True – Part Two

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Do you ever try to have a conversation with a friend while your children are present?  You start telling a story, and then you have to jump up to change someone’s pants or stop the baby chewing that wellie, or to break up a fight over a balloon, and an hour later you’re still only half way through.  I’m always impressed by parents’ determination to make it to the end of their story, come what may.  This level of perseverance is great training for something, I’m sure.

Well back in July I started to tell you something about Christian books for children, and then I got distracted by the school holidays, night feeds, reading a book about beauty, pureeing carrot, settling my child into nursery, inheriting a toddler group, cleaning up sick, that sort of thing, and here we are in October.  I never did finish what I was trying to say and now I feel it may be an anticlimax.  That’s the thing about the interruptions – they really pile the pressure on for the punchline of your story.

So really all I wanted to say was that children’s books do vary in their helpfulness.  I’m sometimes surprised by the choices people make, especially when they have so few words to play around with.  For example, we have a board book about the parable of the lost son.  It’s mostly a great book: colourful; clear; simple.  I like the fact it includes the older son, as sometimes children’s versions do omit important details (like the part where Jonah has a tantrum under a vine).  But look at this page – I’ll let you figure out which bit I wasn’t so keen on:

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This is a story about the Father’s heart for the lost.  Jesus said in Luke 15:20, that “while [the son] was still a long way off”, the Father ran to his son.  So why, oh why, did the good people who made this book, decide to write that he was nearly home?  Before I was saved by God’s astonishing grace, was I nearly with the Father?  No, I was still a long way off.

You might think I’m being pedantic.  Fair enough, you don’t need to analyse every board book you have.  But it’s good to have your eyes open.  We had quite an unhelpful book about the rich fool, which ended with, ‘this is why we should share.’ I can’t show you a picture of that because I binned it.  Children are so naturally legalistic*, I don’t want to feed that by strapping a moral lesson onto the end of a parable.  The rich fool teaches us to be rich towards God, which yes will no doubt end up in us sharing, but that’s not the main thing I want the children to take away from the story.

So, can I just encourage you to have a little read of a book before you buy it for your child or read it to them?  Someone recently gave us a book by Carine Mackenzie called Joseph’s Coat, which is incredibly concise so great for little ones.  (And it doesn’t end with, “so share your corn.”)  We’ve also got some lovely Susie Poole board books.  My favourite is Always Near Me, which is based on Psalm 139.  These would perhaps be good gifts for a toddler group or something.  I’ve just ordered a book about Christmas from Tenofthose.com which looks great but I can’t tell you about it properly because it hasn’t arrived yet.  (I ordered with it some books on Martin Luther so that we can celebrate Reformation Day on 31st October, but it turns out I’m not the only Tenofthose customer to have that bright idea, so they are waiting for more stock to come in.)

If I figure out what to do about Reformation Day, and I don’t get too distracted by space hopper incidents or butternut squash, I’ll tell you all about it.

Meanwhile, I would recommend the Beginner’s Bible (Good Book Co.), the Beginner’s Bible for toddlers, and the Jesus Storybook Bible.  We have the Beginner’s Bible bath book, which is the story of creation and is waterproof.  It’s also good for babies who like to chew books.  Hope this is helpful.  Any questions?

*By legalistic I mean that children love to be rewarded for good behaviour, and so they would like to be really good and have God love them for it.  When actually they are sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy.  (By the way, we grown-ups are like that too.)

True – Part One

earplugs

A weird thing happened to me yesterday – two different people got  in touch with me to ask me to recommend Christian books for babies.  That’s never happened before, and it got me thinking.  It’s worth asking people for recommendations on children’s Christian books and music, because let’s face facts – there is quite a range available.  And by range, I mean some stuff is spot on, and some stuff is ambiguous, and some stuff isn’t good.

Does it matter? Let’s take music to start with.  I grew up in a family where we learnt the words to (secular) songs, and I find it impossible to consider a song without thinking about the words  (I’ve since learnt that this is not universal).  I’ve spent hours trying to figure out lyrics, listening with headphones (my mum was best at this) – and by the way hasn’t Google just taken the fun out of all of that?  But I digress.  So, I was raised to think that lyrics do matter.  Now I am married to a worship leader who chooses songs for our church to sing, and who also writes songs (in his spare time, ha ha ha ha HA!).  So he also thinks that song words matter.  If we’re singing to God to praise him and to encourage each other, shouldn’t we be singing stuff that’s true?  And by true I mean true.

So let’s honour our children by remembering it matters what they listen to and sing along to.  Children are sponges (some more than others, as I’ve discovered), and will quickly learn the words to songs even if they have no concept of what they mean.  So we should really be explaining things to them for a start, and also making sure we’re teaching them good stuff – dare I say it, sound doctrine.

earmuffs
Not quite ready for some music!

Here are two examples.  I don’t want to point fingers but I think it’s helpful to use examples.  Both of these songs are written by people who have written some great stuff, so I’m not saying anything about them as people, but I have comments about these specific songs.  Firstly, one from Hillsong kids:

It’s not a secret,
It’s not fairytale,
It’s not made up
,

Jonah was in the whale,
For three whole days,
123!

The greatest treasure,
The word God’s people wrote,
It’s in the bible,
Where Noah built a boat,
And it rained and rained,

The rainbow’s in the sky,
To show God’s promises are true,
The rainbow’s in the sky to show the world,
He’s the only way,
For your everyday.

OK.  Firstly, Jonah has very little to do with Noah or rainbows.  Why put him in the song?  It’s confusing.

Secondly, the rainbow is in the sky to remind us that God will remember his promise not to flood the whole earth again, which is quite specific:
1I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Genesis 9.
I suppose it does remind us that God’s faithful to that promise (and other promises), but I find the chorus a bit ambiguous.  I’m not pinning all of my hopes on God because of a rainbow, but rather because of the resurrection.

And thirdly, “he’s the only way, for your everyday” (not sure if you mean every day or everyday, but that’s a different issue*) – Jesus is the only way to the Father.  That’s a wonderful promise.  I feel like “for your every day” is quite a vague (and disappointing) ending to this sentence.  But OK, the song is about the rainbow (not John 14:6**), however the rainbow doesn’t really show me that God is the only way… does it?  If it does I can’t see how, and not sure my children will figure it out either.

So all in all, I wouldn’t ban my kids from listening to this but I would want to talk to them about it, and to be honest I would just put something else on which is clearer and doesn’t mix up Bible stories.  And again, Hillsong have written many good songs and I’m grateful to them and to God for that.  Please don’t take this as an attack on them.

My other example is shorter.  There’s a great CD called “Mr Cow” by Julia Plaut which has many good songs on it.  However, the ten commandments one has the refrain “these ten rules are all you need” (in fact, that’s the name of the song).  Well… if you mean they’re all you need except for the fact you can’t keep them and therefore you’re desperately lost and need a saviour, then yes I agree.  But since my children are naturally legalistic (being human and all), I don’t want to affirm that by letting them think that ten rules are all they need.  In contrast, Randall Goodgame’s Ten Commandments song is spot on:
“The ten commandments, no-one can keep them all,
The ten commandments, not even on our best behaviour…
The ten commandments, that’s why we need a saviour.” (from Sing the Bible 2).
I’d rather my children learnt this truth than that they actually learnt the ten commandments (which they will also do, from the song.)

So I hope I’m helping you to see that it really does matter what we teach our kids through music.  Maybe this was obvious already?  But when I’ve said stuff like this to friends they sometimes haven’t even thought about the words, so I hope it was worth mentioning.

Well I haven’t even got onto books yet.  Perhaps we should make this a two parter….

(To be continued)

*Don’t get me started on everyday and every day!  But I genuinely don’t know which they mean and that’s not their fault – I don’t have the official lyrics.

**Incidentally, if you want a good song about John 14:6 then Colin Buchanan’s is great (hoo cha hoo cha hoo cha cha).  Does anyone know a good one about rainbows?

Jesus Makes a Way In – Easter Teaching

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A while ago I recommended a book, The Garden, The Curtain & The Cross – you can read about it here.  I’m going to use it this year to teach my children about Easter.  In case you might find it helpful, here is what I plan to do.  It’s not yet tried and tested, but I’ll let you know how it goes!  I do hope it’s helpful.  Again, I really recommend the book – much better than a load more chocolate for Easter – but if you don’t want to buy it I’m sure you could find corresponding stories in children’s Bibles if you wanted to.

Day 1: The Garden (Part 1)
Read p. 1-6 (up to “It was wonderful to live with God.”)
Main point:The Best thing about being in the garden was being with God, face to face.

Possible questions:
What can we see in the garden?
Who made all of these things? (older children – What is God like (since he made everything)? – good, amazing, clever, kind, beautiful.)
Who is in charge of all these things?
What was it like for Adam and Eve living in the garden?
What was the best thing about being in the garden?

Pray – praise God for making everything. Could look at Psalm 8 or 19

Songs: Who made the twinkling stars?
My God is so Big.

Craft ideas: Creation cookies (from Bake Through hte Bible – make biscuits shaped like different things God created and talk about the diversity of creation.)
Any baking/craft – talk about how we have made something so it belongs to us. Then share it with someone we love.

Day 2: The Garden (Part 2)
Read p. 1-10 (Up to ‘God said, Because of your sin, you can’t come in.’)
Main Point: The worst thing about sin is that it means we can’t be with God.

Possible questions:
What was it like living in the garden with God?
What terrible thing did Adam and Eve do? They listened to the snake (this isn’t written in the book but I think it’s what my children will say.)
Why did they do it? They didn’t want God to be in charge.
When we decide we don’t want God to be in charge, what does God call that? Sin.
What happened to Adam and Eve next?
What was life like for people outside of God’s garden?

Pray – say sorry to God that we sin, we don’t treat him as the boss, and so we don’t deserve to be with him. (Thank him that we can pray to him because Jesus has rescued us from our sin.)

Song: “God is a holy God” by Emu.

Craft ideas:
Maybe a colouring page like page 9, with “KEEP OUT – Because of your sin you can’t come in” written on it? (Will have to recruit husband or creative friend for this task!)
Or maybe make snakes out of paper plates – write on them “Shove off God, I’m in charge, No to your rules.” (Although this is less linked to the theme of the book)

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Day 3: The Curtain
Read p. 1-14 (Up to ‘It is wonderful to live with him, but because of your sin, you can’t come in.’)
Main Point: God comes to live with his people, but if they come face to face with God, they will die

Possible questions:
What’s wonderful about the temple?
What is behind the curtain?
Why is the curtain there? (older children – It’s God’s kindness to put the curtain there so that the people don’t get destroyed by his holiness.)
What pictures are on the temple curtain? (Reminds us of the Keep Out sign on page 9 that kept Adam and Eve out of Eden)

Pray: Thank God that even though we sin, he still wants to be with his people.

Song: “God is a holy God” by Emu.

Craft idea– make a big curtain out of craft paper/old wallpaper, with pictures of angels on it. (I’ll be drawing ours first and getting them to colour/paint it.)

curtain

Day 4: The Cross
Read pages 1-24 (Up to ‘Because Jesus dies, we can go in!’)
Main Point: By taking our sin on the cross, Jesus has made a way for us to be face to face with God again.

Possible questions:
The Son had always been face to face with God in heaven, but he came to earth where things are sometimes sad and sometimes bad. Did Jesus ever sin?
Why did God’s son, Jesus, plan to die on the cross? (He took our sin)
And when Jesus took our sin from us on the cross, what happened to the curtain, God’s big Keep Out sign in the temple? (Tear the paper curtain we made. Maybe have a surprise treat on the other side?)

Pray: Thank God for sending Jesus to die even though he had never sinned, so that we can be face to face with God because our sin has been taken away from us.

Song: “God is a holy God” by Emu.

Craft idea: Although not a craft, the tearing of the “curtain” could substitute a craft. Or you could get them to think of things they do wrong/don’t do right and write them onto a cross, and then shred them/throw them in the bin to explain that Jesus took our sin from us on the cross. (NB! Please don’t let your children use a shredder without strict supervision! Maybe they could just watch you shred?)

curtain torn

Day 5: The New Garden
Read the whole book.
Main Point: Because the curtain tore in two when Jesus died for our sin, we can be with God face to face. We can know him now and will be with him forever in the new garden city.

Possible questions:
After Jesus died, what happened to him?
Where does Jesus live now?
Who has Jesus invited to come and live with him in God’s wonderful place?
How has God’s ‘Keep Out’ sign been taken away?
What will be the best thing about living in God’s new heaven and new earth? (Being with God forever.)

Pray: Thank God for all the things we’ve learnt. Thank God that if we trust in Jesus we can be with him forever in the new heaven and new earth, where there will be nothing bad, and no one sad. Ask God to help us keep going, trusting him, until we get there.

Songs:
“Easter Friday” by Emu.
“Home” by City Alight (my children love this one.)
“God is a holy God” – to recap on the week.

Craft: Make an Easter card with some words from the book:

We can live with God for ever!
There will be nothing bad, and no one sad.
It will be wonderful to live with him,
And it’s all because of Jesus.

or a similar Bible verse, E.g. from Rev 21.3:

“Look! God now makes his home with the people.
And God himself will be with them and be their God.”

 

 

A Bloody Easter (you know… actually)

Ram craft

Hello all, it’s Easter soon!
I’d like to teach my children about the death and resurrection of Christ this Easter in light of the Old Testament substitutionary sacrifices (wow, big words).  So just in case it’s helpful, here are my notes.  I do plan to prepare some teaching for Good Friday and Easter Sunday too, but to give you a chance to use it I thought I’d post this now.
I hope to do these lessons next week, in the days leading up to Easter weekend.  Am praying it will help them to see why Jesus died and why it’s wonderful news for us that he’s our sacrificial Lamb.
Let me know if you have any questions about it.  Sorry about the formatting.  I tried my best!

Memory verse:  ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’
(Colin Buchanan, Romans 6:23 from Remember the Lord or Seeds Family Worship ‘Hey Man’ from Seeds of Faith (available on their website)) I will spend time explaining what this verse means. (P.S. After doing the first session, I was somewhat discouraged the learn that my 3 year old thought we were singing ‘a tunnel life’ which would be much less exciting than eternal life.  Always good to check they understand what’s going on!)
I’m using the Jesus Storybook Bible, but I’m sure you could use another children’s Bible which include the relevant stories.

Bible story Questions/Discussion & Activity
The Present – JSB p. 62 (Abraham and Isaac) Remind them about Abraham, the promise and the son of the promise, Isaac.
Read the story.
1. How do you think Abraham felt at the beginning? (Sad! Confused!)
2. Did he have to kill his son? (No!)
When we sin, the punishment is death. Someone has to die for our sin. But in this story. Isaac didn’t have to die – what died instead of Isaac? (The ram)
3. BUT, Abraham had said God would provide a LAMB. So where is the lamb?
Jesus is the Lamb that God provided. Jesus died for our sin so we don’t have to. He died for Abraham’s sin and Isaac’s sin too.
We’ll find out more about that later in the week. Pray and sing the memory verse.Activity – Popcorn RamsUse picture of ram (I shall ask my husband to copy a basic one from a colouring page online) and write ‘The Lord will provide’ under it.
Stick popcorn to the ram’s body (optional! Could just colour it in).
And/or colouring page such as:

https://craftingthewordofgod.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/abraham-offers-isaac-coloring-page.pdf

God to the Rescue! – JSB P. 84 (The Plagues, Passover and Exodus) We learned last time about Abraham and his son Isaac. Isaac’s grandson was Joseph, and he and his brothers had loads of children so there were a lot of God’s people now. Let’s find out what happened to them.

Read the story.
1. God wanted to rescue his people from Egypt – but did Pharoah want to let them go?
2. God punished Pharoah and the Egyptians by sending lots of plagues – do you remember any of them?
3. The last plague was the worst – God said he would kill the firstborn son in every family.   But how could God’s people escape this punishment? (They had to kill a lamb instead and put its blood on their door frames.)
4. So if they killed a lamb and put the blood on the door frames, would they be safe from God’s punishment? (Yes!   And we saw them all get out of Egypt in the end, didn’t we?)
5. Yesterday we looked at how Isaac didn’t have to die – what animal died in his place? (A ram.)
6. In this story what animal dies in the place of the sons of God’s people?   (A lamb.)

Yes! Do you see that God provides something to die instead of his people. They deserve to be punished and die, BUT because they trust God and sacrifice an animal instead, God keeps them safe. Pray and sing memory verse.

Activity – Hand Lambs
Make lambs by drawing round their hand on black paper or card. The thumb becomes the head and the four fingers the legs. Stick/draw an eye on! Cotton wool for the body!
I recommend doing something with red paint so that the blood stays in their memory. (Nothing too graphic! My son was traumatised once by a Passover drama!)
Paint a pic of a door frame red (see link below) – you could pretend to cut up your lambs first – or have a pre-made sacrificial one to cut up!
http://www.biblekids.eu/anticotestamento/moses/moses_coloring_pages/moses-coloring-page-6.jpg

The Servant King – JSB p. 286.

The last supper

Do you remember how God rescued his people from Egypt? (Recap on the Passover)
God’s people would celebrate the Passover every year by having a meal together and telling the story. They would eat a lamb and remember how the lamb had died instead of God’s people.   In this story, Jesus celebrates the Passover with his disciples.Read story.
(Have props – bread and red juice – to talk them through this.)
1. What did Jesus say about the bread? (It is his body – it will break like the bread)
2. What did he say about the wine? (It’s like his blood – it will pour out)
3. Did Jesus know that he was about to be killed on the cross? (Yes!)Just as the Passover lamb died, now Jesus was going to die instead of the disciples. They wouldn’t have to kill a lamb and put the blood on their doors – Jesus would be their sacrifice instead.
We are like the disciples – we can be saved from death if we trust in the blood of Jesus.
Just like the ram was killed instead of Isaac.
Just like the lamb was killed instead of the sons in Egypt.
Jesus was killed on the cross, instead of you and me.
Pray and sing memory verse.

Activity – Sacrifice collage
Colouring page – Jesus and bread/wine such as
http://www.kidsplaycolor.com/jesus-raise-his-grail-in-the-last-supper-coloring-page/

On A3 paper (or two stuck together if you need them) stick their rams and their lambs and then draw arrows down to the picture Jesus with the bread and wine. Explain that Jesus is our sacrifice (write that underneath)

Bible Overview Advent Calendar

Hello, last year I posted this advent calendar which Rachel (the ‘If only I could turn back time’ mum) created with her husband. If you’d like the file I can email it to you. It’s a great way to get your children excited about God’s super-duper rescue plan this Christmas.

Mum in Zone One

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Well isn’t this the most festive sight you ever did see?  No?

I know it’s doesn’t look great but please don’t be put off by the beige/white combo and the peeling paint which I’m trying unsuccessfully to hide!  It’s actually completely marvellous!

This is an advent calendar for young children, which my wonderful friends created and have kindly given to me.  Each day you turn over the relevant day to reveal a picture (see the second photo), look at a Bible story together, maybe do a song and colour in the picture.  Eventually your children will have built up their own colourful Bible overview!  Brilliant!

If you would like to do this with your children, I can email you the teaching guide and the sheets for each day.  You will need:  A functioning printer or access to one; some string (unless you choose to do it some other way –…

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Hearts not Garments

Miriam

 

I find that parenting can often be a lot about keeping up appearances. What I mean by that is it’s often easy to slip into the habit of dealing with skin-deep issues rather than prioritising the heart.  In church this week we looked at Mark Chapter 7, where Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for putting ceremony and tradition above God’s word:

He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
These people honour me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teaching are merely human rules.
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.’ vv 6-8.

It’s pretty strong stuff.  Do you see Jesus is saying that by observing their own made-up rules, they’ve actually ‘let go’ of God’s word.  He later says they’ve nullified God’s word.  In their efforts to look and feel holy, they were actually rejecting the true and living God.

Of course, it’s not just the Pharisees’ problem.  This tendency to want to look pure rather than actually having a pure heart is a habit of a lifetime for me, and it often affects the way I train my children.

Have you ever had that awkward (/mortifying) moment in the toddler group when your child resolutely refuses to say sorry?  They’ve kicked/punched/bitten/snatched from little Bobby, but no matter how hard you try to get them to apologise, they just won’t – all under the watchful eye of Bobby’s mum.  The problem is I think I’m more embarrassed than I am concerned about the fact my child isn’t genuinely sorry.  If he does say ‘sorry’, then he’s done the socially acceptable thing and therefore I’m not really too bothered whether he is sorry or not.  I can breathe a sigh of relief and move on.

Or sometimes I can have regularBible/praise/prayer routines in the home and I can sit back on my laurels and think that my children have the right attitude, but that isn’t always the case!  If they’re singing a song of thanksgiving to God but fighting over who gets to sing ‘Amen’ at the end, then perhaps I need to go over with them (yet) again why they’re actually singing the song in the first place!  Argh.

I can sometimes be more concerned about their behaviour than about their hearts.  And I can be more encouraged by their achievements than about their characters.

I do this, for (at least) two reasons:
1. I’m a people-pleaser more than I’m a God-worshipper.
I care more about what other people think of me than what God thinks of me; I want to please people more than I want to please God.
2. I’m a box-ticker more than I’m a heart-surrenderer.
It’s much easier and more instantly satisfying to set an achievable goal and then achieve that goal, than it is to die to myself and give God my absolute everything every single day.

I recently read in Joel 2v13 God say to his people, ‘Rend your hearts and not your garments.’  Aside from being beautiful rhetoric (I’m always won over by a good metaphor), this is such a helpful admonition to me as a mum.  Tearing garments was often a sign of repentance or mourning.  God wanted them to repent and mourn with sincerity, not just for show.  I’ve never actually torn my garments (on purpose), but I often think that by showing something on the outside I don’t need to bother with it in my heart.  It’s a continuous battle:

Seeming on top of things Vs Showing complete dependence on God
Talking of dependence on God Vs Truly relying on God
Homemade Birthday cake + irritable mum Vs Tesco cake + kind mum
‘Quiet Time Slot’ Vs True repentance, praise and worship
Gourmet dinner + misery Vs Chicken nuggets + love and patience

I do have friends who are good at this heart-not-garment business.  Which is encouraging!  It is possible after all.  Their children aren’t always the best behaved or the best turned-out and they don’t even know all of the answers in Bible time.  But they know grace; they know God’s provision; they know Jesus is King.  And in the Kingdom of God, those are the things that matter.

For more on this, I’d recommend ‘Shepherding a Child’s Heart’ by Tedd Tripp.  If you’ve read it, you’ll be thinking ‘Yeah Catherine, tell me something I don’t already know!’  Sorry!  But hopefully it’s still good to be reminded.