Throwback Thursday: Benediction Wall

25 09 2014

In our youth group, it was a tradition to close each gathering by saying together the Priestly Benediction from the book of Numbers. So when we began contemplating how to personalize our youth space (particularly, the ugly, bare wall in the hallway), we quickly became attached to the idea of using this Scripture in a prominent way. We wanted our decorations to reflect the spirit of our youth group and somehow emphasize the sense of community that we wanted all of our youth to experience.

We ended up making a community art piece based on the words of the benediction!  I scheduled this project for the beginning of the school year, so it was a great way to teach new students the benediction, and to remind returning students why these words were so important to us. We happened to have some scrap beadboard lying around, so that became our canvas. (Be creative with your materials, and take a look at what you already have! We could just as easily have used foamboard, plywood, newsprint, or even plain old construction paper!) Some of our youth boys came up to the church the week before and cut the beadboard into 28 same-sized rectangles.

On the night of the project, we began with a brief Bible study on the Numbers passage. We talked about what the word “benediction” means and looked at several passages from the Bible that demonstrated giving and receiving blessings. Students signed up for a letter from the first line of the benediction and were tasked with painting their letter onto their piece of beadboard. The only rule was that their letter had to be big and bold enough to stand out from whatever background they designed. At the end of the night, we put the verse together, and eventually we were able to hang the whole piece up in the Youth Wing:

2014-02-27 16.12.41

I love the finished product. Paul tells us that we, who are many, are made one in Christ; each of us has been given gifts by the Holy Spirit to contribute to the body of Christ. Likewise, each letter is unique, representing the efforts and ideas of each youth in the group. Yet they come together to proclaim one, singular message:

May the Lord bless you and keep you
May the Lord make His face to shine upon you
And be gracious unto you.

May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you
And give you peace. Amen.

Reading Round-Up: Babies, Blogs, the Book Bazaar

22 09 2014

I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy today to share some of my favorite reads of the past month!


Friday Night Meatballs: How To Change Your Life with Meatballs (at Serious Eats. Thanks, Jana!)

“Starting next Friday, we’re cooking up a pot of spaghetti and meatballs every Friday night and sitting down at the dinner table as a family — along with anyone else who’d like to join us. Friends, neighbors, relatives, clients, Facebook friends who’d like to hang out in real life, travelers passing through: you are welcome at our table.”

6 Things the Happiest Families Have In Common (at The Week)

“We basically ask three questions. What worked well this week, what didn’t work well this week, and what will we agree to work on in the week ahead?”

Eat, Sleep, Pray: Spiritual Practices with Newborns (at Red Letter Christians. Thanks, Britney!)

 “Scripture’s full of stories of God feeding us. Manna from heaven and bread from the table. John’s resurrection story of Jesus feeding his friends –with fish, then forgiveness — and asking them to do the same. It matters how we feed others.”

Life Among the Bus-Riders: A Window on My City (at Red Letter Christians)

“You watch a man in his work clothes pull the cable for his stop at Olive Street where he departs with two kids, a bag of laundry, and two boxes of food. And you think, ‘It takes someone real smart to navigate fare change, daycare pickup, grocery shopping, and bus schedules all at once.'”

In Print:

 The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen

Over the past year, Nouwen has become one of my favorite authors, so when I saw this slim paperback on sale for one dollar at our local Book Bazaar, I quickly snatched it up. In this book, Nouwen explores Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son (as well as the original parable) from several different angles. As with many of Nouwen’s works, you can read the words of this book in an afternoon, and then spend a lifetime trying to internalize their message.


On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Buckman

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey S. Karp

Both of these books came highly recommended to us as we prepared for parenthood. We have friends who classify themselves as hardcore “Babywise moms” and others who swear by Karp’s “5 Ss.” During a few particularly fussy nights, I found myself reaching for and rereading both books.  Neither has all the answers, but both have wisdom (and specific, practical tips) to share. I have appreciated the breastfeeding advice and sample schedules of Babywise, and have been able to successfully implement the calming techniques of Happiest Baby. As with any parenting advice or philosophy, the trick is finding out what works for our baby — which, I’m discovering, is an ever-evolving process!



Throwback Thursday: Chalkboard Altar

18 09 2014

Chalkboard paint has been ubiquitous in the crafting world for several years.  The ultimate DIY supply, it can spruce up and personalize anything…from tabletops to wine glasses.

Two years ago, we decided to redo the altar in our youth room, using — you guessed it — chalkboard paint. The project itself was simple. We already had a wooden altar, and we just painted it with three coats of paint.

After that, the possibilities were endless!

Altar1Notice the mirrors on the wall? 

Wondering what you could do with a chalkboard altar? Here are just a few ideas to spark your creativity:

Altar21. Distribute copies of a Scripture passage. Ask students to write or draw the images or words that stand out to them the most. (In the photo at left, students responded to Hebrews 13:15-16)

2. Collaborate with the budding artists in your youth group ahead of time, and invite them to create an original backdrop to enhance your upcoming series or worship service.

3. Collect prayer requests by encouraging students to write down the names of people whom they would like to pray for.

4. Write out a simple Bible verse, and lead students in a Word Association Prayer.

Altar45. Pose a question to your students, and ask them to answer it on the altar.  (In the photo at right, we asked students about something they wanted to say “no” to. On the other side of the altar, not pictured, they illustrated what they wanted to say “yes” to.)

6. Divide students into groups, and assign them each a section from a longer passage of Scripture. Have them illustrate the passage, storyboard style, with each group in charge of one panel.

7. Set up an ongoing prayer station, where students can freely come to write or draw whatever is on their heart.

8. Cover the altar in chalk, and explore the spiritual practice of erasing. Might be a great object lesson to teach about forgiveness!

How else could you use a chalkboard altar??


Safety, CNN, and a Bigger Vision

13 09 2014

My baby’s world is getting bigger.

At birth, his field of vision was only about 10 inches long. And by the time he reaches three months, he’ll be able to see all the way across the room. But today, at seven weeks old, he is stuck in that awkward, in-between stage, trying to make sense of his ever-expanding world.

Earlier this week, he noticed the mobile in his room for the first time. He stared intently up in the air, transfixed by the swirling letters. And he is befriending the ceiling fans in all the rooms of our house, looking up at them and cooing with delight.

But awareness comes with a price. For the first few weeks, he could sleep through anything. This week, however, he began waking up to the slightest sound. Our dog’s barking scared him, causing him to cry inconsolably. Read the rest of this entry »