Who’s in need of a “Mini Mess”? I know I am! Lately it seems that every blog I write, I go into hoping it will be the last one I write about the quarantine. As it stands, it looks as though staying home may be in the cards for all of us for a bit. Yes, they are slowly adding new phases to get us back to normal, but to protect those in our family and communities, the majority of us are hunkering down and staying put. With Pentecost fast approaching, I felt like it was the right time to send home another Messy Church plan to keep us in good spirits.
For those who don’t know the story, here’s a very short summary. Pentecost is the name of a Jewish harvest festival. Just as Easter (in Greek “pascha”) is a holiday derived of an adaptation of the Jewish Passover, so too Pentecost is a Christian holiday derived from the Jewish festival of Shavuot. The Apostles, and other followers of Jesus, were celebrating the Jewish festival in Jerusalem, when they heard the sound of a mighty wind and “tongues of fire” came down on them. Then, the Holy Spirit descended on them. Remarkably, the attendees of the festival found themselves immediately being able to speak in other languages without difficulty. People were no longer separated by language barriers and thus, the gospel was available to the world. No matter your gender, age, or color of skin, every person from every nation on God’s Earth could now know the Lord. Because we were now all one under the Gospel of our Lord, the Pentecost is also referred to the birth of the church. Pentecost, which means fifty, is always fifty days after Easter. This year, we celebrate on May 31. Please use the following “Mini Mess” as a guide to celebrate God’s gift to the world with your family!
There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus
Three Pentecost Crafts
Need: Construction paper, paint, straws.
To recreate the mighty wind the Apostles witnessed, drop small amounts of paint all over your piece of construction paper. Next, use the straw to blow the paint and watch as it creates magnificent patterns. Try blowing from all directions to see what cool new art emerges.
*NOTE– This activity is much more fun if you use many different colors of paint!
**Talk about: What is the strongest wind you’ve ever been in? How did it make you feel? Were you excited? Scared?
Need: Sticks from outside, 24” pieces of ribbon (reds, oranges, yellows, if possible), hot glue gun.
Once you’ve collected the sticks, cut the ribbons to the appropriate sizes. Place a dab of glue at one end of the stick and begin attaching the ribbons (there should be enough room for 6 or 7 pieces depending on the size of your stick). Once you’ve glued the pieces, cut a small portion of ribbon and wrap it around the glued pieces to ensure their security. Place a final dab of glue for the small security ribbon and you are ready! Go outside and run around with the sticks overhead and watch as the wind turns the ribbons into something resembling fire.
**Talk about: What do you think was going through the minds of the Apostles when they saw “tongues of fire” above their heads? Would you have run away or stayed?
Need: Foreign language book or access to internet.
Since the language barrier was broken when the Holy Spirit descended, take some time to learn a phrase in another language. Try and have each family member learn a different phrase in a different language that they can recite and teach each other when you sit down for dinner. We are so fortunate to have access to any language in the world. Let’s take advantage of that access and teach each other!
**Talk about: Of all the beautiful languages found all over the world, what is the one language you wish you were fluid in?
Celebration: You might say the events at the Pentecost was the Holy Spirit’s way of exploding into the entire world. He caused a reaction inside the hearts of people far and wide when He promised His unconditional love to all who follow. A particularly good way of visually showing a reaction is through the use of baking soda and vinegar. When the vinegar touches the baking soda, a mini explosion happens! The soda begins to bubble, grow, and spread. Cover a plate with baking soda and, using a dropper of vinegar, drop small amounts of vinegar around the plate. With each drop, use the opportunity to explain the reaction your heart has because God is a part of you. Pass the dropper around the table and let every family member take a turn. This is a great opportunity to learn all the ways God brings joy to not only our hearts, but those of our family members, on a daily basis. Try to make this more than a celebration. Just because you don’t have baking soda and vinegar out everyday, talking with others about the impact God has on our lives is a great way to get in the habit of a positive and thankful mindset. Try to make it a weekly or even daily discussion!
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, we come to you today with exploding hearts of love! We are so thankful for the comfort you provide us with and ask that those who are suffering without you are brought to your light and feel relief. We thank you for you descent so that people all over the world may know your perfect love. We ask for your continued guidance as we navigate the world in such an uncertain time. May you open our eyes and hearts and bring peace upon us. We love you and thank you. In your name we pray, Amen.
Meal Idea: Birthday Cake
Need: Boxed cake mix, frosting, sprinkles, and candles.
Let’s make a birthday cake and celebrate the birth of the Christian church! Make the cake per the instructions on the box, bake, and let cool. Then, decorate using the frosting and sprinkles. Have fun with this! You can even put candles in and sing “happy birthday” to the church if you’d like. Then, cut the cake, serve, and enjoy!
“Scenes from an apocalypse” would be the only way I’d be able to describe the last month around here. On March 13, 2020, we got a call from our son’s school letting us know that school would be canceled for the next two weeks. The following week, it was confirmed it would be closed until after spring break. Then, last week, we were formally notified that our kids would not be returning to school for the remainder of the year. With each passing week, more and more businesses closed. With each passing week, more and more people filed for unemployment. With each passing week, we lost access to parks, the beach, church, and gatherings of any kinds with those we love. We were advised to stay home to “stay safe”. If we absolutely needed to go out, gloves and a mask should be worn but it should be a “necessary” outing as every time we left home, it was a risk to us and the most vulnerable among us. News outlets were splattered with devastating headlines of what the coronavirus pandemic was doing to our world. Death tolls ticked up and we were left to watch, unable to believe our eyes. What on Earth was happening?
As I’ve shared before, I struggle with anxiety. One thing that helps, is conversing with others and making a connection. I’m definitely someone who gets energy from being out and about. I love talking to the parents at drop-off and pickup, I love meeting friends to exercise with, and I love making small talk with people I don’t know while I’m around town. I love to cook and some weeks I go to the market four or five times. Because of this, I know most of the people who work there and look forward to seeing them. In short, I’m a gal who thrives on conversation. So, when we received the news about our new way of living, I did my best to ward off panic and be in good spirits. So, we are homeschooling? That’s okay. It’s an opportunity to spend more time with my boys. So, I have to exercise alone? That’s okay. I’ll use the time to do some deep meaningful thinking. So, I can’t go to the market on a daily basis? That’s okay. When I do go, I will smile and chat with people the way I always do. But, this positive way thinking was not only ambitious, it was short lived.
Homeschooling is arduous and teaching at home was proving to be an adventure I’d have to white knuckle through June. I was spending more time arguing with my sons over how I wasn’t teaching the way their teachers do than time spent on actual school work. Trips to the store were a huge letdown, as well. I was all excited to go one morning but my arrival brought the reality of bare shelves and rude people shoving to get to items first. I was only able to get a few things and stood number 22 in the checkout line. To top it off, I was suddenly painfully aware of the loneliness I felt when I gave an elderly gentleman a big grin only to realize he had no idea. The mask I was wearing would never show my smile. Then there was exercise. Living in a beach community, there is no shortage of people outside. My normal morning workouts were littered with friendly smiles of people out for runs, walks, or a ride on their beach cruiser. Now, the silence was deafening. I was lonely. I know this doesn’t make sense since I’m quarantined with my husband and two sons, but I did feel lonely. I felt like there was no one to talk to outside of my house and although guilt came along with these feelings, I couldn’t help but wish there was someone else I could interact with.
We’ve been lucky that the church we attend is in the same neighborhood that we live. My kids both went to preschool there, it’s the home of our Messy Church, and it’s both my boys’ absolute favorite parking lot to ride bikes in once the service crowds have dispersed. I was nearing the end of my morning walk, one Friday, when I looked up and something struck me. I was right in front of this church that I knew inside and out, yet, something was different. I always acknowledge the banner that hangs in front of Community United Methodist Church is Huntington Beach as it is changed from week to week to display different Bible verses. This week’s stopped me dead in my tracks. Romans 8:38-39 says, “Remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God.” Wow. In a time where all I felt was separation, I ignored the fact that I hadn’t been alone. Not even once. I was so wrapped up and consumed by the fact that I couldn’t see and make my normal connections with everyday citizens that I missed the fact that I had a direct line to a connection anytime I wanted. It was just the reminder I needed to refocus and look at our situation with fresh eyes.
That verse did its job, and some anxiety was relieved. I’m still a little anxious about what’s to come but, I’m definitely more aware. God got my attention, once again, with His incredibly comforting words. Although we are separated from each other right now, we will never be separated from God. With the confidence of His words backing me, I’ve noticed things are starting to fall a little more into place. Zoom has made it possible for our incredible teachers to do distance learning and both my kids are reacting favorably to their new school schedules. When we go out on walks or bike rides, there are others out, now, as well. They may be wearing masks or cross the streets to keep a safe distance, but they’re there. Our Messy Church held their very first meeting through Zoom. It was great to see faces of the “Messy” families that attend our church and to be able to catch up (it may be our new normal for the next few months). Last but not least, the cooking. Grocery stores have started to have more stock and my cooking has gone back to normal. It takes a little more planning on my part so that I only go once a week, but things are looking up. As I left the store the other day, I acknowledged a fellow shopper whose eyebrows lifted, cheekbones raised, and eyes sparkled. I knew it instantly…there was a smile for me underneath that mask.
I was hoping that this blog would find you in a position much different than my last one. Unfortunately, the situation with COVID-19 is spreading and most of us are quarantined to our homes. I know it’s a trying time to say the least but I’m hoping that the ability to participate in Messy Church from home is bringing some joy in these uncertain times. With Holy Week fast approaching, I thought it would be a perfect subject for an at home “mini mess”. Holy Week covers the time period between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Below I’ve outlined the seven days that represent Holy Week, what happened, and fitting activities and food ideas to go with them. Please discuss the parts of the story on the coinciding days and then do the craft/activity that follows. I know this is a little different than the way we normally do Messy Church (all in one day) but I’m hoping that stretching it out and having a little bit of mess for seven days straight will really bring families together to understand what happened every day during the Holy Week. I’m praying for the health and safety of our Messy families and keeping my fingers crossed that we can meet, in person, again soon!
Jesus and His disciples make their entrance into Jerusalem. Two of His disciples went ahead of the rest and brought a donkey for Jesus to ride. Jesus is greeted by crowds waving palm branches and exclaiming, “Hosanna to the son of David!”
Scripture: Luke 19: 37-38 “As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. They said, ‘Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.’”
Activity: Palms and Races
Need: Green construction paper, pencil, scissors, glue, Popsicle sticks.
Have each person in your family trace their hand four or five times on the green paper. Using the scissors, cut out the hands. Apply glue to the sticks and arrange the hands (thumbs together) on either side of the stick so they resemble a palm leaf. Once the leaves are finished, set up a start and finish line and divide into teams. Since the palms were laid so Jesus’s feet would not touch the ground, lay the palms, from your team, end to end and try to be the first one across without actually touching the ground. Once you step on a palm, lay another in front. Then, once you step on that one, reach back for the other and, again, place it in front. Keep this going all the way across the finish line!
Prayer:Faithful God, we give you praise this day! The people gathered to surround Jesus with shouts of praise, yet here we are at home to keep our neighbors safe by social distancing. We join our “Hosanna!” with people all over the world you are praising you this day. Be with us as we walk with Jesus during this coming week. In the name of Jesus, we pray, AMEN.
Food Idea:Since Jesus and his disciples were on their way to Jerusalem, take the opportunity to try some different foods from that region. Ideas include baklava, hummus, or Israeli salad.
Holy Monday, April 6, 2020
Jesus and His disciples go to Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus is frustrated with how people are treating this worship space. He turns over tables and declares, “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.”
Scripture: Luke 19: 45-46 “When Jesus entered the temple, he threw out those who were selling things there. Jesus said to them, “It’s written, my house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a hideout for thieves”
Activity: Your House of Prayer
Need: Paper, pencils, tape.
Create your own “house of prayer” by writing down reminders to pray. It can be specific prayers or just to pray in general, but write your thoughts on the paper and tape them up around the house. Mirrors, the refrigerator, the television, and doors are all good reminder places we will see frequently.
Prayer: God of all times, as we walk with Jesus as he walks toward to cross of Good Friday, be present with us in all of the twists and turns of this Holy Week story. In the name of Jesus, we pray, AMEN.
Food Idea: Donuts! There is a cute saying that goes, “Donut forget to pray!” Yes, it’s a cute saying but it also has a great message (plus your kids will love the sweet treat!)
Holy Tuesday, April 7, 2020
On this day, we look at the story when Jesus and His disciples come across a fig tree as they walked through the streets of Jerusalem. Jesus used the fig tree to give a lesson about staying persistent when it seems that everything is falling apart. The leaves on the fig tree are beginning to sprout and Jesus tells his followers that it is a sign that the seasons are changing. Jesus then instructs them that when things are changing, they are to stay alert and pray for strength. Our world has changed through the Covid-19 pandemic but we can hear the voice of Jesus telling us to stay alert and to pray for strength.
Scripture: Luke 21: 29-31, 36 “Jesus told them a parable, “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that God’s kingdom is near…Stay alert at all times, praying that you are strong enough to endure everything that is about to happen and to stand before the Son of Man”
Activity: Pay Attention and Pray Need: Pencils, paper.
Take a moment to reflect on what may be causing you anxiety today. Draw a picture or write it down on your paper. As a family, take turns sharing what it is you are feeling. Then as a family pray for strength during this time of uncertainty. Reach out to your Messy Church friends via social media or a phone call and let them know that you are also praying for them.
Prayer: Merciful God, during this time of uncertainty, we remember how Jesus told his disciples to stay alert and to pray for strength. Give us strength and courage this day. Thank you that you are with us in our anxiety and will never leave us alone. In the name of Jesus, we pray, AMEN.
Food Idea: Spaghetti! Heat up some spaghetti sauce on the stove and boil the water for noodles. As you wait for the noodles to boil, talk about how we never know the precise moment that the noodles will begin to boil but we know that through the heat, they eventually will boil. Just as we are patient for the noodles to boil, when we pray, we must also practice patience. We can rely on the faithfulness of Jesus to be with us always as we wait for things to fall into place in our lives. Then, mix your spaghetti sauce and noodles together and enjoy your spaghetti!
Holy Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Today we look at the story of one of Jesus’s disciples, Judas, who goes to the religious leaders of the time who are disturbed by the teachings of Jesus and want to silence him by arresting him. Judas asks the religious leaders what they would give him if he helps them follow through with their plan to arrest Jesus. The men count out thirty silver coins and hand them to Judas. From that point on, Judas is looking for a time when he can help the leaders arrest Jesus.
Scripture: Luke 22: 3-6 “Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve. He went out and discussed with the chief priests (religious leaders) and officers of the temple guard how he could hand Jesus over to them. They were delighted and arranged payment for him. Judas agreed and began looking for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them—a time when the crowds would be absent.”
Activity: Collecting Silver
Need: Thirty pieces of silver.
Collect thirty pieces of silver and decide which organization you’d like to donate to. The silver can include nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, or any other coins of the same color.
Prayer: Forgiving God, there are times in our lives when we turn away from you and do not love others as Jesus teaches us to love. We ask for your forgiveness. Give us the courage to follow the teaching of Jesus to love one another. We thank you for your mercy. In the name of Jesus, we pray, AMEN.
Food Idea: Silver dollar pancakes. Mix together your favorite pancake batter and drop small amounts of batter onto the skillet. Cook thoroughly and enjoy!
Maundy Thursday, April 9, 2020
On this Holy Thursday, Jesus and his disciples sat down together to celebrate the Passover. This was a special meal meant to remind everyone of how God saved the Israelites and brought them out of Egypt. Before they ate the meal, Jesus knelt down and washed his disciples’ feet. This was something that a servant would normally do and the disciples where shocked! But Jesus told them that they were to love one another like this, by serving one another. We call this day “Maundy” Thursday because “Maundy” means “mandate” – Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another the way Jesus loved them. At the end of the meal, frequently called “The Last Supper”, Jesus took bread and wine, which was tradition at the end of a Jewish meal, and he blessed them and told his followers to remember him whenever they gathered together. Later that Thursday night, Jesus is betrayed by Judas and taken to the house of one of the high priests where they begin to make a case against Him to use in a trial.
Scripture: Luke 22: 14, 19-20 “When the time came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the disciples joined him…After taking bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, he took the cup after the mail and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant which is poured out for you.”
Activity: Cup Decorating
Need: Paper cup, stickers, markers, glitter, etc.
Decorate your paper cup any way you’d like so you can use it with your “last supper” meal.
Prayer: God of mercy, as we prepare this meal, we remember how Jesus told us to remember him whenever we break bread and share a cup with one another. We thank you for Jesus and for his love for us and we remember his teaching us to love one another. In the name of Jesus, we pray, AMEN
Food Idea: Mimic a last supper meal with your own family. So, choose a family favorite meal and use this time to talk about what feelings Jesus might have been experiencing at His own supper. Then, use the unleavened bread (or crackers) and wine (you can also use grape juice) to recreate communion. There are lots of easy unleavened bread recipes online so encourage your kids to help bake as well!
Good Friday, April 10, 2020
Good Friday is, by far, the most somber and arduous day of the Holy Week. On this day, our savior Jesus Christ was wrongfully accused in illegal trials and sentenced to death via crucifixion. He was nailed to a wooden cross and suffered for many hours before His death. Friday evening, Jesus is taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb.
Scripture: Luke 23: 44-46 “It was now about noon, and darkness covered the whole earth until about three o’clock, while the sun stopped shining. Then the curtain in the sanctuary tore down the middle. Crying out in a loud voice, Jesus said, ‘Father, into your hands I entrust my life.’ After he said this, he breathed for the last time.”
Place the painter’s tape, in the shape of the cross, at the center of the piece of paper. Then, pick out your favorite colors to paint with. Paint the entire piece of paper (including over the top of the tape) and wait for it to dry. When it has dried, carefully pull the painter’s tape off to reveal a beautiful white cross among your artwork.
Prayer: Be with us this day, O God, as we remember that Jesus died upon a cross many years ago. We are sad yet we know that you are with us no matter how we feel. Thank you that your love for us is stronger than death. In the name of Jesus, we pray, AMEN.
Food Idea: Make a rectangle pan of Rice Krispy Treats and empty it onto a cutting board. Cut the rectangle into a large cross and have fun decorating it with sprinkles and frosting before enjoying the delicious treat!
Holy Saturday, April 11, 2020
This day in the Holy Week is the day Jesus lay in the tomb. While many of his disciples had fled the scene, some of the women who followed Jesus stayed behind. They buried Jesus in a borrowed tomb on Friday before the Sabbath began. The tomb was then sealed tightly and guarded by Roman soldiers. On Saturday we remember how Jesus’ disciples must have felt, thinking that everything was over, knowing that Jesus was dead.
Scripture: Luke 23: 55-56 “The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph of Arimathea. They saw the tomb and how Jesus’ body was laid in it. Then they went away and prepared fragrant spices and perfumed oils. They rested on the Sabbath in keeping with the commandment.
Activity: Moment of Silence
Need: Just yourself.
Take a moment out of your day as an individual or as a family and just be silent. Use this time to reflect on what happened to Jesus and the miracle that is to come. You can also use this time to pray if you’d like.
Prayer: We rest in your love, O God as we keep silence this day. We wait for the coming of the dawn of Easter light. In the name of Jesus, we pray, AMEN
Food Idea: We’re quietest when we sleep so let’s make food that makes us sleepy. Turkey has a naturally occurring amino acid that blocks proteins. Normally after consuming it, we become very sleepy. Make your families own favorite turkey dish and get some rest!
Easter Sunday, April 12,2020
The Bible says that early on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb to finish preparing Jesus’ body for burial. When the women got to the tomb, they discovered that the tomb was empty! The large boulder that covered the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away and Jesus was gone. An angel appeared to the women and told them they need not be afraid. Jesus had risen! The women went back to the other disciples to tell them all they had seen.
Scripture: Luke 24: 1-6 “Very early in the morning on the first day of week, the women went to the tomb, bringing the fragrant spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. They didn’t know what to make of this. Suddenly, two men were standing beside them in gleaming bright clothing. The women were frightened and bowed their faces toward the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t hear, but has been raised. He is ALIVE!’ “
Activity: Secret Message
Need: Paper, white crayons, watercolor.
Use the white crayon to draw and write secret pictures and messages that have to do with Easter Sunday. Hand the paper to another member of your family and have them paint the paper with watercolor to reveal the secrets underneath! Ideas include the words “He is risen,” a hill with three crosses, an empty tomb, etc.
Prayer: God of life, we have experienced many different emotions this past week and today we are jumping up and down in joyful exuberance. Jesus is alive! What a surprise to remember that in the midst of dark times, you surprise us with new life. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! In the name of the risen Jesus we pray. AMEN.
Food Idea: Enjoy the evening with whatever traditional meal your family makes for Easter dinner. If you don’t have a tradition, put the eggs you just colored to good use and make some egg salad!
I’d love to say that our Saturday started like any other, but it didn’t. We woke with the heavy feeling that the afternoon before had brought our community. All schools were to be closed for the next two weeks due to the recent Coronavirus pandemic. Although we weren’t the only community to experience the announcement of the closures, I think it forced us to face the reality that this was getting serious. Yes, we’d been watching closely on the news the effects the virus was having on other countries, but it hadn’t hit our city yet so we seemed somewhat removed from the crisis. The announcement seemed to corroborate that it was, indeed, lurking in our own backyards. Until last Friday, the dangers seemed far away but it was time to hunker down and stay somewhat quarantined. Although that seemed depressing, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
Messy Church was set to start at 5:00 PM that evening. It would be a time for us to get together with other families to laugh, have fun, and really connect with them through God’s word. We were all looking forward to the lighthearted evening. But, then, just after lunch, we received a text saying that our leaders had been monitoring the COVID-19 situation and that they felt it was best to cancel that evening’s Messy Church. The somber feeling seemed to instantly return and we tried to calm our children who were heartbroken to miss a night with their “Messy” family and friends. It left me anxious wondering how many more of these texts we would receive before the virus was contained? How would I break the news to my kids over and over that one of their favorite nights would not be happening? Then, I realized, maybe we don’t have to. What if we just brought the mess home? I decided to write a “Mini Mess” that not only our family could do at home, but that other families missing their own Messy Churches could do as well. I feel the verse is absolutely relevant to the state of our world right now so I hope you and yours find comfort after allowing His word to surround us in these distressing times.
Verse: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
3 MESSY ACTIVITIES
# 1- Cast Away Worries
Need: Paper, pencil, scissors.
Take a moment to really think about something that has been bothering you. Whether it be at work, at school, or anywhere else, write it down on the paper. Have each member of the family then cut their paper into tiny pieces. When you’re done, say a prayer, as a family, to have God release the uneasiness that comes with those situations. Throw the pieces away and mentally “let go” of those worries.
# 2- Yoga Church:
Need: Yoga mats (optional)
This is a simple way in which the whole family can relax, ease tensions, or just reset. Focus on the words from Philippians 4:6 while simultaneously doing yoga poses to bring peace. If you are an advanced yogi, choose whichever poses you find fitting. If you are looking for kid friendly poses, focus on things like “cat/cow,” “cobbler pose,” or “child’s pose.” Instructions for how to do these and other poses can be found online.
# 3-Letters of Care
Need: Stationary, envelopes, pens, stamps.
Sit, as a family, and write letters to the community who may be affected by the recent Coronavirus pandemic. Ideas include convalescent homes, first responders, or family members who may not be able to have visitors. Receiving mail from someone and letting them know how much you care is one of the most uplifting feelings there are. Take this time to put thought and effort into letting someone know how much you appreciate and care for them.
*If writing isn’t an option for you or your family, FaceTime and Zoom are other great options to brighten someone’s day without spreading germs.
One of my favorite quotes of all time is by a man named Robert Schuller. It goes, “what would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” The answer is pretty simple…nothing. There’s absolutely nothing we wouldn’t try because there would be categorically zero chance of a letdown. Wouldn’t that be so great? Just releasing the anxiety of the “what if’s” and knowing in complete and utter confidence that it will all work out. Well, guess what? We just described what our lives should be with God. God calls on us to rid ourselves of anxiety and depend on Him wholly and completely. This is hard for many of us because we want to be the ones in control. However, if we could know in our hearts, without a doubt, that God is in charge and His plan is what’s best for us, we’d never entertain an anxious thought again. So, you see, the quote could easily be changed from “what would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” to “what kind of life could we have if we trusted God’s plan was perfect?” Because, it is. His plan is perfect and we have to have trust in Him. Use this now, in a time where the world seems frightening, and know. Release your worries and have faith.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, we ask you, today, for the strength to depend on you. We ask for the release of anxieties of situations that are out of our control. We ask for the healing of your people around the world and the continued health of our friends and families. Please, Lord, in this time of anguish let us find peace in the comfort of your loving embrace. We thank you, God, for all your love. In your name we pray, Amen.
Idea: Happy Pizza
Need: Pizza crust, pizza sauce, cheese, meat of
choice, veggies of choice.
oven to 400 degrees. While waiting for
the oven to heat, grate cheese and cut up veggies of choice. Spread sauce on the pizza crust and sprinkle
the cheese over the top. Using whatever
vegetables and meat you’ve chosen, make a happy face on the pizza (i.e. olives
and pepperonis for eyes, sausage for nose, and thinly sliced bell pepper to
form a smile). Put the pizza into the
oven and let cook for 20 minutes. Let
cool, slice, and enjoy.
Do you ever check out when you’re at church? Like, you’ve heard the story so many times and you know how it ends so you just go through the motions of nodding your head in agreement when in reality you’re thinking about what you need to grab at the grocery store after? Well, if you don’t, I commend you. I, on the other hand, do this often. I know it’s not ideal, but sometimes I feel like I know the story so well that I couldn’t possibly get anything else out of it. Right? Nope. I began my typical mind wandering last weekend at Messy Church. We were studying Luke 5:17. If you aren’t familiar, this passage tells the story of a paralyzed man whose friends carry him on a stretcher to a house where Jesus is so he can be healed. When they arrive, the house is so crowded that the only way they can get their friend in to see Jesus is by creating a hole in the roof and lowering him down inside. Jesus indeed heals the man and for the faith he has shown toward our Lord, Jesus informs him his sins are forgiven. The story is a good one and great setup to talk about trusting in the Lord to not only alleviate our pain, but also the pain of loved ones we lift up in prayer. And that is exactly what we did. After the crafts (which were centered around healing and family) were over, we settled in for a celebration that included a very emotional prayer in which we all said aloud the names of loved ones who were in need of mending. While the first time I heard this story, it was absolutely a testament to the way God heals, this time around, something very different spoke to me.
God wants us to show up and walk humbly with Him. Have faith. We don’t have to make it so difficult.
When I think about having faith, grandiose gestures always come to mind. Standing on my soap box preaching to passerby’s. Always suggesting prayer first to anyone showing signs of distress. Outwardly telling each person I meet how much I love Jesus so that it is absolutely clear I’m on the right track to heaven. God gives a love so big, so unbiased, so perfect, that He certainly deserves these big expressions. But, here’s the truth…I don’t do any of those things. In fact, I don’t do much in the way of preaching at all. I’ve always felt my relationship with God is very private so I don’t speak about it unless I’m writing or provoked. I’ve always admired those who speak freely about their religious relationships but it’s just not me. But guess what? God still loves me. It struck me big time when I heard the words from Luke 5:20. “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’” Really, I thought? He’s forgiven? That isn’t a grandiose gesture! We’d show that much trust on a typical trip to our general physician. But here’s the cool thing…to God, it is a grandiose gesture. In fact, it’s the only gesture God asks of us. God wants us to show up and walk humbly with Him. Have faith. We don’t have to make it so difficult. God is not looking for big performances with a side of showing off. He just wants us. So, the next time you start to wander in la la land or nod off a little, perk yourself up or you’ll miss it. Just because you’ve heard it before, doesn’t mean you’ve learned all you can.
My son hates reading. Well, I take that back… My son hates reading anything that school requires him to read. The words are too big, the content is too boring, and he can’t ever remember what he’s just read. We try to stay calm, reassure him, and explain that not only will practicing reading everyday make him a stronger reader, but being a mindful reader (making efforts to focus on what you’re reading while you’re reading) will make homework smoother and more enjoyable. Twenty minutes a day for at home reading is the requirement. In and 8-year old’s eyes, 20 minutes a day is an eternity. Some days we spent double that trying to coax him into it. I knew if he could just start practicing, every day, like he was supposed to, the routine would be set and our battles would get easier. They say it takes 66 days to form a habit and although I couldn’t imagine having this fight 66 more times, I dug my heels in and committed to routine.
To my surprise, it only took a few weeks. He stopped sounding words out and became more confident with calling them out on the first try. His choppy accounts of literature became beautiful sentences gliding out of his self-assured mouth. The coaxing time got less and less and soon he was reading 6 chapters in one sitting. He wasn’t perfect but the improvement was astounding! It confirmed, to me, that practice makes progress. I grew up hearing the phrase “practice makes perfect” but after a discussion with my friend, Roberta, I will now forever say “progress” instead of “perfect.” Because, in all reality, there is only one who we can call “perfect” so striving for perfectionism is, in actuality, setting ourselves up for disappointment. So, when a few days ago I watched him begin the third book in a series, I sat thinking how practice really does make progress, when it dawned on me. I could stand to take a dose of my own advice. Not all of my daily habits were where they were supposed to be either. I could use a little practice myself.
Our latest Messy Church was all about praying. Praying is something I’ve always done, since childhood, but have been slacking on the last couple years. I always used the evening time to talk with God. During the day, I would, and still do, say little prayers here and there, but right before I went to sleep was the time I devoted to big concerns, big “thank you’s” and asking for peace. However, since we’ve had kids, my husband and I take turns each night laying with a son and saying prayers. I love to listen to their little thoughts and what they decide to chat with Him about. The only problem is I’ve been passing off their prayer time as my own. I’ve mentally started checking that prayer box off for the day because I participated with them, right? Wrong. While it’s important for us to encourage and teach our children to pray, it’s also equally important for us to establish, feed, and nurture our own personal relationships with God. He deserves more than what I was giving Him.
Here’s where my own advice comes in. I need practice. I need routine. I need 20 uninterrupted minutes a day with my savior. I’ve realized it doesn’t have to be at night before I go to sleep. I remember my father in law telling me he uses his 4-mile daily walk to chat with the Lord. It got me thinking, although I’m busy running errands, driving kids, cooking, cleaning and whatever else us mom’s do, I also have little pockets of time throughout the day where I can scroll quickly through Facebook, Instagram, or ask Google burning questions. If I traded out just one of those social media check-ins a day, I could legitimately reignite my passion for prayer. I’m not perfect so I know it won’t happen overnight, but it will become habit, again, if I put the effort in. So, that’s it. Practice makes progress. I’m determined to direct that progress straight towards my relationship with God and to make those glorious conversations part of my routine once again.
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!
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.
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.“
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
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.
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.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
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.
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.
Are you more than ready to be done with all of the complexities of planning during a pandemic? Join us on Thursday, August 20th, at 10 am (PDT) to renew your spirit and learn some new spiritual practices.
Learn more about this webinar and register here:
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Thanks for your help! pic.twitter.com/XLYYiJwGfQ
Congrats to Freysville Emmanuel UCC in Red Lion, Pennsylvania, our August Messy Church of the Month! We will be sharing pictures and stories from Emmanuel UCC throughout the month of August but you can also read about their Messy Church experiences here: messychurchusa.org/august-mes…pic.twitter.com/5DVi8rSA7K
Messy Church USA is a newly formed nonprofit 501c3 corporation. Messy Church USA has been formed to provide an organizational structure to support the health, growth and sustainability of local Messy Churches in the USA. In addition, Messy Church USA will assist individual Messy Churches to become an integrated part of the larger national and global network of Messy Churches. Read more.