Friday, November 29, 2013

On Sunday School, Bleach, and Green Food Dye

I have the privilege of teaching the Children's Sunday School class at my church.  Notice I said the Children's Sunday School class.  One of the challenges of being a small congregation is the combining of a variety of ages in this class; however, it is also one of the blessings.  I've loved seeing the older kids help the younger ones in games or crafts, explain a story element that went over the young ones' heads or encourage them in recalling a story or verse.  It is very much a harkening back to the one-room schoolhouse days (or what homeschooling parents do every day).

I strongly believe that Sunday School should be fun.  I want that hour on Sunday morning to be something the kids look forward to each week; it helps to create their first impressions of fellowship in the body.  To that end, I try to have a craft, object lesson or game of some kind each week. Sometimes these elements are hits and sometimes they are strikeouts!  Even when I've struck out, the oldest of my group will invariably give me an understanding look and a weak, "It was kinda fun."  (This boy has a very kind heart.)

The class that has been the most memorable one for me this year is one that could have quickly become a fiery crash and burn!  We were discussing clean and unclean and the transition that occurs with Jesus.  In the Old Testament, if a person came in contact with something/someone unclean (dead, diseased, etc.), then the uncleanness would spread to them.  We were studying a particular passage in Ezra where the men had married pagan wives and were told to put them away.  This was a hard lesson for the kids to understand, so it was wonderful to show in the New Testament that cleanness conquers uncleanness in regards to marriage  (1 Corinthians 7:10-16).

We then saw how Jesus conquers all uncleanness in the story of an ill woman:
And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment.  For she said to herself, "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well."  But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, "Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well."  And the woman was made well from that hour."  ~ Matthew 9:20-22
To make this clear to the class, I brought in water bottles filled with bleach and a box of food dyes.  We would put a drop or two in the bleach, shake, and watch the color disappear.  This was a hit!  The kids loved it!  We tried all the dye colors I had brought.  In my enthusiasm, I pushed the process a little and put several drops of green dye in with a "no matter how dark our sins..."  Shake and.... the green remained!  My fellow teacher (and mom of some of the kiddos) looked a me with widened eyes and a barely suppressed grin and began thinking of ways to bail me out!  Thankfully, with more vigorous shaking, even the heavy green dye was no match for the bleach.

What had begun as a lesson for kids became lessons for the teacher.  First, always try experiments first at home!  Second, sanctification seldom occurs quickly.  Like that green dye, some sin takes work to eradicate.  I'm fairly certain the teacher learned more than the children that morning.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Catechisms for the Imagination" N.D. Wilson on the Importance of Story

Do you read for fun?  N. D. Wilson explains it could be the actual reason is a lot more involved:
But the word fun is a simplistic label for what is actually a remarkable and complex experience.  Stories make people feel.  Stories (particularly novels) take control of and govern the imagination, causing readers to feel things on command.  Stories create empathetic and sympathetic bonds between readers and fictional characters, and those bonds are truly real.
Amen, Mr. Wilson!  Amen.  My husband and I have movies we return to again and again because we long to spend time with the characters: Return to Me, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Casablanca, Rio Bravo, Cinderella Man and several more.  There are books whose characters I consider friends (the Harry Potter series and To Kill a Mockingbird immediately come to mind).  There are movies we revisit because they make us think such as TransSiberian and Forest Gump (which uses comedy to explore serious topics).

Wilson speaks of the power of books to shape us:
Let a faithful author guide a child's imagination, and that child will learn (and feel) what it is like to be courageous, to stand against evil, to love what is lovely and honor what is honorable.  Hand them the wrong book, and they could learn to numb their own conscience, to gratify and feed darker impulses.  The wrong stories catechize imaginations with sickness.
I love Wilson's nonfiction books as I've stated over and over.  He is a best-selling children's fiction author and I am looking forward to reading those books as well.  Even in his nonfiction books, Wilson is a storyteller, creating characters and scenes vividly.  He and I are in disagreement over a couple of characters he mentions in the article.  I understand the best-selling 50 Shades of Grey began as fan fiction on a Twilight board and those issues are why I've always been Team Jacob, but I can see some redeeming elements in Edward Cullen, along with the horrid aspects Wilson points out.  I truly disagree with his characterization of The Hunger Games heroine Katniss, but I may be in the minority in Christian circles.

For fellow readers, enjoy this article and over Thanksgiving add one more thing to your list to thank the Lord for - the gift of story.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2013 Word of the Year : Selfie

Something finally moved twerk off the top of the buzzword list.  Thank God.  The problem is the conquering hero is selfie, the smartphone self portrait, recently named by Oxford Dictionaries as the Word of the Year for 2013.  

Selfie's vocab victory isn't all that surprising considering the year began with Dr. Keith Ablow calling out millenials for being a "generation of deluded narcissists."  Dr. Ablow credited this self absorption, in large part, to social media:
     On Facebook, young people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of "friends."  They can delete unflattering comments. They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem. They can choose to show the world only flattering, sexy or funny photographs of themselves (dozens of albums full, by the way), "speak" in pithy short posts and publicly connect to movie stars and professional athletes and musicians they "like."
     Using Twitter, young people can pretend they are worth "following," as though they have real-life fans, when all that is really happening is the mutual fanning of false love and false fame."
This inflated self-esteem slapdown was quickly countered with articles such as this one (which received one of my all-time favorite comments: "I am NOT narcissistic.  In fact, I would say that I am the last narcissistic person I know.  If everyone were as altruistic and humble as me, the world would be a much better place with much better people.  Don't believe me?  Check my Instagram.  I only post pics of my feet like once a week."]

Social media does enable all of us - my generation and before all the way to the millenials - to do what comes naturally:  be self-absorbed, self-centered twits.  We may need to make Romans 12:3 our Memory Verse of the Year for 2014:
For I say to every man that is among you, through the grace given unto me, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."