Tuesday, February 24, 2009

nobody told me...

Apparently Emergingchurchinfo.com (Jay Winters is the original blogger) posted this article in Sept 08. I only semi-identify with the Emerging Church, mostly because I don't like boxes but I'm reading this article and by the end I'm thinking - What? We died? Nobody told me we died. . .

The article is worth reading.

In the meantime I will tackle chapter 8 of TCITB.

Monday, February 23, 2009

TCITB Chapter 7 "Children in the Gospel of Mark . . ."

Back to the book. I get easily distracted but I've not forgotten. It may take a while but we do actually get through these books.

from Chapter 7

Children in the Gospel of Mark, with Special Attention to Jesus' Blessing of the Children (Mark 10:13-16) and the Purpose of Mark

Judith M. Gundry

The chapter is longer than the title. :) 'Tis the price for reading scholarly writing. And this lady asks more questions than I do.

She asks why and for whom Mark wrote his gospel. (TCITB p. 143-146) She includes a lengthy and interesting discussion of the cross from the cultural perspective of Mark's readers at the time. (TCITB p. 144-146) She asks what children did Mark include in his gospel and how old were they. (TCITB p. 146-148)

She draws attention to the fact that Mark's text "combines Jesus' teaching about little children and the kingdom of God and Jesus' ministry to children and shows the relationship between them. This teaching and ministry are occasioned by the disciples' rebuke of those bringing little children to Jesus on the way to Jerusalem, and they are set in contrast to the disciples' views and actions." (TCITB p. 149) She points out that these children probably weren't old enough to keep the law, they weren't doing anything to warrant Jesus' favor or attention and yet He not only blessed them but used them as examples and while all this was going on He rebuked His own adult disciples for trying to keep these children away.

She points out that Jesus was doing miracles right and left, even for children, and when people brought the children to Jesus the reader expects Jesus to do more miracles but He takes them in His arms and blesses them. (TCITB p. 150) Was that a miracle? She points out that He blessed children who were brought to him by others - perhaps too young to come to Him on their own. (TCITB p. 152)

She says ". . . despite children's inaction, absence, and even resistance, Mark's Jesus brings the blessings of the kingdom to children solely on the basis of their need." (TCITB p. 152) She explores the idea that even though the parents brought their children to Jesus, He uses the children (not the adults who brought them) as models of faith. (TCITB p. 153)

She says, "Little children were the weakest and most vulnerable link in the social chain and therefore in many and profound ways dependent on God's rule being implemented in their lives" (TCITB p. 154-5) implying that adults have that role to play and that role isn't defined by or confined to what we call "Christian Education" or even "Spiritual Formation". She reminds us that Jesus told the adults "do not prevent them. . . from coming to me." (TCITB p. 154)

She made me think about comments in previous essays about the Hebrew people understanding God's promises to be something apprehended by future generations on this earth as opposed to something to be apprehended later in some heavenly place. And that even in this context Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them - the children. What does that mean?

She wonders whether Jesus' hug of blessing was reflective of his taking on a parental and protective role. (TCITB p. 156) Her footnotes some discussion of the story of the Prodigal Son. She talks about Jesus extending "kinship" and the benefits of his "kinship"to the children He blessed. She discusses Jesus extending his own household to those who do His will but that it doesn't replace their own families. She sees all of this in the larger context of the mutual dependence of those in community present and future. (TCITB p. 158-162)

All of the essays in this book so far, explore the roles of children in the scriptures but at the same time put them in the larger context, the bigger picture - not only in the immediate context of family and society but as heirs and descendants who will continue into a new generation. I think, as Americans we are more used to thinking about ourselves and other people as individuals in the immediate present than we are thinking about individuals in the larger context of an interdependent social community past, present, and future.

She looks at how children were seen in the world when the gospel of Mark was written. She finishes asking why the disciples kept the children from coming to him after he healed so many of them. She proposes that perhaps this was because they didn't want anything to get in the way of or slow down Jesus coming into what they believed would be his Davidic reign and their place with Him. (TCITB p. 164-168) She says, Jesus "succeeds in putting the young before the old, the disabled before the able, and the poor before the rich" (TCITB p. 168) suggesting that Jesus' pastoral attention to the needs of his sheep (and his lambs) continue to take precedence over His coming into His glory (as we know glory). I personally believe that His glory is, in fact, the way He bends down to the lowly. He continues to give "the most dependent . . . the highest priority." (TCITB p. 168) People might argue whether or not a needs-orientation is always God's priority for anyone nurturing the most dependent members of our society, it is.

She goes on to say, "Jesus goes from 'let the little children come' to become 'like a little child" but asks what it means to be childlike in order to receive God's kingdom. (TCITB p. 169) She explores this. Even her footnotes raise some really interesting questions and draw pictures that tie back into other images from scripture examined in previous essays, not necessarily because the essays were intentionally tied to this one but because the scriptures tie together. She cites other images from scripture to describe childlike. (TCITB p. 170-1)

She discusses Herodias' daughter asking for the head of John the Baptist. (TCITB p. 172-3)

She concludes her essay looking at how Mark's pictures of the ways that Jesus interacted with the children contribute to the purpose of his gospel and his larger picture of Jesus. She describes Jesus as having an "'in your face' way of treating and talking about little children." You gotta love it!

One of the things that I find most frustrating as I read and blog about each of these essays is that there is so much to ponder, both in detail and big picture. The authors' intimate understanding of the language and culture of the scriptures gives us so much to think about without even tackling the potential implications for practical application. I may change my approach.

What if. . .

Years ago, my husband and I met in a faith community that had a radio show. A LONG time ago. People would write letters. People in the community would answer them. If the written conversations went on long enough or if someone asked about it, we just encouraged people to pray about moving so they could be closer and actually participate in what I think you would now call the "incarnational" actual flesh and blood community. Many did. Some stayed even thought it was usually harder than they expected. Some left for various reasons. But virtual (and spiritual, by the way) became something very real.

What if virtual community leads to global relocations? Imagine that! What kind of courage and faith would that take? We're told that the kingdom of God isn't for the faint of heart, you know - and I don't think it's God's intention that we hide and live unto ourselves . . .

Global relocations would be an interesting phenomena indeed, and particularly challenging to those who grow up experiencing more social on-line than off-line . . .

It's something to ponder because, quite simply, if community is based on electricity and the power goes off, we're sunk. Not likely . . . but it could, you know.

Now, I'm going back to read the blogs while I still have power.
It's snowing outside.
Again . . .

Blogging about kids and church - "what about the kids?"

More discussion at Subversive Influence, this time about people leaving church and kids. Not leaving their kids. Taking their kids with them. Just the tip of the iceberg but take a look - whether you are among them or whether they are leaving you.

Here's Esther's blog [the Hudson Valley being near and dear to my heart] with more comments. She commented at Subversive Influence. She links to the Evergreen and the Well. Haven't seen these before.

I don't send you places because they offer you some authoritative final word about an issue, but to give you opportunities to listen to people talking about what they care about - particularly Christians, kids, and faith. Most of these people are wrestling - with thoughts and ideas - and looking for God in the midst of it all, not because they need to be converted but because they want to know what God wants them to do and they're willing to think outside the box.

Not all cultures value thinking outside the box. For better or for worse, people came to this country already thinking that way so, again for better or for worse, it's in our DNA so we have to figure out how to deal with it - maybe more now than over the past 400 years because what we've traditionally known as "community" is up for serious re-definition.

For better or for worse, the fruit of our western genetic programming keeps getting riper.

But these blogs (and comments) are some new voices tackling our favorite ongoing discussion of the past 4 years, - 'what about the kids?"

Now, I'm going to let my dogs out (again), grab a cup of coffee, and go back to read what they're saying.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Check out Kidology's CM Blog Watch!

There are some really really good articles up at the top of the list at Kidology's CM Blog Watch right now. Some about dealing with lots of different kinds of people, experience and innovation, thoughts going into 2009 - some interesting insightful practical articles.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Buds and Blooming

Some visual food for thought.

I saved these from a larger flower arrangement. They were perfectly good blossoms but their stems were too short to survive in the tall vase that the majority of the cut flowers in the arrangement needed. I could have thrown them away. I could have cut 12 - 15 inches off all the flowers but I didn't.

When I saw this on my counter I decided to take a picture because it made me think of some of the differences we find among children, even children of the same age. On any given day, some of the kids in the groups we work with are in full bloom. Some are only in partial bloom. Some haven't opened up yet. I'm not just talking about age - but differences in social, in skills, and in interests, too. In this case, I don't know for sure that the bud will open and I don't know for sure whether it will look like the others if it does open. It might be white.

They all opened up, by the way. The unopened bud was red. They lived quite a long time in that small cup on my counter.

virtual community

Brother Maynard, at Subversive Influence, is drawing attention to a rather fascinating and important discussion about virtual community . If you follow the links you'll find a number of different voices (and books) to hear/read/ponder on the topic. (So far) there are no comments at Subversive but many comments on the blogs that he's linked.

They may still agree to disagree when it's all said and done but I am beyond impressed that rather than witnessing the igniting of a bombshell of dissension, you are witnessing an amiable conversation among friends. I'd like to imagine how pleased God the Father must be seeing us willing to try to hear one another when we disagree . . . I'd like to think that something like this might actually be some tiny answer to the prayer Jesus prayed 2000 years ago . . . "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:20-21 NIV)

Words and stories - postscript

I understand that we've tried to make God's story more exciting using various forms of media, technology, high priced props etc etc etc . . . trying to steward our times and culture and I'm not saying God isn't there. But can we make His story alive without all those things? Does the Word and God's story still stand with all it's appeal and power and accomplish what He's sent it to accomplish even without all of that?

Do kids know that?

Words and stories

I was reading Lois Lowry's blog this morning. She is a children's writer. In her post, It Is My Hope That glub glub glub, she's protesting fiction writing for the sake of sending a message as opposed to focusing on writing a great story that kids want to read. In No smoking, please. Or Guidebooks she's protesting the use of guidebooks because "guidebooks keep us from creating independent readers" (meaning, in part, kids who love to read on their own.) It also isn't uncommon for kids to read the guidebooks instead of the book, reading only for the purpose of answering the questions or passing the tests and as a result they never read the actual book.

She says, "In the west, guidebooks . . . are not advised in schools. Instead, students are encouraged to make their own interpretations of texts with guidance from teachers. As long as our students justify their answers with good reasons, they are right, considering that no two readers will interpret the same text in the same way."

An alternative to guidebooks? She says, "Most importantly, teachers could use strategies and techniques that require complete reading of the text, and make their classroom activities so stimulating, thrilling and satisfying that students may never feel the need to use guidebooks. This will go a long way in instilling love for reading and creating life-long readers."

At it's best, reading God's stories and wanting to read God's stories is more than reading. Any reading of good fiction and non-fiction will be more than reading. I think that's the power of the "word." But I think her thoughts have implications for the way we handle the stories of the original Word.

Can the stories of scripture be so stimulating, thrilling and satisfying (without changing the text) that we don't need to be didactic? Can we set up the stories of scripture in such a way that the stories speak loud and clear? We can take a moralistic, lesson-oriented, didactic approach or we can try to instill in children a love and passion for what they're reading and for this God we want them so badly to know. Which do you think will last longer and have the greater affect on a child's life? Some might say the two approaches don't have to be mutually exclusive. I'm not sure. Are the morals in the text or have we devised them ourselves? I have to go back and look.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Genesis 22 for kids?

Somebody asked about teaching Genesis 22 to children – the story about God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son. Not sure what age range you’d use this with. If it’s in the curriculum or part of the liturgy, go ahead and give it a try.

Try pretending or role playing. What the children do with the story will depend on their ages but it would give you a chance to see how different ages interact with the story.

You could read the story aloud from scripture and pause to let the kids act it out as you go or read the whole story all the way through and then let the children re-enact it. If you have older kids it might be interesting to divide your group into 2 or more groups and see what parts of the story each group focuses on. Give them a prep time limit and a performance time limit.

Not sure how young you’d go with this. If kids are too young to actually interact with each other pick some part of the story – walking up a mountain with dad to do something scary, finding a sheep in the thicket. I’d suggest read, pause, act, read, pause, act. Start with the simplest form for the youngest an include more of the details as you work with older groups or just read it verbatim. Up to you. Kids will process what they can process.

Who are the characters? God, Abraham, Isaac, a donkey, 2 servants, lamb, angel, descendants?

What are the words that the children need to know and understand?

Do you want costumes or will you pretend?

Do you need props or can you just pretend? I would suggest pretending this one up until mid-late elementary school because of the knife, ropes, and nature of the experience given today’s culture. I want to think that the more freedom most children have to use their own imaginations the more apt they will be to process the story in a way that feels safe for them.

Where does it take place? How will you show it? How does place affect the story?

Are these questions you have to answer before class or are these questions that the kids can answer?

As age appropriate:
When your story is done see where the discussion goes. Ask how did ________ feel about God? About Abraham? About Isaac? About the sheep? About the donkey? Or ask: how would you feel if you were {pick a character]?

What do you think {pick a character] was thinking? How do you think [pick a character] thought about God at the beginning of the story? How do you think they felt about God at the end? If you have older kids, ask them why.

Add a craft and desert-y snack if you want.

I’m guessing you will learn something about the story, you will learn something about God, and you will learn lots about your children.

Here’s an aside, I never really thought about it before. God promised a lamb but the creature caught in the thicket was a ram. Is that significant?

Guess Abraham wasn’t picky.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

You discover the oddest things when you read through the referrals on your site meter. . .

Anyone local still reading this blog? Anybody know that they're doing research with infants and toddlers at the U of R "to understand how normally developing infants achieve such remarkable levels of skills in different domains within the first two years of life"? I know nothing about this except that the picture of the baby is very cute!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

More than you'll ever want to know about Valentine's Day from history.com.

TCITB Chapter 6 "Israel, My Child" . . . Biblical Metaphor

from TCITB Chapter 6
"Israel, My Child": The Ethics of a Biblical Metaphor

Brent A. Strawn

I want to be careful that I don't say so much that it keeps you from reading the book but also give you something to think about. So let's try this chapter again. What I feared would be a very boring chapter was, in fact, very rich indeed.

This chapter falls at the end of the chapters discussing the OT and before the chapters discussing the NT. Mr. Strawn focuses on the parent-child metaphor- "God as a divine parent. . . with human offspring..." (TCITB p. 103) He tells us that much of what we understand of scripture we understand through the lens of the parent-child relationship. (TCITB, p. 117)

He says:
1) "explicitly, the metaphor shaped how Israel represented and understood God's actions toward itself and its actions toward God. . ." (TCITB p. 105)
2) "implicitly, the metaphor affected how Israelite parents may have (and ought to have) treated their own children, providing them a divine example to emulate at their (and it's) best moments . . ." (TCITB p. 105)
3) He asks "Does the portrayal of God as our parent make any difference when we consider our own relationship with our children? Once we have children of our own, do we parent differently and better if we believe that God is a parent both to us and to others?" (TCITB p. 105)

He says that despite the parts of the parent-child metaphor that we may find harsh, (TCITB p. 107) "What is crucial . . . is that we remember, despite the power of the God-as-father/mother/parent metaphor, that we are dealing with a metaphor: God, even in biblical construction, is beyond gender." (TCITB p. 108) Strawn tells us that metaphors help us see similarities and differences.

If I understand him correctly, when he discusses the ethics of metaphor he is affirming that non-literal, artistic forms engage us at many levels and they are more powerful than the literal. "Some [metaphors] are more powerful than others." He says this requires caution and care on the part of artist or writer but it also opens doors and windows to viewer/listener. (TCITB p. 109-110) These are pictures. From my perspective, even if two metaphors or pictures in scripture seem to contradict one another, somehow both are "true" because these are God's metaphors. He is revealing Himself to us but we are human and He is God. On one hand you can only carry metaphors so far. On the other hand, devices like metaphors and figurative language leave more room for us to grasp concepts that are greater than our literal understanding.

Part of the strength of the parent-child metaphor isn't only it's role in ancient Hebrew society but the fact that the concept of "family" is a universal. He talks about Exodus and God the Father's passionate protection and deliverance of His first-born son, Israel (TCITB, 113-117) and negative effects of the metaphor on our perception of God and Israel. (TCITB p. 118-128) I especially loved his attention to the sides of God as father that we tend to de-emphasize. (TCITB p. 1181-126) reminding us that God parents very challenging children.

Mr. Strawn reminds us that Israel is the one who has recorded these observations and experiences with God. "The fact that it is the child, Israel, who presents and preserves these God-depictions says much about Israel itself. This is, after all, how Israel perceived and represented its LORD." (TCITB p. 126) The author explores Israel's perception of itself. His comment about God and Israel's interdependence is thought-provoking. (TCITB p. 128)

". . . a closer look at the 'father' texts demonstrates that several of them employ language that is an amalgam of mother and father imagery [he give examples] -underscoring by means of the mixed-metaphorical construction that God is neither mother nor father, male nor female, or at least neither of these exclusively. These are, and remain, metaphors." (TCITB p. 129) Knowing God has such a profound understanding of both mothering and fathering is awesome to me.

In the last part Strawn discusses the "Ethics of the Divine Parent-Human Child Metaphor". He differentiates between the ethics of metaphor then and now. He asks more questions. (TCITB p 132-3) At the heart of it he asks, can it, [the parent-child metaphor] does it, help us parent better?" (TCITB p. 134-5) discussing it in more depth.

Pondering the parent-child metaphor caused him to reflect on the way children in ancient times carried on the work, mission, and purpose of a father over the course of many generations - more thinking that isn't given much attention. His mention of Steven A Rogers' discussion of the maturation of the parent-child relationship as reflected in Genesis, is facinating. (TCITB p. 138)

He reminds us that the scriptures tell us there is potential for growth and conflict, resolution and reconciliation in the parent-child metaphor (TCITB p. 140). Despite the negatives, we've been given the best of God's divine image to emulate.

His detailed discussions of all these elements is worth reading. Nine chapters to go!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Questions

So here are the questions that go with the last post. You have people from my own generation who no longer attend church, you have a population who have chosen the House Church movement, you have young parents who want to give their children a more holistic perspective and lifestyle and who want to raise compassionate, caring, justice-aware, environmentally-sensitive children and there are probably other groups with children of varying ages who have become disillusioned with "church" as we know it. And there are "post-modern" options and church plants and people trying to reach the "unchurched." There's a lot going on out there.

If so many people feel disconnected from the "traditional church" (whatever form that takes), not only young parents though they are perhaps the most relevant to Children and Family Ministers but even people in their 50's and 60's (another generation) my question is why? Are these people looking for something that isn't Biblical? Community is definitely Biblical, the Hebrews were much more holistic than most of the other cultures influencing Christianity, justice and stewarding His creation are definitely on His agenda, loving God with all of your being, loving your neighbor as yourself are all in God's Book. What's the problem? What's the disconnect?

What needs to change?

Some circles would label it "rebellion" or maybe they don't use a word quite that strong. They put it back on the people who leave: "It's their fault!" But another perspective is that if these are indeed God's sheep, there are thousands of "lost sheep" who believe they know who their shepherd is but they're having a really hard time finding their "flock." The scriptures tell us stories of sheep and shepherds and lost sheep. Are they "not our problem" because they aren't part of our church or they aren't in our "demographic?" There are some church plants specifically targeting many of these groups. Are people standing in line to get in? Gee, why not? Is God trying to do something new and the sheep are getting the message but they can't find shepherds?

What about the children?

Parents of every generation will be trying to do things better and do things differently for their children. Every generation will wrestle. Every generation of parents will wrestle. Assuming that these are parents who care about faith, God, walking right with God and they care about their children - what's going on? Are they over protective? Are young parents, even in churches, more protective and particular about things that parents were less concerned about 25 years ago? Are we looking for community but basing our definitions on less than realistic day to day social and relational expectations? If that's true of a generation who had less media isolation, what are the implications for those who are children now? An online community is the only safe community - the only safe way to interact with people?

Perhaps our goal is to please God but He is the Good Shepherd. A good shepherd takes excellent care of His sheep. He makes sure their needs are met or he loses them. For a professional shepherd, that's a financial loss. I'd like to believe that God cares about more than that. But even if it's only financial, if sheep wander and get lost, he goes looking for them until he finds them. He stands watch over the young ewe giving birth for the first time going through a difficult labor so both ewe and lambs survive. Maybe all of this is labor pains - a difficult labor to bring forth something new. . . though there is nothing new under the sun . . . but life is always new and painful, growing and changing.

So Lord, in the greater context of the word, what about Your children?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Emerging Parents

In case you haven't noticed, Emerging Parents is up and running again. New design and everything! Consider visiting. Join the conversation but be a good listener. The scriptures tell us to pray for one another and encourage one another, among other things. (There's a whole post on one-anothers in this blog somewhere.)

When we first decided to home school a zillion years ago (my youngest is 19 now) my mother-in-law (a Russian Orthodox-Episcopalian, a mother, teacher, and lover of kids) cautioned my husband not to experiment on our children. It wasn't our intention to experiment on them, but I won't say it wasn't scary to attempt to do something so different with so much potential (both good and bad). You screw up homeschooling and you haven't got anyone else to blame but yourself. I say that as someone who did it for 17 years. We had a church and a homeschool community and a greater community to participate in and God met us there. Kids survived. I hope they did more than just survive.

We walk with God and He knows our hearts. We can't wrestle with God and tell Him we're not. He knows when we're wrestling. Sometimes we're not wrestling with God we're wrestling with everything else. He knows where we are and where we're going. He knows the way He made us better than we do. He knows when we're just going through the motions. I'd like to think that if we're actively seeking God some of us find ourselves wrestling more than most people understand. Even Jesus wrestled. Israel wrestled with God and it left him permanently crippled. God didn't heal him, either. But that's a separate topic.

Fortunately or unfortunately, whatever the case may be, our children take life's journey with us by default even when we're wrestling with God. They have no choice. Our relationship with God and His people is largely our responsibility and our children are our responsibility and making it all work in everyone's best interest is just flat-out-hard especially if you aren't one of those people who do what everyone else is doing just because everyone else is doing it, even if it's "the right thing to do". "Hard" doesn't even do the word justice.

If it isn't hard for you, don't worry but understand that there are people who will always wrestle not because there's anything wrong but because they're human beings with all of our limitations seeking desperately know the God who made them in all the ways that God will allow them to know Him. Sometimes they're wrestling because they want God to do something new or maybe it's the spirit of God in them wrestling to see God do something new. Who knows!

If you're a childrens minister, understand that the voices from Emerging Parents may not be representative of those who are still bringing their kids to church but more representative of believers who aren't. As I recall, Jesus is a Good Shepherd - the best!

One of my favorite verses in my 20's from Proverbs 4:18 "The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day." I have always been an early morning person, much to my mother's dismay. I learned pretty young that she didn't want to wake up early in the morning so I'd wander out to the barn with cookies for my dad and sit on the fence and watch the sun come up. If you ever get up around daybreak, it's pretty dark early in the morning. But even though it's dark we sit there knowing that the sun is there somewhere and it will get brighter and brighter until the full day.
Interesting discussion listed on Kidology's CM Blogwatch about Fantasy and Biblical Reality.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Toddler/Preschool and Bible stories

Toddler/Preschool Bible Stories:

1) I don't think we can overestimate the value of telling a story over and over, even simple stories with pictures or sounds or actions or all of the above. Little people LOVE to hear their favorite stories over and over from the time they're old enough to sit in your lap and look at a board book. As grown-ups we sometimes get tired of reading the same stories over and over but what an opportunity to nurture a love for scripture when the story a child wants to hear over and over is a Bible story!

Toddlers and preschoolers may not come away with deep cognitive understanding but they will remember the emotional experience of being held, being loved, having fun and sharing time with someone who loves them - someone who shares their love of stories. Before long, they will even remember the story. It has great potential to be a positive love-filled association to God and faith.

The child who won't sit still on your lap? Act it out. Pretend. Use stuffed animals or objects instead of pictures to tell the story. Use lots of sounds, not just words and narrative. Get excited, loud, quiet. Tell parts of the story fast and parts of the story slow to build to the important part. Use a puppet on your hand. Use a puppet who doesn't know the story so the child has an active role to play. When you're all done, sit and let the child tell you the story or let each child take a turn adding the next part.

2) Think simple. Take a minute and look at the "concrete" of the story - nouns (people, place, thing), verbs (action words), basic feelings: happy, sad, angry, surprised. Are all the words in the story words that a child can identify, imitate, or show you? Does every word you're using have meaning to the children who are listening to the story? Is it something they've experienced? Think about the simplist form of the story - true to the text. You don't have to totally dumb it down but exploring the words beforehand may give you ideas for ways to enrich the story.

3) How do we give the words in the story meaning? Consider something like a touch table or a word blanket - things to see, hear, smell, taste, touch, identify that represent the words in the story - pictures or objects, sounds, foods. Identify basic people words, (age, gender) identify relationship, (family, friend words) identify job words and associate them with similar people in the lives of your listeners. Identify the basic "thing" words in the story and make sure kids have opportunity to see, hear, touch, taste, smell those things.

Identify elements that make the place of the story unique. If you're talking about a desert turn up the heat. Bring in some sand, some big photo quality pictures or examples of deserts, desert plants, desert animals. No water - no drinks until the very end. Think simple.

What about a mountain? A high place to stand, a miniature world. Cold. Snow. Ice cubes? You get the idea. Maybe, you will say, these things will distract very young children from the story - maybe. But if the story is just meaningless words you may not be internally accomplishing what you think you're accomplishing with your quiet well-behaved listeners.

4) Basic feelings - happy, sad, surprised, mad. Jesus friends were sad when they put him in the tomb. They were surprised when he was gone. Maybe they were angry. They were happy when he was alive. "Someone took Him! Oh, there He is!"

5) Don't forget that the youngest of children will still believe everything you tell them. They still believe all that's true about the stories of scripture in a way that most of us grown-ups don't - even if we believe. We say we believe but I bet you don't believe the same way you did when you were a little child. Do you think God was unintentional when He made us that way? Should we take that away from them and throw all the hard realities of life at them when they're still believing all the good stuff? Faith in it's simplist form is believing what God tells us. The last thing we want to do is clutter a child's heart, mind, and spirit with all the things that challenge or confuse this simple faith. The faith of a little child isn't wrong - just new, clean, uncluttered, unused. Once we pass that stage in life most of us don't get to go back so enjoy it and make the most of it to grow faith.

As you give the words meaning, you give the story meaning. Associations between our lives and the stories of scripture can start at any age and take many forms but think simple. I'm talking about a couple of sensory experiences to give meaning to story words. You're looking to create experiences that give the words in the story meaning - sensory, experiential, emotional meaning at the most basic level without didactic moralizing, explanations, or interpretations. (You could even use simple scripture 2-5 word phrases running through a little child's mind.) Children often use real things when they play and imagine and process their world. That's what you're doing - giving them real things to play, imagine, process their faith in God.

As adults we take our grown-up understanding for granted. We are so intent on teaching concepts and understanding, explaining, interpreting, analysing that sometimes we miss the simple, concrete experiences that are essential to giving meaning to young children. I'm not sure that anyone but God Himself truly understands how child-like faith, imagination, and what is real and true all work together to help us draw near to the Living God in Christ Jesus. I wonder if sharing the simple and keeping it simple doesn't in fact give Father, Son, and Holy Spirit more room to work to make His stories, and ultimately His presence, real.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Maybe "affirmation" isn't exactly the right term - we'll call it food for thought.

Monday, February 02, 2009

just for the record - some affirmations 4/4

Here's one more story about a wise man named Gamaliel. Today, we know he's wise. At the time he took a chance. He said, "Let's wait and see what happens."

[You can back up and start reading this in Acts 4 if you want]

Acts 5:34- 42 (NAS)

But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time.

35 And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38"So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrow, but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God."

40They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. 41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ."

I'm not a teacher - I'm thinking on paper. Frankly, I'm not even claiming to be post-modern, lol! Not sure that I'm claiming to be anything at this point in time besides an annoying child of God full of questions. No one has to come here.

But just for the record, if I haven't said it clearly enough, "Jesus is the Christ!" "Jesus is Lord!"

just for the record - some affirmations 3/4

From Luke 5:36 [NIV]

Jesus said this, too: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.' "

New wine takes time to age but if I'm not mistaken, every old wineskin full of old wine was once a new wineskin full of new wine but to reach it's full potential, under the eye of experienced wine-makers (or at least those willing to learn), it needs time to age.

just for the record - some affirmations 2/4

from John 14 (NIV):

Jesus said,

1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going."

5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"

6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

8 Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus goes on to tell them about the Holy Spirit.

Jesus' disciples are full of questions. Jesus is right in front of their eyes, walking with them, talking with them, living with them but they keep wanting more. They keep wanting to understand. It's not often that Jesus tells them, "you're not allowed to ask me questions." Jesus is a very patient teacher.

Jesus does tell them they already have what they're seeking. They have Him. He's showing them the Father. He'll give them His Holy Spirit. He's the Living Word living with them every day. But there's only so much they can see and only so much they can understand. They're men.

Jesus has more to teach them. They have more to learn. All through scripture, generation after generation, God keeps teaching us - mere men and women. Jesus told his disciples eternal life was to know Him. If you know someone all of your life do you know everything there is to know about him? This is God we're talking about-Alpha and Omega . And, as I say, God- [Father, Son, Holy Spirit} - is a very patient teacher. He's promised if we seek Him with our whole heart, He'll let us find Him. Is it a one time event or ongoing? When you're following do you always have him in full view or are there times when you lose sight of Him?

just for the record - some affirmations 1/4

I decided to break this up into 4 small posts instead of one long post. It's mostly scripture. By all means go back and read these in context. Some of these passages appear in more than one gospel.

John 1:1-5 (NIV)

"1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.

3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."