Three ways you can navigate the transitions you’re facing this fall

John E mug.jpeg

As we stood in our driveway sipping warm coffee, our next door neighbors pulled into their driveway having returned from the airport after dropping their daughter off for her first day in the military. They walked straight over to our driveway and joined us. Their emotion was raw, full of the same questions, concern, and excitement that we all had, but on a very different level. 

For the second year we invited our neighbors and their kids to meet in our driveway for doughnuts, juice boxes, and coffee before walking up the street to school. The neighbor kids span the full spectrum of transition, from kindergarten to post-high school enlistment in the military.

New phases with new challenges, new classrooms, and new routines. Regardless of the age of our kids, our feelings and concerns were similar:

Where does the time go? We remember setting up obstacle courses in the basement for the kids to run through; now life sets up its own obstacles for them. What if they struggle? It’s hard to get to the other side of the worry to look on with anticipation and say, “Yes, they will struggle, and there will be setbacks, but what if they fly?”

Transitions are hard. We all need a good neighbor, a good friend, and a good plan.

Our connection to each other is an integral part of our connection to God. Whatever transition you find yourself in the midst of, here are three ways you can embrace the transition:  

  • Good Neighbors
    Plan a bonfire with s’mores, doughnuts before school, or simply walk across the street and introduce yourself to your neighbors. You need them as much as they need you. This past year, we explored The Art of Neighboring, an insightful book underscoring the power of being a good neighbor. Read it, and let it lead you.
     
  • Good Friends
    Get connected to a small group here at Five Oaks. Walk together and grow together.
     
  • Good Plan
    Attend one of our milestone classes this fall: Family Dedication, Baptism, Navigating Middle School & High School. Each of these is designed to partner with you and equip you for a life of deep relationship with your kids that leads to bringing the story of God to life.

 

-John Eiselt
Family and Discipleship Pastor

Drawing to its close

I was walking through my local Target, watching them stock the shelves with all the school supplies needed for the next season of the year, and I couldn't help but feel like this season was already drawing to its close. 

I didn't have enough time! How could this season already be ending? I haven't made the impact that I set out to make in this time! I haven't done all that I wanted to do. 

Is anyone else in this moment of panic or is it just me?

As I try to focus the blur of the last few weeks of summer and tighten my mind on the upcoming season of fall and a new ministry year, I can't help but bring back to my view the opportunity of impact that we have with the privilage to be in young people's lives. The whirlwind of summer, admittedly, left me asking the question, is what I am doing worth it? 

God had a definite answer for me this last week. 

Last weekend we had our outdoor Baptism service and as I stood waiting for the first young person to be baptized, I whispered a prayer for them. However,  God wanted me to see what He had for me in this moment.. and I looked up and saw the joy on the parents faces that thier children were making such an important step and declaration in thier life, it became real to me again. It matters! What we do for young people matters. 

Story after story during the service, the young people talked about thier VBS teachers or others and the impact they had on them that led to thier decision of wanting to be baptized! 

See, it's easy to get caught in the whirlwind of life, work and distraction of time in a way that causes us to so easily miss the meaning of it all! We can miss seeing young people with the eyes of Jesus. We can miss the fact that we GET to pray for young people to find thier IDENTITY in Christ! To BELONG in His church! That they have a PUROPSE in His mission!

“What we do for young people matters! Don’t miss it!”

I almost missed it, caught in the narrow view of my own short time. Thank you Lord, for helping me see that it matters!

If you want to help show young people that they matter by helping to teach them to fall in the love with the Word of God, we are beginning our scheduling of teachers and helpers for the upcoming ministry year and would love to hear from you. Please contact myself (Rhiannon: rrutledge@fiveoakschurch.org) or Cindy (cyarrington@fiveoakschurch.org) to ask for more information about how you can come alongside parents and reach out to thier kids to make a difference in the lives of young people.  

~blessings

Rhiannon

"I don't wanna talk to you..."

I know it’s not proper adult grammar, but it wasn’t the adult in me saying it. It was the child in me throwing a fit that I felt I wasn’t being listened to, and then when I was, that statement of, "I don't wanna talk to you", was the feeling that overwhelmed the moment.

I felt the situation warranted it as I felt like I was talking over an abundance of distractions. I didn’t feel that I had the attention I desired, so I ended my story prematurely and just stopped talking.  I just didn’t want to talk over it all anymore. As I sat quietly, I stewed over the whole situation without a word to anyone. As many of us do, we let the one thing we are stewing about bubble in to a frustration of all of the events of the day combined. So as I bubbled over with frustrations, I thought about the attitude my son had given me earlier when he was trying to speak to me and I abruptly interrupted with my own personal thoughts on whatever he was saying.  There it was… the exact feeling I had of choosing distraction over being heard, is where my family can find themselves all too often with me as well.

“What if the next generation needs to have their voices heard by us more than we need to be heard?” (Carlos Whittaker)

I have found that there’s a pretty tough sacrifice that we have to make as parents, as adults in general, and that’s the sacrifice of our voice.  We really want to be right. To TELL our young people what’s right and what’s wrong, and we choose not to silence our own voices long enough to hear what they are truly trying to say to us. We take their words at face value and rebut them with our own personal logics and antics and we miss the opportunity to hear what feelings might be hiding behind their words, or lack-thereof. Through the distractions we miss them asking us, "Can you hear me now?"

Danielle Strickland, an officer of the Salvation Army and Ambassador for Stop The Traffik and Compassion International,  shares a story often of a conversation that she had with a young Muslim girl on a plane once. There were two questions that forever changed the way she viewed people. The first question the girl asked her was; “would you like to see my face?”, and the second; “am I what you expected?”

How often do we, as parents, set aside our voices to really see our young people’s faces? How often do we silence the distractions to really listen to them? And when we do truly listen, is it what we expected?

As I finish up writing this, I feel rather convicted to go hug my daughter who I shrugged off earlier because I was busy writing. Or, to make my son something special to eat as I had let him fend for his own dinner in a fridge full of left-overs. (*disclaimer, he’s almost 15, so he can totally manage that). Or, to listen to my other daughters story of her day that I neglected to ask about earlier as I typed and she sat staring at me.  Even to go give my husband a kiss and shake off the old scoreboard mentality and remind myself that I am often the one making him talk through my distractions as well.

We have a great opportunity to ask their forgiveness for the times that we have let the distractions of the world drown out and become more important than their voices. We can teach them that , although we may fall short, God never fails. He sees their face and He knows their voice. He is not distracted from their words or from their heart. What an amazing opportunity for us to be an example of Christ to our kids when we set aside our distractions.

Here’s a challenge for us all this week. Let's pick a time to sit down, distraction free, with a young person and take the time to really hear their voice without them having to hear ours. Beforehand, we can pray that during that time, we see their face, let them know they are heard, and let them show us the unexpected. 

Blessings

~Rhiannon

The Mac and Cheese Bar and The Community

I had taken in to account seconds and possibly even a few thirds, but I did not take in to account  the popularity of the fifth and sixth helpings, and so only an hour in to her grad party, I ran out of mac and cheese for the mac and cheese bar!!!! 

I jumped in to action and hit the kitchen with another large batch of the homemade stuff. Luckily, I had a time period where whenever I would head to the grocery store I would think I was out of macaroni and add it to my cart, only to get home and find out I wasn't.  That mistake week after week was now a blessing since I had an overabundance of it in my pantry, and we are also never short of cheese in my house either, even though I am lactose intolerant.

In between noodles boiling and sauce thickening, I would wander outside to greet people and share the story of needing to rush back in quick to get another batch out. On my third round of extra mac and cheese, I looked out my kitchen window and my heart was full. 

In my last blog I wrote about how we should all want for others kids, what we want for our own. What we have always wanted for our kids is for them to work hard to achieve their dreams and for a community of people to come alongside them, in the adventure of life. 

As I looked out the window at every face in our very full back yard, I could see how every single person had come alongside our kids, and in particular to the days celebration, our daughter.  There weren't just people showing up to congratulate her on finishing high school. Even on this day, they were pouring in to her life. The one thing that touched me in particular was the multi-generational influence. There was a handful of young people, but there were also young families with kids and older couples who have "adopted" her as an honorary grandchild. I could see how each and every person out my window has impacted our daughter... and many of them I could also see how she has impacted them.

When we engage in multi-generational influence, young people KNOW they are part of a community. The community had shown up and our daughter had no doubt in her mind that she was a part of it! 

Standing in the kitchen that day challenged me even more to want to come alongside young people and families the way that this community has come around ours. To want for the kids playing in the yard, the same influence and care that our daughter, and our other two kids, have received. 

As I polished off my last bit of noodles and cheese, I may have whispered a bit of a fishes and loaves of the mac and cheese prayer, but I also said a prayer of gratitude for all of those who have come alongside our daughter and our family. A prayer of gratitude for the multi- generational influence that has changed our kids and family. A prayer that our kids would know that the community that surrounds them changes us in beautiful ways and that they would live their life in a way that beautifully changes others. A prayer that I could respond to young people in just as an impactful way as this community has impacted mine. 

Is there a young person who God has laid on you heart to come alongside with in this adventure of life? Is there a young person that you could reach out to as you hope for them what you would hope for your own? Is there a young person that you would be willing to open up your heart to so that not only you could change them, but they could change you as well? Is there a young person that you could come alongside so that they know that they are absolutely part of the community?  

Here's an idea to get started; take them out for some mac and cheese! :) 

Blessings~

Rhiannon

 

 

It changes us!

I am going to break from the normal blog posts of what we have been studying in the children's wing, to tell you about what I (Rhiannon) have been studying. 

A few weeks ago, some of our Family and Discipleship team had to privilege to attend the Orange Conference in Atlanta. We had the opportunity to spend time together as a team and talk vision, as well as time to laugh well together and share stories. Our guest list of speakers included, only to name a few, Andy Stanley, Bob Goff, Reggie Joiner, and none other than Bernice King (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter) herself. The speakers were amazing and break out sessions were great, but there was one speaker and breakout session that tugged at my heart, and something that God has been stirring in my heart already, received a big old push! 

The speakers name was Kara Powell. She is a co-author of the books Sticky Faith and Growing Young. The breakout was a quick brain download of the book Growing Young. The very quick gist of the book is that it helps pastors and ministry leaders to position their churches to engage younger generations in a way that brings life to the whole church. 

When I first started my job here at Five Oaks, I began as the nursery coordinator. I asked God many times, why this position, after all, Children's Ministry was never a title I thought that I would see attached to my name. It was months before God whispered to me, "Faith is heavy. Adults have a lot of burdens within their faith, and I wanted you to see the refreshment of faith like a child!" 

Weekend after weekend I stand at my hostess stand and watch the child like faith of your kids here at Five Oaks and it inspires me to love my faith in a whole new way. It's a breath of fresh air every weekend.

Recently I asked God if this is still where He wanted me. I want to strive to always be in the place that He leads. I have a passions for healthy marriages, leading and coming alongside families, but is this the still the place that God wants me to be? The answer came during that workshop with Kara Powell. 

She made a statement that has haunted my heart and thoughts since the minute she spoke it; "We should want for all kids, as if they were our own. It doesn't just change them. It changes us!" 

It changes us! I haven't fully decompressed how or why, but that statement makes my heart so excited that my face can't help but smile. What refreshing breath we breathe when we reach our and truly love kids as if they were our own. Not just a face in the classroom, or just a student teach, but truly hope for them what I would hope for my own children.

I want to spend a few weeks writing and sharing with you a bit of what God has unpacked in my heart through this statement. I hope it will be as exciting for you as it is for me. In wrapping up this blog, I wanted to share the prayer card that I received from her breakout.

Dear Jesus. Help me see young people with your eyes. I pray that they would find IDENTITY in you, BELONGING in your church & PURPOSE in your mission. Amen!

Choices of today

Have you ever heard the saying, "The choices we make today affect tomorrow?" We find ourselves knee-deep in that story with a man named Achan, in the book of Joshua chapter 8. 

The Israelites had taken the city of Jericho, but they were instructed to keep nothing for themsleves. Only silver, gold, articles of bronze and iron were to be taken and put in to the treasury of the Lord. But the Israelites disobeyed and that disobedience caused God to not fight for them when they came to take the city of Ai. They were chased away and some of them died. 

Confused and sad, Joshua didn't understand how they lost the battle. God said to Joshua that Israel had sinned and taken things they weren't supposed to and that is why He could not fight for them. Joshua called the tribes one by one to come to him and Achan, of the tribe of Judah, confessed his sin. He confessed that he had taken a beautiful cloak, some pieces of silver and a bar of gold and then buried them. So the people of Israel killed Achan and his family. Achan's choices on the day of deafting Jericho not only effected the outcome of his tomorrow, but his families and the people of Israel.  His choices cost the people of Israel to lose the battle for Ai and it cost him and his families lives. 

This is a tough story to tell kids. The death of Achan and his family seems extreme and difficult to try to explain. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Because we sin, we deserve to die as well, but Jesus came in our place. When we confess our sin and trust in Jesus, He will forgive us and we will be saved from death.

God takes sin seriously, yet, He also offers us forgiveness and life with Him eternally through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Talk with your kids about how when we trust in Jesus, we are forgiven for our bad choices and saved from spiritual death. God loves us, even when we make wrong choices, and He sent Jesus because He loves us. 

 

Blessings~

Rhiannon

Next week: Jesus' Trumphal Entry

Victims of the wilderness

Since the fall of man, we have all been born, inherently, with the victim mentality. It's what makes us bicker over meaningless circumstances. It's what makes us fight with each other over fairness in this life. It's what makes us hurt one another through trival mindsets. And it's what makes us forget what is truly important. 

As parents, when we see this victim mentality in our kids, it makes us want to pull our hair out trying to fix it. We want them to understand how they hurt others and how to get thier prioirties straight, yet, we often find ourselves in the same circumstances and minsets that we try to teach our kids to not find thmeselves in. 

When we get to the story of the bronze snake in Numbers, we find the people of Israel with a victim menatility. Grumbling and complaing in the wilderness. They were growing impatient! They complained that Moses and Aaron were above them. They were victims that had no water. They were victims of the wretched food. They grumbled and complained until God had enough of it! He sent piosonous snakes to the people who were then bitten and many died. The people pleaded with Moses to intercede on thier behalf with God. God didn't immedatley accept this intercession, but eventually He provided a way for them to live. A bronze snake lifted high. Once a person was bitten, if they looked up to the bronze snake, God would save thier life and heal them.

What an odd way to choose healing. It almost seems irrational for this group of grumblers. But this is actually a beauitful picture of God's big plan to bring salvation to all through His son Jesus. Looking up at the bronze snake forced them to take thier eyes off of the consequences of thier sin and gaze upon God's provision for salvation.

 When we find our kids, or ourselves, in the position of grumbling and complaining, let's try to remember that there is a consequence to our sin, but instead of living in our victim mentality, we can look to Jesus on high for our salvation.

Blessings~ Rhiannon

Next week: The Promised Land and Jericho

 

To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers

 Numbers 13:33 "....to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them."

Numbers 13:33 "....to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them."

Life feels like just a bundle of comparison so often, doesn't it? We see what others have and we compare it to what we have. We hear of a great work that someone has done and we compare it to what we have done. We watch that show that has the amazing design skills of the star of the show and we look around our house in discontement of our "mere" belongings. We see someone who is seemingly more beauitful or stronger than us and we compare oursleves with the lie that they must see us the same way we see ourselves. This idea of living in comparison to others is not a new concept. The question isn't, why do we compare oursleves? The question is, who do we trust?

In the book of Numbers, we see Moses sending out a group of spies to scout the land of Canaan, thier promised land. He sends 12 men who spent 40 days scouting the land to see what the land was like, what the people were like and if the land was fertile or unproductive. In the midst of thier instructions of what to look for, Moses tells them to be courageous, then finishes the list of what they should look for and bring back. 

I find this interesting, because they indeed scoped out the land and found that it was flowing with milk and honey and wonderful fruits, but they also found strong men with large fortified cities and this caused the very courage they were instructed to have to waiver. They felt that they were grasshoppers compared to the strong men in the land and they thought for sure the people of that land would see them the same way. They chose to give in to thier fears rather than trust God and His promise to them and did so through comparison. 

A few verses later we see God asking Moses, "how long will they not trust in Me despite all of the signs I have performed among them?" God recognized that the people did not trust Him. Because of thier mistrsut the only two who were allowed to live from that generation and live in the promised land were Joshua and Caleb. These two men held fast to God's promise and Moses' instruction to be courageous and they stood up in truth and told the people to not be afraid, and trust that God was with them.  

Their complete trust in God allowed them to live to see the fullfiment of His promise in a new land that flowed with milk and honey.  God planned for Joshua to lead the next generation of Israelites in to the promised land. Joshua wasn't perfect, but his faithfulness reminds us of Jesus, who is perfect. Jesus obeyed the Father and trusted His plan to save people from their sins.

This week, help your children to see how vital our total trust in God is, because that is an essential component of the gospel. God doesn't compare us to the people or circumstances that surround us, He simply asks us to trust in Him.

~Blessings,

Rhiannon

Next week: The Bronze Snake

Reminder please

It's time to make my bi-monthly menu plan. Three meals a day, for five people for 14 days, is a lot to remember. I dig out the recipe books and choose recipes, then plug them in to the menu plan. Then it's time to write the grocery list using the menu plan, but I can't stop there. Then I need to organize the list by departments, or even sometimes aisles if I know the store well enough. It's a process but I want to make sure I don't forget a thing. The check list is long and time consuming and I probably kill a baby tree in the process with the amount of paper I use, but when it comes to my family's stomachs, I can't risk forgetting even one item needed. 

As we finish up this unit with The Gospel Project, we are coming off of a large list of laws for sacrifice and commandments and it's easy to see them as a checklist that must not be forgotten. The Israelites are standing on the edge of the promised land, ready to enter, as Moses calls on them to be holy and obey only God, even though He knew they wouldn't. God reminded His people that He made an unconditional covenant promise. The promise that He was working out His plan to to send Jesus to not just rescue His people, but to bless the whole earth. 

Remind your kids this week that God asks for our obedience to be born out of gratitude, not as a way to earn His favor. Remind them that God's plan to rescue us all from sin and save His people has ALWAYS been through Jesus. 

More often than not, even though I worked hard on my checklist, I inevitably forget many items that I needed to complete the list, just as, often times, I forget all that He has accomplished for me. He wants our love and our obedience, but it doesn't come through a checklist, it comes through Jesus!

~Blessings

Rhiannon

 

 

A place to dwell

It's been a busy few months in our house. Unfortunetly, a lot of times, that means that time with kids gets pushed back to "another day". The busy schedule leaves room for too many empty promises of time together. As a parent, my heart begins to ache to just dwell with them. With that ache in my heart, I can only imagine theirs as they reach out for a time and place to just sit with me. 

When we review the Word of God we see that over and over, God makes a place for Him to fill His longing to dwell with His people. The Garden of Eden, where God revealed Himself to Adam and Eve. The tent in the wilderness was a dwelling place where He was able to demonstrate Himself to the people of Isreal. Jesus was (and is) the tabernacle where God displayed Himself to humanity.  

The Tabernacle was just such a place and He desired a specific experience with His people. Israel followed God's very specific instructions on how to build this tabernacle. The people gave joyfully and generously as God equipped them and provided for them what they needed to build a place where He could dwell with them.  

He created us to dwell with Him and He longs to dwell with us, and to accomplish the fullfilment of these desires, He sent His only Son, Jesus, to "tabernacle", or dwell with God's people. How grateful I am that through Him, we are given the opportunity to dwell with God forever. 

The tabernacle story is one filled with a great promise and hope of the opportunity to dwell with our Hevanly Father. It's a story that we can carry the example of in to our homes as we desire to dwell together with our kids and they with us. 

Take time this week to ask your kids how they long to be with you, and share with them how you long to be with them as you share the story of the tabernacle and how God longs to dwell with His people.  

Blessings~

Rhiannon

Messy is beautiful

In our home we tend to cherish traditions during the Christmas season. There are the holiday movies that we hope will end with happy snuggles on the couch and will be free of distractions. The impromptu times of hopping in the car to drive around, oohing and awing at the beautifully decorated homes with twinkling lights in hope that the wonder in the kids eyes will match the effort made on our part as parents. Or, the baking sessions that will produce fun family memories and Pinterest worthy Christmas treats. Then reality happens, and movie time is filled with shush's and "get off your phone" quarrels. The awe and wonder of twinkling lights turns in to heated words of who is touching who and statements of boredom that grate on the very last nerve you had left for the evening. And the Pinterest worthy treats are only as good as the incredible mess left in their wake.

When the wise men came to visit Jesus, they didn't find a perfectly manicured scene like we tend to have been taught growing up. There wasn't a shepherd boy standing nearby, or a fluffy white lamb keeping this heavenly baby warm as he lay in a perfectly situated manager. Mary and Joseph were not lovingly looking down at a baby that apparently glows with light. In Matthew 2 we read that the wise men entered the house where the child was. This gives us a few clues that they were no longer in the stable and Jesus was no longer a baby but a toddler. It also tells us that, according to the timeline of when the star appeared, Herod asked not just for all of the babies to be killed, but all male children under the age of 2. That doesn't leave very Pinterest worthy pictures in our mind does it? Because of this, Mary and Joseph must flee to Egypt.

These key clues are very important for us to know in understanding the fulfillment of the prophecies given by the prophets in the old testament. It was foretold that "out of Egypt I called my son". They fled to Egypt and then God called them out of Egypt and they moved from there to Nazareth, where this young man would be known as Jesus of Nazareth. 

Just as our family traditions don't ever seem to go as picture perfect as planned, the Christmas story, a bit of messy story, is not perfectly put together, but beautifully orchestrated to share the greatest gift to all! Spend time this season remembering that, through the mess, His story is truly full of beauty!

Blessings~

Rhiannon

Next week: Moses was born and called

Why a baby?

Like a 3 year old child, staring at the wonders of the world, I tend to find myself asking "why" many times through out the story of Christmas. One particular question that is asked often in my mind is, "why did he come as a baby?" Why didn't God send his only Son as a grown man? Wouldn't that have felt more miraculous? Wouldn't it have been more impactful at the time to all of the sudden have this man appear, descending from Heaven, on billowing white clouds? Wouldn't it have made it more believable that He was indeed the son of God?

The answer to these questions, and more is that, a real human debt had to be paid for a real human sin.

In order for God to complete His promise to provide us with a savior, Jesus, the sacrifice for our sins, needed to be fully human. He needed to be fashioned within the womb of a mother. To develop and grow through childhood, adolescent and young adult years. He needed to understand our humanity in a real and relevant way, to become the real human sacrifice that would save us from our sins and offer us a hope for eternal life in Heaven with Him. 

Like a wrapped present under the Christmas tree, we are filled with anticipation to catch a glimpse of what is inside. Through the miracle of God becoming man, the box under the Christmas tree is unwrapped and we can stand in awe of the gift inside. The story of a real God, becoming a real human to become the sacrifice paid for our real sin. 

The story of Christmas is only complete with the understanding that it is finished at the cross! 

As we approach this Christmas with our kids, let's point them past the details of the story, {the manager, the wise men, the shepherds} and share the why of such an amazing gift that came to us as a baby! 

Merry Christmas!

Blessings~

Rhiannon

Chosen

When I was in school, I used to dread when it came time to pick teams in gym class. It wasn't that I was bad at sports or even that it was a fear of being picked last. It was simply just the anxiety of when, and which team captain would choose me. There were the other classes that the teacher would start calling on students to answer questions. I avoided eye contact and tried to look distracted so that the teacher would not call on me. (I never figured out that behavior actually made them call on me!) The last thing I wanted in either of those times was to be chosen.

In the beginning of Luke we learn of an angel named Gabriel, who was to deliver a message to a young woman by the name of Mary. The message was one of great importance. One that would change her life forever. It was a message that would fulfill Old Testament prophecies. It, however, was also a message that would bring suffering and heartache. The message? "Rejoice! Mary, you are chosen!" 

God chose Mary, and Joseph, to be the earthly parents of Jesus. By grace, He chose them! With amazement in her heart, she quietly expresses her humble obedience. What an amazing responsibility and privilege.

In submitting to God's plan for her life, Mary chose to magnify God. Likewise, Jesus magnifies His Father through His obedient life. The prophets told of His coming hundreds of years before His birth. God was working out His plan to bring His people back to Himself. The good news that Jesus was coming to the world was good because of WHY He was coming."He will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) 

The announcement of Jesus birth is not the beginning of the gospel; God has been planning this moment since before the beginning of time!

Talk with you kids this week about why Jesus was born and what it must have felt like to be chosen, like Mary. Share with them has God has chosen them to magnify the Lord also. 

I may have "suffered" through when and who would choose me in gym class, but we never need doubt that the Lord our Father, has chosen us! 

Blessings~

Rhiannon

 

*Next week: Jesus is born!

 

 

Suffering traced with a golden lining: Joseph

Joseph went through some great suffering. The picture of his life is filled with moments of darkness traced with golden linings. It's a story filled with favor, and betrayal. Fear and jealousy. It's filled with good times and bad times, rises and falls. Despair and hope. Pieces of his story can so easily wrap around our hearts like a blanket of familiarity. The rises and the falls, though not in the same fashions, are events we can all relate to. Even our kids.

Suffering looks different for everyone. Hardship holds every heart in a different way. Troubles face us all down in many different forms, yet, they lace all of our days. We, as parents, want to hope that our kids are shielded from the hardships, but we can quickly miss the stress of homework, words a friend said or actions done that caused hurt, a small rejection from a sibling or even just confusions of growing up. These are all little pieces of hardships and sufferings for them, that give us the opportunity to share the story of Jesus. A story mirrored by the story of Joseph. A great story of hardship, suffering, forgiveness and hope. 

You see, God has a plan. He has a plan to take all that is intended for evil and use it for His good. He sent Joseph ahead of his brothers, although through some very hard times, so that he could save his family during the time of famine. Likewise, those who crucified Jesus intended it for evil, but God's plan was for the good of all people. Through Jesus' death on the cross, God saved a remnant of people. 

God calls us, even our kids, to trust Him to fulfill His promises, because when hardships appear to thwart His mission, God is faithful to use even the hardship as part of His plan to bring glory to His son. 

Read the story of Joseph with your kids this week and take the time to teach the connections of Joseph's story to the story of Jesus and remind them of the hope that comes in God's promises! 

~ Blessings, 

Rhiannon

*Next week: An Angel Speaks to Mary & Joseph

 

Counting stars!

Have you ever laid on the grass on a clear summers night and looked up at the stars, trying to count as many as you could? I don't ever seem to get too far past 20 because I become so engaged in the beauty of the stars and the night sky, that trying to put a number on it all seems pointless.

Beginning in Genesis 12, we see the story of Abram begin to unfold. It's a rich story with lots of layers to it. We have Abram answering God's call to go, his separation and then rescue of his nephew Lot. The Lord making a covenant with Abram that began the amazing redemptive story of God's people.  Then His name changes to Abraham and the Lord reveals to him that he would become a father with his wife Sarah. After becoming a father to Isaac, he is asked to sacrifice his son, but is spared from this event by an angel of the Lord who provided a sacrifice in Isaac's place and at this point, the angel of the Lord said, "Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand of the seashore. Your offspring will posses the gates of their enemies." (Genesis 22:17) 

I can imagine Abraham sitting under the stars with his son, Isaac, safely next to him, in awe of the wonders of the stars and the promise given to him that all nations would be blessed because of his obedience. How overwhelming that must have felt, but what an amazing reminder of God's greatness! 

However, the story doesn't end there. I wonder if Abraham ever knew the connection of his obedience with the sacrifice of Christ Jesus? How the covenant that God would make with him would cost God his only son, Jesus, who would die on the cross and be raised again so that we, today, could have eternal life through Him?

Take time this week to study for yourself the connection of the promises to Abraham and how those promises connect to Jesus. If you can, look at the stars with your kids and share the story of Abraham's obedience and how that obedience led to us all being a part of the countless offspring blessed through  the Abrahamic Covenant. 

Blessings~

Rhiannon

Marked by Mercy

Every mid October, our family has a pumpkin carving contest. My husband, our 3 kids, and myself all choose designs, carve pumpkins, light them, and then post a picture on social media giving our friends and family the ability to vote for their favorite without knowing who carved which pumpkin. There's no prize at the end but the victory of saying that your design had won. As the kids get older, the designs get more intricate and every year we try to "one-up" each other. This year as I even went as far as the prideful moment that the picture I posted of them got voted on more than anyone else's pictures. A fleeting moment of victory! 

Although this is just a fun family tradition that we do, it does bring to mind the many times and ways that we as humans try to not just "one-up" each other, but also "one-up" God. The story of the tower of Babel is just that kind of story. 

After the flood, God told Noah and his children to fill the earth with people again. But the people stayed together and they united. In being united they realized that together they could accomplish anything THEIR hearts desired. So they decided to construct a temple to the heavens. In their hearts was a longing and desire to "one-up" God and show Him what they could do. They built for themselves their own personal kingdom and in doing so, continued the spread of evil that began with Adam and Eve. This continuation of sin with this tower troubled God and He came down and confused their language and spread the people across the earth. In God's judgement of their hearts desire to be great, He marked them with mercy. The mercy in the story is that His judgement brought a slowing of sin. Can you imagine the type of world we would live in today if for thousands of years, men were united in heart and language to accomplish all of their desires!

Yet, God had a plan. Thousands of years later, at Pentecost, God tore down the language barriers so that the people would scatter and make great His son's name! The name of Jesus. Take time this week to point your kids towards God's better plan: His plan not for people to reach up to Him, but His plan to reach down to people by sending His son Jesus! 

Sin and Rescue

Two by two....and then the door closed....then the floods came.... the dove found land and a rainbow of promise lit up the sky! 

That's the gist of the way I grew up knowing the story of Noah and the great flood. Every time I heard the story, it felt the same.. two by two, flood waters and rainbows. It's a beautiful story of God's rescue of Noah and his family. A courageous story of Noah's obedience during a time of such ridicule. A gracious story filled with a promise, the hope of our ultimate rescue represented with a rainbow. Although always presented with cute animals and colorful rainbows, the backdrop of sin rarely seemed to be the point of the story. The rescue was rarely presented as THE story within the story. Yet, when we add in the Christ connection to this story, we see it brilliantly with sin and rescue at the very core of it. 

The story of Noah and the great flood is such a rich picture of the greater rescue to come. "Jesus, the only perfectly righteous person, came to take the punishment for sin. We trust His act of obedience and are saved from the punishment our sin deserves." (The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook). When Noah and his family stepped out of the ark, on to dry land, instead of condemning the world again, God gave hope! A hope that would come through His son, Jesus,  who would come in the form of a rescue to all sinners. 

As we continue through the Word of God, using the Gospel Project, we pray that the Lord would help you clearly communicate THE story within the story. The story set with a backdrop of sin where Jesus would give up his life to rescue all sinners and give hope for all to come! 

Blessings~

Rhiannon

This weekend in Tree House Children's Ministry: The Tower of Babel

Who's Sid?

Mom to child: "I hear you learned about sin tonight at church!"

Dad: "Who's Sid?"

Isn't that, so often, how the conversations go on our ride home from church? You hope for some deep meaningful dialogue about the lesson your child learned, only to be derailed by 'Sid'.  'Sid' comes in many different forms and many times with the label of too busy. But can I take a moment to encourage you? Continue the conversation! 

I heard an example this week of how the brilliance of the Word of God and our need for Jesus shines brightest against the backdrop of sin. Like a good fireworks show that needs a blackened sky to show its true radiance. 

It's scary to have the conversations with our kids about sin, especially our little ones. I remember feeling like as soon as I had the conversation with them that then they would be aware of that sin and I wanted to protect them from that part of the world. Yet, without the reality of sin, we can't see our need for Jesus, and I so desperately want my children to understand their need for Jesus. It's so important to continue having the conversations with our kids. 

Each week in the Tree House, your kids will be given a take home activity sheet and a collectable card. These resources are available for you to continue the conversations at home and throughout the week with your kids. 

I don't know how the family conversation ended, but needless to say, I am sure their conversation about 'Sid' continued and explanations were made. 

Take time this week to observe and talk about the radiance and brilliance of who Jesus is against the backdrop of a sinful world and keep the conversation going!

~Blessings,

Rhiannon

 

Get in the Game

When our kids were younger, and too little to yet participate in youth soccer, they participated in a fantastic beginners’ soccer experience. On the last evening of a six-week class, as the children wrapped up their 45 minute session, the instructors invited the parents onto the field. 

As the parents all filed onto the field, we were immediately engaged not just with our children, but also with each other. I smiled at, shook hands with, and talked to other parents I had sat quietly next to for the past five weeks.  We were strangers to each other, hiding behind smartphones and tablets, despite having sat on the same bleachers for five weeks watching our kids ‘together.’  Once on the field together, we shared a spirit of camaraderie, community, and of course… our children and the game. We were there because our kids were there. We were in the game together. 

They ran up and down the field, chasing and kicking the ball. There was no order beyond the red and blue jerseys — organized chaos at best —  and it was beautiful. There was joy, there was fun, and we were in the middle of it with our children. 

Our job was to encourage them and cheer for them as they played. We also were instructed to form a perimeter and when the ball came near us, our job was to simply help keep it in play. 

As I reflected on this experience, the metaphor for how we journey with our students ran deeper than I could ever give words to. So let it take you where it will. 

Most notably, it seems as students grow and enter new stages of life, it can be difficult for us as parents to know where we belong in the mix. We’re not sure how involved to be, or when to listen instead of talk. We may begin to feel unwanted, unneeded, and unsure of what we’d do if we were asked to get in the ‘game.’ Naturally, we sit out. And watch. Or worse, we restrict their participation. Not because we don’t want to be in the ‘game,’ but because we’re not sure of our place, and we feel the sense of losing the control we’ve always had, or at least thought we had.

What’s the alternative? Get. In. The Game. The ‘game’ is really not a game at all but is in fact the journey of life that you have the privilege to be on with your student, and your student needs you. They need you in a way that is different from the way they needed you before, but they need you nonetheless. Rather than losing control, your method of influence is evolving. They need your encouragement, your support, and your presence as they learn and experience life as they’ve never experienced it. They need to talk through what they think about what they see. In many ways the role you play in your student’s life, although less direct than before, is more important than ever.

Your role isn’t to control the ‘game’ or what position they play, to take their steps or kick the ball for them. You role is to be there. You don’t have to be an expert at the ‘game.’ None of us is.

Get in the ‘game’…because that’s where your student is. That’s where your student needs you, and it’s where you belong. 

As we ramp up toward fall and the year of student ministry ahead, we face some challenges.  And we will need to face these challenges together as we carry on our student ministry and continue to build it as a place that brings the story of God to life for the next generation. 

A key piece to how we’re going to do this —  through weekend services, student ministry programming, and most importantly,  through your family unit itself —  is with The Gospel Project curriculum. It will equip our church community as well as adults, students, children and families to integrate and engage with one another around the story of God more deeply than ever before. It is an incredible tool that will equip you as a parent while you step into life with your student and your family in the way that God has designed.

-John Eiselt
Family and Discipleship Pastor

Will you join us this fall?

It has been said that it is possible to know all of the Bible stories and miss the Bible story: the story of redemption through Jesus Christ! 

We are so excited to introduce The Gospel Project curriculum to Five Oaks this fall! The Gospel Project is designed to walk participants of all ages through scripture, chronologically, in order to understand how all scripture testifies to the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

As we take on this exciting new adventure, we need the help of people, like yourselves, to make it all happen. I would like to take this opportunity to ask if you would consider joining us this coming year (Sept. 2016 - May 2017) in The Tree House Children's Ministry, either as a nursery caregiver, toddler teacher, a Retreat room assistant or as a teacher or assistant in any our 2's -5th grade classrooms.

If you are interested in more information, please contact us at children@fiveoakschurch.org.

Thank you for considering what role you can play in the lives of the children of Five Oaks as we come alongside families in bringing the Story of God to life!