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Sunday: Worship

Pray:  Begin by making the sign of the cross and calling upon God’s name.

From God to us, from death to life, from me to you …
in the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Lord God, as we gather together today help us to worship you with all our heart. Speak to us through the words of the Bible, that your story would become our story. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Listen: Pay close attention as these verses from the Bible are read aloud.

Psalm 51:1-2
You are kind, God! Please have pity on me. You are always merciful! Please wipe away my sins. Wash me clean from all of my sin and guilt. (CEV)

Engage: Talk about the Bible by having parents respond to children’s questions.

Child: When have you had pity on someone else? What does it mean for God to have pity on us?

Child: How do you know that God hears your prayers and forgives your sin? In what way can this comfort you when you feel weighed down with worry?

Affirm: Pray for God to put his Word into action in your daily life.

Lord God, in times of great faith and in times of doubt, hold us in your loving embrace. Give us courage to keep going forward in life, and rescue us from every trouble. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Have each person in the family bless one another with these words.

May the God who loves you bless you now and forever! Amen.

On the Same Page ...  Topical conversation starters to help parents stay "on the same page" with each other and their families. Download a print-friendly version of this article here: Dealing with Change

How do we live as Holy Families when dealing with change?

Change is difficult for us all and often gets more difficult as we get older. Even our children have difficulty handling change. The truth is that the only one who really enjoys change is a baby with a dirty diaper!

Change can be hard and unnerving even for the strongest of families. Regardless of whether the change is good, bad or indifferent, change has a tremendous impact on us. So how do Holy Families deal with change?

The first and most important thing is to look to God as the source of constancy in our lives. God is the one constant in our lives and in the world. Malachi 3:6a reminds us, “I the Lord do not change.” In a world that is ever changing, our God remains the same. Looking to God as the source and giver of life, remembering that he is the one who gives all good gifts, reminds us that we are not alone. He is our sure foundation as we weather any kind of change in our lives and in our families.

Secondly, we look for God in the midst of the thing that is actually changing. Whether it is good change or difficult change, change we have chosen or change that we did not choose, we look for God in the midst of the circumstances. The Holy Spirit is constantly present and at work in our families and in the details of our lives. God has something for each of us in every situation, season and transition. God can and will do a good work in us. We must look for where the Holy Spirit might be moving in the midst of the change we face and ask God to reveal that work to us.

Thirdly, we ask God for help in the midst of change. So often when we face change, we try to handle it on our own or we wait to go to God as the last resort. God is always with us and cares about every aspect of our lives. It is in seasons of transition and change that we often need God the most. Prayer is essential to our lives, and it is essential in times of transition, uncertainty and change. We can go to God with any thought, feeling, joy, worry or fear we have. God hears us, understands us and cares about us. He embraces us in love without condition.

Finally, we must trust God because he can be trusted in all things. Trust is our one great act and God does the rest. Change can be good, it can be hard or it can sometimes be indifferent, but it is a reality of life. Regardless of the type of change we face, God is with us in the midst of it and in every season of life.

Things to Pray and Talk About:

a) How do you feel about change? How do you think others feel about change?

b) What are some ways you can ask God to help you in the midst of change?

c) What can we do as a family to rely on God during change?

d) How does your faith in God impact how you think about and deal with change?

Asking for God’s Blessing:

God, we thank you that you never change. Your faithfulness endures forever, and your love never fails. Help us to look to you in the midst of any change we may face. Help us to listen to the movement of your Holy Spirit and to trust you in all seasons of life. Open our eyes, our hearts and our minds to what you have for us. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Holy Families! Initiative © Sola Publishing, 2017 (www. Permission granted to copy for congregational and home use.

On the Same Page ...  Topical conversation starters to help parents stay "on the same page" with each other and their families. Download a print-friendly version of this article here: Dealing with Competition

How do we live as Holy Families when we win or don’t win?

The society we live in is a paradox when it comes to winning, achievements, and success. On the one hand, we live in a very competitive culture where winning seems to be everything. This is reflected in the saying, “Second place is just first loser.” On the other hand however, children and young people are often rewarded simply for showing up, no matter the level of effort put in. As Holy Families it is our job to help our children navigate that dichotomy and make sense of the mixed messages of winning versus losing, and success versus failure.

Perhaps the problem arises from a faulty sense of success and failure. Talking to young people about the meaning of success is important because the world says success is: money, fame, notoriety, lots of possessions, only A’s in school, and so on. And yet many of us will never live up to that standard, and frankly even Jesus wouldn’t have met those criteria!

So what does our Lord Jesus say about what success looks like? For that we can go to the Beatitudes in Scripture:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5)

Jesus’ definition of success is to do God’s work and live by his will. Even when we
fail completely or if we come in first place, have we done it for the glory of God -- or our
own glory? Failure simply means getting up and trying again, as many times as it takes. Failure is an opportunity to grow, learn, develop, trust, and persevere. Failure is only failure if we give up and never try again. We can win with humility and we can lose with grace because we are children of God who loves us no matter if we are number one or last. This frees us to win, lose, and try again knowing that none of that defines us. What defines us God’s love for us.

Things to Pray and Talk About:

a) How do you look at winning and losing in your family? What messages do you send to your children about competition?

b) How do the beatitudes shape your understanding of what success is as people of
faith? How is that contrary to how the world defines success?

c) How do you teach your children that working hard is its own reward, rather than always expecting something in return for their efforts?

Asking for God's Blessing:

Loving God, your Son Jesus taught that we are blessed when we are humble and serving others in your name. Remind us that we don’t have to win or be the best at everything in order to gain your love and approval. Fill us with your Spirit that we would be thankful in all circumstances, both winning, losing, or just playing along. Amen.

Holy Families! Initiative © Sola Publishing, 2017 (www. Permission granted to copy for local use.

On the Same Page ...  Topical conversation starters to help parents stay "on the same page" with each other and their families. Download a print-friendly version of this article here: Dealing with Social Media

How do we live as Holy Families who use Social Media?

In the past 10 years, the use of social media by adults has gone from 7 percent of all adults in 2005 to more than 76 percent in 2015, according to Pew Research. Teenagers are also using social media in record numbers these days, which means that they need parental guidance on the benefits and dangers of having a public profile. Whether your favorite is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, it is very likely that you are using some kind of social media at least once a day. This usage is not likely to decrease in the future.

Because young people are concrete, in-the-moment thinkers, it is very hard for them to predict the consequences of their actions. The human brain continues to develop into an individual’s early 20s, and there are many situations that young people have yet to encounter and thus do not necessarily know how to handle. Situations that can arise in social media just might be one of those places as kids increasingly own tablets and smartphones where the Internet is just a swipe or click away.

As with any other aspect of family life, it is important to have a conversation about expectations. What do you expect out of your children when it comes to social media usage? Are there time limits that will be imposed? Do they need to “friend” you so you can see what they are saying? What about the posting of pictures or the kinds of information they can and cannot share?

Part of a conversation on expectations might include social media etiquette. How do we, as people of faith, treat others when we are online? No doubt we’ve all cringed in horror as one person has criticized or belittled another in full view of all their online friends. We can look to Martin Luther’s explanation to the Eighth Commandment for some guidance in this regard:

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not betray, slander, lie, or gossip about our neighbors, but defend them, speak well of them, and put the most charitable construction on all that they do. (Small Catechism)

Social media has valuable uses. It is a wonderful way to keep in touch with family and friends, connect with people who have similar interests or concerns, or even to seek advice. But, like anything else, it can have a dark side that families need to talk about together so that children are safe and unharmed. As people of faith, we live all aspects of our lives centered in Christ, and social media is no different.

Things to Pray and Talk About:

a)   Have you ever witnessed negative interactions on social media? How did it make you feel to see it?

b)   What are some of the dangers of social media? How can you protect yourself from those sorts of interactions?

c)    Discuss together Luther’s explanation to the Eighth Commandment and what that means for how you treat others in all aspects of life. 

d)   Who owns your phone, computer and tablet? What is your family policy on privacy?

Asking for God's Blessing:

Creator God, you have made us to be social creatures who crave interaction and relationships. Protect us in all aspects of life, including the realms of the digital age. Help us to use those platforms to bring good news to the world and to be bold in our confession of faith to you. Open the lines of communication in our family and guide us in your holy ways in all we do. Amen.

Holy Families! Initiative © Sola Publishing, 2017 (www. Permission granted to copy for local use.

On the Same Page ...  Topical conversation starters to help parents stay "on the same page" with each other and their families. Download a print-friendly version of this article here: Dealing with Self-Image

How do we live as Holy Families if one of us has a low self-image?

Growing up isn’t always the easiest part of life. We all go through those awkward stages of development where we feel like we don’t fit in, aren’t good at anything, or feel just plain “weird.” Dealing with the inconveniences of teenage acne, quick growth spurts, and changing voices is only for the moment, however. If we can hang on, soon we will outgrow our awkwardness and become the person God has created us to be. But how do we help one another navigate these self-conscious years and raise confident, loving, caring young adults?

Understanding the source of our true identity can help us in this matter:

“Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)

Each one of us on this planet has been created in the image and likeness of God. How should this make us feel? Well, for one thing, we can look at ourselves and each other and see the beauty within. If each of us is made in God’s image, then each of us is important, valued, and a delight to our Creator. If we really stop to ponder this concept, it should help us to push through those feelings that crop up — the ones that keep us doubting ourselves, such as, “I’m no good,” or “I’m ugly,” or “I don’t matter.” This negative self talk is NOT from God! God loves us so much that he has been faithful to the human race for time immemorial. That has to tell us something of our worth!

Luther said it this way in the explanation to the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed,

“I believe that God has created me and all that exists, that he has given me and still preserves my body and soul, my eyes and ears, my reason and all my senses, together with food and clothing, home and family, and all my property. Every day he provides abundantly for all the needs of my life. ... He does this purely out of fatherly and divine goodness and mercy ... .” (Small Catechism)

As we remind one another of our value to God and to each other, we can rejoice using the words of the psalmist, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14a ESV).

Things to Pray and Talk About:

a)   Recall the times when you felt awkward. How did that change over time? What does it mean to be “comfortable in your own skin?” 

b)   How does it help you to have a positive self-image when you think about how God feels about you? Why is that what’s really important?

c)    What other scripture verses remind you of your true value? 

d)   How might you help others who struggle with a negative self-image?

Asking for God's Blessing:

Loving God, you are the Creator of all that exists, and your works are too wonderful for us to comprehend. When we feel inadequate or are having a hard time being confident in ourselves, remind us that we have been created in your perfect image and that you are the source of our true identity. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

Holy Families! Initiative © Sola Publishing, 2017 (www. Permission granted to copy for local use.

On the Same Page ...  Topical conversation starters to help parents stay "on the same page" with each other and their families. Download a print-friendly version of this article here: Dealing with Misbehaving

How do we live as Holy Families when children misbehave?

It can be very stressful and confusing when a child suddenly starts to misbehave in school and/or in the family home. When children misbehave in rebellious or defiant ways, it is often a sign that something has changed and they are unsure how to express their feelings about that change. It can also mean that they feel powerless to affect the change that has taken place.

People often give children more credit for being “resilient” than they actually deserve. We adults see what we want to see at times, especially if we are more tuned in to our own needs/desires than the need/desires of our children. When children feel things are unstable or they don’t have control over their environment, they will instinctively look for ways to cope with that loss of stability and control. If it’s a short-term change, they may be flexible with it, but if the changes are detrimental to their lives (in their view, not in ours as parents) or last for an extended period of time, then children may begin to act out in various ways to grab our attention. If one way fails to work, then another will be experimented with — even if it means negative consequences for the  children.

As parents, it is our first priority to love and nurture the children that God has gifted us with. As St. Paul preached,

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

If we become consumed with our own lives or even just comfortable with the status quo, we may miss the developmental and emotional needs of our children, and they will let us know in some very creative ways! Identifying the pattern of negative behavior and its root cause is the first and most important step in turning things around. It may mean that our own behavior (or bad behavior) as parents needs to change. It may also mean that we as parents need to work with our children to intervene in external situations.

It is important for parents to be spiritually and emotionally healthy in order to raise healthy children who thrive in this world and live faithfully in God’s kingdom. Drawing on Jesus’ mandate to love as he first loved us can help us focus on the needs of our children so that they will grow up to be healthy and well-adjusted individuals. When children misbehave, it is an opportunity to pull together as a family. We can tune in to one another and focus on communication. It also provides an opportunity to demonstrate mercy and grace to one another.

Things to Pray and Talk About:

a)   How have you seen children in other families act out, rebel, or create negative situations for themselves? Do  you have any idea what was behind all of that emotion?

b)   When in your young life, parents, did you act out in anger or hurt? What did you learn from that experience? 

c)   Reflect together on St. Paul’s words about love found in 1 Corinthians 13. 

d)  How might you improve your relationships with one another in your family?

Asking for God's Blessing:

Holy God, you have given us to each other to be a family, and you watch over all our days. Give us courage to discuss important issues within our household when we need to. Help us to be loving and patient during the times when we need to solve problems or ask for forgiveness from one another. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

Holy Families! Initiative © Sola Publishing, 2017 (www. Permission granted to copy for local use.

On the Same Page ...  Topical conversation starters to help parents stay "on the same page" with each other and their families. Download a print-friendly version of this article here: Dealing with Jealousy

How do we live as Holy Families when there is jealousy?

Jealousy is a complex set of emotions that stem from feelings of loss or the potential loss of something important. It can occur if we feel abandoned, insecure or left out. There are times in any family when feelings of jealousy might arise — for example, welcoming a new baby, or when one sibling seems to be getting more attention than another.  Recognizing what is at stake for a child is the key to dealing with this capricious emotion. It is important to remind children that there is always enough love to go around. We do that by showing them love and listening to their feelings, however difficult it may be for them to express those emotions appropriately.

Jesus demonstrated unconditional love for others. In particular, he was intentional about loving those whom others wanted nothing to do with because they were “sinners.” In this story about Jesus’ table fellowship with sinners, he is criticized for the unconditional welcome he extended to those who were considered unclean:

As Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when (Jesus) heard it, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’” (Matthew 9:9-13 ESV)

Love is not something that can be completely used up. On the contrary, the more you give away, the more it grows. As St. Paul said, “Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:8 ESV). We don’t always know or understand that love never ends, especially when we are children. If a child feels threatened by a perceived preference in the family, feelings of envy are bound to crop up. Something important is happening, but how do we get to the root of the problem?

Our awareness of the emotional “field” within the family is something to be constantly paying attention to, especially if there has been a big change in the family. Change can often cause children to feel stressed or anxious. Talking about those changes, even in the simplest terms, can quell negative feelings. Remind the ones feeling left out that they too are loved and cherished. Your attention and assurance can help to assuage feelings of jealousy and hurt.

Things to Pray and Talk About:

a)   When in your life have you felt strong feelings of jealousy? What was going on at the time?

b)   How can jealousy be a disruptive and destructive emotion in our lives?

c)    How do we know from Jesus’ life that we are loved beyond our wildest imagination? 

d)   How does God’s love offer us security and peace in life? In our family life?

Asking for God's Blessing:

Lord God, you sent your son, Jesus, into the world to show us what true love looks like. Help us to love one another so deeply and faithfully that we are secure in our relationships and don’t feel any jealousy toward others in our lives. Remind us that we are called to love others the way we want to be loved. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

Holy Families! Initiative © Sola Publishing, 2016 (www. Permission granted to copy for local use.