Merry Christmas! Celebrate the Light!

Merry Christmas! Celebrate the Light!

A blog by Roberta Jantzi Egli

“The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world”
~John 1: 9 (CEB)

Are you all prepared to celebrate the light of Jesus Christ that has come for all people? I must be honest that I am not ready… there are still many items on my list and I am at the point now that I know that not all of those items will get crossed off. I shared with my step-mother this morning that although I am not ready for Christmas, the day will come whether I am ready or not. I know from experience that Christmas will be a day of celebration whether or not I get all the items on my list completed.

My friends, it is GOOD NEWS that Christmas comes to us whether we are prepared or not! As John’s gospel proclaims, we can be confident that Jesus the Christ will come to us daily bringing light, love and light to all.

I am reminded of the poem by Howard Thurman and accompanying picture that has been circulating around the internet this December.

I will light candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long.

~ Howard Thurman

The Christmas season is difficult for many people. I live in the Pacific Northwest and as we approach the longest night of the year, I yearn for the return of the light. My mother died on the day after Christmas many years ago and even today, I still think of that bittersweet time of being together as a family while saying our goodbyes to our mother. God was present with us around the Christmas tree as well as around her bed as we sang Christmas carols to her.

My prayer my friends, is that you will light candles of joy, hope, courage, peace, grace and love not only during this season of Christmas and Epiphany but for the whole year long. I am so grateful for the ministry of Messy Church that invites people to bring all of their joys and sadness, doubt and celebrations, young and old to the light of Christ.

Merry Christmas and Celebrate the Light!

Roberta Egli, Executive Director, Messy Church USA


An Unexpected Gift

By Lindsey Goodyear

The beginning of December is usually a reminder for me to kick it into high gear and start Christmas shopping, dig up our Elf on the Shelf (Lord only knows where I stuck him from the previous year), and remember to give each of our boys their advent gift for those first 25 days while desperately trying to reiterate what the advent period is actually about. In the dictionary, advent is described as the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. For my kids, advent means presents. We work hard to remind them that there is more to Christmas than gifts, but, in their defense, gift giving is a part of Christmas. We give gifts to family, the Wise Men brought gifts for Jesus, and, of course, His birth, continues to stand as the greatest gift God has ever given to us. See? Gifts everywhere!

All the obsession over giving and receiving gifts got me thinking about the gifts we give at Messy Church. I’d like to think that we, as a Messy Church team, give gifts to our congregation every month. They may not be the literal gifts wrapped in a bow, but gifts that have a deeper meaning. The gift of a place to feel safe, connected, understood, loved, and supported. The gift of our members making a connection with a particular story, song, or activity. The gift of our children finding an indisputable understanding of what God’s love means, in their life, as they grow. What I didn’t think about is the gifts we receive from the attendees, as well. That’s why, going into our event on the first Saturday of the month, I never expected the gift I’d come away with.

I walked into our Messy Advent event to see the beautiful face of my friend, Mel.  I was grateful to have met her through the United Methodist preschool where her daughter and my son attended.  Over the years, she had expressed wanting to come to Messy Church, but life sometimes gets in the way.  I was over the moon to see what she thought of her first Messy gathering.  Of course it was a whirlwind of a night and I didn’t get a chance to talk to her at the end of the evening.  However, the next morning I woke to one of the most beautiful and meaningful texts I had ever received.  The words she used to describe the feeling she got from attending Messy Church brought tears to my eyes.  I immediately asked if I could interview her for my blog and she graciously obliged.

Here are the unedited, kind words from my good friend, Mel:

Me: Tell me a little about yourself.

Mel: I’ve been a resident of Huntington Beach since 2000. I’m a single parent (didn’t start off that way, but life got “messy”) to one precious six year old girl.

Me: How did you hear about Messy Church?

Mel: We attended CUMC preschool and heard about it from friends. We’ve always been interested in going but hadn’t been able to schedule it until now.

Me: With many options for worship around here, what made you take a chance on Messy Church?

Mel: We knew a few people that were already attending and had heard good things. It kept coming up over the past few months from others who have attended and we realized we shouldn’t ignore it any longer. And so, we showed up!

Me: What was the theme of the Messy Church you attended?

Mel: We were at the December event which was all centered around Christmas and the birth of Jesus.

Me: What was the vibe upon entrance? What did you notice?

Mel: We were greeted by a lovely young woman who welcomed us and gave us a brown paper bag personalized in black sharpie.

Me: Anything that made you uncomfortable?

Mel: Nope. Everyone was nice.

Me: What was the most memorable moment for you?

Mel: Two things: Our time in the chapel and especially singing together. I loved the conversations I had with my daughter during the activities. She’s maturing in her faith.

Me: Was there anything missing? Something you wished you had more of?

Mel: Only because you are asking but perhaps a place to safely put your painted crafts while they are drying. I’m pretty sure we got blue paint on the wall. Sorry!

Me: What made Messy Church different than traditional church for you?

Mel: Everything about Messy Church is different than traditional church. I love that I never put my kid in some room and then went off to make small talk with other adults and their spouses. Just my daughter and I are my family. We’re not a traditional family but we are one. It was nice that we could stay together. Doing the crafts and activities gave us a chance to talk without distractions. I found myself asking her questions and explaining things to her in simple terms. Each activity was charming and offered a chance to talk about something different. There was so much to do and I was impressed by the sheer number of volunteers. It looked like a labor of love.

Lindsey and Leyla conveyed in about 10 minutes what some pastors require an hour for. “Jesus came into a messy world because He loves us.”

It reminded me that I could worship wherever I am, just as I am: messy.

Mel: (cont) There’s also something sweet about sharing a meal with families. That was one of the first meals I can remember in a long time that I sat down the entire time with my child. At home during meals, I’m up every few minutes, getting and cleaning things (and high fives to the genius who recognizes ranch is a necessity with pizza!). It was a very sweet touch to have table tents with conversation starters.

I appreciate that it took a lot of coordination and manpower to pull off this event. I was also moved by its simplicity. There were no “smoke and mirrors,” just love and consideration. It could have taken place in any of the past five decades. I was moved to be one of the many voices, singing to God, surrounded by candles, led by a single guitar. The message was short and sweet (the most powerful ideas usually are). Lindsey and Leyla conveyed in about 10 minutes what some pastors require an hour for. “Jesus came into a messy world because He loves us.”

It reminded me that I could worship wherever I am, just as I am: messy.

Me: Do you think you’ll attend Messy Church again?

Mel: I’ll 100% be returning. My daughter definitely wants to return. She loved it and I’ve already invited others!

Merry Christmas from our Messy family to yours!

Lindsey Goodyear blogs monthly for Messy Church USA. She is a Messy Church mom and leader at Community UMC in Huntington Beach, California.  You can reach her at lindseygoodyear@gmail.com

 

Celebrate the Light

By Casey Cross

Young Disciples Director of Hope Lutheran Church in Eagle, ID and member of the Messy Church USA Board of Directors

Single Lit Candle
Pexels.com. Used with Permission

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

John 1: 5

I’ve been finding myself taking a lot of night walks lately. Many people would think that’s crazy, especially with the weather in Idaho as cold as it’s been. I will admit, by the time I get to the end of my walk I am really looking forward to entering my warm house. But there is a bit of magic that happens on these night walks, a quickening in my spirit. When I look up at the clear, dark sky and let my eyes adjust, I realize things aren’t as dark as I initially thought. In fact, the stars seem to shine clearer and brighter than usual.

Maybe that’s the key? Doing something that isn’t just, “the usual.” When we put ourselves out there, sometimes even literally out there taking a night walk, we see things from a different perspective. When we try something that others would call unusual, we connect with ourselves in a new way, there is a quickening in our spirit that makes us feel more alive.

Darkness has a way of closing in on us, making us feel like darkness is all there is. It can be suffocating, scary, and empty. Darkness can feel big and all encompassing. Yet, there is hope in the stars. When I’m in an especially dark place in my walk all I need to do is look up. If I see even just one star, I am reminded where the true power lies. The real power is not in the enormity of darkness, but the clarity of a single fleck of light. Despite distance and the passage of time, this little light meets me where I stand. This little light is all I need to find my way through the darkness and to know I’m not alone.

This is the miracle of Advent, that in our darkest days of the year, in the most common moments of life, God shows up.The real power is not in the enormity of darkness, but the clarity of a single fleck of light.

So, maybe this is the key? I am constantly amazed by the wondrous gifts of God’s grace that surround us, especially in those things that seem most mundane in our daily lives. This is the miracle of Advent, that in our darkest days of the year, in the most common moments of life, God shows up.

Star
Photo by Rev. Josh Clark, August 2018, Sisters, OR
Used with Permission

In order for transformation, both of these keys are needed. We need to put ourselves out there so that we can see what God is doing in the most simple of things. In these intersecting moments, we meet God in a new way and we are changed. It can feel like such a miracle that we cannot help but share it with others.

This is what I see when families try Messy Church for the first time. They hesitantly walk in, unsure of what to expect from this new thing, uncomfortable. By the end of our celebration time together, they are completely different people. Alive! Awake! Connected to the stories of God’s love for us in a real, tangible way. We move to our meal together, eating casseroles, sitting next to our new family members, and expectantly looking ahead to our next gathering together.

Like the stars, we can live as points of light in the darkness, shining, as a reminder that the darkness has not, does not, and will not overcome. God with us, Emmanuel.

The Ladder

A Blog by Lindsey Goodyear, Writer and Messy Church Mom

My husband and I are in the midst of remodeling our first fixer upper. I love a good challenge and with the absolutely useless confidence I’ve gained from seeing other people’s Pinterest projects, I feel like I can take on anything that just needs a little work. It’s currently gutted, so to say it needs some work is a severe understatement. We’ve been interviewing contractors and looking at more housing materials than I ever knew existed. Being people who absolutely love to be outside a patio fit for entertaining is a must and a concrete slab will be poured in the backyard so we can build a pergola. I figured, out of all of the things we have to redo in the house, this would by far be the easiest and I told my husband that I thought we could save some money by doing it ourselves. It didn’t seem that hard. Mix some concrete, pour it quickly, wait for it to dry, then throw up the shade cover. He looked at me like I was crazy before going through the steps of building a small backyard patio:

  1. Prepare the site including leveling the dirt.
  2. Build strong, level forms.
  3. Build up and pack the base.
  4. Pour and flatten concrete.

All of these steps MUST be completed to ensure a strong and sturdy foundation before considering attaching any sort of pergola outside. Who knew? I guess I won’t be starting a construction blog anytime soon.

Last month’s Messy Church at Community UMC, Huntington Beach, CA, was a perplexing one for me. I’ve been preoccupied with school starting and this huge new project and as we sat in the sanctuary, listening to the story of Jacob’s Ladder, I found myself having a hard time making a connection. While traveling, Jacob stops for the night and falls into a deep sleep that results in a life-changing dream. He sees a ladder that reaches down from Heaven all the way to Earth. Angels are ascending and descending the ladder and at the top stands God who makes a promise to keep him safe, make his descendants bountiful, and to bring him back to this land. Jacob awakes with a new mindset as he realizes the door to Heaven is open and this is God’s land.

Jacob’s Ladder, c.1490 (oil on panel), French School, (15th
century) / Musee du Petit Palais, Avignon, France / The
Bridgeman Art Library

Even though I had heard this story before, and completely understood it, I found myself becoming hyper-focused on the significance of the ladder. What does the ladder represent? Who does it represent? Or is it just a ladder? Maybe it’s about the dream! Am I reading too much into this? For two weeks I walked around with these questions. I asked everyone I could and multiple Biblical sites only brought multiple possible answers (none of which satisfied my need for comprehension). I had to decipher the meaning of the ladder before I could relate it to something in my life, let alone write about it.

Yesterday, on my way to pickup my youngest son from school, I decided to detour into Reverend Ginny Wheeler’s office to see if I could gain some clarity. I brought up the many possibilities I had read along the way and asked her every which way what the staircase could mean. Then we got back to basics. We knew for sure was that the staircase is the connection between Heaven and Earth…Between God and man…Between God and us. So I asked her, “what keeps your connection between you and God?” She said, “Worship, prayer, community, service-” and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t need some astronomical event of realization to figure it out. The ladder belongs to us. We each have our own. It is up to us to make it strong. Just like our backyard patio, it cannot be a strong structure without taking time, care, and the proper steps to make it that way. Doing the things God calls us to do means taking the right steps and will ensure a strong and sturdy ladder. Skipping those steps will result in a rickety, unstable structure in jeopardy of crumbling. So, in short: pray, worship, serve, and build community. You’ll find that taking these steps will not only build a ladder with a lifetime warranty…It’ll last you an eternity.

Lindsey Goodyear
Contact her at lindseygoodyear@gmail.com

Welcome Crystal Goetz, our newest Regional Coordinator for the majestic state of Washington!

We are excited to introduce our newest Regional Coordinator …drum roll please…Crystal Goetz (pronounced Gets)! She will cover the large state of Washington. She lives in Auburn Washington and serves as the Director of Children’s, Youth and Family Life Ministries at Auburn First United Methodist Church (FUMC). Crystal has been passionate about Messy Church since she brought a team from her church to a ‘Getting Started in Messy Church’ training in August 2017. She writes that she is “obsessed with spreading the Gospel through Messy Church and hopes to inspire others with her enthusiasm for Messy Church and her love of Jesus!”

Crystal has been a passionate advocate for younger people of the church in her 10 years of experience of family ministry. She writes that when she is asked how she finds the energy to all she does her answer is “the young people enliven and inspire me.”

Her greatest joys in life come from her family, her husband and two young adult children and her faith. When she has time for fun, she enjoys paper crafting, costuming and watching British mystery shows like “Shetland”. Crystal will be attending the Messy Church International Conference in England in May 2019 where she can experience a favorite of hers, a hot cup of tea and a scone. Crystal, we are so happy to welcome to the Regional Coordinator Team

November News

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving from Messy Church USA

Messy Church USA Network is growing! We are giving thanks for all of these new registrations from September and October!

Messy Church USA September Registration
• Good Shepherd UMC, Henrico, Virginia
• First UMC, Olympia, Washington
• St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Vancouver, Washington
• Church of St. Anselm of Cantebury, Shoreham, New York
• St. Stephens UMC, Houston, Texas
• St. David’s Episcopal Church and School, Ashburn, Virginia
• North Freeman UMC, North Freedom, Wisconsin
• Decatur UMC, Decatur, Tennessee

Messy Church USA October Registrations
• First UMC, Manchester, New Hampshire
• Lincoln Community UMC, Ypsilanti, Michigan
• Redlands First UMC, Redlands, California
• Aiea UMC, Aeia, Hawaii
• Faith UMC, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Have you found your Messy Church on our Directory on the Website?

When you first bring up the directory map you may not see a toggle for your Messy Church.  Simply enter your state in the search function on the website directory page to check your information. If your Messy Church contact, location or schedule is incorrect, simply log into the website and you can make the changes yourself.

Still can’t find your  Messy Church on our website? We need you to register. We have three levels of membership  for your church to choose from. Thank you to all the churches that have registered but we know we are still missing some Messy Churches that have  registered with Messy Church/ BRF in England but not with Messy Church USA. We want to promote your Messy Church so please register TODAY by clicking here.

There is still time to register for the Messy Church International Conference (MCIC 2019) May 3-5, 2019 but you need to act quickly! Registration is now open and places are expected to fill quickly! The first conference in 2016 was AWESOME! It was great fun to meet Messy Church people from all over the world! This is an unmissable opportunity. Learn more here. 

News from the UK

  • Check out the Faith in Homes site – where you’ll find lots of ideas for families – for both at Messy Church and for families between MC gatherings.
  • UK Messy Church Pinterest site has lots of ideas – bookmark it on your computer as more categories have been added! UK Messy Church Pinterest link 
  • Lucy’s monthly eNewsletter includes lots of articles and information Here is the November Newsletter. Check this link for archived newsletters.  Lucy’s blog includes Maximizing the Mess as well as lots of additional articles and ideas.

From Canada

From Australia

From New Zealand

The “What is Messy Church?” Monthly Zoom is cancelled in November and December due to the Holidays! We will resume the monthly webinar on Thursday, January 24, 2019.


Have you joined our Messy Church Team Leaders Group?  Join a discussion to find a great idea or to help someone else looking for something specific.  Click here to sign up. 

Our mission at Messy Church USA is to equip local churches to start, sustain and connect Messy Churches across the United States. We are partners with the global Messy Church movement founded by Lucy Moore in 2004 and now administered by Bible Reading Fellowship.

Messy Sheep Trail

Johannah Myers, Regional Coordinator for North and South Carolina

In 2013 we were in our first months of Messy Church at Aldersgate UMC in Greenville, SC. Looking for a way to spread the word about Messy Church and make some connections with our larger community, we stumbled across a Messy Church in Liverpool, England and their annual Sheep Trail. (You can read more about the original Sheep Trail in Messy Nativity.) In true “we-don’t-know-what-we’re-doing-but-let’s-try-anyway” form, the Sheep Trail in Greenville, SC began!

We have plenty of people who crochet, but the sheep pattern provided in Messy Nativity was for knitting. After searching pattern books and the Internet, I found a sewing pattern for a stuffed sheep. A desperate plea went out for people willing to sew some sheep and soon the herd in my office grew (and grew and grew). Meanwhile we wrote up a request for stores, outlining our plan for the Trail and started walking up and down Main Street, looking for stores willing to give us a try. Nine stores downtown said yes. Throw in a couple of trees at the Festival of Trees willing to be hiding places for our sheep and we had our first Sheep Trail.

Sheep Trail with Aldersgate UMC
Greenville, South Carolina

Each participating store gets its very own sheep with a unique name. Many stores like to name their own sheep! The sheep is hidden in the store, keeping in mind that it’s mostly kids out hunting. The sheep’s nametag is clearly visible. We print Trail Cards (we also keep a printable version on our webpage) that includes a list of the participating stores and a place to record the sheep’s unique name. Find each sheep, record the name, and you’ve mastered the Sheep Trail! We put a basket at a couple of stores where people could turn in completed Trail Cards and be entered into a drawing for a prize at the end of the month. Our Trail runs throughout the month of December.

The first year, we invested in brochure holders. Our sheep were donated. We splurged a bit and had our Trail Cards professionally printed along with some signs marking participating stores. After the first year, the only real cost for us is printing the Trail Cards. With this minimal cost, we are able to reach hundreds of families. We go through anywhere between 300-400 brochures each year!

Sample of Brochures 

Our Trail Cards include information about our Messy Christmas, Aldersgate UMC’s Christmas Eve services and other worship opportunities. We also include the Christmas story, written in child-friendly language. We hope that everyone who participates in the Sheep Trail takes a moment to read the story and that the Trail gives families the opportunity to play together while remembering the true meaning of Christmas.

For more information about our Sheep Trail or to get an example of teh brochure email me at johannah@messychurchusa.org.  Follow us on Instagram  and/ or follow us on Facebook.

Messy Blessings, Johannah

Johannah Myers

Prepare the Way!

By Johannah Myers, Regional Coordinator for North and South Carolina

Aldersgate UMC Messy Church Fall Festival 2018

The dust has settled from our Messy Church Fall Festival. Candy wrappers have been picked up and costumes stored away. In one way, we’re now free to turn our thoughts to gratitude and Thanksgiving. However, for those of us planning for Messy Church, it’s time to start planning for Advent and Messy Christmas.

Advent is a season of preparation. We prepare for the coming of our Messiah even as we remember and celebrate Jesus’ coming as a baby at Christmas. As Messy Church leaders, we’re charged to prepare for Messy Christmas celebrations but we can also help our families make space to prepare a way for Jesus, even during their busy December.

Consider providing Advent calendars at your November Messy Church. Look for a calendar that includes family activities or create your own. Invite families to create a Jesse Tree as a way of remembering Jesus’ family tree and marking the Advent season together. What about materials and instructions for making a simple Advent wreath? Provide the materials as a take-home during your November Messy Church so that families are ready when Advent begins on December 2nd 2018.

Help families create an Advent wreath by providing the materials as a take-home during your November Messy Church so that families are ready when Advent begins on December 2nd.

If your Messy Church has a Facebook page or other social media outlets, think about ways to use this social media to help families mark the Advent season. Create a unique hash-tag and invite families to post pictures of their Advent activities. Use social media as a community Advent calendar. 

Messy Advent Activity Links

Messy Christmas is a great resource for planning Messy Christmas or Messy Advent. It’s full of wonderful ideas for activities and celebrations. There is an older resource, Messy Nativity that is also available to purchase. Messy Nativity includes two ideas of projects to draw your whole community into the Messy Christmas spirit, beyond your monthly Messy Church.


The first three people to email Roberta Egli at roberta@messychurchusa.org  and request the book will get a free copy of Messy Christmas mailed to them.   

Advent and Christmas can be the busiest seasons complete with all the stress that goes along with the craziness. How can Messy Church help families find purpose in the midst of all the season’s comings and goings? 

Messy Church USA’s mission is to equip local churches to start, sustain and connect Messy Churches across the USA.  Be sure to register your Messy Church on our website. 

Give Thanks…for the Beauty of the Earth

Lindsey Goodyear

Exploring the Woods at Shipley Nature Center
September Messy Church, Huntington Beach, CA

My husband and I were married for six years before we had kids. Much of the time leading up to that point was filled by late nights with friends, vacations on a whim, and the luxury of sleeping in. But, by far, our most coveted pastime was eating at new restaurants. We absolutely love food and in the days before children, we thought nothing of indulging at pricey places for hours on end. There was only ever one part of our dining experience that became an annoyance…observing parents, deep in conversation, while their children played on an iPad. I mean, what kind of person can’t parent enough to make it through one dinner without an iPad?! Our conversation always went the same way, “when we have kids, there will be absolutely NO screen time! Not at the table or anywhere else. The screen will NOT be a babysitter because we will actually be present parents.” Flash forward six years to us sitting at Cheesecake Factory while our boys watch Disney videos on my phone.

Since we both work from home, my husband and I do our best to balance quality time with our boys and making a living. Our boys are adventurous, but I’d be lying if I told you they always played outside and never watched a screen while we worked. I often get worried that they’re missing out on childhood experiences on the days where they watch, what is in my opinion, a little too much television. But then, my guilty conscience is renewed when we have an epic day outdoors doing nothing but having fun in good, clean dirt! However, even on those days, it seems, they always ask for screen time as soon as we’re home. I always wonder if technology disappeared today, would they have the wherewithal to fulfill a lifetime of boredom with what they could find outside?

In September, our Messy Church decided to get back to nature and host an entire Messy night at Shipley Nature Center. Located just down the street from our church, Shipley’s is a magnificent 18-acre fenced nature preserve where families can come to observe breathtaking trails, a fresh water stream, and over 50,000 California native plants. All of our activities were done using what God gave us in nature. Since it was in such a beautiful setting, we didn’t have nearly as many crafts as usual so people could walk in leisure while taking in the beauty surrounding them. I, however, watched in horror as our boys were part of a big group of kids working their way through the preserve at warp speed. They ran from one activity to the next so quickly that I dreaded the “I’m bored” comments that would surely come when they ran out of fun things to do on the trail. Yet, when we reached the last table, and I waited for the complaints, I witnessed what God had in store to ease my worry. My boys simply handed over their finished craft, turned around, and ran into the woods.

Taking the time to soak up God’s handcrafted nature

is a necessity we need in our lives.

After dropping off our finished work with our other belongings, I began to jog on a trail, taking in the beauty around me. It was an unusually serene couple of minutes as I usually have ear pods in and a podcast on when I run. I could hear the nearing laughter of my boys and their friends when I came to an opening in the trees. My boys, and two of their friends, were hauling a large branch to use in a fort, while one lead the way with a walking stick and the littlest one supervised in the back. Using what they could find along the trail, the four of them were happy as could be building a palace of their dreams with rocks, sticks, and dirt. Then, a sudden revelation came over me. If all technology disappeared today, they’d be fine. They’d be fine because everything these little guys need, everything any of us need, is here in what God has provided for us. It’s why what’s provided in nature seemed like the newest groundbreaking toys to our kids. It’s why I felt more refreshed after a silent two minute run than I do after a 45 minute one with headphones in. Taking the time to soak up God’s handcrafted nature is a necessity we need in our lives. We just can’t get too caught up in the “busying” things of life to miss the beauty of His work.


Lindsey Goodyear
Writer, Mom, Messy Church USA Blogger
Lindseygoodyear@gmail.com
 

Practicing Gratitude

Roberta J. Egli

istock

Did you see the grateful pumpkin Facebook post that ended up being Messy Church USA’s most liked and shared post? What an easy and great way to practice gratitude in your household or your Messy Church!

I have discovered that it takes intentionality to enter into a regular practice of gratitude. I have kept a gratitude journal in the past but for several years, I have received the daily gratefulness word of the day from a website on gratitude focused on the writings of David Stendle-Rast. I encourage you to check out their website and sign up for their daily moment of gratitude. You can also send an e-card, light a virtual prayer candle, get inspired by stories, discover videos or simply check out their question of the day.

How do you practice gratitude in your household? How can we practice gratitude in our Messy Churches? I recently read a great gratitude household practice called ‘Gratitude Café’. Based on a mother’s habit of taking her morning coffee outside and giving thanks at the beginning of each morning, Traci Smith, author of Faithful Families writes about creating a regular ( weekly if possible) gratitude café.

  • First choose a day of the week (Saturday morning or Sunday evenings work well for many families) for the household to gather.
  • Second, make a favorite beverage for each of the household (coffee, tea, orange juice, or hot chocolate).
  • Third, gather someplace either inside or outside to enjoy their beverage. Perhaps you want to use a special tablecloth or candle for your gratitude café.
  • Fourth, have each household member either draw a picture or if able, write down five things for which they are grateful.(When you start your gratitude café, you may need to ask some  leading questions such as; Are you thankful for anything you received this past week? Are you thankful for anything special we have done as a family? Are you thankful for anything you have learned? Etc.
  • After a time of silence while everyone writes or draws, share your ideas with one another.
  • After everyone has shared, say a simply prayer together, “Gracious, we give you thanks for all you have given us this past week. Amen”

Introduce the Gratitude Café during your Messy Meal and then send the idea home for households to practice at home. You can have people save their drawings / paper and create a Gratitude Café mosaic for your Messy Church.

May you find ways to practice gratitude today and in the days to come and better yet, make your gratitude practice messy!
Messy Blessings, Roberta