Lent Devotional: Remember

Can you remember when God carried you through something very difficult?

Every week, members of New World United Methodist Church come around a table at a local family shelter for an evening of fellowship, prayer and creating art. Residents in the shelter are there for many different reasons – job losses, deaths in the family, fleeing domestic violence, unexpected illnesses or other expenses.

Art brings people together. The act of creating art has a powerful way of bringing about calm, healing and empowerment. We choose to create art with residents of a local shelter because many of the families are in desperate need of space for calm, connection, dignity and love.

Each week we have a different project and a different theme. In the picture, we are creating very special prayer beads, “ebenezer beads.” You might recognize the word “ebenezer” from the hymn “Come, Thou Font of Every Blessing.” My favorite verse goes like this:

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there by Thy help I come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home

What in the world is an ebenezer, you ask, and why are we raising one? The Hebrew word literally means “stone of help.” The song is a reference to the book of 1 Samuel:

Samuel took a stone and set it up . . . and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”  1 Samuel 7:12

In the story, Samuel is raising a special monument in gratitude for God’s faithfulness as the Israelites defeated the powerful Philistines. Samuel wants to make sure that all who come to this place remember what God has done for God’s people. We are called to remember.

In our prayer bead project, each participant was invited to include a few handmade beads made the week before. As they pray with their beads, these special beads serve as a reminder that God will faithfully bring each family through life’s difficult times of transition.

May we all remember that God is faithful.

Prayer: Dear God, we remember the times in our life when you brought us through difficult circumstances and we thank you. We pray for people in our community who are experiencing homelessness. Lead us to be messengers of your mercy, love and grace. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Suggested Scripture:

I’m grateful to God, whom I serve with a good conscience as my ancestors did. I constantly remember you in my prayers day and night. When I remember your tears, I long to see you so that I can be filled with happiness.I’m reminded of your authentic faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice. I’m sure that this faith is also inside you.Because of this, I’m reminding you to revive God’s gift that is in you through the laying on of my hands.God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled. 

2 Timothy 1:3-7

Reflection Questions:

Remember a time you went through something difficult. How did God bring you through that? How can you thank God for God’s faithfulness?



Project 365: Day 160 First Day of Unofficial Art Camp


During the last several months, I have discovered a love for creating art and I have a dream of sharing that love with others. The process of creating art can be relaxing, healing, even a way to connect with God. I would love to lead a ministry someday that encourages people to nurture their creativity.

I often use art and creative expression as part of the senior high Bible study I teach. Even though I have more enthusiasm than artistic talent, I don’t let that hold me back. This summer I thought I’d experiment with leading a mini art camp at my house.

How it worked: I invited just enough students (my friends’ kids) to fit around my kitchen table. I researched ideas from Pinterest and my own art classes, picked up supplies, sketched out a lesson plan. Old shirts were purchased from Goodwill to serve as art smocks, a drop cloth was out down, and voila! Art Camp!

Day One was focused on drawing faces and basic art elements. We created art journals and portfolios.

As a class, we came up with the following rules before we started:

1. We are all artists. (We are made in the image if a great Creator and Artist – Claim it!)
2. Be nice to others.
3. Sharing is what we do.
4. Be nice to yourself. (We tend to be our own harshest critics so those negative thoughts were not allowed at Art Camp!)
5. Everything is an experiment.
6. Be careful.

Pretty good rules to live by, don’t you think?

How could you adapt this idea and use it in your ministry? Who can you ask for help?

Here are pictures from Day One of Art Camp:









Project 365: Day 91 Creative time


I got a lot of productive work done today, scholarship essays and other legwork, but I also carved out an hour to go to my happy place, my painting table.

I painted and got my hands sticky with gel medium. I’m working on about 5 mixed media canvases at once, alternating as my heart whispers to me. I would love to create art that inspires others, and I would love to inspire others to create art.

If we are the sons and daughters of a Creative God, and we are made in His image, it only makes sense to me that we can draw closer to Him as we explore our creativity. How do you do this?

7 Thrifty & Easy Gifts to Celebrate Your Inner Artist this Season

“We are all artists in everything we do.  Art is creating; it is our link that makes us like God.  All you have to do is look at any form of nature to know that God is the greatest artist of all.  He gives us beauty in his creations to inspire us to find the artists inside of us.  Art isn’t just about painting or sculpture.  It is in everything from how you organize your life to how you communicate with the world.” – Bethany Jane Andrews Hoey

Killing a little time, I ran across this Facebook status update, “Make things for Christmas this year not simply because of economics, but because you’ve forgotten that you are an artist.”  So who would have guessed – maybe the Facebook newsfeed is the new way to get inspired.

Now, I don’t define myself as an artist.  In the world of arts & crafts, I certainly lean toward the passably-crafty-at-best end of the spectrum.  But why not spend a little time unleashing your own creativity or the creativity of your youth this season?  

Here are 7 really easy & thrifty gifts you (or your youth) can make this year:

1.  Handmade cards.  Grab a piece of card stock, cut it in half and then fold that in half (any direction is okay).  Voila!  You have the beginning of a card.  There are a jillion stickers and stamps and products you could buy to make a card, but the favorite one I ever received was a hand-drawn stick figure with a santa hat and a heartfelt message.  You could recycle images from old Christmas card fronts as well.  How cool would it be if the youth made cards for the seniors or the pastors in your church?

2. Favorite Memory Drawing.  Think of a friend and a favorite time together – maybe it was a special worship time on a retreat, for example.  On a plain sheet of paper, draw a picture representing that memory.  This doesn’t have to be impressive art here – think Shel Silverstein or Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Frame your art when you are done.  On the back of the frame, you could write a personal message about your friendship.

3. Start an annual ornament tradition.  For the last several years, I’ve crafted little ornaments for each of my youth.  The idea behind an annual ornament is that if they stay involved in the youth group, by the time they graduate they will have 6 ornaments of their own to put on their first Christmas trees as young adults.   There are tons of ways to make an ornament, here’s how I did mine: First, I found matching plain wood cutouts, usually with a meaningful symbol like a cross, angel, star, etc.  I spray painted them white, drew the date & a little verse or symbol on the back with a ultra fine permanent marker, tied on a ribbon.  (I have a weakness for glitter so I added that, but it’s totally optional.)  Although I made mine as a gift for the youth, you could also have the youth make them as a group project or tie it in with an advent lesson.







Marbled Ornaments.  Here’s a really easy ornament that youth could make, but make sure it’s youth who can handle breakables.  You’ll need clear glass ornaments & craft paint in a variety of colors.  Remove the metal cap & drip paint into the opening of the ornament.  By slowly turning the ornament around, the paint coats the inside of the ornament.  You can add additional colors until you get the marbleized effect you like.  A little paint goes a long way.  For best results, let the ornaments dry overnight before replacing the cap.





4. Time capsule ornament.  You’ll need a clear plastic ornament that you can open (available at most craft stores), strips of colored paper, optional small photos & mementos, ribbon & tape.  Write down favorite memories from the year on strips of paper, or even favorite Bible verses and wishes for the future.  Fill the clear plastic ornament, tape it shut and tie it with a ribbon.  Add the date on the outside.  If you happen to know someone with a little one having a first Christmas, this is a great gift.  This might be a cool New Year’s Eve project as well.

5. Cookie baskets.  Or really any kind of homemade food.  Include the recipes for an additional nice touch.  (Feel free to send me one.)

6. Homemade Coupons.  A meaningful way to tie the idea of serving others to Christmas is to make service coupons for gifts.  Have youth brainstorm ways they could help out their loved ones & make coupons.  Would they be willing to shovel the sidewalks for other church members?  How about offering to clean the kitchen without complaining?  Youth could put them in a decorated envelope.  (I’d suggest making coupons good for “Staying after the New Year’s Eve lock-in to clean up,” but that’s just me.)

7. Write a poem, compose a song.  Everyone has different learning styles, different gifts.  Celebrate the creative genius in your youth by having them write poems or songs.  Or write a song yourself, make a YouTube video of it & share it with us.


I don’t know about you, but I’m getting about two dozen emails a day from retailers this week trying to get me to buy something no one really needs for Christmas.  Why not give a gift of your own creation this year?  And if you do, share some pictures with us!

What other creative gift ideas do you have?

Erin Jackson is National Director – Community & Care for the Center of Youth Ministry Excellence and the YouthWorker Movement. She is a veteran & certified youthworker as well, and loving her current role as a volunteer Senior High Bible Study teacher.  She lives in Arlington, Texas with her husband Dennis, three kids and a dog. She can be found blogging at http://umyouthworker.com/
Follow @ErinJackso