Friday, April 27, 2007

"Nature-Deficit Disorder"?

Thinking about God, man, and creation again.

I recently saw an ad for a book. LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS: SAVING OUR CHILDREN FROM NATURE-DEFICIT DISORDER by Richard Louv. The title sounded odd to me - "Nature-Deficit Disorder"? But for those of you interested in children and creation or children outdoors the reviews are intriguing. Looks like an interesting and thought-provoking book. I haven't read the book but just the reviews are worth reading if you get the chance.

I have to really stretch my brain to speculate about generations of children with limited access to the outdoors and the natural world. It's bizarre to think of keeping children from opportunities to marvel at God's handiwork outdoors. Does it sound trite and insignificant? Inconsequential? We're not an agricultural society anymore, but we still depend on God's creation. We just forget because we're in a hurry and we can buy everything we need in a store. We take it for granted until disastor strikes.

Man breaking his connection with the outdoors - how would that affect a generation of children? How would that affect the church and the church reaching people? I suppose the sad thing is that it might have no effect at all on education or more specifically Christian Education. Maybe it would have no affect at all on the American church.

When we homeschooled we had a very cool book for pre-school through early elementary called OPEN THE DOOR, LET'S EXPLORE. Themed outdoor exploring with related indoor activities for winter, spring, summer, fall - city, country - lots of mini-field trips right outside your door!

It might be too late in the season for this, but take your kids outside and choose a bush that still looks dead at the end of winter. Or pick a bush when the buds are just beginning to show. Take a peek at it every week and you'll see the tiny buds grow into leaves and flowers.

Take your kids outside! Help them see and hear and smell and touch and taste. Use all your senses! Take your kids outside!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Revisiting worship and children in community

A few weeks ago Jaded CM posted some comments about a book he's reading. He finishes his post saying, ". . . the Sunday morning education of children (and adults for that matter) must be embraced and continued. But it cannot be embraced alone for its own sake or for the sake of teaching moral lessons. It needs to be embraced within the worshiping community who creates this community into a place of authentic spiritual development through deep messages found in Scripture." Then there are comments and Fresh Dirt asks, "How do we do that?"

I could write a very long comment on his blog but I think this is an important question. It brings us back to an unanswered question, "What is worship?"

It appears that the "church" as expressed by our current generation is striving to integrate all the different dimensions of being a faith community into something more "holistic" (for lack of a better word) than communities in the past. In some cases that looks more like separate ingredients mixed and baked into a cake - the separate ingredients lose their individual identities. In some cases it looks more like different colors and textures of thread woven together crossing each other over and under in different patterns to create a fine piece of cloth or tapestry.

First we ask, "What is worship?"

Then we ask, "What does a worshipping community look like?" Is it liturgical? Is it freedom in the Spirit? For me, worship is relational but, in the first commandments, it's also required . Jesus, of course, says it too but the "how" is not well-defined.

Do we need to put the stories of scripture in a larger context? For me, the context is, "What is God teaching us about Himself and how do we apply it?"

We could ask, "What is He telling us?"

We could also ask, "What is He showing us?"

"They're the same," you say.

Are they?

Then, there's religion and there's faith. They aren't neccessarily the same thing.

I was once part of a community whose identity was that of a worshipping community. It was a very non-traditional community. They had their own Sunday liturgy just more open-ended than pre-determined. It was also understood that as a regular member of the community, you would spend time alone with the Lord every day and worship Him - sing, read scripture, dance alone with the Lord. 10 minutes, more or less- at least 10 minutes.

I also know people in very traditional liturgical communities who have chosen a liturgical community because the liturgy enables them to worship God from their heart in a way that more contemporary worship didn't.

People in both communities share their worship life with their children through example, through their family involvement in communities that share their faith values, through education that takes place in their faith community.

They see the scriptures differently. One is more conservative. One is more liberal. Interesting- the liturgical church is more liberal.

But the questions remain: What is a worshipping community? How do we become a worshipping community? How do we teach and train our children in a way that allows them to take the scriptures into life and apply it?

Is our goal obedient children? Children who seek after God? Children who call on the name of the Lord? Children who embrace the spiritual disciplines of the church? Children who can recite the catechism and apply it to their lives? Children who believe God and put their faith in Him day after day after day for a lifetime?

If we're driven to succeed, what does "success" look like in Christian Education? When we meet God face to face, how will we know we've succeeded?

I think it's rare for people to take the time to ask the questions. It's rare to go back, re-define and agree on the language required to answer the questions.

Friday, April 20, 2007

more thought about communion

I was re-reading Brother Maynard's post about the Communion Table and the comments. I'm not qualified to get too involved in theological debates but here are more observations and questions:

We assume there weren't children at the Last Supper but I was wondering who was there when Jesus referred to Himself as the Bread (John 6) - the time He talked about eating His body, the time when so many disciples left. I was wondering whether there were children there. We know a boy once gave up his meal to share it and Jesus multiplied it. Was that the same crowd that followed Him to the place where they heard Him talk about being Bread?

And Jesus refers to the manna that God provided the Israelites in the desert. That manna was for entire families.

From John 6:48-54 (NIV) "I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. . .Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

Was that just for adults? I wonder...

Thursday, April 19, 2007


That's 10 chapters of Genesis. I don't want to bore you, but you get the idea.

An interesting journey - prayerfully reading and pondering the scriptures asking "Where were the children. . ."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Once they were children...

It would be easy to look at some of these chapters as Hebrew stories about the beginnings of creation, man, nations, etc, etc. But we don't look at them as just myth or just legend. They are God's stories.

I enjoy family geneologies so I don't mind the geneologies in scripture. All these people played important roles in God's story.

But I never thought of all these people as children. Of course they were children. Except Adam and Eve. We may grow up thinking our parents were never children but Cain and Abel's parents never were. Imagine that!

In Genesis 10 when you read, "the first people who lived by the sea" do you think about the first children by the sea? When you read about Nimrod, "a mighty hero on the earth ... a mighty hunter in the Lord's eyes," do you think, "once he was a little boy" ?

Imagine each of your great grandchildren becoming a whole tribe, a whole nation, each with their own distinct language, culture, customs, and history.

These people were once children. They had names like Cush, Canaan, Babylon, Ninevah, Magog, Egypt, Assyria, Raamah, Sodom, Gomorrah, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites. Where have I heard these names before? I don't think about Noah, God's friend, when I hear those names. I think about enemies. But each began as a member of Noah's family and whether we like them or not, each would plan an important role in God's story.

We can only be so literal with all of this, but it changes my perspective just a little to think that all these names in all these geneologies were once children. And they had parents.

There are ways we help determine the fate of our children and ways we don't.

God's patience with man through all these generations was truly amazing. Maybe the stories God tells us are about the moments when He intervenes.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Noah and the Ark

But you know, God never gave us a story about Noah the child comforter or Noah the child of a man who killed someone or Noah the child who knew Adam and multiple generations. God chose to mention these but not go into detail.

The Nephilim had children - sons and daughters, children of famous heroes of long ago. But God doesn't tell us their stories, either.

God tells us the story of Noah and the ark, instead. We do know that God decided that He didn't want to struggle with a man for more than 120 years at a time. He says, "The Lord was very sad that he had made man on the earth. His heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, 'I created man on the earth. But I will wipe them out. I will destroy people and animals alike. I will also destroy the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air. I am very sad that I have made man.'" (Genesis 7: 6-7 NIrV)

"But the Lord was pleased with Noah." (Genesis 7:8 NIrV)

Noah was grown. Noah was OLD! His sons were married and grown. It's worth noting that his sons went with him on this crazy journey. Otherwise, no children in sight. No grandchildren. But later small ears would listen to the story. Maybe I'm assuming too much to think children would be listening to all these stories. Historically, isn't that how children learned, listening to stories?

Children still listen to the stories of Creation, Adam and Eve, maybe Cain and Abel (for school aged kids), Noah and the Ark. These stories don't have children in them. We find a couple of people and alot of animals. Yet these are still among the first Bible stories that children hear.

I just think it's interesting.

Noah and His Dad

I never realized that Noah's father had murdered someone until the last post from Gen. 4. What kind of man was Lamech? How did that affect Noah? Maybe in that day and age it wasn't unusual.

But this is Noah of Noah and the Ark fame. Our Noah. It shakes my image of the man in the Bible story just a little.

But the scriptures add this tiny bit about Lamech, the father, and his son: "He named him Noah. Lamech said, 'He will comfort us when we are working. He'll comfort us when our hands work so hard they hurt. We have to work hard. That's because the Lord has put a curse on the ground.'" (Verse 29 NIrV) (There's the ground again.)

Imagine children living among such an ancient ancient people. Imagine children living among so much living history. Imagine Noah the child, comforting his father, comforting his family, comforting a community.

People, Numbers, and Math

I am absolutely not a numbers and math person but even for me the numbers and the math in Genesis 5 is pretty amazing - the way people's lives overlapped - children knowing great grandparents and multiple generations ... I remember four of my great grand-parents. Someone once asked the question Did "Noah know Adam?" It's a fun math problem for older kids.

What wisdom must have lived in that community. Or maybe not...maybe there was wasn't any wisdom even among such an ancient lot.

We can imagine but we really don't know.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Naming (activities)

Would it be worth attaching activity ideas to some of these stories?

For instance, Adam naming the creatures God created.

With 2-3 year olds you can pull stuffed animals or animal pictures or familiar items out of a bag and ask what each item is called. Or point to the people in the room and name them. Or they can bring a photo of a familiar person from home.

4-6 year olds - make puppets and let each child name their puppet.

7-9 year olds - you could do the same activity and let the kids tell you why they named their puppet the name they chose. Or "tell me more about your puppet."

10-12 year olds - give them a piece of clay. Let them create anything they want to create and name it. It can represent something living or non-living.

10 + could probably create gadgets or make creations out of found objects and name them. Ask them why they chose the name they chose.

They can name something that someone else made.

You can also talk about names they like and names they don't like and why.

In small comfortable groups, they can talk about their own name and how they feel about it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Birds of Prey

Birds of prey migrate through our area over Braddock Bay every spring. If anyone's interested this was in the D & C. You may find similar sites in your own area here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Thinking, Feeling, and Doing

I'm thinking that scripture tells us more about what people did than it does about what they thought or how they felt. An interesting trail to explore.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


We look at name meanings in scripture to tell us just alittle more about people we often don't know anything else about. Endless geneologies - fathers, sons, sometimes mothers and daughters. Sometimes all we have is a name. Why are they even there if they're just names? Maybe they were "nobodies," like most of us. Were they important just because they were someone's father or mother, someone's son or daughter or because they were part of Jesus' human lineage? Were they important because God was keeping His promise to Abraham to multiply his descendants? Whatever the reason, they're important enough to be included in the holy scriptures.

I thought about all the names listed between Cain and Abel and Seth. I thought about Seth naming his son and Adam naming every living creature. We take it for granted, but it's a priviledge to be given opportunity to name brand new lives created by someone else. God could have named them all Himself but He didn't. We don't know why. What would we risk to let our children name the things we create - not their creations, but ours? Interesting that God would take that risk.

I wonder if naming things was important enough for children to pretend naming the things they played with and the things they found.

Different cultures have different naming customs but names and identity always seem closely tied together. How do we name children in our culture?
-How many names do we reject for a child because a name belongs to someone we know - someone we don't want a child to model or someone we do want a child to model.
-Maybe we don't want a child to spend his or her whole life trying to live up to someone else's reputation.
-Maybe knowing his/her namesake gives a child confidence to aspire to be like someone they love and respect.
-Maybe we pick a unique name because we want that child to grow up to be an individual - to make a name for him/herself, his/her own name - or because we don't want them to live under someone else's shadow.

Do I give my name meaning through my own behavior? Or does my name shape who I am? Probably a little of both.

If you're a teacher, how significant is someone's name, even before you meet them and work with them? In a community of people, whether we like it or not, our name often precedes us. Our family name still tells people who we are. It's tough to change the reputation associated with a name. Teachers can help.

In scripture a father was an important part of someone's identity. Jesus - Son of God. We have been called children of God. An amazing thing. To give someone your name through adoption or marriage was significant. It still is. Interesting that God gave us His name as His children and also as the Bride of Christ.

We didn't name God. God already had His name. God's name was so significant that the Hebrews weren't even allowed to say it. In our own culture we've chosen not to practice that tradition. I wonder why.

Jesus was the son of and we are the children of one whose name can't be spoken ...

If we were to look at names as inconsequential, that would be significant, too. As I was writing, my daughter mentioned friends fostering puppies and how not naming them keeps you from getting too attached. Once you name them, you get attached.

Monday, April 09, 2007

After Cain and Abel

Cain* has a son. His name is Enoch. My Cruden's concordance tells me it means "dedicated" or "disciplined and well-regulated." Interesting after what Cain did.

Enoch's son? Irad - "wild ass" or "heap of descents" or "of empire"
Irad's son? Mehujael - "who proclaim's God" or "God that blots out" or "who is smitten by God"
Mehujael's son? Methushael - ""who demands his death or death is his hell (grave)"
Methushael's son? Lamech "poor," "made low," "he is struck,"

Fathers, sons, grandsons. Once they were all little. Mothers and daughters were there too. We know even less about them except that they had to be there.

Lamech is married when he says to his wives, "...I have killed [or I will] a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times." God didn't say it. Lamech did. It seems 5 generations later Lamech had even more gall than Cain.

Lamach married Adah ("an assembly") and Zillah ("shadow" "roasted" "tingling of the ear") He was the father of Jabal - the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. He was also the father of Jubal - the father of all who play the harp and flute. Lamach was also the father of Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of bronze and iron tools. Not unlike the stuff of myth and legend in other cultures. He also had a daughter Naamah (meaning not found). I forgot to search for name meanings when the scriptures told me what they did.

Then scripture says that Adam and Eve had another son and named him Seth. The NIV says Seth means "granted": "God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him." That makes sense but before I read it in Gateway I read Crudens. Crudens says Seth means "put" or "who puts." Somehow naming a child "put" rings of discouragement to me. Naming a child "granted" rings more of humility. But I guess those two feelings aren't too far removed from one another.

Seth had a son, and he named him Enosh. Enosh "fallen man subject to all kinds of evil in soul and body."

"At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD" - the last sentence in Genesis 4. I'd never noticed before how closedly man calling on the name of the LORD was tied to parenting and raising children. What? Because of the kids, man first called on the name of the Lord? Probably not intended to be funny but I have to admit it made me smile. Actually, it made me laugh out loud.

Took them 6 generations, 6 generations to call on the name of the Lord! It took them 6 generations of child-raising to call on the name of the Lord. One side of me is amazed. The other . . . not. . . God knows we're a stubborn lot.

*Cain means "possession". Abel means "vanity" "breath" "vapor." Other sources may use other meanings but it's interesting.

Cain and Abel/Adam and Cain

Reread God's interaction with Adam after they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, after God found out. Then read God's interaction with Cain after God calls him on killing his brother.

[An aside-Just for fun, both parts again and focus on the ground. The role that the ground/creation plays in both Adam's story and Cain's story is interesting.]

-It seems that Adam accepted the consequences of his actions "like a man" but Cain responds (I'd say he whines) "This is more than I can bear..." "This is too much God. This is too hard."

-After God confronts Adam and issues the consequences, God makes Adam and Eve clothes to cover them. God keeps caring for them. After God confronts Cain, He keeps caring for him. There are consequences for Cain, but if anyone does to Cain what Cain did to Abel the consequences will be even more severe than they are for Cain.

-Adam and Eve were banished from the garden. Cain also left the presence of God. Permanently? Or as in "conversation over"? I don't know. If God was going to deal with anyone who killed Cain, God would have to keep a close eye on him.

There was a time when you couldn't imagine a pre-teen doing something like this. Not so, today. Even here, Cain was old enough that God held him accountable for his actions. How old? We don't know. But notice that it wasn't Adam who issued consequences or punished his son. It was God.

Cain and Abel 1

This is longer than I planned so one story - two posts.

A man. A woman. Children. At entry level, the story of Cain and Abel is about Adam and Eve's children - two brothers. Here are some basic, simple observations.

-How old? We don't know. Probably old enough to be unsupervised.

-Can we assume Cain and Abel are old enough to work? Are they offereing the fruit of their work? The fruit of their parents work? Not clear. We do know that historically children were put to work much sooner than they are now. Whether you read this as Cain and Abel being adults, young adults, teens or pre-teens their ages might change how you picture the story but for me it doesn't really change the story.

-It appears that they had different jobs or perhaps just different interests. They came to God with different offerings.

-God favored one but not the other. People have ideas about why but we don't really know. In it's simplest form God prefered one over the other and it made Cain mad.

-God interacted with Cain. God asked him, "Why are you angry?" Kids don't always know why they're angry but God asked. We need to ask. "Why are you angry?"Sometimes the answer isn' what we expect.

-"But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." For me, this was always the heart of the story of Cain and Abel - the part that's most clear.

-THEN (after God said this) Cain lured his brother out to the field, attacked him, and killed him. This wasn't an accident. This was very deliberate. Violence in God's first family.

Cain and Abel 2

-God called him on it. Again, God interacted with Cain. Do we have evidence that God interacted with Cain and Abel before this? Not clear. Yet somehow Cain knew that God accepted Abel's offering but not his.

-It appears that Abel was the one who did the right thing but God seems to be spending most of his time interacting with Cain. We have God loving two children differently, not more or less, just different.

-"If you do what is right..." We assume Cain knew what was right. Why? because God is just? Because Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Not clear.

-God asks, "Where's your brother?" Cain feigns ignorance. We assume both Cain and God knew where Abel was. Abel's blood was already crying out to God.

-"[How would I know!] Am I my brother's keeper?" Attitude!

Things keep getting worse, here. Cain managed to earn his own curse. I'm not saying that God cursed him, I'm saying that Cain's actions left him "under" a curse.

To Cain, God says,
"What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth."

Adam and Eve lost two sons that day - one trying to do the right thing and one chosing to do the wrong thing.

Friday, April 06, 2007

More Story

Story-telling. I'm not reducing the scriptures to "just" story. God, His Son, and His Holy Spirit have chosen to use stories to teach us.

For what it's worth, children's writers learn to

1)Consider your audience
-who are they?
-what do they care about?
-what language and experiences are familiar to them?
-what challenges do they face?

2)What's the story about? What can a three year old relate to? An 8 year old? A 12 year old?

When I took the Easter story looking for the simplest story for preschool and things they could relate to, the focus on friends came after the fact. I didn't start with that. It happened searching for details in the story that someone little could relate to. It's only part of the story but it's not untrue or misleading.

8 & 9 year olds might not relate to a trial but they can relate to being falsely accused of something they didn't do. They can probably relate to friends turning on them and friends caring about them. They'd love to know that Jesus who was dead wasn't there and the soldiers who were supposed to be alive looked like dead men. That parallel was new to me, too, and funny in an odd way. They might be able to relate to Peter's anger when he took the sword and Jesus said, put it away. A twelve year old can relate to that part of the story.

As I say, I'm not advocating changing, leaving out, or adding to. There is sooo much to be mined in the scriptures without doing any of that. And it's not just for adults. It's not just for seminary students. God's Word stands alive and resurrected. He accomplishes what He sets out to accomplish and we're the ones who change not His story.

Happy Resurrection Day!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Raising the Age

Telling this to 8-9 year olds or 12 year olds from the NIRV (from the Last Supper on) you can add the stories leading up to the cross and resurrection, the betrayal, the court scenes, the mockery, the beating. I probably wouldn't read about Judas killing himself but you could. You can add the guards so afraid that they looked like they were dead.

This is more for parents: Looking at the way the chapters are divided in the NIrV you have 10-15 stories leading up to Easter. If you read one each day, that's about 2 weeks. You can do that with the Christmas story, too. Read one part of the story each day leading up to Christmas. We used to do that.

Whether or not kids really "hear" straight scripture might be open to debate but His word won't return to Him empty without accomplishing what He sent it to accomplish...

Maybe reading the scriptures unaltered is more in keeping with the reading of the Word when the Israelites gathered. Didn't those gatherings include everyone? As a child got older, more and more would make sense to him/her.

Funny how sensitive we are now trying to make things kid-friendly, understandable, and fun compared to times when children did what they were told without questioning or talking about it. Some of the sermon would make sense, some of it wouldn't. Whether learning was fun or not you learned what you had to learn.

For everything, there's a season ...I sometimes wonder if the proportion of the congregation that believed was the same then as it is now or whether it's different.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Easter Story for Young Listeners

Plans to kill Jesus, betrayal, court, jail, beatings, denial, suicide, crucifixion...not alot of G-rated material here. I'm not saying it's irrelevant but thinking preschool experience.

Supper, praying when you're just too tired, burying someone beloved or a pet who dies - more the experiences that very young folk relate to.

Here's my try at the Easter story for a very young crowd. c. 250 words. This version is from Matthew.

Jesus died on a big wooden cross on a hill. But God had a secret plan.

Joseph was Jesus' friend. He asked if he could bury Jesus' body before the Sabbath in his own special burying place. Soldiers pulled a great big stone over the door so no one could steal Jesus' body and pretend that He was alive. They stood guard.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were Jesus' good friends, too. Early in the morning on the first day of the week the two Mary's got up. They went to the place where Jesus was buried.

Suddenly, everything shook. It was an earthquake! An angel came down from heaven. He pushed the big stone away from the door and sat on it. His body shone like lightening. His clothes were white as snow. The soldiers saw it too. They were so afraid that they began to shake.

"Don't be afraid," the angel said to the two Mary's. I know you're looking for Jesus who was killed on the cross. He's not here! He's alive! He's risen just like He promised. See? Go quickly! Tell His disciples! Tell them He's risen from the dead. He's going ahead of you into Galilee. You'll see him there."

Mary and Mary hurried away from the tomb. They were afraid but they were SO happy!

As they were running to tell the disciples, "Greetings!" someone said to them. It was Jesus! He really was alive! They fell down, they grabbed His feet, and they worshipped Him.