Thursday, December 31, 2009


The year of our Lord 2010 is right around the corner.

May we continue to grow in wisdom and in the knowledge of God (Father, Son & Holy Spirit)
and of His Christ
through His Word,
and through His people
as we walk and work with Him
in this world of His that He loves.
Individually and collectively
May we learn to love the way He does.
Generations in Faith Together caught my eye. You may also find this interesting.

This is not the most recent post at KidMo! GrL but the characteristics of "progressive education" caught my eye.

scripture & art for kids

Scriptures and art projects for kids! Fun! (Use it with adults, too, if you want - why should kids have all the fun?)


- invite a resident teacher or art person who is part of your faith community or larger community to come and share a project idea to go with a story, a portion of scripture or a special holiday or event.

-once you know the story or passage you want to work with, spend some time in the library browsing the art & craft books in the children's room or in the adult section.

-use an arts/crafts book to pick a project to go with a specific topic, story, or verse. We think of paint and clay and drawing but you also have prints, 3-D (found materials or recyclables), crafts from nature, carving (soap/wax & plastic knives), cloth & fabric art, bookmaking, paper crafts, jewelry making, collage, assemblage, line designs, mosaic (with tissue paper, construction paper, tiles, etc), with appropriate supervision & instructions, punched hole designs in tin, woodworking, working with wire, woodburning, . . .

-Giving specific parameters for the project will often pull more from the artist: depending on the age of your kids, try
- a choice of materials, a specific story or passage, and specific guidelines
-one media or specific material, choice of story, and specific guidelines
-specific materials, specific story, no specific guidelines

This will take some research:

-imitate the style of an artist who loved God.

-Look at the different styles of Catholic artists, orthodox artists, protestant artists.

-Watch videos of artists or musicians wrestling with their faith.

-imitate the style of a particular time in art history. Look at the Biblical art from that time. What was happening in that country at that time to affect the artist and his art? an aside: I once took a college course where we went through both the art and music of western culture historically looking at similar elements.

-My mother-in-law taught art in an Episcopalian parochial elementary school in NYC so she had books of religious art depicting different Bible stories or passages. You can also do the same comparisons with a variety of Children's Bible story books if you don't want to go looking for old art. Look at different pictures, different styles for the same story.

-If you do want to go looking for old art created during different time periods. You
can choose art from the same historic time period but by different artists or look at different styles of the same scene from the same story from different historic time periods.

-If you can't find books with work like this in your local public library check university or art school libraries including Christian college or university libraries, Parochial school libraries, Catholic or orthodox church clergy or church libraries, Seminary libraries . . can always look online....

-Look at Bible story scenes from different stories by the same artist. Look at the same scene created by different artists. What do you see? What did the artist focus on? What did he/she see? Does it help you ponder the passage? What did the artist understand about God?

Whether you show your kids professional artwork first and then let them create or let them create and then show them professional artwork probably depends on your kids and your goals. As children share their artwork you're not critiquing their skill or technique (unless it's an art class) you're pondering with them. You're pondering what they see, how they see God and what God has done, how they see His story.

Artists and craftsmen will probably tell you that art and craft are not the same but that's a discussion for someone else. God is Creator, Artist and Craftsman...

My favorite books about faith and creativity are Madeline L'Engle's books: WALKING ON WATER and MADELINE L'ENGLE {HERSELF}. I'm sure there are more. Amazon has that neat feature "people who bought this book bought these..."

My 2 favorite books for doing art with kids:

by Marjorie Frank
Incentive Publications, 1976
Pencil, Pen, Crayon, Chalk, Paper, Paint, Print, Cloth, Yarn, String, Carve, Mold, Sculpt, Food, Crafts, Group Projects, Things to Do when you're Bored...a great resource but you can't be afraid of messes. This book includes recipes for clay, paste, etc & a bibliography.

DISCOVERING GREAT ARTISTS: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters
by MaryAnn F. Kohl & Kim Solga
Bright Idea for Learning/Bright Ring Publishing, 1996

There are endless art books for teachers and parents out there . . . endless . . . and the scriptures are filled with endless opportunity. Endless opportunity because each person grows older and more able to see and do and understand things we didn't last year. Endless materials, techniques and opportunity....He is the Alpha and Omega. He is Creator. We are created in His image.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Toddlers, Sharing, and the Christmas Story

The Christmas Story and sharing for toddlers...would it be theologically too-far-out-there to show God wrapping his baby son in a blanket from some high place in the clouds and handing it down to a young woman and her husband in a stable?


the Inn Keeper sharing a place for a baby to stay...

the animals sharing their space with a baby ...

the angels sharing their song about a baby ...

the shepherds sharing their work time- taking time out from their sheep - to visit a baby...

the kings sharing their gifts with a baby ...

Joseph and Mary sharing their lives with a baby ...

We grownups know that baby today as the Son of God, "God with us," God's gift to us - Savior of the world, King of Kings, Lord of Lords ...

but children, especially little children, see a baby, a very special baby ...

Every Christmas we made things to give to people at Christmastime. I've been quite happy that for my kids (ages 20-29), Christmas is still a time for some very thoughtful personal creative giving.

Maybe giving isn't the same as sharing. Buying a loaf of bread for someone isn't the same as breaking your last loaf in half and giving half of it away...or all of it away...

. . .more to ponder ...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas story photos

The Nativity Story. Worth seeing! We watched it last night on TV. This is where the photos came from in the photo image booklet I have about the Christmas story (as mentioned in some earlier post). Nice historical/cultural context.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"bad kids"

Another search - bless the site meter...just kidding, although it's very nice when technical and mechanical things (like snow blowers) work the way they're supposed to . . . Thank you, Lord!

The search words: "Scriptures for bad kids"...hmmmmm. . . I'm not saying there aren't bad kids. Today the real definition for that is more profound than it used to be but let's put a different spin on it.

God had bad kids. Sometimes we are God's "bad kids" . . .

How about instead of looking for scriptures for "bad kids," we go looking for stories in scripture about God's "bad kids" & ponder God's response. Understand, as well that there were many different social and family-centered expectations and controls in the various Biblical cultures- very different than what we have today.

The stories that immediately spring to mind are the Prodigal Son, David, Jonah, Adam, Eve, Esau, Isaac, 2 out of 3 of Noah's sons, Joseph's brothers, Moses, Miriam, Aaron, Judah, Judas' daughters, Peter . . . Can you think of others?

Not that "bad kids" will want to hear stories about God's "bad kids" . . .

So we look at the scriptures for us: "pray without ceasing."

We entreat God for the grace and wisdom to demonstrate "the steadfast love of the Lord" that "never ceases". (Enjoy the cross references) We find solace in God's promises and the pictures He's given us that show us who He is and what He's capable of even if our faith is no bigger than a mustard seed.

Once a non-denominational charismatic evangelical, I can probably still rattle off a list of great books about prayer warriors. But more and more I find myself returning to the prayer Jesus taught His disciples when they asked Him to teach them to pray.

"Our Father . . . thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven . . ." That's what Jesus ultimately prayed in the Garden, though He seriously asked God for a different outcome.

Then you watch and wait and one day you look and realize that God answered that prayer and you say, wow - that was Your will. Bless Your Name, Lord God.

We throw around the word, "awesome." No, God is awesome. Never underestimate the power of God's love. Never underestimate the power and authority that Jesus had to forgive and to heal. Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." "That which I see My father doing, I do." How did He demonstrate that when He walked on this earth? Teacher, Healer. . . How do we model who He is and what He did (what He does) so even "bad kids" can see Father, Son & Holy Spirit working in and through us?

Artisan update

Artisan's 32 ft. of flannel around the sanctuary. Artisan's Facebook page and Twitter.
And don't forget Jerome Berryman's Godly Play (recommened for ages 3-10).

For toddlers? Bring toys, dolls, stuffed animals, safe props for the children to play with after you tell a story or sing a song or do a finger play.

You could, but you don't have to tell them how to play with the props or toys you provide.

What happens when they play?

What are you hoping will happen as they play?

How long do you have to stick with a new method before you begin to see something happen?

activites for the story

Regressing a little...activities, crafts for the story about John the Baptist for toddlers or young preschool. No matches. That's a joke. We burned incense, remember?

A quiet/no talking game.

A very simple angel craft. Our stereotypical visuals of angels aren't neccessarily true to scripture. You'll have to think about that and play with that a little but "angel" is a word they will hear alot during the Christmas season - a concrete vocabulary word, if you will providing you have a picture you're comfortable with.

In Bible times did they light the incense with a candle? Candle - another concrete vocab word for toddlers.

Someone who's going to have a baby.

I would probably go with some kind of simple angel to take home and or a quiet "I can't talk" game.

Angels will show up often in scripture - angels bringing messages from God. You could also play a message sending game. Invite a grown up for each child. Have short simple messages written on small pieces of paper for the kids to bring to their grown ups - a message like "Jesus loves you!" or "Jesus was a baby." If you dress them (the kids) up like angels you've got it made. Angels will be bringing other messages this season.

The whole side of concrete vocabulary with toddlers - what are the new Christmas words they will be hearing and seeing? Focus on those in your stories and with your activities.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

games & such

The newest Group Publishing e news (if you don't already get it) has some fun Christmas ideas. Scroll down.

From a TV commercial, make no bake rice krispie treat cookies & decorate to give away.

Nut mixes, dried fruit mixes. If each of the kids brings in a pound of something and you bring the zip loc bags - mix it all together, decorate the bags, bag the snack, and give it away.

Consider an assembly line project - cut felt shapes, add a Christmas tree hook, glue a picture, add glitter glue and then sequins. Assembly line projects are good for something you want to make lots of and you want them to look pretty much the same especially if you have a time limit.

Make snowflakes for the church windows assembly line for 20 minutes and then spend 10 minutes on individual snowflakes: Fold a paper in 1/4's, cut on fold lines (4 snowflakes), fold again, cut snowflakes, unfold/decorate with glitter glue. That's 5 jobs. Change jobs every 3-5 minutes and it will take about 15-20 minutes of actual work time. Keep the snowflake cutting part of the job only as long as it takes to do the other jobs. Ask the kids which they like better- assembly line or individual. Ask them why they liked or didn't like it.

For some other time of year: here's a decision-making relay for older kids. You need 2 or more teams or have any number of teams and let them race the clock for their best time. If you race the clock, each team will need a time keeper. For each team you will need a pile of hats or scarves(one for each member of the team), a pile of shirts (one for each member of the team- all T's or all button-down) and a pile of shoes (one pair for each member of the team). The first child in the team puts on a hat, then a shirt, then shoes and waits at the finish line. Then the next child goes until all teams are done. Have the kids change places in the line until each child gets to go in each spot. The next time you play the game make it more complicated: mix button down shirts and T shirts, tie shoes and slip-ons. After you play all the variations talk about the decision-making process. What was hard, what was easy. What did they like? What didn't they like? Did it get easier the more they played and practiced? How can you tie it into walking with God?

Have fun with it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Toddler Stories from the Gospels

Sharing God's stories with the smallest - in some senses "the least."

In some ways God is an abstract not a concrete, although once a child's imagination kicks in God is probably more real to children than He is to us. Don't misunderstand what I'm saying here and take it out of context. (God is not another imaginary friend. He is God. He is very real)

And don't underestimate the significance of regularly picking up a Bible (or Bible story book) to tell one of God's stories. That's concrete. First thing in the morning? Bedtime? Naptime? Mealtime?

Does a little child follow a word for word read from that soft black book? Perhaps. But probably more importantly they know you are close. You are happy to be with them. You are making time for them. You are sharing a story with them. Sharing time with them, telling God's stories is important to you. You're building a foundation on a lot of different levels.

There are all kinds of children's Bibles and Bible storybooks on the market- probably more engaging than that tiny black and white text in a picture-less soft black book. Should I use a children's Bible or Bible storybook or should I read scripture verbatim? Beware of watering down the scriptures or changing what the scriptures say but if it's a fun way to understand God's truth, God's stories? 20 years ago I would have said absolutely - read it verbatim from that soft black book. Did my toddlers follow the story? Probably not. (I used Bible story books, too.) Would they eventually remember phrases they heard over and over year after year? Probably. I guess you'd have to ask them...

Let's use Luke. This is Advent. Let's take the story of John the Baptist because it's the first story - but it's a hard one.

Who are the key characters in the story? Who will show up later in the scriptures? Are there any objects I can use- tastes, smells, things to touch? Can I use pictures, puppets, faceless puppets, dolls? What are the words or images that would be familiar to this age group of children?

Here we go. . . A long long time ago in Bible times, there was an older man named Zechariah. He loved God very much. Elizabeth was his wife. They did what God told them to do. Zechariah went to work everyday to worship God in the temple. Today, it was his turn. He burned some incense. [burn some incense, turn the lights down]] The other workers stayed outside.

All of a sudden there was an angel standing near Zechariah.
Zechariah was soooooo afraid.

The angel said, "Don't be afraid, Zechariah. When you prayed, God was listening Elizabeth is going to have a baby boy. Name him John. He will be so much fun for you! Lots of people will be happy. He will grow up to be a great man but he will have special rules to follow. He will bring many people back to God and get people ready for Jesus.

But Zechariah said, "How can I be sure that what you're telling me is true?"

The angle Gabriel said, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God. He sent me to tell you this. If you don't believe me then you won't be able to talk until all these things that I've told you happen."

The people waiting outside began to wonder, "Why was it taking him so long?"
When Zechariah came out, he couldn't talk! Then the people knew he had seen a vision from God.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were pretty old. But they soon found out they were going to have a baby just like the angel told Zechariah.
["going to have a baby" is a familiar phrase to lots of toddlers & preschoolers. You could include a mom who is going to have a baby, a grandma, a grandpa in your audience. Maybe an older woman who is going to have a baby. "Elizabeth was an older lady like ____ but she was going to have a baby like ______." You get the idea. The rest of the story is in Luke 1:57. This might be way too much for young toddlers but not for preschool.

What will toddlers remember? How animated you were, how much fun they had listening to the story, the incense, the guests, maybe that this was a story about someone "having a baby", your props, the angel, maybe the old man, the old lady, maybe not being able to talk...maybe...

But each time they hear that story a little more of the story will make sense to them. They'll remember a little more.

During the Christmas season point out things in everyday life that the kids might hear in the Christmas story. Visit a live creche or a farm. Point out a donkey, a cow, straw, someone who is going to have a baby. Point to the stars. Bring them to worship so they can hear lots of singing. Go outside on a hillside at night.

Will they remember and connect these things to the story? Maybe, but again, you're building a foundation. Sit outside in the dark. Have someone turn on the car headlights. Isn't that similar to what the shepherds experienced but without electricity? Does a toddler know the difference between electricity or not? No, but they might remember the experience, the surprise, the light in the darkness.

Take a LONG walk - not as long as Mary & Joseph's but... you get the idea...

If you do things like that with kids before they hear the Bible story, they will have more to bring to the story when they hear it. Infants? Toddlers? Preschoolers? Everything you do or don't do is creating a foundation for what's to come - not just cognitive knowledge but emotional and kinethetic memories - something tangible they can associate with the words they hear in God's stories. It can't hurt.

Instead of thinking about the things little children don't understand, think about what they do understand. Every time you read or tell the story build on it just alittle. Build on their understanding of and knowledge of God and Christ Jesus. And never underestimate God's Holy Spirit or the power of His Word. John moved in his mother's womb in the presence of Mary and Jesus - both much younger than your toddlers ... anyway... more to ponder..

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Check these out

From Followers: Blogs I Follow...

podcast at - Julie Clawson's book EVERYDAY JUSTICE.

advent poetry blog. Anybody who loves Madeline L'Engle and George McDonald has my vote.
On a more serious note, someone was looking for scriptures for runaway children . . . Suggestions? Scriptures, links, books you like?

Rebus and beyond

I really like having a site meter.

Somebody was looking for a Christmas Rebus story. Rebus stories are a little tricky. The pictures are usually a character, place or thing ie. a noun. Not sure you can show action with a very simple repeatable picture. Maybe. Your describing words and prepositions, probably not.

Then all the words in between should be easy to read for new readers or in a context that would make them easy to figure out. Could be a fun project with power point or an easel with color copies of the pics you're using. You could use flannel, too.

It might also be fun to let the kids create their own Christmas rebus stories. Show them how to make a rebus and then turn them loose with paper and markers or copies of christmas scenes to cut and paste. Maybe you have cut out words to add between the pictures to paste in sequence. Or maybe you have pictures to paste in sequence with space to fill in (write) words.

Maybe you make it a very long Rebus that your class creates for a younger class to "read" & hang around their room.

And here is an idea from a writing class I took once. Using props to trigger a memory, write or draw a story about a Christmas from your past. Possible props: A smell (cinnamon or pine), an object (candle, ornament, pine bough), a sound (a jingle bell, a Christmas song,) something to touch or taste.

Put on your creative thinking cap and have fun with it.

I can never spell cinnamon...but guess what! Naamon in in there if you misspell Namon with one A - ha ha

Bulletin I finally remember because of "bullet" and "tin". Random, I know. But I spell it correctly more than I used to.

Friday, December 11, 2009

bible study tools online & random rambling

I was missing the Study Tools feature at Bible Gateway but I found one! interlinear Bibles, lexicons, and such. I was looking up "Counselor" in Isaiah 9 and "Counselor/Comforter" in John 14.

This is an aside: My daughter and I were just talking about the difference between working online and holding an old recipe or a cookbook in your hand. A few days earlier we were talking about kids, wondering what if they didn't have access to electricity or technology and how easy it would be to see tactile media (books, magazines, etc) disappear. I told her, if you ever have kids and I'm not around, make sure they know how to survive without electricity and technology. Sound far-fetched? Maybe. Maybe not.

We definately get to practice when there's a power outage but what if it all goes down globally? When the ATM's don't work and the power doors don't open? Did you ever go to a grocery store when the machines were down and have a cashier who didn't know how to make change or even know how to handle money? There are definately people working hard to make sure that doesn't happen but still . . .

Hopefully it will remain only a "what if" for science fiction writers. The more challenging sci fi prompt would be to put God in the story. I'm guessing He wouldn't be quick to turn the power on.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

another (random) activity for Jesus walking on the water

If you decide to use a little science for a scripture like the story of Jesus walking on the water (not to take away from the miracle of it) there is a book - a series of books to look at. When the kids were younger we found a book for making insects with moving parts and such. I THINK this is the book but I can't look inside so I don't know. If I remember correctly one of the insects was a water strider - the insect that walks on top of the water. It was a very cool hands-on book for kids (crafts and facts). If this is in fact the book, turns out there is a whole series of books like that.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Prince of Peace

During Advent I often think about Isaiah 9:6 .

When you consider the list of God's names, did you ever consider what He did, what He does, that reflect each specific name? Example: "Shepherd" aptly describes much of God's interaction with Israel and for some of us one of the ways we know God in our own lives..

At what point in the gospels does He reveal Himself to reflect the names in Isaiah 9:6?

We see Him as child. We see Him as son representing His heavenly Father all through the gospels.

Where do we see Him carrying government on His shoulders?

When does He reveal Himself the promised Wonderful Counselor? When He promises His Holy Spirit? Or before? Is that word someone who gives counsel like a therapist or someone like a lawyer or an advocate?

We see Him as God - "I and the Father are One." Mighty God - Where in the gospels does He reveal Himself as Mighty God? When He heals? When the sky turns dark and the curtain in the temple is torn? Can you think of any other times when Jesus is mighty?

When does He show Himself our Everlasting Father? When does He call the grown ups around Him, "children?"

Prince of Peace - That's where I started, in my thinking. Reconciliation? Peace between man and God or was He doing even more peacemaking day to day when He walked the earth? Where in the gospels do you see Jesus bringing peace to situations? Why is He a prince of peace and not a king of peace?

Wouldn't you hate to have me in your Sunday School class? :-)

So that's my Advent meditation this year. Jesus - Prince of making peace . . .

Thursday, December 03, 2009

ChurchWorldDirect shows up in my inbox often. Not sure why but you may find some useful resources here. They have some new animated DVD's about people like Gladys Aylsworth, Jim Elliot, William Tyndale . . .I haven't seen them but they're available.

Story photos and images

Someone was looking for an "angel and Cornelius photo." At first I laughed. Not because they were looking for a picture but a photo. But then I got to thinking why not? If and when you do skits or plays with adults (or children) why not stage photos that you can use later to tell the story? It's probably much harder and more time consuming than it sounds but it would make for an interesting approach to Bible storytelling. You also have Powerpoint. Some of you might think of the business possibilities but it's no small task to get the pictures the way you want them to tell the story.

It's the opposite of the approach I like from Young Children In Worship where the figures have no faces because it's a sacred story and faceless figures allow you to see with different eyes or use your imagination.

If you really want to play you could put your story photos on Photoshop and make them faceless photos. It might be eerie but it might work. I have no idea.

Just an idea to play with. If you decide to try it, let me know what happens.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


"role play activities for toddlers and preschool to take initiative" - another google search that brought someone to Emerging Kids. Interesting...considering that most of us spend more time trying to redirect or inhibit toddler initiative...

What kind of initiative do you see in toddlers? in preschoolers? Initiative to encourage or discourage? How do you encourage it? How do you discourage it?

How do you grow and direct or develop child initiative? How much initiative do you allow a child?

Do you have good kids? Do you have problem kids? Does it have anything to do with initiative?

Who are your problem kids? Why are they problems? If you take them out of their boxes and describe what they're doing and why it bothers you can you come up with a plan to redirect that same energy/skill/interest so it's productive instead of disruptive - so it benefits the child and the people or environment around him/her?

Something to think about.

Ever think about Jesus - if, how, whether He encouraged those around Him to take initiative or were all His followers and all the "heros" of scripture just doing what they were told?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Stories in Acts

Stories for children from Acts:

Somewhere near the beginning of Acts in Acts 2 we have a promise: "And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."

In Acts 7 Stephen speaks to the Sanhedrin (who is bringing charges against him) recounting God's Old Testament story with Israel including Abraham and promises to his descendants, Moses as a child and a youth ...children are the fiber of the OT narrative. They inherit God's promises.

But let's say you list all the stories in Acts - a continuation of God's story after Jesus returned to the Father. Who was there? Any chance there were children around when that story happened or would children have heard the story 2nd hand - adults talking about it after the fact? If they were there, what would someone under 5 notice (see, hear, taste, touch, smell)? What would make sense to them? What would they remember? How about someone under 10? A pre-adolescent? A teen?

This is my favorite:
Acts 21:3-6. This was clearly a family affair. I wonder if this was the norm or whether it was the exception. How many observations can you make from this story or rather this very short passage? Was it just cultural or is there something more here?

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Scott is one of the pastors at Artisan. Very creative people. Rock on, you guys!

Scott's blog post

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Someone came looking for Sunday School material for this passage from John 6 (NIV):

After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." 15Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself."

I did a Bible Gateway search for "Jesus king" Most of the references listed include "kingdom." He was always talking about the kingdom of heaven. Not sure that he was talking about being king.

Then you have Matt 17:25. You have Matt 27:11 and Matt 27:37.

For years, my husband has asked the question, "Do we assume Jesus was a king like every other king or is it that Jesus came being what a king is supposed to be." George got quite upset once to hear a pastor say that Jesus changed when he got to heaven. Our understanding is that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever...

So keep going. Take your study and see what the gospels say about Jesus and king. Search the OT and the rest of the NT, too if you want. I try hard to make observations and ask questions. The waters get murky when we start drawing conclusions. The waters get dark when we teach those conclusions as scripture. We comment on the scriptures and become the primary voice instead of stepping aside so the scriptures can be the primary speaker and speak for themselves - Himself. If I fail, tell me.

Prayerfully go searching, go looking and see what you find...Then ask, how can I share these stories about God with children? What does God say about kingship and Jesus as king? Do they say anything?

You'll want to share what you discover but you'll also want to give your kids opportunity to share what they discover. Separating the way all of us have grown up to understand "king" from what Jesus says and what He came to show us about being "king" will be the hard part.

Monday, November 16, 2009

God-given senses

I suppose you could fall into traps focusing too much on sensory experience (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch). I suppose theology, learning, sensory learning and sensory experience would be an interesting paper for someone to write. Not me. I would get lost and get you lost rather quickly.

Where I've been coming from is believing that we underestimate the value of using the five senses that God gave us as legitimate and important learning tools, especially for children-especially for young children. When we see the need in every other sphere of learning, why not in our learning about God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and His Word? Kids learn that way anyway. Most children begin interaction with and learn about their world through their senses. They grow sensory memories that become points of reference for new associations and new learning.

Why would this be less true if we're learning about God than it would be if we're learning something else? Why not maximize those elements in His stories if they point us back to Him? True. God is invisible. True. Scripture says that. But scripture also says He is creator and that there are things to learn about God through what He has created. The exact quote is here. Focusing on how we learn specifically about "his eternal power and divine nature" through what He's made would be an adventure, wouldn't it.

We will always have the children (people) who are more receptive to sensory learning than to other learning. God made them that way. I want to say He did it for a reason - whether we think we know what it is or not. He is an amazing and awesome God. He took a big chance. He sent Jesus, His own son to become a real human being with human senses. To me, that in itself says something about God. Remarkable! He chose to be "God with us" in more ways than we can ever know. He didn't have to become a human being. He could have come up with another plan (He's God, after all).

There is no other god like Him. Thank You, Lord, for coming to us as someone like us (yet still God and very very different) and then giving yourself to reconcile us to the Father. Thank You for all that Your hands have made and that we can be a part of that. Bless You Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Another sensory dimension to explore in Biblical stories.

Simon the tanner - what does a piece of tanned leather smell like? Do you know what other smells you would smell in a tanner's home or place of work? How 'bout the smells at Simon the Tanner's for an overnight guest? :_) What does Peter's willingness to stay there say about him? Maybe that's why he was on the roof, lol!! Maybe why he was having visions . . . just kidding.

What about a carpenter? The smells of fresh cut wood?

What about the lady who worked with purple dye? What did she look like? What did she smell like?

What does it smell like to be around a farmer or a fisherman? None of this seemed to phase Jesus...

I'm not trying to get weird with this but the way I understand it, smell is important to sensory memory. Smell may be important to remembering a story, making associations, or triggering learning that might not happen without it, even for children. I'm talking off the top of my head now but doesn't sensory memory help create cognitive memory?

God didn't have to tell us what so and so did for a living but He did. Maybe it was an identification tool like "son of" (an other term that brings multi-dimensions to a character because of his/her family and geographical history.)

Apart from job economics and social standing, think about the tools someone used to do his work, what kind of muscles would this person have? Shoulders? Strong fingers? Strong legs?

What kinds of "chemicals" or smells would fill his clothes, workplace, home? Was it sweaty work? Dirty work? Was he always apt to come in with dirt under his fingernails or maybe his/her hands were permanently dyed.

What would you see around the house of a tanner? a potter? a carpenter? a merchant? Maybe opportunities for more speakers or field trips tying past to present. Again, it might take some research to find out what those jobs were like 2000 years ago. And you don't want to overwealm your young audience so they tune out. Do you think it's out of line to use our God-given imaginations this way in order to interact with God's stories?

You can read this and say, it's not relevant to the story. It would take too much time or out-of- class prep or ...."it's a waste of time" but you won't really know what it adds to the story and the things God can show you or the things He might do until you try.

In it's simplist form? A piece of tanned leather when you talk about Simon. A bag of fresh cut wood chips when you talk about a carpenter. A piece of wet clay to smell when you talk about a potter. A farmer's T-shirt when you talk about a farmer. A myrex shell and freshly dyed cloth, when you talk about purple dye. 150 years ago in Upstate NY children could walk down the street and experience the sights, sounds, and smells from lots of jobs they might find in the scriptures and not even give it a thought. That kind of sensory understanding and association was part of life for most people. Not so today.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Supplies and rhythm instrument source

Discount School Supplies - an online source. If you do crafts with kids or home school, check them out. They also have rhythm instruments.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Bible Photos

Googled "photos Bible landmarks" Have you seen this? Bible Places. Interesting potential for walking tours. Take the places Elisha walked and find them on the left sidebar.

Then there's Bible Walks. Find the location on the map. Point and click for a photo.

More photos from Biblical sites at Sacred Destinations.

And check out

I'm sure there's more . . . check the copyrights, permissions and such ... I don't know if there are sources/software that will give churches permission to use the photos over and over within their church like they do song overheads especially if people are using Power Point more for Christian Education/Christian Formation & worship.

The obvious drawback is that kids are looking at ruins instead of a picture of the outside where they can imagine actually being there. Something to play with.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Elisha and the Water and engaging kids

Someone was looking specifically for this story Elisha & the Bowl.

But here's the thing. Water. Water is one of those things that most of us take totally for granted. Just turn the tap on anytime, day or night, and you not only have clean water but as much water as most of us would ever need. Have you or the kids in your class ever been in a situation where the only water that you have available was bad water - undrinkable water- water that won't even make plants grow? If not, how do you bring this to children?

I'm assuming that at the time of the story, unproductive land had to do with the inability to grow food and feed livestock. The land wouldn't grow anything they could eat and they couldn't use the water. Even the springs were bad. Isn't a spring usually the place where water is most fresh and clean?

How much do you know about water? What do we use water for? Why do we need good water? Why is it important? If you want to get into the science and social studies of water there are probably interesting lessons and info to be found that might give you more to think about or activities to use. If you have someone in your congregation or community who works with community water or at keeping the water clean, you could invite a speaker.

If I have bad water, put a little salt in a bowl or take a whole bowlful of salt and throw it in bad water will the water get better? Probably not. God did something special - something He doesn't normally do. He worked a miracle. He healed the water and made it better.

What does it mean if God heals you and makes you better? Something else we take for granted with all the doctors and medicine we have available. It's a miracle when God heals us but we don't see it that way until God's miracle is the last resort.

God healed the water and Elisha promised it would never get sick again. The water would stay healthy so the land and the people could use it without worry for generations. So whatever caused it to begin with wouldn't be happening again.

It was after this story that the youths tease Elisha. Maybe the two stories have to be told together in order for the "miracle" that Elisha did calling the bears and the horrible consequences in the second story to make sense to us.

If you wanted to talk about salt, you could probably find out more about salt. If it was a whole bowl of salt - that's a deadly amount of salt for people. With older kids you could send them home with questions to think about and have them come back with the answers they find. Send one group with questions about water and one group with questions about salt. It might speed the process and engage them. What kind of bears lived in Israel thousands of years ago? How common were they? That kind of thing...

The other thing, if you know your kids, some kids would love going home and finding information to share. Some will love acting it out. Some will love bringing a science experiment about water and presenting ways we can help keep our water clean. Some would love to draw or write a poem or create a diorama or build a vehicle or a house or lead a song. Why not use the wealth of skill, talent, and personality that your kids have to learn and to worship? Why does everyone have to do the same thing? You will find that when kids are doing what they love, even if everyone is doing something different that it will get very quiet in your room and they won't want to quit. Let the group people work in groups and the individualists do their individual projects. Not to say you can't ask them to operate out of their element once in a while or more than once in a while. Can you use elements like this to reward & give meaning to kids who really don't want to be there? Make your active energetic child the game leader. Let him/her bring a game to share each week. When class goes smoothly and you finish early they get to play the game (inside or outside). Your leader may have to have a stack of 3 minute games, 10 minute games, and 15 minute games. But use your imagination!

And for all the times I forget to add this... what are you learning about God and His Word? When you finish a lesson do you know Him better than you did before? He's God! Ask the kids. What did you learn about God? See if it takes you into a worshiping place. There's always more of Him. Eternal life is to know Him. We get to start anytime. He's not just one dimensional. He's not just 2 dimensional. Enjoy all that God has created - "always giving thanks" to the God who made it.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Character studies & activities

So that's just an example of a character study. How would you do it with a class? For what age? What would you focus on?

Depending on the age of your class, what can you do for activities when you do character studies? Art? Craft? Service? Science? Maps? History? Ancient culture? Drama? Can you make it Hands-On?

How much research will you do? Will you do it or will you let the kids do it? What did you, as teacher, take away from this learning experience? What did you discover about this character? What was his/her most memorable trait? or most memorable moment? What did you learn about God? What will you do to remember God and what He did?

How about your kids? How directive will you be? How much structure will you give them and how much room will you give them to make discoveries and let the Holy Spirit guide them, to open their eyes and let them see?

Who was this man Elisha? Part 8

Elisha shows up again in chapter 13. Jehu, apparently, is gone. Hazael is still going strong. Elisha is sick and dying. Jehoash, now king of Israel in Samaria, is doing evil in the eyes of the LORD but he comes to Elisha. Weeping over Elisha, Jehoash cries, ""My father! My father! . . .The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" [Upset because Elisha is sick and dying or upset about the impending battle?]

Kings 13 (NIV)

15 Elisha said, "Get a bow and some arrows," and he did so. 16 "Take the bow in your hands," he said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king's hands.

17 "Open the east window," he said, and he opened it. "Shoot!" Elisha said, and he shot. "The LORD's arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!" Elisha declared. "You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek."[Remember, this isn't a king who seems to be walking with God but Elisha is still helping him.]

18 Then he said, "Take the arrows," and the king took them. Elisha told him, "Strike the ground." He struck it three times and stopped. [Notice, Elisha doesn't coach this guy the way he did the widow he sent out for the jars.] 19 The man of God was angry with him and said, "You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times." [Has Elisha gotten angry before? Even when he cursed the boys, does it say he was angry?]

20 Elisha died and was buried. "

But that's not the end of Elisha's story. Continuing at verse 20..."Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. 21 Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb. When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet." [Interesting?]

"24 Hazael king of Aram died, and Ben-Hadad his son succeeded him as king. 25 Then Jehoash son of Jehoahaz recaptured from Ben-Hadad son of Hazael the towns he had taken in battle from his father Jehoahaz. Three times Jehoash defeated him, and so he recovered the Israelite towns." So I say, "Yay! They won!" but then I remember that Elisha got mad because Jehoash would ONLY win 3 times. Next time, he would lose.

Luke 4:27-28 (NIV) is the next place we hear about Elisha: Scripture says: "27And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian. 28All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this." Because of who Elisha was? or was it just God's choice? or both?

Which takes us back to Naaman and the little servant girl who just seemed to be in the right place at the right time and not by her own choice and God used her to start something that people would hear about (literally) for ages . . .

. . . Right. We were talking about Elisha. He was one of the prophets that Jesus specifically mentions.

So that's an example of an amateur character study - yet another way to look at scripture and learn about God. I have to say that I'm left with a new understanding and respect for the prophet Elisha - one of the men God used to write His story. And if you want, go back through Elisha's story or the story of any of God's characters. Look at God as the significant character in the story, the role he played and how He responded to Elisha and the other people around him.

Who was this man Elisha? Part 7

2 Kings 8

Look at this long term relationship Elisha has with this family! More info about the man.

Elisha warns this family that a famine is coming. He tells them it will last 7 years. He tells them to go and stay wherever they can. Hm...the common people seem to listen to Elisha and do what he says. It's the prophets who don't seem to listen to each other, lol! The woman listened to him and took her family to the land of the Philistines. She returns. She wants her house and land back and it just so happens that Gehazi (there's his name again) is responding to the king who asked him to recount all the great things Elisha has done and here comes this woman whose boy Elisha raised from the dead. The king gives her back lost home, land, and income. Nice friend to have!

The king of Aram gets sick and sends Hazael to inquire of Elisha. The king sends Hazael with gifts (lots of gifts!). He wants to know if God will make him better.

Elisha says, yes, the king will get better but he'll die. Then Elisha stares down Hazael. Hazael feels ashamed. Elisha starts to weep. Hazael asks Elisha why he's weeping. God has shown Elisha the horrible things that Hazael will do. Wait. Wasn't this the king who just laid seige to Samaria? And Elisha is weeping over what is about to happen to him?

Verse 13 Hazael asks, "How could your servant, a mere dog, accomplish such a feat?"

Elisha tells him, "The LORD has shown me that you will become king of Aram."

Hazael leaves Elisha, returns to his master, and he tells the king that he will recover but the next day he takes a thick cloth, soaks it in water and spread it over the king's face, kills the king and himself becomes king just as Elisha predicted. Israel & Judah join forces trying to defeat him but Ahab's son gets wounded. Elisha sends one of his company to anoint another king. Which takes us to 2 Kings 9.

Don't lose track of which king is which here. I have. More character studies for you.

Anyway... all this drama is set in motion and we see not just Elisha's words fullfilled but Elijah's as well.

Who was this man Elisha? Part 6

Not long after that, the King of Aram lays seige to Samaria. There's a famine. Elisha delivers the Word of the Lord. He tells the disbelieving officer, "You'll see it but you won't eat it." Then we don't hear about him for a bit.

The famine goes on so long that mothers in Samaria are threatening to eat their children. Sorry. I wasn't expecting that part. One lady even goes to the king. But the king replies, if God isn't helping you, what do you expect me to do? When he hears the woman's story (which I won't repeat) he tears his robes. He wears sackcloth under his robes. He blames Elisha. He's ready to kill Elisha, the man of God, saying "May God deal with me if I DON'T kill Elisha." I'm rushing through this. Go back and read it. It's worth pondering a little longer...The king, his role and responsibilty. His accountability to God. Elisha, the man of God, his role, responsibility and accountability to God and the position the king finds himself in. It seems that the king is at his wit's end trying to do the right thing, trying to be responsible to God, trying not to blame God so let's blame Elisha. Let's kill him. Maybe then God will do something. No. Maybe not . . .

From 2 Kings 6:24-33 (NIV):

In the meantime, Elisha is sitting in his house, and the elders are sitting with him. The king (who's ready to kill Elisha) sends a messenger ahead. Before he even gets there, Elisha says to the elders, "Don't you see how this murderer is sending someone to cut off my head? [Remember the other rumor? One king is told what the other king was thinking in his bedroom because Elisha tells them. Again, Elisha knows.]

Elisha continues, "Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door and hold it shut against him. Is not the sound of his master's footsteps behind him?" There's something rather nonchalant and funny about this. People leaning against a door is going to keep the king away if he wants someone dead? But the king doesn't follow the messenger to kill Elisha. He sends a different message not the original message that Elisha "heard".

"33 While he [Elisha] was still talking to them, the messenger came down to him. And the king said, "This disaster is from the LORD. Why should I wait for the LORD any longer?" Apparently as upset and confused as the king was, the king didn't give up on the prophet..

In 2 Kings 7 the story continues. God with Elisha come to the rescue. The Word of the Lord that Elisha delivered concerning the officer comes to pass.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Who is this man Elisha? Part 5

This was the prophet the little girl sent Naaman to. Had she heard all these stories? Had she been there? The story of Naaman follows in 2 Kings 5 (NIV).

I think last time we read this story we were looking at the child. If you reread Naaman's story see what this story tells you about Elisha.

2 Kings 6:1-7 NIV)

Moving on. Elisha's company of prophets come to him and tell him their meeting place is too small. They say, " 2 Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live." I'm not sure what the significance of each man having a pole is but there is probably something cultural/historical and interesting to be found there. Apparently they gained numbers during Elisha's time. When the others suggest they expand, it seems Elisha seems more than open to the suggestion. Elisha says, " Go ahead." Apparently Elisha was not planning on going with them. It almost looks like they beg him to come but I might be reading too much into it. Anyway, Elisha gives in and goes, too. He could've said, "No, this wasn't what I was planning on doing today..."

They go off to the Jordan. They begin to cut down some trees. "5 As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. 'Oh, my lord,' he cried out, 'it was borrowed!'

6 The man of God asked, "Where did it fall?" When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. 7 "Lift it out," he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it."

This was a miracle but the way I see it there's some special kindness here. One of the guys borrows someone's ax, the head is loose, falls off and sinks to the bottom of water where by all rights it should have stayed. Luckily no one got hurt. The guy would probably have to replace it and they could've gotten into whether the axhead was loose to begin with and who's to blame yada yada yada. Elisha didn't have to retrieve the axhead. But he did with God's help. He's a man of God in the office of prophet but it seems to me he is using what God gave him to meet needs and extend kindness without the usual "Thus sayeth the Lord" and he does it ALOT!

The king of Aram gets upset thinking there is a spy in their midst. But there isn't. One of his officers tells him, 12 "None of us, my lord the king . . . but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom."

The scriptures continue

13 "'Go, find out where he is,' the king ordered, 'so I can send men and capture him.' The report came back: 'He is in Dothan.' 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city." Elisha is a wanted man and the king of Aram sends a whole army to capture one prophet, lol!

Back to scripture: 15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked. [I wonder if this is the same servant. I wonder why sometimes the servant is named and sometimes, not.]

16 "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." [Elisha sees what no one else sees and, it appears, he's not afraid or worried.]

17 And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. [Another kindness? Why not just expect the servant to take his word for it? "Have faith! Believe!" I'm not mocking, I just think it's interesting that he asked God to open the servant's eyes so he could see what the prophet saw. He was just a servant, after all. Irrelevant but it also makes me wonder if Elisha was once an imaginative child.]

18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, "Strike these people with blindness."

God did it. Again, God did what Elisha asked. To save himself? All the glory is God's in this story so maybe it doesn't really matter. It's just interesting.

19 Elisha told them, "This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for." And he led them to Samaria.

This is sort of funny. Apparently they didn't know who they were looking for or that they'd found him. It's kind of fun when you're reading scripture and you discover that God has a sense of humor. I love it!

20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, "LORD, open the eyes of these men so they can see." Then the LORD opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.

21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, "Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?"

22 "Do not kill them," he answered. "Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master." 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel's territory." [Elisha keeps feeding people!!]

I'm sure you can make many more observations than these. The whole idea of seeing and not seeing, too. But considering what could have happened, this is a pretty amazing story and it tells you lots more about this man and abit of foreshadowing of Christ Jesus. Considering that the army had come to capture Elisha and the king was willing to protect him with another army. . . Considering that Elisha was originally commissioned to kill the ones that were left after the king and the other prophet were done it seems this might have been a God-given opportunity for that but what does Elisha do? He just feeds them! Just give them something to eat and send them on their way. Wait. Who's providing all this food, anyway? The king of Israel is feeding his enemies? Oh! It's a pretty amazing story.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Psalm 13

Psalm 13

I don't have any activities for Psalm 13 but I do believe Ted Sandquist once wrote a song to this Psalm. You might be able to track it down (and others) at
Global Worship Initiatives.

It's been a long time so I don't know if either he considers what he does "post-modern" or "emergent" but you can't help but love his music!

In the early '70's before I knew the Sandquists, I was part of a Christian folk group ((for a very short time and actually met the Lord there though I "grew up" in the church) in upstate NY. At the time that group (Kyiake)'s parent was a Canadian Christian teen folk group called Hakamu. Jeremy Sinnott was one of the group leaders. A couple of years ago I discovered that God has continued to use Jeremy's music internationally as well.

It's just interesting! The music of both worship music song-writers had a significant affect on my walk with God.

If you ever read this, "Blessings you guys!"

Friday, October 30, 2009

Give A Goat is a children's book about Heifer International.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Just a reminder...

I'm guessing I've posted this before because I found it among my bookmarks but if not here it is. If I've posted it before this particular post is worth reading over and over and over again... from The Spyglass: Let the Little Children Come

Resource and Pondering

Side tracked again. Found this site this morning. Let's Teach Kids. What first caught my eye wasn't the book for sale (the caterpillar book) but another list of recommended books under it - books you can find in a library. Bibliographies are great! Even short ones. Besides, clowning, drama, and other tools the other idea/item of note is that they have very lifelike flannel/felt habitats. I only saw one for Bible stories. Turns out there are still alot of Bible felt sets out there.

Sometimes people come to EK looking for powerpoint/photo/images for Bible stories. (It came up in a post a while back.) Turns out if you find a variety of different felt sets and backgrounds to mix and match for different stories (the animal sets and habitats could be used, too) you would have movable pictures instead of just pictures. But some of you are burned out on felt. I understand. Some of you have progressed to powerpoint, CDs, and computers- media many kids are more familiar with.

Take some time and think about how kids interact with different resources and media. What's it growing in your kids? Stuffed toys or felt? Felt or powerpoint? Powerpoint or Cd? Ready-made, teacher-made or student-made? Make your observations. List strengths and weaknesses including cost. Look at the various learning styles, student backgrounds and experience, language skills, observation skills. Look at how a resource works or doesn't work.

Sometimes it works best to use materials that give a child opportunity to excel in their element - using materials and tools they love. Sometimes it works best to require kids to work outside their comfort zone. That will vary from child to child. Either way you can use a discovery/problem-solving approach.

Don't spoon-feed them. Spoon-feeding is for babies and people who can't feed themselves. Use materials that make kids work, that make kids think, that give kids opportunity to use their senses and their young spirits to figure things out, draw conclusions, and grow new skills. Use resources that cause kids to have to work together and communicate. See what God will do.

There are times for us to give kids our answers or the answers they're looking for. But there are times when our answers are our answers and sometimes answers mean more to a child if they figure it out or finds an answer his/her own self. Takes more time and patience on our end. Sometimes it has risks. Some kids will have to put any answer they find through the ringer.

Without letting them hang themselves, how do we let them find what they're looking for in such a way that it becomes theirs? Sometimes materials and tools are important. Sometimes they're not.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fun Catalogue!!

See! I had to get side-tracked. If you celebrate the upcoming holidays with gifts for the beloved young people in your life, check this out: I think this is one of those times when a hard copy catalogue is much more fun than the website. One of my daughters who is no longer living home (a free and independent young grown-up child) got the catalogue with our mail today. Since I started browsing through it a few minutes ago it has become one of my favorites! Probably because I found lots of old favorites. We can replace "Rush Hour!" Challenging alternatives to TV and computers -well suited for active, thinking, hands-on kids of all ages.

And if you home school, you GOTTA check it out e
ven if you're super conservative.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Who is this man Elisha? Part 4

2 Kings 4 (NIV) More stories about Elisha.

So the widow in the Oil Story (2 Kings 4:1-7) is the wife of one of the prophets in the company of prophets Elisha is part of. Apparently her deceased husband had been a God-fearing man but a man in debt. The widow cries out to Elisha that her dead husband's creditors are coming to take away her two boys as slaves. Elisha responds saying "How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?"

She says "Your servant has nothing there at all," she said, "except a little oil." Apparently neither this woman, nor her husband were great business people. She's thinking small. Elisha is thinking big.

3 "Elisha said, 'Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. ["Don't ask for just a few" He knows that about her?] 4 Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side."[in the privacy of their house, not out in the open for everyone to see]

5 She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one." But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing. [Did Elisha know that the oil would keep flowing until there were no more containers? Is that why he said, "Don't ask for just a few." God was about to perform a very generous miracle. Did Elisha know that she needed to think "big" so God could provide "big"? Who was being "big-hearted"? Elisha? God? Both?]

7 She went and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. [She wasn't a business woman. She didn't know what to do with all the oil. Some women would have known exactly what to do. To some women he wouldn't have had to say, "Don't ask for just a few. They would have taken all they could get. He knew this woman or he knew people.] You and your sons can live on what is left." [I see God being very generous, here - not just helping her pay the debt so she can keep her sons but also giving her extra to live on.] Elisha was there for the wife and family of one of his company. He found a way to bless her despite herself and despite the mess her husband had left them in. He was caring for widow and fatherless.

2 Kings 4:8-37 NIV
-another story of Elisha and a female acquaintance

This is a well-to-do woman in Shumen. She urges Elisha to stay for a meal once and then extends the invitation to whenever he's in the neighborhood and he accepts. He comes often enough that the woman thinks they might as well just give him a room so "One day she says to her husband, 9"I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. 10 Let's make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us." Apparently Elisha didn't flat out tell her he was a holy man, somehow she figured it out and with her husband's permission they make a place for him to stay with them whenever he passes through. They extend to him a blessing of hospitality.

11 One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there. 12 He said to his servant Gehazi, [he had a servant] "Call the Shunammite." So he called her, and she stood before him. 13 Elisha said to him, "Tell her, 'You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?' " [Elisha spoke to the servant, not to the woman. Not sure what Biblical culture says about this. Was Elisha being facetious to offer to put in a good word for her to the king or commander instead of to the God he served?]

She replied, "I have a home among my own people."[Her response seems to be. Thanks, but I don't need anything.]

14 "What can be done for her?" Elisha asked. [Elisha persists. He's still looking for a way to bless her even though she declines the offer.]

Gehazi said, "Well, she has no son and her husband is old." [Is this something they think every woman needs or is Gehazi being particularly perceptive about this particular woman? Elisha is serious about blessing this woman. He's not taking her generous giving for granted. And he's not listening when she says, "You don't have to."]

15 Then Elisha said, "Call her." So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. 16 "About this time next year," Elisha said, "you will hold a son in your arms." [This act on Elisha's part would make an interesting round-table mixed gender and mixed generation discussion. Ha!]

"No, my lord," she objected. "Don't mislead your servant, O man of God!" [Something she wanted too much to ask for? Too much to risk disappointment?]

17 But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.

18 The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. 19 "My head! My head!" he said to his father.

His father told a servant, "Carry him to his mother." 20 After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. [I think I would have been really mad at Elisha about then. She didn't ask for the child to begin with and she definately wasn't asking for the grief.]

22 She called her husband and said, "Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return."

23 "Why go to him today?" he asked. "It's not the New Moon or the Sabbath." [Not too perceptive? She didn't tell him? He didn't ask?]

"It's all right," she said. [ I suppose the personalities of these two very different women would be another search adventure. : )

24 She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, "Lead on; don't slow down for me unless I tell you." 25 So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.

When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, "Look! There's the Shunammite! 26 Run to meet her and ask her, 'Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?' " [Apparently Elisha's caring for this family was something very real.]
"Everything is all right," she said. [But it wasn't.]

27 When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, "Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why."[Again, perceptive in a tuned-into- people way. ]

28 "Did I ask you for a son, my lord?" she said. "Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?"[Elisha, I didn't ask for you to bless me the way you did and now God has taken it away.]

29 Elisha said to Gehazi, "Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy's face."[So Elisha gives an order.]

30 But the child's mother said, "As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you." So he got up and followed her. [But Elisha goes with her.]

31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy's face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, "The boy has not awakened."[Gehazi followed orders. Nothing happened.]

32 When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. 33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. 34 Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy's body grew warm. 35 Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.

36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, "Call the Shunammite." And he did. When she came, he said, "Take your son." 37 She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.

See what other observations you can make about this man Elisha.

In 2 Kings 4:38-41 (NIV) someone picks the wrong wild plant for the stew and almost poisons the company of prophets but Elisha comes to the rescue, yet again. Food, again.

In 2 Kings 4: 42-44 (NIV) a man brings Elisha 20 loaves of barley bread made from the first ripe grain and some extra heads and Elisha says, ""Give it to the people to eat." His servant wasn't convinced it was enough to feed 100 people. Food again.

"But Elisha answered, "Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the LORD says: 'They will eat and have some left over.' " 44 Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD." The Word of the Lord again. The people ate and had enough. A foreshadowing of what Jesus did, perhaps. I wonder if he was quoting scripture or whether it was a Word from the Lord for that moment.

Who is this man Elisha? Part 3

Elisha's story continues in 2 Kings 3

So the king of Judah, Israel, and Edom join forces against the shepherd king of Moab, they decide to take the route through the desert to confront the Moabite king who refuses to pay tribute to the son king they way he did to the father king. The entourage wanders around for 7 days and they run out of water which seems a little odd for kings from an area full of deserts. Maybe it just confirms what the Moabite king realized - that the younger wasn't the leader his father had been.

Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, asks if there is a prophet nearby that they can inquire of. An officer of the king of Israel suggests Elisha who " . . . used to pour water on the hands of Elijah."So Jehoshaphat acknowledges that "The Word of the Lord is with him," and the three kings ride off to find him.

from 2 Kings 3: 13- 27 (NIV)

Elisha says to the king of Israel, "What do we have to do with each other? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother."

The king of Israel [Ahab's son] answers, " was the LORD who called us three kings together to hand us over to Moab."

Elisha says, "As surely as the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you or even notice you. 15 But now bring me a harpist." [does it make you think of King David?] Elisha has principles.

He delivers the Word of the Lord. "While the harpist was playing, the hand of the LORD came upon Elisha 16 and he said, "This is what the LORD says: Make this valley full of ditches. 17 For this is what the LORD says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. 18 This is an easy thing in the eyes of the LORD; he will also hand Moab over to you. 19 You will overthrow every fortified city and every major town. You will cut down every good tree, stop up all the springs, and ruin every good field with stones."Water again. Land again. And the King that the Kings came for.

God did what He said He would do. He confirmed the Word He spoke to Elisha.

And you can read about the battle and how God did what he said He would do. And how the Moabite king sacrifices his firstborn-next-in-line-for-king son. Or not.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Who is this man Elisha? Part 2

2 Kings 2 (NIV)

I was going to include the scripture with the comments but I'll just list the comments and you can go back to the story when you need to.

Elisha responds to Elijah's call and anointing by leaving plow, land, and his community to "apprentice" with an amazing prophet. And, apparently as the story progresses Elisha doesn't leave Elijah's side.

When Elijah tells Elisha to stay behind while he goes off to Bethel, Elisha goes anyway. He's not a yes man.

Elisha is part of a whole company of prophets. They know God is going to take Elijah and Elisha knows, too. They keep reminding him and Elisha says,"Yes, I know . . . but do not speak of it." It would have been enough for Elisha to say, "Yes, I know" but he says "but do not speak of it."

Elijah is off to Jericho. Again, he tells Elisha to stay behind. Again, Elisha goes anyway saying, "As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you." Elijah gives in. We could go back and study Elijah to see if it's out of character for Elijah to do this.

Again, in Jericho, the company of the prophets at Jericho go up to Elisha and ask him, "Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?"

Again, Elisha says,"Yes, I know . . . but do not speak of it." Though some of us would be, apparently Elisha is not annoyed.

Again, Elijah tells Elisha to stay behind saying, ". . . the LORD has sent me to the Jordan."
Again, Elisha replies, "As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you." Elijah could be getting annoyed now too but apparently not. Elisha sticks to Elijah like glue and the two of them walked on.

The company of prophets continues to follow them, 50 people, knowing God is going to take Elijah but Elisha sticks to Elijah's side. I think it's interesting that nobody seems to be doing what Elijah tells them to do. They all watch as Elijah takes his cloak, rolls it up and strikes the water with it. The water divides right and left, Elijah and Elisha (or everyone?) cross over on dry ground with Elijah.

At that point, Elijah says to Elisha, "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?"

Elisha doesn't miss a beat here."Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit." Elisha didn't say, "Ah, nothing."Elisha knew exactly what he wanted from Elijah, and what he wanted God to do. He asks big!

Elijah says, "You have asked a difficult thing . . . yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not." Difficult even for Elijah. Something he apparently has no control over.

It seems that Elijah and Elisha's camaraderie was more friendship than master/servant.

Elisha is separated from Elijah and sees Elijah taken and cried out, "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" Elisha lost someone he called "father'. He'd already given up his oxen, his work, his family, his living and then the one he left all those things for... Elisha tears his clothes.

But again, Elisha doesn't miss a beat. He picks up Elijah's cloak, goes back, stands on the bank of the Jordan, takes the cloak and strikes the water with it asking, "Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" You could probably make even more observations about this and about God's response.

He didn't mourn for long. He takes his place with God and God gives him that very difficult thing he asked for. He didn't put it off. He doesn't wait days or weeks or years. When he struck the water, it divided and he crossed over just the way Elijah did not long before. Elisha doesn't lack confidence. He doesn't hesitate. There's no uncertainty here.

The company of the prophets from Jericho, who are watching say, "The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha." No question about it. No arguing or bickering or challenges. They go to meet Elisha and bow to the ground before him. 50 men, 50 prophets. Elijah's mantel has fallen on Elisha. What an honor! He was already anointed to follow in Elijah's footsteps. I'm wondering if their respect runs deeper than just Elisha being next in line.

The school of prophets offer to make a thorough search - to go and look for Elijah. They say, "Perhaps the Spirit of the LORD has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley." Is he really gone?

Elisha says, "No. Don't bother." But they go anyway.

I have to say that if obedience is a requirement for the school of the prophets seems like they all failed, lol! Elisha, apparently didn't need them to confirm that Elijah was really gone but they persisted "until he was too ashamed to refuse." What does that mean? Elisha was too ashamed to refuse? What does that tell you about this man?

So Elisha said, "Send them." Fifty men go searching for three days but they don't find Elijah because he's been taken. Elisha has no doubt about this but if everyone else needs to be convinced he says, "Fine. Go find out for yourselves..."

When they came back Elisha said to them, "Didn't I tell you not to go?" That's sort of funny.

Then Elisha heals the water. Elisha had stayed in Jericho. The men of the city tell Elisha, "Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive." Again, he does something to care for people. And perhaps, he's caring for the land, too. When Elijah first called him, he didn't sell his oxen or give them to someone as work animals. He used them for food. Now he's healing the city's water supply so the water doesn't kill people.

But this time, he speaks for God saying, "This is what the LORD says: 'I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.' God did that! The whole concept of water that's healed is interesting. And scripture says, 22 "And the water has remained wholesome to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken."

Food and water are essential to life. Seems an interesting role for a prophet. I'm trying to think if there were other prophets who took care of people's basic needs when they asked the way Elisha did, as opposed to God telling a prophet to say this or to do that as a sign.

So now Elisha goes to Bethel and a bunch of boys make fun of him. I always thought of it as a couple of young boys but not so. The scriptures call them youths. More than 40 teens. More than an average classroom of teens. A mob?

They say, "Go on up, you baldhead!" And they say it again. Remember how patient Elisha had been? He turns around, looks at the boys and curses them in the name of the Lord and it happens. Just like that. He didn't address them, warn them, tell them to go away. He just cursed them and it happened.

This is a prophet's curse. Two bears come out of the woods and maul 42 teen-aged boys and apparently no one protests. Why weren't they somewhere working? Where were their parents? Didn't Elisha just heal their water? Were they mocking his office? Were they keeping him from the work he had to do? We don't know. After giving to people, he curses a bunch of foolish, belligerent young men. Didn't Elisha travel with the respect after cleaning up their water? The little girl at Namaan's house knew of him and respected him.

He continued his travels to Mt. Carmel and Samaria.

These are just quick observations. You may come away with different observations. A group discussion gives you the advantage of many eyes and observations and training - not just the thoughts of one blogger.

Who is this man, Elisha? Part 1

So what if we do a random word study searching for "Elisha". (people seem to be coming to EK for craft and activity ideas for the story of Naaman.)

Here is a Bible Gateway word search for "Elisha". I didn't know there were names before and after Elisha that started with "Elisha-" I wonder what they mean. I wonder if Elisha was a "modern" version of the other names. Not sure about the chronology. I wonder if he was a descendant...

The Elisha we want shows up in 1 Kings 19:16. You could do a word study with his fathers' name. You can do a word study with the place name and learn more about where he came from.

I'm opting to retell the stories with observations thrown in - sometimes verbatim, sometimes not. I have 8 posts about Elisha and one about Character activities. I'll try to put up one post each day.

1 King 19 (NIV)

"15 The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. [Elisha was annointed at the same time as 2 kings who show up later by the way. He was anointed to succeed Elijah as prophet.] 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. [Annointed to put people to death? Not what I was expecting to find.] 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."[A God-given word of encouragement in the context of all this.]

19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. [Elisha is a farmer. He's working at farming when God calls him. He was plowing with 12 yoke of oxen. Was it an average number or was he wealthy? What does it mean he was driving the twelth pair? He was obviously physically strong. He worked the earth but this might be a cultural/historical farming question.] Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. [Elisha must have known what this gesture meant. Another historical/cultural question.] 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. [Apparently he didn't ignore it or take a few days to think about it.] "Let me kiss my father and mother good-by," he said, "and then I will come with you." [His family and saying "Good by" was important to him?]

"Go back," Elijah replied. "What have I done to you?"[Is Elijah saying "Go ahead. Go back." or is he saying, "Why are you following me, anyway?"]

21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant." [Elisha burned the plow he worked with to cook the oxen he worked with and gave it to the people to eat. Looks like he was done with farming and he wasn't coming back. He fed people. Is this like selling your farm and giving the proceeds to the poor?]

Characters in scripture

Here is another approach to learning and exploring the scriptures.

Assuming that the scriptures are God's stories (as opposed to man's stories) we quickly discover that each of the characters that God interacted with were unique. I tend to believe that the details that God includes in the scriptures aren't accidental or irrelevant.

We often read stand-alone Bible stories to children, especially to small children as appropriate. But as I've gotten older I find that reading all the scriptures you can find about one particular person that God used makes an interesting character study. It might be more appropriate for older kids or for adults, simplified for younger children. It might be fun to take one character and study him/her (making observations) as a class and then assign different characters to different people and have them come back and tell you the observations they've made and how they support with scripture.

The initial study might require more teacher prep than some lessons. You could use books that people have already written or pre-written Bible studies that focus on one character's life but what about reading the stories and just making observations 1) about the person God was interacting with and 2) who God was and how He interacted with that character.

I'm assuming that these weren't 2 dimensional storybook characters. I'm assuming these were real people but scripture is pretty clear that they weren't "perfect" people.

What if this person were a real person (or child) in your class or in your church? What would that look like? How did they "have it together"? How did they not "have it together"? What did they do? What didn't they do? What did God do?

What would be the value of this approach over other approaches? David is an amazing study but you have to be willing to acknowledge the good, and the bad, and the ugly. Some of which isn't appropriate for young children. If we're learning from the good and bad choices of others at what age do we learn and what do we learn about the people in our lives? At what age to we learn the fear of the Lord (the beginning of wisdom) and how?

Anyway....let your imagination run ... as long as it brings you back to worship at the feet of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - the God who started the story and interacted with these people in the first place . . .

Coming soon!