Taking Time to Reflect While We Jump into 2020

Archive for all-ages worship

Taking Time to Reflect While We Jump into 2020

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Is the person in the picture above going to make it into 2020 or fall short? How are you doing with the start of a new year?  Are you already feeling behind?   (Yes, I realize that the picture is probably altered but it still causes some anxiety!)

At the start of every turn of the calendar, my husband and I go out for breakfast to reflect on the previous year and look ahead to what is coming in the new. In our busy lives, for many of us, days and months and even an entire year can flow by so quickly that we don’t take notice.  Taking moments to pause, slow down and reflect not only at the end of the year but throughout the year provides opportunity to give thanks for what is going well, and consciously changing perspectives when needed.

My new project planner has a section at the end of each week and month to draw or write a reflection on how my time was spent in meeting the goals I have set. I have been using it since September and have found that engaging in this simple practice has helped me to give thanks for what has been accomplished and then re-prioritize for the coming week or month. This practice has reminded me of our check in time for our monthly Messy Church planning team I was involved with several years ago. Prior to talking about what was coming up we would spend a few moments reflecting on our previous Messy Church and take turns answering three simple questions: 1) what went well? 2) What could have gone better? and 3) How can we hold one another in prayer?

The year ahead can feel like a gift waiting to be unwrapped, month by month, like layer after layer of bright wrapping paper being torn off a pass-the-parcel prize.

Lucy Moore

Lucy Moore, founder of the Messy Church global movement, in her reflection on the turn of the calendar year and the months ahead, challenged us to view our monthly Messy Church as an unwrapped gift. “There’s a rhythm to meeting monthly as a church. The year ahead can feel like a gift waiting to be unwrapped, month by month, like layer after layer of bright wrapping paper being torn off a pass-the-parcel prize. Or like a soup bubbling away with ingredients added one by one, subtly altering the flavour and texture until you look back after twelve months…” Read More Here

So, my friends, as you start this new year, I would love to engage in a conversation with you regarding your local Messy Church.  What is going well?  What could be have gone better?  How can I hold you and your team in prayer?  Drop me a note or contact your Regional Coordinator.

For today, I pray this prayer that has been central in my morning routine of awakening to God’s presence.

New every morning is your love, great God of light, and all day long you are working for good in the world. Stir up in us desire to serve you, to live peacefully with our neighbors and all your creation, and to devote each day to your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen

(The Worshipbook: Services and Hymns, (The Westminster Press 1970m 1972)

May you experience God’s light and love holding you and leading you into 2020. Happy 2020 my friends.

Grace and peace,
Roberta
roberta@messychurchusa.org

Messy Church USA logo and mission
Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect across the USA

Messy Kid Chronicles

December Blog Post from Lindsey Goodyear

Last month, I had the pleasure of sitting down with five different adults, of all age groups, and listening to incredible testimonies of their journey through Messy Church. The fact that they were open enough to put their own private feelings out there for the world to read filled me with such gratitude. I love seeing how Messy Church impacts the life of others and, with them telling their stories, others can now hear it as well! And, although they were all captivating interviews, it did leave me wondering what the youth of our congregation would have to say about their own experiences with Messy Church. So, this month, I decided to sit down with four different kids, between the ages of 4 and 11 and ask them all the same questions. I was met with some of the sweetest, funniest, most blunt answers I’ve ever received in an interview! It was a riot! I love the innocent, unfiltered, unbiased answers we get when we talk about God with kids. We can learn a lot from their blind faith. So, without further ado, please enjoy some words about Messy Church out of the mouths of babes.

Name: Jax
Age: 4
Number of years attending Messy Church: 2

Lindsey (LG): What do you remember about your first Messy Church?
Jax (J): I don’t know anything about that.

LG: That’s okay. What has been your favorite Messy Church?
J: The water slide one.

LG: Really? How come?
J: Because I liked going down the slide and next time I’m going to do flips, stand up, and slide on my knees.

LG: Wow, that sounds fun! How about you tell me your favorite meal at Messy Church?
J: I would like it if they had bread and I could put butter on it!

LG: I would love that too. Do you remember any stories you’ve learned at Messy Church?
J: Ms. Leyla says that sometimes you see Jesus laying in that little thing He likes.

LG: Do you mean the manger?
J: What’s a manger?

LG: That little bed He had when he was born.
J: Oh, yeah. But, He’s dead, you know?

LG: I do know that but He’s alive in our hearts, right?
J: Yes, and so is God!

LG: That’s right! How about your favorite Messy Church song?
J: Welcome Everybody!

LG: That’s a good one! If there was one thing you could change about Messy Church what would it be?
J: Sing a new song at Messy Church for prayer.

LG: Why a new song?
J: I just do.

LG: Well, maybe we can work on that. Thanks for the interview!
J: Okay.

Name: Kellan
Age: 7
Number of years attending Messy Church: 2

Lindsey (LG): What do you remember about your first Messy Church?
Kellan (K): At first I was super scared but then I remember it was super fun!

LG: What has been your favorite Messy Church?
K: Christmas.

LG: Why, what did you do?
K: Played lots of games, went inside the church, and Ms. Marty said some stuff about the Bible. Messy Church is super fun and amazing!

LG: I agree! What’s your favorite meal at Messy Church?
K: Spaghetti because I like spaghetti!

LG: Me too! Do you remember any stories you’ve learned at Messy Church?
K: About that little guy.

LG: Zaccheus?
K: Yes!

LG: What do you remember about him?
K: He took people’s money and then Jesus came so he gave them their money back.

LG: That’s right! Have you learned anything new about God or praying at Messy Church?
K: Yes, I learned that if you’re praying and you are driving a car, Don’t close your eyes to pray because you’ll crash!

LG: That’s a good takeaway! What’s your favorite Messy Church song?
K: Welcome everybody.

LG: Great one! If there was one thing you could change about Messy Church, what would it be?
K: The time.

LG: Why is that?
K: So we could go to Messy Church sooner!

LG: Agreed!

2019 Christmas Messy Church
Community United Methodist, Huntington Beach, CA

Name: Zazie
Age: 10
Number of Years Attending Messy Church: 6 years

Lindsey (LG): What do you remember about your first Messy Church?
Zazie (Z): I came here because we got invited by my friend and I was really shy at that point because I didn’t know anyone except the friend who invited me. The first craft I remember is making a wooden Jesus with a cross.

LG: I remember that craft, too! What has been your favorite Messy Church?
Z: My favorite Messy Church was the Messy Pets. I got a little metal medallion to hang off his cage.

LG: Who is he?
Z: Skyler, my pet rabbit.

LG: Very cool! How about your favorite meal at Messy Church?
Z: The one where we had it catered by the steakhouse. It was an 11 out of 10! It was an amazing meal and I had my mom bring me to that same restaurant the next night!

LG: You’re right, it was a great meal! Do you remember any stories you’ve learned at Messy Church?
Z: The one with the crown of thorns. I remember that Marty had the crown of thorns in her hand. It obviously wasn’t the real crown of thorns but I remember her having it. There were people who came and acted the story out which is my favorite.

LG: I agree. Sometimes it’s easier to understand the story when someone acts it out.
Z: Yes!

LG: Have you learned anything new about God or praying at Messy Church?
Z: I write down what I’m thankful for, which I started at Messy Church. I do it all of the time. I even show it in my artwork.

LG: Wow! That’s really cool. Do you have a favorite Messy Church song?
Z: “Da Da Da Dum” song! I even sing it in the shower!

LG: Ha! That’s awesome! I also like our Messy Grace song. If there was one thing you could change about Messy Church, what would it be?
Z: Maybe take away those gates and open it up again.

LG: Why is that?
Z: Because there’s something special about being in the sanctuary so I can’t wait to go back in!

*Note: Community United Methodist Church is getting a huge remodel. For the time being, we are unable to have our celebration portion of Messy Church in the sanctuary. The construction is guarded by gates and this is what Zazie is referring to.

Name: Zachary
Age: 11
Number of Years Attending Messy Church: 7 years

Lindsey (LG): What do you remember about your first Messy Church?
Zachary (Z): They all kind of blend together but I remember liking the sensory tables with all of the beads.

LG: Yes! The sensory tables are fun. What has been your favorite Messy Church?
Z: I like the pets Messy Church. That’s really fun!

LG: Why is it your favorite?
Z: I’m not sure. Probably because you get to bring stuff.

LG: What kind of stuff?
Z: Like pets.

LG: Which pets have you brought?
Z: We brought the bunny, we’ve brought the chickens, our lizard, and also our dog, Jewel.

LG: Wow! That’s lots of pets! How about your favorite meal at Messy Church?
Z: I like when they did the meat chili with the ground beef. That was really good!

LG: Do you remember any stories you’ve learned at Messy Church?
Z: The one I remember the most is the smart dude that built his house on the rock and the not so smart dude that built it on the sand. Then the earthquakes came and the not so smart dude’s house fell down.

LG: I love the wise and foolish builders, also. Have you learned anything new about God or praying at Messy Church?
Z: Hmm…Well I learned how to pray there!

LG: You did?
Z: Yes. I didn’t really know how to before.

LG: That’s awesome! What’s your favorite Messy Church song?
Z: The “Da Da Da Dum” song!

LG: Our Messy Grace song?
Z: Yep!

LG: Great choice! Is there anything you would change about Messy Church?
Z: Yeah, I wish the time you get to do stuff was a little longer. Like, all the crafts and stuff.

LG: Me too. Thanks, Zachary!

Lindsey Goodyear and her family attend Messy Church at Community UMC
in Hungtington Beach, CA..
You can reach her at lindseygoodyear@gmail.com

Messy Advent Waiting

By Roberta J. Egli 

Messy Advent Blessing

May the stories you tell, the people you meet, the ways you fill your days during this season bring you closer to Bethlehem. May your heart be full of kindness and compassion, may you say thank you and I’m sorry often. May you find the courage to be brave like Mary, to say yes to God wherever God is calling you, remembering that on your journey, there will be darkness and there will be light, but that God is always with you. Amen

~Aaron Jenkyn, Epiphany Messy Church, Newport, NH

Little did I expect that this Advent reflection would still be on my computer three weeks later. The plan was to send it out at the beginning of Advent but December has not gone according to my plan. The goals for December was to confirm Messy Church trainings for 2020, intensively plan the web registration for the Celebrate the Mess conference in October 2020 and to clean up my files that have been out of control since September.

However, life happened and much of my time these past several weeks have been spent waiting. Waiting in an emergency room with my husband for five hours for him to be seen for a worsening toe infection. Waiting to get results of an MRI to see if the infection was included the bone. Waiting for a ‘real room’ in the hospital rather than the no-window dreary observation room. Waiting for the advice of medical specialists for treatment. Waiting for the surgeon to walk through the recovery room doors to give me the results of his surgery. Waiting for the order that Lynn could go home. One thing I have learned is that I am not very good at waiting! 

Waiting is difficult. Advent is a season of waiting.  Was there some hidden Advent message in all of the waiting these past weeks? 

Lynn is at home now and recovering well. Life is beginning to resemble our normal daily rhythm. I now have the time and energy to reflect a bit on what I have learned through waiting this Advent.

  • God is with us as we wait. The Spirit of God is as close as our breath.  When I became anxious and impatient as I waited, I remembered to take a deep breath in and out. Simply focusing and praying with my breath helped to center me and remind me that God was present in all of the waiting. As the Advent blessing from quoted above, “…on your journey, there will be darkness and there will be light, but that God is always with you.”
  • Waiting creates community. We had been sent to the Emergency Room by Lynn’s physician so we thought we would receive care soon after arriving. However, we waited for five hours and created community with all of the patients and families who were waiting. I heard stories and connected with a diverse group of people. We became the waiting community who kept inviting others to join in through sharing their stories as they awaited care. Telling our stories is how community is formed. I wonder how we share stories in our Messy Churches as we form community.
  • Waiting brings unexpected gifts. I was reminded of all of the many new friends Messy Church has brought into my life through all the global Facebook messages we received. Knowing that friends all over the world were praying for us brought us joy as we waited. We were forced to slow down from our busy lives for several weeks. This new pace has brought a new appreciation of the true gifts of Christmas.
Advent # 3

I invite you to take a moment to pause in your busy day as you prepare for Christmas. Breath in God’s love…Breathe out your request.

Pause and once again slowly read the Advent Blessing from Aaron Jenkyn.

May the stories you tell, the people you meet, the ways you fill your days during this season bring you closer to Bethlehem.

May your heart be full of kindness and compassion, may you say thank you and I’m sorry often.

May you find the courage to be brave like Mary, to say yes to God wherever God is calling you, remembering that on your journey, there will be darkness and there will be light, but that God is always with you.

Amen

May you experience God’s presence in unexpected places today.

Grace and peace,
Roberta

Messy Church USA logo and mission
Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect across the USA

Give Thanks…Messy Church Changes Lives…David’s Story

From BRF Appeal

Messy Church not only changes the lives of those who find their way to attend, the lives of the many volunteers are also changed. In the last five years Messy Church has given David a whole new lease of live and an unexpected chance to use and develop his gifts. Listen to his story and then donate to support the global movement of Messy Church.

As you gather to give thanks over this holiday weekend, please support the global movement of Messy Church. Messy Church USA will give 50% of any donations received on our website directly to Bible Reading Fellowship, the home for the global Messy Church movement. Donate Here 

Thank you for making a differene in the lives of people all over the world by supporting Messy Church!   Happy Thanksgiving from Messy Church USA!

Messy Church USA logo and mission
Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect across the USA

Messy Family Chronicles

By Lindsey Goodyear

Once a month I sit down to write about the experience I’ve had at the previous Messy Church. In all honesty, I’ve had some pretty incredible, and definitely eye opening, adventures there. God never wastes an opportunity for me to learn new lessons from His ancient wise words, no matter how many times I’ve heard them. Just when I think I know a verse inside and out, I’m thrown for a total loop and find that His word is, once again, speaking to whatever heaviness is currently weighing on me. It happens every time! This got me thinking…If I’m having these awe-inspiring experiences at Messy Church, what are my peers walking away with? Since one of the five Messy Church values are “all ages” (every element should be relevant and accessible to all ages), I thought it would be a nice change to ask questions of four different age groups, all at different stages in life, the same series of questions and see what their Messy Church experiences are like. So, without further hesitation, please enjoy my conversations with five outstanding Messy members from Community United Methodist Church in Huntington Beach, CA.

Name: Hannah Wagner
Age: 24
Kids: None
Years Attending: 4

How did you first hear about Messy Church?

HW: I was already a member of Community United Methodist Church in Huntington Beach and I was looking for alternative ways to worship.

How has attending Messy Church impacted your life?

HW: It has really helped me build a strong community as well as a connection with different families. I work with young children and I think it’s really important to get to know the community you’re working in.

What is it that keeps you coming back?

HW: Without a doubt, the bonds and friendships I’ve formed.

Can you give a favorite memory?

HW: My favorite is always the Messy Church where pets attend. I love it because we get to see the furry parts of the families that attend, which we normally don’t see. It’s also my dog, Carl’s, favorite Messy Church!

What would you like to see in the future at Messy Church?

HW: Our Messy Church is very young family centered, which is awesome, but it would be very cool to see more young adults attending that just want to engage and worship with other people in their community.

“Coming once a month has added personal and theological benefits…too many to mention.  It has also created community, for me, with parents and for James, with his friends.

James Torres

Name: James Torres
Age: Over 39
Kids: James Jr (5)
Years Attending: 2

How did you first hear about Messy Church?

JT: I read a story in the OC Register about Messy Church. Then, in October of 2017, I was invited by Leyla Wagner and Marty Drake to the first ever USA Messy Church conference at CUMC. I met the British founder, Lucy Moore, as well as others in leadership that are based in England and the United States. I sat in on excellent seminars and terrific testimonials. I have now taken James Jr. religiously every month for two years. James Jr. loves Messy Church, and so do I.

How has attending Messy Church impacted your life?

JT: Coming once a month has added personal and theological benefits…too many to mention. It has also created community, for me, with parents and for James, with his friends.

What is it that keeps you coming back?

JT: Leyla, Marty, the parents, plus, my kid loves it. Leyla Wagner was my son’s preschool teacher at CUMC. She and the other instructors at CUMC preschool and the CUMC Messy Church are terrific. I love the fact that all of those who care for and instruct small children at CUMC and Messy Church are women who love Jesus.

Can you give a favorite memory?

JT: I love anytime the kids pray or sing a Jesus based or holiday song.

What would you like to see in the future at Messy Church?

JT: Leyla Wagner mentioned she wants to see more people transformed by God’s word. In my opinion, that’s a good goal. (P.S. I would like to add that I very much enjoy the writing efforts of Lindsey Goodyear. She has a gifting from the Lord for sharing God’s love in the context of reporting, art, and story.)

LG: Thank you, James!

Name: Justin and Nicole Brown
Age: 37, 41
Kids: Two kids (6,8)
Years Attending: Since the start

How did you first hear about Messy Church?

J&NB: We heard about it from Leyla Wagner and Marty Drake as well as through the preschool (we were parents of preschoolers at the time).

How has attending Messy Church impacted your life?

J&NB: It gives us one evening per month we can count on as a family to worship God in a fun and creative way while also being in the company of like-minded families/people. Not to mention, a sit down meal that we didn’t slave over and can eat while it’s still warm!

NB: Also no dishes and I come home to a clean kitchen!

What is it that keeps you coming back?

J&NB: The bonding time with family and like-minded friends. Also, just when we think Messy Church can’t get better, it does. Constantly. This reflects the heart and soul of the ones who tirelessly pour their hearts and time into this labor of love month after month.

Can you give a favorite memory?

JB: I loved going to Shipley Nature Center.

NB: I asked our kids what their favorite part was and I was expecting to hear answers like, “playing with our friends,” “crafts,” or “dessert” but I was wrong. When my sweet boy was five years old, he said his favorite part of Messy Church was, “when we just spend time together and do crafts as a family.”

What would you like to see in the future at Messy Church?

J&NB: We’d love to see healthier food alternatives as well as more outreach that is family focused.

I love helping with Messy Church because I enjoy being around children.  It gives me great pleasure to witness them having such a fun evening, learning about God through crafts and scripture.

Jan Rutkowski, 70 years young

Name: Jan Rutkowski
Age: 70
Kids: 2 adult children
Years Attending: 5 years

How did you first hear about Messy Church?

JR: The church I attend had started a Messy Church 6 or 7 years ago so as a parishioner I was aware we would hold Messy Church on our church campus.

How has attending Messy Church impacted your life?

JR: I love helping with Messy Church because I enjoy being around children. It gives me great pleasure to witness them having such a fun evening, learning about God through crafts and scripture.

What is it that keeps you coming back?

JR: It is so rewarding being part of a community mission that is spreading the word of God to families that may not attend traditional worship services.

Can you give a favorite memory?

JR: One of my favorite memories is when we did our first Messy Church baptism. It was a beautiful moment as some of our attendees had not witnessed a baptism. Then something funny happened. It was held at the fountain in our courtyard and the little boy I was sitting next to thought the child was going to be submerged in the small space so I reassured him that was not going to happen.

What would you like to see in the future at Messy Church?

JR: I would like to see our attendance grow but I’d also like to see more churches start their own Messy Church program to help keep the word of God alive and relevant in our world today.

From Roberta J. Egli, Executive Director of Messy Church USA

Your donation to Messy Church USA through the end of 2019 will enable us to reach more and more families throughout the world. We support the global movement by passing on 50% of your gift to Bible Reading Fellowship, the UK charity that is the home for the global Messy Church movement.  Donating through our Messy Church USA website will allow you to receive a receipt for tax purposes here in the United States. I invite you to make a gift to support Messy Church around the world. You can donate at https://messychurchusa.org/donate/.  Thanks for your support, Roberta 

Messy Church USA logo and mission
Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect across the USA

Give Thanks…Messy Church Changes Lives

During this month of Thanksgiving, you are invited to give thanks that Messy Church is changing lives.  Did you know that 61% of Messy Church families wouldn’t otherwise be at church except for their Messy Church? Or that 40% of Messy Church families have had little or no prior contact with church? Or that 81% of Messy Church leaders see evidence of lives changed through their Messy Church? (Statistics from Playfully Serious)

Patricia’s Story

Complex PTSD had ‘taken over’ Patricia’s life. When her children returned from foster care, she needed somewhere to go where they would all feel welcome…Messy Church changed her life. Listen to her story and then donate to support the global movement of Messy Church. 

Listen to Patricia’s Story

How have you experienced changed lives through Messy Church?  We want to hear your story! For the remainder of 2019,  Messy Church USA will give 50% of any donations received on our website directly to Bible Reading Fellowship, the home for the global Messy Church movement.

Donate Here

Messy Church USA logo and mission
Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect across the USA

Messy Advent Resources

How are you preparing for advent at your Messy Church?

Sheep Trails, family advent wreaths, a coloring nativity and much more. Sometimes you may become overwhelmed with advent Messy Church opportunities. Johannah Myers, North and South Carolina Regional Coordinator and Messy Church leader for Aldersgate UMC in Greenville, SC started a Messy Church Sheep trail in her community several years ago.  Read her previous post to learn all about it!   Sheep Trail 

Advent is a wonderful opportunity to connect your Messy Church community and your Sunday morning community.  Are their activities that are traditional for your Sunday worship that you can bring to Messy Church?

On our Messy Church team leaders FB group page, people have been sharing various ideas for advent. Leyla Wagner, from Community UMC in Huntington Beach, CA shared “Something that we like to do is a Reverse Advent Box. We have families decorate a box to take home. Each day of advent, the family puts something (typically canned food or hygiene product) into the box and then donates the entire box to a local Food Pantry or Charity. It’s a good way to make space for “God” in all the busyness of preparing for Christmas.  

Advent offers great opportunities to bridge the worship at Messy Church with at home family devotions.  Check out the links of Advent ideas below and make sure to check out our FB Messy Church team leaders group page. 

Advent Links

Advent in a Box Resource

  • Robin Cannon, the RC for Ohio and our social media consultant for Messy Church USA is a partner in Family Ministry Tools which have created a wonderful resource called- Advent in a Box  It is a pizza box filled with all-age devotions and activities to help families celebrate Advent and prepare for Christmas. We have created the devotions and activities for your church. You will need to print the materials, buy the supplies, and pack your boxes. Everything a family will need to do the activities will be in the box (aside from normal household supplies like markers and tape). 
  • You can order individually or per size of your church. Check it out here. 

From Building Faith (Virginia Theological Seminary ) Website

https://buildfaith.org/99-cent-advent-wreath/
https://buildfaith.org/three-teaching-points-for-advent/
https://buildfaith.org/advent-wreath-prayers-home/
https://buildfaith.org/advent-at-home-in-community/

Ideas from Messy Church USA Team Leaders Page

Other Links

We’re Not Perfect

A Blog Post by Lindsey Goodyear

Becoming Unbusy

Having God in my life is something I’ve always known. Growing up, we went to church and talked regularly about God and what it meant to be a Christian. As a kid I went to Sunday school, I went to youth group, and I’m doing my best to raise strong Christian men, now, as an adult. However, I can’t tell you how many times, in the last 35 years, I’ve heard people refer to others being Christian in a negative connotation. It usually happens after someone has either made a mistake or a morally questionable decision and they’re met with the reply of, “Can you believe that? And they say they’re Christian.” There seems to be some misconception that stating you’re a follower of God means you think you’re somehow superior to others or a perfect being. But, here’s the thing. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re perfect or anywhere close. In fact, it’s almost completely the opposite. If we were perfect, there would be no need for God in our lives in the first place. God acts as a moral compass for us and we need that compass because we need direction. Although I’m recognizing and outright admitting that I am an imperfect Christian, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like things to appear perfect from the outside.

I am a mom who posts regularly about her kids on social media. I love to see comments and likes on photos I’ve taken of the boys while we’re out and about. What people see? Beautiful photos of my kids always laughing and having a great time. What they don’t see? Me pleading with my kids for one more photo because the 56 photos I took in the two minutes prior didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. I love crafting and volunteering at the boy’s schools. I routinely take on more responsibilities like snack day or hand painted Christmas ornaments and hand them in with a smile. What they see? A beautifully crafted end product, that I brush off as easy, and looks like it was crafted by Pinterest itself. What they don’t see? My house looks like a war zone, I have craft paint on my new hardwood floors, and countless burns from the hot glue gun I used to make an applesauce pouch look like a butterfly. And work? I love to work. Writing is my safe place and although writing freely does come easily, it doesn’t come without worry. What they see? A new blog, story, or screenplay. What they don’t see? Hours of research and anxiety, double checking and second guessing my work’s content, and exhausting hope that it will peak someone’s interest. Things aren’t always as they seem from the outside, and to keep up “perfect” appearances, my own insecurities make it so I have a hard time admitting the work that goes into these endeavors. Instead, I act as though these are ““effortless” and non time consuming parts of my day that are completed with unconcerned ease.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re perfect or anywhere close. In fact, it’s almost completely the opposite. If we were perfect, there would be no need for God in our lives in the first place.

Our latest Messy Church was about the wise and foolish builders. The builder that chose to build his house on a rock, weathered a storm without problem. The man who built his on sand, was washed away when the storm came. In short, if you build your house (your life) on a strong foundation (foundation of the Lord), you can overcome any storm. One of the craft stations we had was building a wooden bird feeder. Our messy goers would start with cutting their own sturdy pieces of wood and would then move to a station where they’d assemble and nail the pieces together. As I watched one of the volunteers helping my oldest son nail his together, I daydreamed about where I would hang this cute little bird feeder in our newly landscaped backyard. Then, my dreams were interrupted when he started nailing crooked and I saw a big fat nail pop through the side of the feeder. My need for perfect appearances kicked in and I said, “excuse me, do you think you could fix that?” As soon as I said it, I had an overwhelming feeling of “why?” Why did it need to be fixed? Why does it matter if it doesn’t look like the example picture? Why would I say that this masterpiece, that was perfectly imperfect, was anything but exactly as it should be? It was a huge wake-up call.

The Perfectly Imperfect Bird House
Community UMC Messy Church in Huntington Beach

For the remainder of the night, I reflected on that moment. Building our lives with the foundation of Christ, means the framing of our journey will be strong and reliable. However, the mistakes we make (and we will make a ton) will look just like that crookedly hammered nail. It’s okay if we have a few chips and holes in the stucco. Our lead contractor will fill those mistakes with love and forgiveness. It’s alright if I post a photo that doesn’t look like it came from a magazine. It’s alright if I drop off snacks that don’t resemble some sort of woodland creature. It’s alright if I write something that no one is interested in except myself. And, it’s absolutely okay to hang a holey, crooked, bird feeder that my seven year old son made with pride. Outside appearances don’t matter. I’ve built my life with a foundation of Christ which means if I make mistakes, I’m backed by the most perfect love in the universe and that’s a pretty incredible feeling. So, I’ll continue to work on my own insecurities and also give myself a break. I’ll try to not base my happiness on outside appearances or opinions of others. I’ll do my best but I know it will take time because after all, I’m not perfect.

Lindsey Goodyear
Connect with her at lindseygoodyear@gmail.com
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Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect across the USA

Teaching Compassion

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A Blog post from Lindsey Goodyear

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Colossians 3:12 

When I became a mother, something inside of me changed. Although I may be biased, sixteen hours of labor and a broken tailbone had left me with the most perfect and beautiful 8 lb. 2 oz. baby boy that anyone had seen. I remember looking at him and having an overwhelming sensation of fierce love and protection. No one would harm him, no one would take him, no one could break our bond. I was in absolute awe that God had given me this gift and incredibly astonished that He thought me worthy to raise, teach, and love one of his own holy children. The first few years were rewarding, exhausting, confusing, trying, and glorious. He was smart and loved learning, reading, and playing. His smile and belly laughs brightened any room and lifted the spirits of anyone lucky enough to encounter his joy. And, although I’d like to end this paragraph of bragging by saying that God presented this little boy to the world as a humble and empathetic creature, the truth is, there are some things we must be taught.

In our home, the care and treatment of others is a high priority. God calls us to love our neighbor and we take that to heart. But, how do you teach a child to have compassion and care for someone other than themselves? A child is not born knowing how to say “please” and “thank you.” They will not instinctively know to apologize if they’ve offended you. And for some, sharing with others (food, toys, or otherwise) is a completely foreign concept. As adults, we’ve had a longer time to develop these traits. Although we aren’t perfect ourselves, we’ve had years of sharing the load in the workplace and have lots of sympathetic practice in long lasting relationships. We learn to care for others when we get married, have children, or care for a sick relative. However, a child has not yet had the needed experience to develop these life necessities and our own son was certainly no exception. I really struggled with age appropriate examples of how important having compassion is in this life. Enter the dragon.

When that beautiful little boy turned five, he asked for a bearded dragon. We were hesitant at first (being more “dog” people than “dragon” people) but the gift of that lizard brought out something in our son, without reminding, that we had been working on for years…humanity. He was undeniably attached to his pet and cared for her in the most loving way. He asked us constantly to look up questions he had about her so he could learn everything he needed to know about dragons. He turned her heating lights on and off at the proper learned times. He fed her daily. When he learned she liked water, he put on his swimsuit and swam in the bathtub with her. When she was sick, he snuggled her and never left her side at the vet. He was treating her with the type of love, caring, and respect that I wanted him to treat everyone with. It became altogether apparent to me that an absolute perfect way to teach children empathy is through owning a pet.

Enter the Dragon!
Used with permission

At our last Messy Church, we celebrated just that. As a chance to admire and recognize the unwavering love we have for our pets, once a year, we encourage each of our families to bring their own family pets to enjoy a night of messy celebration dedicated to animals. We had fantastic stations set up, including: feather painting, Lego pet building, move like a pet game, a station for making cat and dog toys, bird feeders, and a pretend animal clinic for those who brought stuffed animals instead of real ones. No animal is turned away. As one of our most popular Messy gatherings, we’ve hosted dogs, cats, lizards, chickens, tortoises, guinea pigs, birds, and hamsters. It’s so fun to watch the interaction between families as well as the beloved animals they brought. The kids are especially proud when showing off their pets and often keep them in their possession even when they eat! Pets are a great conversation starter and it’s always enjoyable to hear funny stories about the animals and witness the abiding love a family has for their furry friends. It’s also undeniable the one shared feeling all of these owners have in common for their pets…compassion.

During celebration, we placed a strong emphasis on the fact that animals are a gift from God and He asks us to take care of them. The responsibility we take on with loving the animals in our lives is the same responsibility God asks of us for loving each other. We are to take care of, nurture, and treat with respect the people we encounter every day. Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” We should wear this cloak of kindness with each other the same way we do with our children, the way they do with animals and…the way God does with us. I would love to say that only children need reminding of this, but it’d be naïve to think we’re not all guilty. So, use God’s word as the template for life’s teaching moments. His reminders are all around us. And, although I never dreamed, I’d say this sentence out loud, I’m so grateful that God created the lovely bearded dragon to help my beautiful boy learn compassion.

September Messy Church
Community UMC, Huntington Beach, CA
Lindsey Goodyear is a writer, mother and Messy Church attender. You can reach her at Lindseygoodyear@gmail.com

Blessings Abound

A Blog post by Casey Cross, a Messy Church USA  Board of Director

Casey serves as Young Disciples Director at Hope Lutheran Church in Eagle, ID. She leads a team for their Messy Church. 

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Like many congregations, we offer backpack blessings at the beginning of each new school year. This year, as I was talking to my pastor about what those would look like, he offered an idea that we could write blessings for each other. The idea quickly evolved from there and we decided to hand out tags on which we would write a word, prayer, blessing, or thought, return them at the offering, then take a new tag on our way out at the end of worship.

This shared activity is especially meaningful because we are living in a time where we are overwhelmed with the countless ways we are different and divided from one another. With more and more statistics and articles written about the Lonely Generation, American’s declining trust, rising suicide rates, and unfortunately even more cultural realities exemplifying our disconnection from one another, we need to respond as a church – the Body of Christ – together.

We need to practice and model trust, not only in our God, but also in one another. Our support for one another, practicing forgiveness, grace, and simply just paying attention to one another becomes counter-cultural, world-changing action. With simple exercises like the blessings we shared today, we put our skin in the game. We are in this together. And we walked from worship with signs of God’s transformation in our lives, to serve as reminders of our connection to one another and God’s love wherever we go.

Blessing Basket at Hope Lutheran Church

All ages were part of this activity. The tags filled with art, color, prayers, and words from our children were especially thoughtful. I was deeply blessed by the opportunity to read many of the tags before they were dispersed at the end of the service. What a lovely insight into the hearts of our congregation members.

Another reason an activity like this is so important is because when we get caught up in the day-to-day of our lives, it can be easy to relax into consumer-mode. Show up, get filled, feel good, check it off your to do list, and move to the next thing. When this happens, we forget that God is actively involved in our lives. But Wisdom is living within us, speaking to us, moving us, and living through us. We do not worship just for ourselves, but with and for each other. We matter to each other and we have something to share with each other. These blessings gave us an opportunity to remember this and experience it.

I know this exercise may not have meant much to some of the people in attendance. Some may have worried they didn’t have the “right” words, some may have not understood what it was for, and some may have just thought it was meaningless. It’s okay. That’s what grace is all about. It doesn’t stop what God has done and is doing in our lives together.

I am thankful for a congregation and pastor who tries new things. These ideas don’t always go smoothly. They aren’t perfect. But we try stuff. We are in it, together. No matter what, that is what we are living together. The details may fade away in time, but we will never forget that we are God’s beloved children, we are not alone, we have each other… wherever we go.

Blessings Abound
Hope Lutheran Church

In the words of our congregational mission statement – we love, we experience, and we discover God and God’s will in the world.

Reprinted with permission from blog of Casey Cross.  You can follow Casey at https://caseykcross.wordpress.com.

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Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect across the USA