Monday, November 30, 2015

Jesse Tree: Day 4, Noah's Ark and God's Promises

Scripture: Genesis 6:11-14; 7:17-8:3; 9:8-13

Symbol: Ark & Rainbow 

Reading: When people sin, or do wrong things, God is sad. There came a time when there was so much sin in the world that God had to find a way to remove sin from the world. So he asked Noah to build the ark and to save his own family, as well as the animals, because Noah and his family remembered God. Then God sent rain and the world flooded, and God destroyed all the people and animals that were not on the ark.
When the flood was over and Noah and his family were safely on dry ground, God made a covenant, or a promise, with Noah. God promised not to send another flood that would destroy the world. As a sign of this promise, God put a rainbow in the sky. Even in a sinful world, God still loves us and keeps his promises.

Talk about: Can you name a promise that God has kept? 

Prayer: Thank you, Almighty God, for keeping your promises.

Activity: As a family, we build (put together) our Christmas tree. You can do something else together as a family if your tree is already up. Do something that will require following directions. Work together and talk about why it is important to follow directions. Noah had to follow God’s directions exactly. 

*The symbol and devotions are from The Reformed Church of America and you can use this link to find what I have used and more at their advent site. 

A copy of the directions to make your own Jesse Tree are here and the patterns for the symbols are here

To find a list of all the linked Jesse Tree posts click here

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Jesse Tree: Day 3, Sin Separates

Scripture: Genesis 3:1-19; Romans 5:12

Symbol: Apple & Snake

Reading: Yesterday we read about the perfect world that God created, including perfect people. Today we read in the Bible about Adam and Eve, and how they disobeyed God. God had given them everything, and had only asked that they not eat the fruit of one special tree. But Eve and Adam did eat the fruit. The fruit made them understand certain things, but eating it brought sin into the world.
God still loved Adam and Eve, but he had to punish them for disobeying him. God sent them out of the beautiful garden, and they had to work for their food. God also made a promise to Adam and Eve: that God would always love them.

Talk about: What kinds of things do we do that make God unhappy? 

Prayer: Mighty God, keep us from doing things that make you unhappy.

Activity: Place a special snack, call the kids. When they arrive, allow them to see the snack but tell them they need to wash their hands before they can come have the treat. Explain that sin separates people from the goodness of God. Because God is holy, He cannot tolerate sin. It is only when our sin has been “washed away” that we can enter God’s presence.

*The symbol and devotions are from The Reformed Church of America and you can use this link to find what I have used and more at their advent site. 

A copy of the directions to make your own Jesse Tree are here and the patterns for the symbols are here

To find a list of all the linked Jesse Tree posts click here

Jesse Tree: Day 2, Creation

Scripture: Genesis 1:1-31; Romans 1:20

Symbol: World

Activity: Sit together to read the creation story, either from a "real" Bible or a kid's Bible. Have a prop for each day of creation as you read the passage.
Day 1 the “big” light in the room
Day 2 cotton for clouds
Day 3 sand in a cup and/or a cup of water OR a leaf
Day 4 a flashlight to be the lesser light of the moon
Day 5 a feather or fish/bird toy
Day 6 an animal toy
Day 7 a blanket or pillow

Reading: God is the creator of all things. God made the world and everything in it: the air and the water, the plants and the fish, the animals and the people. When God finished creating the world, it was perfect. When God first created people, even they were perfect. They did not sin or do anything to make God unhappy.
Even though there is now sin and sadness in the world, God still cares for us. We have been given a beautiful world in which to live, and God has asked us to take care of it. We can care for the world by showing kindness to all living things.
The world is God's gift to us. God wants us to enjoy this gift, but God also wants us to treat it with care.

Talk about: What are some ways that you can take good care of plants, animals, birds, rivers, people, and everything else in the world that God made?

Prayer: Thank you, Creator God, for making our wonderful world.

*The symbol and devotions are from The Reformed Church of America and you can use this link to find what I have used and more at their advent site. 

A copy of the directions to make your own Jesse Tree are here and the patterns for the symbols are here

To find a list of all the linked Jesse Tree posts click here

Jesse Tree: Day 1, A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse

Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-2

Symbol: Stump with branch

Reading: God has a plan for everything. Long before Jesus was born lived a man named Jesse. Jesse had seven sons; the youngest was named David. When David grew up, he became a great king of Israel. God had a plan for Jesse and for his son David, even before they were born. Jesus was also part of Jesse and David's family tree, born many, many years after David. People waited a long time for the birth of the savior. The season of Advent is a season of waiting for us, too. We wait for Christmas, the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
It is hard to be patient, especially when we are waiting for something wonderful like Christmas! But it is important to learn to be patient, and to trust that God has a plan for us, too.
Talk about: Why is waiting so hard?

Prayer: Dear God, we thank you that you have a plan for each of us. Help us to be patient as we wait for Jesus' birthday.

Activity: Put up the stump and make the advent wreath. We light the advent wreath candles each night at dinner.

To make an advent wreath: Make a circle with evergreen branches, or for us without evergreens around, we used green fabric. You need three purple candles and one pink candle with a white candle in the middle. The circle reminds us that God is eternal. The green reminds us of the new life we have in Christ. The candles represent the time of waiting for God’s light to come into the world. They represent Hope, Peace, Joy (Pink), and Love. The white candle is the Christ candle and is lit on Christmas.
Each week you light one more candle starting on a Sunday. This week we light a purple candle for Hope. Next week 2 purple candles. The third week, 2 purple and a pink. The fourth week three purple and a pink. Then all the candles on Christmas.

*The symbol and devotions are from The Reformed Church of America and you can use this link to find what I have used and more at their advent site. 

A copy of the directions to make your own Jesse Tree are here and the patterns for the symbols are here

To find a list of all the linked Jesse Tree posts click here

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Advent: Preparing for His coming

What do you do to get ready for Christmas? Decorate. Shop for presents. Prepare the menu. Invite guests. But what about preparing our hearts for our Savior's coming? I have come to love advent as the traditions and meaningfulness grows each year. I wanted to share what we do with you and would love to have you post a link to a blog in the comments of how you celebrate advent.

Jesse Tree

We started using the "Jesse Tree" when my oldest son, Tim was 2. We tried a couple different ones but found we really liked the pictures that go with this set and enjoyed the devotional that went with it. It is put out by the Reformed Church in America (RCA). In 2011 I came across a great resource from Thriving Family which is connected with Focus on the Family. They had a family advent activity calendar that year that was amazing. We took many of their ideas and put them with the devotions from the RCA. If you would like to see what Thriving Family is doing this year, click here. 

Jesse tree options are many. Google "Jesse Tree" and you will find lots of ideas. You can make your own tree from a branch and hang the symbols like ornaments. Like here. You could use the symbols and directions from the RCA found here. One year I had each of us color the symbols and we hung them on a paper tree I put on the wall. Last year I made our own Jesse Tree out of fabric, complete with felt ornaments. It still needs the finishing touches, but we are using it as is for now. I used most of the symbols from the RCA set, because they are simple and convey the meaning so clearly. But a few I changed.

Advent always begins on a Sunday, four Sundays before Christmas. Because the beginning date changes each year, the number of days of Advent does as well. This year it begins on Sunday, November 29th. But for a planner like me, I wanted to "be ready" for any year. We double up on the days until we are on the correct date. You can do that, or you can start on day 1 and choose to skip a day or two that you don't like as much. Your options are wide open. :)

If you would like to join us this advent, I would love it. Each day I will post the devotion and activity we are doing along with the Jesse Tree Symbol. Please feel free to use this and share it with others, but give credit to the Reformed Church of America ( and this blog post.

Links to our days of Jesse Tree, Christmas and Epiphany

Day 1    (November 27)   A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse
Day 2    (November 28)   Creation
Day 3     November 29    Sin Separates us from God
Day 4     November 30    Noah's Ark and God's Promises
Day 5     December 1      Abram's Journey
Day 6     December 2      Sarah's Answered Prayer
Day 7     December 3      God Provides a Sacrifice
Day 8     December 4      Jacob's Dream
Day 9     December 5      Joseph Forgives
Day 10   December 6      Rule's to Guide Us
Day 11   December 7      Rahab's Courage
Day 12   December 8      Sadness Becomes Rejoicing
Day 13   December 9      God Calling in the Night
Day 14   December 10    God Sees Our Heart
Day 15   December 11    King David
Day 16   December 12    God's Messengers
Day 17   December 13    Showing God's Power
Day 18   December 14    Running From God
Day 19   December 15    God's Plan for Peace
Day 20   December 16    Little Town of Bethlehem
Day 21   December 17    Special Job
Day 22   December 18    Scary Sleep Over
Day 23   December 19    Waiting and Watching
Day 24   December 20    Sharing What God has Done
Day 25   December 21    Preparing the Way
Day 26   December 22    Mary's Joyful Heart
Day 27   December 23    Joseph's Part of God's Plan
Day 28   December 24    Journey to Bethlehem
Day 29   December 25    Jesus' Gift of God's Love

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I don't want you to go to Congo

I had a sad and frustrating conversation with my Congolese friend who lives here in Kasese. She had just returned from a trip to her hometown called Butembo which is about 1-2 hours further in than Beni. She came back with awful stories of killings and just kept saying, "I do not want you to go. I do not want you to die." I left feeling so down. Were we really making the right choice? If my friend, "on the ground" in Congo is saying it's not safe...

So I asked Scott. He told me all the research he had done. How he has been following the different rebel groups for years, and how he is in contact with others, Africans and Americans, about the situation. I responded with, "why then does she not want me to go?" And Scott reminded me that she is my friend and wants me to be here with her.  She wants me to be safe. He then told me a bunch of questions to ask her to clarify her information. I had not thought of many of those questions. Like, "are there attacks in the town or only out in the bush?" I was still a little shaky if I am being honest. The idea of going to a place where people are killing others is scary.

That was three weeks ago. I saw her again this week. We chatted for a few minutes about how our families were doing and how her business was going. Then she said, "Meg I need to tell you since we talked last time. If God is telling you to go, you need to go. I am scared for you but I know that God will take care of you if He is the one sending you." In that moment you could have knocked me over with a feather. Everything was turned upside down. Nothing changed in her report of what is going on. Just the perspective. It's not about the danger, it's about a God who is bigger.

Not by coincidence I am sure. The bible lesson for Josiah this week is Jesus calming the storm. As I was preparing it God continued to speak to my heart. "It's not about the storm. It's about trusting me. Sure the storm is big, sure the storm could kill you, but I am with you."

WOW! We have a God who sees and a God who cares. Do I still get scared sometimes, sure. Will I again in the future, probably. But I know who is with me. Jesus is with us and if I keep my eyes on Him and keep trusting Him, the storm loses a lot of power. Jesus becomes the focus and it frees me to do what He is asking of me. And right now He is asking us to go to Congo. We will keep taking steps through all the open doors we can. And we will trust Him a long the way.  

Would you pray with us that we keep our eyes on Jesus? Pray that we move forward with wisdom and that God would open doors and show us where and when. Would you also pray for relationships that we are building, both in Kasese and in Beni? Pray that we would encourage others to grow in Christ and keep point people back to Him whether we live in Uganda or Congo.

Today we are praising Jesus that He is bigger than all our storms!
Just another picture of the beauty of God's creation