Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Advent Devotional, Week Three

Author's Note:  This is part three of a four part Advent devotional series for families here at Treasure the Ordinary.  May you be blessed as each of you find ways to prepare your hearts for the celebration of our King's birth.  Merry Christmas!

Week 3 Advent Devotional - "Provision"

Opening Question (Option 1): If you had a thousand dollars to spend on a present for someone, who would you buy for and what would you buy them

Opening Story (Option 2):  Parents, take a few minutes to tell each child about the day they were born.  Where was it?  What was happening that day?  How did you feel when you got to see them for the first time?

During our time together today, we are going to look at the place where Jesus was born.  If one of us was going to plan where Jesus would be born, we would have probably picked Jerusalem because it was the capital city  and the most important city in Israel.  But, that's not the city God chose.  Let's read a Scripture from the Old Testament that talks about what city God chose instead.
READ: “But you, Bethlehem, David’s country, the runt of the litter—From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule Israel."  - Micah 5:2 (The Message Bible)

ASK:  [younger children] What does it mean to be the "runt of the litter"?  So what kind of city was Bethlehem?

ASK:  [older children] What message do you think God was sending when he chose a small, insignificant city like Bethlehem for Jesus to be born in? 

ASK:  When have YOU felt small and not important?

The enemy loves for us to feel too small for anyone to notice us.  He especially loves to tell us that we are too small for God to care about us.  But, that is not true.  Even the city that Jesus was born in is sending a message, that He came for all of us because He loves all of us, right down to the tiniest of us. 

He also knows every one of our needs, the big ones, and the tiny ones.  He saw Joseph and Mary every moment that they were traveling to Bethlehem, and He was already preparing a place for Jesus to be born.  It may have been just a dirty stable to some people, but to God, it was a safe place, away from the people who wanted to hurt baby Jesus (we're going to talk about that next week!), and it was exactly what Joseph and Mary needed.

ASK:  What is something you need right now in your life that we need to pray about?  It can be a physical need, or something your heart needs.

Close with prayer over your children.  Parents, this is a great opportunity to emphasize to your children that God sees each of them individually and knows every bit of their hear needs.  But, He still likes to hear our voices when we talk to Him.  And He also likes to speak to us in return.  Make sure you lead your kids in a time of listening as well as praying.  You may want to play a worship song at this time and encourage your children to write down what they hear God saying to them (younger children can draw a picture of what God is saying) so they learn to treasure His voice.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Advent Devotional, Week Two

Author's Note:  This is part two of a four part Advent devotional series for families here at Treasure the Ordinary.  May you be blessed as each of you find ways to prepare your hearts for the celebration of our King's birth.  Merry Christmas!

Week 2 Advent Devotional - "Security"

Opening Question: What is something you don't like to do alone?  (Parents, with younger children, you can go first to set the tone.  Example:  folding sheets, going to the dentist, etc.)

ASK [younger children]:  What are some of the names we studied last week that Jesus is called?  (Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace)

ASK [older children]:  Has the Lord done anything else in your heart regarding names/labels after we talked about it last week?

During our time together today, we are going to look at one more name Jesus is called.  It was prophesied in the Old Testament in the book of Isaiah, chapter 7.  It's mentioned again in the book of Matthew after Jesus was born.
READ: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” – Matthew 1:22-23

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, it meant that He had left His Father's home in Heaven and come to live with us here on earth.  He chose to put on a body like ours and come live here with people so that He could show us how to become God's children.  

After He died, He went back to Heaven to stay with God there.  But, He really didn't leave us, because He sent someone to stay with us here until He comes back to get us.
ASK:  Who did He send to stay here with us?  (the Holy Spirit) 

[Older children can read John 15 with you at this point in the discussion.  Help them make the connection that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, who lives within us 24/7.]

ASK:  If God is Emmanuel, and His spirit is with us at all times, are we ever truly alone?   Why do we FEEL alone sometimes?  (we forget He's there, we don't stop to listen to His voice, we have trouble seeing/understanding what He's doing, etc.)

No matter what we feel, the promise of God is that Jesus is "God with us."  This means He was with us years ago when we were born, He's with us right now, and He will be waiting for us in our tomorrow.

ASK:  [younger children]  How can we remember God's promise that He's always with us?  [Consider having each child make a poster to hang close to their bed that shows God is with them, even when they feel like they are alone.]

ASK:  [older children]  Which one of these means the most to you right now?  That God was in your past, that He's in your present, or that He will be in your future?

Close with prayer over your children.  Parents, this is a great opportunity to talk to your children about the fact that God will always be with them, and that you are also available to them when they need to talk or when they feel alone.  Let them know that is why God puts people in families, so that they are not lonely.  (Ps. 68:6)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent Devotional, Week One

Author's Note:  As a mother of four children, spread out in ages by 7 years from the oldest to the youngest, I have often felt that family devotionals either speak to my younger children or speak to my older children.  It's sometimes difficult to engineer a discussion that involves them all.  So, this Christmas, I would like to provide my readers with an Advent resource that can potentially spark dialogue with all the people in your house, no matter what their age! 

To that end, I will be posting a family devotional, one for each week of Advent, throughout the month of December.  May you be blessed as each of you find ways to prepare your hearts for the celebration of our King's birth.  Merry Christmas!

Week 1 Advent Devotional - "Identity"

Opening Question: What is your favorite nickname you’ve ever been given?

Begin by showing your younger children the two sections of the Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament. 

ASK [younger children]:  Which part of the Bible do we find stories about Jesus?  (New Testament)

ASK [older children]:  Which part of the Bible is your favorite to read, the Old Testament, or the New Testament?  Why?

It's true that the stories of Jesus are found in the New Testament, but the Old Testament talks about Him, too!  It may not use the name Jesus, but it does mention other names that Jesus goes by.  Just like you have a nickname (refer to your child's name here), Jesus has other names.  And when they are mentioned, we know God is talking about His son, Jesus.  See if you can find His names in this Scripture from the Old Testament.

READ:  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”  Isaiah 9:6-7

WRITE:  Let the children write the names of Jesus down on a piece of paper as they find them in the Scripture.  They may enjoy decorating it.  When you're finished with the devotional, hang this in a place they will see it throughout the week.

ASK [younger children]:  Were these good nicknames for Jesus?  How is He these things?

ASK [older children]:  Which of these names of Jesus is meaning the most to you in your life right now and why?

*  If you have younger children, this could be a good place to pray out loud as a family, giving thanks for the way Jesus is these things in your lives.  Older children can continue on with the following discussion.

When people give nicknames, it's often meant to tease or poke fun.  When God gives nicknames, it's to build people up.  He changed Abram ("Father") to Abraham ("Father of Many").  He changed Jacob ("Deceiver") to Israel ("Prince of God").  He changed Simon ("Reed") to Peter ("Rock.")

ASK:  Is there a label you've been given by the world that makes you feel small?  It might be a nickname, but it might also just be an attitude that you feel other people associate with you (i.e.  lazy, nerdy, etc.). 

READ:  "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it."  - Revelation 2:17

There will be a day when God will let you know your name that He has for only YOU!  You may not know exactly what the name is right now, but you can get to know His heart for you and what He thinks about you.  Let's pray and ask Him to speak to us tonight about what He calls each of us.  Let's allow that to take precedence in our hearts over anything the world or other people might try to label us.

Close with prayer over your children.  Parents, this is a great opportunity to bless your children with words of life!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

One Mama's Thoughts on Short-Term Missions

My husband took our second son to Guatemala for 10 days.  It's a rite of passage in our home, a mission trip with dad.  We had waited a while for this one, wanting the right trip at the right time.  And we knew when this trip came along that it was the one for our fifteen year old.  Sometimes, when you're listening for the still, small voice of God, you struggle to hear it.  Sometimes, you hear it so deeply, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt what God is communicating.  This was a "beyond a shadow" kind of knowing.  The right trip at the right time.

The first day, they landed in Guatemala City and then drove 12 hours up into the mountains, along the Guatemalan-Mexican border.  The next two days were spent constructing a home for a family who was in need.

A home.  My son just helped build someone a home.  With a machete.

And that's why I love world missions.  Because a fifteen year old just got his world rocked when he watched a family of five beam with pride over their new home of wood and tin that could fit inside his bedroom.  And he now knows that the home he helped build with his own two hands is a vast improvement over their previous house, a mud hut that dissolved every time it rained.  A teenager's worldview, forever changed.

I know because I've been there.  When I was 18, I spent two months in the jungles of Peru, doing my best to minister to the people there who poked at my freckles and called me "leopardo" with eyes filled with wonder. 

I slept in a mosquito tent on the ground.  I washed my hair in the Amazon.  I bought a machete (a South American staple, I assure you).  I used an outhouse in the dark.

And then one day, I ate something unrecognizable in the home of a local pastor.  Something that was so tough and greasy, I couldn't imagine what it might be.  I finally turned it over with my fork and realized the truth.  I was eating a rodent.

And I thought I couldn't do it.  I thought I was done.  Done with my dinner and done with missions.

Until I looked up and saw the pastor, his wife, and their ten children had circled the dinner table in the one room hut.  Their faces were beaming, so proud that they could share their food with the missionaries.

And that's when I realized that those children would probably not be eating that night.  It was their dinner my mind was rejecting.

So, I closed my eyes, asked the Lord to help me, and I ate it.

A teenager's worldview, forever changed.

Because there have been a lot of times in life that I thought I needed something, but then remembered I already have everything I need.  And there have been a lot of times in life when I thought I was done, but then remembered that the Christ who lives in me is never done. 

I have heard some people question whether short term mission teams, particularly teenagers, are an effective use of resources.  They wonder if it would just be better to send money, instead of people.  My answer to that is, send both.  The money will get used once, and be a blessing.  The missionary will get changed, and be an instrument of blessing for the rest of his life.

My own missionary will be home in three days.  I look forward to wrapping my arms around him (and his dad), but more than that, I look forward to watching what happens next.  Because a man who knows how to build a house with a machete and obey God?  That can only be a recipe for greatness.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Hold That Baby Tight

A friend had a baby today.  The picture she posted was precious, and made this mama do what I always do when I see a newborn.  I closed my eyes and remembered what it felt like to hold one of my babies for the first time. 

The relief. 

The joy. 

The fear.

The fear that I wouldn't get it right.

And those memories drove me to finish a song I started writing a few months ago.  My kids and I had taken an impromptu trip to the park at the lake, a favorite place to go to just be by ourselves and enjoy each other.  My oldest had brought his guitar that day.  He started strumming, and I started humming, and before long, a song was birthed.

I finished it today, remembering that beautifully terrifying moment when you hold a perfect bundle of newborness in your arms and realize you are responsible for so very much that is important.

And so this song, still in a raw recorded version and done in just a few moments today when I could get the kids quiet enough to be able to press record, is my gift to the mama who holds her newborn tonight.  It's also a future gift to my daughter, as it's something I want her to know someday when she holds her own little one and experiences the fear that she won't get it all right.

Because the truth is, you won't. 

But, you'll get a lot of things right. 

Like loving.  And loving again when it's hard.  And loving some more. 

And that goes a long way in this thing called motherhood.

To listen, click here.

"Hold Those Babies Tight"
Mindy von Atzigen copyright 2014

My little girl became a mom today,
The baby I held is holding her own.

And if there's one thing I could give,
If there's one thing I could say,  I'd say

Honey, you might not always get it right,
But there's one thing, darling, that you can do tonight,
Just hold that baby tight.

You're gonna sing a lot of songs,
Teach a lot of lessons,
Cook a lot of meals,
And clean a lot of messes.

And honey, you might not always get it right,
But there's one thing, darling, that you can do each night,
Just hold those babies tight.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What Does the Bible Say About Fear?

Fear is the most crippling enemy a soul can ever face.  If it is trying to overtake you today, let your heart meditate on the words of Scripture, the best tool for combatting any enemy. 

Even as a follower of Jesus, there may be many things in this life that cause rocks of fear to be hurled at you.  Some are pebbles.  Others are boulders.  The key is to never pick up the rocks. 

Instead, build your house with the cornerstone of who God is, your hope and your defense.

Here are ten verses that will shore up your house today, all from the Message Bible (because sometimes it's good to shake up familiar words with a fresh understanding).  Let your heart take delight in the Mightiness of your God...

  • “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”  - Deuteronomy 31:6

  • "Hezekiah rallied the people, saying, 'Be strong! Take courage! Don’t be intimidated by the king of Assyria and his troops—there are more on our side than on their side. He only has a bunch of mere men; we have our God to help us and fight for us!'  Morale surged. Hezekiah’s words put steel in their spines."  - 2 Chronicles 32:6-8

  • "Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.  Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure."  - Psalm 23:4

  • "Light, space, zest—that’s GodSo, with him on my side I’m fearless, afraid of no one and nothing."  - Psalm 27:1

  • When I get really afraid I come to you in trust.  I’m proud to praise God; fearless now, I trust in God.  What can mere mortals do?"  - Psalm 56:3-4

  • “But you, Israel, are my servant.  You’re Jacob, my first choice, descendants of my good friend Abraham.  I pulled you in from all over the world, called you in from every dark corner of the earth, telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side.  I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’  Don’t panic. I’m with you.  There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.  I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.  I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you."  - Isaiah 41:8-12

  • “Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now.  Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.  What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries."  - Matthew 10:26-31

  • "This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike 'What’s next, Papa?'  God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!"  - Romans 8:15-17

  • "Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, 'God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?'"  - Hebrews 13:5-6

  • "God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.  We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first."  - I John 4:17-19

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Trading Stress for Peace

A couple of months ago,  my pastor husband asked if I would mind letting a traveling band of musicians stay in our home for a night.  We were scheduled to be out of town that evening, the church was needing to find them a place to stay after they performed a concert for the congregation, and it seemed like an all-around easy solution.  I said sure, it would be no problem.

Fast forward to T minus 6 days, and it was no longer an easy solution and was in fact a huge problem.  What had I been thinking?  A group of people I didn't know staying in my home without us there?  This called for some SERIOUS CLEANING!

I've always thought of myself as a clean person.  (Almost) everything has a place, and (almost) everything can be put it in its place in pretty quick order in my house.  But, this was not the usual scenario for company.  These people weren't just coming over for dinner or coffee, they were going to shower, sleep, prepare their own breakfast, and possibly do laundry here.  They were going to see into closets, cabinets, bathtubs (shriek!), and who knows, maybe behind couches?

So, I spent the better part of two days cleaning from top to bottom. 


Couch cushions.


Ceiling fans.

The works.

And what should have been a natural display of hospitality turned into an exhausting ordeal.

All because I was worried what someone I didn't even know would think if they saw dust on the baseboards or dog hair on the couch.

Until I finally realized, enough was enough.  The house was cleaner than it ever is for the people who LIVE here, so it was just going to have to be enough for those who were visiting. 
My tired family was thrilled to hear this decision as it meant they were spared the deep cleaning of their closets. 

The last thing I did before we left town was shut every single closet door and hoped no one would have a desire to see if I know how to fold fitted sheets (I don't) or if all the pieces of our board games have made it back into their boxes.  And then I walked out, and tried not to think about it anymore.

But, now, two weeks later, I've been thinking about it.  And I wonder why I allowed myself to get stressed out when our home is a lovely, homey place.  It's not perfect and its furniture is showing signs of being well loved by a family of six, but it's full of peace and comfort and joy and life.  It's a beautiful place to relax and be yourself.  And maybe the imperfections around the house are a lot like the people who live here, the people who aren't perfect, but are growing up and changing for the better and not ever staying the same. 

And maybe there are just a lot of things more important in life than correctly folded sheets.

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