that process like? 
Well as a first time author, it was all very new and exciting to me. Initially, I was disappointed to learn that my editorial team at Zondervan had decided to use a lift- the-flap letter from God, rather than actual envelopes to contain each letter. However, in retrospect, this was really a great idea. Using a lift-the-flap version after each Bible story ensured that none of the letters would be lost, and what child doesn’t love to lift-the-flap, especially when they discover their very own name underneath? Regarding the illustrations, my editor asked me what illustration style I had envisioned, and then approached the amazing Sophie Allsopp, who had done some work for Zondervan in the past. Although she is British too, we have never met, but I hope to one day! It was my editor’s idea to give the book a ‘scrapbook’ feel, using the stamps, along with other whimsical qualities, and Sophie totally embraced the idea.
In my opinion, it was a huge success. This book is gorgeous.  (See for yourself!) In terms of the writing, is there a particular letter you’re most proud of? 

It is a humbling and daunting experience to pen a letter on God’s behalf! Each letter was accompanied by a great deal of


Another reason to love author Glenys Nellist. When I asked for her photo she said “This isn’t as professional as my author photo, but I love it because it has my 3 cute grandsons” Yes!

prayer. But I truly felt, as I wrote those letters, that God’s Holy Spirit took up the pen and wrote through me. If I had to pick one out, I might choose the letter that accompanies the story of David’s anointing, which I entitled ‘David’s Day’. The story is found in 1 Samuel 16, where David, the young shepherd boy, and the most unlikely candidate, is chosen to be king above his seven, older brothers. The letter reminds children that God is not concerned with how athletic they are, or how thin they are, or how intelligent they are. What matters to God is their heart. In this modern world in which we live, with its emphasis on competition, comparison, and a culture that places so much unhealthy emphasis on outward appearance, I truly felt that God wants young children to know this… As you grow up, do not worry about how tall you are. or how strong you are, or how smart you are. Just remember that I have chosen you- just like I chose David. And even though you may never be a king or queen, you will be something just as wonderful and very, very special to me.

Yes, Glenys! We are kindred spirits! I love everything about that. Amen. Many of my readers are looking for ways to incorporate faith practices into their daily lives and one of the things I love most about Love Letters from God is how each letter is focused around the theme of God’s love for God’s children. Can you talk a little about how you raised your children to know and feel the love of God in their lives from a young age? What wisdom can you share? 
God was an integral part of our daily lives. As pastor’s children, my sons came to know God’s great love for them through being immersed in church, worship, wonderful godly role models, bedtime and mealtime prayers and sharing Bible stories together. As a family, we also spent a lot of time outdoors- walking, biking and picnicking. I think there was always a sense of God’s great love surrounding our family as we enjoyed all the beauty and creativity of the world God made for us.
I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this before, but I think that Love Letters from God could be adapted into a board book for the littlest children. Are there plans to release the book in that format or any other sequels in the works? My boys want a follow up! 
I’m so glad you asked! Yes! In fact, the board book edition, entitledLittle Love Letters from God will be released on December 29th this year! I took just eight of the original stories, and rewrote them in simple rhyming text for little ones. This padded version includes small lift-the-flap letters, perfect for little hands, which I simplified from the original text. Also, I’m excited to announce that Christmas Love Letters from God will be released in the fall of 2016! I took the Christmas narrative and wrote it in the form of seven stories, beginning with the prophecy in Isaiah, and ending with the visit of the wise men. As in the original book, each of the seven stories is followed by a lift-the-flap letter from God. I am so blessed to have been able to use my gifts in this way, and thank God for the opportunity to touch the lives of children through the pages of these books. [Traci note: that seriously looks like a staged question, but I *promise* i didn’t know the board book was in the works when I asked that question. I was kind of hoping that she was going to say “you’re a genius! Never thought of it. Ha!]
Thank you so much for stopping by! How can readers connect with you more and keep up on the book and future projects? (pssst… don’t forget to enter the giveaway before you go!)
I love to connect with readers via any of the following:
Also, check out the beautiful promo video. 
Finally, what you’ve all been waiting for:   Win a Copy of Love Letters from God

10 Creative Ways for Grandparents to Connect with Baby and Toddler Grandchildren Using Skype

skype birthday party

When I moved from Chicago to San Antonio, there were a number of wonderful reasons to make the move… great church, great San Antonio weather and culture, bilingual environments for the boys. There was one horrifying reason to not make the move: serious distance from grandma and grandpa.  Though it was a heartbreaking and difficult decision to make, we decided that we would make the move, trusting that we would find creative ways to make the best of the situation.

My boys (now ages 3 and 2) have been talking to grandma and grandpa on Skype nearly every morning since we moved here two years ago. Here are some of the games and activities we’ve played. As the boys grow older, and as we come up with new activities, I’ll post future editions of this.

1. Have a Skype Birthday Party  – We do this for everyone’s birthday. Here’s how it works. We set up an appointed time on the birthday to have the party. Even if Grandma and Grandpa can’t come to our house, we can still decorate our kitchen, bake a cake, and eat cake at the same time, over skype, with Grandma and Grandpa. We light candles and everything. We have a basket with our reusable felt birthday banner and party hats so we’re ready for a skype birthday party at a moment’s notice. We do this for cousin’s birthdays as well. The key is to make it a party feel in our own house and build it up. The kids love it.

2. Play “Do what I do” – Grandma and grandpa say “Can you do this?” (and then they pat their heads) or “Can you do this?” (touch your nose.) From an early early age, the babies learned that they can interact with Grandma and Grandpa via the computer.

3. Have a routine or special thing that only grandma and grandpa can do – I think this varies depending on what your child is passionate about. For our (weird!) boys, it’s the garage door. They love watching the garage door go up and down. So guess what? Grandma and grandpa (for a time, until they grew out of it) would take the computer over to the garage door and open it and the boys would watch it go up and down. They loved it, grew to count on it, and it was a special connection for them.

4. Do something the same, together, like eat a banana – One day grandpa said “Oh, you’re eating a banana? I’m going to eat one too!” Now Clayton sometimes says he wants to eat his banana “the grandpa way” (Meaning he has to leave the peel on as he eats it and pull down the peel as he gets closer to the bottom. The “non grandpa way” is to peel the entire banana in advance.)

5. Do some sort of demonstration – Today grandma made a smoothie, over Skype and the boys watched. She set up the computer in the kitchen and asked the boys how she should do it. Should she put in 5 strawberries or 10?

6. Keep a pad and paper by the computer, ask grandma and grandpa to draw things and hold them up to the computer – “Grandma, draw a circle and a sun!” or “Grandma, can you draw a smiley face?” Simple, but they love it.

7. Take Pictures – On PCs there is a way to take a picture via Skype (I don’t know how my mom did that, because I use Mac.) On a mac, we just take screenshots. The picture quality isn’t half bad! Grandma and Grandpa have a whole file of pictures they’ve taken of the boys on Skype.

8. Send mail through the mail and open it on Skype – This is fun, because the children can see the same object on the other side of the screen come to their house. When the mail comes, give it to the children when they are talking on Skype to grandma and grandpa and have the experience of opening it up together.

9. Play peek-a-boo – We did this when the boys were babies. There were two ways we did it, one was for grandma to “cut” the video feed and just talk with the audio and then turn it back on. The second way was for her to just have a blanket available at home and cover her head (traditional peek-a-boo.)

10. Read a story over Skype – So easy, and so sweet.

Reformed Guidelines for Interpreting Scripture… Why I’m Proud to be #Reformed and #Presbyterian


Note to readers: This is a slightly edited version of what I posted in the Northwood Presbyterian Newsletter The Breezeway for the month of March.

Have you ever heard someone speak with absolute certainty about who God is, based on a verse or two from the Bible? I have to admit, whenever I hear someone says “The Bible clearly says…” I get a little nervous. After all, the Bible is a complex collection of books written with profound historical, cultural and literary layers. Sometimes what the Bible says doesn’t appear to be clear at all. Often there are passages that are confusing and complicated. Christians have wrestled with particular passages of the Bible for thousands of years. Different cultures wrestle wtih different passages at times, and our understanding of what is, and is not, acceptable (according to scripture) has changed, often in line with the ways in which culture has changed. At one time in our Christian history, slavery was justified and accepted, on Biblical grounds. Folks came to change their mind on that issue based on an understanding of justice and a careful listening to the Holy Spirit. Christians still have deep disagreement on biblical matters. One of the things I most treasure about our Presbyterian and Reformed heritage are the principles we use to interpret scripture. I listed these in a recent sermon, but they are so impotant, I felt I should share them here as well. Take a look and let’s chat about which of these principles are the most interesting or challenging to you.

Rules for Biblical Interpretation in the Reformed Tradition*

  • Scripture is to be interpreted with confidence in and openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  • The scripture principle: Scripture is to be interpreted in light of scripture, comparing scripture with scripture, with openness to hear the whole Word of God, not just selected parts of it.
  • The Christological principle: Scripture is to be interpreted in light of God’s central self-revelation in Jesus Christ.
  • The rule of love: scripture is to be interpreted in light of the one commandment of God that summarizes all other commandments, love for God and for all our neighbors.
  • The rule of faith: Scripture is to be interpreted with respect for the church’s past and present interpretation of scripture.
  • Scripture in to be interpreted in light of the literary forms and historical context in which it was written.
  • Scripture is to be interpreted seeking the word and work of the living God in our time and place.
  • Scripture is to be interpreted with awareness of our limitations and fallibility and with openness to change our mind and be corrected. “Reformed” means always being reformed afresh by the Word of God.

* Found HERE complete with links to relevant creeds.

I also recommend and love Rob Bell’s series What is the Bible?  You can start with part one HERE.

Happy Studying!


Emergency Children’s Sermons – Volume II


I think children’s messages are best when they are very, very simple. Rather than a sermon or an object lesson, I think it’s a great moment for children to connect with their pastor or children’s leaders, and practice faith together. Here are five “emergency” (read: last minute. It happens. I know) sermons that you might try. They are stripped down and super simple. At first glance you might think they are too simple. I assure you they are not. The most basic moments can sometimes be the most powerful.

1. Teacup Prayer: This takes very little preparation. Watch the YouTube video HERE a couple of times and learn it. When children come forward, talk about how a lot of times we think the way to pray is with our hands folded and eyes closed, but we can also learn to pray with our whole bodies. Ask the entire congregation to join with you on this one.

2. Tower of Gratitude: Requires some sort of blocks ( blocks, wooden blocks, I like the big cardboard blocks) – Talk about the importance of gratitude and being thankful. Invite each child to put a block on the tower and say one thing that he or she is thankful for (either aloud or silently in his or her heart.)

3. Bubble Prayers: Requires a bottle of bubbles. Tell everyone that when you blow bubble prayers, you breathe in the breath of your prayer (a request, or a thanksgiving or a confession) and then breathe out into the bubbles as a visible sign that God hears our prayers. Let everyone have an opportunity to blow bubbles and watch their prayers being released.

4. Teach a Bible Verse with Hand Motions: Just like the teacup prayer, this takes a few times of practicing and memorizing for the pastor or leader and then simply teach it to the children (and entire congregation!) during the children’s message. Love this example from Deuteronomy 6:5 

5. Read a Psalm line by line and have children repeat each line: 

Try Psalm 100 or Psalm 148 (both in the easy to read version)

Did you enjoy these easy children’s moment ideas? Check out volume 1 here.