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Okay . . .  I am opening with a disclaimer!  Please understand, I am all for supporting the economy and I do not envy what it takes to keep a business afloat in these tough times. However, I invite you and your family to join me in asking a tough question about the society in which we live. How can we “keep Christmas” in such a way that honors the Way of Christ?

Yesterday our town shared our annual Christmas parade. Each year High School bands and beautiful floats have been crowded off Main Street by businesses using this opportunity to parade their wares.  This year a shiny fleet of cars from a local dealer glided by, complete with their own beauty queen. I kid you not!  The person standing next to me caught my rolling eyes and said, “Can you believe this?  There oughtta be a law against this kind of advertising! We always had great marching bands when we were young.”

Lately, I have been listening to words used in advertising and there is a new precedent.  The marketers have simply re-drawn the lines.  We can all now get a head start on Black Friday shopping:

“60% off One Item – Black Friday Starts Early!”

“Door busters? Why bust down the door, when you can shop early, (i.e. Thanksgiving Day)?”

So we won’t all be pulling a chair up to the table if we are working or shopping will we?   When we will give our consumption a rest?   Betsy Taylor founder and president of the New American Dream gets some insightful answers from children when she asked them, “what do you want they money can’t buy?”:

Money Can’t Buy . . .


“A mud puddle to jump in.”

“the animals to be safe.”

“a clean park.”

“Friends, Fun, Good Times.”

“a smile.”

“… no more shootings and killings, just peace.”

“A Warm Sunny Day.”

“Money Can’t Buy ME”

Another kind of parade band, the funeral band, followed by the congregation, just walked by my office in Old Salem.  What a contrast!  But interestingly, the music was still bright. And the Christ’s offer of abundant life, of light in our darkness is a love that is matchless.   So as you gather around the table during Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas you might pose this same question.  To the question, ‘What do you want that money can’t buy  Elisa, aged 14, answers: “I want peace, a quietness for my soul.  An ease for my thoughts and a rest for my heart . . . I want faith.  To possess the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.”   Good tidings to you and your dear ones!

-The Rev. Lisa Mullen is the Director of Children and Family Ministries, Board of Cooperative Ministries for the Moravian Church in America, Southern Province.


Glad Tidings!

As parents, remembering that our children are the property of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20: 28: I Peter 1:9, we will bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) and take all possible care to preserve them from every evil influence.  For this reason we will seek to approve ourselves as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, setting an example for our children.  We will give faithful attention to the spiritual development of our children, both in the home and in the church.  We will endeavor to conduct regular family devotions.”  –Moravian Covenant for Christian Living, Section lll. B

Whew!  Camp is over, the kids are off to school and we all are off and running!  I do want to take a moment to thank all of you who were volunteers, oops. . . that is, disciples this summer with the children.  Our camps were wonderful and we shared many beautiful moments of kindled spirits and new growth with the kids.   The kids were so genuine and kind and many of us adults remarked about how spiritually gifted the children were.  And that is in a word, Gospel, dear sisters and brothers!

I want to take a moment to remind you about our resource for families, Loving Hearts United.  We are still excited that God worked through so many people to pull this off.   It is uniquely Moravian and we are grateful for all the designers, writers, parent and grandparent photographers and singers who so cheerfully shared their gifts. 

Liz Venable, Ruth Cole Burcaw, and I will be working on a short resource to use with families, so that they can explore ways as to how they might use it.  Starting is half the battle!  We really want to help people open up and make time to live into as a way of life.  Christ always calls us into a deeper relationship with one another and with our Good Shepherd.   This is vital because many families are so busy and scattered that they will need a hand-up to try to be very intentional:  

As pastors and educators, here are some ways some of our churches already have used this resource:  

1.       Give the book to parents when their children are baptized.

2.       If you give the gift of the Daily Texts or promote it, add Loving Hearts United to your gift or promotion.

3.      Give this resource to children in the moment with the children and tell the children about it.  Interestingly enough, they will love the rituals and will help parents stay intentional. 

4.      Invite me or any of the writers to come and share this with your parents.  Some churches plan a lunch after church, get a caregiver to be with the children, some have hosted Wednesday nights, one had a two-part series on parenting and served lunch and involved the children.   One little boy was very excited about the Daily Texts and asked if he might have one for his family too!

5.      Announce it verbally from the pulpit and use a bulletin insert, which we will be sending you.  You may want to tailor the insert or newsletter piece to suit how you are planning to share this gift. 

6.      Some people believe that a book means more if the parents are pay for it themselves.  It is available for sale in the resource center.  The cost is 19.95 plus tax and it includes the CD.  It is also a companion piece with the Daily Texts. Call 336-722-8026 for more information or to order.

7.      Request someone to lead the parents (grandparents and guardians) through the short resource to help them get started.  Or invite someone in your church to lead it.  We will provide a “teacher-friendly” resource for you, (which will be available in November).

This is a stand alone piece which means that families can pick it up and use it any time of the year.  Here are some examples: 

At a special event in the life of a family or church: 

They may start living into it at a special event such as the baptism of their child, the confirmation of their child or teen ager, (it is never too late!), the day Bibles are given out, a child’s birthday or when a new family joins the church, on the anniversary of a child’s adoption ( fondly called, gotcha day).

At a special season in the life of the church:

You could promote the resource or give the resource before Advent since this is the beginning of the church year, at Christmas,  since Jesus was born into a family, in the new year, when the new Daily Texts are given or sold, during Lent since this is a special time of devotion or on Easter, (of course!).   One teenager asked for the Daily Texts for a Christmas present.  Then again, you could simply give it to your own family for Christmas. 

If your church has any ideas of how you have invited families or shared Loving Hearts United , lease send us you good news.  We always welcome glad tidings!

Faithfully yours,

Rev. Lisa Mullen, Director of Children and Family Ministry

Last year a smiling teenager said to me, “Guess what I am fasting from for Lent?” I hazarded a few guesses.  “Nope . . . T.V.!” she proclaimed proudly. “No T.V. for forty days and forty nights!”  Her excitement about a new way of journeying towards Easter made me think more about how we, as families, might pull away from something that dulls our minds or hardens our hearts, so that we might engage in some new and life-giving spiritual disciplines.  Instead of turning away from each other to a machine, we might want to turn toward each other and God.

And, I thought, why not?  Give up something, in order that you might free up some space in our lives to try something new.  And what if in forty days and nights we may have acquired a good habit?  The Scriptures have given us some clues as to what those habits of faith might look like:

 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…all who believed were together and had all things in common;  they would sell their possessions and goods an distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.  Day by day, as they spent much time in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the good will of all the people.” –Acts 2:42

Here are some ideas for Lent.  You might want to try one or two:
*For more ideas see the Lenten appendix in our new resource book, Loving Hearts United, A Moravian Guide for Family Living.

  • Eat one meal a day together, and take turns talking about your day. 
  • Bless your children and one another, each morning and before bed each evening.  Place your hand on his or her head and say a special blessing. This “meaningful touch” gives us solace and strength for our day and rest for our slumber.
  • Create a special family meal once a week that is sacred, uninterrupted time. Light a candle and share in devotions.  Your children will naturally want to find ways to make it special, by preparing the table or by leading a conversation.
  • Sing together the hymns of our Moravian tradition. 
  • Acts of Compassion:  Give yourselves to intentional service, by finding some ways as a family to engage in acts of compassion for a hurting world.  Our children and their friends in the neighborhood and at school decided they to raise money for tents for the children and their families in Sudan.  We parents got so involved in their mission. They made tie-dye tee shirts, beautiful blessing bowls, decoupage Christmas ornaments, votive candles and plates, which they sold at a neighborhood arts in the park.   We were so surprised when they raised $815.00, enough for 11 tents!  Young children and older elementary kids have a true hearts for mission.
  • Repentance and healing within your family—Lent is a season of repentance and confession.  It’s never too late to welcome God’s healing presence in a relationship.  Children sometimes need to hear from their parents that we are sorry. Lent is a good time to search our souls in terms of what lies hidden, broken and unspoken that needs to be held up to the light and grace of Christ.
  • Pray with your children. J. Bradley Wigger writes: “Prayers of praise and prayers of thanksgiving teach gratitude. Prayers of concern teach about care and sources of strength in hard times.  Prayers in hushed tones or silence teach reverence and respect; exuberant prayer teaches passion and joy.  As children themselves pray, not only are they practicing these things, but also they can reveal what may be going on in their souls.  A child may be afraid to start school, need protection from a bully, be so thankful for Grandma, or hope people who are hungry will find some bread today.  Hearing the prayers of our children teaches us about them, helps us pay attention, helps us know how they are doing. . . When a child sees a father bow his head or a mother raise her hands in praise, the child is learning to see that there is an authority greater than the parent.”  
  • At the end of the day share in a family examen (another word for examining your day).  The Linn family shared their experience of how this simple spiritual practice was so life- giving for them: “For many years , we have ended each day the same way.  We light a candle, become aware of God’s loving presence, and take about five minutes of quiet while we ask ourselves two questions. Pick ones that work best for your family. 

For what moment today am I most grateful?  For what moment today am I least grateful?    
When did I feel most alive today?  When was I happiest today? 
When did I feel the life draining out of me?  When was I saddest today?”

Moravian hymns provide rich questions for the examen: 
How did Jesus make my heart rejoice today? How did I know Jesus’ voice today?

None of us can underestimate the power any religious practice may hold for our children. It’s like giving them a trellis upon which to grow towards the Light.  May God hallow your season of Lent and Easter.

Grace and peace to you and your dear ones,

Rev. Lisa Mullen,
Director of Children and Family Life

Where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet, we hear a further call.” -Frederick Buechner

We are glad that God has called us to accompany you in the joyful, but hard work of loving. As fellow pilgrims we also come hungry to the family table. We make no claims regarding our own expertise in the life of a family. Martin Luther put it best, “ preaching the Gospel is one beggar telling another where they both may find bread.”

If we, who belong to the One who is the Bread of Life, find any good news or help in the area of family life, we want to share it! But we do not forget that we too are beggars hoping to find bread. We are glad as we seek to offer encouragement in our journey in the “high and holy callings” of parents, grandparents and guardians who nourish the children entrusted to our care. We are companions, those who break bread together, following the path to the abundant life promised by our Savior. All of us dream dreams for our children. When I ask parents, or grandparents, “What are your dreams for your children?” they have no trouble answering. Their dreams come pouring out. “I want my child to be loved and to learn how to love.” “I want by child to know the Way of Christ.” “I want them to make good decisions.” “I want my child to be happy.” “I want her to be resilient and able to meet life challenges.”

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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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