Add Supporting Verses

After you choose a theme you are going to want to ADD Bible verses to help support your theme. If you are not already using a Bible app on your phone, download one today!  I recommend YouVersion or Blue Letter Bible.  These will help you in your search for verses containing a certain word.  Otherwise simply searching the internet for “Bible verses about…” should provide you with ample material.

You may also pick verses you already have memorized or that you would personally like to memorize.  Or you may want to offer an extra reward if your children memorize them. This is a great opportunity to hide more of God’s word in your heart.

Choose a Bible version that is suitable to your child’s reading level. Look at the following familiar Christmas verse. Notice the difference in wording between these two popular versions:

  • OKAY: For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord (KJV).
  • BETER: Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord (NET).

The year that our theme was LIGHT, we chose two very basic and simple verses (because our children were very small). We wanted to capitalize on the fact that one of the first things children learn about in the Bible is creation–and God first created light.  Secondly we wanted to make sure they understood that Jesus shines light in our world.

  • Genesis 1:3 “And God said, “Let there be light.”
  • John 8:12 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.”

Next we get to do our homework as parents before the first meeting…

Nail Down a Theme

Our theme in 2017 was Peace.

Nailing Christmas first step is to NAIL down your family’s theme for this year.  This can be a word, a phrase, a Bible character. With young children, I recommend very simple, tangible, concrete themes.  As your kids get older, feel free to choose more abstract concepts.  

The simplest approach for beginning is to just think about traditional Christmas words and themes:

  • Lights
  • Angels
  • Shepherds
  • Wise Men
  • Stars

Does any idea jump out at you? What do you think would be fun to teach your children?  What are your interests? 

A second way to pick out a theme is to consider the State Of the Family.  Is there a particular truth they need to have reinforced this Christmas? 

For example, in 2017, there was a lot of strife in our household.  This was very unusual for us and we felt like it was important for our family to rally around the idea of Peace–not the subjective notion of heavenly peace–simply peace as in the absence of war!

What are some ways your family needs to be discipled this year?

  • Peace (we are fighting a lot…or worrying too much)
  • Love (we have just been selfish or mean lately)
  • Waiting (we need to learn how to be patient or focus on praying)
  • Generosity (we have been too greedy or discontent)

Finally, is there something about this year that is particularly unique that you would like to capture?  This could be anything from a major family change to a fun new movie you all want to see together.  There are spiritual truths that can be taught from every good story and from every major life event.  Maybe use your Christmas theme to capture exactly what your family was doing in this particular year.

  • Adoption (God adopts us into His family)
  • Moving (Several people in the Bible had to pick up and move–including Mary just before delivering Jesus)
  • The latest superhero movie (Talk about God’s power and spiritual gifts)

The first year we did this our children were very small (6, 4, 2 and 2). The first theme we chose was LIGHTS. Lights are everywhere at Christmas. And lights for little children are one of the best and most exciting parts of Christmas—making emphasizing the theme throughout the week really easy. Conveniently, light is a constant theme in the Bible especially in the Gospels so there are plenty of verses you can use. 

Deciding a Christmas theme does not need to stress you out.  The Bible is full of rich teaching on a multitude of topics.  Next we will build on the theme you’ve chosen.

https://lorettabushlack.wordpress.com/2018/12/17/add-supporting-verses/Click here to continue with the next in the Nailing Christmas series.

Please Don’t Ask Me to Simplify Christmas

I understand the ways that a busy Christmas season can bring fatigue and frustration to many people.  But I actually find joy in the:

 “presents! The ribbons! The wrappings! The tags! And the tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss

First, a little background about me: well actually about me and my husband. We did not grow up celebrating Christmas. We were each raised in a church denomination that taught that since Christmas has pagan origins it should not be observed by true Christians.

What this means for me is that by the time I was pregnant with our firstborn and no longer under that church teaching I had pent-up a lifetime’s worth of Christmas love and emotion and affection and passion and…obsession! My husband—not so much—but he lets me be. He hauls my bins of decor in and out of our storage room for me with a smile. 

I don’t want to miss another moment of decorating, baking, sending cards, going to parties, shopping for friends and family. I love it all.  Although I am not interested in “Simplifying Christmas”–when it comes to worshiping Christ, I am interested in “Nailing Christmas.”

So as we raised our family amidst all the “trappings” that can be distractions, we knew we would have to be intentional about making Jesus the central focus of our annual Christmas season. As parents we are often not very consistent with many of our good intentions (maybe you can relate). But since this approach to Christmas is so simple and so meaningful we have been doing it consistently for 15 years. 

How have we nailed Christmas year after year?   

Every year, we choose a theme and use it as a framework for our Christmas celebration.  We always build on top of Jesus as our foundation but we create a new theme each year.  We then lead one “Christmas Family Meeting” a week for four weeks leading up to Christmas. 

Traditionally, the season of looking forward to Christmas coming, called Advent is a four-week celebration.  We had four kids so it worked well for us to have four meetings during those four weeks.  At the conclusion of each meeting, one of our kids would receive a small gift (we did an ornament).  Four is not a magic number, it just worked for us.  You could do this for two weeks or three weeks or ten weeks (but I don’t recommend that!).

Discipleship (teaching someone how to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus) is an overwhelming idea at first.  It never feels like you are ready to do the teaching.  But by concentrating on one central Christmas theme, it has made our practice of family discipleship during Advent clear and focused.  It has given us a simple framework to have conversations about spiritual truths any time, any place .

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

We want to share with you how we did these lessons, what some of our theme ideas were throughout the years, and ultimately what this has meant to our kids now that they are grown. 

Click here to continue with the next in the Nailing Christmas series.

Family Assessment and Brainstorm

Before we get started on the specific steps in Nailing Christmas, use the following questions to assess how Christmas is currently going in your household.  This small step of preparation will help you be even more intentional in your Christmas focus.

Does your family have a Christmas fanatic?  If so, who is it? (You want to get this person’s buy in!)

What is your favorite thing about Christmas? (Build on this.)

Do you have a Christmas non-negotiable? (Don’’t mess with this.)

What frustrates you about Christmas? (Work on reducing or eliminating this.)

On a scale of 1-10, how comfortable are you with talking to your kids about Jesus?  (Do you need improvement?)

On a scale of 1-10, how comfortable are you praying with your family? (Would you like to be stronger?)

As you look back over this year, is there a word or a phrase that comes to mind?  (Can you think of any Christmas-y spin on that?)

As you pray for discernment, can you think of any spiritual need your family might have this year?  (Can you create a Christmas theme around this?) 

What do you think has kept your family from NAILING CHRISTMAS?  (Be specific.)

What would NAILING CHRISTMAS look like in your family this year? (Be specific.)

Click here to continue with the next in the Nailing Christmas series.

Born to die

I wanted to blog weekly during the month of December so I could get the content of our Nailing Christmas class into the hands of interested parents.  But I just couldn’t.  There were dark days and hard truths to face first.

My nephew Samuel was born straight into the arms of Jesus on November 26, 2018.  It wasn’t unexpected. He was diagnosed early in the pregnancy with an extremely rare, fatal birth defect.  But still the loss of him hurts deeply and raises so many unanswerable questions. Why must a baby be destined to die?

Maybe it’s a leap but that makes me think of Christmas. The notion that an infant would be born to die is terrifying and incomprehensible–but that is exactly what Jesus came to do.  Isn’t it offensive and insensitive in the face of real grief to celebrate with joy the birth of another doomed innocent? This was God’s idea? How could that be the plan?  How could that possibly be for the best?

And are we even allowed to ask these questions?

God knew it was for the best because he understood our desperation. He knew we were utterly hopeless without Him. Destined to so much misery. Destined to die. All of us. 

Apart from God, we trudge on in this world, foolishly denying our sin and ignoring the unavoidable grave… Until someone we love meets their inevitable end.  Then we startle a bit and rage at God and the world for a while and then go back to our comfortable, willful blindness and charge headlong again toward the destiny of all mankind.

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.

Ecclesiastes 7:2

I was surprised this week when I was reminded that even in the middle of our beloved Christmas scriptures we have a paragraph heading: “Slaughter of the Innocents (Matthew 2:16-18).” DEATH IS EVERYWHERE. It doesn’t discriminate: Rich or poor, young or old, it’s coming. It is our universally cruel, unquenchable, unstoppable enemy.

But there’s good news!  And it has to do with Baby Jesus, born to die–not only just like all of us–but for all of us.  The Enemy that has been swallowing up our loved ones for millennia needed to be defeated.  And only the perfect Creator of Life himself would be powerful enough to accomplish that. God–our loving Father–chose a terrible destiny for His Son in order to rescue us from ours.  Jesus overcame the grave. He conquered death for us. He is the way to life after death! He told us he was going to do it. He did it. And then he raised from the grave to prove it!  

That is something worth celebrating even in our darkest days. So Merry Christmas!

I apologize if this seems like too morbid a post for the holidays.  But I know many people find it difficult to have a holly jolly Christmas because they are deeply sad or grieving.  I hope it helped to discuss death, grief, and hope in the context of Christmas and the victory that Jesus won for us because he was willing to be born to die.  

(1) Did you know that just 100 years ago, ten percent of babies in the United States died before age one (100 per 1000 live births). In 2016 that rate had fallen to under 6 per 1000!  Thank God that this tragedy is befalling fewer and fewer families all the time.  (Source: cdc.gov).

Nailing Christmas

©LLB Images 2016

Christmas is coming!

For some readers that announcement provokes nostalgic sentiments and joy so tangible we feel it wrap around us like a soft blanket.  For others, a dread—a cynical, stressed-out and guilty dread—settles over our hearts like a winter fog even while we tell ourselves we should be, “in the Christmas Spirit,” whatever that means.

For most, the approach of Christmas brings an emotional concoction of both extremes.  We know Christmas should be a time of joy but we also admit that in reality, in our homes, it will be a time of added strain.

As Christians, this conflict can be exacerbated by the many platitudes that remind us that Christmas is no regular holiday.  For us, it is a Holy Day: celebrating the coming of our Savior and everything that has meant for us: our redemption, our renewal, our resurrection.

  • Jesus is the reason for the season
  • Keep Christ in Christmas
  • Wise Men still seek Him
  • It’s not about the presents–it’s about His Presence

And on and on it goes. We see these reminders on our social media feeds, on quaint rustic home decor and on bumper stickers in the church parking lot.  These words may function as a guilt trip reinforcing that we aren’t doing Christmas right. We know it’s all supposed to be about Jesus. He really is the reason for the season.  It really is our responsibility as parents to make Christmas less about the presents and more about His presence…but there are just so many forces at work to distract us from what really matters.  The spirit may be willing, but…still.

Is it even possible in the midst of Black Friday sales and company parties and white elephant gift exchanges and school holiday music concerts to make time to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way?  When outside expectations pressure us to have a perfect Christmas, can we really give our families a purposeful Christmas?

What if we didn’t have to conclude each Christmas season feeling like we failed it. What if when December 26 rolled around we could all collectively smile and sigh, “Nailed it.”

It hasn’t been perfect but I want to share with you what our family has done to intentionally focus on Jesus during very busy seasons of life.  We have raised four children less than five years apart.  We later added two adopted brothers to the mix.  We have been as busy as anyone at Christmastime.  But we have continued this one simple practice during the many years of elementary school parties, church pageants, basketball seasons, high school show choir extravaganzas and now the college years. We have created a tradition that continues to give our celebration significance.

I want to give your family a simple template to nail Christmas year after year.  It’s a simple tool that will help your family build a foundation for Christmas that could last for generations.  

The basic framework for Nailing Christmas is the Family Meeting.  Click to learn more…

Nailing Christmas consists of holding a couple of family meetings thoughout the Christmas season.  You are in control–you decide how many meetings, how often you hold the meetings, etc.  Our family does one each Sunday night for four weeks leading up to Christmas.

If you’ve decided Nailing Christmas is something you’d like to try with your family, more information will be available with future blog posts. 

Click here to continue with the next in the Nailing Christmas series.

Thomas, Marissa, Loretta, Jake, Jeremy, Alex, & Lizzy ©LLB Images 2017

Family Meetings

family meetings.jpg

Family Meetings have been a staple in our household.  We have gathered around our table or around the fireplace throughout the years to accomplish a lot of family business.   Anyone in the family is free to call and lead a family meeting at any time. The agendas for the meetings have been quite various:

  • What are we doing this weekend?
  • Let’s plan a family trip
  • There’s an upcoming home improvement project–and what this means for you
  • How do we not spend our entire summer vacation staring at screens?
  • How to change the toilet paper roll
  • Why aren’t people waking up on time?
  • Giving good news–or bad news
  • Let’s talk about adoption
  • How are we doing upholding our family values?

Some of our family’s most important moments and memories have occurred during the course of a family meeting.  We have laughed and cried together as we announced the births and deaths of loved ones, empowered our kids to research their preferred potential vacation activities, taught practical life skills, discussed assorted Bible topics and made major life decisions.

This tool has been a helpful way to keep our whole family feeling informed and unified and loved. It has been a powerful way to bring scripture to daily life application. And it has been a means of really getting to know one another’s individual strengths, preferences, ideas, and goals.

There are three important tips we’ve found for having successful family meetings:

Be Concise

Be concise doesn’t necessarily mean keep it within a particularly short time frame.  It may mean that—but it doesn’t have to.  It just means don’t make it loooooong.  Don’t lecture.   Be aware if your kids are losing interest and wrap it up.  As a parent, you never want to sound like the teacher in Charlie Brown.  When your children are small, their attention spans are also small.  As your kids get older, you may need to be sensitive to their homework load for the night. Make it last just the right amount of time.  Leave them wishing for more not wishing it were over.

Be Inclusive

Ever notice how every group has one person who likes to monopolize the conversation? In your family, you already know who I’m talking about.  They like the limelight and they steal the thunder. As the leader of your family meeting, you have the opportunity to give everyone a turn to participate equally according to their ability.  Pray to become even more aware of the personalities of your kids and try to help draw out the quieter ones to feel involved and included.  This is a great way to teach about personality differences and how to be a healthy team.  Learning to be quiet and listen as well as learning to be confident and speak up are life lessons best learned first in the safety of the home.

Be Positive

Our kids have always been excited to assemble when a family meeting gets called. Some of our family meetings have been just plain fun but some have been called specifically for times of loss or instruction or correction.  If the only time we called the family together was for something bad, then I doubt the kids’ reaction would still be so eager. But even for the “downers,” we always tried to end on a positive note.  A prayer, an encouraging verse, a group hug, a word of praise from Dad.  Make them glad they can trust you to lead the family and make them glad they have each other.  If your family has been struggling lately with…with any of the things families struggle with…disrespectful attitudes, poor time management, ingratitude, etc. it may be time for a meeting. But use your discernment.  It may be time for one of those corrective meetings.  But it also may be time to just play some Twister or go out for ice cream or do something together just for the fun of it.

Life is hard and family life is complicated. Family meetings can help.  I hope this encourages your family to reap the benefits from these times of togetherness like mine has.  Why not call a family meeting tonight?