Monday, December 3, 2012

The Candy Pirates and Candy Canes

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

The Prayer Loft for the Advent Season

Here's today's episode of the Cinnamon Bear. Sometimes the trouble we expect turns in to a blessing. 

Much of last week was spent on making our prayer loft area ready for the Advent season. I try to change it every couple of months. In it I have lots of hands on prayer ideas and ways for people to connect with God . In the past I have pretty much come up with an idea an then done the work to make it happen on my own. This time part of the project goal was to include others in the creative process. So several months ago I held a meeting and invited people who wanted to help with creatively communicating things of God to attend. I had one lady show up and she was mainly interested in helping decorate the alter. She did a lovely job on the alter for November. I am thrilled by her help but it was certainly not team I was hoping to develop.

So two Sundays ago it was time to take down the previous prayer loft display and I still had no team. I mentioned to a couple of the homeless ladies that I was taking it down after the service and to my surprise I was met with enthusiastic "Oh can I help". "Sure" I said I guess one person told another and by the end of the service I had 4 ladies that stayed to help. I told them that I would be going to Hobby Lobby on Tuesday to get the items for the new display. I was met with "Oh could we go with you". On Tuesday I had two ladies who live at the women's shelter and one who camps under the bridge with me for an outing to get supplies at hobby lobby.

Thankfully I had thought things through pretty well on Monday and had a pretty good idea on what kinds of things we needed to find. This Hobby Lobby is about the size of a football field. These ladies were sent off in all directions to find various things and would come back to me with what they had found. "What about this? Will this work? and I would say "yes I like that thing" and "no that is not quite right". Off they would go again in search of the perfect items. They were so excited to be allowed to shop, and participate in creating something beautiful for God. We were all exhausted by the time we were done but felt great about our purchases.

Wednesday two of the ladies were back and eager to help with hanging the star and placing the nativity set items that I borrowed from my mom. They were back on Thursday but pretty much working on their own because I was working in the church office on bulletins for the Sunday service and for a funeral that we were hosting on Saturday. They came in for a bit on Friday to do some finishing touches. I was both surprised and blessed by their faithfulness to the project.

On Saturday night I finally had a chance to make all the cards that explained how to use each area. I collected poems and songs for people to use to reflect and pray and connect with God. I put them in place early Sunday morning.

I'm not sure this has anything to do with our story from the Cinnamon Bear. Except that perhaps some times that things we think are going to be difficult turn out to be a sweet blessing. I went from having no team to suddenly having a team of excited women to work with. These homeless women were so excited to be able to help. I would ask that you pray that God would bless each of them. 
There is a line in a poem by Christian Rossetti that says "What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart." 
These ladies, who have so little, yet they gave their time, and their creativity to the king of Kings. As I stood there on Sunday watching people experience the Advent Prayer Loft  for the first time I was struck by a beauty that most people will never even see. These women gave the gift of the widows mite to Jesus. (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4.) I wonder what will you give to Jesus this year? I hope you like me, will be both humbled and inspire by the gift that these homeless women gave.

I also wanted to share with you how to use the Candy Cane Outreach tool since it sort of goes well with todays Cinnamon Bear story.  I modified a tag I found on the internet with the story of the Candy Cane and we taped them to each candy cane . Below the photo you will find what I wrote on the instructional tag that is placed near the basket of candy canes in our prayer loft.

Candy Canes as an Outreach Tool
How to use The Candy Cane as a Christmas Outreach Tool

1. Lay your hands on the basket of Candy Canes. Ask the Lord to bring to mind people you know in the Spokane area who do not know Jesus or who do not have a church home. If God does not bring a name to mind pray and ask Him to lead you to someone during the week and use it as a gift of kindness to a stranger who you will invite to church. 

2. Take some time today in the prayer loft to pray for the name that came to mind or for the stranger you expect that God will lead you to during the week.  Pray that God will go before you to prepare their heart. Pray that God will lead you in what to say and give you courage and boldness.

3. On the card attached to the candy cane you will find a blank line - write your name on it. Let them know you will be praying for them. Continue praying for them during the Christmas season.

Here are some of the other photos I took of this current prayer loft project. I will try to tell you more about some of the area along with future posts.

The Star

Gifts of Praise

Gifts of the Magi
The Shepherds and Candles

The Manger

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