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New Year for Cornerstone Families

In our family ministries, January doesn’t really feel like a New Year to us.  If we’re honest, since we mostly follow the school year, September always has much more of a new feeling. BUT there are still some exciting things happening in our Family Ministries that I want to share with you.

To start, our youngest people we serve, our nursery and preschool programs, have all had mini ‘graduations’ this January.  For all the children that have turned 2 or 4 between October-January, they have the opportunity to move up to the next age group class.  For some, that comes with a sense of excitement and getting to be with the ‘big kids’ (or play with the big kids’ toys).  For some it means a new environment, with new leaders, and that can bring a sense of hesitation or uncertainty.  For that reason we leave the graduation decision up to the parents…. it is our goal that every child is in the best environment possible to learn about Jesus and to grow in their relationship with God and with His people, the Church.  Please take a moment to pray for all the children that are transitioning to new classrooms; that they would feel safe and be able to hear and know the Good News of Jesus. 

We also wanted to continue in our desire to help families grow together spiritually.  Our CE Team has been reading the book, Practical Family Ministry, together and have really found some great encouragement for families to take a step forward and be intentional in growing in their relationships to God.  As a mom of 3, working full-time, I understand how difficult making time for family devotions can be.  At certain times in our family’s life it has seemed impossible, but the importance of it has never changed.  Our CE Team discussed the concept of starting somewhere…. read a book (we have lots in our library), watch a show (Right Now Media  is amazing for kid’s shows and Bible studies!) or even just take an extra moment to say that prayer or have that quick chat about how God helped us today, or how He might want us to react to something that wasn’t so great in our day.

So in line with starting somewhere, we will have some bible study material available for our families in the lobby this Sunday. First, your family will go to Right Now Media and watch the first episode of ‘Theo’ Volume 1 – God’s Love.   If you aren’t signed up, we will have a sheet at the table… all we need is an email!

Theo

We have printed off the first lesson of the study for you, as well as a chart so you can record your progress. Remember this is about starting somewhere!  If it takes you 3 weeks to do 1 week, you still did more than if you hadn’t tried anything at all.  Don’t beat yourself  up…. trust that the Holy Spirit will take your family’s teaching time and multiply it for God’s Kingdom purposes.  If your family doesn’t enjoy this study, don’t fret, there are so many different options out there and I would love to personally chat with you and brainstorm some ideas that might work best for you!

Something that we are doing this year that is new to us, is a retreat we are co-leading with Pastor Michael and his Student Ministries Team.  March 17-19 we will be hosting an adolescence retreat called ‘Equipped: Creating Space for Crucial Conversations‘ that will be held at Ranger Lake Bible Camp.  We will have a table set up in the lobby at Cornerstone the next few Sundays or you can find the brochure here.  We are so excited to be able to offer this opportunity to our families.  And to stay in line with one of our core beliefs that parents are the spiritual leaders in their homes, Pastor Michael and I will merely be acting as facilitator for this retreat (except when I am in the role of mom there… eeeek!).  If you would like anymore information for this retreat, talk to Michael or I either in the lobby or during the work week.

There are many things that I could share that are on the horizon, but I don’t want to take over Cornerstone’s whole website!  If you filled out a survey that Cornerstone Family ministries sent out recently, please know that we heard you and are looking at how to better serve you all… whether it’s new spiritual parenting classes, more opportunities for community and relationship, resources or more.  If you haven’t filled out our survey yet and would like to, please contact me and I will send you the link.  It is anonymous and takes under 5 minutes to do, but it is valuable to our Team as we seek out how to be more effective and efficient in serving you all.

While it is true that January does not quite feel like a ‘new start’ for us in Family Ministry, you can definitely tell that we are not sitting idle.  We are striving to grow in our ability to disciple… and to be discipled.  We appreciate all of your prayers as we seek God’s leading in all the new endeavours we are discovering.

Christmas Perspective on Loneliness

As we travel through the malls we are inundated with Christmas music, and one song that almost always makes the list is the one first recorded by Andy Williams – It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Unfortunately Christmas is not the “most wonderful time of the year” for many people. As we hear about family Christmas gatherings and wonderful family traditions, loneliness can begin to darken our emotions. For some people thoughts of suicide begin to invade their consciousness. Christmas can be a time of counting losses rather than thanking God for blessings. Death, illness, and divorce can make Christmas a time of pain and regret. Every year there are people who will be spending their first Christmas without a significant other. For others Christmas can be a reminder, not that this is the first Christmas without a loved one but an ongoing reminder of the empty spot at the Christmas table and in their heart.

Do you remember the words the angels spoke to the shepherds on that first Christmas morn? Luke 2:10 (NRSV) “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:'” Did you notice that this good news of great joy is for all people not just for those who get to celebrate Christmas with family (including a loving spouse) and friends; it is for all people, even the lonely and heavy laden. Didn’t Jesus invite the weary and heavy laden to come to Him that He could give them rest? How does that even make sense?

There is a beautiful story recorded for us in Isaiah 7 in which the prophet had come to king Ahaz to give assurance that Judah would be safe from the imminent attacks of Israel and Syria. When the king refused to ask for a sign, the Lord gave him a sign. Isaiah 7:14 (NLT) “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” What a wonderful word of comfort and assurance – Jesus is with us! God has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And for the lonely and downhearted Jesus is there.

I believe God calls us to bring His comforting presence to those who are hurting. As Christians we carry the presence of God with us, His Holy Spirit lives in each one of us. As you go and visit someone who is spending Christmas alone, you are helping to fulfill the prophecy in the name Immanuel. Make a few phone calls. Take a tray of Christmas goodies and call on that person who never seems to have anyone come to visit. You will be a blessing and you will be blessed.

Merry Christmas.

What Christmas Means to Me

What Christmas Means to Me

Hello, my name is Luke and I love Christmas. I love the lights, the trees, the snow, family time, time with friends, and warm fires to sip my eggnog by. My affinity for the season started as a young boy when my dad would ring in the season by putting up Christmas lights in early December. My dad also loved Christmas. He would decorate the house, the yard, the barn, the wood shed, and even the decrepit tractor that we used as a lawn ornament––he even put moving lights on the wheels so it looked like the tractor was driving at night (obviously we were rednecks). He would lace our snow mounds with lights so they would melt into the snow and create glowing orbs of festiveness (this was back in the day when light bulbs got nice and hot––not like these ridiculous LEDs we endure today!). I can distinctly remember a year when my dad brought 6 “Charlie Brown” trees home and my mom wouldn’t let any of them in the house so we set them up down the walkway and decorated each of them in colourful lights. It was beautiful, albeit wasteful, but hey, we were loggers…

Christmas was a time when our acreage was alive with colour, warmth, and love. My mom could always be found in the kitchen making too many treats to count. But I will never forget that the first batch of baking always got boxed up and sent to my Aunt Charmaine and her family on Vancouver Island, so we had to suffer and wait until more treats rolled out of the assembly-line-like place we called the kitchen. And if you’re wondering… yes, I still hold a grudge about missing out on the early treats! My mom didn’t just cook though, she took every opportunity to center our celebration around Advent. Preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ and what the season was actually about.

My mom was instrumental in teaching me to see Christmas as a time of anticipation and joy for the coming of Jesus. I was challenged to turn my gaze from the glimmering lights of Christmas to the bright star above Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. To this day, I still sit in the quiet of my house with the warm light of our Christmas tree, meditating on the real reason for this season. Now, I get to share this same excitement with my wife and our daughter. This is Elliette’s first Christmas and she is just beginning the journey of coming to love Christmas just like her daddy and I am committed, just like my mom, to introducing her to the baby born in a stable who would eventually go to the cross to save her from an eternity separated from the Father. What a privilege. What a responsibility.

This brings me to my final thought as I write this. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, and I am thankful for the village of Cornerstone. Thankful that my daughter will spend many years (hopefully) with all of you, learning how to see the Christmas season with anticipation and joy as we celebrate the coming of The King. I implore you to continue to plug into the lives of the people around you. To get out of your comfort zone and talk to somebody new this season. To be the light of Christ and not just the lights of the department stores. To learn someone’s story, for it’s far more valuable than buying gifts. Finally, in all things this Christmas, point people to the real reason of the season: Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas

Rickochets … random thoughts from a somewhat random mind: Advent 2016

Sunday, November 27th is the first Sunday of Advent. Did that catch you by surprise? Maybe the lack of snow on the ground took away at least one of the warning signals. But, as I write this, some of my family are returning from watching the Nutcracker ballet and others were risking life and limb in the horde hurrying to see the Santa Claus parade. Those are both “Christmas” traditions. They should have warned us that Christmas is coming… and I haven’t even begun to shop!

The season has caught me unaware. And I don’t think I’m alone. And that is fitting. The first Christmas certainly caught folk unaware. There had been some signs in world events and some stuff in the tabloids about angels dropping by… that sort of thing. Oh, it seems some folk knew God was working but those few were the ones who had been watching and listening for Him in their lives.

As Jesus-followers we want to be like those folk. We want to be watching and listening to where God is at work in our lives and our world. For us Advent isn’t primarily about Christmas shopping, setting up the tree, or even lighting candles in church. Advent is traditionally a time of waiting, anticipating, and preparing for the second coming of Jesus. Christmas is a celebration of His first coming – the incarnation – but Advent is to put us in mind of His promise to come back and set this world to rights… to set us to right eternally.

He’s already started that. It’s the product of His first coming – that the baby grew up and became a man – fully God and fully man – to live and teach and eventually to give up His life in place of ours as an offering for sin – to open the door so we could come back home to a God who loves us so much He’d do anything, including dying in our place, to make that invitation clear to everyone. “Come Home.”

And that leads to life and life abundant in the here and now. It’s the call of discipleship – to walk with Him and enjoy His presence daily – to be made more like Him as we hang out with Him. So, my prayer for you this Advent season is that you would find time… no… make time… to quiet your heart – to walk with Him and to watch and listen for His call to you – His reminders of His deep, unfailing love for you; of His unconditional love for those around you; of His love for this wonderful, confusing world around us filled with people who will be caught totally by surprise when He comes into their midst – either in His glorious return or in the loving embrace they receive from His people as they are invited, once again, to come home to their heavenly family for Christmas.

Another View on Community

Community. It’s one of those funny words that we in Christian circles like to throw around but often don’t know how to apply. A few weeks ago Pastor Luke wrote a post on community describing what Cornerstone could look like if we were to do community well. He said, “What if Cornerstone became a church that lived in community so closely, were a group that supported each other and sought out opportunities to help each other so diligently, that onlookers would see us and want to be a part of our community? That’s the church I want to call home. After all, Cornerstone’s vision is to love God, love each other, and change the world.”

Wow, that’s a church I want to be a part of and I think that’s the church Cornerstone is trying to be. We already see it on Sunday mornings and Thursday nights, we saw it at our annual Fall Community Carnival and at Converge on Sunday nights. But our church can also become so much better at this. Pastor Dawn and Pastor Len both shared thoughts on the church being a “home” and its connection to community. These thoughts are what takes community from an abstract concept to something real we can apply. It’s this idea of a home that will make Cornerstone the community we desire and hope it will be.

The great thing about the concept of a “home” is that it implies family, and family implies diversity and connectedness. This is what I want to see Cornerstone become. A place that feels like family and that connects everyone despite differences.

In my job I spend a whole lot of time thinking and praying about our young people. Who they are, who they will become, where they will go. And my main hope and prayer is this: that they would stay connected to Christ and His church. But this doesn’t happen by accident and generally it doesn’t happen without work. The main reason young people grow up and stay connected to Christ and His church is because other people invested in them. They stay because they feel like they belong to the community. Now they may move away for school or work but if they were connected well here they will seek out a church where they are at in order to connect once again. And really, that’s what it’s all about.

The question then becomes, how do we help make this happen? How do we foster an environment that allows youth to be connected? From my experience, it happens through relationship and empowerment. For a long time North American church culture has thought about youth as the church of the future. They’ve segregated them into their own programs and then thought that once they “grow up” they will integrate into the church. I think this is so sad! If we want your youth to feel belonging we need them to understand their importance now! That isn’t to say youth programs are bad, having teaching that’s specifically for them and having a place for them to connect with their peers is important and valuable, but that can’t be all that we do.

We need to see our young people as an important part of the church today. As people that we can learn from, engage with and give opportunities for them to serve. If we want our young people to feel like they’re a part of the church then we need to make them part of the church! Let’s connect our young people, lets show them that they are valuable and that we care about them, lets empower them in their gifts and abilities.

I long for a day where Cornerstone is known as a place where young people are empowered to serve. Where it’s common to see youth on the stage, at the soundboard, ushering, helping with communion and so much more. Where our adults are engaging, investing, and mentoring our young people. Where no young person can graduate and leave without multiple adults having been invested in their lives. I pray for that day.