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Sharing the Hope That Is Ours

As a children’s minister and parent sharing the story at home,  I’m often asked how I approach Jesus’s death and resurrection with young children. And honestly that was a huge challenge at first. How do I do this? And do it well? Einstein has this great quote I live by when teaching young children, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

And at first, I couldn’t tell this story simply. I realized for the first time in my adult life, I didn’t understand Jesus’s death and resurrection well enough. I had a lot of information floating around my heart and head… but there were holes and places it just didn’t make sense. And I simply couldn’t share the story without tripping over my own thoughts. And it takes a lot of courage for me to even say that out loud.

We’re suppose to know. We’re suppose to have the answers.  We’re adults! We’ve been Followers forever! But actually, Continue reading

3 Great Easter Ideas from 2015

After a mighty long winter hiatus, I bet you’re wondering where we went. We didn’t give up on you or blogging.  We did invest some time in creating new tools for our Kids’Community which turned out awesome, by the way. And we’re back now, ready to jump into Easter with you, and so grateful you’re here learning with us!

To get us started, I’ve added links to three  posts from last year. All of these will be helpful as you get in the story together at home.  Note, they could also be adapted for use in kids’ ministry, too. (I think we’ve got a couple children’s pastors out there reading with us. Shout out to our ministry peeps!)

More new posts coming this week!

18 Easter Books We Love 

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Body Stations of the Cross

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Welcoming Nativity Elves

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Due to my inability to juggle a lot of things a once, we’ve remained an “Elf on the Shelf” free home. I think this is the best way to protect my children from undue elf drama! And there would be elf drama. I can’t tell you how many times the “tooth fairy” forgot to exchange money for my children’s teeth! Dang, Tooth Fairy.

But I think the Moore residence still has a bit of elf magic. See, our nativity is always changing, rearranging, while no one is looking!  I call this phenomena, “the work of a Nativity Elf.”

My hope is to help you welcome your very own “Nativity Elves” to the story, but first let me share some of the story magic I’ve experienced personally at the hands of my own elves.

Somedays, our elves gather the host of witnesses around baby Jesus.

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My 2nd grader calls this “the real nativity.”

Side Note – I love that Larry the Wiseman Cucumber made an appearance. Our very first nativity set was Veggie Tales, and I still have fond memories of hearing the baby carrot angel sing from the next room while the boys played.

The elves have also left our nativity with the whole host of witnesses facing out, almost like they’re standing guard.

 

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And I love finding things like a wiseman peaking in through the window, a camel watching from behind the lamp, all eyes on Jesus.

But lately these elves have been responsible for some pretty serious “Baby Jesus” drama, too. As I documented evidence of our nativity elves for this post, I was surprised to find Baby Jesus hidden behind a curtain on the floor.

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The host of witnesses was scattered everywhere like they had all died very upsetting deaths…

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So as each of my kiddos came through the room, I calmly asked if they knew why the nativity was all over the floor. It was my 2nd grader who confessed, “I did that.” Now in the Jacob’s Well Kid’s Community, we’re trained in the art of asking questions while kids play.  And the answers we get from kids are always the best part of the job!!! So I was armed and ready to interview the “nativity elf” behind this disturbing scene.

” Why don’t you tell me how they ended up like this? What happened?”

“There was a war over Baby Jesus.”

“A war!? Why is everyone knocked over like they got hurt?” My eyebrows are totally furrowed at this point.

“They died, mom. You can’t have a war where no one’s dies.”

Ouch! Does he understand that already!? “Did Jesus die?” My heart clenches in anticipation of his answer.

“Yeah, they couldn’t save him.” And at this his face and tone fall a bit.

“Oh, wow…… What do you think the world would be like if Jesus never grew up?”

“I don’t know….. We wouldn’t have Christmas.”

“Or Santa. Or churches.”

“Yeah.” You can see the wheels turning in his head.

“Did you know that someone tried to kill Baby Jesus? King Herod didn’t want him to live. Tried to kill him. Really awful, huh? Do you know how they escaped?”

“Is that when they went to the temple?”

“No, but they went to Egypt. Where God’s people had been slaves? Remember God rescued them from Pharaoh there? Wonder if they were scared to go back there?”

And I realize at that moment, I had begun wondering with him. The way my son had animated his story, as disturbing as it was, had me thinking in new ways. Asking new questions.

And I’ve continued to think about my son’s story all week. As a baby, Jesus really was vulnerable to all his foes. But then I remember that he was just as vulnerable at his death, too. And I wonder what this means for me? Because this is the King I follow. And he’s vulnerable.

I think about this little conversation between the two of us, and I know that there is magic hidden in those wooden figurines. Advent magic. The kind that brings this old story racing back to us with new truths.

How to Welcome Your Own Elves

So here’s how I encourage all that Advent magic, and how I welcome those little Nativity Elves.

I intentionally placed our nativity in the front “formal” living room. Not because the set is pretty and needs to be on display, but because this is where we gather.

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It’s where we go to read and play a board game together. There are no screens. Just books. And it’s a wrestle free room. A no running, screaming, tagging, farting, rolling room.🙂 It’s been called “mom’s room.” This room begs it’s occupants to slow down and engage with one another and with their own thoughts. This is where the magic begins. A thinking place.

Your nativity set should beg to be touched and played with, too. Check out some of my ideas from yesterday. Our old thrift store nativity set faithfully served our Nativity Elves for years with it’s donkey ears missing and a wiseman who fell over constantly (he generated all kinds of funny stories).  But they loved it.

DSC_1236Then last year,  I fell in love with a beautiful wooden set I found at Hobby Lobby. Wonderful carvings covered each figurine. They were colorful and fun. Biding my time, I waited for the set to go on sale and then scooped it up on my small budget. I haven’t regretted the investment at all! Here’s why…

At home and in my classroom, I offer kids special objects like these a lot.  I believe presenting kids with something different, something special alerts them to the importances of what’s being offered.  Kids intrinsically respond with more focus, more awe, more enthusiasm. They get it. This different! This is special! And they’re drawn in. Even an old thrift store set or set you make together can offer this sense of special.

But the last bit of magic comes when you step in, play with your elves, listen, ask them questions. You might even find a little Advent magic for yourself when you do.

So my prayer for you is this… May this story come racing back to you in new ways as you discover it through the eyes of your very own Nativity Elves this Advent.

Nativities for Play

A nativity set kids can play with… It’s the one thing I would advocate for in every young family’s home (and grandparents’ too). For years I’ve been putting the nativity story in the hands of my own kids’ and the kids’ I pastor, and it never disappoints.

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When we give kids the chance to animate a story like this, they make all these amazing connections in and to the story. Wisemen worship with their faces to the ground. Jesus is cold and needs wrapped up. The shepherds ran! The road to Bethlehem is long and windy like this. See, mom. Their imaginations begin to fill in the gaps. They explore the story.

And it doesn’t stop at exploring. They experiment with all the possibilities too, which is always my favorite to watch and talk with them about. “But what if?… What if the story had gone this way? What if the angel was wild and swooped over everyone’s heads!? What if all the animals put their faces in his manger? What if there was a war to protect baby Jesus? What if there were so many people no on could see baby Jesus, and they pushed and knocked each other over? What if they were all really kind, and they lined up to take a turn seeing him? Some of our best conversations have started with this kind of playful wondering.

Honestly, I envy our kids their wonder and creativity. For them the story is fluid, unknown, still so many mysteries and secrets to discover.  And I think we have a lot to gain by playing with them. They can teach us how to wonder again and listen to what this story might telling us in this moment.

“Okay, you’ve convinced me! But how do I get started,”  you ask!? Well let me tell you! I’ll post a handful of ideas today and tomorrow. And no $100 Hallmark sets. ;D

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How cute is this printable from “Made by Joel”? And you can color them!

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My friend Rachael and her four young boys found this cute nativity printable by “Blessed Beyond  A Doubt.”  They attached theirs to toilet paper rolls (so they stand on the table), built an adorable stable, and have the whole set out in the family room where it can be seen and played with!

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A natural nativity set can be really fun to put to together and play with. I created this one for our preschool sacred space at Jacob’s Well Church in Kansas City. The natural objects are great for engaging the more creative and thoughtful side of our kids.

I love peeking in on the sacred space to see the kids animating this set in their own unique ways. And when no one is in my classroom, I go build my own nativity sometimes.🙂 It’s amazing how you don’t have a clear direction at first. You’re just experiencing the different pieces, placing this here and that there. But slowly, as you add pieces, your story takes shape, and you find that the story you created is actually about the way God has drawn us all in to himself.😀 And you had no idea when you began that this is what would be revealed!😀 Play is good for all of us, yes!?  Click here for quick list of supplies to collect or buy to make your own sets.

I’m going to stop here and return tomorrow with a couple more ideas!

Advent Albums for Youth and Adults

I wanted to offer a few albums that in the words of my good friend, “feel like a warm blanket” for this season of preparing and waiting for Christ. I picked these out with youth and adults in mind, and I hope the rich Advent language and imagery will deepen your Advent experience in a world full of Christmas noise and distractions.

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The Brilliance,  Advent Vol. 1
An album I listen to all year. The original “warm Advent blanket.”

The Brilliance,  Advent Vol. 2
Can you have too much Brilliance?

 Young Oceans, Advent
Beautiful and soothing for a season that can feel rushed and hurried.

Oh Hellos’ Family Christmas Album
Gorgeous, surprising and so cheerful! I can’t get enough of their strings and banjos!

I created a Spotify playlist with three of the albums for you.  (Sadly Brilliance, Advent Vol. 2 isn’t available on Spotify.) If you aren’t familiar with Spotify, check out my post yesterday to get started. Spotify allows you to listen to music free on your desktop and devices.

If you’ve got teenagers at home and Apple devices, can I recommended purchasing a few of your favorites to share across your devices with Apple’s family share?  Technology doesn’t have to be the enemy if we use it for good. Right? If you have Androids, there isn’t a great way to share music with your kids right now, but I’ve heard it’s coming soon! Keep a look out for it.

Ps. I loved the Brilliance albums so much I listened to them for year straight, and they are still the albums my phone wakes me up with each morning. And like you, I’m just discovering Young Oceans and Oh Hellos. Aren’t they amazing!? Thanks to our Worship Pastor, Mike for sharing.

Enjoy, friends. And I pray this music will fill your hearts with the best kind of Advent peace.

An Advent Playlist for Young Families

albumspreadOne of my favorite ways to make our homes a story-rich environment is music! But it can be hard to find music at Advent with language our kids can understand (some traditional carols are just to word heavy) and music that really tells the story.

So I went on a hunt today! So fun! Spent the whole afternoon searching for songs we can listen to with our kids (and without wanting to gouge our eyes out. Know what I’m saying?)

AND I compiled it all in a Spotify playlist for you. I know! So cool right!? Now, if you’re not familiar with Spotify, it’s a super powerful tool for sharing music. You can play all kinds of music for free on your desktop or your smart phones by downloading their free app (in your app store search for “Spotify”)  or signing up online here.  Once you have an account you can click here to grab my Advent as a Family playlist and you’ll be able to play it all for free even on the go!

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My hope is the story will end up in your kitchens, family rooms, and cars as you enjoy the playlist. Here’s to making our homes rich with the story of God’s love for us!

Ps. I’m gonna post more music for older families and adults in the next couple of days.

Jesse Tree Challenge for Youth and Adults

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The Challenge – I grew up knowing bits and pieces of the Old Testament but never really understanding how they fit together. I definitely didn’t know they were all trying to tell one big story that leads to Christmas. I thought they were all these little moral lessons. But then I discovered the Jesse Tree, and as I read each story one after the other, I began to fall in love with this whole great big story. A story that really opened up God’s heart for me in so many new ways. And a story that reminded me why waiting for Jesus is so hard and long and totally worth it!

So I wanted to offer you the same Jesse Tree experience this Advent! What if you engaged God’s story through scripture for 25 days in December? I know it’s a big challenge, but it’s totally worth knowing this great big story better. I promise!

Ps. Why name it Jesse Tree? Isaiah uses this beautiful language to describe the coming of Jesus. “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” – Isaiah 11:1 Not sure who Jesse is or why he’s a stump? Perfect! You’re gonna totally find out!

Click here to download the reading guide.

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A Jesse Tree Devotional for Young Families

Jesse TreeWith three boys, five, eight, and ten, the Jesse Tree Devotional for Young Families is my favorite. As my eight year old watched me work on this post he said, “Hey, when we’re gonna get that back out!?” Made me smile.  It was written with my boys in mind, and the short scriptures, thoughts, and simple language are meant to meet our kids where they are.Untitled-2

But you still may be wondering, “What is a Jesse Tree?” Let me tell you, friends! It’s daily devotional that shares the whole story of God’s love for us piece by piece each night in December as you build anticipation for birth of Jesus. From creation to the fall, from Abraham and all his descents to King David, Continue reading

A Nativity Devotional for Young Families

858591_10152013899514736_254928137_o-2Youthfront Ministries in Kansas City, MO created an Advent devotional for younger families, and we’re so thankful for the ways they bless others with great resources like this one. Click the link above to hop over to their site.

“You are about to embark on an exciting four-week journey to the manger in Bethlehem. Each week will introduce another set of characters that all play an important role in this unfolding Christmas drama. “

If you were thinking of making or purchasing a nativity set for your kids this year, this will be the very best devotional to get them excited about playing in the story with their set!

Devotionals for Advent

SO excited to share all our favorite Advent family devotionals with you! Below you’ll a find a list of posts to look forward to this week. As I post, I’m coming back and adding links for you to click as well! Hoping you’ll find one that’s just right for your family.

A JESSE TREE DEVOTIONAL FOR YOUNG FAMILIES

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A Jesse Tree Devotional for teens and parents

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A NATIVITY DEVOTIONAL FOR YOUNG FAMILIES

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An Advent Wreath Devotional for older families.

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