Monthly Archives: August 2015

As for Me and My House…

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)


The theme for the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America’s 2016 Creative Festival is a good thing for all Orthodox Christians to think about, regardless of jurisdiction. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) This is a great verse for us to study with our family, and is even more important for us to embrace as the theme for our family’s home.

A few thoughts on the passage: Take a moment to look at the whole 24th chapter of Joshua to better understand the context of this statement of faith. In the verses prior to verse 15, we read that Joshua was reminding the Israelites of everything that God had done for them over the years. He told them to put away all other idols and serve only God. Then he made this bold declaration of his plan that he and his household would serve the Lord.

In the verses that follow, we read that Joshua carried on a dialogue with the Israelite people. As he was doing this, the people kept saying, “We will follow God!” and Joshua replied that God is Holy and therefore His people can not follow any other gods; only Him. This happened multiple times; it is almost as though Joshua was trying to talk the Israelite people out of following God; certainly he was testing their resolve; checking to see if they were certain of their decision. But the people insisted that they would follow only God. Finally, all together they made a covenant to follow the Lord. They even set up a big rock to remind themselves of that covenant.

It’s interesting to note that Joshua didn’t force the people to follow God. He simply encouraged them to choose for themselves and then he set the example by choosing to follow God with his household. As Orthodox Christian parents, we can choose that our household will follow God while our children are under our roof, as well, just as Joshua chose to do with his family. But, in the same way that Joshua related to the children of Israel who were not in his household, we too cannot force our children to follow God once they outgrow our home. We baptise our children into the Faith while they are young and we are still able to set their course in the direction of the Church, but we cannot force them to continue. That has to be their choice, and, God willing, it will be! So, just as Joshua did for his fellow Israelites, let us invite our children to follow only God for all of their lives. Let us lead the way by our own example, removing any idols in our home and in our life that could interfere with that complete following. While we follow, let us also keep reminding our children (and ourselves) of all that God has done for us along the way. Let us also remind each other that we need to follow Him without distractions. And the whole time, both when they are following with us in our home, and when they have moved out on their own, let us pray for our children, that they will always choose to serve the Lord!

Together with the family:

  1. Study Joshua 24:15 together.
  2. Talk about the verse and its implications. Consider questions such as these: So that our family can follow God more completely, is there anything that needs to change in our household? What are the idols – the things that we are allowing to be more important to us than God – that are keeping our family from following fully? How can we really serve the Lord? What does serving Him look like in everyday life?
  3. Commit together as a family to serve the Lord with all of your hearts. Make a plan for how to do that.
  4. Place a reminder, a “stone of remembrance” of sorts, somewhere in your home that will help you to remember this passage and your family’s commitment to following God more fully. It could be an actual stone or perhaps an artistic rendering of Joshua 24:15.
  5. Serve Him!

The following ideas can help your family as you apply Joshua 24:15:

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Need an idea of a way to study this passage together as a family? Here is a free printable pdf that includes the passage and a variety of related activities, including a coloring page, a word search, a crossword puzzle, fill-in-the-blank, and a devotional meditation that incorporates other scriptures. Print one for the family to share, or one for each family member. http://kidsclubs4jesus.com/OT1-60/OT35.pdf

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Khouria Gigi Shadid’s song about Joshua 24:15 can help us think about this passage. Listen here: http://www.antiochian.org/festivals/cf/theme-song-2016

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Find practical ways to implement your family’s decision to serve the Lord on this Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/lkmcj/as-for-me-and-my-house/

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Find a free “chalkboard-look” printable (5×7 size) of Joshua 24:15 to frame and display, here: http://prettydarncute.com/2013/09/new-free-printable/

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There are many ways to display Joshua 24:15 in your home. Find decals, plaques, signs, and more here: https://www.etsy.com/market/joshua_24_15

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If you have a member of the family that enjoys counted cross stitch, perhaps they could stitch this wallhanging for your house: http://www.bevscountrycottage.com/x-stitch/myhouse2.html

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Here’s a blog that one mom wrote which includes several craft ideas of ways to help children create displays of Joshua 24:15 to put up at home as a reminder: https://intentionalmomblog.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/a-as-for-me-and-my-house-we-will-serve-the-lord-joshua-2415/

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Resources for Orthodox Christian Parents and Teachers

Here is a list of many of the sites that the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education visits when searching for ideas and resources for our online ministry.

Orthodox sites:

  1. Ancient Faith Ministries: http://www.ancientfaithministries.com/

This site offers a mix of audio and publishing ministries to Orthodox Christians. Ancient Faith has talk radio, Orthodox Christian music, podcasts, blogs, vlogs, and even an online bookstore.

Podcasts of particular interest to parents and teachers include:

  1. Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation

Our website offers a variety of links to online resources.

We also offer the following online ministries:

  1. AODCE’s parenting blog: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/
    This blog consists of a variety of regular blog posts. The posts range from parenting ideas to book reviews to a featured saint and more.
  1. AODCE’s SCS teachers blog: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/

Ideas for Sunday Church School teachers are posted regularly on this blog. Blog posts contain lesson ideas, craft suggestions, classroom management and lesson plan guidance, and much more.

  1. AODCE’s Pinterest site: https://www.pinterest.com/aodce/

Find a variety of boards featuring everything from Orthodox photos to articles and resources to quotes from the church fathers to learning activities for kids on our pinterest site.

  1. Department of Christian Education of the Orthodox Church in America: http://dce.oca.org/

The DCE offers a myriad of helpful resources for parents and teachers. Here are a few:

Find focus units for learning about Pascha, the Nativity, the Orthodox Family, and more here: http://dce.oca.org/page/focus/

Find mini units here: http://dce.oca.org/page/mini/

See a variety of downloadable and printable bulletin inserts here: http://dce.oca.org/page/bulletins/

Find free printable activity books here: http://dce.oca.org/page/activity-books/

Find even more resources here: http://dce.oca.org/page/resources/.

  1. GOARCH: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/folder.2012-03-22.9458973042

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese offers a variety of helpful educational tools, including downloadable curriculum and many other ideas for helping children learn about the Faith.

  1. GOARCH’s Center for Family Care: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family/
    Find support for Orthodox Christian family life at this website. It also features ideas for how to live the Faith in the context of family life.
  1. The Children’s Word: http://myocn.net/orthodox-christian-news/orthodox-christian-childrens-newsletter/

This OCN-published children’s bulletin can be downloaded and printed weekly. Each issue is free and will help children learn about the Gospel lesson of the week, or a saint, etc.

  1. Illumination Learning: http://illumination-learning.com/main/

This site calls itself “a collection of Orthodox Christian resources for family-centered catechesis.”

  1. Orthodox ABC.com: http://www.orthodoxabc.com/

Orthodox ABC offers printable pdfs that feature lessons on the basics of the Orthodox faith.

  1. Orthodox Children’s magazine: “Little Falcons:” http://www.littlefalcons.net/

From the website: “Little Falcons is perhaps the best magazine for young people in the Orthodox Church… it succeeds by being fun, educational, interesting, while teaching… Orthodox piety.” Each issue features an aspect of The Faith, including articles, stories, activity pages, and pictures. Many back issues are available, as well.

  1. Orthodox Children’s Press: http://www.theorthodoxchildrenspress.com/

The site states, “We are a publishing company with a desire to provide Orthodox Christian children with books and goods that strengthen their faith and love of the Church.” The site also offers simple craft ideas for Orthodox kids.

  1. Orthodox Christian Network: http://myocn.net/

The OCN was commissioned by SCOBA to be a media witness for Orthodox Christians throughout North America. The OCN features podcasts, blogs, vlogs, and more.

  1. Orthodox Education Blogspot:  http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/ features a variety of Orthodox activities that families and teachers can use to help children learn about their faith.
  1. PRAXIS: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/praxis

This Orthodox Christian professional educators’ magazine benefits teachers, Sunday Church School teachers, and parents alike. Some issues are archived and immediately accessible on the website.

  1. Phyllis Onest: http://www.phyllisonest.com/

Phyllis Onest’s website offers resources for Orthodox Christian educators, including sections for parents, teachers, and clergy.

  1. Various Orthodox parenting/teaching blogs:
  • http://www.orthodoxmom.com/ About the blog: “… a place where parents [can] meet and talk about all the mishaps and triumphs of raising children within the Orthodox Faith.”
  • http://manymercies.blogspot.com/ About the blogger: “…I am a designer & homeschooling mother; convert to the Orthodox Christian faith, making our home a little church. I’m bookmarking resources and sharing what I have.” This blog includes many free printables that can help children learn about their faith.
  • http://charmingthebirdsfromthetrees.blogspot.com/ About the blogger: “I am an Orthodox Christian woman who is happily married to an Orthodox priest. I am a mama to three little ones and I enjoy trying to create a peaceful and lovely life for my sweet family.” The blog includes many ideas of ways to help children learn.
  • http://www.creativehandscreativeminds.com/ About the blogger: “I have taught drawing, art history and history classes to children in my local homeschool community. This blog is a place to share some of the projects I have done with my own children and with children of various ages in the classes I have taught.”
  • http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/ About the blogger: “I am a mother to three busy children and a graduate of Pratt Institute (BFA) and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary (M.Div.)… I am thankful for the online chance to share Orthodox ideas to keep our children engaged and wish your families many blessings.”
  • http://craftycontemplative.com/ About the blog: “Orthodox Christian faith, family, and finger painting… This blog documents my struggle to create a home environment and lifestyle that leads my family to a place of prayer.”
  • http://orthodoxsundayschoolresources.tumblr.com/ About the blog: “This blog was created by a young Orthodox Christian girl from Greece in order to share with all the Orthodox Sunday School teachers and Orthodox parents material useful for a Christian education (Orthodox coloring pages, stories, handcrafts, songs, etc).”

Other (Non-Orthodox, But Useful) Sites:

  1. Crayola: http://www.crayola.com/

This thorough arts/crafts website offers art and craft ideas, free printables, and lesson plans. Parents and teachers will find this site helpful to use with children of all ages.

  1. Danielle’s Place: http://www.daniellesplace.com/index.html

This website is full of educational ideas, including crafts and printables. The site also includes a section on Bible games, one on Bible crafts, and one for VBS craft ideas.

  1. DLTK Kids (Bible section): http://www.dltk-bible.com/

The Bible part of the DLTK Kids website offers craft ideas and other resources based on the Bible.

  1. Family Education.com: http://www.familyeducation.com/

This huge site is filled with articles and helpful advice for a variety of family-related things. Of particular interest to the educational aspects of parenting is this page, which offers educational printables at so many ability levels: http://printables.familyeducation.com/.

  1. Help Teaching: http://www.helpteaching.com/free-printable-worksheets.htm

This members-only site offers thousands of printables as well as a test maker. Non-members can still use the test maker; but are limited to 10 questions per test.

  1. Kids Sunday School.com: http://www.kidssundayschool.com/

This colorful, well-organized Christian Education website features lesson plans, object lessons, craft ideas, activities, printables and more! Preschool and grade school leveled. Members of the site have access to everything; some parts are free to the public.

  1. Making Friends: http://www.makingfriends.com/

This website offers craft ideas (including making things from recycled items) and free reproducibles, including Bible-themed activities.

  1. Ministry to Children.com: http://ministry-to-children.com/

This website features lesson plans, object lessons, and printable coloring pages for Bible stories; all offered for free!

  1. Scholastic: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/ and http://www.scholastic.com/parents/

Each of these sites offers articles, lessons, and ideas on many topics of interest to grownups and the kids with whom they work. Information is offered at a variety of age levels, from birth to grade 8.

  1. Sunday School Kids.com: http://www.sundayschoolkids.com/

Sunday Church School teachers will find a variety of ideas, resources, and printables at this site.

  1. Super Teacher Worksheets: https://www.superteacherworksheets.com/index.html

For a fee, visitors to this website can become members and have access to thousands of printable worksheets. Some of the worksheets are available for free to anyone, however; and the worksheet generator is especially helpful for creating review activity sheets for Sunday Church School!

  1. Teacher Help.org: http://www.teacherhelp.org/bible_lessons.htm#.VU0EgpI4nTY

This website is a compilation of links to other sites that can be useful to Sunday Church School teachers who are teaching their students about the Bible.

  1. Youth Ministry Resources: http://www.teensundayschool.com/

This site offers lessons, activities, games, etc. for those working with teens. Members of the site have access to everything; some parts are free to the public.

On Taking the High Road

“Always take the high road!” was the mantra of the long-time marching band director at our local high school. The year both of my children were in the band together was the first I remember hearing him say it. Chaperoning the band during home games and seeing this mantra painted in huge letters on the top of his conducting stand further hammered it into my memory. And he meant it, too! When other schools’ bands would continue to play piece after piece from the stands during a football game, leaving no time for our band to play, he would remind the kids, “take the high road!” If the other football team was not playing fairly, or the referees made a poor call, he would stand up before the band, and gently remind them, “take the high road!”

He took this life lesson one step further during each home game by sending his student leadership to meet the student leaders of the other band and present them with a small welcoming gift. No matter how the other team was playing, no matter how the other band was acting, our student leaders always walked around the football field and presented a gift. And with that gift came the opportunity for the band leadership to put the saying into practice.

The band director’s words continue to resonate in our minds even though he has retired. His modeling of the words, as well as the way in which he helped his students to practice them have left a lifelong impact. Our family continues to quote him, reminding ourselves and each other to take the high road.

Sometimes I have heard people encourage their children to “shake it off.” This can be a useful statement (especially if there’s a spider on them!), and is a good place to start for negative attitudes, experiences, and words. But it seems to me that “shaking it off” is only part of the solution. Shaking off something is a mental release of the anxiety or anger that a negative situation can present. Of course, that is necessary for moving on in a positive way. “Shaking it off” is a good start as one leaves something negative and perhaps painful behind and moves away from it.

But as Christians, are we not called to much more? Christ Himself extended grace and forgiveness to those religious leaders who, in their great religiosity, were actually leading people away from Him, although He is God. He extended that same grace and forgiveness to the very people who were crucifying Him. He even extends it to me, a sinner, and to you as well. Our Lord does not just shake anyone off with a thought of “good riddance!” and leave them behind. Instead, He tries to help them see the Truth, and when they choose not to, He asks God to forgive them. He always takes the high road.

“Always taking the high road” takes “shake it off” to the next level. If one takes the high road, not only are they releasing the negative event, or “shaking it off,” they are taking it one step further by doing something positive in its wake. By doing so, they are not just helping themselves, but they are also blessing and benefitting the others around them. In doing so, they are most likely even including those who may have caused the issue in the first place. They are acting just as Our Lord Himself did.

Taking the high road will very often include extending forgiveness. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you”  (Eph. 4:32) is not easy to do, and sometimes we get tired of forgiving the same person for the same sins against us. But how often do we commit the same sins against God and yet He forgives us? In the scriptures, we’re instructed to forgive and forgive others. For example, Matthew 18: 21-22: “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” It seems like 490 times is a lot of times to forgive the same individual. But again, how often do we commit the exact same sins against God and yet expect Him to forgive us?!? Forgiveness plays a major role in taking the high road.

Our Lord was not the only one who took the high road. The saints have done so, as well. They have also encouraged others to follow suit. For example, St. Ignatius of Antioch spoke about taking the high road. He also suggested a way to successfully do so: through prayer! “And pray ye without ceasing in behalf of other men.  For there is in them the hope of repentance that they may attain to God.  See, then, that they be instructed by your works, if in no other way.  Be ye meek in response to their wrath, humble in opposition to their boasting: to their blasphemies return your prayers; in contrast to their error, be ye steadfast in the faith; and for their cruelty, manifest your gentleness.  While we take care not to imitate their conduct, let us be found their brethren in all true kindness; and let us seek to be followers of the Lord (who ever more unjustly treated, more destitute, more condemned?), that so no plant of the devil may be found in you, but ye may remain in all holiness and sobriety in Jesus Christ, both with respect to the flesh and spirit.”

It is imperative that we teach our children to love, to forgive, and to shake it off. Because we are Orthodox Christians, it is even more important that we teach them to take it a step further by always taking the high road. Forgiveness and prayer are great partners that will help us to do so. Imagine what a blessing the Church could be to our world if each of us would truly take the high road all of the time?

May the retired band director’s mantra resonate in all of our minds. And may we live it well! Let us always take the high road. And let us teach our children to do the same.

Here are additional thoughts and ideas of ways that we can teach our children to always take the high road:

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Read another mom’s blog about teaching her child to take the high road: http://lifeonmanitoulin.com/2013/01/taking-the-high-road-things-we-teach-our-children.html

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St. Paul wrote an encouragement to help the Ephesians take the high road, in chapter four of his letter to them. See a chalk artist’s rendering of it here: https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xfa1/v/t1.0-9/s720x720/223932_10150977305710909_151627035_n.jpg?oh=1415bf672acc4f66298da7825ea35dff&oe=567EEFFB

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Print and frame this verse from James to remind yourself and your family of how important it is to extend mercy while taking the high road: http://homewiththeboys.net/wp-content/uploads/Kind-Mercy-James-2-13.pdf

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Go for a walk in a place where you can choose a steep, high road or a flat/downhill one. Lead the family up the high road after walking on the low one, and talk about the difference. Is it easier or harder to take the high road? Apply this physical experience to the concept of “always taking the high road” so that the children know it is not the easy way out! But point out the difference in view: which way allows you to see better? The high road! Then discuss this quote: https://meetville.com/images/quotes/Quotation-Rachel-St-John-Gilbert-work-strength-effort-Meetville-Quotes-274567.jpg

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One way to take the high road is to THINK before we speak. http://www.courageouschristianfather.com/before-you-speak-think-acronym/

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Taking the high road makes us better citizens of our country, as well. Find ideas (sorted by age level) for helping your children become more responsible citizens here: https://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/citizen/citizen.pdf

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Recipes for Summertime Fasting With Kids

We are in the midst of the Dormition Fast, preparing our hearts and minds to celebrate the dormition of the Theotokos on August 15. Granted, fasting is about so much more than just abstaining from certain foods. However, part of fasting IS about abstaining from certain foods, and sometimes it is a struggle to think of what to serve to our children that they will eat, which will also help us all to keep the fast.

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the Dormition fast falls right in the middle of summer. With all the fresh produce available, it seems that the Dormition fast should be an easy one for us to keep. Yet, sometimes it is still a struggle to think of ideas of what to serve. This blog post will offer kid-friendly ideas for summertime fasting.
Here are some kid-friendly summertime fasting ideas:

Summertime is not an easy time for a fast. “It’s… very hard to fast when our culture is not geared toward it. Summer is a time for cookouts and beach parties, not spiritual discipline…The summer, however, does provide us with many fast-friendly foods like fresh garden vegetables, fruits, and salads.  ” (1) It is our hope that this blog will help us all find some new yummy recipes to add to our arsenal!

Any resources that you have to share would be welcomed, as well! Please comment below and share your ideas with the rest of the community. May God bless your fast, and may we all grow closer to Our Lord through this season!

Footnote:

  1. Read more in the article “Summer Fare” at  http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/inhome/summerfare.htm

Here are additional resources to check out as you help your family keep the Dormition Fast:

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Mmm! The “Grilled Corn Salad” recipe here looks colorful and yummy! http://thegreekvegan.com/category/kid-friendly/page/2/

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Find 9 ways to serve in-season fava beans here: http://www.blisstree.com/2011/06/20/food/meatless-monday-9-fava-bean-recipes-for-summer/

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Avocados are easy to find in summertime! Here are some tasty ways to serve them, including a breakfast pudding recipe and a recipe for chilled curried coconut avocado soup: http://www.blisstree.com/2011/07/25/food/meatless-monday-11-vegetarian-avocado-recipes/

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Incorporate protein into your children’s pasta with this “Peanut Butter Noodles” recipe: http://www.vegkitchen.com/kid-friendly-recipes/kid-friendly-peanut-butter-noodles/

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The “Cilantro Lime Rice Salad” recipe at the top of this list looks like a refreshing and delicious meal: https://orthodoxfastingrecipes.wordpress.com/

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Check out the “Lucky Green Dip” (or the “Summer Reboot Salad” or the “Summer Slaws”) recipe here: http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com/2013/08/33-potluck-perfect-vegan-dishes.html

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Who would guess that this “Chocolate Cookie Dough Dip” for fruit is full of protein? http://www.win-winfood.com/chocolate-cookie-dough-dip/

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This tasty dessert doubles as a fun family craft: http://www.babble.com/best-recipes/banana-sushi/

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Okay, so maybe summertime is not the best time to bake, but who can resist the name of this yummy-looking vegan recipe? http://www.orthodoxmom.com/2008/12/15/curious-george-bread-recipe/