Thursday, June 25, 2009

God-breathed. . .

OK. I don't see well enough to read this! Let's change the font!

". . .all scripture is god breathed" - activities or crafts: another search someone did. Never really thought about explaining the concept of "God-breathed" to children but we probably talked about it. There may be more insights to be had from a word study or whatever knowledge of the original language you might have. (Maybe it was an idiom?) Where else in scripture did they use that same word?

I got thinking about things we do with our breath. You could define it but the concrete of it is what we do all day everyday.

We breathe in.
We breathe out.
Ants breathe, elephants breathe!
If living things don't breathe, we die.
How long can you hold your breath?
We keep breathing.
God breathed! implies to me that it wasn't just once

What can you do with your breath?
You can blow.
You can have a blowing contest to see who has the most breath. (It might not be the biggest person in the room.)
You can blow a pin-wheel or blow a kiss. You can blow the seeds of a dandelion.
You can blow on a cold window and write your name. That was the first thing I thought of when I thought of (scripture-God breathed-kids) but the words won't stay there.
You can give mouth to mouth resuscitation to keep someone alive but I'm not sure that people in the scriptures knew about that.God probably did.

Bad breath, sweet breath.
Coughing, spreading germs. Not sure people in scripture knew about that either, but again - God did.
Breath comes out of your mouth. Words come out of your mouth - stories, commands, laughter, anger, sadness . . .

So this isn't an activity. This isn't an answer. It's just something to get you thinking. God exhaled and gave us His word? Doesn't sound the same as "all scripture is God-breathed". Not sure why. Maybe because there's something present tense about it. See where your pondering leads you . . .

You may find that, after exploring all the different things you can do with your breath, just saying it that way - "All scripture is "God-breathed . . . " is enough for young imaginations.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

John 8 - the middle and the end

I'm using the NIV, by the way.

Pause after the first story.

If you have older kids or adults use John 8 as a reading with voices.

[Someone to read for Jesus, voices for all the other participants, a narrator]

If you know something about drama and skits take it to the next level. Pay attention to props, set, [vs 20 "He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put". Is this important? John notes this.]

Pause between verse 20 and verse 21. Then keep going!

In verse 31 Jesus is speaking to a group within a group - the leaders who believe Him and those who don't. Visually you can put the kids in different colored T-shirts in a mixed crowd, but when Jesus speaks to those who believe him, that group has the same color and they move closer to one another and really focus on Jesus.

Remember that no one knew Jesus would die and then be alive when Jesus was talking to them.

So play with this. Do it. Become participants. When you talk about it afterwards, listen to the kids' observations.

If you must ask questions: What did you learn about Jesus? What did you learn about God the Father? What did you learn about following Jesus?

John 8 - just the beginning...

Somebody was looking for activities for John 8. John 8 is a pretty heavy chapter - Jesus and the religious leaders meeting head on. Jesus is on their turf - in their synagogue, teaching. A few posts back I think I made a comment about bringing Jesus to kids, giving kids the tools to recognize Him. Another situation where religious leaders didn't recognize Him, but that comes later.

You could translate the first part of this story for kids without too much difficulty: Jesus is in the temple (like our church building). Some leaders bring a woman to Jesus who has done something really bad. And they say, "We caught her doing it. The Bible says we need to stone her. What do you say?" They are trying to enforce what the Law says but John also tells us these men were trying to trap Jesus. They were trying to trick him.

But Jesus said to them, "Whichever of you has never done anything wrong can throw the first stone."

The leaders began to go away one at a time, the older leaders first. [All this time Jesus was writing on the ground. I don't know why. Maybe you do. The obvious: Jesus could read and write. :) ]

Finally all the leaders left and Jesus asked the lady, "Where are they? No one is condemning you? No one is accusing you of wrong?"

The lady said, "No one sir." [Just an observation, but who gave Jesus more respect?]

Jesus said, "I don't condemn you either. Go. Leave your life of doing this bad thing."

Ask your kids: What do you think about this? Did this ever happen to you? What did you learn about Jesus in this story? What can we do to help us remember what Jesus did?

But there's more. This is just the beginning of this chapter. This is just the beginning of the story - at least for us as grown-ups . . .

Monday, June 15, 2009

TCITB: Chapter 14 "Children and the Image of God"

from TCITB Chapter 14

Children and the Image of God

by W. Sibley Towner

Sorry about the long breaks but it takes me a while to read and digest these chapters and even as slow as this is I feel like I'm racing through. I may not be doing the best job of taking the discussion to the next step, "What do we do with this? How does this change or reinforce how we think and our everyday interactions with children?" but you can!

This is the beginning of Part III: Thematic Essays. The Image of God is the theme of this essay - created in the image of God, even as children. The author supports the idea that our being created in the "image"or "likeness" of God includes children "underscoring the full humanity and dignity of all children". [TCITB p 308-9] Some of you may read this and say, "But of course children are created in the image of God." Mr. Towner explores a bit of what this means and his discussions of original sin and dominion are most interesting to me.

The author gives us 9 different ways to interpret the "image of God " as it occurs in the scriptures, emphasizing that the one thing they seem to have in common is that this image is something God shares with man but not with animals. [TCITB p. 309-311]

He then examines seven "exegetical issues raised by the foundational texts" that influence how we understand this and "how they are generally addressed by scholars today." [TCITB p. 311-316] This is a lengthy discussion looking at the language: similarities and differences in the use of different words for "image" and "likeness". [TCITB p 313-15] the use and implication of the writers using plural referring to God and later to Adam and collective implications. He also looks at gender. [TCITB 312-13]

His discussion about authority is wonderfully insightful. [TCITB p 312-316] He focuses on a simple conjunction suggesting an alternative translation - "Let us make 'adam in our image, according to our likeness, so that they may have dominion. . . " - implying something different from the "trampling, enslavement, and harsh rule by the powerful over the weak." [TCITB p. 315] Given this, he asks "how are we to represent God?" He talks about exercising our "kingly rule within the ecosphere in God's manner, the way God would do it. That means treating the creation with tenderness and appreciation for its intrinsic goodness and beauty." He says, "such a meaning coheres nicely with the natural curiosity about and admiration of other creatures that are exhibited by children." [TCITB p. 316] Later, at the end of the chapter he says "[f]rom a right relationship with God flows nurturing 'dominion' in the world." [TCITB p. 323] From my perspective, that attitude would also naturally flow to the way we treat children.

Towner then asks, given what we know, "what can we say about the meaning of the image of God and how it might apply to children and childhood?" The author sees the image of God in "relational terms". He talks about how we relate to the One who placed His divine image in us, how we relate to one another and how we extend those bonds to children (male-female, extended family, parent chld, grandchildren). He talks about our relationship with with God's creation revisiting the meaning of the word "dominion" emphasizing respect, interacting, charity, and disciplined stewardship. [TCITB p. 317-318]

Contrasting ancient Israel to other cultures of the time, the author says that "only kings and related elites were living images of the high god. Israel 'democratized' and generalized the imago dei concept to the point that all human beings bore it and bore the consequent responsibility of exercising rule over the earth as kings would do." There's more in these pages. [TCITB p. 318].

He emphasized that 1) though humans are created in the image of God, God and and man remain distinctly different. 2) "although the image of God in human beings can be obscured or distorted, it cannot be smashed or erased."[TCITB p. 319] Towner's discussion of the dissonance between God and Man will challenge your ideas about "original sin." [TCITB p 319-21]

From the author's perspective, the idea that children are human beings created in the image of God may not be directly stated in the Hebrew scriptures but it is implied, and he believes well supported. [TCITB p. 321-323] From my perspective, the fact that Jesus came to us as a child instead of through some divine miracle as an already grown adult, fully relating to God His Father, and the world He was born into, as well as the fact that He only walked with us until His early thirties just underscores all this.

So, he is examining what "image" means . . . we still have to keep learning about the One who created us in His image. Then, we are created in the image of God even as children. . . what does that mean? How does that affect our interactions with children? Their interactions with God and the world around them? God's interactions with all of us?

We don't answer questions here, we ask them. :) They need smiley faces on Blogger...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Another approach to stories and characters

Pick a book of the Bible. Any book. Take Acts. Look for the stories.

For younger kids, read the stories about Paul.

For older kids, pick one of Paul's letters and see what you can find out about him. What kind of person was he? What did he care about? What can we learn from him? How was God faithful to him?

You can do that with David, Abraham, Sarah, Esther, one of the disciples or someone who followed Jesus - anybody you find in scripture.

Look at conflict and problem. What was the conflict? What was the problem? What did the character do to resolve the problem? What did God say? What did God do?

Just don't forget to focus back on what it tells you about God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

PLFC: Acts 10 Cornelius

The Story of Cornelius!

If you want to go back to the food laws in scripture and write a list of clean animals and unclean animals this would be the time to do that - before the story. Clean animals being those that Jews would eat together. Unclean being animals they didn't eat but people from other cultures might eat them.

From the Acts 10 (NIV) :

Part 1

Once in a town named Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius. He was a soldier in the Italian Regiments. He was a leader of 100 men. He and all his family were devout, God-fearing people. He gave generously to those in need. He prayed to God regularly.

(the rest is almost verbatim) "One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, "Cornelius!"

Cornelius stared at him in fear. "What is it, Lord?" he asked.

"The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. " Send one of your men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner. Simon's house is by the sea."

When the angel left, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

Part II
About noon the following day as the men Cornelius sent were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. [Good place to show a picture of a house from that region] He got very hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance [a word to explain]. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. [Lots of things Paul had been taught all his life never to eat. You could say, "taught in his synagogue or church never to eat" I leave that to you...] Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." [People were used to hunting for their food and people on farms used their animals for meat.]!" Use a sheet with stuffed animals or magazine pictures.

"Oh, no, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."

The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. [THREE times! If you want to really simulate the story do it 3 x!]

While Peter was wondering what all this meant, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, "Hey! Is Simon, known as Peter there, staying at your house?"

Part III

While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you. Get up and go downstairs. Don't hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them."

Peter went down and said to the men, "I'm the one you're looking for. Why have you come?"

The men replied, "We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. [respected by Peter's people but not one of them] A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say. Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. [notice all the hospitality, here. Peter is in someone else's house. Peter doesn't know them.]

Part IV

"The next day" Peter started out with them, and some of Peter's friends from Joppa went along. [Did these strangers stay overnight? Keep noticing all the people involved including whoever was preparing the meal at Simon's.] "The following day" Peter arrived in Caesarea. [These strangers are spending a fair amount of time together.] Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence.

But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself."

Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?"

Cornelius answered: "Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, 'Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.' So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us."[These are well-respected, God-fearing people. They weren't crazy and this wasn't some isolated individual experience.]

Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. [These were people that Peter would never have associated with if God had not gone out of His way to send Peter here.] You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. [Peter watched all these things happen. I want to say they were a matter of public record. This isn't just "spiritual" stuff. These events involved seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling. Peter was there when all these things happened.]

"We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Now what? Thinking about the story: That's the story from scripture, pretty much verbatim. It lends itself to acting out. You can use stuffed animals or magazine pictures on the sheet if you want. Then you can get lots of weird foods that most kids would never eat, lol! You can think about people or cultures you would never associate with or share a meal with or travel with or stay over night with.

Your older kids could get into a discussion of Baptism and Baptism in the Holy Spirit or you could just let God's story speak for itself.

But there's more here. Who are the people you've been taught not to associate with? Cornelius was one of these people except that he was someone the Jews respected. He was a man of prayer. He gave to the poor. He feared God but he didn't know Jesus.

The events that Peter was telling Cornelius about had just happened. (These things had just been in the local news). What if (I'm really stretching here) you substitute the names of towns you know?

You could talk about speaking in tongues or baptism in the spirit but you might do better to tell the story of the mighty wind or whatever stories come before this that show God pouring out His spirit before you tell this story and, again, let the stories speak for themselves. I don't even think you need to explain anything. "It's a mystery!" If someone asks me, does God still do these things today? I would say, yes, He does.

Is it odd that no one in the story thinks any of this is wierd? What do you see about the timing of Peter's vision and Cornelius' vision? Notice the conflict between law and the Spirit. It's not clear that Peter changed his eating habits. It is clear that he put all that aside to extend and receive hospitality, to fellowship with someone that he wouldn't normally interact with, and share his faith. Notice how many people are involved. Notice Peter's sense of purpose. And Cornelius. Both Peter and Cornelius are respected in their communities. They couldn't google or use a phone book but Simon the Tanner wasn't hard to find so people along the way must have known him and where he lived...There is something very public (not secretive or private) about all this.

Tell the story. Act it out. Talk about it. See what God will do! (Scary, isn't?) Ask the kids: What kind of craft or activity can you do at home this week that will help you remember what God did? Bring it to share next week. Not all of this will fly with every age group. Tell the story and see what the story says to your kids.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

...mixed message...

This article about Early Childhood: small groups came from Kidology's Blog Watch. Instead of a long-winded comment, here is a post.

This is a really exciting article. I was so excited to read this.

In the same breath, having said that, the more I read the more deeply it grieved me that giving these little people individual focus and attention in small groups is something new for the Church.

I am very out of the loop but from my perspective, in a room of 20 babies, toddlers or preschoolers any and every adult who loves on or interacts with a child - holds them, works with them, helps them, listens to them, attends to their needs - is growing a relationship whether they be leader, caregiver, or teen helper. When the grown up who spends the most time with that child has praise or concerns, (hopefully) they interact with and share them with child and parent. When a child has a birthday, every adult in the room can wish them a Happy Birthday. If you want to do more, Mom can bring in a special snack and everybody can celebrate. It saves the time and money of sending a card that will probably end up in the trash can, anyway. Not that you can't send cards. What will mean the most to the child and his parents?

If human families were created in such a way that children are usually born one or two at a time, usually 1-2 years apart, what does that say about small group vs large group design for little ones? What does that say about child/adult ratios and relationships? Even a grandmother or aunt with 3-5 grandchildren, nieces or nephews will probably not have more than 4 or 5 the same age.

But who will give up their own time for one small child? Who will give up their own teaching time to supervise and care for 3-4 little ones? 5-8? 10-15? The smaller the groups, the more grown-ups you need and the more adults you pull from other things but the better the care, attention, and relationships for these little people. The larger the groups, the fewer adults you pull away from those important grown-up activities, the harder the job, the less personal and more managerial the task becomes. The more children per grown-up, the less personal and more managerial the environment becomes for the kids. For children and for the caregivers, babysitting en masse. For the kids who love groups and playing with the other kids, no big deal. If you can design a room with 4-5 activity stations/4-5 kids at a station you can also create small groups in the context of a large group. Teachers taking on a small group leader role - isn't that what we've been doing all along in age appropriate ways? Or am I the odd man out?

Is it a question of finding enough gifted, talented, willing volunteers or is that just an excuse? I would like to propose that how an organization cares for it's weakest members and where they put their resources (not just money but people) speaks loudly about that organization's priorities and ultimately the priorities of it's people.

I so hate it when the business of church gets in the way of loving people and caring for people (especially children). But...despite my griping about the long tangled paths we seem to need to take to get where we're going (and I may be very ill-informed griping like this) . . .Instead of wasting time and energy griping about how we got where we're going. . . we inevitably learn as we go. . . it's a really good article! Exciting stuff out there.

Bible stories with photos

Do you realize you can now actually google "Emerging Kids" and this blog shows up! For most of the life of this blog, we've been VERY hard to find!

Someone googled something like "Bible stories in photographs" I once had a book like that: a Christmas story book with photos from a movie with Zeph....something (he directed Romeo and Juliet, and I think the same girl was in both movies.) Just scripture and photos. Very thin, large pages, paperback. A little long for really little ones but the photos are big. It's nice.

I've also used library books with photos from the Middle East and Israel, shepherds, dessert, Jerusalem, sheep, wine, wells, clay jars, homes, tents, flocks . . . There are some children's Bible handbooks with photos, too.

Now, of course, google images abound if you can legally copy them for educational purposes. You have your laptops and power point. I lack such technical expertise.

But let's go back to concrete. Photo type images for sacred stories - here's a possibility. (Assuming you can use the images legally). Find a photo of someone in Middle Eastern dress who fits your character. An old man, a young man, a woman, a boy, a girl. Find images of the nouns (or other photo-friendly parts of the story) - sheep, sparrow, grape vine, vineyard, wall, jar. taking a journey, tending sheep, drawing water. If you just use photos for the nouns you can set it up like a rebus story with big photo pictures or powerpoint.

If you use photos for actions or jobs make sure you space the photos through the story so that you have the same amount of talking for each visual image. That means enough time to take in the image and the words so you don't rush your young listeners, but not so much time that they get bored and you lose them. You'll have to practice it a bunch before you do it for the class which also gives you time to ponder the story, yourself.

Somebody, (Young Children in Worship, maybe?) uses figures without faces saying that in a variety of cultures this is a common tool for sacred storytelling. If you use faceless figures you don't dictate to the listener the figure's image, facial distinctions, or emotional responses. Faceless figures, faceless props give the listener more room to imagine and ponder. Sounds wierd but it's not.

So if you use something like Photoshop, take the picture, and remove or blur the face does that accomplish the same thing? I don't know. If you have the technical expertise it might be fun to try. I've worked successfully with faceless drawings (tracing, making small changes, erasing the face). Will a faceless photo hold the attention of a media immersed generation? Would using Powerpoint or laptop images this way bridge Low-tech and Media driven? I don't know. Might be worth a try.

"Faceless" isn't terrible. It really isn't. It's one of those things; you have to do it to understand it. Play with it and see what happens! Photos catch images of God's glorious handiwork. They catch detail, emotion, light, color. . . Faceless or detail-less images or props imply mystery - "there are details that we don't know about these people, about this place, about this story". There are things that only God knows . . . It may sound contradictory but the fact that both are true just makes God that much more amazing. . .