Flame: Jesus Calms the Storm – Sensory Bottles

I’ve been doing a little bit of experimenting with sensory bottles this week as I wanted to make some to help the children under 5 years old to explore the story of Jesus calming the storm.

Flame: Oil and Paper Suncatchers

This is an activity that can be done by children of all ages and is a great illustration of Christ’s light shining through us. Gather the necessary materials and wait for a sunny day.

Crossroads: Jesus Gives Us Hope

When I was in the sixth grade, it felt like my life was falling apart. I didn’t have any friends, there was a lot of bad stuff happening at my church, and my mom and my stepdad were getting a divorce.

Crossroads: Recognizing Jesus

Jesus tends to break into our lives in unexpected ways. Maybe for you, it’s the bully of the school doing something nice for someone else. Maybe it’s the popular kid sitting with an outcast at lunch. However it is, Jesus usually works through surprising people.

Crossroads: Seeing Is Believing

Has something ever seemed too good to be true? Was it? Talk about a time when you didn’t believe something someone said until they showed you proof. Why didn’t you believe? Did the proof change your thinking?

Connections 04.07.2019: Looking for Jesus

Jesus’ last days are filled with longing, heavy with sadness, and intense with foreboding. He reveals over and over again that he knows what awaits him in Jerusalem.

Crossroads: Jesus Is Transformed

I became a Christian when I was seven years old. For as long as I can remember, church has been an important part of my life. I loved going to church as a kid and I loved Jesus (and I still do!).

Connections 01.13.2019: Humility

John the Baptist was a celebrity. He had all the right factors to create interest and even obsession among the people who had encountered him or even just heard of him. Young. Strong. Eccentric. Intriguing. Tantalizing.

Formations 01.06.2019: Jesus Is Baptized

At the time of writing, forecasts indicate that the rain out my parents’ window will continue for another week. I tend to take overcast wintry weather in stride, but this is bad news, at least for my drive home to Macon. Mark, however, proclaims good news and its beginning (v. 1).

Connections 12.30.2018: Growing Up

My younger daughter Natalie will be 12 years old in March. It’s a delicate age. She is just crossing the threshold into puberty, clinging to the joys of childhood while also confronting body changes and swinging emotions.

Jesus’ Use of the Psalms

For ordinary Christians who experience opposition and negative feelings, we are invited to bring the full breadth of these experiences into the realm of God.

Crossroads: The Storms of Life

I was always terrified of storms as a child. The thunder scared me the most, and my mom could never convince me that the thunder couldn’t hurt me.

Connections 05.27.2018: Elite Jesus

We sometimes hear people complaining about elites trying to run the country (and maybe the world), but I think they’re really talking about elitists. Elites are well-educated, well-qualified, and well-positioned to be in charge of things.

Live the Stories: Jesus Gives Peter Instructions

Remind the children that many of the disciples who followed Jesus were fishermen before they left their jobs to learn from him. When Jesus died, they returned to their jobs of catching fish.

Formations 03.04.2018: Jesus Shows Compassion

My granddad died well before I was born. What I have of him has been given secondhand—ties and desk ornaments, pictures and stories. Among the easily believed and even the photographed, some stories are harder to accept. One of these is a healing story.

Jesus Would Not Have Denied Me Communion

My husband Paul and I have been married for more than 47 years! We are as alike as jelly and jam and as different as whole wheat and rye. He grew up in the northern United States; I grew up in the South. He’s Catholic and I’m Baptist; for the most part that distinction has never been an issue.

Catching a Glimpse

The first Christmas comes and goes, and most people don’t notice. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and a few others catch a glimpse of what is happening, but they’re just a handful.

Connections 12.31.2017: Jesus and the Elderly

I turned forty this year, and I’m grateful to be able to say that I still have one living set of grandparents. My father’s parents, known to me as Mom and Pop, are age eighty-three and ninety-three. They’ve been a huge part of my life since my birth.

Formations 04.09.2017: Jesus’ Death Foreshadowed

Jesus enters Jerusalem amid cheering crowds inspired by hope in “the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (v. 13). They came out to meet Jesus because they had heard about the raising of Lazarus (vv. 17-18). Ironically, it was this same sign that led to Jesus’ death.

Presenting Portraits of Jesus

When Mark sketched out our first Gospel account of Jesus, he was not simply writing a direct history or creating a photo account about Jesus. He was doing something far more significant than recording a Vine. He was providing a testimony about the figure he believed was the most important person who ever lived.

Connections 10.30.2016: Job, Jesus, and Me

At some point in my young life, I began participating in my parents’ nightly prayer time. Using the denominational devotional guide, one of them would read the suggested Scripture passage and the printed meditation, and then say a short prayer.

10.02.2016: Thank God for Jesus

I think I’d believe in God even if Jesus hadn’t come. I seem to assume that God exists. That assumption appears to be a vital part of who I am, but I can’t tell if it’s the product of nature or nurture.

Reimagining “Church” and “Christians” as the “Jesus Tribe”

This may be unsettling to some, but the earliest followers of Jesus did not refer to themselves as Christians. I am rather glad about this because the word “Christian” has too much baggage attached to it.

Formations 06.26.2016: Mary Magdalene and the Gardener

Halfway through drafting this post, I realized I was guilty of oversimplification in order to find a moral in this story. I hadn’t determined if I would praise Mary for recognizing Jesus’ resurrection or chide her for missing it at first.

“Thank You, Jesus”

For years a friend of mine faithfully visited his mother in a nursing home. On each visit, en route to her room he passed a thin Alzheimer’s-ridden woman in the hallway. Red-faced and wheelchair-bound, she repeated, “I want a good deal.”

Crossroads: Friends

I was at school when I got the call that she was gone, and a friend of mine found me crying in the hallway. He comforted me and then we went our separate ways.

Crossroads: Recognizing Jesus

Talk about a time when you were surprised by a friend/relative who you didn’t recognize initially, but who recognized you. Was it a time when you got lost and that person found you?

Connections 04.10.2016: A Fool for You

In my reading today, one line that Jesus says stands out to me: “Simon, I have something to say to you” (Lk 7:40). That Pharisee named Simon, who had invited Jesus into his home but showed him little hospitality, watched a woman’s extravagant love for Jesus and muttered to himself.

Crossroads: Good Friday

Have you ever had a week start off well, but by the end of it all hope seems lost? Terrible things happen all at once, and you just aren’t sure how you’re going to make it another hour, let alone another day.

Crossroads: Palm Sunday

I love celebrations. In particular, I love birthdays. I love finding the perfect present and celebrating who that person is. I love my birthday as well, but it’s always a little odd to me.

Formations 03.13.2016: Learning from Failure

Is our success-oriented, results-driven culture setting us up for a life of disappointment? In a recent column in the Independent, Gerard Gilbert wonders if this might be the case.

Connections 03.13.2016: Safety versus Sacrifice

We draw ever closer to Good Friday—the day when we honor the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, who gave up everything for all the people of the world.

Formations 01.03.2016: Baby Names of 2015

Jackson and Sophia are the most popular baby names of 2015, but there are some interesting trends further down the list. According to a USA Today report, the gender-neutral name Royalty is up 90% this year.

Crossroads: The Christ Candle

Light the three purple candles, the pink candle, and the white candle in the center. Say: “Today we light the white candle, the Christ candle, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Reading through the Lens of Jesus

Jesus opens up the depth of meaning in the Scriptures so that we can find depth of meaning in our lives and in our discipleship. In relationship with Jesus we become participants in the kingdom of God.

Uniform 09.06.2015: Praying for One Another

In a song of my generation, the singer pleads, “Tell me what you want and I’ll give you what you need.” I’ve learned over the years that my prayers often go like that—I ask God for what I want and God gives me what I need.

Uniform 08.09.2015: A Choice to Be Just

In the 1984 film Mass Appeal, the older priest is a “Don’t rock the boat” sort while the younger man fervently believes that the boat really needs to be rocked–if not sunk.

Formations 08.02.2015: Loving—and Forgiving—Our Enemies

Two days after Dylann Roof murdered nine members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the families of his victims posted a YouTube video in which they extended forgiveness and urged Roof to repent.

Kaleidoscope

Most of us probably had at least one kaleidoscope during our childhood and so we know what one looks like and what it does. It’s a tube with a lens at one end through which someone looks, telescope-style.

Formations 05.10.2015: Standing on the Threshold

A few weeks ago, I received yet another grim reminder that I am getting old. (For some reason, my wife is doing just fine while I lose ground by the minute!) I attended an orientation for rising ninth-graders at my daughter’s school.

Formations 05.03.2015: Divine Unity

As we approach Pentecost Sunday on May 24th, we will explore Jesus’ promises to his disciples about the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of Truth.” We will do this through the lens of Jesus’ teachings in John 14–16.

Flame: Doubting Thomas, Recognizing Jesus

This Sunday we’re telling the story of Thomas. A lot of the time when we cover this story with children, we focus of the idea of faith and being able to believe even though we don’t see.

Crossroads: I Doubt It

When I was a child, we always played a game called “I doubt it” when we went on vacation. It was a card game and the point was to be the person who got rid of all of their cards first.

That Dark Thursday Night: A Maundy Thursday Reading

“Go into the city,” he said. “A friend of mine will show you a large, upper room, furnished and ready.” Strange. Peter and I rounded a corner and there, coming out of a narrow alley was a man we didn’t know, but he looked at us as if we were expected.

Uniform 03.29.2015: Whom Do We Celebrate?

A couple of weeks ago, cities all over the nation celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with parades. People wore varying shades of green, and some dressed like leprechauns. Four-leaf clovers were everywhere.

Formations 02.22.2015: Firefighter/Paramedics Hampered by Skewed Training Priorities

David Givot is an attorney and a former paramedic. In a recent article, he raised the question of whether the ongoing training offered to firefighter/paramedics is suitable to the nature of the job they actually perform.

Uniform 01.18.2015: Our High Priest

During my fourteen years of working as an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys, I’ve had the privilege of editing many of our books and Bible commentaries. It’s been fascinating to read interpretations of Old and New Testament texts.

Uniform 01.11.2015: A Grandmother’s Voice

As I read these words of Jesus this week, I am grieving the loss of my grandmother, who died just after Christmas. My mind is running a constant feed of the time my family and I spent saying goodbye.