Sunday, July 31, 2005

Justice, Awe, Beauty, Roots, Community

I've been thinking about the last 5 posts. Maybe this would be helpful.

One of the scenes I love is in 101 Dalmations where the dogs bark across the countryside trying to find the puppies. That's an image I have when when I think of community. Any story about a community of people (or children) working together to accomplish something. Some are hilarious!

You could probably put Disney's Robin Hood under justice. There are actually a few Disney movies that may not be as popular that touch justice. The Power of One is NOT a kids' movie unless you preview and fast forward but it's probably one of the most powerful movies we've seen about justice.

Roots. Whale Rider for kids in mid elementary +. You'd have to talk about it. Alot of the older movies were more about severing roots than finding them. Biographies about significant people in church history. Historicals, immigration, books and movies about the countries and time periods that your ancestors came from . . .

Awe. I was so impressed in St. Louis when we saw the movie about building the St. Louis Arch because there was no loss of life. Any real life survival story or overcoming odds. Stories about miracles. Stories about inventors, engineers, scientists. There's a book of true stories about heroic kids ...I'll have to find it.

Beauty...stories about artists, writers, musicians, natural science, landscape panaramas, photographs, art, music, ...

When you see or read or hear something you want to remember buy it or keep a notebook and make a comment (where you found it) and note the age it's appropriate for. If you want me to make a list here, send me your info or put it in a comment.

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

Friday, July 29, 2005

For lack of a link...

Updated 7/27/05 [I think I failed to post this]
and again 12/06

If I knew how to list their links...

Fun Artisan Blogs ( :

Tracey and Able*

* with some kid stories!


Community! Extended family. . . neighborhood . . . small town . . .diverse . . . not diverse. . . held together by ethnic origin . . . business community . . . school community . . . faith community. . . some are communal ... most are not. . . relational . . .geographical. . . sometimes defined by whether or not you feel like you're a part . . . sometimes you just are... Children in community... a story...let's see... here's one and you'll have your own stories.

My family was very connected to their church so I was, too. My parents and both sets of grandparents were regulars (organist, elders, Sunday school superintendant, Sunday school teacher.)

-being little in someone's arms after a church dinner waving goodby to all the people with my fingers because my thumb was in my mouth
-sitting with my grandmother one Easter Sunday playing with her white gloves trying to put them on
- singing in the children's choir, loving it, and trying to sing louder than all the other kids.
-listening to my dad singing his beautiful tenor solos
-sitting in Sunday school hearing "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" and taking it very literally and making choices to do that when grown ups would say, "you have to look out for yourself."
-a Sunday school teacher who was very short (and very sweet) and we couldn't wait until we grew taller than she was
-one of the people at church had a sheep farm. We'd go there every year on our before-dark-Halloween-route, stay, eat homemade donuts, and drink cider
-playing with the other kids, and taking my agnostic Sunday school debates to school.
-our pastors changed every 5 years or so. Sometimes they had kids, sometimes, no. It was more fun to have a new pastor with kids
-trying to help in nursery when I was too old to stay
-walking in the cemetary with one of my friends checking out the pre-1800 grave stones until church was over because church was boring
-we couldn't touch anything or run or be loud in church because it was God's house
-wanting to know God and not finding Him at church

After high school and two moves some of the kids in the new town (kids from 2-3 churches) started a Christian folk group and I played guitar so they recruited me. I encountered God in a real and personal way alone on a bus after a festival in Toronto. Our Bible study, prayer, coffee house, and connections were alive! All the college, post college, post married, married with children stories involve faith communities, too but each different.

A few years ago, we went through a season when we weren't really part of a church. We visited Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox. Sometimes we didn't go. We'd become part of a neighborhood, a school community, a city community, but church had always been such a part of the fabric of my life that I felt absolutely lost without a church on Sunday morning and up to that point on more than one occasion I had encountered God...

Which comes first encountering God or community? I don't know! I'm guessing God was there all along but I probably wasn't paying attention...

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand


The word "story" is hidden in the word "history". History could be anything that happened before today!

I'm one of those people who always loved history. Both sides of my family collected family history, some of which tells of our family here since the 1600's . They had daguerratypes, old letters, old clothes. We had old circular letters my great-grandfather wrote to his children and circular letters his children wrote to each other. Many on both sides were believers with faith stories. We lived in a 100 year old farm with 12 buildings on it, not counting the well houses and the large buildings having 2-3 different functional parts. All the buildings were filled with old "stuff"! The stuff of stories!

My grandfather lived to be 96. He and my grandmother lived on the other side of the kitchen wall. He was born in 1900 so he lived through all the things that happened in our century from delivering milk with horse and wagon to watching men land on the moon on a color TV.

George's four grandparents all came to this country just after the turn of the century speaking other languages, leaving behind violence and revolutions, each marrying someone from a different country when they got here and making their way with very little. George grew up with those stories. Our kids grew up with some of both but because the world around them is so multicultural their roots may prove less magnetic than the world of friends.

I probably learned more church history because I was interested than from the church. We heard more stories of the beginning of the particular church we were married in than the stories of the larger church between Acts and the 20th century.

I knew someone who took a confirmation class that did a lot with church and denominational history. Her parents had recently changed churches. At the time she was taking the course, she was having a very different personal experience with God, with friends, in the church she grew up in, similar to that of her parents, - she was baptized in the Holy Spirit. She wanted to get baptized in water with her friends at the church her parents had left and her parents had reservations instead of saying, "You can get baptized anywhere you want!" and I don't know whether there was ever any real reconciliation of all those roots.

A mixture of stories. You probably have your own. Roots are called roots because that's what they are. They anchor you and help keep you upright. They nourish you. Sometimes you don't want anything to do with them. You want to cut them away. Maybe you're one of those plants with leaves that can be put in sand or water and they grow their own roots. Maybe we pay more attention to roots when we have kids. Kids ask alot of questions. Some of their roots will be yours and some will be their own but all of those roots will belong to their children.

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Paul said, "The Greeks say,..." so I'll say, it's a well-known saying, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder..."

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—"(Phil. 4: 7-9 NIV) . . . Keep reading there's a story here. Actually, that verse is the stuff of classic stories - add a healthy measure of conflict.

"One thing I ask of the LORD . . . that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple." (Psalm 27: 4 NIV)

But Isaiah 53: 2-3 (KJV) tells us "he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not." Keep reading!

We read that "we're God's workmanship..." (Eph. 2:10) but someone is born blind or lame.

Beauty: a sunset... a child...the view from a mountain...a well landscaped garden...the arch in St. Louis...something functional and flawless (when it works) ...a very connected and mutually satisfying - which kind? ...a special meal . . . the decor at a wedding, banquet, or house ... a person - on the inside, on the outside...someone's dress clothes, a hand- made wall hanging . . . handwork. . .a painting ... a poem...a novel. . .?

Just words or do they conjure up something beautiful for you? Something beautiful that you've experienced? Make your own list, or ask a child, "Show me something pretty. . ." or maybe beauty loses something when you try to define or confine it...

The story...One of my kids hates baby spiders especially when they're scurrying across the white ceiling over her bed. And for whatever reason they always pick her room, even when she changes rooms. But the other night, at my house, I watched a four year old girl holding a tiny spider with her face as close to it as she could get captivated as it stopped and scurried across her fingers - careful not to drop it.

I marvel at intricate spider webs glistening in the sunlight even when I walk through them first thing in the morning. One of the closing speakers at the conference last week read a truly beautiful piece she wrote about diverse people and strong, delicate webs between them.

Can you define beauty? I can't! And it's not just visual...

Notice, observe, listen, taste, touch, smell, experience, experience together. Share it with your children. You don't even have to talk.

Surely, there's an element of thankfulness and awe associated with beauty. When you experience something beautiful it will change you. . .

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


[If you're wondering what all this has to do with emerging's story telling]

One of my most awe-struck moments was this. The kids took swimming lessons every summer with the city summer rec program which, as a former life-guard/swimming teacher, I loved and rave about this program. End of advertisement!

A certain 5 year old was learning to swim in water a little too deep for her to stand. Every day she worked and worked and worked. She put her face in the water. She kicked. She swam about 6 feet every single day and no matter how her teachers worked with her to try to get her to lift her head and breathe and keep swimming it was to no avail. She held her breath for about 6 feet and that was all. All of the other kids swam most of the way across the pool.

One day the guards promised a balloon to every kid who could swim across the pool alone. Sure enough this little girl rose to the challenge. This was a child I thought I knew well. We all looked at each other sure that she was setting herself up for a major disappointment. If a child didn't swim the distance, they didn't get the balloon. No exceptions!

So it's time for this little girl to take her turn. She holds on to the side, takes a deep breath, and kicks and flails and kicks and flails and lifts her head out (no one knows if she actually took a breath). Kicking and splashing more than a class of ten kids, didn't she make it across that pool? Beaming, I might add, and still beaming when they gave her the balloon. She was so proud of herself! I was in awe. I was in awe.

She never swam all the way across the pool again until the following summer but...on one tiny scale in the universe, it was awesome.

(c) Margie Hillenbrand

Monday, July 25, 2005


This week I promised you some shorts about Justice, Awe, Beauty, Roots and Community.

When I think of justice, these kid stories come to mind...Think of it as free association- associating a word with a story. You can probably come up with some of your own.

We were sitting in the bleachers at one of our homecoming games (our public city school vs suburban/city/country Christian School). This particular city school won the sportsmanship awards over the other city schools, 3 Protestant Christian schools, and at least two Catholic schools. They were well deserved.

At this particular game, there was a little boy in the bleachers from the Christian school we were playing. At this particular moment, he was exceptionally rude to someone from our city school. The mom watched and did nothing. She didn't intervene. She didn't correct him or tell him it was wrong to treat other people that way. Someone might say she didn't see it. Maybe she was encouraging her child to be more assertive or something. Bottom line, she allowed the behaviour, so apparently it didn't violate anyone's sense of wrong-doing except mine and the student who patiently tolerated the rudeness.

Another story: Once, we were standing in line at a coffee shop in Houston with family members. I noticed a 6 year old ahead of us picking on his little brother maybe 3 years old. Either the parents didn't notice or they didn't care, I don't know. I noticed my nephew ( around 5) also watching these little boys and I watched his acute sense of justice and injustice growing more and more angry. My brother saw it, too.

All of a sudden my nephew jumped to the defence of this little stranger in-the-face of that older brother. If we hadn't been watching the whole scene develop it would have looked like my nephew was picking a fight. My brother jumped in before my nephew's profound sense of justice triumphed over wrong and caused a bigger problem.

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Rhetoric and Incarnation for lack of a better title...

Didactic. I bet 99% of people in general avoid reading didactic rhetoric, so if you're still reading this you must be out of the ordinary! :)

How we think (how children are taught to think) steers our choices and determines how we make sense of our feelings, what we do, what we value. Alot of teaching and learning to think is informal and not neccessarily conscious. But how we learn to think is at the heart of who we become and how we live. Our thinking is reflected in actions and choices.

What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? Christ Jesus was the living Word one of which was "as a man thinks, so is he." So we can probably learn a lot about the mind of Christ by making simple observations from His life. Hopefully, encountering God will keep changing and shaping our thinking which will affect how we embrace people and engage culture in the way of Jesus and encounter God and the process will continue. Thinking and doing - like a rolling wheel. If you separate them, the wheel breaks. Can we learn to think and ultimately do, led by the words and the life of Christ Jesus, by the words and the acts of God the Father, by the presence of His most Holy Spirit? By seeing and experiencing Christ in the people around us? Can children?

Everyone we interact with affects how we think. Parent, teacher, anyone who interacts with children affects how children think. This influence often carries more weight than the obvious teaching - that relational element again.

We all have different levels of tolerance when we run into new ideas. Who's right? How do you decide?As an adult, I have more respect for someone's ideas if I respect how they live and the choices they make.

Teaching kids to think, evaluate ideas, guiding but letting them make choices will give them tools for interacting with the world, assimilating their experiences and living. We sharpen our skills by using them.

People who live brain-washed, propagandized, and indoctrinated live behind tall thick dark walls. Why would anyone want to live there? Because living outside those walls is risky. Loving, teaching, training and letting kids choose is risky. Exposing them to a world, hoping that you've taught them how to sift through and weed out ideas that raise themselves up against the knowledge of God is risky. Hoping they'll make good-for-them or selfless choices, when everyone around them isn't, is risky.

So God had a son. He chose not to keep His son locked in a castle. He gave Him a free will. He sent Him into our world. Who knows what God knew, what He didn't, what He risked to flesh out His life among men- God incarnate - a real live person. Maybe that's weird speculation. He is God, after all. But he's definately an example of a parent sending His most beloved child out into the world with a job to do, having to make choices.

How was He trained? How detailed was the plan? How detailed His agenda? How much of life just happened and He responded? We'll never know. And, yes, He is and was and will always be God.

Creating people is risky business. It's comforting to catch a fleeting glimpse of how intimately God knows that...It's mind boggling that we presume to apprehend anything of what God has apprehended us for and live it out-trusting our own thinking, sifting out the anti-God rhetoric or maybe all the rhetoric . And we don't always know what that means until we step out and try to do it or start to think differently whichever comes first ...

Ok, this was long again. No blogs next week. After that, stories that tie into justice, awe, beauty, roots, and community. Or maybe writing more about the "fleshing out" of all this would be more critical at this point. :)

(C) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

Thursday, July 14, 2005

How Do We Serve Children?

[The fonts on the re-post were just flat out un- cooperative...]

George asked the question, "How do we serve children?"

We serve a God who came to serve. It's one significant facet of who he is. As we're thinking about Christ-like child formation, assuming we have a role to play in that formation process. It's one of the threads in the tapestry or an element in the clay, however you want to look at it.

How do we (parents? a faith community?) serve children? How do we serve them in a way that equips them to serve, as opposed to creating little people (and eventually adults) who expect to be served or who expect to be entertained? (There's a time and a place for some of that.)

The flip side of that involves giving children (and adults) opportunities to serve - not just serving one another but others.

Service that equips someone else to serve...

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Kids in Worship Repost

(from Monday June 06, 2005)

I thought I'd reposted this but it got lost. Then I discovered it was still a draft. And as many times as I tried to repost, it didn't! Sorry! But let's try again (complete with Tyler's comment) because it's important.

There are a number of books out there to help churches include kids in worship - mostly aimed at established churches with separate children's programs. There are emerging churches and church plants working hard to include their kids in community life as much as possible without a separate "program" because they want the kids to grow up knowing that they belong to the larger community, expecially once they graduate from school. Surely there are established church communities with children's programs that have their children still walking with them as adults and bringing their own children. But for those of you who came through that particular system as children and opted out of it, know that in many new churches, things are changing

Some people like the option of childcare during worship, especially for toddlers and preschoolers. If you're offering childcare, you want the kids in your care to be comfortable, secure, well-cared for, and happy as an expression of the Father's love for them. But if you do an exceptional job and your childcare something that kids look forward to every week, a great childcare program competes with your efforts to include kids in worship.

It might help to ask, what's worship? Ultimately we're worshipping God - a separate multifaceted study and discussion - it even includes whatever our spiritual service of worship is that extends beyond the sanctuary. What if, in its simplist form, we ask - "what will please God?" How do we bless Him? Do we honor Him best as families or in our respective age groups?

It appears that in the OT the assemblies/the gathering of the people to worship and hear the scriptures included all ages. Some NT passages to ponder: Mt. 21:14-16, Mt. 11:25-30 and Mt. 19: 12-15. I don't think we're taking them out of context to examine them as we think about kids in worship. What about Mt. 23:27?

Some believe it's enough just for kids to be with us and be a part of the experience. Others believe it's important to share the experience in ways that enable kids, as well as adults, to relate and participate. Some opt for a separate children's program either at the same time as the worship service or at some other time during the week.

What are your thoughts and experiences? What are your questions and concerns, as leaders, as parents, as members of the community?

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand


T. M. Gagnon said...

I was baptized into and attended church with my parents for only a short time in my youth, and even then, the whole family stopped when I was about 10. I always looked forward more to Sunday School than sticking around the service, but in fairness, I think that the time in the service, boring as I was at the time, stuck in my head somehow. At the very least, in my teen years, I was increasingly interested in spiritual pursuits. I tend to think that my baptism and my time at church early on influenced that. As it is, when I think back, I remember times in the sanctuary, singing hymns, and not Sunday School lessons.

PS- Margie, this is Tyler, from Artisan. I think this is a very interesting blog, and I hope you can find more folks asking these same questions.

12:27 PM


I was thinking alot about the fleshing out of all this but I got sidetracked.

This summer we've started Monday night as a night to have people for dinner. Take the picture you have in your mind of 8 people sitting around a picnic table, erase it, and try again because we're averaging about 20 people each Monday strewn around my house and yard. Not strewn, sorry! They're very much alive blowing bubbles, picking blackberries and eating tacos.

What I realized last night is that if I'm looking for something specific or think I know the end of a matter because I've managed to catch a glimpse of the beginning I've missed something. If I just watch and listen I'll see unexpected glimpses of treasure. I still may not understand but I'll see more.

Going back to that passage from Matthew11:25-26 when Jesus said " . . . I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure."

If you're looking for a teacher who would you pick? The wise and learned? Who is it that you'd like to teach your children? The wise and learned? Who would you entrust with your morsels of wisdom? But it was the Father's pleasure not to reveal the things that preceded this passage to those who would be teaching children but to children. Maybe because they were simple but maybe because when Jesus laid his hands on the children to bless them that interaction, in itself, was revelation and it was enough. Or maybe because there are things you can't really learn second hand. . .

May the Lord lay His hands on you and bless you.

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Believing in Jesus

A linguistic anomoly. Have you heard the song "You'd Die Too if Nobody Believed in You"? I don't know who sings it. I heard it on the radio in the car.

I'm thinking that post-moderns are focusing more on the journey than the moment of decision or the conversion experience.

I'm thinking that I much prefer dirt roads to high ways because I have a little more time to enjoy the scenery (especially if I'm not driving and I don't have a deadline.)

I'm thinking about little people and what it means to believe.

I'm thinking about when I was little.

I'm thinking about how literal kids are.

I had a reasonable post formulated in my head on the way home this morning at 8 am but I lost most of it before I could write it down. And I shouldn't be writing right now. I'm staring at last night's dishes, partially moved in apartment remains all over my house, my parents are coming in a matter of hours and staying over night so I have to think about food. We prearranged to celebrate Christie's graduation tonight but she's working until after 6 and all of her friends are away or working until 10 so they'll be here late. The squirrels are invading my porch. The woodchuck has discovered my poor excuse for a garden and we don't even live in the country . . . I grew up in the country and this is the biggest woodchuck I ever saw.

(It's true but do you believe me?)

. . . check back on Monday...

Believing in Jesus cont.

I'm not saying believing in Jesus is a linguistic anolmaly. I'm talking about the word "believe" . It's a common word. I know what it means to me experientially in terms of what I believe and what I don't but I'm not sure it means the same thing to everyone.

There's believing in someone when someone believes you can do it...probably what the song I mentioned is all about, or when your parent or teacher or spouse or friend believe in you.

There's that faith journey of believing that isn't just one moment in your life or one choice - it's all the moments and all the choices and, forward or backward, each step keeps you moving. Will each step take you closer to wherever it is you're going or will it take you farther away? If you have a goal and a deadline that's a pretty important question. If you're out for a recreational stroll and you're just enjoying the walk it might not matter unless you find yourself caught in a storm. Maybe what matters is the time you spend with the person you're walking with.

(You can also go back and read Scott's great comment about lines.)

Believing and little people (not fairies or leprechauns?) I'm thinking that being able to believe anything is a quality of childhood. Young children are both very literal and concrete so what they believe they take very literally - from faith to fairy tales to a parent's promise (until they trip enough times over the debris in the road.) And I think that interplay of concrete thinking and believing is a bit of a paradox when you consider that so many adults stop believing for grown up scientific reasons. Hearing the stories of scripture when you're little, you believe, you take them literally, you can let your imagination run. I propose that it's something God expects of us however old we are but it's one of those qualities that quickly disappears as most people grow older.

Do you believe that God has given you the ability to imagine? Do you think that there are ideas and issues that are more easily communicated through poetry and "fantastic" (as in fantasy) stories than through non-fiction or fiction with a lesson? They say highly intelligent creative children are drawn to young adult and adult fantasy (I'm not talking R and X here.) maybe because of the layers or the creative elements or for the ways it stretches your mind and makes you think or maybe just for the fun and escape from real life.

Is child-like faith literal? Simple? In some ways, yes. But the more mature might say that the older you get the more complicated life gets. The more complicated life gets the more complicated faith gets.

Maybe we should really stretch our creative brains and think about believing as multi-dimensional. We sat around the table one night when the kids were little and someone started a conversation and we slowly moved from Dad explaining one dimension to two dimensions, three dimensions and ended up somewhere around 6 or 7, I think. And up to that point the kids were with him. Even I was with him! What does that have to do with anything? I know and believe that God is that big but I'll check and see if Jesus said anything about 6 dimensions.

The childhood Belief Knot of literal and imaginary. . . Jesus talked about the literal stuff that we can all explain. Then He makes these seemingly contradictory "unexplainable" statements that we feel compeled to explain. Or we assume there must be something invalid about it because it makes no literal sense to us instead of saying, Gee! God said this and God said that so they must both be true! Lord God, stretch my understanding. That's what I mean. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

Belief runs the gamut from child-like to becoming a man and putting aside childish things. That maturity was in the context of what some call the Love Chapter -significant I think. Having child-like faith to love. Interesting. It makes me think of children with Down's Syndrome.

What if the things that adults and children have to teach one another, come from watching, listening, and imitating not from what you get in a church classroom? Of course you have to be tuned in. Your have to be thinking like that, watching and listening and learning. But that's the question creative writers ask, "What if?" Maybe our Creator God asks that question, too . . .

(C) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

"Their church"

". . . fleshing out . . . ideas... fully involving kids in the life of their church..." : phrases lifted out of Jason's comment (not to pick on Jason) but every time I finish a post I'm convinced I've run out of material so consider it a thank you!

I haven't heard the term "fleshing out" in a very long time. Last thing I knew, it meant taking an idea and living it out with all its positive (and negative) ramifications, so let's use that definition.

I thought "fleshing out" was a key phrase to think about (it may still be) but taking a second look, I'm thinking more about "fully involving kids in the life of
their church." (my emphasis) . Speaking as an adult, it's not just "our" church. "Fully involving kids in the life of their church" conjures an image that requires us to think differently.

What does it take for a small child or a school child or a teen to say, "This is MY church?" Once they affirm that, how do they show it? Maybe it's similar to when Jesus said, "Come see where I live." Isn't it that kind of thinking, that sense of ownership, what will carry a church beyond one generation and into another? It's not unlike our hope that someday every child will say, "I believe in Jesus" as opposed to "my parents believe in Jesus." [The fleshing out part is "what does that look like?" For some, that terminology doesn' t say it anymore.]

How do you create a sense of ownership, involvement, participation? How or when do you take something that someone else is doing and make it your own? Even for me as an adult (or for any adult) - at what point do I say, this is my church?

George (my husband) undertakes all kinds of things and because he does, I do - but more often than not, it's his thing and I'm there because I want to be with him or he needs help or I want to be supportive. It doesn't neccessarily mean I want to be responsible to make it happen.
(He knows how I feel :-)

To be honest, I'm usually glad we did
whatever we did. It's usually something I never would have done on my own but every once in a while I want him to say, let's not do this anymore because it's his more than it's mine.

I'm randomly feeding lots of people Monday nights and my teens/young adults are home for the summer. When I started my Monday gatherings a month ago, all the people I'd invited were virtual strangers to my kids (but when they were younger we were doing things like that.) Two Mondays in, I reminded them that I'd be gone, and they didn't have to feed people if I wasn't there. They were a little dumbfounded, and I more so, when their response was something like, "We'll do it while you're gone." Of course we will!

I found it a profound affirmation of something . . . But the bottom line, Monday night isn't just my thing.

Is that a tiny glimpse of what we're talking about?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Implications but there's probably a better word...

I considered slowly striving to make the titles longer than the posts...something creative and out of the ordinary to strive for ...

...but in the meantime...

Among other things, as I'm reading about post-modern churches, I'm thinking about the implications for those who write for children (because I write for children) and those who write curriculum (because we're trying to do creative hands-on activities with the kids at church to draw them into whatever the topic is in the worship gathering). Alot of creative people who love to write and create may find enough of an audience and opportunity for expression in their local communities and never feel a need to seek publication for a larger audience. But writers may still be enabler/facilitators (in the healthy sense of the word) and vision casters beyond their local community. They can help build bridges for people who may never understand each other without the bridges.

Postmoderns seem to be thinking "wholistic,""inclusive," "story," "journey," "beauty," stewarding culture and creation, loving people vs. converting them - among other things. They think "art" in the richest sense of the word. They aren't afraid of imagination and fantasy but see imagination as another God-given facet of who we are and a tool for "painting" pictures and parables to facilitate communication. They seem to be making a real effort not to compartmentalize life and faith but rather to filter life through faith, thinking "layers" in the literary sense of the word. Someone under 40 can probably better explain. That's my take right now.

I'm guessing that they're thinking of learning by observation, discovery, and discussion as opposed to lecture, memorization, punch and color or cultural cloning in church programs. And again, without the compartmentalization. They have a deep respect for historic tradition combined with a deep desire to include and engage those who are immersed in the culture around them in their discussions. They want to encounter God in an authentic, meaningful and personal way and in community - not as a one time experience. They want to be able to invite others to join them on their faith/life journey.

Someone else can probably do a better job adding other dimensions. If I go back through my notes from Webber's Younger Evangelicals and keep adding details, this will get long. :-) You can read the book. (You can read lots of books!)

And my question is what are the implications for writers? What are the implications for teaching and learning? What are the implications for families? [my feeling about families is that postmoderns will give them the freedom to be who they are, care about the things they care about and participate in the wider world as their expression of faith - as their spiritual service of worship and yet remain vital members of their faith community.]

It isn't neccessarily that these ideas are new so much as new churches seem to be more focused on elements like these and there are bound to be implications for writers, for learning, for families though not limited to those areas.

Of course, writing is largely personal expression and if it's happening on the inside, eventually it will show itself on the outside. Learning is like that too.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Disclaimer: Anything incriminating will be indecipherable to protect the guilty

Ok, my kids are threatening to crash my blog even though I've told them I'm not saying anything incriminating about them. (Actually, they're impressed that I even know what a blog is!)

I told them this is a one-track blog not unlike a one-track mind...No, blog and mind are not synonimous (sp?) . . . are they? Tell me they're not...

I'm still not saying anything incriminating but let me say that when kids are 2 or 3 years old they're often painfully honest and you figure they'll grow out of it. Social pressure, enculturation, grades ... all those conforming influences. (Well, I don't think my kids ever grew out of it :-)

There ... You've been warned. (To those of you who know who you are...Take it as a complement :-))

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Random observations and comments about integrated learning

Integrated learning (?) for lack of a better term...

It's interesting how we feel the need to divide and conquor everything in our quest to understand and make sense of life. Some of us are more guilty of this than others :-)

It's probably a good thing that educators "discovered" that there are lots of ways that people learn and that all of our senses are important to learning and we can combine subjects, reinforce the learning and make it more interesting and time efficient. It probably wasn't that we didn't know these things, but more that the educational system wasn't implementing the obvious information (though let it be said that good teachers have been doing it all along). Some might argue that there isn't time to cover all the facts you have to learn to ace whatever test the system gives you if you try to learn everything by discovery. And of course the system is set up for paper and pencil evaluations partly to evaluate the teaching and partly to evaluate the learning. . . It's all very deliberate.

But sharpening all of our senses and understandings are important to successful living. True? Do you learn more when you sit still and listen to someone else talk for some prolonged period of time? Is it an important skill to learn? If you're not in college (or a child with an angry parent) how often do you spend 45 minutes listening to someone lecture you?

A historic observation (not based on endless research by the way) is that people learned the skills they needed to survive or they didn't survive. We live in a time and culture where there are so many options! And in most cases, there isn't an immediate life or death consequence to the choices we make.

I personally prefer hands- on learning but I also need a mental challenge. I enjoy learning what I need to know to do something. I learn it better if I do it over and over but if it's redundant I get bored. I don't mind tests if the results are good or if it doesn't put me in a box. I do mind if I do poorly or if the evaluation puts me in a box. The feedback is good either way if it comes with an option for improvement. I like creating and creative problem-solving. I like discussions if everyone can contribute. I like discovering new things and finding out more. I like cultural, social, and historic factors. I like independant study. I like being outside. Numbers, I avoid but there are people who handle numbers and physics or linquistics and other things .... with the same enthusiasm. Somehow, I think there's a place for all these things and more in God's learning module. I think there's a place for individual, family, and community differences in God's learning module.

A few years back I was excited to use a "Sunday School" curricula that integrated learning activities from science, math, history, geography, language arts, food and culture etc, etc. I enjoyed the huge sections of resources with recipes for food and art materials and music and craft ideas. You could pick and chose what you wanted to use for whatever lesson you were doing. I liked the focus on story (stories from scripture and opportunities for kids to share their own stories and listen to the stories of people around them.) It was set up in a three year cycle to go with the liturgy (if you were using a liturgy). You could reproduce pages. You could recycle and reuse the material so you didn't have to buy new materials every year. I liked the fact that it was rich - it was more than a couple of songs with a punch out and color curricula punctuated with memorization.

I was disappointed to find there were theological discrepancies that made this program less than desirable for a lot of people but I also thought this was pretty easy to work around especially with 3 & 4 year olds. I liked the family/multi-generational activity Sundays. Families were often making something that their family could give away. I liked the fact that they carried the theme into worship even though the teens hated hearing the same thing over and over. There are enough levels and facets of scripture that it wouldn't have to be like that. No one could possibly use all of it all of the time but it was a wonderful resource to pick and chose activities that would give a particular group of kids varied and interesting ways to interact with the scriptures or with an idea.

As a phy ed major 30 years ago we learned about the Guided Discovery approach to learning and Movement Ed. When I taught preschool gym it worked so well! All the kids were moving most of the time, not sitting in lines waiting their turn. All the kids were mentally engaged, trying to find a way to move that solved a problem. They could move in a way that grew their confidence and skills and it was fun for them. They learned respect for personal space and they learned to work together. They could use numbers and other skills in the gym. They grew confidence, locomotor, axial, and social skills that would provide a great foundation for team sports or anything else they would do later. You didn't have to invest in a lot of expensive equipment. Lots of advantages! Nine months later, they were doing things they couldn't do at the beginning of the year. Some of them would have learned those things anyway. Some of them would never have pushed themselves without being challenged. Fruit of our training: teens and adults are probably too self-conscious for that approach in a gym class... to see how many ways they can move with their foot higher than their head... .

My point? Whether we're learning about God or all that He's created, the peoples, the cultures, (the things we've successfully categorized) to really savor the richness you have to keep going after it- life-long learning but not neccarily in a classroom. Kids have their own personalities and interests even when they're little but they're still curious and observant and frank and all the world is new. We each have things to share and kids have things to teach us. For all my scriptural word studies about children and learning and teaching I'm only now beginning to notice that kids were just a natural part of the community and context of the Old and New Testaments. And I'm only now noticing all the times that Jesus said some variation of "look at the children," " notice this," "look," "see," "understand..."

just random comments and observations...

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

Monday, July 04, 2005

"...for this was Your good pleasure..."

We did a House Blend gathering outside at Artisan last night. A little hard to hear, but it was a good time. It made me think about Jesus teaching outside all the time (men, women and children gathered around) Apparently everyone could hear him. I don't usually think of Him as being loud. Guess I should change my thinking!

I think I counted about 11 Artisan kids and young visitors last night and some were out of town on holiday. While these little people were claiming imaginary kingdoms on top of tree stumps we pondered the kingdom of God and Matthew 11: 25-30 and 11:16-19 in particular. What I found most interesting (I'm still pondering the passages) were the images of children and a father and son and this:

"At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." (vs.25-26)

You have to be with someone to show them things, however simple or complex. I'm thinking that we probably need to have these little people around us more to really tap into these words and to truly discover and enjoy this thing that gives God so much pleasure...

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Alike and Different

I found it interesting when the kids were beginning to learn to read, that there's such an emphasis on noticing differences. On the one hand it makes sense that if you want to learn to read and discriminate between letters and symbols you need to learn to see the difference between an L and an I or a P and an R.

But if we translate that to the rest of life and we're always focusing on what's different about the people around us instead of what we have in common with them, it seems like we'd only get half of the story we're trying to read.

(c) 2005 Margie Hillenbrand