Saturday, March 28, 2009


My husband graciously listened to my two sentence synopsis of detail and spaces from the last two posts. "The stories of scripture are full of details and spaces where God leaves out the details. Do you think the spaces are opportunities to explore the spaces to know God better?"

He thought about it for a few minutes and said, "maybe the missing details just aren't relevant."

Saves a lot of thinking time ...

Tough Stories II

What if . . .

What if I focus on being that child staring up at my father standing over me raising his knife? When I was little, I never would have considered that story from that angle and I was a very imaginative child. There was no reason for me to think like that. The grown-ups around me wouldn't have imagined that scenario either. But what of the child who has seen his father like that? In the stillness of pondering the story, one child can take one trail, another child can take a different trail. God knows. They have different experiences, different needs. God can bring His story to each of them individually in ways they can handle. They won't both interact with the story (or with God) the same way. They may discover different sides of God but God is the same. God is there. God is faithful. God will provide.

God's Word will accomplish what He intends it to accomplish which leaves me wanting to stand back and let the story of scripture be the primary speaker free to do whatever the Spirit of God wants to do with individuals, even children. I'm trying to learn that I don't have to comment on everything. I don't have to explain everything. I don't have to have an answer for everything. Does that make me less a teacher?

I do need to know what the Word says and what it doesn't say - the details and the spaces - even if I refrain from forcing people to see through my eyes. There is a time to correct someone's understanding - if they're wrong about what the scriptures say or what they don't say otherwise we can end up in the worst kind of mess . . . but we need to let the details and spaces be what they are.

I think correcting wrong-thinking because someone thinks the Bible says something it doesn't or doesn't think something it does is different from a child's developmental perceptions. The sprout in the ground isn't "not a crocus" it's just not mature. It's still growing. A child's understanding is like that. Should I squash it or pull it up because it's not full grown? If I recognize poison ivy, let's pull it. If I don't know, I'd best let it grow 'til I know for sure.

What of the child who has seen his father, knife raised, ready to kill - a child who faces hard realities? I may never face those realities. None of the children I know may ever face those realities. We don't have to go there in our group discussions but what if a child initiates? What if he asks? God gives you the words you need when you need them. At the same time meditating on the Word regularly, chewing it prayerfully, interacting with Him constantly as you go through life gives you wisdom that flows from a deeper place (still from His Holy Spirit) - something that doesn't just fly off the top of your head when you're desperate and need a quick answer. It's also ok to say, "That's a really good question. I don't know the answer. Let's pray and think about that."

Wrestling with God changes us but sometimes the wrestling just brings us back to the simplest (but not simplistic) of truths. In that story, "God was there." "God provided." "We don't know all the answers."

What of that child who needs more than simple answers? Is there something in this story for him? Is there something in scripture for him? The story of Joseph - sold a slave, Naaman's slave girl, Daniel in exile? Did you ever think about those children in those situations or how they got there to begin with and the realities that went with it? Scripture doesn't give us the details but chances are they are the same hard cold details that children experience in abusive or oppressive situations today - maybe worse. If we knew all the details we would know that they aren't sterile stories. But God chose not to give us those details.

We don't want those details for children. Not in story, not in life. We would never condone treating children like that. No one rescued the children in these stories. Yet these children are examples to us. They give us hope. God was with those children.God came through for them. God provided. Those children were faithful to God (and it appears that they respected their captors). God used those children in powerful ways not just to stand strong and survive, not just to affect the people around them, but their lives and stories carry God's story to nations and generations. It would be interesting to revisit those stories and see what happened to the peoples responsible for taking those children captive. It's a scary story. Not only the real circumstances those children were in but what God did. Most of us have no idea how incredibly fearsome and awesome He is.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tough Stories I

Thinking more about that 1st chapter of TCITB (Abraham and Issac) and about the author's observations and comments regarding abuse and the imagery of a child staring at dad standing over him with a knife and the scariness of that scenario . . . (the author was Terence E. Fretheim)

One of the things about scripture - I think the people from Young Children in Worship (YCIW) said this - is that sacred story, unlike modern media, doesn't fill in all the details. It doesn't tell you everything. It leaves room to ruminate, to ponder. It leaves space for the imagination - doors and windows for the Holy Spirit to help us see just a little more of life through His eyes.

I want to believe that the details God gives us and the details He leaves out are intentional. As we ponder the detail and the spaces that lack detail in God's stories, as we meditate on a passage - words from God's own mouth - we can draw near to Him and know Him just a little better. Sometimes He fills in spaces, sometimes He doesn't. We aren't all little clones. Our life experiences aren't identical. There is some freedom attached to those spaces. The spaces also give us the freedom to see the stories through the eyes and experience of the children without going beyond that.

Here is the space that a grown-up was pondering through the eyes of a child: What did Isaac see when he was lying on the table and his father was standing over him? Did Abraham have anger in his eyes. . . or. . was he trying not to be angry at God. . . or . . . was he emotion-less (the Lord gives, the Lord takes away) . . . Maybe he was a passionate man who wasn't afraid to express his emotions . . . Maybe tears streamed down his face. These are spaces. God doesn't tell us the details. We can only ask questions. We don't really know. But that's ok. We don't need to know. Without changing the scriptures at all - space or detail- none of the scenarios I've explored are true or not true. We just don't know. The spaces leave possibilities to ponder. Is that lack of detail insignificant ("don't think about that because we don't know") or can the possibilities - the missing details draw us closer to God than details - places where the Spirit of God can minister to different people in different ways about different things. Maybe the spaces just give God room to be God.

But what if . . . ?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

using graphic design...

Here's a creative graphic design using words and letters to make pictures from Calvary Chapel, Rancho Santa Margarita, California. This one is animated. Keep watching 'til it's all over.

Monday, March 23, 2009

crafts for the Gospel of John?

We can do this! When people google "crafts for the book of John" . . . a couple of ideas . . .

1) Take a word. Cut the letters out. Arrange them on a blank piece of paper. Glue them down. Add lines and color to make a picture of what the word spells. Older kids can just take the letters in a word and draw them on the page to make a picture of what the words spell. You could also do it with clay.

2) "In my Father's House are many dwelling places... "
- Let each of the kids draw a picture then attach all the pictures to make picture of one big house with many rooms or places.
- Let each of the kids create a diorama of the place they want to live then attach them to make one big 3-D house.
- Take pieces of foam packaging and let the kids fill the spaces with pictures or clay people and furniture to show different rooms or places

3) Create a collage of all the things that God has made. Write "God made. . ." with a black marker in the center of the collage.
- Make it 3 dimensional. Instead of pictures, glue objects in a box or other container to make an assemblage of things that God has made.

4) Light & Dark projects or activities

5) Do skits and plays. For older kids, research the words and phrases like "Lamb of God" before hand to find out what that phrase would have meant to the people listening at the time.

6) Do a Gospel of John Bible story skit in class, then send the kids home to create something that will remind them of the story or something to give away. Have them bring their creation the following week for show and tell and see what impressed them about the story.

That's just a couple of chapters . . . just to get you going!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

TCITB: Chpt 9 Gospel of John

from TCITB
Chapter 9 : Children in the Gospel of John
Marianne Meye Thompson

Ms. Thompson took on a challenging assignment. The first thing she notes about children in the Gospel of John is that, compared to the other gospels, "children are essentially missing..." I wonder if the fact that John was still a young adult - a youth, himself- affected his perspective. Was he a young man leaving children and childhood behind and focused on embracing his adulthood? We don't know. She observes "However, the metaphor 'children of God' does occur in John." [TCITB p. 195]

She asks how the absence of children in John's gospel affects our thinking about children [TCITB p. 195] and how our thinking about children affects how we read John's gospel. She explores John's focus on Life - not just spiritual life and that Life includes children. She reminds us that children and children of God have physical, social, economic, and spiritual needs and they are all important. [TCITB p. 196] She reminds us that because of the life we've been given in relationship to our Creator and Life Source, that children have value and their lives matter. [TCITB p. 197]

She reminds us that John's use of the word "all" includes children. It isn't just for adults. [TCITB p. 197]. That's a big one to ponder.

She addresses gnosticism and the unity of the God who creates our physical world and the God who is Spirit, the God who saves and fills us with His Spirit. She talks about the incarnation and dualism. This is a really interesting discussion, especially if you've never thought about this. [TCITB p. 198] She says, especially when we read John, we tend to "characterize what Jesus does for human beings solely in 'spiritual' terms..." We interpret so much of the Gospel of John as "spiritual" but John doesn't differentiate between spiritual and physical. I think what she is saying is that what Jesus did wasn't just spiritual - "Life, in all its forms, comes from the hand of God." There's alot to ponder here. She differentiates between miracles and signs and talks of Jesus meeting the needs of desperate people at all levels. [TCITB p 198-201]

She examines the context of children in the ancient Roman world. The childhood mortality rate was high. She refers to Thomas Wiedemann who says: "Life expectancy was probably between 20-25 years, it was likely that a child had a fifty-fifty chance of surviving to age 10 , and a less than one in two chance of living into adulthood." She talks about children and the gods. She talks about the marginalization of children in society and children who were considered disposable in ancient society. In what we consider a highly developed world I see us fearful of things with any potential for harm but she reminds us that much of the world still lives with the reality of high infant mortality. [TCITB p. 201-203]

She says, ". . . God is the giver of all life and . . .the law of God protects those to whom God has given life." She looks at our responsibilities today in light of Jewish and Christian tradition in regards to abortion and infanticide. [TCITB p. 204-205]

She looks at "children of God" - born and given physical life, born again and given a new life by the Spirit. [TCITB p 206-7] She says we often read John and look at it though very individualistic eyes but, in John, the children of God are gathered by God into His family and into His community. She differentiates between the children of God and human beings created by God and loved by God but not yet part of His family. She talks about natural family and the family of God - conflict and caring. [TCITB p. 207-210]

Light and darkness were also themes in John's gospel. She comments on the "ordinariness" of Jesus' life and how light that shines there, however small, still extinguishes darkness. Jesus lived as an example. [TCITB p. 211-213]

This is a powerful statement: "Children need to be meaningful participants in the mission of Jesus in the world. Children can neither be ignored not idealized, nor made to serve adult programs, projects, and desires, nor can they be left out of the call to discipleship or the mission of the church. They, too, are called to love as Jesus commanded, and so to imitate the one in and through whom they are created." She tells us that to treat children as less than first class citizens is to do them a disservice. She says that this enables them to relate to God in a way that gives them "identity, value, and belonging that is drawn from relationship to the God who made them." [TCITB p. 213] She suggests that the Gospel of John applies to children of God - all ages including the youngest. God's family includes children of all ages and through His family, He makes His light shine in the darkness.

So we've been challenged to read the Gospel of John as not only a book for grown-ups or about grown-ups but as a book for and about children, too. It's not only a book about Spirit but about God, coming to us, interacting with us, giving to us, and changing every part of us.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A different approach to sunday learning...

I'm sorting through poetry and found some Psalm-inspired poems . Some of the imagery got me thinking. I have an adventure for you:

Start with one thing from scripture that God is compared to - ie. Rock. (Call these themed lessons, or noun-ed lessons if you want.) Use the scripture, the story, some science, some pretending. Play a game. Sing a song. Make something. Think: activities that give kids opportunity to interact with the Rock (or whatever thing) the way it's used in the passage or the story to describe God.


God is my shield. I thought about little children hiding behind their parents. Or why not do a whole lesson on Biblical shields? (as age-appropriate)

Take one item. Start very very simple and work your way up. A shield was to protect a soldier from arrows, right? So he didn't get hurt? Make a shield. Let the kids have a sock ball battle and hide behind shields. How is God like a shield? What if my shield is small? What if my shield is big?

Find the biggest rock within walking distance. Touch it. Climb it. Hide behind it. How is God like a rock? What did David mean when he called God His Rock?

God is my hiding place. God is the place where I hide. Talk about secret places and hiding places. Play hide and seek. Make a fort. You could have a lot of fun with this. You can go pretty young with this, too. If they're little you can hide as a group. Find lots of different places to hide.

Some parents might protest the use of soldiers or war games or hiding from soldiers in a cave or a rock (unless you have military families) but isn't that what David did?

God is my Shepherd? I'm His sheep. Find a shepherd! Bring in a speaker. Visit a sheep farm! Watch the sheep. Touch the sheep! Smell the sheep . . .

Write a list of all the different kid-friendly nouns that God is compared to in scripture. See how many you can think of before you look them up. See how many your teens can think of!

Pick one. Can you design a whole hour of learning around it? How would toddlers interact with the Rock? Preschoolers? Elementary? Middle School? Teens? Ok...toddlers might misunderstand and think the rock is God but the point is that interacting with a Rock is different than just hearing about it. Kids will pull a different kind of learning out of the experience. A rock is pretty concrete but I'm thinking that the learning will be more than the sum of its parts.

You get the idea! As you design your lesson, go visit your classroom or any away-from-the-classroom site you might be considering without your kids and imagine your kids exploring this and craft your time in a way that will enable them to be active learners exploring the specific word that God is compared to. See what your kids can teach you about God being our [rock].

You can have lots of fun with this!

Q: Faith & Culture

A thought question for you...

Can we have faith that's not influenced by our culture - faith that doesn't include cultural baggage? I'm not talking about faith that impacts culture. I'm not talking about understanding the culture you're visiting. Can I take my faith to any culture free of all the cultural stuff specific to the culture I come from?

How much of the faith we give kids is cultural? How much is something they can take anywhere?

I once heard a missionary at an orphanage in Eastern Europe say they cringed when they hosted American teens who came to share their faith. As much as they appreciated the good intentions, there were things that came with them that weren't faith, things they really didn't want their kids exposed to. It's happened in many generations, not just ours.... it's just a question...

Monday, March 16, 2009


Somebody googled Bible Stories and smell or something like that and ended up here. If you didn't know (besides the things mentioned in scripture to smell) there are passages in scripture about smell:

Check out


See where that takes you. Different versions might used different words.

Exploring the scriptures to look at God and each of the senses would be interesting. I think of God as spirit, or I think of Him as seeing and hearing. I don't think of Him so much smelling, tasting, touching but He does or at least He makes reference to those very "creature" senses .

Interesting . . .

Saturday, March 14, 2009

for St. Patrick's Day

“I am imperfect in many things, nevertheless I want my brethren and kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul's desire.” St. Patrick

One of my favorite books: How the Irish Saved Civilization. You can read the reviews and summaries and all but what I enjoyed most was the story of faith - the story of faith in Ireland and how it was expressed in a very agrarian people. I found the differences between the expression of the Roman Church and the Celtic church -particularly their attitudes towards people and living things - fascinating. Who would have known . . .Apparently, Protestant roots are Roman roots. On the other hand both go back farther to the apostles and Hebrew roots but it's a very interesting book. It's interesting the things we hold on to and the things we let go of as we carry our faith from one culture to another . . . I found myself identifying more with the Celts as far as the things I care about . Probably tied to my roots and interaction with God as a child.

The Catholic Encyclopedia has a very long and detailed biography of St. Patrick.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

random resources

A totally random post just because I found this today. Be happy I didn't tell you about the owl pellet under the tree in my yard.

If you're a 4-Her or home schooler and you're into dogs, the AKC has some fun pencil paper activities and check the sidebar.

Cornell Cooperative Extension offers a book ($20) that may be focused on activities for older kids, not sure. PAWSitively Youth: A Guidebook about Dogs for Community Outreach Leaders

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Children in church: another perspective

We haven't talked about including kids in worship for a long time. Most of the first year or two Emerging Kids was mostly about that.

This is a Church of England page Children in Worship: New Patterns. . . It's a few years old. I'm assuming these are generally liturgical churches. There are examples of things being done in churches, ideas for visuals and activities to accompany the reading of scripture, the theme table idea is a very neat idea, simple questions and responses for children to learn and use.

The questions for discussion at the end would be a very good starting place to start some discussion or for anyone wrestling with this.There are some elements I hadn't pondered before but the questions are a nice starting place for discussing, planning, looking at goals and objectives. They can even be a very good place to gauge how you're caring for people with different needs.

I like the way they looked at both sides because if your church is divided I'm someone who believes it's important to hear one another and wherever possible address and resolve legitimate needs and concerns at all ends. Not everyone agrees on what "legitimate" means but there are issues that are easy to solve and just involve people being considerate of one another and teaching children to be considerate of other people. There are other issues where it's a little harder to find common ground. Better to spend your energy there.

TCITB Chapter 8

from TCITB Chapter 8

"What Then Will This Child Become?": Perspectives on Children in the Gospel of Luke

John T. Carroll

We all ask that question when we hold a newborn baby in our arms, don't we? This is the book of scripture that tells us the most about the events surrounding the births of Jesus and John the Baptist and Jesus' childhood on this earth. The book is full of children. Mr. Carroll only briefly refers to many of the events in Jesus' life that occur in the other gospels and were explored in depth in the previous chapter of TCITB though they also occur in Luke. He notes that the Greek words that Luke uses to describe the children are more specific than in the other Gospels relating the same events. (TCITB p. 177)

Luke's audience is "a world of and for the adult, and especially, at least in the public realm, the male adult. Luke knows this reality well . . . Yet as this narrative begins, the pace of the action slows dramatically so as to highlight the conversation between two pregnant women, who discuss their circumstance and the fortunes and promise borne by the children to whom they will soon give birth. . . " (TCITB p. 178)

I think growing up with the scriptures we take God's involvement in the lives of women and children for granted. Considering the fact that the scriptures came to people with less regard for women and children these stories make His involvement even more significant. He lingers over Jesus' childhood. "The cultural disorientation attending the story's beginning would prepare Luke's audience for the surprising and radical role reversals that lie ahead . . . " (TCITB p. 178)

Growing up in a "Christian" culture, whatever form, I don't think we have any idea how radical Jesus was. I don't think we have any idea.

He shows us how Luke looks at children and families from multiple perspectives. (TCITB pp 179-182) "[Luke's] affirmation of family cohesion and of children's obedience to their parents would trouble none of Luke's first readers, whatever their cultural roots and social location; this was the culturally expected pattern in the Greco -Roman world of the late first century CE." Carroll points out that ". . .the social reversals . . . that Jesus announces and enacts in his ministry are part of a longer story of God with God's people" Children receive with God what they can't receive in their own social world. "The upside-down world of God's reign as Jesus sees and practices it shows that, when it comes to children, God's ways are not our ways." God is our model. His ways are to become our ways in this world. "So hospitality extended to the vulnerable one, the one of low status, becomes welcome extended to God." (TCITB p. 182) It's worth re-looking at our culture and parent-child relationships, church-child relationships to see if we have in fact embraced what Jesus taught us. If not, how do we do it.

Carroll looks at children and parents. He says though both Jesus and John were both born into religiously observant families poised to receive God's promises to Israel, "[A]s the story unfolds, readers discover that eschatological fulfillment of ancient promise, at least as Jesus proclaims and embodies it, does not bless ancient social patterns but instead brings disruption." (TCITB p. 182) What are the social patterns in our culture. How do they affect children? Are they the patterns God gave us?

Carroll says, "The duty of loyalty and obedience to parents is a social - and clearly, a religious - obligation of the utmost importance. The cohesion, stability, and economic viability of the community depend on such an ordered family structure." (TCITB p. 183) What does ordered family structure look like in our culture? How does it contribute to or hinder community and family cohesion, stability, and economic viability?

Carroll discusses Jesus' call to leave all and follow. He says, "If the disciples come to realize that God's claim may collide with allegiance to parents and household, this is a discovery that Jesus made before them. . ." I forget that Jesus did, in fact walk the line and embraced before us both leaving and loving his family. He briefly points out that "Joseph . . . remains intriguingly silent. . . throughout [Luke's] narrative." (TCITB p. 185) We may not think about this with so many missing fathers in our culture but in a patriarchal society, this would be very significant. There was a non-silent, present Father in Jesus' story.

He discusses the meaning of the language when Jesus says that anyone who doesn't "hate" family "and even life itself, can not be my disciple." (TCITB p. 186) He says, "These are not words designed to comfort parents, but they can be liberating and empowering for their children, especially in a social world in which one's place as dutiful son or daughter within the household was the primary determinant of identity, role, and vocation." (TCITB p. 187) He reminds us that Jesus found this with His heavenly father (TCITB p 185) without abandoning his natural family and maintained the tension required to keep both ends intact. (TCITb p. 187) These were very interesting comments. We, perhaps, are more apt to encourage kids to break away than generations before us but his discussion and the places in scripture where Jesus does this are worth exploring.

Carroll looks at children and status in the kingdom of God. God's ways reversed status. His disciples don't get it. They argue about who was greatest. Jesus responds to this conflict by drawing a child beside Him. He tells His disciples if they welcome this little one, they welcome Him. Treat this young person the way you would treat My representative. When the disciples want honor, Jesus tells them they must extend hospitality to and receive a little child. You want to honor Jesus? You want to honor God? Honor a little child. The disciples push the children away, Jesus pulls the children close. This is a facinating discussion. It's not only worth reading but it's worth going back to the scriptures to see what the disciples are saying or asking for and how Jesus responds using children. (TCITB p. 189) Carroll points out that "Jesus sides with the young against his disciples; even infants have right of access to him, because, after all, they already have a place within God's realm." (TCITB p. 190) He signifies the manger as "a powerful symbol of the reversals that lie ahead." (TCITB p. 191)

He looks at play and community hospitality. It's interesting that for all of Jesus' using children as examples, so many of these authors point to the fact that Jesus doesn't ever really define "child-like." Luke, however, draws attention to children playing. Carroll's discussion and what it said about the community Jesus was addressing is worth reading and I'm guessing there is more to ponder here. (TCITB p. 191-2)

His concluding remarks largely target the role of the faith community assisting, reinforcing, and intervening. (TCITB p. 193-4) It makes me wonder what became of those children that Jesus met. Surely their lives were better for it.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

inexpensive toys (infants)

If you've had kids you probably discovered this the first time your child opened the gift and had more fun with the box or the paper than they did with the gift. Someone sent me this YouTube video FW, "Why Buy Expensive Toys?" It's really cute. But notice all the different elements.

- The baby seems pretty happy to begin with
- There is a grown up there that the baby seems to enjoy
- The grown up seems to enjoy being with the baby
- The grown up and the baby are interacting (we can't see the grown-up's face but I'd guess he's smiling lots)
- There is something to see
- There is something to see that changes
- There is something to hear
- There is something to touch
- There is something to anticipate (in this case fun and funny)
- It keeps happening over and over but it's not exactly the same every time

It would be interesting to see if it's the same experience

- with different babies (I wonder if some babies will get upset and want to hold on to the paper and put it in their mouths)
- changing the grown-up (rotating family members or rotating family with safe strangers)
- using a paper tearing person who doesn't want to be there
- using the tearing sound, without touching
- using touch, without sound - without tearing (just letting the baby play with the paper, supervised, of course)

I absolutely believe that most kids get more out of toys that aren't toys or from simple inexpensive toys. Toys and objects like that give kids lots more room to explore and create and discover.

Fun, isn't it? :)