Advent Week One: Hope in the King

This Holiday season I have invited my daughter Grace Ladd McDonald to share her Advent curriculum with the Positive Life Principles readers. Each week we will post creative and meaningful ways to prepare your family for Christmas by focusing on the various attributes of Jesus.

Reading
The Teeny Weeny…True king”
Or Read 1st Samuel 8-10

Throughout the Old Testament, we see examples of kings, some were good, some were evil. All were human, which means they were sinners and because of their sin, they were not the leaders that the people truly needed. The Old Testament tells the story of one specific group of people called the Israelites. God chose the Israelites to be His people and to show the rest of the world his great love. There are many stories in the Bible which tell about the redemptive love God has for His people. They keep sinning and God keeps loving them. Early on in the Old Testament, the Israelites pled with God for a king. God sent many kings and prophets to help lead and guide the people, but no king could ever truly give the people what they needed. God promised His people early on that He would eventually send them a king that would loose the chains of oppression and set his people free. This week’s activities, readings and music will help you learn about why we need Jesus and the hope that he offers as a king.

Advent Activities
Nature Exploration
: Throughout history kings have worn crowns as a symbol of their authority and dignity. Jesus was unlike any king. He did not wear a crown adorned with jewels or gold. Rather, Jesus wore a crown of thorns. Jesus is the one true ruler over all the earth, as well as beyond what we can see. Did you know that there is a world beyond the one we can see? Spend some time out in nature, collecting sprigs and vine elements that you can weave together as a crown to wear on your head. Use tape or string as needed. Wear it on your head as you go throughout your day. How does wearing a crown make you feel?

Home Discovery: Walk around your house and find all the seating areas such as chairs and/or stools and couches. Choose one chair as your throne for the week. Sit in it, perhaps build a fort around it. Many verses in scripture talk about Jesus sitting on a throne. What do you think the significance of a throne is? Why do you think having a designated place to sit is special?

Baking Activity: Jesus did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped. Unlike other kings who are waited on hand and foot, Christ came to serve, to give of himself as a ransom for many. I am not sure what Jesus’ favorite food was but Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader who stood up for the rights of the oppressed in similar ways as Jesus. He liked to eat Pecan pie. Pick a simple pecan pie recipe or other sweet treat that you enjoy, bake it and share it with your neighbor. My personal favorite is chocolate covered buttered pecans.

Art Exploration: Purple is a color used throughout history to symbolize royalty. Purples, violets and blues were often used in old paintings to signify royalty. What about purple feels significant or special? Using water colors, fill a page with a mixture of blues, violets, and purples. What do you notice about the color? When you picture Jesus, what colors do you picture him wearing?

Adventure Walk: Rather than living in a castle, Jesus had no home while He was here on earth. He slept in the homes of friends or perhaps even outside in nature. Throughout the Bible Jesus spent time in God’s beautiful creation, floating, even walking on water, traveling up  mountains or talking with crowds of people. As my good friend Sarah Gregory once said, people are God’s best creation. Walk to a nearby body of water with an adult and stare at the way the water moves and think about how God is moving all around you just like the waves.

Music
Ride on King Jesus by Jireh Gospel Choir
King of Kings by Hillsong United
Cradle In Bethlehem by Mason Jar Music

Further Reading and Discussion
1 Chronicles 17: 7-10
7
Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 8 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name like the names of the greatest men on earth. 9 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 10 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also subdue all your enemies.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think God provided a king for his people?
  2. How do you see God caring for your pains and wounds?

Psalm 47: 1-9
1
Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
2 For the Lord Most High is awesome,
  the great King over all the earth.
3 He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.
4 He chose our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.
5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
8 God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.
9 The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham
for the kings[
c] of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do people need kings or leaders?
  2. What about the kingship of Jesus offers hope?

Ezekiel 37:24-28
24 My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. 25 They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Throughout history and the Bible we have seen good and bad leaders. What attributes do you think are important in a leader?
  2. What is a king and what does a king do?

Maintaining An Up Attitude When you are Down with Covid

The corona virus wasn’t exactly on my game plan for November, but I’m now keenly aware that I am not in control of these things. When my husband tested positive for Covid, and I tested negative, I thought I was better and stronger than the Corona Virus. But then…three days later, my symptoms started showing up. Achy body, chills and a general feeling of yuckiness mixed with a slight cough and shortness of breath. It all seemed to overtake my body at once.

Still thinking I was slightly invincible, I said to myself,  I’ll be over this in just a few days and back to normal. On Day 12 of general misery and malaise, I realized that although I wanted this to be a microwave type of sickness, for me it was more like a slow cooker. I know it hits everyone differently, some do have quick recoveries, but others have a longer and more bumpy road.

So how do you stay positive in the midst of the virus that you didn’t plan for yourself? Here are a few ways that I found to stay upbeat during this down time.

  1. Develop a new daily routine.  Pre-covid, I had a delightful daily routine that included a long walk, shower, quiet time and then jumping into work stuff. Well, the routine changed. Those wonderful long walks were out the window, and I wasn’t able to even think about work. So I adjusted and came up with a new daily routine. Routines give us a sense of peace and regularity in a highly irregular time. So my new routine included a cup of hot tea each morning, then sitting by the fire and reading and taking a long, hot shower in the afternoon. We can discover joy and peacefulness in the simplicity of a new and temporary schedule.
  2. Find one thing you can do.  I’ve always said I wanted more time to read – well, now I have it! For me, reading brings me great satisfaction and makes me smile. It’s the one thing I can do while resting and recuperating . What about you? Maybe you enjoy watching movies or funny videos on YouTube or drawing and sketching or doing Sudoku. It’s good and healing to engage in something that brings you a degree of happiness during this time.  
  3. Get some fresh air and sunshine each day. Part of my daily routine is to sit out in the sunshine on my back porch. Just 20 minutes of some hearty Vitamin D, not only lifts my spirits, but also gives a boost to my immune system. Wide open space and fresh air can do a world of good for our attitudes. In fact, studies show that nature has an uplifting effect on our sense of well-being.  If you don’t have a place to go outside, try to sit by a window where the sunlight pours into the room. If it is not too cold outside, open a window and allow some fresh air to flow. Even if it is raining, you can open a window or sit on a covered porch while listening and observing God’s beautiful creation.
  4. Stay connected with  family and friends. We all need the love and support of those we hold dear. Take a moment each day to connect with someone who is genuinely encouraging to your heart. Whether through text or facetime and phone call, we need the joy of connectedness through loving relationships. And I’m not talking about social media connection, I’m talking about real bonds with family and friends. Now certainly be mindful of the rest you need and don’t wear yourself thin by talking to others, but on the other hand, don’t allow yourself to become isolated. Be vulnerable enough to invite several people into your life as cheerleaders and a form of emotional support.
  5. Pray. Every affliction, every challenge, every obstacle in our lives is an opportunity to recognize our need for the Lord. The long recovery from Covid can be an important time to look upward and renew our devotion to the Lord. Pray for healing. Pray for God to begin to show you things that may need to change in your life after you recover. Pray for wisdom and a desire to live a life that honors Him. Remember, no matter how lonely this journey may seem, you are not alone. Seek Him. May this be a time for each of us to reflect on life and draw closer to Him.

 Whether you are dealing with Covid or know someone who is, there are positive steps you can take. If you are a friend or family member of a homebound covid patient, reach out to them and reassure them that you are there for them. My daughters’ daily calls just to check in meant the world to me. My friends who reached out to bring a meal or drop off a smoothie, lifted my spirits. What a sweet time for all of us to care for one another. We will get through this as we love and serve together, and as we look to Jesus as our source of comfort and strength.

Photo by Zohre Nemati on Unsplash

Someone is Going to Be Disappointed

As I write this blog on the day before Election Day, I have no idea what the outcome will be. The one thing I do know is that roughly half the country will be very disappointed. So how do we handle discouraging circumstances in a Christ-like way? How do we bounce back after a major disappointment? Let’s look at three ways we can experience resilience when we don’t win.

Realize that God Has a Bigger Plan and Purpose. When we face a discouragement in life, it’s easy to think that all is lost and our lives will never be the same. To be honest, sometimes things do change and they change for the worse, but that doesn’t mean that  God is incapable of using even the worst of circumstances for a greater good. The Bible is clear that God is sovereign and His ways are unfathomable. He is able to take even the most dreaded of situations (the cross) and bring redemption and restoration through them.

Respond Without Regrets. No matter what happens, we have a responsibility at followers of Christ to reflect His heart. We must respond as people who have faith in an all-knowing God, and not as those filled with fear and anger. We are people of hope, and we must show hope to the world around us. Our hope is that God will do more than we ask or imagine beyond what we see in front of us. So what does a healthy response look like? Kindness, love and respect for our neighbors.  Humility and prayer for our country. Trust in a God who is bigger than our disappointment.

Recognize There Are Still Reasons to be Thankful. In this month of Thanksgiving we need to reflect and focus on those things for which we can give thanks. And there are plenty! Sometimes we need to look a little deeper and be more thoughtful, but we can always find a reason to be grateful. Start a thankfulness journal this month  – even if you are not a journaler.  I’ve never been a journaler myself, but I do write down a list of at least five things I’m thankful for each morning. It changes our perspective and outlook and helps us see that God is at work. It reminds us that He is using even the difficulties in life to bring truth and light into a dark world.

No matter what the outcome, each of us can experience victory and strength as we deepen our faith and trust in our all-knowing God. Instead of being fearful and angry, turn your heart and mind upwards and remember that God is on His throne. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of disappointment is that it can bring us to a stronger reliance on Him and a deeper life of prayer.

Go Vote (if you haven’t already), and draw close to the Lord in prayer.

Calming Ideas for Frazzled Moms

Will school start in person or online? Will you be homeschooling or going back to work or juggling the two? As a mom, you may feel at wit’s end right now with so many unanswered questions. Today’s blog offers you a few points of encouragement as you juggle your continually shifting responsibilities.

When you feel overwhelmed, remember the Stop Method

Step away from the source of frustration

Take several deep, relaxing breaths

Objectively think about how to wisely handle the situation (reengage your brain)

Pray for God’s help, strength & direction

Creating a Peace-filled Environment

  • Develop simple daily routines (Example: breakfast, reading time, play time, lunch, naptime, craft time, tv time, dinner, Bible stories, bath bed)
  • Start each day with Gratitude (thank the Lord for 3 things)
  • Play with your kids instead of working against them  – laugh, enjoy, create, sing, color, build a fort, have fun!
  • Watch shows and movies together
  • Play peaceful music – having the tv on all the time creates stress
  • Limit screen time for you and your kids –studies show  frustration/anger is elevated when parents are focused on their phone more than their kids.
  • Get outdoors into God’s wonderful creation, go for family walks
  • Have naptime every day for you and your kids – we all need a break
  • Read books, pray and sing silly songs together

Take care of yourself personally – Set aside a little time now and then to stay connected with positive friends through calls or texts. Again, guard against constantly being on your phones as it will only add more stress to your life. If you need a break, see if a family member can help watch the kids while you take a break. 

You Can Do Something Positive

Young african woman smiling at sunset

Perhaps you are feeling a little antsy right now. Perhaps that’s an understatement. You’ve watched all your favorite movies, cleaned out every junk drawer and taken your dog on three walks a day. Maybe you are wishing that you could do something – anything – meaningful. The good news is, each of us can find one positive thing to do to help others.

Selfless acts lift our spirits and help us fell as sense of purposefulness. We may not be able to solve all the world’s problems, but we can do small acts of kindness in our own sphere of influence. Here are some creative ideas gleaned from people around me that may spur you on to love and good deeds:

  • Several friends are using their sewing abilities to make face masks for health care workers and individuals.
  • Others are gathering groceries and leaving them on the doorstep of those who need help or have lost their jobs.
  • Some are making a deliberate effort to write at least one note a day to uplift the heart of another.
  • In my world, I help direct an organization calledEngage Positive Parenting Initiative. Since we serve parents in under-resourced areas, my team has joined together to assemble family fun packs filled with snacks and activities to encourage and help homebound parents.
  • One thing that all of us can and should do each day is fall to our knees and pray. There is a true sense of peace we experience when we sincerely go to the Lord on behalf of others. Ask God to comfort the hurting and bring hope to those in despair. Pray for our leaders and the healthcare workers and first responders. Pray for an effective vaccine to be developed quickly. Pray for those who are sick and dying here and around the world. Ask God to show you what you can do and who you should reach out to using the gifts He has given you.

Yes, everyone can do something positive! When we do these simple acts of love, we bring joy into our own environment as well as the world around us. Stay Calm. Stay Kind. Stay Strong.