Pi day 3.14 … are you excited for next year?!

Woot, woot! It’s that time of year again! π  Day is every March 14th (3.14, get it?! Love it!?).

Last year we had a fun π  Week, but this year I thought I’d dial it back to build up the anticipation for NEXT YEAR, the Ultimate π Day! Why, you might ask? Pi is 3.141592… making next year 3.14.15! I know, I know, throughout history many have lived, but will not have the joy of living through the ultimate π day. Only one more year, people. Only one more year!


In case you’re a bit rusty on math, π comes from taking the circumference of a circle and dividing it by its diameter.  π never stops, never repeats, is irrational (in the mathematical sense, not emotionally), you always see something different and it is quite mysterious.  Is that not a beautiful description of God? That every single circle literally radiates the glory and majesty of God is, simply, breath taking.

Stop and just glance around you, how many circles do you see? I see them in

the opening of a vase
the base of my timer
the top of a small table
the power chord plug for my computer
wall clock
my pen
a plate

Each item mentioned contains π. Can’t help it. Can’t stop it. Every single circle holds infinity. Meditate on that today! A stop light? Not just one, but three circles declaring the glory of their Maker. A meal, don’t even get me going with all of the circles.


To help with Pi fun, I’ve got resources from previous Pi days, and a few new ones.


  • Pi songs! – two fun pi songs. One sings Pi’s value and the others plays Pi based on do=1, re=2, mi=3. Both are AWESOME.

This video is hosted by Danica McKellar (of the Wonder Years) and has a fun rendition of “Dance of the Sugar Pi Fairies.” Thanks to my sister Laura for sharing it with me!


  • Pi cartoons!  – last year the two favorites of my students: “mind blown” (wish you could have heard the gasps!) and Pi’s full name. Thanks to my friend LeAnne for sharing the following morsel with me!


To prime the pump, I’ll share previous submissions.

not just for shapes


Three year olds
Make me smile




Life springs from
Joys and sorrows



Can’t wait to hang out with you in the comments! What did you think of the Sugar Pi Fairies? The pi songs are stunning, no?! And the cartoons and jokes never get old! Add a new Pi-ku! Look at all the fun Pi offers :). Thank you God for your fun creative hand seen in this aspect of your creation! Amen and amen.

A love story told in broken bones {vintage}

 Last year I wrote Valentine’s Day is for everyone {said the single gal}. The post below first appeared two years ago on Valentine’s Day, but it was written several months before on an airplane as I flew back to the US five days after hearing my dad had fallen and broke his hip {thankfully I already had a trip to the U.S. scheduled to present at a professional conference}. It seems fitting to repost it today

He had broken numerous bones throughout his life, most coming with a fairly entertaining story. I mean how many second graders do you know who got a C- in penmanship because of two broken arms? The first broken while roller skating and the second, days later, walking the dog? Or the night he slid into second base trying to help his co-workers beat the other team, and broke his ankle. His teammates counseled him to apply heat and keep walking on it, much to the chagrin of his wife and the doctor when it was properly cast the following morning. Or how about the time he broke his ribs snowmobiling with a buddy? If you’re going to break bones, that’s the way to do it, in nature and with a good story!

when love enters a story

How quickly on a January night two years ago the story took a turn. The older tales still hold their own in the retelling, but on that night a line was drawn. A line, not to be feared or dreaded, nevertheless, a line that says the story is now different.

On that cold night his leg was broken with a double spiral break in the same place it had been thirty years before. The following months took a lot out of his wife and she told him that the next broken bone would be cared for by another wife. And he knew she meant it. As much as one means it when you know you’ll never leave but please remember that what you do effects me too.

And this is what love can do when it enters the story: it can change everything.

Out of love for his wife he started working on his balance to try and avoid future falls. He hired a trainer at the local gym and regularly worked on core strength and balance. He invested time, money, and effort because he knew his broken bones didn’t just alter his life, they altered hers as well.

Paul wrote about love in his letter to the Corinthians. It’s often used at weddings, and while weddings are an appropriate place to talk about love, there was so much more that Paul was getting at! Just before he starts to wax poetic on love being patient and kind, he set the scene of a community being tugged and pulled in different directions (see I Corinthians 12).  Like a coach at a crucial point in the game, Paul steps in and calls a time out. He refocuses them as to how love acts and what love does for another. He reminds them (and us) that love needs to enter a story afresh because it has the ability to change the trajectory.

It’s more than feelings, it’s something we do. Often at personal cost, but also with an eye for others and the impact we have on them. Love is patient and kind. It hires a personal trainer and works on core strength.

Love entering a story doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen or people won’t fall or bones won’t break. Recently more bones were broken.  But because he loved her enough to give her the gift of removing the what-if’s with his tangible and faithful investment – What if you had done more or tried harder? –she loved him by supporting without (too many) comments.

No, love can’t promise that bad things won’t happen. But when love enters a story we can bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things. Love never fails.


Linking with The Grove at Velvet Ashes

photo credit Anggie via Lightstock

Has your soul felt it’s worth?

When I was a child one of the holiday traditions my sisters and I had was to make eyes at each other and stifle giggles during the Christmas Eve Service. The same woman annually sang O Holy Night with so much vibrato girls bordered on embarrassing parents. The tradition also involved the annual LOOK of “stop it right now or you will not live to see another day and don’t forget I love you but I am not kidding.”

Unfortunately I never really focused on the words because in my mind, all I heard was high pitched vibrato.

Oh holy night!

The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt it’s worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

The soul felt its worth

What a pitch perfect rendition of the Good News. Long lay the world in sin and error pinning. Even though we live this side of the cross, we still have seasons of pinning for God. Longing for an answer. At times so burdened by the weight of sin and error.

Til he appeared and soul felt it’s worth. The good news isn’t we won’t go to hell (though it’s true) or join a rich faith tradition (true too!). No, the good news is God cared so much he longed to return us to our Eden State of knowing our worth to him. The extent to which he loved us. To see ourselves the way God sees us. To know our worth.

A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices. Rejoices. Re-joy! Again… joy!

May your soul know it’s worth this year. May you experience a thrill pass through your soul and rejoice.

It is indeed a holy time.


The book club I’ve been leading for Velvet Ashes has concluded our first book, Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift, a Christmas devotional. Pop over and enjoy the discussions in the comment section (I do love a good book chat!). It would make a good Christmas Evening read :)

Christmas Gift for you: Best Christmas Advice (that won’t cost you a time, but will still cost).

Merry Christmas! Amy

P.S. a Messy Middle newsletter will be coming soon. If you haven’t already, please subscribe on the right hand of the blog where is says Newsletter and a free book. The newsletter won’t be on the blog.

Has there been a moment you felt your worth these past few days?

Seasonal Expectations (and not getting bit in the behind)

In my former job, I spent a considerable amount of time talking to folks new to China about their expectations. We looked under this rock and that rock. What do you expect your role to be? How do you think God will use or grow you? What do you expect from folks back home? What do you expect your interactions with the locals to be like? We’d look at scenario after scenario.  Week after week, brick upon brick we looked at our expectations.

One of the anchoring quotes for the discussions was:

Expectations need to be recognized, evaluated and either discarded or committed to work on for progress. Expectations and Burnout by Eeningenburg and Bliss (Don’t you love that Bliss wrote a book on expectations?!)

Like a broken record, I’d say, having expectations isn’t the problem, it’s unexamined expectations that can bite us in the behind.

Setting Season Expectations

Expectations can be seasonal

St Augustine said, “Christmas is fast approaching. And now that Christ has aroused our seasonal expectations, he’ll soon fulfill them all!”

At first glance, I loved this quote. Yes, yes! I do have seasonal expectations and I so enjoy this season! But then I slowed down and reread the part about Christ arousing the seasonal expectations and I realized only some of my seasonal expectations are rooted in unadulterated Christ (is my love of Christmas lights really pointing to Christ? How about all of the Christmas ornaments that point to memories of trips or experiences?).

And that part about how Christ will fulfill them all. I don’t think his great goal of this season is that I have pretty snow while I’m drinking Chai and looking at the tree. I also don’t think he’s opposed to these types of experiences.

St. Augustine has helped me to slow down and examine what it means to have seasonal expectations and where they might be located.  Why do we celebrate Christmas? As a Christian, it is the birth of Jesus who came as the ultimate sacrifice to set us free to be more fully human, in stronger relationship with the triune God, and to be shiny, not tarnished, image bearers.

I have gone back and forth on how to organize these thoughts, with so much over lapping existing, it’s like a big venn diagram in my head.

Do we look at the areas we can have expectations and categorize them as good or bad? Helpful or not so much?

Do we think in terms of “inside the church” and “outside the church” and what we expect in each arena?

Do we focus on what we expect from activities and rituals that foster relationships and memories? {Which I do think is part of what Christ arouses in us this time of year.}

At this point I want to throw my hands up and say ARGHHHHHHH. Due to the mini-family crisis I mentioned last week I don’t feel like I’m organizing my thoughts clearly. If you’re expecting deep insights, sorry to disappoint :). If you’re expecting me to just show up, offer what I can, and receive from you, we’re in the messy middle, eh?!

When it comes to seasonal expectations, Christ does arouse within us the desire to connect with memories and people. And to remember that he came to bring hope and salvation. To join us in a bigger story. And the beauty comes in the variety and the ebb and flow over time in how we remember and join in the story. Our family story involves fig pudding, tamales, ornaments, and Christmas books. And one person’s obsessions with lights and other people’s normal enjoyment of them. {I am the one.}

Form over function.

Our greatest disappointments often come when we focus too much on the forms. It has to look like this. And miss the function. Am I reminded of the mystery of God becoming human? Am I connecting to people? Am I resisting certain cultural messages that say our value is measured in things, while looking for ways to connect to people?

What expectations do I need to recognize in order to evaluate it and potentially discard or update or implement as is?

The Christmas season can be a bit like walking through a landmine, wondering where an explosion is hidden. It doesn’t have to be this way. By setting more realistic expectations –maybe lowering some of your expectations and for the more cynical, maybe raising them—focusing less on stuff and more on people, St. Augustine is right. Christ can fulfill them all.

What is a unique tradition in your family during the Christmas Season?

Linking with The Grove. Word prompt: Expectation

Expecation small

10 ways to be unproductive {but happy} at Christmas

I hit a small wall last week with the amount of tips out there on how to be more productive. With the new year around the corner, I fear we’re only just beginning the goal setting, productivity tips, YOU CAN DO AND BE MORE, phase our liturgical productivity calendar. 

Who says productivity is all it’s cracked up to be? I’m a disciplined person and like lists, don’t get me wrong. But enough, ok, enough!

Has the paradox of Christmas taught us nothing? I have a feeling how we view productivity is not how God does.

10 ways

Here are 10 ways to be unproductive in the traditional sense:

1. Sit in the dark and look at Christmas lights. Better yet, lay on the floor and look up at them.

2. Eat a cookie or some other holiday treat guilt free.

3. Look at the world through the eyes of a three-year-old. Can you imagine how much more fun we’d have if we got excited about the little things of life? Family coming?! SO EXCITING. Hot chocolate? Is there anything more delicious to drink?

4. Read a children’s Christmas book, complete with voices. Fun with a child, true. But children are not required for this to be unproductively productive. I wrote about nine children’s books I love.

5. Light a candle and watch the flame flicker. Let your mind and soul rest.

6. Conjure up a happy childhood Christmas memory. Sit and enjoy it. Maybe share it with someone.

7. Ask an elderly relative about Christmas when they were a kid.

8. Read Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory or Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol.

9. Sing Christmas carols out loud.

10. Recall getting one of your Christmas trees and call to reminisce with someone who was there.


Which of these will you do today? Anyone else a little gagged at productivity talk?

photo credit:  Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton

How to make Thanksgiving more practice than production

Whether your table looks like this


a picture off the internet all pretty-pretty and perfect or not– may the Lord bless you and keep you and yours.

Saturday I was at an indoor water park and as I stood in line to go down a water slide I looked at the tattoo of the man in front of me. It had a lot of numbers and it took my brain longer than it should have to process “something something 87 — 2.2.2013.”

I asked the man if he was memorializing someone. Clearly he was, but it was the best I could muddle together standing there dripping water. He was, his brother. The hardest thing he’d ever faced, he said, this unexpected death.

Firsts can be exciting, as in baby’s first Christmas. They can also be disorienting when loss is involved as we stumble and fumble towards a new normal. I’m thankful the man in front of me marked his body in such a way that I knew a little bit about his heart. In front of him was a boy about age 10, son, nephew, friend, I don’t know. Rarely does life fall in one clear category of being all sorrow or all joy as this man was now thinking of his brother and laughing with the boy. A metaphor of life. Of the messiness of life.

Today I’m over at Velvet Ashes (and if you missed it, the book club started earlier this week!) sharing about one of my holiday “firsts” as I was met and a new normal established.


Packages began to arrive with paper turkeys, pumpkins, and pilgrims. If you thought The First Thanksgiving was a production, you should have seen the culture lecture Erin and I put on for our students. Naive and energetic, we wrote skits, required practices, and learned more facts than I’ll ever need this side of Jeopardy. (Speedwell, anyone, anyone?! How about this one, 51 dead?!)

But Thanksgiving is more than a production, it’s a practice. A discipline really. A slowing down and feasting together. A remembering of how great is Thy faithfulness.

A few problems arose when it came to the discipline and ritual behind creating that space. First, we had not yet gotten over the meat market traumatization our first week and the only food we had perfected was frying potatoes. So, eating more fried potatoes didn’t feel special, it felt like survival. Next problem, … continue reading here.

With gratitude

as joy and sorrows are mingled together, Amy


Related article: So constantly enjoyed I’m prone to forget

Photo cc on Flickr

So constantly enjoyed I am prone to forget

The last two weeks I’ve been teaching Abraham Lincoln’s first Thanksgiving Day Proclamation to Chinese graduate students and visiting scholars at Denver University.

Written in 1863 when the U.S. was still in the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln points to a bigger picture:

To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

Beautiful! But a bit tricky in a second language (you know me, I tend to just dive into the deep end. But the students enjoyed it).

The line that’s sticking out is so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget.

If something is so constantly enjoyed I am prone to forget it, I decided I needed to tune in and name 100 of the constant blessings. Ten just seemed too shallow and 1,000 absurd (thank you for my left pinky, my left ring finger, my left middle finger).

Would you like to know what’s embarrassing? I swim in blessing, but this list didn’t just flow out of me. I’m thankful I made this list. Just as Adam and God sat down together to name the animals, I sensed God prodding me and bringing to mind the constancy of my blessing. There is power in naming.

Thanksgiving 2013

Group ONE

  1. Air
  2. Sight – I can SEE
  3. I can hear
  4. My nieces smile when they see me
  5. Good hair
  6. Taste buds
  7. Funky glasses
  8. Friends who support me
  9. Ability to Zumba (not everyone can, just saying)
  10. The variety of the seasons

Group TWO

  1. Ability to smell
  2. Running water
  3. Indoor plumbing
  4. Shoes
  5. I can read!
  6. Books!
  7. Libraries
  8. I’m not afraid to go outside my home
  9. I can feel pain (thank you Yancey for your book pointing out this blessing)
  10. All my organs work!!! Life would be different if I didn’t have


  1. Functioning kidneys
  2. Lungs
  3. Liver
  4. Heart
  5. Brain
  6. Blood
  7. Stomach
  8. Small and large intestine
  9. Bladder and other very helpful bits on my insides. I rarely think about them
  10. The ability to drive

Group FOUR

  1. Not being harassed by police
  2. Laundry done relatively easily
  3. Refrigerated food
  4. I live when Diet Coke was invented
  5. Knowing how to make tortillas, but not having too
  6. Good relationships with my sisters (even when they roll their eyes at me, they know they 98% find me endearing)
  7. Being educated
  8. And the freedom to have pursued different degrees over the years
  9. Friends who have known me for decades!
  10. The amount of people who got to visit me in China

Group FIVE

  1. Growing up in a loving home – not abused in any sense. Blessing!
  2. Knowing each of my four grandparents – I can still hear their voices in my head.
  3. Scars in my body that remind me of a life lived and that I didn’t stay on the sidelines
  4. Fresh fruit and vegetables
  5. Much beyond my elementary school imagination, there are better things in life than getting the Denver Broncos pencil after sticking your coin in the slot and dreaming BIG. Still, those pencils were pretty cool!
  6. Getting to attend college when my team won the National Championship in basketball
  7. Ability to walk!
  8. No broken limbs or illnesses
  9. Not having a stalker (I did once and it was creepy)
  10. Not caring what people think when I sing the national anthem at sporting events.

Group SIX

  1. Knowing I can kill mice IF I HAVE to, but not needing those skills in years!! Woot, woot!
  2. Parents who lived out the name they gave me – beloved. I know I am by them
  3. Blue skies
  4. Not living with rationing – I truly have little idea of what it’s like to go without (and not having easy access to chocolate chips isn’t what I’m talking about)
  5. My humor … I forget not everyone has as good of a time as I do
  6. My ankles, I like them
  7. My nose
  8. My memory – no Ground Hog’s Day here! And I can build on where I’ve been
  9. Sheets!! When I first moved to China, sheets weren’t unheard of and I hadn’t thought to pack them. I slept for years on what were essentially beach towels. But now I have sheets every night!
  10. And a good pillow


  1. The third earring hole in my left ear – my friend Kim and I shared the price of piercing and now I have a constant reminder of our friendship
  2. My second earring hole reminds me my dad cares about me and feared it would be the first step towards become a punk rocker and going down a dark path. But I didn’t! And here I am, two holes and no drug demons to battle.
  3. People let me speak into their lives
  4. Electricity
  5. I own a computer and other electronics that allow me to do my job and relate to people
  6. Pets when I was a kid – you can’t take those memories from me
  7. Road trips! And parents who loved to go on them
  8. Medical care around me that I trust – for me and my family members
  9. I like myself
  10. Nature that feeds my soul


  1. I can feel all of my fingers and toes
  2. Many more kind words spoken to me than harsh
  3. Inside jokes that point to a collective history
  4. Little girls crawling in my lap
  5. Going to the store and not worrying if I can pay for what I need
  6. Mostly good smells
  7. A gym membership
  8. Hot showers any time of the day
  9. Freedom to worship God
  10. Ability to do simple math in my head

Group NINE

  1. My overall life – I didn’t die 16 years ago
  2. Toothpaste and brush to make it easy to clean my teeth
  3. Heat in the winter and AC in the summer
  4. Easy ability to transport myself
  5. A wide range of ages in my life
  6. I can sing decently and read music
  7. Window (natural light!)
  8. Framed photos around me – small stones of remembrance of people and events
  9. Children’s art work –reminding me that time passes and to enjoy “this” phase (whatever it may be)
  10. Nice smelling shampoo

Group TEN

  1. Comfortable furniture (and my saga/couch trilogy/obsession told here, here, and here)
  2. A cell phone
  3. Morning cups of tea
  4. Enough clothes
  5. Friends from and in many countries
  6. Privilege
  7. Regular meals
  8. Sleep – I have troubles sleeping, but truth be told, I get enough to function
  9. Reminders of truth
  10. Reminders of grace

:). The end.

Grace and peace, Amy



A blessing for Father’s Day

A common blessing by the Levites is recorded in Numbers 6:22-27 and adapted here. Just as the Lord asked Moses, Aaron, and the Levites to bless the people, we as a part of the royal priesthood want to bless the men in our midst.

Father's Day

The Lord bless you, and keep you

When it’s easy to see the blessing in the birth of a healthy child, a steady paycheck, the start of something new and exciting – and when it’s more challenging. Even if this has been a year of loss, heartache or despair, may you see and sense the ways you have been kept.

We ask for the Lord’s blessing on you today and every day.

The Lord make His face shine on you,

May you sense the ways in which God’s face shines upon you at the mere thought of you. The delight of God when he sees you working hard for those you love, making honorable choices with your words, your time, your money, and your relationships. And when your life is not so “shine-on-able,” may you have those in your life that you can turn towards, knowing where true help comes from.

We ask for the Lord to shine His face on you today and every day.

And be gracious to you;

As the Lord has been gracious to you, may he use you to be instruments of grace in our lives as well. May you have patience to put up with us on those days when it is hard, in those moments we are annoying, or when we interrupt you from doing your own thing.

We ask for the Lord to be gracious to you today and every day.

The Lord turn his face towards yours,

This year may the Lord continue to show Himself to you through many channels. May you see Him at work in nature, in the arts, in children, in the work of your hands and head, in his word, and through your significant relationships.

We ask for the Lord to lift up His countenance upon you today and every day.

And give you peace.

Peace in your heart, in your home, in your work place, in your relationships, with your finances, peace in your stage of life. Peace.

We ask for the Lord to give you peace today and every day.

Men and future men, today we ask that the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.



p.s. Answers to Three truths and a lie Monday China time.

10 ideas for pastors on Father’s Day

Dear Pastor,

Here we are a year after the infamous  letter I wrote to you. I, inadvertently though willingly, have become a go-to person to share ideas for Mother’s Day and recently some of your co-laborers have contacted me asking for Father’s Day resources. The two holidays have some significant cross overs, but one is known more for honoring and one for shaming.

I believe this hasn’t been your intention, to shame men on Father’s Day. But it’s happened before (in other churches not yours, no doubt) and some men are a bit leery to cross the threshold of your door. We’re on the same page here, we want them welcomed, ministered to and pointed towards God while in your midst.

As I said with my 10 ideas for Mother’s Day, let me preface these ideas with the reminder that you are the expert on your flock, I’m not! Not all of these ideas will work in your context, they are merely suggestions (can you see I’m a bit gun shy on what might show up in the comment section :)). Take, use, discard. I am for you and this list is intended as a resource.

In the service you could:

1. Focus on scripture. If you’ve been preaching a series, keep going. If your church is one that follows the liturgical calendar, follow that. We’ve come to hear from and worship God.

2. Preach/teach on what it means to honor our mothers and fathers.  Honoring parents was a common theme in the comment section of the Mother’s Day post, but what does that mean when your parent isn’t in church with you? Or when your parent isn’t easy to honor? Or they have now passed? You’ve been given a rich opportunity to teach on this subject!

3. Preach/teach on the Imago Dei and the ways that fathering reflects God. As Sarah Ruden says, “love is manically verb centered.” So is fathering. Active verbs show the heart of an active God. Providing, instructing, protecting, disciplining, coaching, serving, calming, enjoying, challenging, teaching, entertaining, worrying over, learning from, guiding, playing with, rescuing and the list could go on. One of the great joys in life is watching my brother-in-law delight in his children. In him (and my own father), I see a picture of the way God delights in us and allows men to reflect that aspect of Him.

4. Mention fathers and fathering in the pastoral prayer. Here is a sample Father’s Day prayer.

5. Have a special prayer time or time of blessing for dads. Resources include: A blessing for Father’s Day

6. Recognize the broad spectrum of fathering. A friend’s brother was recently left unexpectedly by his wife who took their young daughter with her. I’m picturing this man who would like nothing more than to see his family healed and restored; but on this day he is awakening to an empty house and there will be no dear young arms hugging him or young lips kissing his face. He is but one of many for whom this Father’s Day is different from years past.

In your flock you will have those:

  • who are faithful husbands and fathers (!)
  • who found out years later of children they never knew who were aborted (and they wonder about them today)
  • who have regrets in the ways they parented
  • who became first time dads and RADIATE joy like the sun
  • who lost children or grandchildren this year and the ache is so profound words are inadequate
  • who walk the paths of infertility but are supposed to be “the strong one”
  • who aren’t providing for their families in ways that they want
  • who encouraged their children to be aborted
  • who had horrific fathers are doing the best that they can
  • who love fathering and walk honorably in the role
  • who are co-parenting and are not able to be with their children as much as they want
  • who are estranged from their children both relationally and physically
  • who lost their father this year and feel like orphans
  • who did not grow up with good fathers and it has impacted their view of God
  • who long to be husbands and dads, yet find themselves single
  • who are proud of the men and women their children have grown up to become

There will be step-fathers, fathers-in-law, adoptive fathers, biological fathers, foster fathers, spiritual fathers and mentors. David had his mighty men and we have mighty, brave men in our midst too!

Ideas for Sunday School Teachers

7. (from Carolyn Barnetta) Not all children live with or even know their fathers. Perhaps they are being raised by a single mom or grandparents. Talk personally with the custodial parent or guardian before next Sunday, and ask them how they want you to handle the situation with their child. If you are making a gift for fathers in class, ask the parent/guardian if they would like to have their child make the gift for a grandfather, step-father, friend, uncle, etc. Then, the custodial parent will have an opportunity to talk with their child during the week. It will keep you from having to deal with an awkward situation that might embarrass the child.

Three “avoids”

8. No shaming, please. Some men will stay away from church on Father’s Day not-so-much due to the standing thing (that seems to be a bigger deal on Mother’s Day) but because of the shaming thing. There seems to be a double standard of honoring mothers and shaming fathers on their respective days. There are places to call any one of us on ways that we are not honoring our callings (and yes, fatherhood can be a calling), but this is not the day for that message. Pick some time in October or February or really any day but this one.

9. No standing, please. Either for fathers or men. It’s kind of a no-win situation. Let’s side step this one (and by implementing the above ideas, fathers are acknowledged and honored!).

10. No reducing fathering to being about food. OK, this one isn’t so much for pastors as for family members. It was a bit disappointing to see how much Father’s Day is about the food (at least on the internet) — what snacks can kids make for dad? What’s the best BBQ techniques and tools. I get that it’s June, we like being outside, and hey, who doesn’t love a good BBQ. But fathering is about more than this one aspect of men (see — and celebrate — the above).

Again, thank you for serving and shepherding us day after day. And remember, it’s not all on you; much is in the ear of the hearer combined with the work of the Spirit. Knowing that Father’s Day seems to be more about the food (at least according to my simple internet research), I’m praying for you as are many others in your flock, as you spiritually feed us.

Grace and peace to you, my brother or sister,


10 ideas for pastors on Mother’s Day

Dear Pastor,

Here we are a year after the infamous  letter I wrote to you and the two follow-up posts: wondering what had just happened (clearly a nerve was struck) and learned lessons from all the folks commenting.  You might be wondering what’s up when you hear from me, and you wouldn’t be the only one! I, inadvertently, have become a go-to person to share ideas for Mother’s Day and wanted to pass on what I’ve learned.

Before we get to the ideas, let me preface it with the reminder that you are the expert on your flock, I’m not! Not all of these ideas will work in your context, they are merely suggestions (can you see I’m a bit gun shy on what might show up in the comment section :)). Take, use, discard. I am for you and this list is intended as a resource.

10 ideas for pastors

In the service you could:

1. Focus on scripture. If you’ve been preaching a series, keep going. If your church is one that follows the liturgical calendar, follow that. We’ve come to hear from and worship God.

2. Preach/teach on what it means to honor our mothers and fathers.  Honoring parents was a common theme, but what does that mean when your mom isn’t in church with you? Or when your parent isn’t easy to honor? Or they have now passed? You’ve been given a rich opportunity to teach on this subject!

3. Preach/teach on the Imago Dei and the ways that mothering reflects God. As Sarah Ruden says, “love is manically verb centered.” So is mothering. Active verbs show the heart of an active God.  Nurturing, instructing, protecting, disciplining, nursing, serving, calming, enjoying, challenging, teaching, cleaning, entertaining, worrying over, singing over, playing with and the list could go on.

4. Mention mothers and mothering in the pastoral prayer. Here is a sample Mother’s Day prayer.

5. Have a special prayer time or time of blessing for moms. Resources include: The wide spectrum of mothering and A prayer for parents and those who want to be.

6. Have a woman speak. One example comes from Linda Crites. When asked to speak at her church, she spoke about four kinds of mothers: “(1) people like me who became a birth mother quite young, not a life goal, just happened (2) my sister, who dreamed all of her life of having children (3) my friend Melissa who married a man who already had children and chose to not have children with him but help him raise his (4) a dear older woman who had no biological children but spent her life mentoring others.”

Ideas for Sunday School Teachers

7. (from Carolyn Barnetta) Not all children live with or even know their mothers. Perhaps they are being raised by a single dad or grandparents. Talk personally with the custodial parent or guardian before next Sunday, and ask them how they want you to handle the situation with their child. If you are making a gift for mothers in class, ask the parent/guardian if they would like to have their child make the gift for a grandmother, step-mother, friend, aunt, etc. Then, the custodial parent will have an opportunity to talk with their child during the week. It will keep you from having to deal with an awkward situation that might embarrass the child.

Three “avoids”

8. No standing, please. Either for mothers or women. It’s kind of a no-win situation. Some moms want special recognition and not to have the standing shared, other feel very uncomfortable standing. Some women are annoyed with they are commended for “mothering” but aren’t mothers. Let’s side step this one (and by implementing the above ideas, mothers are acknowledged and honored!).

9. No baby dedication on this day. Any other day, please dedicate those precious babies and children! We love them and need them and want them dedicated to the Lord (allowing the focus to be on the child being dedicated).

10. No handing out red or white flowers depending if your mom is alive or has died. The consensus was to leave flowers or other small gifts at the back or in a narthex or gathering area and allow people to get them. Chocolate seems to be a BIG hit, just fyi :).

Again, thank you for serving and shepherding us day after day. And remember, it’s not all on you; much is in the ear of the hearer combined with the work of the Spirit. Knowing that Mother’s Day is the third most attended day of the year, I’m praying for you as are many others in your flock.

Grace and peace to you, my brother or sister,


Photo credit: Cast a Line via flickr