Seasonal Resources

A Prayer and Devotional Path Through Lent

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Lent is a season of solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar of some church denominations. It traditionally begins on Ash Wednesday and continues for 40 days until Easter Sunday. (The 40 days commemorate Jesus’ time of fasting and temptation in the desert; Sundays are not included in this count.) Lent is a time set aside for people of faith to focus on prayer and to consider the life and death of Jesus, specifically the events beginning on Palm Sunday and climaxing with Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday.

During the 40 days of Lent, Christians often commit to fasting from luxuries like dessert, social media, or other pleasant past times, while in recent years there has also been focus on “taking up” rather than “giving up” something for Lent. This might include a daily act of blessing others or taking up a spiritual discipline, such as Lenten devotions or following a prayer calendar each day.

Lenten devotional book and calendar done by Bev Wicher.

Lenten devotional book and calendar done by Bev Wicher.

However you might decide to rearrange your time during Lent, time given up or taken up is meant to create an awareness of our own personal failings and need for a Savior, and turn our hearts toward the God whom we so often turn away from. As we spend time in the Word and in prayer, we find time to slow down and contemplate all that Jesus did for us - His life, His suffering, His death. A “Lenten Path” or devotional calendar provides the space and visual accountability for this practice. Spaces can be used to record a one-word “take-away”, a short summary, or a visual image after reflecting on a reading or devotion. The spaces also provide a place for the option of gathering personal prayers or prayers for others - so that they might be seen and remembered.

Some examples of visual calendars for Lent.

Some examples of visual calendars for Lent.

A regular calendar template works well, or you might print one created especially for Lent. Taking time to add color creates a little more time for reflection; and if too much color is distracting, choosing 4 colors to use for your calendar is a good solution. As you can see by the calendar at lower left above, color is also an option - this one was created with a black pen and gray marker. It’s really about what works for you and brings the most blessing to your time with the Lord.

“Lenten Path” by Rachel Hinz

“Lenten Path” by Rachel Hinz

There are several “Lenten Path” calendars on the Visual Faith Ministry website, which are available for free download and printing for personal or ministry purposes. You can find them here: https://www.visualfaithmin.org/seasonal (Scroll down to find the “Lenten Path” resources.)

New this year is artist Rachel Hinz’s beautiful calendar which connects the symbolism of mankind’s fall into sin in the Garden of Eden - and our need for a Savior - with Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane as He wrestled with His Father’s will and the suffering to come. The thirty-six “leaf spaces” plus space within the tree, stone, or crown of thorns provide room for a 40 day recording of devotions or prayers.

“Lenten Path” by Pat Maier

“Lenten Path” by Pat Maier

Also new is this image of 40 “heart spaces” for reflective response - a reminder that everything Jesus did and endured was out of love for the world.

If you don’t have a Lent devotional, Creative Communications for the Parish and Concordia Publishing House both offer some excellent, and inexpensive devotional booklets for Lent - their resources include selections for families and children. Find them here: (search “Lent Devotions”)

http://www.creativecommunications.com/ and https://www.cph.org/

Portals of Prayer is also an excellent resource - available here: https://www.cph.org/portals/ or through an app on your iPhone (search “Portals of Prayer”).

Early Lenten calendars by Connie Denninger - templates by Sybil MacBeth of  prayingincolor.com .

Early Lenten calendars by Connie Denninger - templates by Sybil MacBeth of prayingincolor.com.

An added blessing is being able to look back and “see” the time you met God in His Word or spoke with Him in prayer. A yearly practice of priority …..

Connie uses the simple “four color” method during her devotional & prayer time.

Connie uses the simple “four color” method during her devotional & prayer time.

…. so we might understand God’s love more deeply and open our hearts a little bit wider that our Easter joy may be all the more overflowing with the realization of His great grace!

Lots of choices - also a wonderful resource available for those who work with children and youth.

Lots of choices - also a wonderful resource available for those who work with children and youth.

God bless you with a true spirit of repentance, a heart of gratitude, and a deeper faith

as you mark your spiritual path through Lent.

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Visual Prayer - Preschool Style

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Sara DeYarmond is a preschool teacher Our Savior Lutheran School in Lansing, Michigan. She herself is a graduate of Our Savior and returned to teach at her elementary alma mater. Sara and others from the Our Savior staff attended their church women’s retreat, called “Linger Longer”, where they learned about visual prayer. Excited about including visual faith practices in the classroom, Sara decided to use an Advent coloring calendar to help her little students focus on prayer in the weeks before Christmas.

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Sara printed off Advent coloring calendars from the Visual Faith Ministry website. There are many images to choose from under Seasonal Resources. This simple star image by Bev Wicher is perfect for young students. You can find it here: https://www.visualfaithmin.org/seasonal/advent-calendar-23-spaces-by-bev-wicher

Sara explains: “They pray out loud as they color and then we help them write the name of the person they prayed for in the box.”

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As part of this group process, Sara encourages her students to all pray out loud at the same time. Sara adds: “It’s a little crazy...and adorable. They have the option to find a quiet space away from the group if they choose.” Just imagine the sweet harmony of so many tiny voices talking to Jesus!

If you have experience with teaching preschool, or have had the chance to observe an early elementary classroom, you’ll probably agree that attention spans are limited and distraction is a given! Visual prayer corresponds with the skills of little ones who like to color and helps with focus and attention as they learn to pray. The children can “see” their conversations with God, go home to “tell” about them, and keep this new skill to use and develop as they grow in their faith.

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Visual prayer is for all ages. It’s for careful colorers, for those who color ouside the lines, and for those who might write words but choose not to color at all. It works for boys as well as girls, for women and men. Visual prayer has great impact on personal prayer time and, as in this case, lends itself well to the group prayers of even the tiniest of God’s people.

Thanks for sharing, Sara DeYarmond!

- Pat Maier

Honoring the True Gift of Christmas: A Luke 2 Tradition

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Giving gifts to family and friends during the Christmas season is a tradition followed by most people, regardless of their beliefs. Although the Wise Men figure prominently as historical gift givers, it is God who “so loved the world that he gave” the Gift of Christmas - Jesus. This tiny baby, God’s own Son, came to our world bringing hope and salvation to all who would believe. It is this amazing love that inspires us to give gifts to each other out of gratitude and joy.

When I married my husband David, I was introduced to his wonderful family tradition for opening gifts at Christmastime. It included reciting the Christmas story from Luke 2 prior to opening presents, bringing focus to Jesus as God’s gift to the world. I loved how this practice created a pause for gratitude and reflection, which added rich meaning to our time of gift giving.

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As our family grew, we continued to read Luke 2:1-20 and sing a few Christmas carols before our gift opening each Christmas. Students or friends whose homes were too far for travel were often invited to join us. If they were not people of faith, I often wondered if they minded sitting and listening - or if our practice made them feel left out.

When our children grew up and began bringing home special friends, I wondered how it might look to include everyone in this tradition in a way that would be comfortable for all and help them feel part of the family. We needed to have something on hand that would help us point to Jesus and enable each person to participate - something that would be a visual reminder for keeping the tradition, a “hands-on” faith tool for all ages, and a treasured memory for our children and grandchildren. In thinking about what it would sound like, what if each verse from Luke 2:1-20 could be typed up separately so that the voices of all - young and old, family and friend, faithful or seeking - could be heard proclaiming the precious account of Jesus’ birth to each other?

Honoring the True Gift of Christmas: A Luke 2 Tradition

These are the supplies you will need - making this project simple and affordable !

These are the supplies you will need - making this project simple and affordable !

The project involves making a series of hole-punched cards that can be organized onto an “O” ring and then handed out for reading. An inexpensive white 4 x 6 index card is used as the base; old Christmas cards and scrapbook paper are cut to size to decorate the front and back and affixed with double-sided tape. (You can also use a glue stick.) You could omit the index card, however, it adds a nice sturdiness to the cards.

The verses, words of explanation, and prayer are printed out and then torn or cut out to add to each card. Tearing around the words creates a vintage effect and is fun for children. A bit of distress ink dabbed around the edges adds visual appeal, or you might add a thin line of gold gelato and blend with a sponge (pictured). Punch a hole in the upper left-hand corner of the card, assemble on an “O” ring, and add some yarn and ribbon embellishment if desired.

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For the cover, choose a card that takes your breath away (because then you will see it every year!) I loved the rich hues of this image and added ribbons and yarn in similar colors.

Some explanation and words to bring focus….

Some explanation and words to bring focus….

Scrapbook paper adds visual appeal to the back of each card. The explanation and optional idea for carol singing fit well on the back of the cover. The second card provides words to share prior to the reading of the Christmas story - words to reflect on and call hearts to focus on the Christ Child. This is not meant to be scripted - a family leader may choose their own words - but for those who are not sure or who are new to the faith this may provide needed support.

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More words describing God’s Gift may be added to the back of the focus card - these are especially appropriate for an older crowd. As the years pass, you might add an extra card or two with your own reflections or meaningful words from a Christmas devotion.

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Each verse from Luke 2 is on it’s own card. It works well to gather everyone in a circle around the room and then pass out the cards - this will make it easier for the reading. If your group is small, verses card can be divided up between everyone; a small child might want to participate on cue with special words like “Fear not!” or “Glory to God in the highest.”

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Large verse numbers are provided for the back of each card to make it easier to put back in order afterwards. (It might also be a fun job to give the kids later on!)

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As you choose a card for each verse, may it be an enjoyable task to find an image to reflect the text. In the weeks before Christmas, you might find time to flip through the cards with your children - ask which one is their favorite or talk about how the words connect with what they see.

It’s these processes of taking time, of slowing down, of hearing and seeing, and repetition that will help hide the Word in little hearts.

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The project text is sized to fit vertically on the card -- but the verses will all fit horizontal orientation as well. It’s really up to YOU how you want to put it all together!

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And finally, a closing prayer.

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“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” - 2 Corinthians 9:15

Download instructions and text for this project here:

https://www.visualfaithmin.org/seasonal/luke-2-tradition-project-by-pat-maier

~ Pat Maier

PREPARE YE THE WAY TO A MEANINGFUL ADVENT

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Visual Faith Ministry is excited to share some new resources available on our website to bless you, your family, and your ministry during this Advent Season of reflection and preparation.

The Advent season varies in length, starting on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day and always ends on Christmas Eve. The word “Advent” comes from a Latin phrase meaning “coming”. It’s important (as we struggle with hectic schedules, distractions, and expectations) that we remember the many years God’s people were longing for the coming of the promised Savior, give thanks that Jesus did come for our salvation, and anticipate the sure hope of His second coming. How do we do this with the distractions of holiday schedules, expectations, and to-do lists? How can we help ourselves to hear His “still small voice”? (1 Kings 19:12)

This year Advent begins on Sunday, Dec. 2 - it will help to have resources ready and on hand to bless your time with the Lord. Here’s what you will find on our website under Seasonal Resources.

Jesse Tree Devotional Readings, Devotions, and Ornaments to Color

Jesse Tree Devotional Readings, Devotions, and Ornaments to Color

The Jesse Tree resource is a free download which comes in two parts and was created by Visual Faith Coaches Valerie Matyas and Katie Helmreich. Part 1 includes a listing of the complete readings and ornaments to cut out and color, and Part 2 is a Devotional Booklet that includes the readings plus a short devotion that can be read in addition to the reading and coloring of the ornaments.

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Use the Jesse Tree resources by setting aside a few moments each day to dwell in His Word. Meditate on His truth and promises for you as you color or decorate each ornament. Place the ornaments where you and your family will see them often and recall God’s goodness together. This project lends itself to personal study, family or classroom devotions, or as a multi-generational church gathering project. You can download this project here:

https://www.visualfaithmin.org/new-products-2/jesse-tree-readings-devotions-amp-ornaments-part-1-by-matyashelmreich

https://www.visualfaithmin.org/new-products/jesse-tree-devotional-booklet-part-2-by-matyashelmreich

Advent Devotional Calendar by Bev Wicher

Advent Devotional Calendar by Bev Wicher

An Advent Devotional Calendar is a visual faith focus tool that creates space in your busy day to record a prayer thought or image from your daily devotion. The printed page encourages daily faithful consistancy yet requires only a few extra minutes of time. After reading a short devotion or Bible reading, take a moment to ask yourself what word(s) or image might remind you of God’s Word for you this day. Add this to a space on the calendar - color is optional and can be added during later reflection if time is short. The end result with be a “selfie” of your time with God and help you remember the specific blessings of time in His Word.

Advent Calendar by Pat Maier

Advent Calendar by Pat Maier

Another fun option - which works well for families with older children or small groups - is to choose an Advent devotional series and challenge everyone to reflect and add a hashtag for each day. Pat Maier created a group text for her family and sent a picture of the devotion each day. As hashtags were texted throughout the day, they inspired further reflection or anticipation of the devotional truth in order to understand the hashtags! [Personal note: “Not all my children used the calendar, so the hashtag idea can stand alone. Whatever works!”]

New Advent Calendars for 2018

New Advent Calendars for 2018

These Advent Calendars are new to our website this year. You can download them, as well as others, under Seasonal Resources here:

https://www.visualfaithmin.org/seasonal/advent-calendar-23-spaces-by-bev-richter

https://www.visualfaithmin.org/seasonal/advent-calendar-2018-23-spaces-by-pat-maier

The Advent Calendar templates can also be used as a prayer focus tool by adding a different person or circumstance to pray for each day.

The Visual Church Year - Sermon Note Inserts for December

The Visual Church Year - Sermon Note Inserts for December

A final resource to bless your heart preparation this Advent is The Visual Church Year - available under the Worship Resources Tab on our website. It is a collaboration of many volunteer artists - and includes a sermon note insert and children’s bulletin. The images and text reflect the assigned gospel readings of the lectionary of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod each week. (If you belong to another church, many of the images will likely illustrate the Advent readings of your Christian church as well.)

The Visual Church Year -  “My Worship Notes”  Children’s Bulletins for December

The Visual Church Year - “My Worship Notes” Children’s Bulletins for December

“My Worship Notes” are engaging children’s bulletins which encourage children to participate in worship. This is a 4-page booklet style resource which includes the margin image of the corresponding sermon note insert as well as other images to color or fill in. Our hope is that it will encourage conversation within families during time together following a service and even into the week.

You can find The Visual Church Year here - the Graphics Only choice provides graphics for church offices to use as bulletin covers or to print within their own bulletins:

https://www.visualfaithmin.org/new-products?category=Visual%20Church%20Year

God bless you as you prepare to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, our Savior and King!

-- The Visual Faith Ministry Team