Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's it gonna be?

Hot Cross Buns, I hope!I'll keep you posted...

Stories of Jesus for Children 5 - A Very Special Meal

What's your favourite meal of the year? Do you like Christmas best? What do you eat - turkey and potatoes, or something else?Jesus and everyone in his country had a meal each year that was even more important than our Christmas dinner, when they ate special foods and taught each other about how God had saved their people. Here they are, sitting down together in an upstairs room in Jerusalem, celebrating their special meal together. This was what they had come to Jerusalem for.Jesus was the leader of their group of friends, so he was in charge of the meal and the teaching. He taught them the traditional things about how God had saved the people years ago, and then he taught them some new things, too.
Here he is, washing his friends' feet! Does that seem strange to you? It seemed strange to them, too, because it was the servant's job to wash everyone's dusty feet before a meal. The leader, the teacher, shouldn't do the servants' job! But Jesus wanted to teach them that really important people need to look after ordinary people, instead of bossing them about. He told them that they would never be really important unless they helped other people instead of helping themselves.
Then he took the bread and the wine, which were a big part of the special meal, and did something new with them. He broke the bread and told them: 'This is my body'. Then he showed them the cup of wine and said: 'This is my blood. I am giving them both for you all.' His friends didn't quite understand what he meant, but they remembered it all very carefully. Even if you don't understand what he meant either, just remember it, and we'll see if we can understand it later this week...


Question for younger children: What do you like best about special meals with your family? Is it it the food, or the people, or maybe the fun you have together?


Question for older children: Can you explain why Jesus washed his friends' feet? Why do you think some of his friends didn't like it at first? j


Activity: You could put a little bit of bread and some red fruit juice in a cup next to your Easter Garden, to help you remember this special meal.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Compare and Contrast...

I spy something I've been really looking forward to, which came in the post yesterday! It's two 'truly great' American magazines, sent to my by the kind Sherri B of Little House in Paradise.
If you click on her blog link, you'll be able to see which magazines I sent her - we are doing a 'compare and contrast' between British and American House Beautiful, which I for one am really excited about - it's one of my favourites.But this is also my first ever viewing of American Country Living, and I'm a devotee of the British one, so this is really exciting too. So exciting, that I'm saving it for a housework and childfree moment, which somehow hasn't occurred yet... I'll post you some pictures when I've really studied everything.

Thanks very, very much, Sherri!

Stories of Jesus for Children 4 - Jesus tells us how to live

I told you yesterday that Jesus carried on teaching in the temple, even though the important people there wanted to get rid of him.He told the people a lot of difficult things - some were easy to understand but some were quite confusing, or hard to believe.
But suddenly he saw something happening that helped him to explain part of what he wanted to say - he saw rich, important people, dropping loads of money into the temple collecting place, letting everyone know how rich and generous they were! Then he saw a poor woman drop in a tiny coin. 'What a rubbish gift for the temple!' thought the rich people. But Jesus knew differently.
Jesus said to his friends: 'This poor woman gave more than all the others. She only had one little coin, and she gave it all to God. They had thousands, and they gave just a little bit of their thousands to God.'
Jesus said so many things that upset the important people that they were even more sure that they had to get rid of him. They plotted in secret, trying to find a way to get him killed when he was away from the crowds of ordinary people who protected him.
Question for younger children: Do you like giving gifts? Who do you give them to?
Question for older children: Why did Jesus say that the poor woman gave most, when she actually gave less money?
Activity: Have you made an Easter Garden? If you have, could you show a photo of it? Let me know if you do, please! You could also put a tiny coin in your Easter garden to remind you of how we can give good things even if they are only little.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Precisely my cup of tea...

This is another Monday gratitude post - so much to say 'thanks' for: 1) An empty planter - some friends gave me this great teacup planter for my birthday, along with a plant which actually ended up in the flowerbeds. Seeing the teacup empty this weekend made me feel decidedly UNgrateful for their gift, so I shot off to the town plant festival and bought this beautiful azalea to make best use of their present.
2) A first meal out of doors.
3) The plant festival itself, where even the vans...
...are floral!
4) Getting a flat tyre on my bike today, if only because...... it forced me to get off my bike and go slowly enough to spot the catkins and blossom on my route.
5) And once again, all of you - some flowers for you on an (I promise you) ironed tablecloth, whatever it looks like! Thanks for your comments and your support with my Stories of Jesus posts - today's is below.

Stories of Jesus for Children 3 - what happened next, and an Easter Garden!

When Jesus got into Jerusalem on his donkey, everyone wondered what he was going to do next. I think he surprised them all - he went to look in the temple, the special place where they worshipped God, and he got really angry! He got so furious because he found people there who were selling, and even cheating, inside God's house. He was so angry that he pushed over the tables where they'd been selling their things.
You can see who got really mad with him, though - it's the important people again, who wonder where on earth Jesus gets his ideas from. They want to stop him before he does anything else to change the way things work. They like things the way they are!
But Jesus kept on going back to the temple, and the ordinary people loved to listen to what he told them about God, and God's ways. The important people were too scared to stop him when he was in the temple, because there were so many ordinary people there to protect him. I'll tell you more about their sneaky plans tomorrow.

Question for younger children: Was Jesus being naughty when he got angry?
Question for older children: Is it always wrong to get angry? What things DO we do wrong when we get angry?
Activity: The best way I know to tell the stories of Jesus this week is to begin an Easter Garden. These are photos of my boys and their dog, making one last year. First, you'll need a container. We used a china serving dish, but you could use a plastic container too.
Put a layer of gravel or broken pot into the bottom of the container.
Then fill the container, most of the way to the top, with soil or potting compost.
Find some moss - that's easy in our garden! I hope you can find some, too, on rocks or under hedges, perhaps.
Press the moss down over the earth.
Use some rocks to make a little cave in one corner of the garden.
If you don't want to use rocks, you could use an old flower pot to make the cave, but you'll need to cover that with moss too. Don't forget to keep the moss nice and damp when you get it indoors - we spray ours with water every day.
Your Easter Garden is ready for now - we'll add different things to it as the week goes on. If you like, you could put a little donkey into it today, to remember how Jesus came into Jerusalem.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Final Pause in Lent

Today is the day when Lent really changes pace. Before, it was all about reflection and preparation. Now, if you're following the traditional Catholic or Protestant calendar (which my church doesn't, actually), it becomes full of action - out of the abstract and into the very, very solid. My Palm Sunday post for children is below, and gives an idea of the kind of action we can expect for the next few days. The coming week is known as Holy Week and it follows carefully, and quite acturately in terms of timing, the events of the last week before Jesus' crucifixion, death and resurrection. I like the fact that Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover - first, it emphasises his essential Jewish heritage, and secondly, it gives us an accurate timing for when it all happened, unlike the unknowable date and time of his birth. This year, Passover begins on March 30th and ends on April 5th.
I wanted to write the series for children because this bit, full of stories, actions and tangible objects like palm branches, coats, bread, wine, even nails, is where they can begin to understand what is going on and truly prepare for Easter in a way that the abstract ideas of Lent can't offer them.
I think it's not much different for me. I want to live the stories of Jesus in Holy Week to the full, so that I don't miss a thing in this most gripping, harrowing, emotionally-charged and finally triumphant week!

Stories of Jesus for Children 2 - Palm Sunday

Do you remember how the ordinary people loved Jesus? Can you remember why? And can you remember that the important people hoped Jesus would get into big trouble?Jesus and his friends had been keeping away from the big city of Jerusalem, because that’s where the important people lived. If he kept away from them, he should stay out of trouble.
But suddenly one day, Jesus decided to go right into Jerusalem to celebrate the big festival of Passover. His friends thought he was mad! ‘You’re going to get into big trouble!’ they said, but Jesus knew it was time to go, and he got ready.
He sent some friends to borrow a donkey, and he rode right into the city on the cute little animal. The ordinary people came out to meet him and were so happy to see him!They treated him as if he was a king, but a king on a cute little donkey instead of on a big, white war horse! They gave him a king’s welcome, waving branches of palm trees like flags, and putting down their coats in the road for the donkey to walk over.
Don't do this with your coat, please!

The ordinary people were happy to see King Jesus. But the important people were angrier than ever. Jesus had put himself in danger by coming into the city.

Activity idea: find something to wave ( leaves, flags, your coat?) and shout 'Hosanna', which is what the children shouted when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. It means 'Save us', because they were sure Jesus was a king who would save them from their enemies. If you have a toy donkey, get it out and let it ride over leaves and coats!
jQuestion for younger children: The children in Jerusalem waved tree branches. What would you wave if Jesus was coming into your town?
Question for older children: Would you be pleased to see Jesus coming into your town? Why, or why not?
Question for anyone still paying attention: Why on a donkey, not a horse?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Stories of Jesus for Children - A series written for the children in your life...

Easter is coming! But before we celebrate the fun of Easter, there are lots of stories about what happened to Jesus before Easter Day. All next week I’ll be telling the stories of what happened to Jesus as he got ready for the first Easter Day. Some of the stories might surprise you. Some of them might make you laugh. Some might make you feel sad. But they can all help you to get ready for the best Easter ever! You probably know all about baby Jesus at Christmas, and this is about what happened when Jesus grew up.
For a long time Jesus lived quietly and did his job. People liked him but he didn’t seem special. Then suddenly, when he was about 30, God told him to leave his work and start a new job – the job of showing people God’s love.

Jesus was the very best person for this job. When people were sick he made them better.
When people were sad and sorry he forgave them.
When people were confused he told them great stories to help them understand.
When children were told to ‘go away and be quiet’ he told everyone how important children were.
Most people thought Jesus was great, and they started to know how much God loved them because Jesus showed them love.
But there were some people who thought Jesus was scary – these were the important people in charge! Can you see how angry they are in the picture? Ordinary people liked Jesus more than they liked the important people. Ordinary people listened to Jesus more than they did to the important people! And Jesus said things that made the important people very angry. He kept calling himself ‘I Am…’ when he talked about himself, and that was God’s name!
The important people hoped he wasn’t really God, so they decided he was just a big liar who was going to get into big trouble one of these days. But the ordinary people wondered, perhaps he really IS God? Everyone kept on listening to Jesus, to find out what he was going to do next…

Notes for adults: Adapt this as you like! I will tell the stories of Holy Week, and include an activity and/or the development of an Easter Garden each day. There will also be some open-ended questions for younger and older readers – it’s important to let the children answer any way they like, as there are no right or wrong answers, just a chance to let children think about what the stories mean to them. Have fun!

You might like to get these props and craft materials ready as the week goes by:
Sunday - a toy donkey (ours comes from our farm set), some leaves or a coat!
Monday - a container and some soil, stones and moss to make a little garden
Tuesday -
Wednesday - a cup, plate and some bread and red juice
Thursday -
Friday - some small sticks and string
Saturday -
Easter Sunday - fresh flowers

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nature Notes

I heard my first hoopoe today. I haven't heard a cuckoo yet but they won't be far behind! Spring is here... The birds are nesting...
And some rather interesting eggs have been observed. This first one came back from Edinburgh with us. Note the distinctive purple and yellow markings.
The birds which lay them seem to have developed a form of colourful, protective packaging.
More followed - these birds are clearly prolific breeders.Here are the eggs of a bird which hangs them from trees, rather than in the more traditional nest. Decorative, but perhaps rather less safe than the protective packaging. Maybe that's because these birds lay soft, cloth eggs, in charming patterned fabrics?
This delightful item, found with eggs in a nest, may come from a similar, as yet unknown, bird.Once again, we find some protective packaging.Inside, the mother bird has carefully wrapped her eggs in green tisue paper before depositing them in the safety of the package. Observe the similarity to the first eggs - the same purple and yellow, but with different markings. We can assume that these birds are from the same family as those who laid the first.Once again the purple and yellow, but this time much smaller eggs, laid in a different sort of protection. It may be that the parent birds lay so many knowing that most will be eaten by predators and only a few will survive...Meanwhile, in the undergrowth, rabbits are also celebrating the coming of spring.OK, that's enough David Attenborough. I challenge any bird to lay the protective packaging below!I need to tell you where these lovely gifts have come from. The bird, nests and realistic eggs came from Ele at A Bit of Heaven, and were part of her wonderful Sweet Tweet Swap last year. The first Creme Eggs were bought by me as an Easter treat for us ex-pat Brits languishing in the Cadbury-free zone that is the south of France. Someone else then had the same idea and brought more Creme Eggs for the boys when they came to visit our friends! Sweet of them. And then Vintage Vicki and I did a little mini swap, after various chats about chocolate... I sent her some traditional French Easter chocolates, which are wonderfully different to British ones, and she sent me the Cadbury's goodies we craved, AND MORE! Thanks so much Vicki - that was a great swap and I love your crafted gifts. I shall be hanging up the fabric eggs indoors soon.So we say goodbye to the distinctive purple and yellow eggs, leaving them in the safety of their nest.

There they will remain until Easter Day...