Monday, February 22, 2010

Lent 2 cont

from Luke 13:31-35 or Luke 9:28-36, (37-43)

The stories are scripture. Tell the stories! They're God's stories. But...the countenance change, the demon and the child....sometimes when I tell the stories of scripture to kids in my desire not to lie to them, sometimes I find myself balking a little and I have to ask why. If I'm afraid of something that our culture doesn't perceive as "true," if I'm afraid of growing false hope, if I'm afraid that God will disappoint them, then I have to look seriously at my own faith in Him whose story I'm telling.

Telling God's story to a child presents an opportunity to reclaim my child-like faith not dismiss it.

The Transfiguration

8 days. Is that important? Jesus only took 3 friends. Is that?

There are OT references to booths. Are there stories that go with that?

Stories of Moses. Stories of Elijah. Of all the men in the scriptures, all the stories to reference - why did God send those two men? We have the story of Moses' face when he came down from the mountain, Elijah being taken up in the cloud. Are there other stories about a cloud? Are there other stories about people going up on a mountain to pray or about someone's countenance changing?

These three men who go up with Jesus hear Moses and Elijah and Jesus talking about Jesus dying in Jerusalem. This is an amazing story but Jesus' 3 friends don't tell anyone about this amazing encounter. They kept a secret. Why was it a secret? How do you know when to keep a secret and when to share it?

A voice from the cloud. "This is My Son. And I have chosen Him. Listen to Him" Are there other stories like this? Clouds? Listen to my son?

Jesus Healing the Boy

This story happens the very next day when the four of them came off the mountain. We don't hear about Jesus' face shining like Moses' did when he came down from the mountain (I wonder why) but a big crowd meets them.

Why was Jesus so impatient with these people? Did it have anything to do with what had just happened? He still healed the child then He gave him back to the father. They were amazed at God's greatness. Moses had been impatient, hit the rock and people saw God's greatness but Moses hit it too many times and got in trouble. Jesus didn't.

That same story from the 3 disciple's perspective? From the other disciples' perspective? From Jesus'? From the father's? The child's? The onlookers?

Why a child? Why not a grown-up? Jesus healed him and gave him back to his father. The healed child was still stuck in the world with these grown-ups that Jesus was so impatient with.

Jesus Sad over Jerusalem

Jesus had friends among those who had previously argued with Him. They were trying to warn Him, to keep Him safe. How did they know? They weren't on the mountain. Jesus was on a journey to reach a goal. He healed people all along the way to where He was going without losing sight of His goal. Or was that part of the goal?

When God gets mad, He gets mad but in this case Jesus' response is different. Jesus wanted to gather these people like a hen would gather her chicks but they wouldn't let Him, they resisted Him. Isn't He God? Why didn't He just make them do it! The image of hen & chicks is such a cool image! Did you ever spend time with chickens? What do we know about chickens...

He says, "I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.' " (a reference to Psalm 118: 26). When do you hear that phrase, "I won't do this unless you do that."

Where does this incident fall in relationship to the children praising Him? Didn't that happen on the way to Jerusalem, too?

Lent 2: LFC: O & Q & KFW

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

Look at what God said to Abram. Imagine him a father, sharing this story with the child God gave him.

Imagine carrying a promise of God without heirs to share that promise with. Imagine looking up at the stars on a clear night. Imagine God saying those words to you after years of trying and failing to have children. Not sure this is the time for a star activity unless it involves standing outside after dark marveling at a star-filled sky. I think the science of stars for children would be distracting. They didn't have that when God spoke it. For grown-ups it might add depth.

Note what this passage says about faith.

Yes, God made a promise and God kept His promise but note God's reference to Ur. Notice how God is so much a part of Abram's story - his life story- and all the personal stories he will share with his children.

• Psalm 27

Remember David who killed Goliath? Can you imagine David being afraid? David wrote this to God.

There's lots of imagery for different aged kids in this Psalm. Light. Hiding places. Safe places. God's house. Songs to sing when we're afraid. Trust. Feelings. Enemies. Lies.

When do you feel the way David feels? What does your heart say to you? When your heart is afraid, what can you say to your heart?

God is...

• Philippians 3:17-4:1

Paul called the people he was talking to, "Brothers & sisters." Children have brothers & sisters. He called them to follow his example. He tells them to pay close attention to those who live "according the the pattern we gave you". That is one of the roles teachers & grown-ups in general play in the lives of children.

We get frustrated when we have to tell children something over and over...So does God, so did Jesus, so did Paul except that we are those children.

We learn that young children are sensitive to the emotional environment we create. This hard-nosed apostle Paul is talking about people who live like enemies of the cross of Jesus. They worship whatever their stomach tells them. They brag about what should make them ashamed. He tells us they're going to die, with tears in his eyes addressing people who are like family to him.

What images does it conjure in your mind to be a citizen of heaven? How about in older kids?

We "can hardly wait" for someone to come from there - Jesus. That feeling is something kids know.

vs 21 "He has the power to bring everything under his control. By his power he will change our earthly bodies. They will become like his glorious body." "Power" "Everything"

"My brothers and sisters, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord's strength. [How?] I love you and long for you. Dear friends, you are my joy and my crown." You have more emotion. But how should I stand firm in the Lord's strength? Is it something I can translate for children? Does this involve skills that children can learn? When do children need to be able to stand firm in the Lord's strength? How will they do that?

• Luke 13:31-35 or Luke 9:28-43

In Luke we can pick between the story of the transfiguration & Jesus healing the boy with the evil spirit or Jesus being sad about Jerusalem. Each is a story.

As I recall, the transfiguration ties into the feast of booths in the OT. I once cleaned house for a rabbi & his wife. They built a "booth" from sticks in their backyard every fall for the Feast of Booths. I was in my 20's but having been a well-churched Protestant child who built forts in the woods, I was pretty fascinated. Let's put these three stories in the next post.

Wordless revisited

You know, you can use any picture, group of pictures, or book with pictures that show action to let a child tell the story. You just do what you do without words - without prompts. You can use pictures to show first, middle, last. You can do history chronology w/pictures. Which came first the story picture of Adam, David, or Jesus? Turn on a video with no sound. Flip through a story in utter silence and, at the end, ask your small people "what did you like?" "What didn't you like?" You can ask who or what a wordless story is about. Where? When? Why? But you don't have to. Have some fun.

A story has a beginning, middle, end. A story has action. A story has a main character. Sometimes it has time, place, why, what, so what...

Think about a story without words. Children see wordless stories everyday - meaning the course of someone's actions where the words aren't necessarily directed at them.

See how many different things you can teach without words. See if you can do a whole class without words...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

2nd thoughts...

So I'm having 2nd thoughts about committing to 3 years of posting from the liturgy looking for kids in the scriptures. Maybe I'll post through the season of Lent 2010. How about that... You have the tools to explore this. You really don't need my thoughts and observations. I'm going to try VERY hard to keep it VERY simple and not elaborate or explain much.

Consider exploring this little exercise with your CM team or parents or leaders or any interested party. Whether you try it as an individual or as a group I expect you'll see something you never noticed before. If you do it with a group, you'll have the advantage of other people sharing what they see: a small enough group so everyone gets to actively participate, a large enough group so you have LOTS to think about.

There might be other ways to explore this. Make a bulletin board. Let people bring in a 3x5 card with one observation from the text each week - one observation about children.

We're looking for kids: not only specific references in the text but, "Were they there to hear this?" How would a family respond? How did the event, law, proverb affect the children? When God's prophetic words came to pass how did that affect the children? Who was responsible? When God continually called His people to repentance and they refused and the children suffered, whose fault was that? How does grown-up faithfulness & unfaithfulness affect children?

Look for words, images, stories that children can relate to ie. God is my fort, my safe place, my hiding place. As a child I always had a secret fort. Maybe that's why I especially like the Psalms that describe God that way.

Remember that this little exercise isn't really about children. It's about God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and His perspective on children. Is ours the same? Is it different? How do we respond?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Emerging in Denominations updated

Lent 1: LFC: O & Q & KFW

It would really help if I was looking at the right scriptures for the right year, wouldn't it... Year C 2/21/10

I'll try to remember to link these to the NIV Reader's Version to see what words they use instead of the ones in the lectionary. Not sure which translation they use in the lectionary.

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

I always used to read that "you" in verse 1 as an individual "you" not a collective, family & groups of families "you." Children are part of that collective "you"

Do you see the story?

Was the family involved in the work of the harvest? Was the family involved in the prep of the basket? Were children there?

• Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

to rest in someone's shadow and be kept safe

a safe place, a fort, trust

there are lots of pictures (the picture of God commanding the angels and what they do)

lots of pictures & promises in this Psalm although I'd probably skip the part about walking on the poisonous snakes...[afterthought: see what I just did? Is it wisdom or a profound lack of faith on my part? There are people out there who can probably tell you & and your children wild and wonderful stories about what God has done...]

Romans 10:8b-13

the words that come out of my mouth & what I do with my heart

lots of references to OT texts

lots of promises

were children there to hear that letter to the Romans read to the first group of listeners?

Luke 4:1-13

the story of Jesus being lead into the wilderness & tempted

How young would you tell this story? What parts?

In it's simplist form: After Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit lead him into the desert. For 40 days the devil tempted him. Jesus said no.

You could add. The devil knew the scriptures but Jesus knew them better.

You could add (for older kids) the devil wasn't done - for now. He'd be back...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ash Wed scriptures: O & Q & KFW (looking for children)

Ash Wednesday scriptures* O(bservations) & Q(uestions) & K(id)-F(riendly) W(ords) to explore - (L)ooking (F)or (C)hildren:

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

2:1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming, it is near- [the children were among those who experienced God's words of prophecy come to pass]

2:16 gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy.

2:13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. 2:14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him [this tells adults & children something about God. God doesn't get angry easily. This time He is. But maybe He will change His mind.]

2:17 Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep. Let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'"

or Isaiah 58:1-12 This is about fasting. Children are among many of the people groups mentioned.

Psalm 51:1-17

Ponder Psalm 51 from a parent's perpective, a child's perspective... Note the words children would be familiar with: clean, wash, blot out, hide

Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Be reconciled. Make up and be friends again. "no obstacle in anyone's way". Note qualities to grow.

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

activities Jesus tells us to do "in secret",


*If I forgot to tell you I'm using The Vanderbilt Divinity Library Revised Common Lectionary.
And as always to read the passage in context, read the whole chapter. Read the whole book, ha ha!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

faith & explanations

Thinking about Bible stories, faith, children and grown-up explanations. Here's the thing. If you have a child who vividly believes God's stories just as they are, to explain them away steals the wonder and awe and, quite frankly potential for worship, moments of faith, moments of believing. Why would we steal that from a child?

We complain because our children don't believe anymore. It's not like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy...or maybe that's how we see the scriptures. You're too old to take them at face value. You're too old to believe that stuff're too smart to take it literally...

Is that what we do - mishandle childlike faith, explain it away, laden it with rules until there is no faith - no desire to walk with God in the cool of the day and listen to His stories and talk to Him?

As I recall, Jesus was a magnet. All kinds of people, all ages, came to listen to him. They hung on his every word.

Loving God with all your heart (something children have so much of), all your mind (the capability to know & understand - something destined to keep growing & developing as children grow into adults), all your soul (that deep ever-present place that's always searching & wanting more of God), all your strength (something that grows and changes with age & experience).

These words of Jesus are in the same chapter as the story of the Transfiguration and Jesus healing the boy. Are we keeping a child from sin by explaining something? Sometimes. Are we stealing a moment of faith and belief by explaining something? Sometimes. If we tie a millstone filled with faith undermining explanations around a child's neck that keeps them from faith - do we cause them to sin? If so, we need to look again.

Check out Mark 10:13-16. These passages about children are near each another in the gospels.

If sinning is missing the mark then what does it mean to hit the mark? Loving the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul, strength & loving my neighbor as myself? What do God's stories have to do with that?

Maybe it's worth looking at how the simple act of telling God's stories nurtures faith in children, and how we can facilitate without getting in the way. I think that's some of the thinking in Jerome Berryman's work.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. For children, God's Word takes the form of story, parable, proverb, and 10 commandments that Jesus summed up into two. God's Word grows faith in us. God's stories grow faith in children. That same Word takes form in us as we hear & believe- I would venture to say- no matter how old we are. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. We need to take care lest we undermine that.

Friday, February 12, 2010

pondering 2 Cor 3 and the child

In the second half of 2 Cor 3 Paul is pondering the contrast between the old and new covenants. [Marriage is a covenant. Did you ever see a young couple glow?]

There's the Holy Spirit again: (vs 6 NIV) "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

The Spirit gives life. A simple truth for children? How do you impart that simple truth to children?

vs 9"If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! 12Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. "

Glory? Hope? How do you impart that to children? Glory that fades. Glory that lasts. Hope that makes us bold.

Maybe explaining and understanding doesn't matter. There is a story here about a man named Moses. His face glowed when he was in the presence of God but the people didn't know how to handle that (is that a valid assumption?) so he covered his face every time he came back to them after being in the presence of God.

Moses covered his face because the glow from his being w/ the Lord was too much for the people around him. Instead of saying, "Get over it" he covered his face around the people and uncovered his face before God. He wasn't a woman covering her face. He was a man.

Christ Jesus says, you don't have to cover your face anymore. Take it off.

Here's the Holy Spirit again.
"17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

Maybe an activity for kids, maybe not. Imagine covering your face all day unless you're with your spouse or family and Jesus saying - you don't need to do that anymore. Glow for all the world to see. Show them the glow of your love, your joy, your devotion.

The simple of it? "the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."

What is freedom? And we immediately think in terms of conditions and exceptions...but is that the freedom Paul is talking about? What does freedom mean to a child? What does it mean to have the cloth taken from your face? What does it mean to see glory? But then my grown up mind asks, what does it mean to be changed, to be transformed into His likeness? We were created in His image? We are transformed into His likeness? Are they the same or are they different? Does it matter?

Do you see how Paul's words in Corinthians will make more sense once you've absorbed the story of Moses? First you need to hear the story and ponder it over and over and over. Do you see how you can start stories (without explanations) much earlier than explanations and interpretations and that hearing God's stories over and over from the time you're small gives the story time to do its work through all our developmental stages and experiences?

His Word never returns to Him empty without accomplishing what He intends it to accomplish. So if we are true to His stories, can't we say that His stories never return to Him empty without accomplishing what He intends? And they lay the groundwork for our understanding later.

Pondering Psalm 99 and the child

How do you teach a child "holy"? "'mighty"? "justice?"

This Psalm says that this thing called "justice" is something God loves.

Children understand"to do right". God always does right.

"Worship!" Why? Because God is holy.

What's a footstool? Do you have a footstool? What do you do with it? What might it look like for God to have a footstool?

They called on the Lord. He answered them. Do your children have first hand experience with calling and having someone answer?

Forgiveness. Punishing misdeeds. Do your children have first hand experience with this?

"Exalt the Lord-" what does that mean? What does it look like? Sound like? Feel like? Are your children part of a people who experiences this?

Nations trembling. The earth shaking. The unique. The unusual. The unexpected fosters a fear of God in less science-minded people if these are the stories they hear. Today we dismiss superstition and faith for science but think about the fear of God that inevitably came before the days of science when the earth shook, when a man entered a tent looking like every other man and came back glowing after being in the presence of the Living God!

We invest all this energy trying to bring children to faith when they start out with the capacity to believe as much as their young imaginations are capable of - things grown ups have stopped believing and insist on explaining and ultimately dismissing. That's why we need children.

Am I dismissing science? No. Didn't God create all that scientists study? Didn't God create the minds of men who develop technology. Didn't God give man intuition and understanding? There is awe & wonder there. But isn't God the ultimate source of all that we can explain and all that we can't? Science may give us the words so we can talk about it. Science may give us the tools to keep discovering more about all that God has created. Science may give us the tools to make it work for us and take dominion. But where did it all come from? God - the beginning and the end, the Alpha & Omega - the creator of all things. The writer of His stories.

Imagine the incredulous worship God would receive if we were all continuously worshiping and praising Him for all of this (even if only in our hearts)?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

seasons ... children ... scripture

Outdoor season: here in the Northern/Western Hemisphere (ie. upstate NY) it's WINTER!!

What are you doing with kids to make the most of this God-given season? What invisible attributes of God are visible through what His hands have made?

Liturgical season: Epiphany! Here's a challenge. Check out each week's liturgy (which usually includes a passage from OT, Psalms, Epistles & the Gospels) and watch for children.

Here's one of the passages from this Sunday's liturgy:

Luke 9:28-43 (NIV). Someone . . . I forgot who. Probably someone from the Theology of the Child. Someone made the observation that after the Transfiguration (the next day) Jesus ministered to a child. Some might say He ministered to the father. Both are true.

I wonder what options the father had.

According to Luke the father begged Jesus, "Look at my son." He didn't even ask Jesus for healing. The man asked Jesus to look at his only child, his only son. He'd asked the disciples to heal the boy but apparently they weren't able.

In verse 41 Jesus says, "O unbelieving and perverse generation . . . Bring your son here."

All that the man said happened for everyone to see. The boy went into convulsions. "But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God." (vs 42-43)

In Exodus 34:29-35 notice the passage says "all the Israelites". Notice the passage from Luke (vs 37) says, "a large crowd met him." Any chance either crowd (or both crowds) included children? If you were there and you were a child what would you notice?

Psalm 99: Does "all the nations" include children? The reference to Samuel. Child or adult? Were children part of the Israel that the psalmist is addressing? The call, is it only a call to adults?

Words like "we," "they," "their," "anyone," "all," in 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 Do these words include children?

Is this what Theology & the Child is all about (at a least a little bit) ?

I thought I was posting about seasons but (instead of reading a book) let's look at the liturgy each week, looking for children, and see where it takes us. There's more scripture to read than just the liturgy but it's a start...

... a 3 year commitment on my part, is it?

Friday, February 05, 2010


This is a very neat concept if you haven't already played with this: wordless books, wordless stories, wordless pictures. You and one child will obviously get something different from this experience that you will in a whole classroom of children. I'm not saying one is better, one is worse. They're just different.

The Boyds Mills Press Spring 2010 Cataloge (pg 14) says, "Wordless picture books invite you to switch roles. You be the listener — let your child be the reader."

You can do that with Bible Stories, too. You may or may not be comfortable doing that with sacred story but if the child has already heard the story you get to hear his/her version. If not, you get to see how much children get from scripture and how close scripture is to the text. And all of that is didactic. You get to enjoy how young children process what they see.

There are lots of wordless books and pictures and stories out there and in a sense, "a wordless" Outside to read and listen to as well.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Holy Spirit & Toddlers revised

What do we know about toddlers? Their verbal language & vocabulary is limited but they're learning. They explore their environment with their senses. They are very sensitive to the emotional environment we create around them. They probably imitate (more than pretend) words, actions, sounds, behavior. Their attention span for stories and learning varies from child to child depending on what we're using and what catches their attention. Some are very confident & social, some are clingy and shy. Large & small muscle coordination varies from child to child. Their ability to function and focus as individuals and a group varies. Their social skills vary.

What do we know about the Holy Spirit? He's God - one of the 3 forms of God as we know Him. God is invisible, as is the Holy Spirit. If you use a search tool to search for "Holy Spirit" in the scriptures many of the images or descriptions that God gives us aren't images a toddler will understand. Mary being overshadowed, baptized in fire (not politically correct in most places), revealer of truth, counselor ... But in Genesis we read that the spirit of God moved over the water. We'll come back to that. Do you pray for one another? Does God heal? Do children participate in and experience that side of the Holy Spirit in your faith community? Are there other points of reference your children might have for the presence of the Holy Spirit in their homes or faith community?

When Jesus came and He was baptized the Holy Spirit lighted on him like a dove. Immediately after in Mark 4:1 Jesus is led by the Spirit into the desert (to be tempted by the devil). That's a story with a visual image you might use w/toddlers. You don't have to explain everything. Just let the simplest form of story & picture stand. It's an especially good story if there is a baptism at your church and the kids can watch. Jesus was baptized and went under the water. We are baptized and go under the water. And we come up!

Back to Genesis. God's story tells us that the spirit of God (His Spirit) moved over the waters. In John, Jesus refers again to an image of spirit & wind when he says, "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."(John 3:8 NIV) You can have fun with blowing, paper fans, electric fans, and wind with toddlers and preschoolers. Not because they will learn a memorable lesson but they will remember the blowing & the wind and maybe the words Holy Spirit. I don't think you need too much in the way of explanation. How much of the Spirit of God do we understand anyway? How much of the Spirit can we explain, even to a grown up? How much of God's Spirit does He explain to us? How much do we experience? But the wind and blowing is something tangible that Jesus uses and God the Father uses to help us understand a tiny bit more about Himself. Today we look to science to understand the wind and maybe we try to "understand" God that way too, but 2000 years ago, I don't think they did. I'm guessing their understanding and experience with the wind and the Spirit of God was more like that of a child.

But I have 2 challenges for you (not your kids). If you were a child watching when Jesus was baptized and saw that dove light on him and lead Him into the desert (the scriptures are clear that people saw the heavens torn open and the dove appearing in bodily form and lighting on Jesus and somehow somebody, maybe everybody, knew it was the Spirit of God), would you (Little Child) think of a white dove every time you are around Jesus and He mentions the Holy Spirit? Do a word search of "Holy Spirit" in the gospels and imagine conjuring that dove-like image if you were a child standing there listening. I'm not saying it works all the time in our grown-up way of thinking, I'm just giving you something to ponder. [Many churches and faith communities use the dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. If you want to have some fun see if you can find someone who can handle and bring in a real white dove! That would be a good starting point for arts & crafts, too, especially if you can make a dove with flapping wings.]

The second challenge. "The wind" & "everyone born of the Spirit". Do a word search for "wind" in the gospels and think about that picture Jesus gave his listeners of those born of His Spirit being like the wind . . . Do you think all those encounters and references in the gospels are coincidence? Somehow, I doubt it!

And then, as you're doing either or both of those two word searches take note of those moments when children or child occur like this one that seemed to appear out of "nowhere": Luke 10:21-24

. . . ponder the scriptures and see where they take you . . .