What if finding Christ in Christmas doesn’t have to be an uphill battle?

crossmasI saw something recently via a friend of a friend that you’ll now be able to see in our church building. It’s called a CROSS-mas Tree.”

When I saw it, I thought, “That’s awesome… one more way to remind us what Christmas is all about. I must get my hands on that so others can see Jesus through it.”

It turned out that I was able to go one step further. I was so intrigued by the idea that I connected with its creator, Darren Howard, and his wife Karley to understand what went into it.

What was the inspiration for this?

D: I just kind of wanted something for my family and household to remember Jesus more specifically. The normal Christmas tree is a very symbolic thing for many people, but when I look at by itself I don’t get what it represents. When Jesus was born for us, He wasn’t just some special kid – He was our Savior. I wanted something Christmas-like that symbolized this, so I thought I’d make a cross-shaped tree as it would be more visually engaging. I had a lot of prodding of the Spirit to work on this. It was a real God thing.

How did that play out, from idea to making your first one?

D: I first had the idea about four year ago, right around Christmas. A whole year went by, and then the next year I got kidney stones and was not able to work for a week. God slowed me down and stopped me, reminding me of the idea. So I used that time to create the first prototype and used it at my house. I got married and things got busy again, but then I finally buckled down this year and realized it was time to make a hard push to get more of these out there. That came from people who saw it who kept asking me how much I saved doing it myself, and then i realized that there wasn’t anything of this size or nature out there. So we have a patent on its design and are hoping to serve churches and households with it.

20141130_124107What have been some of those comments? 

K: We have a lot of friends over all the time, and it gives us another way of opening up to share Christ’s love with them as they come into the house. Not all of them are believers. It’s a great way to share the Gospel with them.

D: I also have a niece and a nephew who come over and I’ve never had anything that would visually draw them into Jesus and who He is. Everything is so visual in their generation. So it’s cool when they see a CROSS-Mas tree and have their own takeaways from it. They’ve asked questions about why it’s shaped like that, which then helps us help them to think about what Christ’s birth meant… what gift giving real represents… it’s not just about the presents. This pushes them into why do we give presents. It’s more of a visual aid as to why we do that.

I personally like how this can help our church focus in on Jesus. I imagine that will help countless people hone in on Him that much more as they sit in service.

D: There does seem to be a lot more Christians who magically pop up around Church. It helps the nominal Christian to transition into Christmas more. They see crosses and they get more serious. It engages them to challenge people more to considre the symbolism. I don’t think a lot of people realize the history of the evergreens, either… their needles are resistant to fire in ways other trees aren’t, They have the hardest of bark. They hold up against almost anything. In the old testament, they put pine branches in the Tabernacle. It’s such a great symbol of eternal, non-dying life. That symbolism wrapped up in a cross represents Christ. That’s stuff I never really realized until I did research


This is so simple, and yet so profound.

What do you think of it?

Would you want one for your church or youth room?

Do you do Lent?

 —  February 28, 2014 — 4 Comments

lent3Lent is an odd thing.

For some, it’s their chance to be noticeably religious for 40 days.

For others, it’s a dare to do something zany for that time. How many people have heard another person say, “I’m giving up Mountain Dew for Lent!”

Others write it off as something only a certain group of people do. “Isn’t that a Catholic thing?”

What if Lent could be a season of reinvesting into something genuine with God?

I wrote an article a couple of years ago on it. Here it is: http://www.ehow.com/how_8049745_celebrate-lent-new-ways.html

lent2The ideas I propose include ways to approach it through the “Greatest Commandment” (heart, soul, mind, strength, relationships), or even a day of the week. For example:

  • “Money-free Mondays”: Go through your entire day without spending money on anything.
  • “No-TV Tuesdays”: Turn the TV off, including any screen that involves entertainment or video games, and invest into something else that nurtures friendships.
  • “Weird Wednesdays”: Try new foods individually or as a household that you normally wouldn’t.
  • “Thumbs-Free Thursdays”: Give up all cell phone activity, including text messaging.
  • “Friendship Fridays”: Become attentive to others who are often overlooked.
  • “Something-New Saturdays”: Try something productive that you haven’t ever done before, such as take a class or conquer a fear.
  • “Sacrificial Sundays”: Make an intentional sacrifice to grow with God.

(Read the full article)

Any thoughts or observations on this?

  • What’s been the weirdest or coolest way you’ve seen someone experience Lent?
  • Any thoughts on how we can reclaim this out of it’s traditional, religious stereotype and let the Life of Christ take it over again somehow?

Maybe the goal isn’t to do Lent… maybe the goal is to let Lent undo you?


An older picture of our family, but still a favorite.


We were both in “ministry” when we got married, and well, God decided to give us a family right away. Within 3 years of saying “I DO,” we were caring for 3 kiddos. So here we were, staying in ministry outside the home, while at the same time attempting to be a good steward of what God had blessed us with.

From the start our intentions were always to have family practices that were “ours” but, it was easy to allow those to be pushed aside when “life” took over.

  Instead of  “investing” in  our kids, we were dragging them with us.

As a couple we had to sit down and come up with a plan so that our children would always know that no other youth were ever more important. There are everyday practices and traditions that needed to be put into place (and quickly) for our kids.

What did we do?

Learned our kids:

 Purposeful time set aside for each child is important. How this looks is also unique for each child. We need to begin by learning who our kids are, what they enjoy and how they like to be with us. One of mine wants to sit and talk about life, while another wants to be “doing” something. Take the time to meet them for who they are.

 “Sacred” Family Time Once A Week:

This is an evening or a day when phones are off, and put away. One weekend evening is pizza and a movie night. Once a month, on Saturday, we do a “paid” outing.  This is the zoo or a museum or something fun (that costs money). Every year we go apple picking. The point is that the “rest of the world” is shut out and your purpose is just to spend time together.

At least ONE meal a day together.

Honestly, this can be the hardest one to stick to.  However, the importance of a time where you are all sitting together as a family once a day is vital. It might need to be breakfast, it could be an afternoon snack. We have a “no electronics” and no answering the ringing phone rule during this time.

Open lines of communication:

Deuteronomy 6 tells us to be talking about the Lord and his Word to our kids all the time. Have deep conversations every moment they present themselves: in the car, as they get ready for school, making dinner… you get the point. Start this young, and when adolescence hits, talking as a family is already a habit.

Start young and keep it up.

I used to think that there “would come a day when my kids would be too old for…”  Now that my children are either in or on the cusp of the teen years, we see they need and want us more than ever. They still want John and I individually to “put them to bed.” It no longer entails rocking them to sleep,  or a night time story. However, they treasure that few moments each day they get us to themselves. We pray and chat. Often this is the time we get the most information from them about their true feelings in life.

Vacations and Holidays:

This has been said by everyone, but I just have to. Taking an extended time with my family once a year is essential. It’s when we remember we like each other.  It doesn’t have to be something huge or expensive. Just take time. During holidays when ministry seems to want all of our time, we find something that is “ours.” We have a red-velvet cake on Christmas day for Jesus.

The list could go on and on. Pick some things that work for your family and stick to them.  They may need to change from time to time. You will need to readjust as your kids hit different ages and seasons in life. Just remember to not let your ministry outside of the home overtake the one that inside it.

What are your family traditions? Share them in the comments below!

- Leneita


From time to time I post a question that comes into the blog for YOU to answer. What advice would you give this youth pastor who is asking about traditions in their youth ministry. Weigh in!

I’m working on the curriculum for our Confirmation class and was just wondering how you handle tradition out here (like the Apostle’s Creed, Wesleyan Quadrilateral, liturgy colors….etc.). We have both a traditional and contemporary service but the majority of our students attend the contemporary service. We very rarely say the Lord’s Prayer and have never said the Apostle’s Creed (in fact I can’t remember when the last time we said it in traditional services either). Just wanted to know how you fit this into your world, at what age, or if not at all. I love the Methodist tradition and teachings of John Wesley, but I can also understand why students get bored by it, especially when they never see it actively displayed in our church.

Thoughts? Your turn!