Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Fuzzy Christmas Story

I especially love Brother Maynard's new dad Christmas story(the fuzzy part).

(From one of Brother Maynard's other posts, Ratatouille is worth seeing, I agree! Even my husband sat through it. He thought he could trick me. He thought he could sleep but once he opened his eyes he got into it. We'd been talking about a similar theme. The trade was my watching the Bourne Ultimatum with him. Ok. I fell asleep. Hopelessly asleep at Bourne Ultimatum. I owe him another movie. We went to see Enchanted, too. So I actually owe him two movies. I wouldn't call Enchanted a kid's movie. Maybe. Then again, as an adult, you have to sit through the first half hour of smultz to get anywhere near the meat of the story. But again, interesting enough, we had just been talking about the same theme in a different context. He liked it! On to Alvin and The Chipmunks! He just looks at me. I think that's a "no!")

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Eve 2007

Christmas Eve we went to a church my daughter enjoys 2 hours from here, near the town she works in. They had a life size manger complete with life-sized doll, real hay in the manger and on the floor.

The pastor's message was about imagination. He said imagination is the bridge between the seen and the unseen. Faith is, too. Exploring the connection between faith and imagination - another post.

Well, my imagination took off. I know there are churches with live manger scenes at Christmastime and life sized figurines, but I wonder...

What would you find in the stable when Jesus was born? Hay? Animals? Sand from the desert? What would Mary and Joseph already have with them? What would they need for themselves, their donkey, their new baby? Think about all five senses: smell, sight, sounds, taste, touch.

What if each of the kids in a church brought something from home (on loan) for a manger scene ... I'm thinking in the form of stuffed animals or a pail of water or a basket of corn or grain . . . Rubber spiders? Thread for spider webs? Kids on farms will have different ideas about what they'd find in a barn than city or suburban kids.

A different slant, what do we think we need for a new baby today and what did they need 2000 years ago? What if you had no money?

You have a whole year to let your imagination play with this. What will kids come up with if left to their own imagination ...

If they come up with really odd ideas instead of telling them they're wrong, ask why they chose to include that item ...story, dialogue, conversation ...

Friday, December 21, 2007

R.E.A.D.

This is random but check out R.E.A.D. reading assistance dogs. They are pet therapy dogs who listen to kids practice reading. They just listen, they don't judge! Apparently the program is quite successful as student reading skills and confidence improve. Their respect for animals grows and even their involvement in after school activities increases. Maybe because of new confidence gained or an increased willingness to try new things and not be afraid. Don't know. R.E.A.D. is found in many parts of the country. Hopefully we will see one in our area come fall.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Pondering discipline

I keep thinking that I'm done posting for this season but I guess not!

Emerging Parents has a nice post about discipline. I think their whole month of November is about discipline.

The line that jumped out at me was this: Sarah said, "I don't believe that gentle discipline equates to sparing the rod, but to me that rod signifies the guidance of a shepherd's staff, not an instrument of physical punishment." The shepherd's staff - more a tool for guidance than for punishment.

The church didn't teach me to read the scriptures that way, or to think that way. There was, however, a book years ago called A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm by Phillip Keller. It was a wonderful book. Very insightful. It's still in print! I remember that one of the things he said that struck me at the time was that a western shepherd drives his sheep but an eastern (Middle East) shepherd calls his sheep and they follow him. A different relationship. My father, a dairy farmer, once told us how stupid sheep are. At the time, he didn't understood why God compared us to sheep.

I don't know if this came from the book, but even if someone with livestock has no compassion, a good business person doesn't beat and destroy their stock - if only because their livestock is an asset, a business investment. Yet, when we hear about the rod in Proverbs we assume it's a rod for beating. That's what we're told. For generations (and even today) in many cultures children, animals, even women, were beaten to get them to comply. Yet, in any of those cultures, I want to think there are wise farmers more apt to lure an animal with a pail of grain.

As I read Sarah's comment, I was thinking back. Often, if you were herding cows you might carry a stick so you could reach farther than the length of your physical arm to keep an animal from getting past you. It would help you keep them from going somewhere you didn't want them to go or guide them in the direction you did want them to go. You might even use it for a gentle nudge. If I understand the scriptures correctly, wrath wasn't God's first response towards Israel when they did wrong. Yet even the long-suffering God who is Love gets angry and punishes His people when He has to.

Proverbs 22:5-7 uses the word, "train" - "train up a child in the way he/she should go... " But the passage doesn't mention spanking or beating. The passage we wrestle with, the passage that implies physical punishment is Proverbs 23:12-14. If you check out the word "beat" in Bible Gateway that passage is the only passage out of 75 that refers to children, unless you see children as fools.

Someone who views a child as a fool might include all the references to "fool" (another word study) which would inevitably guide his/her parenting. Children may not be mature wise adults but it doesn't appear that Jesus considered them fools. Jesus does, however, talk about fools. Some versions define "Raca," as "you fool!" It's a problem when we assume someone is a fool and that the only way to teach and train them is with harsh discipline. Do you see the road to abuse? "Fool!" beating, murder . . . It's our job as parents and teachers to love the children in our care and teach them wisdom so they aren't fools . . . but . . .if I read scripture correctly, we're all fools! You might convince a fool, a child, an animal, to behave a certain way in order to avoid the pain. But, as someone else said, learning to avoid pain doesn't require a change of heart, just a change of behavior.

It's interesting that Jesus uses the word "teach" not "train" in Matthew 28, "teaching them to obey all that I've commanded you." Do some word searches on Bible Gateway: "beat," "blows," "train," "teach," "child," "fool."

Training is different from teaching. I'm learning about training from my dogs. I hope I'm learning about teaching, too. Hopefully, the day will come when I don't need a pocketful of hot dogs to reinforce their "Come." Hopefully, some day they will just come. Some days I marvel at all they've learned. Other days I know we're still training. We may forever be "still training." Some dogs are harder to train than others. Some trainers get better results when they use corrections wisely with generous rewards and praise. Some trainers never need a correction. It depends on the dog. I've read that a mother dog understands that. She corrects each of her pups differently, as they need it. A wise handler finds out what motivates his/her dog. A good parent is willing to find out what motivates their child - the good choices and the bad. Easier said than done. Our kids changed their likes and dislikes if we tried to use such things to change their behavior. Sigh...

To let my dogs run free, I have to trust that they'll listen to me and come when I call. But it's the best reward! They also have to trust me and respect my leadership so they choose to come even when they'd rather follow whatever I'm calling them from. Either way, I need to keep them safe. Some training is training to learn good manners or to do a job. A lot of training is for safety "whether you like it or not." As always, easier said than done.

We don't equate children with animals but they are baby humans who need us to love, train, and teach them. They weren't created to be independent creatures from the day they were born. We can learn a lot about parenting watching animals parent their children. They usually have less than a year to teach their children how to survive and thrive in their social environment. I bet we can learn a lot about the God who made them, too - if only that He may not be as harsh as we've made him out to be.

You can also think of kids as young vines to prune and train to stay on the fence so their fruit can get enough sun and ripen without rotting in the dirt. I like all the living examples in scripture. Interesting. Living examples from a Living God who keeps helping us learn how to live.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Creative

I discovered this [2006] looking for 3 inch wooden shepherds for our creche. It's very random but I hope you enjoy the wide variety of art and the creativity! I especially like the kid-friendly faces. You just have to keep scrolling and scrolling and scrolling....

[The 2007 version] The Teddy Bear Tree is pretty cool!

This is very random except that I have artists that live in my house (when they're home!) IF you're an artist, check this out. I don't know anything about the artist but I like his just-for-fun T-shirts...

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stories and Dialogue 2

You probably have some better answers but right off the top of my head maybe it means telling stories that leave the listener with more questions than answers. They aren't stories that answer questions. They're stories that leave you with questions. Maybe that's why the stories of scripture are as sparse as they are.

But we have to assume that the details that ARE in scripture are important. Maybe they're important because they cause us to ask questions. Maybe they're just details that matter to God and His story. Maybe they're things we can relate to generation after generation, culture by culture. Maybe they are just true.

Take a really simple story that you know! How can you tell that story leaving a lot of questions unanswered ... We don't always have to have answers. We do really need to listen to the questions.

I think it's important that we, as story-tellers, ask questions too - not just questions like, "What did Mary ride to Bethlehem?" But questions like, "Did you ever pet a donkey? How do you think it feels? How do you think it smells? Do donkeys have to eat? Did Mary and Joseph have to carry food for both of them, and the donkey? Where did the donkey sleep?"

A child might ask what color was Mary's hair? Well, it probably wasn't blond ... (Gee, how come it's blond in that picture?) Was it long? ... hmm... don't know. I don't think people cut their hair then ... Never? That can take a conversation in an older direction.

Was the donkey fat? Mary rode it. They had to carry everything or else they had to buy it. Well, they were poor so they didn't have much money. Mary was pregnant so they had a lot to carry but not much room. The donkey and the people had to eat . . . Maybe there was grass to eat...hmm...Middle East, desert... Maybe not...don't know...I bet the donkey wasn't fat. So, you're growing critical thinkers, too.

You can do the same thing when you tell your own personal experiences with faith.

"When you were three I slammed my finger in a garage door. I heard it crack. I called Dad so he could pray for me but it hurt so much I almost fainted on the floor. You prayed for me and it didn't hurt so much. I could bend it. God made it better."

"How did God do that?"

"I have no clue."

"How come when I prayed for you when you were sick you just got worse and it took a whole week to get better?"

"Hmm . . . maybe if you hadn't prayed for me I would have been sick even longer?"

"You might have died?"

"Maybe . . . are you hungry?"

Maybe having answers isn't what's important . . . Maybe it's just growing the habit of being comfortable talking together, asking questions together, looking for answers together . . . You each bring something to the journey that the other doesn't have, not just because of age but because you're different people. Maybe it's growing the ability to live with unanswered questions ie. trusting God with all the things we don't know, with all the unanswered questions ...

And hey, you have a lot of grow time. You get to start with the questions of a baby and work your way up one year at a time to a grown-up! Don't worry. Even if you have a champion question-asker you have all the time your kids aren't around to think about the "answers." You might even get so good that you can anticipate the questions!

Do you listen to God's stories? Do you have conversations with God? Do you ask Him questions? Do His stories make you want to ask more questions? Does He answer all your questions?

Me? Don't ask me. I'm the question - asker . . . If I actually come up with reasonable answers to questions they're a couple weeks late . . . Hmm . . . But when you come back to someone a couple of weeks later after having thought about the stuff of your conversation all that time ...

"Gosh are you still thinking about that conversation we had? You've been thinking about my questions all this time . . . You've been thinking about me?"

Wow...there's more to this than I thought!

Stories and Dialogue 1

Here's a fun discussion at Emerging Parents "What Do These Stones Mean." (10/11/07) Did I already post something about this? Here's more!

In some ways the stones are like the Creche at Christmastime at home and or at church. There are lots of Christian symbols you can use like that: the symbols of Advent, the symbols of Lent...symbols that bring stories to mind.

But the meaning of the stones by the Jordan was more than a corporate memory at the time. They triggered very personal memories. Stories. Experiences.

For the yet-to-be-born they would be hearing, and later sharing, someone else's stories like hearing stories from your parents and grandparents or your parents' friends and telling them to your children.

The "stones" you choose give you opportunity for story and conversation. Now is the time. Now you have opportunity, while your kids are home to share your stories and talk. You can keep simple things around you to trigger those stories. You can change them, rearrange them. In the OT, the stones stayed put. The people moved. We move or stay put. We get rid of "stuff" ... well, most people do ... Don't come to my house. Yes, it's much harder to get rid of all the stuff when there are stories attached...I'm trying to take pictures of story items before I get rid of them (if I get rid of them) but it's not the same.

Did I tell this story? My daughter is home for graduate school she spent the summer helping me clean, clean out, rearrange, paint, etc, etc. We don't know where she came from. [smile] Some ancient relative ... We start to re-arrange things. And one day she looks at me and says with a sigh, (and this was a revelation to everyone) "Mom,I arrange by color, size, and shape. You arrange by story. You put things together because they tell a story..." Yes, she gets quite frustrated with me... but she smiled. It was a cool revelation. Hey, that's what happens when you marry someone, you put the candles on the mantle and he moves them telling you he doesn't like symmetry...

Alot of stuff came home when my husbands parents died. One of my biggest regrets (besides losing them) was realizing when I opened the boxes that I never got to hear the stories...We could guess but it's not the same. [I'm really not condoning hoarding or clutter. I am condoning using the stuff of life to tell stories about life and faith.]

The bigger question here is how do we tell stories that generate dialogue?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Food for Thought Dec '07

I haven't read Fresh Dirt in quite a while but he has some great food for thought.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sanctuary

Still thinking...

"Even the sparrow has found a home,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young—
Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
My King and my God." Psalm 84:3

This is one of my favorite images from scripture.

Sanctuary. Sanctuary of a safe place, sanctuary of the outdoors, sanctuary of caring/nurturing/predictable routine/predictable people, sanctuary of strong, dependable relationships, sanctuary of the familiar, sanctuary of unstructured alone-time, sanctuary of quiet, sanctuary of freedom. . . Bring your own descriptions and associations for "refuge" and "sanctuary". Don't be surprised if they contradict each other.

Sanctuary. Is it something the church provides or does God just expect us to weave it into our individual lives? Does it matter whether or not we seek out that still quiet listening place? Some homes in some cultures have altars. Is that what we're talking about?

As more and more homes become actively involved - even the driving force - behind the spiritual formation of their children whose job is it to provide teaching, training, opportunities for service, social opportunities to build relationships with different generations, worship, sanctuary, stillness, fun?

What is the church responsible for? What is the family responsible for? Just asking the questions assumes that both church and family are expected to be responsible for something. Is the assumption legitimate and Biblical? Or can we let it just happen and be what it is.

What is the purpose, job, responsibility of the church? I'm not talking about the 4-walled church. I'm talking about the corporate people of God. Last weekend. we went to a restaurant in Dulles, VA . One of the things my husband likes about this particular place is the way the wait- staff look out for their customers and for each other. They probably have specific responsibilities but they go the extra mile to pay attention to the people they serve even if it isn't their table.

Do all the things we spend time and money and energy on actually accomplish the things that God expects His church to be about? Does God expect us as individuals or as the church to find or provide sanctuary? times and places of refuge? The blood, money and resources that went into all those mammoth stone cathedrals were probably intended, at least in part, to create a refuge and sanctuary. No doubt there were other less noble ambitions attached. There was a time when people ran to cathedrals and monasteries for sanctuary. There were times when even armies respected these sanctuaries of faith. Does God expect the church to create a sanctuary for us? Wait. We are the church...

The Old Testament is full of references to refuge - cities of refuge in Numbers. God as refuge in Psalms. In Isaiah, Zion is a refuge. But the references to refuge seem to end in Nahum. Then one more reference shows up in Hebrews. It seems odd that all of the New Testament contains only one reference to "refuge."

What about Jesus?

God is a refuge. Jesus is God. Jesus came as a man. People were drawn to Him. They came for healing. They received forgiveness. They came hungry for the words He spoke. Wasn't Jesus a refuge? He didn't build a tabernacle or a temple or a cathedral. He didn't create a place. He didn't even stay put in one place! People followed Him but you don't see Him getting all mushy and sentimental, wrapping His arms around the weak and the meek. Did the people who walked with Christ find refuge there?

Do people run to the church or to Christians for sanctuary and refuge today? (I'm thinking they run in the other direction . . .) Is there a need to build some sense of sanctuary and refuge into our lives and the lives of our children not just for quiet alone-time with God but perhaps to provide sanctuary and refuge to others? Maybe because we're created in the image of the God who is our refuge? I wonder. . . There are things we can be and do alone because we were created in the image of God. There are things we can only be and do together because God is so much more that any of us will ever be alone.

Maybe the sanctuary and refuge that Jesus brought to us was His example: mingling and withdrawing and mingling again. He brought revelation of the Father (David's refuge) and opportunity to be reconciled with Him. The Holy Spirit dwells in us reminding us of the truth of scripture that God, Himself is our Refuge. I think there are people on this earth who become a refuge, a sanctuary to others. I think there are also groups of people who provide sanctuary and refuge to others.

That's as far as I've gotten so far...food for thought...something to ponder.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Advent

I always thought that children should have a creche scene to play with through the season of Advent instead of something they couldn't touch. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Children Matter: Busyness

"Although children profit greatly from participation in worship and other congregational events, relationships grow over time in smaller face-to-face groups. . . time for conversation is a wise investment..." [CM p. 146] They talk about relationships being like the nervous system of the body. They also have neat ideas for involving adults in children's activities even if the adults have no desire to teach.

But my mind took a turn to think more about taking time... time to notice, time to listen, time to interact, time to think, time for quiet, time to just let things happen ...

"Too often our view of the church gets in the way of building community and meaningful relationships. We get so busy running the 'corporation' and managing programs that children, relationships, and community get lost." Linda Cannell wrote "If Churches Were Parks." I don't know the rules about printing the whole thing here. Someone else posted it. If you Google it, you can find it with source and author noted.

The park image is great for taking away the walls. Seeing beyond the business and busyness of church is an important is part of that. Post-moderns in particular seem to be searching not just for community but for the still quiet place of the ancient cathedral. The park and the sanctuary of a mammoth cathedral may seem like opposites. In some ways they are. In other ways, they aren't.

The lives of children who go off to a systematic daycare 6 weeks after they're born, and on to pre-school, kindergarten, 20 years of school, then on to the world of work lead very regimented lives. Schedules are necessary. Order is imposed.

I read an article in the local newspaper when my kids were young. The author was so grateful that, as a child, she had unstructured alone time. It wasn't just a time to rest and retreat from the world. It was also the time she used to create and imagine and think her own thoughts.

Creative people need that. Children need that. Children need relationships but they also need time alone. Can children be alone and still be supervised? Can we provide still, quiet times and places without walls?

The authors ask some great questions. These are extra!

Children Matter: Service

"Children are also blessed through relationships with persons in a wide age range, from teenagers to senior citizens. Cathy saw that beautiful mix of ages one morning during Vacation Bible School week..." [CM p. 145] The authors go on to tell some of the many ways that different ages found different ways to serve the kids. "The extended family had gathered to serve the children, enjoy time together, and build relationships as the children learned more about Jesus." [CM p. 146] This is really wonderful. Can't you see the joy and excitement in everyone's eyes?

I'd never thought about it before but here's my question: How many different ways can we find for children to return that same gift of giving to some the people who give to them? Thank you notes, cookies, flowers and candy are nice. Doing things for the elderly that they can't do themselves is a wonderful service, too. But how can children serve teens? How can children serve middle aged "aunts" and "uncles" or young adults or college students? It's a question.

And if you say, the teens don't want the kids around . . . hmm . . . not ever? It works both ways! Such an opportunity! We need each other!

Children Matter: Male and Female

Still reading Children Matter. More food for thought!

They talk about community relationships being even more important than programs when it comes to spiritual formation, particularly for children.

This was nicely said: "Based on a legitimate concern for protecting children from sexual abuse, some churches do not allow men to work with young children. But children need the experience of learning with and from men, worshiping with them, and knowing that they love Jesus. Especially little boys need to know that real men love and serve God . . . Our policies must protect children from abuse while releasing both men and women to love, teach, and nurture children." [CM p. 145] Women can do serious harm to children, too.

Freeing both men and women, old and young to love, teach and nurture children is particularly important as nuclear families are less in touch with extended family and as more and more children grow up in single family homes. Men and women capable of developing emotionally healthy relationships with children bring different things to children. The things that men and women bring to family sometimes seem to conflict especially when kids are little, but kids need both hard edges and soft hearts.

Ok. That's a bit stereotypical. Take the ways you are very different from someone of another gender in the way you interact with your child and just understand that kids need a measure of both, the mixture and size of the measure depends on the needs of the child. God made us male and female, after all. And we're not the same. Boys and girls, men and women need each other!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Where Does it Hurt?

This post from Sacred Scarred has definate implications for people working with children. He's quoting someone else but take a look. Think about how knowing the things that hurt other people helps us love them better. That tiny bit of information definately affects the way we interact with children and the people who love them.

Potential fuel for a much longer post...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Whatever Life Stage, Whatever Generation


Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.
(Psalm 9:10 NIV)

Monday, November 26, 2007

That New Life Stage Again

I found this article about Emerging Adulthood posted on a number of Emerging Church blogs. You may have already seen it. It's similar to the NY Times article . Do we ignore it? Reality says "It's happening. Let's pay attention." Is this about the Post-Modern generation or is it the next generation?

Will this new stage affect the children of these young adults when they become parents and if so, how? Do we have to wait to find out? Or can we make informed predictions? Look at both positive and negative, by the way.

How does it affect you? Your family? Your congregation? The children in your congregation whose parents have passed through this stage?

Will these parents be different from parents in other generations? How? What will make them different? Will their children be different from children in other generations? How? What will make them different?

Does this affect the church community? Does it affect worship? spiritual formation? service? faith? relationships? How? Change "this" to "they". How do these young adults affect the church community differently than people their age did in other generations? I wonder...

Example: They're still poor college students and have no money, and maybe it doesn't matter to them. Maybe they have more time to serve, maybe they have less. Maybe they're more connected to family. Maybe less. Maybe they spend more time around children before they get married. Maybe they're never around children. You get the idea. Are they problem-solvers and independent thinkers? More mature? More confident? More self-sufficient and independent? More faith-filled?

Or less?

Maybe it doesn't change anything at all but as always, I'm curious and as you know I like to ask questions. . .

What do you think?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Puppies and Childlike Faith


I tend to read multiple books at a time. One of my favorites right now is Bones Would Rain from the Sky. Yes, it's about dogs. Don't laugh. If you have a dog and you're interested, here is Suzanne Clothier's website.

I love the stories she tells about being a child. (Most of chapter 1) You may meet little children like the child she shares. Her story about bringing a stray to Sunday School and her observations (from a child's point of view) when the ordeal was over I thought profound. She writes about dogs but she writes about learning to see and listen and about communication. It's a wonderful book!

This is from a chapter about honesty. ( pg 130) The author's niece who is 9 years old has her first dog, a nine year old lab. This little girl's love for her new pet is a love that causes her to want to see and understand. She tells her mother, "I know what he's saying, Mom, I really do. I'm knowing this dog!" Her aunt, of course, is thrilled! But here's the quote that I think is applicable for us:

"Hannah's joy and curiosity, her complete willingness to study Ben with careful, loving eyes and to trust what Ben told her- without rationalizing or intellectualizing- is what made "knowing this dog" possible. To hear what our dogs say, we need to listen with a child's heart, knowing past our minds, knowing with our hearts. But for many adults, this is a struggle; we have to learn how to climb down out of our minds and listen." (p. 130)

I just thought it was a good description of child-like faith, too: "listen with a child's heart," "climb down out of our minds and listen." It means keeping our child-like curiosity, our inquisitive mind as opposed to the rational, over-analytical mind of an adult. It means seeing what is: dogs speaking dog, not human. Children speaking child. There are things to see and learn about our invisible God through what His hands have made, if we take the time and have the eyes in our hearts (and minds) to see and ears to listen and hear.

*Photo: My "puppies"- now 2 1/2 years. I call this picture "Puppy Heaven." (We live in the city) We've found an outside place where they can be safe off-leash, even with a less-than-perfect recall. (A perfect recall being a come- sit- stay- in front of Mom- recall.) A less than perfect recall is not an Ellison-Park- Hi! Bye! running by recall. It's a "Here we are, Mom! [Pause.] Can we stay? [pause] Great! See ya!" not-recall. But you can't miss their huge smiles! They are off-leash, outside, together, with us, able to run and explore and swim (which Ellie loves!) What's not to love?

*puppies as in 2 1/2 year old dogs...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Challenge: New or Old

I was looking at Jaded CM's Oct. 7, 2007 post today.

"Christian" isn't a noun. It's not a label we carry.

Noun, verb, or adjective: it's how we live our faith. It's about the choices we make. It's how we represent God no matter where we are, or who we're with , or what's happening ... how do we bring that to children?

That may be the challenge for this generation.

Maybe it's been the challenge for every generation.

Happy Thanks-Giving!

Hide and Seek

Maybe I was an unusual kid. I loved finding things that people had forgotten or didn't know they had. You probably didn't want me getting into your forgotten places because I probably left your forgotten stuff in a mess. But it was so much fun!

Maybe that's another element of post-modern faith. Post-moderns know how to go looking. Do you realize all the blogs that are out there to find about kids and faith - and from so many different perspectives? Hidden, of course! You have to go looking. Do you realize all the conversations people are having about faith that you may never have in your own church with people you know - people running after God with the same questions you have? And now we can find them! How cool is that? [Yes, there's a lot of garbage out there and down right awful stuff, too. Not the topic.]

It might feel like making use of so much unscreened information must mean we're throwing discernment to the wind. But maybe it requires a whole different level of discernment - the ability to sift through all the chaff looking for the gold, scriptural realities (truth, if you'd rather), more of the Living God of the scriptures in lives of many different people, in many different situations without filtering it through your leadership. Ok. There is a time and a place for that, too. Or maybe it's more like sitting and talking with a new friend, without proximity, without body language. Don't lose the ability to read body language or your control of safety and proximity.

As you read what all these people write, don't compare yourself. Just find encouragement to keep going after all that God made you to be. Ok, sometimes He asks you to be or do things that don't fall under that banner, either ... again, different topic.

If you like seeking, here are some more blogs to investigate: a Children's Ministry website in Oregon and her blog

Emerging Desert - a very neat descriptive name for a Christ-loving/Christ-seeking community. I don't know anything except they are an Emerging community. And I've never been to the southwest, just California. It's nice, a great place to visit, just different from upstate NY. Yet another topic.

This kind of seeking isn't neccessarily the same as "seeking the Lord with all your heart" you say. Ok. But it may not be far off, either. It keeps you looking for fellowship, though it be virtual, with real believers. If He happens to be hiding on you in communities of believers who don't live in your back yard...we used to say, "Move there!" It won't be virtual anymore. Instead you'll learn the tough realities of real life community and/but you'll also discover more of Jesus.

But with all this networking, maybe there's something to be said for staying put and giving to a community where you feel out of place and drawing strength and encouragement to do that from your virtual network. I wonder if Jesus felt like that... Such possibilities! We're a Body of diverse parts that are, somehow, supposed to fit together.

Ok. Some of us find it really hard to look at something from only one angle. Some of us find it absolutely impossible! Annoying? Yes!

But we like looking and finding! I think God does too. And, ok, He likes looking for and finding people but I bet He's really good with ideas, too!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Looking for conversation?

Did you find this conversation about emerging churches and children's ministry when you visited Subversive Influence? It's almost a year old now, but take a look! Conversation about kids in Emerging churches is a really hard conversation to find...or it used to be. Maybe it's like cream - finally rising to the surface?

I think that one reason that the conversation is so hard to find is this generation's desire to include children and not separate them, the desire to make them full-fledged members of multi-generational communities. Church leaders and members are asking different questions than the questions we're used to. It may be that parents want to take more responsibility for nurturing their children's faith so they don't care so much about the programs and activities that mainline/evangelical churches are looking for. Churches who want to focus more of their energy interacting with people on the "outside" with the hopes of loosing the label all together would also be less apt to plan activities to draw a crowd ... Spinning the milk to mix in the cream is good but there is some floating to the top. And there are times and places when you just need cream.

If you're looking for conversation there's conversation to be found...

Dancing...

Another interesting find: It's A Dance: Moving with the Holy Spirit by Patrick Oden and related links. I haven't read it yet but it definately sounds like the beginning of an interesting conversation. Although not directly tied to children, books that grown-ups get excited about are tied to children because they will affect how communities live and walk with God over the next generation plus and that affects children. Grown ups act as translators. Or maybe it's the kids who ultimately do the translating.

... But this is about dancing ... maybe they'll just dance . Maybe no one will be translating. Maybe everyone will be dancing...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

If you can't find it...

I'm all in favor of letting people wrestle and search until they find what they're looking for but as you peruse the Subversive Influence post don't miss Hamo's Post...

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Exiles"

More to read about kids from Brother Maynard (9/14/07) at Subversive Influence.

He ends with these words: "For me, I have two things on the brain: Moses crossed Sinai with the children (see the Lawrence of Arabia quote noted above). When we left our CLB and the concern about removing the kids came up, I reasoned simply: if it isn’t good enough for me, how could it be good enough for my kids?"

(Note: he has Easter and Advent ideas in there, too...)

!Enjoy!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mine and Ours

Over the last five years I've switched from long personal prayers to praying the Lord's prayer and just talking to God. Just another new season? Maybe. When Jesus' followers asked Him to teach them to pray, He taught them what we know as the Lord's Prayer. There are probably books and seminars that focus on a multitude of ways to make the Lord's prayer and other prayers work like some kind of magic. That's not where I'm going with this.

I noticed the other day (I'm a little slow) that when Jesus taught His disciples to pray He didn't teach them to pray using the pronouns "I" or "me" or "mine". He taught them to pray using "our" and "us," "Thy" and "Thine."

I wasn't going to blog about that but I picked up the next chapter in Children Matter (Chapter 7 - Children in the Faith Community). In the second section the authors draw our attention to Genesis 1:26. "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness." (CHMT, p 128). They point out that God not only didn't leave man alone, but our triune God was a community of three to start with. We are created in the image of this triune God. Community is part of the image in which God made us. It would be an interesting study: where God uses "Me" or "mine" and where He uses "we" or "our".

The focus in Chapter 7 is on community with a terrific beginning about a church where a pastor made relationships important by his example and his focus. . . (CHMT, p. 126-128) It's worth reading.

At the end of a list of six qualities present in this particular congregation - all focusing on caring for, relating to, and empowering people whatever their age- the authors end their list with this: "Because children were present in every part of church life, they were formed by the faith of the members of the congregation." (CHMT, p. 128) Simple? Too simple?

We are not only an independent-minded people (I'm guilty) but the presence of extended family in one location is rare these days. An extended family that's interdependent on each other (assume the healthy version) may be a common occurrance in many cultures but not ours. For post-moderns, community and ministering to the whole person are important values - Biblical values. Maybe post-modern parents are the children of the remnant of the '60's and '70's - health foods, hippies, peer community taking the place of broken families. Ok. That doesn't apply to everyone. After all, the establishment prevailed didn't it for better or for worse, or we think it did. Maybe we should wonder. Maybe it didn't. Maybe God started something. And maybe He's not done.

It's interesting to see Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the beginning of community. It's interesting to see an example of a thriving faith community where each individual feels loved, where each individual is important and yet each individual sees others as more important than him or herself. As this community extends hospitality to one another, they don't exclude children. They include them. That statement in itself isn't a very good picture of what the authors were saying. Their picture of a multi-generational funeral celebration to remember an elderly brother in Christ says something much stronger. (CHMT, p 127)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Sites You May Already Know About

Did you know that there's a children's ministry.com, children's ministry.net, and children's ministry.org? (I googled "Children's Ministry" this morning). Here are some sites you might enjoy, if you haven't already seen them:

Non-denominational International Children's Ministry including a blog. Sometimes it's interesting to see people doing what you do but in a different context.

Child Ministry International Page.

This one is from the UK.

And great article by Jim Wideman about team work.

More resources at Kid's Sunday School Place.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Children Matter: Context

The authors of Children Matter have an interesting chapter on context - interesting for families and children's ministers. I'm still impressed by their insights and sensitivities.

"Our task is to translate and demonstrate messages of faith to children for their particular time and place. The tension is to respect the truth and timelessness of the scriptural message while at the same time being sensitive to the diversity of children's circumstances." (CHMT p. 116)

I'm understanding context as the relevance of a child's surroundings to the child and his/her faith. The emphasis here being relevance to the child.

Sometimes context is obvious. Sometimes recognizing context takes highly tuned observational skills and sensitivity. Respectful dialogue and open conversation between adults and children can help us understand ways that the context in which a child lives might affect him or her. Sometimes the things that affect adults also affect children - sometimes in the same way, sometimes in different ways. Sometimes children are more sensitive. Sometimes children are sensitive to different things in different ways than we are.

Here are some of the things they mentioned that can affect a child's growing faith:
-the family environment shaping the child
-ways that this particular child shapes his/her family and their environment

Sometimes the affect is positive, sometimes negative.

Context can be all or any combination of the following:
cultural heritage
school
day care
church
a parent's work world

Add
interconnected relationships between all these different spheres

Don't forget the affects of

the media
books, computers, radio, TV, videos, movies, advertising

the country they live in or the country of origin
world, national, and community events

Family customs, values, traditions

I don't remember if they mentioned this but I imagine leadership styles at home and
in all the other spheres in a child's life will affect him or her, especially if they're in conflict with one another. They touched that a little - the conflicts that can occur between the different influences in a child's life.

I was especially impressed by the authors' sensitivity to the historic context of the faith community to which a child belongs. They encourage not only the exchange of personal stories, community stories, stories about the role of this particular faith community in the larger community, but hunting for stories about the children's ministry there. Whether you love history or hate it, those who come before us affect our lives and our work today. It's worth taking the time to understand the "how."

They noticed that Moses couldn't help but be affected by bi-cultural influences. I'm guessing there are probably examples in scripture of most any situation we can think of if we're willing to take the time to go looking.

I liked their attention and sensitivity to the visual images and symbols that we use to communicate faith to children.

It's an interesting chapter. Context is always part of our lives but not necessarily something we think about.

How 'bout you? How did context affect your faith, as a child? How does it affect the children around you, now?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Weddings and Bridges

I understand why they're not invited but I love seeing children at weddings.

Yesterday, my daughter's friends got married. They had big attendants and 5 little (very little) attendants. One was 1 1/2 years, three were just 3 years, and one was about 3 1/2. The adults had their hands full during the rehearsal, or so I'm told, but the kids were very good for the wedding. I was told that the 3 1/2 year old thought he was going to be a ring bear (as opposed to a ring bearer). He had his heart set on wearing a bear costume not a tux. They gave him a little stuffed bear to tie to the ring pillow instead. That explains what was dangling from the upside down pillow. It didn't look like a ring.

The wedding was at a Missionary Alliance church. Lots of international flags and maps and things from other countries. But the display that caught my eye had a picture of a bridge with toy trucks and dirt in it. I looked because I thought it was a Sunday school project. But it wasn't. It was a small group project about connecting and building bridges between small groups and local community organizations. Don't you think a 3-D bridge project diorama would make a cool project for elementary kids in Sunday School? Wasn't Jesus into building bridges?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Children in Church - a Pastor's Love

From Emerging Parents. Special because it tells about a pastor loving the children in his congregation. More special because it was written by his daughter.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Interesting discussion blogs

Jeff shared some interesting blogs at D-train Oct. 25, 2007.

Fun ideas from Houston

CLPCKids Oct 26, 2007. I thought it was a fun idea last year. This year, there's more...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Budgets

My husband and I have ongoing discussions. Yesterday, one of them ended up here. Don't know how, exactly but it seemed blog-worthy.

Take a look at a home budget or a church budget and where the $ goes. What percentage stays in-house? (ie. we spend it on us) What percentage goes to someone more needy or caring for people? What percentage goes to growing the next generation?

If time is money, look at Jesus' time. (We probably don't know much about his money.) How did He spend His time? Where did He spend His time? Who did He spend His time with? (Ok. If He wasn't spending His time directly with children, were there apt to be children there?) Make a circle graph.

. . .just some food for thought . . .

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Returning to Children Matter

I'm still reading Children Matter, slowly because I get distracted.

I like reading about Biblical culture and how other historic cultures influence our own. I like history so historic roots are always interesting to me. Sometimes church leaders affect how society responds to children (CM pg. 98) Sometimes society affects how the church responds to children.

It's interesting to discover where ideas come from and where they lead over time. It's interesting to see what fruit grows from what seed.

I found it interesting that Dr. Benjamin Spock's thinking was probably a reaction to John Watson's behavioural psychology which was a reaction to Victorian sentimentality. Our parents were enamored with Spock but (if I remember correctly) he was criticized for his leniency. I didn't realize that he was encouraging parents to trust themselves. "He assured them that parents were the true experts on their own children...Spock urged parents to be flexible and see their children as individuals." (CM p. 108)

Another intersting comment is this: "Although books on parenting are not directed toward programs that minister to children, parenting expectations in the society at large spilled over into the way Christian Education was conducted." (CM p. 108) More recently, in Postmodern Children's Ministry Ivy Beckwith calls Christian educators to pay attention to changes in the way a new generation of parents is thinking and respond.

A year or two ago someone left a comment. I think they were in Alabama. They decided to take the challenge of using this book for a parent study group. I don't remember ever hearing how it went. (Maybe I just don't remember.) . Some of the chapters are divided into sections that might take more than a week to discuss but this book would make for a really interesting weekly discussion

The authors conclude Chapter 5 saying "Children's ministry is solidly grounded in our theological understanding of the gospel of Christ and the place of children in the community of faith. The challenge is to keep central our commitment to the God of the Scriptures while connecting to the real lives of children in ways that are meaningful for them - to determine what God expects of us in and for our time." (CM p. 110-111) I like it.

Do God's expectations for parents and faith communities change as history runs it's course? Will we inevitably find ourselves sifting through all the voices around us to find the voice that doesn't change? I wonder...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Interesting...

My husband rented an interesting DVD: "Into the Woods."* W e watched the Bernadette Peters version. For adults, not children. You have to like theater. I'd never heard of it but I guess it's been around for twenty years and revived. Watch it to the end.

It's definately about community but it was the last song, "Children Will Listen," that made me go back and wonder what the play was saying about children ... I think it was saying a lot. Good or bad, I'm not sure. Interesting, none the less.

If you use movies as starting points for adult or young adult discussions about scripture it might make for an interesting discussion.


* Yes, this link is lots more information than most people will care about.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

ongoing Halloween discussion

Read Jeff's blog post at D-Train about Halloween. The Oct 19, 2007 post. Whether you agree or not, it's a must-read. Personally, I think he did a nice job challenging how we think about this.

Monday, October 22, 2007

New Generations and the Next

Whether intentional or not, what we inevitably share with the children we serve, lead, and nurture as parents, teachers, or friends is who we are in Christ Jesus as individuals and together - life that comes from faith and faith that comes from life - the good, the bad, the ugly. Kids are watching, kids are listening - not unlike God, LOL! Yup, that's scary. Do you think God sees through a child's eyes? Through a grown-up's eyes? Maybe both?

Is it ok for kids to ask questions or is it better to leave them to wrestle alone or with their peers possibly left to convince themselves of things that aren't true. Encouraging kids to ask questions opens discussion and it's ok to say, "I don't really know. Let's pray, let's search the scriptures, let's ask [so and so], let's look it up, let's wrestle with that one." A child will probably be content with a much simpler answer than you - the grown up. [smile] Be glad, while it lasts.

A curriculum, a program, a system - all nice but I don't think they're really at the heart of teaching and learning unless it's just one of many tools that you use to share Jesus, your faith, and your life with your kids. That's scary, too.

So then I say, who am I that God would ever trust me with the lives of children, my own or someone else's? Gosh, why would He? Should I hide what I've been given in a hole because I know I'll never measure up or because I'm afraid I'll lose it? Do I just keep investing what I have back in the people around me, hoping to give back to God more than what I started with (invest, give, and hope being key words there) . There are jobs or roles in scripture that have clear job qualifications. That's not what I'm talking about here. We all interact with children or don't by choice ...I'll leave that one alone right now. We keep giving what we have. We keep loving whoever God sends us not (hopefully) because we have an agenda or because we're particularly anointed but because, if I remember the story, digging a hole and hiding my treasure isn't the way I'll ever hear God say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter in
the joy of your master..."

New Generations and Social Paradigms

Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun. Yet each generation seems to emphasize not only different ideas and life-styles but different social configurations. Our culture, in particular, seems always to be changing: social norms and mores and who enforces them, definitions of appropriate social behavior and how that behavior is encouraged and discouraged, the role of an individual in community and the role of community in the individual. We are mobile yet sedentary and often exposured to diverse cultures.

Does church structure reflect those changes? Should it? What part of social do the scriptures reinforce? How much flexibility is there?

Each generation is faced with constant change swirling around a God who remains unchanging - alive and well. His Body remains alive and well. His Word remains alive forever accomplishing what He sent it to accomplish, destined also to stand through generational changes either through us or despite us. The Corinthians had their discussions about meat and vegetables, holidays and feast days.

Sometimes Jesus operated one on one - with a friend, with a stranger. Sometimes He visited a family. Sometimes He interacted with a small group. Sometimes He addressed a whole community. He sent people out in different configurations. He had family, neighbors, followers. He was part of a larger community yet He had a very specific work to do and He seemed to know what He needed to do whatever situation He found Himself.

What goals are better accomplished alone? at home in nuclear family? by a couple of families working together? in peer groups? in a larger multi-generational community? I think I've asked similar questions before.

What is the goal, anyway? Or is it just enough to live and not have any goals at all? What about Jesus? And if I am to be a disciple, what can I learn from his disciples? Did they have goals or were they just living their lives one day at a time? How do I live like them? I'm part of a family. How do we do it
?

Are the answers the same for everyone, for every family? Should they be? Were they the same for the whole people of God? For each of the disciples? For everyone Jesus touched? What answers are the same for everyone and what answers aren't?

Do the scriptures have answers? Again, I'd venture, yes. There were things Jesus said to huge crowds, things he said to His disciples and to individual people. Jesus' response to Peter regarding John in John 21:22 "
. . . 'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.' "

New Generations, Old Questions,

Setting aside doctrinal, ideological, and theological differences, it seems that every generation has to sift through old ideas and new ideas as they search for the living God and personal faith. Why? Is it parenting? Rebellion? Cultural changes? Or just that God calls to each of us whatever our generation, "If you seek me with all your heart, I'll let you find me." Maybe it's just part of God's design because each generation has to find Him while living in the time and culture that they inhabit.

Even as we pursue God we still "only see through a glass darkly". We inevitably miss more than we see because God is God and we are not. Each generation seems to want to compensate for something that a previous generation missed.

After we find Him or He finds us depending on your theology. . . after we find each other, after we're reconciled... each generation seems to face the same ageless questions. In this context of when and where we live, how do we love God? How do we love people? How do we keep His word and live Christ-like lives? How do we pass our faith on to our children and those around us?

We read, watch, listen, ask questions. Prayerfully, we gather and sift through information, ideas, life-styles and hopefully most importantly we search the scriptures.

Was seeking God a different process in ancient Israel than it is in modern western culture? Was it easier?

Why am I doing this exactly? for God? for me? for someone else? Is it just something personal or am I one of many called to a common journey? Called to something bigger than just me and the people around me? Is my faith just for me to keep or is it only mine to give away?

I'd venture, prayerful, that there are answers in scripture.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Theater Camp for Kids

I missed this in 2007 Push Theatre camp for kids. If you're local, even if you're not I guess, check this out next year! I think you'll find yourself on the 2nd page of the brochure. Push the back arrow to find the first page.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More Pop Up Paper Engineering Sites

Mark Hiner in the UK. His site may work a little slow. He has a book about making pop-up books.

If you have kids pondering careers here's a whole list of schools that give actual degrees in paper engineering. Who would've known!

Paper engineering, origami and packaging

There's more. Here's my Google search.

Local: Pop Up Books and Book Festival

If you're local to Rochester or if you have an institute of technology in your neighborhood check out exhibits like The Artistry behind pop-up Books, It opens at RIT’s Bevier Gallery on Oct. 19. I'm guessing there will be something interesting for any age. It's called paper engineering by the way.

You could make pop-up books with older kids. Doesn't it get your creative juices going? If you plan and prepare just right you might even be able to do a project like that with younger kids or with your own kids at home.

And (again, locally) save the first Friday in November for the Rochester Children's Book Festival. If you have an active Children's Writers/Illustrators or SCBWI group in your area you might find one locally. Sometimes bookstores and libraries sponsor them, too.

It's apple (Hilton) and grape (Naples) season up here. Festivals, corn mazes (yes, and haunted hayrides).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Wordless

Viewing this is hard to handle but...
(The site used to be "Justice for Children International." New name - "Love 146")

You'll read about that looking here. Just be sure to read Martin Luther King's quote about justice and love.

On the same trail, a parent wrestling with "missional" parenting - another post
worth reading and a topic truly worthy of ongoing discussion.

for the sake of another generation...

My 2 cents, yet again. If you're in your 20's either believer or wrestling. For the sake of Jesus in a new generation, consider commenting on parenting blogs and Christian Education blogs and share (to whatever degree you're comfortable) the good, the bad...maybe not the ugly . . .you decide. I'm not talking about opinions. I'm talking about experiences.

Think through what it is you're trying to say before you push the [send] button. You can use this post for comments if you want. Tell us about a choice you, a parent, a teacher or someone else made. Did you think it was good or bad? What happened? How do you feel about it now? Why do you think it was so memorable/dramatic at the time? Why do you think it had the affect it did?

What do you think were the best choices that people made that affected you? the worst?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Emerging Parents Blog

Have a look at Julie's website. I think you'll find it worth your time whether parent, Christian educator, or yet another member of God's larger family.

I found this particular post really interesting: 1) the Biblical use of markers or props (for lack of better words) to initiate question asking and dialogue and 2) the part about dialogue vs. monologue. For families and faith communities!!

When the inside is greater than the outer shell

Let's see if I can post the actual post and not just the most recent blog. Take a look at Jeff's post about "God as a time lord" at D-train. I think you'll like it!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Newly defined life stage

My husband sent this New York Times article to me about a newly defined life stage. Thought you might find it interesting.

Comments?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Justice, Mercy, Wisdom and a Baby 2

Here's an aside: Among other things, Solomon was known for his wisdom...

from Kings 4: 29-34 (NAS)

"God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than any other man... And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom."

I'm searching through the references to Solomon to find the story of the baby. We think of it as a story about Solomon's wisdom but, I'm wondering, isn't it also about justice and mercy?

As I'm scrolling through reference after reference without finding the baby story I'm left to assume that Solomon is a VERY busy man. In the midst of all his magnificent glories and final choices, here's this story about the role his wisdom played in the lives of two prostitutes and the child of a prostitute. I doubt they were considered of any importance in ancient Hebrew culture yet their story was worth telling. Their story was part of God's story.

Kings 3: 16-28 (NAS)

"Then two women who were harlots came to the king and stood before him.

"The one woman said, "Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house.

"It happened on the third day after I gave birth, that this woman also gave birth to a child, and we were together. There was no stranger with us in the house, only the two of us in the house.

"This woman's son died in the night, because she lay on it.

"So she arose in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your maidservant slept, and laid him in her bosom, and laid her dead son in my bosom.

"When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, behold, he was dead; but when I looked at him carefully in the morning, behold, he was not my son, whom I had borne."

"Then the other woman said, "No! For the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son." But the first woman said, "No! For the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son." Thus they spoke before the king."

"Then the king said, "The one says, 'This is my son who is living, and your son is the dead one'; and the other says, 'No! For your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.'"

"The king said, "Get me a sword." So they brought a sword before the king."

'The king said, "Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other."

'Then the woman whose child was the living one spoke to the king, for she was deeply stirred over her son and said, "Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him." But the other said, "He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him!"

'Then the king said, "Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother."

"When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had handed down, they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice."

Everyone marveled at Solomon's wisdom. That's clear. Maybe, given Solomon's background, he even brought a lot of personal empathy to the table. But the fact that God used these three insignificant people and their story made it into God's collection says something about what God considers important. It speaks of wisdom and justice and mercy. But doesn't it speak volumes about God's love?

I don't recall praying with my children saying, you can ask God for anything but if you want to make God very very happy, pray for wisdom.

Justice, mercy, wisdom, and a baby 1

from Matthew 12: 15 -21 (NIV)

"Aware of this [the Pharisees plotted to kill him], Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

'Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he leads justice to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.'"

This phrase is interesting: Justice can't win by it's own self. God's servant- chosen, loved, His Father's delight, Spirit-filled - Jesus will lead justice to victory.

And apparently, by the grace of God, it's possible to proclaim something without quarreling or crying out, without breaking those who are already bruised or putting out a wick that's already smoldering.

And the nations will put their hope in one such as Him.

Didn't want to talk about justice without Jesus. :-)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Westerns and justice

Another meager thought on justice. (I thought I blogged about this in '05 but maybe not).

Old westerns. I think one of the strongest themes in old westerns was justice. All the shooting and negative race relations run counter to all that compassionate people stand for. I'm not talking about that. Whether it's possible to look at westerns without those elements, I don't know. But if you're looking for stories about good and bad, right and wrong looking at the westerns where the conflict is more between cowboys than about Manifest Destiny or stories where heroes from different people groups have to work together to resolve conflict, the justice theme is strong.

It is possible, by the way, to take a less than perfect curriculum and use the information someone else has already gathered (history, news, movements, issues, etc. . .) and use it to teach the things you want to teach. Encourage discussion. Encourage young people to examine ideas, history, and the ideas that motivated groups of people to do what they did and look at the fruit (good and bad) and weigh it against what they know about God and His word.

There are a lot of social injustices out there that many of us know nothing about. What do we do with what we know? Do I have a responsibility to respond? If so, how?

Might be interesting to study a book of the Bible that particularly deals with justice and then take a curriculum like Just Choices and examine the similarities and differences.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Just Choices: Social Justice Issues

This seems to be an interesting resource for people working with children (grades 6-12) and social justice issues. I don't know if it's just animal related or not. I ran across it and don't know much about it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Creative

It's hard to type with only 9 working fingers at the moment, but this (called The Crick) is from Jeff and Christine Gill if you haven't read D-train recently.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Another blog 9/07

Have I ever posted Children's Ministry Online? I didn't read much past the first post. (He's techno-savy) He may have some blogs on his list that you haven't seen.

And there's this one if you didn't see it at Kidology.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

CM "Come and See!"

I read more Children Matter, through chapter 4, today. We have a wonderful doctor but you wait a LONG time.

The authors look at Jesus and the disciples, asking how did Jesus' disciples become Christian? How do children become Christian?

If we take the "Come and see" approach that Jesus took or even focus on very simple interactions that welcome and bless, how would it change how we share faith with our students and our children? Would it change our priorities? How?

On what would you base a "Come and see" approach to knowing God and meeting Jesus? What would you need?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Correction

I had to correct the link for "Stillness". I originally gave you the home address and he added posts, which is good, but the link was wrong. It should be right, now.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Another blog

I have to post this one.

From Upstream Communities in Austrailia. A very nice (counter-cultural) mission statement.

Even if we grew up in the church, if we're honest, we still see through a glass darkly. Even after 50 + years I forget what a different paradigm Jesus comes from, yet He came down to live here and shake up our world with His radical ideas.

...oh...and He did really radical things, too!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Rainy morning

Isaiah 11 (NIV)

1
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD -

3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;

4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling [a] together;
and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest.

9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.


Hosea 6:3 (NAS)


"So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

News

Children News - international news about children.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

from USA Today: Food for Thought

My husband found this article in USA Today. Food for thought.

"Culture-blind"

More from Children Matter:

"Understanding what Jesus says about children is at the heart of being a true disciple of Jesus." (p. 39)

"How could Jesus help their culture-blinded eyes see the reversed values of God's kingdom? 'Jesus . . . took a little child... (Luke 9:47-48)" (p. 40) What wonderful imagery!

"The Greeks and Romans viewed children as raw material to be formed, or uninformed beings to be educated. Jews believed children needed teaching and discipline so that they would learn to live like their ancestors and the adults in the faith community. However Jesus holds up children as teachers for adults. Within the kingdom of God adults are challenged to be open to learn from children and others who are the least." (CM p. 42, they footnote Strange, Children in the Early Church)

How do we know when we have culture-blinded eyes and culture-deaf ears? How does our own culture see children in contrast to the way God sees them? The way we hear the words of Jesus - are we culture-deaf, as well?

Father, Son, Holy Spirit we bless You. Heal us.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Incarnation

from Children Matter :

"Jesus did not walk onto the human stage as an adult; Jesus came as a baby and lived out a complete childhood. He experienced helplessness, loving care, obedience to parents, and the process of growing in divine and human favor (Luke 2:52). The incarnation powerfully affirms the significance of childhood." (p.38)

I've always thought it curious that Jesus laid His life down when he was 33 years old and didn't live to become a grey-beard and we know so little about those first 30 years and so much about the rest. Dying so young meant half his life had passed when he was 16. So He spent half of His life with us as a child and a teenager. Not to idolize that time in our lives, but it's curious in a time when adults were of more value than children. We don't even really know if Jesus had great parents or lousy parents, we just know that God chose them.

It's a neat quote.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Death

One more thought pertaining to children from my Celtic readings:

"It was only days after the Dunblane massacre in Scotland in 1996," Newell says "that a child from Portsmouth, in looking at a crucifix said, 'That is like the Dunblane children.' We believe that the grace of moving into a further union with God was given to Jesus in his horrific death. Can we affirm that to be deeply true for all people, whether they die peacefully or violently, suddenly or expectedly?"

"The tendency has often been to try to shield children from the dark side of the Christ story. . . In the religious education of children we have tended instead to concentrate on images of the good Jesus, gentle and kind. Should we wonder then why later in life the Christian inheritance for so many seems to be lacking? When they begin to witness and experience injustice and sorrows for themselves, have they then the tools to look for grace in those painful situations? Or do they simply begin to doubt the half-truths that the Church has given them in its avoidance of the reality of suffering and death for each one of us?" (One Foot in Eden, p 85-86)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Worshipping with all of Creation

I also read God Under My Roof: Celtic Songs and Blessings by Ester De Waal (72 pages) , and I have Power Lines by David Adam (112 pages) a book of poetry (ie. blessings) about work. Celtic believers didn't draw lines between sacred and secular. They continually offered their daily chores gratefully to the Giver of Life - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

God Under My Roof is a tiny snippet taken from a collection of writings recording an oral tradition from the Scots Islands and Highlands in the 19th century - a tradition of Christian faith handed down from generation to generation. A tradition that did not divide sacred from secular and saw all that is created as originating in the heart of the Creator.

"Children learning the first prayer of the day from their mothers were unconsciously made to feel their worship of God took place in the midst of the whole worship of the natural world. 'My mother would be asking us to sing our morning song to God down in the back-house, as Mary's lark was singing it up in the clouds, and as Christ's mavis was singing it yonder in the tree, giving glory to God of the creatures for the repose of the night, for the light of the day, and for the joy of life.' (Carmina Gadelica -III, 25) The dressing prayer she was taught as a child set the tone for the rest of the day which is seen as a total act of worship both in activity and in word..." (De Waal, pg 19)

Many of us aren't into liturgies and repeated prayers, but the Celts (perhaps the orthodox in other cultures, too?) had a prayer, a blessing, a song for everything - the bottom line of which: it was a way to acknowledge and include Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in every part of their day.

One Foot in Eden: A Celtic View of the Stages of Life

I'm still reading Children Matter but I got side-tracked again when we were traveling this weekend. I picked up a couple of small books on Celtic Christianity. One is called One Foot in Eden: A Celtic View of the Stages of Life by J. Philip Newell (c. 100 pages) There are some interesting thoughts about children in these pages.

"...The early British Church was not prepared to say that a newborn child was at heart sinful. Its conviction was rather that of the Genesis account, accentuating the goodness of all that has been created. Similarly it shared the vision of St. John who in the prologue to his Gospel writes of all things as having come into being through the Word. We, including our bodies and the whole of creation are seen in essence as utterances of God..." (One Foot in Eden p. 16)

"...In the innocence of a child we see most clearly the beauty of the image in which we have been made." ( p. 22) These are out of context. He qualifies his thinking acknowledging sin and evil but he continually addresses how we see. Do I look at an infant and see a small life created in the image of God or do I see fallen man and sin? Both have basis in the scriptures. What does God see? The Celtic focus was on our being made in the image of God not on our inherent sinfulness yet they didn't deny the realities of sin and evil. Their focus was on the words of Genesis - God called all that He created "good". How we see and focus affect our attitudes, understandings, and actions. What was Jesus perspective as God walking among men? How did He teach us to see?

In chapter 2, Newell asks if childlike innocence is meant to be left behind when we pass through adulthood if God says, "of such is the kingdom of heaven..."

In chapter 3, he speaks of "adolescence and awakening" - not just to hormonal changes but other hopes, urges, expectations and yearnings as well - like a violent explosion or maybe like childbirth. Redefining adolescence when kids become teenagers as "awakening" - if we thought about all the ways that they're awakening from childhood into adulthood, their quest for depth, truth, purpose, identity, intimate relationships, and independence perhaps that re-definition would change the way we love them and lead them and guide them.

Chapter 4 -Early Adulthood and Passion - (not just sexual passion) Early adulthood is laced with passion of all kinds.

Chapter 5 - Middle Years and Commitment - the power of love.

Chapter 6 - Old Age and Wisdom - wisdom "a way of seeing or understanding that grows out of experience." (page 71) "According to the wisdom tradition, wisdom was born with us in the womb. . .created as we are in the image of the One who is Wisdom. The grace of wisdom stirs within us at the different stages of life." (page 71-71) "Wise men and women see beyond the busyness of our age and more deeply than the idolizing of appearances and possessions. They see these things as vanishing like a shadow..." (page 77-78)

Chapter 7 - Death as Return - He says, "Death is like a womb that opens into the other dimension, expansive and unbounded. While it is strange and frightening it is also, as the Irish Carmelite priest Noel O' Donoghue says, the journey towards a 'freshness of dawn'. He continues, "If all that is seen, as the writer to the Hebrews says has come forth from what cannot be seen, then death is the return of all that is visible into the invisible realm of God." (page 83)

No more quotes. I don't want to give it away. It's a very short book but a rich and interesting read. It will send you back to scripture and cause you to ask questions about how you see.


Monday, August 13, 2007

"... lived faith..."

I'm not going to highlight all the good stuff in this book. There's too much!

quotes from Children Matter:

"At the beginning of Deuteronomy 6, Moses places before the people the challenge of passing on their faith, a lived faith, from generation to generation..." (p. 32) I like the phrase "a lived faith."

Here's a "what if": ["live" as in "alive"] If live observation, interaction, and communication between individuals in groups of people disappears from the earth can the church survive generation to generation? Can faith survive? Maybe it's a miracle that faith survives from generation to generation despite all our personal interactions . . . but it does.

The authors also draw our attention to the significance of what they call the juxtaposition between Deut. 6 verses 4-9 and verses 10-12. Though the Israelites are commanded to teach this living faith to their children throughout their daily lives as they're wandering through the desert, Moses fears for Israel facing good times when a life of plenty is handed to them. The authors continue, "When we feel self-sufficient, we often let God drift to the periphery of life; we continue to give God an hour or two on Sunday mornings, but the rest of our lives have little in them to stimulate the faith questions of our children." (p. 35) That's the profound part "...our lives have little in them to stimulate the faith questions of our children ..." (It's worth reading the scripture foundations they highlight leading into this discussion.)

Maybe I'm engaged in ministry or maybe I'm engaged in work that isn't "church" centered - either way, I believe I'm doing exactly what God wants me to do . What's the focus of my heart, mind, strength, conversation? What do I talk about when I wake up, walk, ride in the car, sit around the dinner table, say goodnight? What are the things in my life and the life of my faith community that stimulate the faith questions of children - children asking questions about a "living faith" that's happening right in front of their eyes?

These authors are asking the important questions! And a book like this will probably be a timeless treasure because they give us foundations that don't change and they ask questions that have to be asked and answered generation after generation if we, as a faith community teaching our children to walk with God, are going to stay focused on loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves .

Bravo!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Kids and Children

This is totally random.

... "kids" or "children." How many great and appropriate synonyms can you find for the word, "children"?

For some reason I cringe when someone kindly (and humbly) corrects me for using the word "kids" instead of "children." Probably my stubborn "free-spirit". Recently, I encountered the director of a popular preschool/daycare who said, "I prefer to use the word "children.'" He was very kind and runs a great program.

I understand the respect that the word "children" implies but, in my thinking, it also implies distance, separation, formality. Adult. Child. "Children" (in my thinking) is a more formal word, a less familiar word - even though it's used by people working with children every day, people who love children and love their work.

I guess for me it's the difference between William and Billy. You can use either word and you'd be right, but the word you choose to use says something about how you relate to Will. Maybe he has a preference. Out of respect you'd call him by the name he prefers.

People used to say, "children should be seen but not heard." People who use the word "kids" in place of "children" would never say, "kids should be seen but not heard" because they'd never make that particular statement to begin with.

I'm not being entirely fair. Paul became all things to all people, so he might win them. He probably would have used the appropriate word among the appropriate people.

I respect people who respect children, I do. But I enjoy people who enjoy kids.

For those who remain convinced that "kids" will always refer to baby goats (characters in their own right), if you know so many people with four legged kids that your listeners might get confused, I would say most- definately, use the word, "children."

And yes, some dictionaries do list "a young goat" as the first definition for kid, but not all of them. Young sheep, of course, are lambs.

Monday, August 06, 2007

CM Children Are a Blessing!

Chapter 2 is a wonderful chapter about children in the scriptures. Much better than my blogging WWTK.

What if we never explored the idea of children and faith beyond "children are a blessing"?

What's my attitude towards a blessing from God? Granted, sometimes I don't know for sure that a blessing is a blessing. But God tells me flat out "children are a blessing".

A child, finances, friends, land, talents ...
How does God bless me? What do I do with a blessing?
Is it for me - something* to protect and keep safe?
Is it something to give away and use for the benefit of others?
How do I steward a blessing?

How do we steward God's blessings when those blessings are little people - and someday, God will want them back with interest? He doesn't want to lose them.

There are lots of issues in our western/American culture and our church cultures that ultimately come back around to whether or not we really believe that "children are a blessing." If we truly believed that children are a blessing, we would ... [what would I do different?]


*Children aren't "things". I'm not saying that. A blessing might be anything. "Children are a blessing." What does it mean to us? What does it mean to God?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Children Matter 1b

There are questions at the end of chapter 1 but near the end of the chapter the authors briefly talk about (metaphors for) children's ministry that
- informs (cognitive formation)
- forms (everything else, more relational)
- transforms (the work of the Holy Spirit - we can only facilitate)
- deforms (unfortunate but it happens)

They say, "Some metaphors for children's ministry may actually be deforming, particularly when they conflict with the purpose of the ministry. The ways this 'deforming' happens are usually subtle. It happens when an essential aspect of ministry is either omitted or overshadowed by some facet of the metaphor, so that children get a distorted view of God and/or the Christian life." (CM p. 23)

My question: What things have the potential to deform the faith of children (ideas, interactions, activities...)? What words, what actions distort, misrepresent, or miscommunicate who God is and what He asks of us? As the authors say, "The ways this 'deforming' happens are usually subtle." How does it happen? The mill stones that Jesus warns us about.

More CM Blogs

Aminus.org

Youth Pastors

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Children Matter 1a

Let me highly recommend this book as a starting point for group discussions for leadership teams at churches, children's ministry teams, a combined group of children's ministry people and parents. The authors created the book because they needed a textbook for seminary students but don't let that scare you. Their conversational style makes it very readable for the rest of us. Gather a group and take 15 weeks and explore the ideas and then make the changes that you need to make. Even 30 weeks (2 sessions per chapter) would be time well spent. ANY amount of time would be time well spent.

Here's some meat to chew on:

Chapter 1 compares some of the metaphors we use when we think of children as learners, and adults as teachers, with metaphors from scripture. The metaphors from scripture are more "active" metaphors. The authors say, "...teaching provides learners with continual interaction with the learning environment. It recognizes that children learn best through experiences they can make sense of and reflect on, and that they need to feel valued and accepted. We want children to realize that the Bible is a real book about God's involvement in the lives of real people whom he created and loved, who did real things at a real place at a certain time. These concepts are pilgrim-like. Learning in which teacher and learners are fellow pilgrims looks somewhat foreign, however, to most people involved in children's ministry." (CM p. 10)

"If we think about what we 're trying to do- to help children want to become followers of Jesus- we need to see them as pilgrims, different from sponges. Pilgrims are people on a journey that has a high purpose. Christian's purpose is to be lifelong followers of Jesus. If we view children as sponges, we expect them to sit still with their hands in their lap and their mouths shut while they "absorb" the Bible. If we view them as pilgrims, we will help the children enter into the story and interact with it in any number of ways. These differences matter because not only do we want children to love the Lord Jesus, we also want them to love his story - the Bible." (CM p. 6-7)

The traditional Sunday school model was built on the traditional "school" model but they ask, If our purpose is "mainly to introduce children to the Bible and Jesus Christ...[i]s this purpose really achieved through schooling methods? Could it be that the School model unintentionally treats the Bible like a textbook from which children extract information, just as they learn the names of rivers and oceans from a geography text?" (CM p. 11)

From my perspective, another thing about making the time we have with kids to nurture their relationships with Jesus like "school" is this. If children are having trouble with school, if they struggle with reading and writing, if the school environment and their experience in the classroom is negative or always hard for them - why would they want to go somewhere that resembles "school" on their day off? Why would they want anything to do with the God who lives there? The flip side is that kids might find reading and writing more enjoyable when they get to interact with something (or someone) they love.

Mentally jump with me a little. In Children Matter they list scriptural metaphors (agricultural imagery) for learners like seed, vines, sheep, pilgrims, disciples). We could say, God used that imagery because He was interacting with an agricultural society. But what if God intentionally gave us that imagery to keep every generation connected to the outdoor world He created? Yes, there are metaphors and images in our computer/entertainment/technological generation available to us that other generations didn't have. Maybe this imagery is stronger than the old, or maybe it just seems that way because we're just more intimately acquainted with the technology of our age than we are with the outdoors.

But what if growing a seed or raising a grape vine or watching the sheep on a farm will not only tell us something about God that technology can't but trying to understand it will keep us connected to the living world He made full of timeless images?

God is spirit and He became flesh and blood and we know Him as the Living God. He's not mechanical or man-made. We can learn more about Him through any of the sciences (natural and physical) if we observe all that He's put into motion. We can learn from our own technology but the living, interactive, relational something that happens between living things is different. Learning, whether it's technical or natural science, is something alive. Discipleship was like that and still is however old or young you are.

I'm rambling.

I'm still in chapter 1 and as usual I'm reading more than 1 book at a time (slowly) but I'm loving the way these ladies think. They're asking the right questions. Sooo exciting! Know what? I don't even want to blog about this book because I won't be doing it justice.

Another sidebar: Do you know why we need to keep asking questions and examining the ideas that drive us? Scripture says (I think it's in Proverbs) as a man thinks, so is he. And that has everything to do with faith and learning and following Jesus.

:)