Sunday, 20 January 2019

The Baptism of Jesus Sunday School Lesson

This is a lesson I created for a Sunday Schoool lesson but it could work equally well in a home ed environment. (This post containes affiliate links)

The Baptism of Jesus is a really great story to tell to children as there are so many intersting physical elements to talk about; there's John the Baptist's hairy clothes, all scritchy and scratchy, and big bushy beard all wild and fluffy, there's his diet of eating locusts and honey all crunchy and sticky (yuck!), there's the water splishing and splashing and there is the dove flapping and flying.

In this Sunday School lesson I decided to focus on the dove for the meaning of the story.  I kind of worked backwards on the lesson plan; I started searching for ideas for how I could deliver the lesson by searching through fine art images of The Baptism of Jesus, there are so many beautiful interpretations I highly recommend taking a look.  This led on to me looking at stained glass windows that featured an image of the story, I looked at both traditional and contemporary designs.  I thought it would be really nice for the children to create their own stained glass window but to simplify the idea for the 3-5 age range I was teaching, I thought the could use the image of the dove.

This led me to consider where else in the Bible a dove features and what the meaning of this is.  I thought of Noah's ark and the dove delivering a twig of olive leaf showing that the people had been saved from the storm, also sacrificial doves that were used to save people from their sins, and then of course the dove of the Baptism story which showed that Jesus was sent to save us from our sins as a living sacrifice.

I thought about how I could introduce the story's focus on the dove by asking the children what birds meant differed things, I thought we could discuss ideas like owls making them think of the dark and night time, robins for Christmas, and parrots making them think of pirates!

I planned to read the story of the Baptism of Jesus, I used this version below, but you can use any version so long as it mentiones the dove:

 I then planned a short prayer to read at the end.

The class would have gone really well if I hadn't forgotten to take the sticky-back-plastic that I needed for the stained glass windows!!  This epic disaster was thankfully averted by a roll of extra wide sellotape which I found on the side somewhere (thank you God!)  I really like using the stick-back-plastic in this way as it eliminates the use of glue altogether making it a nice clean activity.
If you have more time or older children you could get them to cut all the parts of the craft out themselves.

If you would like a copy of this lesson plan you can download it bellow,  I have also included the power point presentation of artworks that you can use.

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Sunday, 11 November 2018

Romancing the Soul

A while ago I read a book called "Captivating" by Stasi and John Eldridge (I highly recommend it for any women who want to know themselves better and any men who want to know their wives better), it's a book the really resonated with me and helped me go deeper into my relationship with myself and with God.

In the book the authors talk about how Jesus romances us. Now that's a funny concept isn't it, we often don't see Jesus as someone who would be trying to allure us and bring us to him.  I don't know about you but I have sometimes felt like he is quite a distant figure, someone we should be trying to emulate, but far too perfect to get near to, but it's true; Jesus wants a personal relationship with us and just like a good potential husband, doesn't force us into that relationship but intimately and gently and gloriously woos us.

I had forgotten all about this part of the book until a friend enthusiastically reminded me of it recently, she explained how she had seen some beautiful Autumn leaves and she thought about Jesus alluring her to him with their exquisite colours and textures, drawing her eye to their beauty.

The idea is that Jesus gives us all sorts of gifts as a way to bring us to him, to romance us, just in the same way as when you are dating someone and they bring you flowers and jewellery or chocolates, little things to let you know you are special and that they care a lot about you and that you deserve beautiful, lovely things.  These dates might become marriages and (in my opinion) good husband will continue the romance throughout your lives together by surprising you with little things he knows you like, not always a physical a gift, sometimes an extra long hug, or doing something nice together or just doing the dishes. Jesus is just the same.  Just as a peacock shows off his beautiful feathers to attract the peahens, so Jesus shows us his beautiful creation to attract us to him. He wants us to know him and draws attention to himself all the time in the beauty of nature and in little every day surprise moments. Once you have found that relationship Jesus doesn't stop romancing us. He keeps reminding us daily how special we are to him, that he thinks about us and that he want's us to love him as much as he loves us.

It was on my morning jog that this idea was fully brought to life for me today.  The Autumn leaves covered the footpath ahead of me like a beautiful seasonal collage, and the light shining in the trees illuminating them from behind like a canopy of  stained glass, lit up the footpath.  I was enchanted and suddenly had the thought to thank Jesus for this beautiful sight that he had given me.  Seeing my enthusiasm for his gift, the presents continued!  The footpath opened out into a grassy area that sloped uphill away from me, and I had to pause to admire the glory of the scene for longer.  The dew on the grass glittered and hundreds of spider webs sparkled in the sunlight creating a blanket of delicately shining jewels and silvery lace.  It almost looked like frost.  Ahead of me, another gift, the sight of a Jay hopping about in the grass.  Jay's always make me think of my Nanny, as she once gave me a beautiful turquoise and black jay's feather that she had found in the garden and saved for me. A delightful memory to fill my heart with joy. I continued on round the lake, enjoying the warmth of the Autumn sun and the beauty of the light and trees.  As I began to head home someone walked past me who must have recently been smoking a cigarette.  You might be surprised to hear that I enjoyed the smell!  There seems to be one or two brands that remind me of the brand my Granddad smoked and I was instantly transported to my Granddad's breakfast room where he would sit puffing away and I, as a young girl, would curl the smoke around my fingers as it gently rose from the end of the cigarette.  Another fond memory, a gift that Jesus knew I would enjoy.

As I approached home I noticed a beautiful little snail with a yellowy shell and pink skin crossing my path ahead, it shell was almost translucent, I stopped and picked it up, moving it to the safety of the leafy verge.  An opportunity for me to show kindness to another earthly being.

Later my husband spotted an old wasps nest in the bushes near our house. We retrieved it to dry out and look at later.  How special I felt that WE were the ones who found the wasps nest waiting there in the bushes, we will have the privilege of admiring it's intricate structure and papery layers. God fills our world with beautiful things to romance us and bring us close to him.

So, how has Jesus been romancing you recently?  Have you noticed it?

Try to take note of the little gifts he brings in the week ahead and know he is trying to get your attention and bring you close to him. He is a generous a loving God who knows you intimately and loves surprising you with little gifts that will make you smile and remind you of his love for you.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Where are all the Titus 2 women?

Hey friends,  my mind has been buzzing recently with lots of "ah ha" moments on mothering, homemaking (did I just say homemaking?!), and being a wife, I really want to share it all with you but it's a massive jumble at the moment so it's going to have to wait till my brain manages to untangle it all and get it into some sort of legible order!

 I am currently reading a book called "Desperate"  by Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae and I have so far found it to be a massive blessing on my life at the moment and it is part of the catalyst that has been sparking so many connections in my mind recently, I highly recommend it. 

One thought that is really sticking out to me at the moment which is touched on in the book, is how mothers with young children are so alone.  There is no community of older women there to give help and advice to younger women on their mothering, homemaking or how to be a good wife, we are totally isolated in our homes and lives without any strong mother-teacher communities or wise women councillor groups, Christian and non-Christian mothers alike.

I could read books till I go cross eyed on a million different parenting techniques but very few of these really offer the wisdom of women who have successfully ridden out the journey of motherhood and come out the other end with good marriages, successful, happy children and their mind still in tact, (half of them aren't even written by mothers).  I could pin a thousand pins on Pinterest on how to be a great homemaker but I am yet to see an older woman in her beautiful home telling me how she did it.  As for marriage advice and how to be a good wife you can pretty much forget about it, it's sink or swim with just the poisonous and insidious message that we must feel perpetually in-love or else our marriage is a failure! Even the phrase "a good wife" feels like a dirty word, so where on earth are the older wise women to help us sustain our marriages and bring our husbands joy?

I feel like my generation needs a circle of wise, older women to rise up and guide us mothers in our various roles. Most of us have no one at all to guide us.  We really need more Titus 2 older women to help us through these challenging years:

"By looking at them [wise older women], the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives." Titus 2 (The Message)

Where are all the Titus 2 wise women? Us mums of young children are all floundering about patching together an idea of how to parent from different blogs and vlogs, and books (oh my) It's a scary and dangerous place to be, slipping into depression is a very real experience of many mothers of young children, not to mention marriage problems, both of which can be exacerbated by difficulties in keeping the house in a reasonable state (I know for sure that I feel in a much better mood on the rare occasion my house is in order).

 I don't know what has happened to society that has caused this missing link between older mothers and younger mothers.  Maybe it is because people move around more, or maybe because we are all forced to work more hours, days, years, maybe they have received some sort of message from society that they are not needed, their wisdom has been replaced by the internet?  I don't know what it is, but I am shouting out to you older wise women, you are needed!

So I am putting it out there now in word and prayer that we need some Titus 2 women.  As I pray this prayer I feel slightly hesitant and a bit cautious because there is something very particular and specific that full time mothers of young children need from their wise older women, and some very specific things that we really do not need.  I think it's important to be clear here otherwise we could end up in a worse position that we are currently in.  Better no word at all than a harmful one am I right?

"There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts.  But the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)

We need a group of older women who are willing to LISTEN to how we feel, really listen, without judgement and without criticism, with understanding and compassion. We need you to really hear our feelings and not dismiss them as silly, trivial or selfish.

We need a group of women who are able to EMPATHISE on how hard it is, to mirror back to us that we are not failures as mothers, wives and homemakers, but in fact it is a hard job, and a season that will pass, and we can believe you and know your words are not just token gestures because you have been there yourselves and you remember.

What we need is a group of older women who we can really trust and who are willing to look after our children for short periods of time so that we can get on with some housework, have time with our husbands and have some time of solitude.  Or who can offer other forms of practical help when we need it.

We need you to gracefully and tactfully give us your wisdom and advice on mothering, homemaking and being a good wife, not in the form of over simplified lists of dos and don'ts which will inevitably make us feel like failures for not finding it easy ourselves.  Motherhood can't be bullet pointed, action planned or explained in 7 easy steps, each mother is unique, each family situation, home, marriage, there is no one size fits all, we need real, deep and meaningful wisdom that transcends the meal plans and the naughty-step type advice, real heart felt, ancient, Biblical, Christ centered wisdom. We need women who are going to tell us how important our role is as opposed to the message society sends which is that our role is immaterial. We need to be constantly reminded in fact that our job is the most important of all jobs, so that we can feel worthy, and secure in our identity as full time mothers rather than feeling like we lost our identity the day we became one.

And perhaps most importantly of all we need a group of older wise women who are able to form a circle or prayer around us. Who will pray with us and for us, for our children and for our husbands regularly and with heart, not sporadically out of pity, but regularly because you know us and respect us.

One last word, please, please wise women (and anyone else reading!) don't tell us to enjoy them while they're young and that the time goes so fast.  If one more person tells me this I might just lose the plot altogether! Let me reassure you that we are trying our very best to enjoy them and we are well aware that time is slipping through our fingers at break-necking speed, we have a powerfully visual image of the passing of time in the very presence of our children who grow and change so palpably that we can almost see it on a daily basis. To be told we should be enjoying our children more when we are on our knees, in the trenches, just trying to get through the day is like a slap in the face.  I am sure you have good intentions when you say this but it is harmful and unhelpful.  So please, don't.

I don't want to end on a negative note so I will leave you with this beautiful quote from one of Sally Clarkson's other books, and wait in hopeful expectation for a circle of wise women to rise up around me.  Or perhaps what I am learning from this experience is that I must become a wise woman myself and play out this missing role in society for the benefit of future mothers.

The Mission of Motherhood