Thursday, August 28, 2008

In-Class Adventure 4

The focus of that last post isn't the creation of literary masterpieces, by the way, or the Psalms as Literature with all it's literary forms. But if kids want someone else to read and hear what they're saying, they might care more about handwriting, spelling, grammer, punctuation, and organization - emphasis on "might". But I wasn't going to get into all that.

Between me & God, making a psalm "mine" or creating one
- helps bring me closer to the story of David and
- helps bring his story closer to me (I get a little taste of interacting with God the way David did)
- it's another way I can draw near to God the way David did
- it's a way to meditate on His word the way David did
- crafting scripture or a psalm into song is yet another way to meditate on His word the way David did

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In-Class Adventure 3

Here's one: from Psalm 15

Lord, who lives in Your house?
That house on a hill - a holy hill?
How 'bout me?

I'm not the kid who never gets blamed.
The one who always does the right thing
Sometimes I lie
Sometimes I gossip
(or slight someone)
Sometimes I bad-mouth people
Sometimes I hurt people

People like me don't live in Your house.
But I want to.
Help me.

Teach me to despise vile people
[I thought God loved everyone and just hated their sin?]
Teach me to honor those who fear You
[even when they aren't perfect]
Teach me to keep an oath until it hurts
[even when everyone else breaks their word]
Teach me how to lend without doing it to earn interest,
without expecting to profit from giving or lending
to give without expecting anything in return

If someone tries to hire me or convince me
to wrong someone

who doesn't deserve it
I'll say "no."

Maybe I can be someone who lives in Your house.
The people who live in Your house are unshakeable.

If I live in Your house, I'll be unshakable, too.

In-class adventure 2

Here's an activity. David was imperfect but his worship was heart-felt honest expression, and he feared God.He was a man after God's heart. God interacted with him and responded to him. He responded to God.

Take a class of kids who old enough and comfortable with reading and writing and able to rethink ideas and put them in their own words.

Ask some questions - Who is the Psalm written for? Psalms are written as worship - for God. But some are for God's ears only. Some are written to encourage your own soul. Some to encourage or draw in the people around you to worship and praise. What else can you discover about who the Psalm is for? When would someone use a prayer or praise like this? How would they be feeling? Sometimes they fit into David's story and you can tell what was going on with him and what he was feeling. Some of the Psalms aren't even David's.

Give them a Psalm to rewrite in their own words as a very honest prayer or as praise - an expression of personal worship to the Lord - like David did. Don't worry about accurate rendition of the text. With a listening heart, look for David's heart-rending honesty.
If they're mostly the same, listening to all of them would get boring. On the other hand, if they're quite different, it might be interesting to listen to all of them.You can post them on the wall or you can let each of the kids pick a partner for the first read. You pick a partner or let them split into groups of three for the 2nd or 3rd read. New listeners each time.And nobody comments. Just listen. They're all using the same Psalm.

Here's one: from Psalm 15

Lord, who lives in Your house?
That house on a hill - a holy hill?
How 'bout me?

I'm not the kid who never gets blamed.
The one who always does the right thing
Sometimes I lie
Sometimes I gossip
(or slight someone)
Sometimes I bad-mouth people
Sometimes I hurt people

People like me don't live in Your house.
But I want to.
Help me.

Teach me to despise vile people
[I thought God loved everyone and just hated their sin?]
Teach me to honor those who fear You
[even when they aren't perfect]
Teach me to keep an oath until it hurts
[even when everyone else breaks their word]
Teach me how to lend without doing it to earn interest,
without expecting to profit from giving or lending
to give without expecting anything in return

If someone tries to hire me or convince me
to wrong someone

who doesn't deserve it
I'll say "no."

Maybe I can be someone who lives in Your house.
The people who live in Your house are unshakeable.

If I can live in Your house, I'll be unshakable, too.

In-class adventure 1

Here's the first part of the adventure. Take off 20+ years of religious glasses and really look at David, the man after God's own heart (Passion gone right. Passion gone wrong.) and just make observations. Look at the grubby details of life as a shepherd, life as the youngest of a testosterone-filled household. Life as a soldier. Life as a king. A womanizer. Write a long list of honest observations. Would you let him join your church? What was he good at? What was he bad at? Or how did he succeed in men's eyes? In God's? How did he fail?

Not that God condoned breaking His commandments but His stories are full of some pretty unsavory situations and less than perfect people.
If you let kids make the honest observations that only kids can make about our religious icons - the heroes of scripture - without our grown-up interpretations you may discover things about God that you've never seen before. Especially if you listen to kids who didn't grow up in the church, who didn't teethe on these stories. Some of the stories of scripture aren't appropriate for young children or even elementary aged although in today's world maybe we need to rethink that if there's a child in the story. But what about middle grade? What about teens and young adults? There are stories in scripture that adults don't even explore but they're there.
They're in the word. God gave us these stories. What do we do with them?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

reading and pondering

Here's an adventure for you. I was reading Psalm 15. (More on that later.)

Do a word study on the word "usury." But instead of thinking of it as something related to ancient Hebrew culture or as a business term think about "usury" as any time we lend or give with the expectation that we can profit (even a little) from that act of lending or giving . . .

. . . see what you find.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Random Tales About the Quest for Stewardship III

In her defense, some of her buying is because it's hard to go from a house of 7 to a house of 1. BIG change. It's hard to buy and cook for 1 after you've spent 20 years w/7. If you buy too much in a house of 7 someone will eat it or their friends will. I hate throwing things out. I hate wasting food. But that's the way I was trained. I also don't like clutter but I also don't like dealing with it.

Ecclesiastes says there's a time to save and time to throw away. A time to give and not. Food comes in season and food comes on sale. But in our culture we don't need to buy and save large quantities of food. We don't need to buy and save large quantities of anything. It's always there. In season and out. We don't have to make everything by hand, which would also limit how much you own. We don't need more than a week's worth, or a day's worth of necessities in the city, unless we're preparing for a natural disaster. Don't laugh - we're not immune, especially if we think we are.

Reality check! My kids aren't going to take 1/7 of our combined household clutter when they leave home. They're not. So we're steadily learning to bag, donate, give away, and throw away. Many thanks to my 3rd daughter who randomly appeared in our house as a neat, organized person who throws things away and gets rid of stuff. (We still don't know where she came from. My maternal grandparents, maybe - emphasis on "maybe".)
Once you've got it, once it's in your house - use it, give it, or toss it unless it's seasonal or irreplaceable. That's what I'm working on 20 years late after all my excuses!

We learn how to use our resources from our parents (and the other people we spend time with) by their example - what they allow, what they don't allow. Looking back at our backgrounds George and I tipped the balance away from acute thriftiness to more generous living for our kids. George's parents and grandparents did that for him. My parents and grandparents tended to live the same way as the generation before.

We learn from our elders but then times change, life-styles change. You marry someone who didn't grow up the way you did or who works a job that requires a different lifestyle than the one you grew up with. You become part of a group of people who don't live the way you grew up. You have to rethink and readjust. If we're smart we'll keep going back to scripture.

A work in progress - God isn't through with us yet. I'm still trying to learn kingdom stewardship. My husband sees stewardship more from a business perspective. I just want to live right, give, and not have so much stuff to deal with. Actually, over the years, I'm not sure that any of us were actually trying to learn kingdom stewardship. We reduced it to work, tithing, sharing, saving, giving. And maybe that's the heart of it. We've even revisited the concept of tithing. We lived knowing we'd give account to Someone someday for our choices - the One with the cattle on 1000 hills, rich, generous, wise, non-patronizing. . . then He was poor but still giving. . . then He had nothing, or so it seemed, and He was still giving. The best steward ever!

In God's house, giving brings greater return than saving and being stingy. Living and giving! Our culture encourages borrowing to do that. We become slaves to someone besides our own savings or our own expected income. But if we're borrowing what isn't ours, it isn't ours. It's isn't ours to live with. It isn't ours to give. It never belonged to us in the first place.

Hmmm. . . it could be said that we're given a borrowed life to start with, lol, which is why stewardship matters . . . more theology than I want to ponder right now . . . another time . . .

Random Tales About the Quest for Stewardship II

Working teens. Some of our parenting is tight. Some not and Dad travels a lot. I probably gave my kids alot more freedom than most parents around us. Sometimes I regretted it. But sometimes learning by trial and error is more effective than telling kids what to do and what not to do. Sometimes a child experiencing a little pain or disappointment because of a choice them made alone is more effective than the punishment or discipline of a parent. The parent's not associated w/the correction when they fail. (Too much dog training but it applies) Shy, obedient, dependent-for-direction kids learn to trust themselves. Mom and Dad didn't make it happen. They made a good choice without direction from someone else. They survived.

The down side is that often the consequences of learning by trial and error are far greater than consistant compassionate discipline. You discipline to give a child a taste of greater consequences hoping to train them to make wise choices to avoid the greater consequences. But your goal isn't for them to be afraid of making mistakes or taking risks or interacting with lots of different people and situations. Your goal is to have thinking kids making wise choices in any situation. You want them to be able to think on their own. You have to consider how your children (and students) learn. You can teach by trial and error and discovery but you have to control the situation in such a way that they actually learn and succeed without hanging themselves and without someone hauling you to court for negligence. Sometimes it backfires. Start little! Start early! But this is discipline, not stewardship. Maybe they're related.

So here we are. Working teens. It's healthy for them to work but they really don't need that money for day to day expenses and there isn't anything they're motivated to save for. They learn the connection between working and earning. They learn to deal with customers and work for a boss who isn't family. I can urge them to save but they worked hard to earn the money they earned and it's theirs, not mine. I want them to make choices and experience consequences while they're still under my roof. They don't ask for money. That's a good thing - maybe. But as parents, we no longer control a valuable motivational resource. Ok, too much dog training.

Saving would be a better choice than having daily access to all that hard-earned money. They could save to pay their way through college but going to college is more our choice than theirs so not a big motivator. They earn more money than they need but not enough to be financially independent**. (They never ran away. Thank God!) They earne just enough to allow each of them to live in a house of 7 with a little more financial independence than younger siblings. They never asked for money in high school. Had they saved in high school, they wouldn't have asked for as much in college.

For one of my children, in particular, having money didn’t teach her stewardship. It did, however, make her one of the very best shoppers you will ever know. By the time she was 20, she knew all the mistakes you can make when you shop. When her siblings go clothes shopping they bring her. They swear that the best deals you'll ever see randomly appear on the racks when she walks into a store. Buying things 75% off that you know you'll have to buy full price is wisdom. But buyer BEWARE! Just buying things because they're on sale thinking "some day I'll use this," will fill your house with STUFF you don't need. Clutter is anything you don't want, need or use - anything that just takes up space. Having what you need and only what you need isn't, in itself, stewardship***. Having everything you need with enough to give away might be, if you're giving things away.

But, would you believe it? There's a down side to giving! This particular shopping child is also a Giver - with a capital G, like her father and grandmother before her. The child brings random stuff home out of the goodness of her heart and returns to her apartment and we all look at her bags of love and generosity and sigh because now we have stuff we don't need or won't use we run out of people to give it to. And we want to cry out to my sweet, giving, shopping-for-entertainment, creative-but-bored (& perhaps lonely) child, "STOP BUYING!! STOP, STOP, STOP!!! But just talking doesn’t help. She has a room mate now whose faith and life choices she respects and who lives very frugally. That helps!

* Some of my other kids spend very little of the money they earn. They save it or (buy books). Nobody even had to ask or coerce them to save, they just don't spend money for much.
**Sometimes you can earn too much to qualify for school scholarships.
***Google "hoarding". Don't get too paranoid but they've tied it to mental disorders.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Random Tales About the Quest for Stewardship 1

I mentioned high school in one of the last posts and thought I should elaborate. Some background and reminiscing here. Not a collection of "poor me" stories. I never ever felt like a "poor me" growing up. Not ever. But we didn't have a lot of money. We grew up saving everything so the money I earned babysitting usually went into savings. I saved for a camera once - a polaroid. Still left me with $200. Alot of money!

When we went to the store for groceries we only bought groceries. I mean ONLY groceries and only a week’s worth - only the groceries we needed - and we didn't throw food away. Buying 5 cents worth of penny candy (5 pieces) on a Sunday morning after church when my grandfather bought his Sunday paper (if we were good in church) was our candy for a week. We rarely bought toys, books, music, gadgets or technology.

We didn't have a lot of extra money for clothes shopping. I wore 2nd hand clothes from my cousin. We went to the store to buy a dress and dress shoes for Easter and got new pajamas for Christmas. Otherwise we didn't buy clothes very often - not never, just not very often. Buy only what you need and spend as little money as possible.

As a result, I never really learned to shop. I learned not to buy. They're not the same. I learned to save and not spend. I never learned about investing or taking risks - even well-informed risks. We lived safe. I bought my camera and went to college but I wasn’t thinking about either as investment.

My husband grew up in a similar situation to mine but as an adult he’s always made good money and he likes to shop (unlike me). Buying a camera means you're going to invest in taking pictures. Buying cooking utensils means you're going to invest in cooking. Buying an instrument means you're going to invest in your music. Not neccessarily as a career but with your time, improving your skill although his business side is always lurking there. You invest in the best tools you can afford in order to do the best work you can do. He knows what he wants and what he doesn’t want. He’s more apt to spend more to get more. He’s more apt to go looking for the best deal to get the quality he’s looking for. He's more apt to upgrade and capitalize on new technology. He's not afraid to invest or take risks. Maybe it's a culture's displaced hunter instinct. He's also a generous giver - with two capital G's.

My kids grew up with what they needed plus some. It wasn't that we had alot - just more than we needed and enough to give. As a parent of a working teenager, it was healthy for them to have a job.

-It gave them something constructive to do with their time,

-got them out in the world doing something besides church, sports, or taking a class,

-gave them opportunity to work for a boss who wasn’t family,

-gave them $ for clothes, camera film, books, yearbooks, gifts, music, time out w/friends.

It also throws them into an adult world with adults who aren’t there to look out for them. They darned well better be mature enough to look out for themselves and stand up for themselves. They need to be wise.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Choices 3

Here's a game:

We're in a store [pick a place]
I have [this much $] $1
My choices [2 or 3] A drink, a coloring book, a candy bar.

Things to consider:
I'm thirsty.
My sister is thirsty.
I already have 3 coloring books.
This $1 has to last me until next week.
(If I save it, and add to it next week . . . what can I do with it?)

Parents used to walk children through this kind of thinking every time they went to the store together (once a week!) . Key: You have to be with your children when they're making these choices. We did that until they were teens earning their own money but they weren't quite ready . . . That's where we blew it.

You can create games like that for kids - choosing games. And I'm not talking about the game where there are 3 people in a boat and only enough food and water for 2, who do you throw overboard.

Choices 2

Walk in any store. Google a product or service on line. The over-choice is over-whelming. The blessing of free enterprise gone a-rye. I think the issue is less about rich or poor and more about stewardship. I wrestle with that constantly. Stewardship that isn't stingy - giving away or throwing away what I don't need. I grew up with people who saved everything and that was stewardship. I live with a giver but he likes to buy gadgets that we don't neccessarily need. An added complication - People give us stuff! Keep? Sell? Give away? Throw away? Where do we learn how to steward our resources?

Biblical choices don't always make sense. They may not make you a winner in the eyes of the people around you - even within your faith community. In fact, God's word gives us an interesting mixture of rich and poor with the call to lay down our lives. The wild cards? Sometimes God provides and sometimes life happens unexpectedly. Life isn't really a game but life is full of choices. It's possible to control resources in a way that we can use to help children practice making choices that have consequences.

"Choose" (and all it's variations) sounds like a fun word study.

Choices 1

This MSN article c. the Y generation and debt caught my attention.

"20- and 30-somethings are in a financial mess. Is it because we're dumb, arrogant or simply uneducated? . . . The ray of hope is that government and business authorities are starting to take financial illiteracy seriously." It's great if someone takes financial literacy seriously but I'm thinking that, for better or worse, financial education happens at home and at school. We teach kids what we know. We teach them by example. Apparently, we aren't doing a very good job. Instead of having limited resources and having to make choices, we think we can have it all without having to chose. So we never learn to choose.

First we may need to ask "What have we done, either actively or by default, to create such a debt-bound, consumer driven generation?" Then we can respond with a plan for re-education. But the two go together.

Do we need to consider more or different stewardship training in our faith communities - not just tithing and giving but faithful use of resources? You can pick your scriptures to make a point or search and read the scriptures to see what they say. Both Old and New Testaments are full of stories about rich and poor. Proverbs are full of ... proverbs! Jesus had a lot to say about wealth and money and stewardship. But according to my Bible Gateway search there are only 3 passages about the tithe in the Gospels (KJV) An often overlooked question when we search the scriptures - what isn't there? The things that aren't clear, that aren't black and white are just as important to take note of.

When my kids were small and exercising their independent spirits, I remember my husband saying, "Give the kids two choices either of which are ok and let them choose." We won't always be making choices for them. They have to learn to choose. When we live with limited resources we're forced to choose. When we have unlimited resources, thinking we can have it all, we don't have to choose so we don't practice making choices.

Allowing children to choose and live with the consequences grows strong choosing muscles. Every time they make a choice they learn something about wise choices and their confidence grows. Choices have consequences. Some are good. Some are not. Real consequences even for a young child will help prepare him/her for bigger choices and bigger consequences as they get older. And yes, sometimes life happens despite our choices. Sometimes life events have nothing to do with our choices. And yes, sometimes God intervenes not unlike parents. But He doesn't always intervene.

Do you think our culture makes choices less consequential and less immediate than other cultures at other times?

Sidebar: There was a Mennonite cookbook years back that I like: More with Less and another book about lifestyle Living More With Less.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I would really like to send you to the mission statement on a website but can't put it on my website. Don't want to violate any copyrights. (read the fine print) So do this!

[Google] Lancaster Priory and Parish Church UK
[choose] Lancaster Priory
[Scroll down] Website Index
[choose] Index #3 Education Dept.
[choose] Education Home Page (which they're updating)
[choose] Mission Statement

I want to send you here. They're under construction right now but I LOVE the language and the phrases in their purple mission statement!

They want it to be ALIVE!!! I'm assuming because they want what they do to be ALIVE I'm assuming because Jesus is ALIVE and His Holy Spirit is alive (and active) and because the God we serve is a living God. . .My husband is less impressed but it's just fun. What I heard is a desire to create education that's alive with doors for wondering and exploring and asking questions. I think those things are important. But you knew that!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Reluctant Readers

If you teach public or private school or if you home school, Seedlings/Continental Press has a really nice Resource Guide to go with some of their readers. Lots of activities to go with these books nicely designed for kids who are just learning to read - activities you can do through the day in other subject areas to reinforce and supplement what they've read in the reader. Check it out!

If you don't teach or home school you might still come away with some interesting ideas to go with Bible story lessons.

This is a list of book publishers (some Christian) that publish leveled readers. Here is the list of specific books. If you have reluctant readers you can put a lot less emphasis on reading (at every level), especially out loud, to save embarassing who are already self-conscious about it. (unless the other kids in your class are unusually supportive - not patronizing- making your class a good place to overcome that fear) You might also consider having among your take home resources some easy-to-read Bible storybook readers offering reluctant readers some different materials to practice with than the stories they read in school.

Maybe parents (and non-parents) would be willing to give books or give to buy books to go into a Sunday School lending library? Note: it's very hard for non-teachers (and non-parents) to choose appropriate books for the newest readers unless they know what they're looking for.
But these publishers and reading lists are a good place to start.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Imagine. . .

Just so you folk working with kids keep your child-like imaginations working. . .
and this is total speculation, non-theological...

In the very beginning of the world,
when the world was only a week old
(and the past was only a week old)
when Adam and Eve
were the only human beings alive
in the midst of all creation
as God walked with Adam in the cool of the day
as Adam walked and worked with Eve
What do you think they thought about?

Do you think they talked
Or do you think they were quiet
What do you think they talked about?

Do you think God listened and Adam talked
Do you think Adam listened and God talked?
Do you think that time was full of "Adam, do this!"
or "God, do that!"

Do you think they dreamed and shared their dreams?
Did you ever wonder?

Imagine walking with God in the cool of the evening on a brand new earth
Only seven days old , no past except creation to speak of
Imagine walking and dreaming together.

If you ever thought about man being made in God's image
and how different God and man are
If you ever thought about Adam and Eve alone parenting all mankind
and how different we human beings are from one another
I wonder how ecclectic Adam and Eve were.

I wonder if they dreamed with God . . . I wonder if there are clues in scripture.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Individuals in Community: Children

The relationship between being individuals in community and being community at the expense of the individual isn't easy or simplistic.

We each have a God-given responsibility to discover the things that we can do better than most people (Psalm 139), sharpen those skills - become the best that we can be (Col. 3:23). That's stewardship. We each have a God-given responsibility to figure out how we can best give to (and graciously receive from) the faith and non-faith communities around us utilizing those gifts. That's service - our spiritual service of worship, if you want to take it to the next level. I believe we were made with these things in mind. Eph 4:1-16. It isn't that the giver needs recognition to build up his or her ego but exercising one anothers encouraging one another, giving thanks. . . and each of us giving back what we've been given is what it's all about.

This applies to adults and children. Children are a part of our communities learning who they are and how they fit. They won't always be children. While we wrestle, they watch, they listen, they learn. The sense of who they are and how they fit will follow them for a lifetime. I'm not talking about patronizing children or "including children" so that the kids are busy, so they feel important. I'm talking about giving them honest legitimate recognition and responsibility based on who they are, what they can do and what they can do well - giving them honest legitimate recognition and responsibility for giving what they have to give to the those around them. Recognition can be as simple as acknowledging, "You did a great job! [and tell them what they did so well] Would you like to do it again?" It doesn't have to be public recognition, awards or prizes.

Does that mean those with specific and obvious gifts and talents can't do all the other mundane, just-gotta-do-it chores that need to get done? Doesn't mean that. As servants, we also need to be willing and able to care for one another as needs arise and do things we don't think we can do, or don't want to do. Jesus washed feet.

We as individuals and we as the Body of Christ are multidimensional and multifaceted at every level. God is multidimensional and multifaceted at every level but I'm not God and we're not God. Life - the life of Christ - doesn't revolve around me nor does it revolve around us. But as individuals and as a Body we are created in His image to reflect, represent, and serve Him even as He appears in the least of us. But our reflecting, representing, and serving will always be flawed, cloudy, and imperfect. Keeps us humble.

So we're left as individuals and as a Body to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, strength and love our neighbor as ourselves with all that we are as individuals and as a community. It's vertical, horizontal, in-house and out. It covers our being individuals and being a Body. Here's a long list of one anothers from a couple years ago. Another approach to individuals in community.

. . . simplistically, of course, which it isn't!

can't find it!

This blog is almost impossible to find (except through Subversive Influence) if you google it but it's easy to find if you search with Yahoo!