Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

Forming Faith: The Blog of Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

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  • 21 Jan 2019 11:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Rev. Dr. Brenda Buckwell is founder of Living Streams Flowing Water spiritual formation ministry.  As an ordained elder she preaches, consults with congregations, districts and judicatories integrating spiritual formation into the mainstream of ministry. She teaches prayer and spiritual direction at Ashland Theological Seminary, Garrett Evangelical Seminary and CenterQuest. You may reach Brenda through the contact form on her website www.livingstreamsflowingwater.com

    Is intergenerational spiritual formation possible in the 21st century?

    Remember the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child?” Has the notion of village become lost in our contemporary culture? When I look around, I see individuals struggling.  People pour out large amounts of energy striving to make ends meet while keeping stability in the household and completing daily to do lists. Individualism looms as a dominant pattern for obtaining job satisfaction, self-worth, and bolstering a sense of accomplishment and knowledge through crowd-sourcing posted on social media. Often this preferred stance of the “self-made” person drives our personal seeking for God overlooking generational wisdom.

    Intergenerational faith formation has the potential to gift an individualized nation that is divided among race, socio-economic and political lines by creating villages. “Revillaging” community creates opportunity for spiritual kinship to thrive through creativity, storytelling and mentoring. This leads to an incarnational embodied faith that is easily shared between generations and through stages of development.

    Seeing Beyond the Surface: Contemplative listening and receiving

    The foundation to faith-revillaging for community is seeing beyond the surface. This is looking beyond the specifics of age, race, gender and classism to the heart of creation. With expectant hope and certainty that God is dwelling in the other, each age level can experience God’s presence in the other as spiritual kinship is birthed.  The trick is to develop eyes to see and ears to hear God’s presence and voice in the other.  The best method of training for this contemplative gazing is spiritual direction. 

    This contemplative mode of listening and receiving the other in spiritual direction is an historic prayer practice which binds people together at a soul deep level and transforms the outward actions of mission, service and prayer. This mid-wifery process of spiritual direction brings new understandings, experiences and wisdom of God to humanity creating a plethora of intergenerational opportunities for faith forming practices in the village of God’s people.

    Story Telling

    People of all ages can engage in the storytelling.  This is much more than just retelling the biblical story.  Holy listening and storytelling with an intergenerational village provides opportunity for persons to share how God is present, active and transforming life personally. Envision a Grandma (a spiritual mother) surrounded by adults, children, and teens telling her weekly experience of God’s abounding grace. Then Grandma invites another individual forward and the child shares. 

    But the question arises, what if one does not know their own story? Creative arts prayers can assist in eliciting one’s story of faith.

    Creative Arts Prayer

    Creative arts prayer techniques provide great fodder for revillaging a community as generations intermix.  Visio Divina with cartoons, movie clips and pictures or icons can open the way for insightful story conversation.   The benefit of praying in color literally opens a space within the brain for the presence of God to rise to the consciousness of younger and older individuals.  Great joy can be experienced by picking up colored pencils and allowing the beyond words expression of God to fill the sacred circle of a Mandala as community explores the Alpha and Omega of Christ. Meditative Movement with prayer postures, hand dancing and the use of breath with the infilling of the Holy Spirit breaks down the age division among us. With these and more creative arts prayers, we can witness to nonverbal expressions of God’s presence and stand in solidarity with those that are suffering and growing in grace.

    Spiritual Mentors

    Intentional storytelling gives rise to the need of spiritual mentors.  Since spiritual formation is a life-long journey,  through which children, teens, young adults, middle adults and older adults travel. Every age and stage of life can become mentors for others, as well as relate to a mentor in faith for ourselves.

    It takes a village to encourage one another in faith. The multigenerational opportunity of co-creating with God spiritual kinships across cultural divides is limitless. How will you begin? With whom will you share your faith story?  How can you encourage others to break the fear of “professional artist” into accessible movement and praying in color?  I look forward to hearing from you as you seek to cross the great generation divide and revillage your community.



  • 15 Jan 2019 3:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sarah Gregory is the Communications Coordinator for CEF. She works from home in St. Louis as a freelance writer, musician, and consultant. She has an MACE from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. 



    Over the last century, the mainline institutional church, the presumed titan of Western morality, changed. The culture changed. Life expectancy, retirement, young adulthood, adolescence, and childhood changed. As a result, the landscape of faith formation work changed. But the practice of faith, the God who leads us, and the call to make disciples remains unchanged. 

    Amidst all the cultural and religious changes, the people of God hold tightly to the fact that God remains the same; loving, merciful, and just. Faith formation happens in unexpected places, arguably as it always has—from burning bushes to shepherd’s fields, God sanctifies holy ground where we least expect it. Certainly, if God remained faithful in First Century Paletine during enormous cultural shifts, the rise and fall of empires, and the birth of the Church, then God remains faithful now, even as church leaders in the United States navigate unexpected holy ground.

    The work is difficult. By God’s grace, the work does not have to be lonely. Over the next few months, CEF will feature some unexpected places and practices that fellow faith formation leaders are pursuing in an effort to create disciples in our current culture.

    Tell us your unconventional faith formation practices. Where are they happening? What do they look like? What do you dream about doing?

    Share a picture with us using our social media accounts with a small caption or comment below. Your experiences may spark others’ divinely inspired imaginations to do something new. Let’s ring in 2019 with a celebration of all the ways that God is incarnate today.

    Look to our social media pages for featured faith formation ideas. Find ideas on our blogs. Share your ideas, thoughts, and dreams. Be on the lookout for neighborhood mentoring opportunities, nook classrooms, and chances to connect with faith formation leaders like you. Together, we will continue to meet God in unexpected ways.


  • 14 Jan 2019 1:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Emily La Branche Delikat is a CEF Board Member and the Development Editor of Children’s Resources at the United Methodist Publishing House. She holds a M.A. in Christian Ministries with an emphasis in Christian Education from Asbury Theological Seminary. Emily has more than 10 years of experience in early childhood classrooms, and worked as a Director of Music, Director of Children’s Ministry, and Director of Spiritual Formation in UM churches. Emily is the author of Piggyback Psalms: 100+ Bible Songs to Tunes You Know, and writer and editor of Deep Blue Early Elementary and Deep Blue Kids Church. She is passionate about helping children and families fully participate in the life of the church through worship, education, and service.

    Psalm 139 reminds us that God is always with us, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” (CEB) Spiritual practices are everyday activities done with the intention of becoming aware of God’s presence with us and in us. They help bring us into a space physically, mentally, and emotionally where we are able to meet God and ourselves in new and familiar ways. Spiritual practices can be an important part of your ministry with children.

    You are likely already using spiritual practices in your children’s ministry. When you sing, pray, color, bless, wonder, worship, serve, and more, you are inviting children (and yourself) to become aware of God’s presence among them and within themselves. You may even have been incorporating activities that you didn't realize are spiritual practices. Take a moment to think about the ways that you are are inviting children to be with God.

    • Pull out a copy of a lesson plan that you have used for Sunday school, children’s worship, or other children’s ministry event. If you do not have one written down, take some time to write a quick outline of your most recent children’s event.

    • Circle or highlight the times when children are encouraged to recognize that God is with them and that they and others are children of God.

    • Make note of the things that you have circled or highlighted that have become regular rituals within your ministry. These are excellent examples of spiritual practices you are already doing.


    Want to include more intentional spiritual practices in your children’s ministry? Try some of these activities:

    • Greeting—Greet the children each time you begin an event or class together in a way that reminds them that God is present. You may want to use the greeting commonly used in worship, “The Lord be with you. And also with you.” Try greeting the children with a hand clapping chant or a song such as “This is the Day.” Including a greeting as an intentional spiritual practice helps children into a time focused on being with God and one another.

    • Silence—Include very short moments of intentional silence within your time together. To introduce the practice, try taking a short pause in your spoken prayers before concluding with, “Amen.”

    • Body Awareness—Have the children sit with their feet on the floor or lie down on their backs. Invite the children to become aware of their breathing. Encourage the children to breath in through their noses as you slowly count to four, and then breathe out through their mouths as you slowly count to four again. Do this several times. After a few repetitions, do the exercise again saying, “God is with us.” in the place of counting. This breathing exercise invites the children to be still and become aware of their bodies and God’s presence with them.

    • Lighting Candles—When we gather for worship we often light candles. The light reminds us that God is present with us in the worship time and space. Candles can be a reminder that God is with us in other times as well. Try adding a candle lighting to your routine at the beginning of your time together, before reading the Bible, or as a part of prayer. Real candles are ideal because you can feel, see, and smell them, but battery operated candles are also an option.

    • Coloring Scripture—Read a Bible verse or scripture passage together. Invite the children to illustrate or color what they heard. Encourage imagination.

    • Praying for One Another—Take time for each child, who desires to share, to tell the group about something that happened in his or her life recently, good or bad. Honor the child’s story and have the children say with you, “Thank you, God”; “God, please help.”; or “Lord, hear our prayer.”

    • Blessing—As each child leaves say a blessing for that child. Depending on the child and your context, you may wish to place your hand on the child’s shoulder, head, or hand. The blessing may be simple, such as, “God loves you.”; “You are a loved child of God.”; or “God be with you wherever you go.”


    Practicing being in God’s presence together at church gives children the tools and resources that will help them connect with God in new and deeper ways throughout their daily lives. As you incorporate spiritual practices into your ministry with children, you may find that the children will teach you some practices or even create their own.


    How have you incorporated spiritual practices in your children’s ministry? What new spiritual practices are you excited to try?










  • 12 Nov 2018 12:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Rev. Kathy Wadsley is a former CEF Board Member. She served most recently at St. Matthews UMC in Bowie, MD. We are thankful for this resource she has freely shared. If you would like to make a donation in her honor to continue to support CEF's efforts to make member-created resources like these available, please use the donate tab on this website.

    This three-year series of devotional calendars is available in both English and Spanish for both Lent and Advent. Great for all ages and families of all sizes. May be printed at home, or inserted into church newsletters or emails. Each day includes a suggested activity a symbol to color.

    Advent Calendar Year C English 18.pdf

    Calendario de Cuaresma Ano CAdventCalendarYearCSpanish18.pdf

    Intro and Printing Instructions

    Adviento y Cuaresma Calendarios Devocionales en Inglés y en Español - Intro e Imprimir

    These calendars are part of an ecumenical three-year series of Advent – Christmas and Lenten calendars based on the new common lectionary scriptures. The calendars, available in English and Spanish, are designed to encourage families and individuals to take a few moments each day to focus on the meaning of these special seasons of the church year. Each day of Advent through Epiphany or each day of Lent though Easter Sunday has a scripture reference from the new common lectionary or a related activity and a symbol which children of all ages may enjoy coloring. 

    Suggestions for use: 

    † For Families at home. 

    † Use in Sunday School as a class or weekday ministries to learn about the seasons and the symbols. 

    † Classes could draw their own symbols, write the meaning on it and make a large calendar on classroom wall or bulletin board. 

    † Color symbols with magic markers or colored pencils. 

    † Use as daily family or individual devotional. 

    †Distribute at Worship or Sunday School, in church newsletter or other ways. 

    Printing Instructions: The Advent Calendars are designed to be printed on legal (8.5” X 11”) paper and can be printed on ledger (11” X 17”) paper for larger print. The calendars are designed to be printed with calendar front on one side and calendar back on the other side using one sheet of paper. 

    Copyright These copyrighted calendars are designed by Kathryn (Kathy) L. Wadsley, Minister of Christian Education, The United Methodist Church. Churches have permission to copy and distribute the calendars for use. Calendars may only be freely given as a spiritual formation tool and may not be sold.


  • 30 Jul 2018 9:36 PM | Tim Gossett (Administrator)

    CEF is seeking an individual to fill a short-term role between now and the end of October to help us launch our new Neighborhoods and Nooks. The position will begin on or about September 1 and will last through October, with the possibility that the position will be continued for the long-term after that (depending on feedback at the CEF2018 conference).

    Click for a description of Neighborhoods and Nooks, as well as a general position description.

    Deadline for applying: August 15. Questions may be directed to Scott Hughes, barnesvilletheologian@hotmail.com.

  • 23 Jul 2018 11:11 AM | Tim Gossett (Administrator)

    CEF Call for Nominations

    The CEF Board is now taking nominations to elect 4 new Board members for the upcoming 2019-2022 term. 

    You are invited to nominate yourself or another qualified individual that would serve CEF faithfully in the following ways:

    • Board members serve a four year term, beginning January 1st. Those who can will also meet with the current Board members at CEF2018. Each member serves on one of the teams that make up the Board’s work (e.g. Neighborhoods, Nooks, finances, etc.) Board members work on team projects that serve to enable the work of CEF to live into its mission to develop leaders in faith formation to equip people of all ages to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.
    • Participate in monthly or bi-monthly conference calls
    • Participation at the bi-annual conference is strongly encouraged.
    • Board Members are encouraged to cover expenses as they can, such as travel to the annual board meeting, but it is not a requirement.
    • Participate in an annual onsite meeting in Nashville (approx. 3 days, near the end of January)

    Election Timeline

    Nominations accepted until the end of day (CST) on August 15, 2018

    Elections will begin as soon as possible after the deadline.

    Click here for the Nomination Form
  • 07 Apr 2018 1:29 PM | Christine Hides

    The Life to Come
    Re-Creating Retirement

    by Steven M. Tipton




    Rekindle your love of life. Find your true calling, maybe for the first time.

    What must we do to make our dreams come true? What can we do together to keep the promise of the American Dream? What should we do when so many of us have saved so little? Retirement not only offers a time to rest from our labors and relax with family and friends—to travel, play, and have fun—but it beckons us to find our true calling in action, peace of mind in reflection, the spirit moving in the moment of each day, and the grace of God in prayer and love of neighbor.

    The Life to Come: Re-Creating Retirement is sure to engage anyone who reads it… see how carefully Tipton avoids the impersonal and cliché versions of advice-giving. Whoever reads this book will be introduced or reintroduced to experts, whose work bears on reflecting on “the life to come,” including how to address and master many of the arts of living in retirement…This book is not about the “care of the very aged,” but about facing and growing into retirement...I picture that readers will be better prepared for waking up to tomorrow, which means “living that life worth living.” —from the foreword by Martin E. Marty

    In this book Steven Tipton confronts a stubborn but perennial human dilemma with rigor and clarity. Eloquent and engaging. —Harvey Cox, author of The Secular City and The Market as God

    Steven M. Tipton is C.H. Candler Professor Emeritus of Sociology of Religion and Senior Research Fellow at Emory University, Candler School of Theology. A 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, he is the author of Getting Saved from the Sixties: The Transformation of Moral Meaning in American Culture and Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life, and coauthor of Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life and The Good Society.

     

    Wesley’s Foundery Books is an imprint of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church. These books are clearly and accessibly written by Methodist/Wesleyan experts, with an emphasis on church life and ministry. Representing the rich diversity of the church, Wesley’s Foundery Books offer a disciplined and balanced approach.


  • 02 Mar 2018 7:24 PM | Christine Hides

    Hanna Schock is a CEF member and the creator of Picture Book Theology. She is also the writer of Manna & Mercy: An Elementary Curriculum based on Daniel Erlander’s popular book for adults.  Because of her training as a teacher and school psychologist, Hanna is passionate about Christian education that is easy to relate to, is rich with meaning, and leads to deep learning.


    Recently I was asked to present at a professional conference for those who work in church-based nurseries, preschools, and daycares. The conference theme was Shine a Light On Positive Behavior – a great focus for teachers. We all need reminders to encourage our children’s positive behaviors. My workshop was about Paul’s list in Galatians (5:22-23) of The Fruits of the Spirit. Exploring these themes in a classroom is one way to encourage positive (and godly) behaviors.

    Below is a list of 3-4 picture books I connected to each of The Fruits of the Spirit. With most books below, you’ll find a link to its post on my Picture Book Theology blog. As I prepared for the workshop presentation, I discovered several new picture books. Look for those posts on my website soon. Beside each Fruit of the Spirit is a question you might explore with your children. You’ll likely need to simplify my words for your kiddos. For some books you’ll see a way to adapt if a book is too advanced or too long for your audience. Most of these books are also appropriate for elementary-aged children.

    Twice below I refer to a PBT series I wrote a few years ago called 12 Theological Statements for Young Children. I also give a link to the post in the series where that particular book was featured. One last note. I’ve changed the order of the Fruits. I end the list with Love, Kindness, Goodness, & Faithfulness because those concepts overlap. The last books might help you explore more than just the Fruit it is listed under. Overlapping concepts is also true for Gentleness and Self-Control.

    Surely Paul’s list is not complete (Where is compassion?), but it’s a wonderful collection of positive and godly behaviors we can all aspire to and encourage in our children. I hope you find these fun books enjoyable while making The Fruits of the Spirit more meaningful to children (and their parents) in your faith family.

    JOY   (Ask: How is joy shown in different ways by different characters?)

    Yes Day! by Rosenthal & Lichtenheld (This book is also a great secular book for Easter.)

    Lola Loves Stories by McQuinn & Beardshaw

    Anna Hibiscus’ Song by Atinuke & Tobia   

    #12 Theological Statement for Young Children: God wants to be worshiped


    PEACE (Ask: How does peace change you and others in the moment?)

    Peace, Baby! By Ashman & Lew-Vriethoff

    The Peace Book by Parr      

    A Little Peace by Kerley  

         

    PATIENCE (Ask: What does having no patience look like?)

    Albert by Napoli & LaMarche (Too long? Just tell the story while showing the pictures.)

    Bear Has a Story to Tell by Stead & Stead

    Owl Moon by Yolen & Schoenherr


    GENTLENESS (Ask: How does gentleness help others?)

    Be Gentle by Miller

    How to Heal a Broken Wing by Graham

    You Will Be My Friend! By Brown (This example of the opposite of gentleness offers humor and redemption.)


    SELF-CONTROL (Ask: How does self-control help these characters and you?)

    Katie Loves the Kittens by Himmelman      

    More by Springman & Lies

    Wild Feelings by Milgrim

    #5 Theological Statement for Young Children: God gave you feelings. They’re not good or bad. What matters is how you act on your feelings.


    LOVE (Ask: What does love look like here? Feel like here?)

    The Invisible String by Karst & Stevenson   Not yet posted.

    I Love You Anyway by Inkpen & Inkpen

    Love is… by Adams & Keane

    Love by La Pena & Long (There are some dark situations here. If you prefer, use paper clips to skip pages.) 

                 

    KINDNESS  (Ask: What kinds of choices are being made here?)

    The Kindness Quilt by Wallace      

    Miss Maple’s Seeds by Wheeler

    Be Kind by Miller     Not yet posted.


    GOODNESS (Ask: What makes these characters’ behaviors good?)

    Bear Feels Sick by Wilson & Chapman (This book is about servanthood.)

    What Baby Wants by Root & Bartow (This book is about empathy.)

    One Winter’s Day by Butler & Macnaughton (This book is about generosity.)


    FAITHFULNESS (Ask: Who do you know that is faithful?)

    The Carrot Seed by Krauss & Johnson (This books connects with being faithful to God. The other books are about being faithful to other people.)

    I Promise by McPhail          

    Mama Always Comes Home by Wilson & Dyer    

    A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Stead & Stead



  • 11 Feb 2018 5:45 PM | Christine Hides

    Today we have a Q & A with author, Glenys Nellist. Glenys serves as the Children's Ministry Coordinator for the West MI Conference UMC. Below she dives deep into how she approached writing this Easter book for children. 

    To Enter the Giveaway: Her publisher is giving away a FREE copy of this book to one person who comments on the post on the CEF Facebook Page before  8 p.m. CST on February 18th. Please note, entrants must have a street address in the USA. The winner will be contacted by Facebook messenger. 

    Glenys, thank you for joining us on the blog today! You've written a number of books for children. I'm curious, what are your favorite children's books and how have they influenced your writing?

    Thank you for having me Christine. Wow, I have so many favorite children’s books! But two in particular have influenced my writing. When my four sons were little, their favorite book of all time was The Jolly Postman, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. It told the story, in rhyme, of a postman who rode his bike delivering letters to Nursery Rhyme characters. As if that wasn’t creative enough, the ingenious feature of the pages being real envelopes containing the letters made this text a forever-favorite. My sons loved taking the letters out and reading them. I didn’t know it at the time, but this little book would become the inspiration behind my Love Letters from God series.

    The second book that heavily influenced my writing style is The Jesus Storybook Bible, by the prolific British author, Sally Lloyd Jones. I distinctly remember reading this amazing book when it was first published in 2007 and savoring every word. The way she shared the gospel message in an unforgettable fairytale-like-style captured my soul. I knew, then, that I wanted to write like her.

    Speaking of writing for young children, sharing the stories of Holy Week can be a challenge because of the violence of the cross and because the stories are laden with theological implications. How did you approach this? 

    Thank you, Christine, for this opportunity to discuss the theology behind Easter Love Letters from God. Let me preface your question with this: I know that every person picks up a story and reads the text through their own theological lens. It’s quite impossible not to. Equally impossible, then, is the enormous task of an author who tries to placate each reader. And so rather than tie myself in knots, trying to please everyone, I decided, early on in my writing, that I would try to please God. By that I mean that in my writing, of this book and every other text, I would rely heavily on prayer, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I prayed that God would guide my pen and my words, so that what I wrote would please God, who would work through my words and touch the reader’s heart. In this way, I would hope that readers might be able to see beyond the perimeters of their theological lens, into the wider scope of what God might do through the text.

    The trickiest part of the Easter story is, of course, the crucifixion and I know that some of my ministerial colleagues prefer not to share any details of that with a young audience. As I wrote this part of the Easter story, I really wanted to emphasize the humanity of Jesus by exploring some of the pain, the feelings, and emotions he would have experienced. Because of this, the book does contain reference to the nails and the crown of thorns, and so even though it’s recommended for 4-8 year-olds, every adult must decide whether or not it is suitable to share with young children.

    What theological decisions did you make and how did you make them?

    I know that the book contains several features that might be questioned, particularly by more liberal audiences, and perhaps by some of my UMC colleagues. Let me preface this question, also, by sharing that I was born and raised in the Methodist church and am proud to belong to this denomination that stands for inclusivity. That being said, here’s three questions that I anticipate might be uppermost in some minds:

    Why does the book use the term ‘Father’ to refer to God, when gender-neutral language is so important in our denomination?

    The text for Easter Love Letters from God was written several years ago, before I became cognizant of the importance of using gender-neutral language for God. However, even though it is a goal of mine to strive to use inclusive language in all future writing, I felt that the Gethsemane scene in this book, which contains the heart-felt plea from Jesus, to God, simply could not be written any other way. In this story Jesus is on his knees, in the darkness and cold of a Gethsemane evening and cries out: “Father, are you there? Do I have to die? Is there any other way we can teach the world about heaven?” Consider the alternatives here. If I had substituted Father for God, that tender and vital connection between parent and son would be lost. How about Mother, are you there? or Parent, are you there? I was not willing to use either of these alternatives and trust that the reader can appreciate why.

    In the resurrection story, why do you have the birds sharing the good news that Jesus is alive, rather than the women at the tomb, whose witness is so important?

    The resurrection story contained in this book is the third that I have written in the Love Letters Series, and I had to find a new angle from which to approach the resurrection narrative. I had already explored Mary Magdalene’s beautiful encounter in Girls' Love Letters from God and I suddenly thought about how creation herself might have reacted to this wondrous event. After all, if Jesus said that rocks could cry out in praise, and the Psalms contain reference to the hills and oceans singing and trees clapping their hands, then it stands to reason that all creation, along with the birds who nested above that sealed tomb, must have known that something amazing had happened that marvelous morning. I know that as the author of these words, I am obviously biased, but I just can’t help feeling the Holy Spirit as I read this portion of the book:

    Jesus, King of the whole world, was alive again! The trees clapped their hands. The flowers danced for joy. The birds flew high over the fields and carried the most wonderful news that the world has ever heard—Jesus is alive!

    The wonderful illustrations by Sophie Allsopp complement the text by showing, not only the birds on the wing, but Mary Magdalene running toward Jesus with joy. Of course, Mary was the first human to hear and share that good news but the birds, the trees, the oceans, the hills, and all of God’s creation must have been singing glorious praise.

    Why does the final letter from God read as a sort of sinner’s prayer, inviting children into God's family, when in the UMC, it is by baptism that we are incorporated to the Church - God's family?

    As a United Methodist, the sacrament of baptism is one of my favorite services. I truly feel the presence of the Holy Spirit as we welcome a little one into the church. I know, without doubt, that as the water is poured, in a mysterious and wonderful way, God’s powerful presence surrounds and infills the child. But I do not remember my baptism. I know that my parents faithfully brought me to the altar. I know that I was incorporated into the church family as a baby. But I do not remember it. What I do remember, however, is one Sunday evening when I was about ten years old and I attended a service in a little red brick Methodist church in England. I was with my older sister and the preacher was a woman. I don’t remember what words were said, but the invitation was given to come to the altar, to kneel before God, and invite God to be part of my life. A little hesitant, a little scared, we went together, my sister and I, and knelt there as the preacher placed her hand on our heads. I don’t remember what she said, but I’m sure that her words might have echoed these, which are the ones contained in the final love letter of the book:

    Jesus, I believe in you. Teach me more about how you want me to live. Thank you for showing me what love looks like. Thank you for dying on the cross and for coming back to life, for forgiving me, and showing me the way to heaven. Amen.

    I remember feeling special as I rode the bus home that night. I thank God that I have that memory. I thank God that someone, called by God, called out to me, so that I could respond to God’s great invitation myself.  Was I part of God’s family before that evening? Yes, of course! Would I still belong to God’s family had I not knelt at the altar that evening? Yes, of course! But thank God for that preacher, for the invitation, for the call I felt so strongly and was able to respond to of my own accord. This is what I hope to do in the final love letter of the book—to offer the young reader a chance to say yes to God, to respond to that mysterious, holy call, and perhaps to feel their heart strangely warmed, as John Wesley did. As an author, to deny the reader the opportunity to RSVP to God would be to leave my book unfinished.

    Glenys, thank you for sharing how and why you approached the Easter story for young children. For the final question, I'd like to ask you about the place on the last page where children are invited to write back to God. What do you hope they will say?

    Let me answer this with a story…

    When the first Love Letters from God book was released, I was sitting on the sofa with my little grandson. He was only three. We reached the end of the book, where the child is invited to write back to God. He was so excited at the thought of joining Jesus’ team and wanted to write back to God immediately. “Xander, you can do that when you’re older.” I said. After all, he could barely hold a crayon! But he was insistent, and so I gave in. “Okay, what do you want to say to God?” I asked. Since he was only three, I wasn’t very confident about his response. I was sure that he wouldn’t know what to say at all. But his three-word reply was precious and perfect and was, perhaps, the only thing God would ever want to hear, from anyone.

    “I love you.” Xander said. It was as if the curtains opened and God stepped into the room that Thursday afternoon to gently whisper, See Glenys, you’re never too young to say yes to Me.

    So what do I hope children will say to God? It doesn’t matter what they say. What matters is that they respond for themselves to our great God, the One who sent Jesus to the world, the One who reaches down, calls out to us by name, writes a love letter on our hearts and then waits, hoping, for our reply. 


  • 15 Jan 2018 6:38 PM | Christine Hides

    Below is a collection of Lenten resources from the CEF community. Have something you would like to add? Please pass it along.


    From the CEF Forming Faith Blog:

    FREE Printable Lenten Devotional Calendars for Year B by Kathy Wadsley

    An Intergenerational Event for Lent by Carolyn Peterson.

    More Intergenerational Activities for Lent by Angelina Goldwell

    Holy Week prayer stations by Jenny Reilly

    Don’t forget to update your worship activity table for Lent


    From CEF Community Members:

     Picture Books that relate to Lent and Easter themes from Picture Book Theology creator Hanna Schock.

    Family friendly Easter Stations and reflections on Easter planning by DeDe Reilly.

    Lent in a Bag and other resources from Sharon Pearson.

    Lent Resources, including Prayer stations, praygrounds and a not-just-for kids- children’s time series, from Christine V. Hides

    A free Worship and Adult Resources Webinar is happening on Tuesday, January 16 from Discipleship Ministries



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