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How wonderful it would be if we could help our children and grandchildren to learn thanksgiving at an early age. Thanksgiving opens the doors. It changes a child’s personality. A child is resentful, negative—or thankful. Thankful children want to give, they radiate happiness, they draw people. — Sir John Templeton

Don’t wait until the last minute to plan a way to deliberately mark the Thanksgiving holiday other than stuffing yourself full of good food. These suggestions might make planning easier:

  • Don’t cook! Yes, it’s radical, but still possible. Plenty of local restaurants offer special Thanksgiving meal deals and other places provide take-out options. If you are spending all your Thanksgiving family time with the oven, it doesn’t have to be that way. Create your own tradition that enables everyone to enjoy being together.
  • If you’ve got to cook, get everyone involved in mealtime preparation. Cooking is a great way to get kids interested in science, math and physics, not to mention history and tradition. Children also will be more enthusiastic about Thanksgiving if they have a part to play. Just pick the task(s) best suited to their age and ability.
  • Tell family stories at the table. A twist on the old “here’s what I’m thankful for,” this has potential to engage the entire family just before the Tryptophan from the turkey kicks in. Need help coming up with a creative way to get things started? Try the talking fork. No, seriously. The Family Education web site  is full of other Thanksgiving tips this holiday season.
  • Reflect on thankfulness. For families with older kids, print out a variety of quotes, hymn text, and/or Bible verses and place on everyone’s plate to share. This is a nice alternative for shy folks who might not care to share out loud what they’re thankful for. It can also broaden horizons just a bit. Consider this quote from Anne Frank: “I do not think of all the misery, but of the glory that remains. Go outside into the fields, nature and the sun, go out and seek happiness in yourself and in God. Think of the beauty that again and again discharges itself within and without you and be happy.”  Read the rest of this entry »


This past October, I had a serious car accident in which I managed to drive up a guide wire, hit a telephone pole eight feet off the ground, and knock down a transformer. At this point, my car spun completely around in the direction from which I came and rolled over.  I was knocked unconscious, so don’t remember a thing. Witnesses say that all of my windows shattered into little sparkling pieces and all of the “stuff” in my car went flying.  Paper, paper, everywhere!  

I had been cleaning out my office and had many files and books in my car.  I am not quite sure what I lost materially, but I know I did not — thanks be to God — lose my life or my limbs. What I gained, in a word, is perspective

In the past, friends have helped me clean and file and they’d ask, “Do you really need this? Really, Lisa, be honest.”  “Yes,” I would answer, as I retrieved a book out of the ‘giveaway’ pile or snatched a copy of an article out of the recycling box.  

Since one of my core values is simplicity, losing things is not a bad teacher.  Losing things has the potential to help us “turn round right.”    

Witnesses of my crash also wondered how I could have survived.  Since I did survive, I feel I owe it to God and my family to actually live into my true values and be aware of what I treasure most . . . people, not things.  

As I enter the season of Thanksgiving and Advent,  I will continue to pray for eyes to see what is truly essential, a heart brimming full with gratitude, and a head that has the good sense to travel lightly towards Bethlehem.  If we join Mary on that burro, we will carry the one thing needful, one treasure only — our Lord and Christ.   

Lisa Mullen is the Director of Children & Family Life Ministries for the Moravian Church, Southern Province.

November 13th is fast approaching. Have you ever talked to your children or grandchildren about the Moravians’ view of Chief Elder? Do you know the story of how Jesus Christ came to be elected the church’s Chief Elder? Thanks to our friend Craig Atwood for providing a little background on the topic:  

Moravians really like the number 13. We have two festivals in the church year that fall on the thirteenth day of the month: August 13 and November 13. This is probably just a strange coincidence, but it does tell us that Moravians are not very superstitious about numbers! August 13 was the great day when the Moravian church was given a new life by the Holy Spirit. We celebrate that event with communion and lovefeasts, but what is November 13 all about?

On September 16, 1741, the leaders of the church were meeting in London to make a number of important decisions. One of them was to choose a new Chief Elder. Leonard Dober, one of the first missionaries to the slaves in the Caribbean, had been serving as chief elder for several years. It was a big job. He was responsible for the spiritual welfare of a church that had grown rapidly from a little community in Herrnhut, Germany to an international fellowship stretching from Greenland to South Africa.

The Chief Elder was primarily responsible for hearing people’s complaints and concerns, especially in spiritual matters. He prayed on behalf of the community, and at times he worked to make peace between individuals. He was a pastor who was expected to offer sound advice. There was also a Chief Eldress for the women of the church. For many years, it was Anna Nitschmann, the head of the Single Sisters Choir.

Leonard Dober was tired. The job was wearing him out, and people were beginning to complain about how he did things. So, he officially asked to lay down this office, and then the rest of the elders set about trying to find someone to replace him. The elders who were gathered included the Count and Countess von Zinzendorf, Benigna, their daughter (who was  only 16), Leonard Dober, Anna Maria Lawatsch, Friedrich von Watteville (Zinzendorf’s best friend), Rosina Nitschmann, David Nitschmann (not the bishop), and August and Mary Spangenberg. This was an impressive group that included some of the wisest people in the church.

It is amazing that there were as many women as men at the meeting. That would not have been the case for other churches at that time. It is also remarkable that most of the participants were under the age of 42. By our standards, these elders were quite young. They were also creative and adventurous. Each of them had travelled through many countries and across the ocean to spread the good news that God loves all people, especially those who have been rejected by the world.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ruth & her first spiritual mentor, her grandma.

Ruth and her first spiritual mentor - her grandma.

Growing up, I had lots of fears. Now that I’ve watch my own very imaginative son struggle with similar feelings, I realize how normal I was. Lying in the safety of my warm, middle-class home, in my giant double bed, I obsessed over thunderstorms, fire, robbers, kidnappers and things that went creepy-crawly in the night. I pondered my own mortality, thinking, “Am I really real? Is life real or is it a dream?” This was the most frightening of all of my fears.

Fortunately, I was able to discuss my fears with a kind and compassionate adult — my maternal grandmother, whose faith has always been deep and wide and uncompromising. It was she who first really talked to me about Jesus and his great sacrifice, who prayed with me for comfort and peace when I felt unsettled, and who encouraged my heartfelt, childish writings and drawings about God and Jesus.

Though I grew up in the church with loving, faithful Christian parents, when I think back on my spiritual formation, I know that it began in my room at bedtime with Grandma praying me to sleep. I learned many things from my grandma — like closing the bread bag without using one of those twisty ties or how to decorate a dining table for company — but what I remember most about her is her deep and abiding faith – a faith that continues even today at 97 in a skilled nursing facility. Philippians is a favorite book of hers, and Philippians 4:13 provides special inspiration: “For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Even as her body and mind fail her, Grandma still embodies what it means to be a Christian.

Who were your spiritual mentors? Who provided a context or foundation for you to discuss spiritual issues as a child? From where did your initial impressions of God & Jesus come? And how would your children answer these questions? Are there adults in their life who provide a kind of spiritual leadership?

-Ruth Cole Burcaw, Co-Chair
Children & Family Life Commission

Recognizing the home as a community of faith, Roots & Wings provides avenues for families to discover and develop their spiritual roots and wings in today’s world. Roots & Wings celebrates and enriches family connectedness within the Moravian Church community.


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