Wednesday, November 27, 2019

I'm Thankful For...

No thanksgiving themed content this week, except by way of a little roundup of some things that I'm personally thankful for this week. In addition to the things listed below, I am oh so grateful for y'all and for the ministry of preparing worship and formation for children, youth and families. Here are some things I'm giving thanks for:

Music of The Brilliance especially their Advent music volume one and volume two. It might be a smidge too early for Christmas music (although I do not begrudge anyone who is seeking that joy) but I'm ready for Advent and I love this music written especially for the season. Their version of "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," one of my Advent faves, is so lovely (on vol 2). The Brilliance will be in Seattle at Chop Suey in a couple week and I can't go! Bummer.

Finding Fred Podcast - This podcast asks the question: why are we obsessed with Mr. Rogers? Why the current cultural fascination? I have especially appreciated host Carvell Wallace's exploration of Mr. Rogers and race and theology. But the way that he approached the development of children and their needs for care and empathy is still unlike anything else that TV has ever offered.
I find Carvell Wallace really compelling. He's sincere and brings a lot of his own questions and struggle to his work. So I looked up some of his other work too, including a parenting advice podcast for Slate called 'Mom and Dad are Fighting' (as yet unlistened) and a podcast called 'Closer than They Appear.' "If America is an estranged family, this podcast is our awkward holiday dinner." He digs into his own complicated history of being a black kid in a mixed race family and the implication of that on parenting. I've only listened to the first ep, a conversation with Mahersalla Ali and so far, so great.

God's Pronouns - Speaking of language and gender, an internet friend shared this hilarious but oh so relevant piece about God sharing their pronouns on McSweeny's this week. I was like, "I just preached on that!" I wasn't as funny as Kathleen O'Mara and Jay Malsky.

The Butterfly Mosque - I heard G. Willow Wilson speak at a writers festival in Portland last month. I'd read one of her books before - Alif the Unseen - but primarily knew her as the writer for Marvel's reboot of the Ms Marvel series, featuring Pakistani Muslim American hero Kamala Khan. I knew that Wilson was Muslim but none of the back story. The Butterfly Mosque tells her story of conversion in college just before 9/11, the years she spent in Cairo shortly afterward, and the relationship with the Egyptian man who became her husband. And I just learned she lives in Seattle so I might stalk her.

Supporting Indigenous Economy - I'll be volunteering at the Duwamish Longhouse at their annual art sale - support indigenous artists and craftspeople with your holiday shopping money! And btw here is the holiday placemat that Megan mentioned in worship this past Sunday.
If you live in the north end and want to support a Native-owned business, I recommend the new coffee shop in the Burke Museum, called Off the Rez. The cinnamon sugar fry-bread is Orie-approved. They started as a food truck, which is still going strong and could be parked in a neighborhood near you.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Advent is Here!

candles in the dark against a backdrop of unfocused twinkly lights

Hey folks. Advent is around the corner! And thanks goodness. Orie has been asking me LITERALLY EVERY MORNING for the past week if today is Christmas. It didn't help that my mom sent a package for the kids to open to get ready for Advent - I mean come on! At least when Advent starts the calendars will be a vehicle for counting the days. Yikes!

So here we go. Below are some new and some tried-and-true Advent ideas for you to take a look at. And maybe try! I would love to know what your traditions and family practices are related to this season of waiting for Jesus.

Chocolate Calendar - Divine Chocolate is my go-to treat-based advent calendar both because it's fair trade chocolate and because there's a little bit of the Christmas story in each window. I just went ahead and got one for everyone in my family because then no one gets left out. I chose the dark chocolate version for myself.

Do-It-Yourself Nativity - This Paper Nativity by could be printed and put together each day of advent little by little. Or just all at once as an activity. And if you're feeling creative, you could make your own or have kids make different pieces of it.

Tiny Image and Devotions: Thomas Mousin's tiny devotions calendar is a down-loadable one-page calendar with a brief verse and mini-picture for each day. In this years (he does one each year) you need to do a little searching to find each day. Could be colored in as the days go by, or just used as a prompt for reflection and conversation.

Praying in Color: In a similar vein, Sybil McBeth at Praying in Color does a new Advent fill-in-with-color calendar each year, which is more free form and person/child directed. I've sometimes done this myself as a little personal devotion for Lent or Advent and value the few minutes of mental space it creates. Explore the website to learn more about how to pray in color if you get stuck.

Advent Word: For the more online-inclined, join others around the globe through #AdventWord, an online advent calendar which chooses a focal word each day and encourages followers to post their own reflections, images and prayers inspired by that word and share with other followers through social media platforms. More at or by searching #adventword on social media. I did something similar to this once on instagram and often see others doing so. It's fun to see what the different words inspire.

The 99c Advent Wreath - I am skeptical this this will really be 99 cents, but the supplies include glitter, modeling clay and birthday candles, so it's definitely affordable. Children can create it themselves and if each child in a family has their own, perhaps the competition over who gets to light/blow out the candle will be eliminated (my hope, anyway).

Living Advent Wreath - this wreath made of actual children pretending to be candles is probably not something any of us are going to do at home - I just thought it was a really cute idea. Maybe we can figure out a way to do this in worship some year.

Advent Devotions - Common Word, a resource from Mennonite Church Canada creates a family-friendly downloadable advent resource. This seems like it could be used daily or occasionally or weekly, whatever works for your family. This year it's called, "Waiting and Wondering"

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Creating a Culture of Generosity

When I was a child, my family went to a church that operated on a pledge system. Each family was strongly encouraged to pledge an amount that they would contribute as a household over the year. I don’t remember this being talked about in my family, but I do remember the little pledge envelopes that my parents’ checks were tucked into and which in turn were shared in the offering plate as it passed us on Sunday morning.
When the offering plate (or quilted bag, as the case may be) passes us nowadays, very few of us tuck something into it. There are a lot of reasons for this: many of us give electronically, either through our banks or using the very convenient ‘donate’ button on SMC’s website; we don’t carry cash and checks anymore as a matter of course; we might give in a planned way in bigger chunks a few times a year; we don’t have a regular giving practice; we don’t feel as if we have the money to give. Some churches are getting rid of the act of offering during worship all together because they are experiencing the same thing.

As we give up the practice of giving during worship, that physical and visible act of putting something into the collection, where do we and our children find opportunities to practice and discuss living generously? Everywhere I read about creating a culture of generosity within a family and community I see modeling as one of the top ways to pass along this value, as well as talking openly about giving and reinforcing generous behavior with gratitude and praise. I think that’s likely as true for adults as it is with children. Doing it, talking about it, reinforcing it.

Last year we made a commitment through our Jubilee discernment to putting our Jubilee values into practice through our giving. I’m excited to be a part of a congregation that has done that important work of discerning that God's call to us is to increase our household giving in order to be responsive to Jubilee. Like our Jubilee document, our budget tells a story. It’s why we moved from a line-item budget to a narrative budget. Even the money spent on staff or facilities tells the story of the ministries that we are committed to as a congregation. While our commitment to greater giving isn’t yet bearing out in practice, I look forward to seeing how your money will continue to write a story of forming people in the way of Jesus, celebrating in worship as a family of faith, supporting people experiencing homelessness, partnering with people in wider church and repairing brokenness created by ancestors.

I have been so grateful to see our grade 3-5 kids walking around with offering pails after worship in the past few weeks. Grateful that they are talking about giving in Sunday school and grateful that they’re challenging us adults by making giving a visible part of our fellowship. I experienced a twinge of panic and guilt when I didn’t have anything to put in the waiting bucket and while I don’t want to return to what might have been a pressure, shame and guilt based system of giving, the very public nature of their campaign caused me to commit to having some change in my pocket next week. I pray that as a congregation we can live into the challenge we’ve given ourselves to be generous and to continue to tell out loud the story of how our money is following Jesus.

Here are a few of the on-line resources that I looked at around children and giving: