Our Advent Rotation (2014)

Our next Rotation is about… Christmas!

A crèche scene

Since Christmas comes every year this allows us the chance to, each year, focus on a different aspect of the story. We’ve done Advent Rotations from the point of view of:

This year we’ll take a look at the overall birth story of Jesus. Our target is to ensure that kids know the sequence and timing of story events surrounding Jesus’ birth. We’ll also be digging into the concept of “God with us.”

Our story is found by interweaving the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Read the story as the kids will hear it, in Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:18-23, Luke 2:1-18.


On Sundays, at the downtown location of FUMC, our schedule is:

Date Our workshops for 1st through 5th graders…
Art Cooking Drama Games
Room 212 Social Hall Room 215 Room 204
11/23 1st & 5th grade 2nd grade 4th grade 3rd grade
11/30 4th grade 3rd grade 2nd grade 1st & 5th grade
12/7 Enjoy worship and Communion with your family.
Read the scripture to be used in the service.
12/14 2nd grade 1st & 5th grade 3rd grade 4th grade
12/21 3rd grade 4th grade 1st & 5th grade 2nd grade
12/28 Enjoy worship with your family. (One service at 9:30.)

And here’s what the 6th graders will be doing this Rotation…
Lots of special projects! (They’ll almost always be in the Pine Room.)

11/23 11/30 12/7 12/14 12/21 12/28
Watch a short video called “The Coat: A Story of Charity.” Participate in a service project for the Humane Society. Do baking for Ronald McDonald House families. Worship with your family. Read the scripture to be used in the service. Spend the morning with our younger kids! Perform a drama, read storybooks and sing with them. A Christmas party! Worship with your family.

And on For Saturdays at the Green Wood location, here is the schedule…

Date Workshop or Activity
11/22 Work on a service project. (Bring your favorite music to listen to while we work.)
11/29 Game night! Bring your favorite board or card game.
12/6 To be announced.
12/13 To be announced.
12/20 To be announced.
12/27 To be announced.

What’s happening in each workshop?

  • In the Art Workshop students will help tell the story using various colors of felt, creating a “stained glass window.” They will create a stained “glass” scene made into a Christmas tree ornament that reminds them of the story of Jesus’ birth.
  • In the Cooking Workshop students will create a nativity snack bag with items to represent story elements. They will get to try out some of this snack at church but will bring home a bag of goodies. Share this snack bag as a family and have your child use it to retell the story!
  • In the Drama Workshop students will enact the story. What a great way to learn the story details by participating in the story!
  • In the Games Workshop students will play a quiz game to see how much they really know about the story.

On Saturday nights and on Sunday mornings at FUMC our Cool Disciples experience Rotation Model Christian education, as they learn about Bible stories and concepts through kid-friendly multimedia workshops. If you are in the area please join us for the fun learning at First United Methodist Church in Ann Arbor, MI.



Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Crèche photo is from my archives.

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What does it feel like to be called?

A tin can phone

A bunch of us were gathered for our weekly Disciple Bible study, and talk turned to being called by God. “Called” as in: God prompting you to do something. This sparked the question in my mind:

How do we know when God is calling?

What does it sound like (or look like or feel like) when God calls?

Discuss this concept with your family group (perhaps around the dinner table). Start off with a couple rounds of the game “Telephone.” (Where one person starts and whispers something to the person next to them. They in turn whisper what they heard to the next person, and so on.) It can be fun to see how the whispered phrase likely gets distorted.

Was it hard to hear? (Especially through the giggles.)

We live in a very noisy, active world. How do we listen for God?

For most of us God doesn’t talk with words passed via whispers in our ears. But then again, perhaps God does whisper! How?

  • God speaks to us through the Bible. A suggestion: Read our current Rotation story. Check the latest schedule post for the scripture.
  • God speaks to us through prayer. Prayer is more than just communicating our thoughts and needs. Include a time of being in silent prayer to listen for God. Try closing your eyes and breathe normally. If you have trouble being silent try starting off with repeating a sacred word or phrase that calms your mind. (Try “Lord come,” or “Holy One” or “Immanuel.”)
  • God speaks to us through worship, and music, and nature, and books, and other people.
But I don’t know if what I heard is my idea, or God’s. How can I tell?
  • What is the source? Can it be trusted?
  • Examine your thoughts and compare them with the Word of God. Does what you are hearing align with what the Bible teaches?
  • Do certain phrases or ideas keep randomly “reappearing?” Pay attention!
  • Talk with trusted adults about your call.

Followers of Christ put faith into action!

What is God nudging you to do?



Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Telephone by Florian Seroussi, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Being a disciple is hard work!

A cropped picture of a painting of Jesus calling Matthew by William HoleA few fishermen, a tax collector, and some other unseemly students… the hard work started with the abrupt summons: “Follow me.” They don’t even seem to give it a second thought! Consider what they each gave up to become disciples of Jesus…

Matthew probably gave up a pile of money. (That’s him in the painting, in his tax collector’s “booth”).

The fishermen gave up a rich haul of fish (as told in Luke 5:1-11).

Bartholomew (called Nathanael in John’s gospel) gave up his uncertainty.

James and John, sons of Zebedee, gave up their fishing equipment… and they left behind their father!

What about yourself?

What must you forfeit to follow Jesus?

Discuss these possibilities amongst your family group. Do you give up…

  • Sleep? Most of us don’t get enough sleep; I sure could use a few more zzz’s on Sunday morning.
  • Time? Read the Bible? Pray? They take time! My days are already jam-packed! (And I’d rather play a computer game.)
  • My ego? Because being a disciple places the focus on God and I like things to be about me.
  • My comfort zone? Because I don’t enjoy _______. (Fill in the blank: Hanging out with people I don’t know, or rubbing shoulders with the down-trodden, or opening my wallet.)
  • Dignity? Because I might do this disciple-thing wrong (and what would people say?) And yikes! Every decision I make is an exercise in discipleship!
  • A firm life-path? I want answers and a road map. Following Jesus can be scary! Who knows where I will be led next?
  • Reputation? Because maybe I’ll be laughed at. (You follow Jesus!?)
  • Society’s endless clamor for praise, power, and possessions? There are just so many distractions from Jesus’ calling! This is hard!
What difficult choices are you being called to make?

(Mess up? Me too. It’s okay. You can start to follow again and again!)


Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Painting of Jesus calling Matthew, by William Hole, in the Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, and practice discipleship

A Super-Disciple!

It is easy to understand why Jesus assembled a crew of special disciples. Jesus needed help!

Enter, the Super Disciples!

These were not just average, I-like-the-sound-of-what-you-are-preaching, admirers. Jesus invited his apprentice good-news-broadcasters to come, follow me; become my students.

Fairly early in his ministry, they were called to receive basic training in Super Discipleship.

These selected followers saw it firsthand: God was up to something big! Here was a belief system that changed how you looked at everything! Transformed lives! And though they stumbled at times, Jesus’ disciples ended up doing an admirable job of spreading the good news about Christ, especially once they had the Holy Spirit.

Today Jesus still needs disciples to work at transforming the world. What about us?

Are we ho-hum fans, or are we Super-D disciples of Jesus?

 
It shouldn’t be a surprise that we need to work at becoming the latter.
How? It’s just like learning to play an instrument: we practice!

But how does one practice becoming this sort of committed disciple?

Here are some thoughts to ponder in forming a disciple-practice-plan:

  • Gather your family — how about around the dinner table? Read some of the stories of Jesus “calling” his disciples – fishermen, a tax collector, and others. Note that sometimes eventual followers were skeptical at first. Are we allowed to wonder at the mystery of what God is up to? You bet!
  • Next, discuss with your family what the difference is between an everyday follower and an in-it-for-the-long-run disciple like Peter and Matthew and James and John? How would it look if your family just “said” you were Jesus-followers vs. acted like you meant it? Would anything change or are you on that path now? Would you have to give something up? Is being a disciple of Christ one more thing to add to our to-do list? Or is it a new way of living?
  • According to your definition of a “Super Disciple,” tell stories of when you encountered someone like that. What was it that made that person memorable? What could you emulate? Perhaps you could invite a voted-upon Super D to share a supper with you?
  • Discuss which of these areas need your focus:
     A check-box On-going Christian education (not just for the kids!)
     A check-box Worshiping together as a family.
     A check-box Celebrating Communion together as a family.
     A check-box Regular Bible reading and prayer.
     A check-box Participation in mission to others.
The Rule of Discipleship: Worship, Devotion, Compassion & Justice

As United Methodist followers of Jesus’ teachings, we are guided in our quest to be Super Disciples by what is called “The General Rule of Discipleship” which is described in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church as: following Christ “through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

This means we practice being disciples by inward, life-giving means such as worship and “devotion” (prayer and Bible study), and by outward participation in God’s mission for the world: seeking justice and having compassion for others.

Pastor Nancy Lynn told us about this in a sermon she preached at FUMC on September 7, 2014, saying: “These four acts reflect that our journey of faith is personal as well as social, private as well as public, inward as well as outward. And to grow and be healthy, we need balance between them.”
 
A person who commits to practicing can become a Super Disciple. How are you practicing discipleship?
 
 

Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
A Super Disciple! was altered from an image by Jam Zhang, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
The Rule of Discipleship symbol © 2014, The General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church. Used by permission.

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Come, watch, hear, see, follow, and… learn to fish?

Fish prints hanging up in the Social Hall

Updated to add all of the fish prints in the slide show below!

Have you seen them on display around the church?


We hear a lot about disciples. Every time someone is baptized in church we all say together: “We will pray for them that they may be true disciples…” And every Sunday (at the 9:30 service) we sing the kids on their way to Sunday’s Cool: “Go ye, go ye into the world, and make disciples of all the nations…”

So what’s a disciple? How does one get to be a “disciple?”

  • The word “disciple” means “student” or “learner.”
  • A teacher has students/disciples.
  • A student/disciple watches his teacher very closely, listening intently to everything he says. A student/disciple will even watch how his teacher ties his sandals!
  • A student/disciple tries to emulate their teacher; their desire is to follow in his footsteps.

In Jesus’ day the cream-of-the-crop students could pursue their education by asking a scholarly teacher, known as a rabbi: “Could I please be one of your students?” I picture ambitious eager beavers literally burning the midnight oil memorizing the Jewish Bible (our Old Testament) to achieve entrance into just the right group. Only the brightest were chosen to be the disciples of a particular rabbi. (The run-of-the-mills took up a trade such as carpentry.)

Jesus followed a different path. The teacher Jesus, the rabbi Jesus, invited people to be his disciples. We say that he “called” them.

A fish print done by a 5th grader

At least four of the people Jesus called, had made a living catching fish. In fact he told them…

Open quote markCome, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!
Matthew 4:19

Jesus was asking lowly fishermen to be his students?

It proves you don’t have to be somebody important to be a disciple of Jesus.

You don’t have to be perfect.
You don’t have to be worthy-enough.
Or get straight A’s. Or live in a big house.
No midnight oil required.

A fish print done by a 4th grader

In our Art Workshop for our current Rotation at FUMC in Ann Arbor, MI, we are making fish prints using an ancient Japanese process called Gyotaku (pronounced gee-oh-TAH-koo). Long ago Gyotaku was a way of making a record of the size of a fish one caught.

A fish print made by a 5th grader

Why make fish prints? It turns out that fishing has a lot of similarities to being a disciple.

  • You need to have the right training and some basic supplies.
  • It takes persistent practice.
  • Sometimes you don’t catch anything. Yet you cast again and again.
  • At times, being quiet helps.

Enjoy the slide show of the fish prints.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Other photos from my archives.

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You have a hand in this

A bunch of gifts were handed out recently. Do you suppose that giving a gift will ensure that it gets used?

The 3rd graders and their families receive a new Bible during worship

Oh, if it were that easy!

Even the presentation of these Bibles was special. Will that do it? Will the memory of feeling significant and engaging in an unconventional ceremony remind those kids to pick it up and open it’s pages?

I doubt it.

Let’s review how it went (for an excuse to show the pictures) and then, we’ll talk about how to ensure your new Bible is used.


the top layer is gift wrap
the 2nd layer is brown paper

This gift was wrapped in several layers of paper – each layer having significance, which was revealed, as each layer was peeled back, during the class that happened after these Bibles were received.

The first layer was bright wrapping paper. After all, these Bibles were gifts from the congregation. And really, the Bible can be considered a gift from God! A gift giving us this picture: God is actively involved with his creation, and wants a relationship with us!

The second layer is ordinary brown wrapping paper! This old-looking wrapper reminds everyone that this is a book of very old stories; stories that have been told for thousands of years. Some of the stories are so old they were told even before people knew how to write! That is pretty old!

Ah, but we can always ask ourselves: What is God saying to me, here and now?

the third layer is the comics

The next layer is the funny pages! The comics tell stories. So does the Bible. We should always ask ourselves: why did people think this story was so important that it must be written down?

the next layer is gold paper

The next layer? It was gold paper, representing treasure. The Bible is a treasure more valuable than gold! Even gold cannot buy what we can learn from the Bible. And even more golden: In it’s pages you see that God is up to something big!

Finally! We are at the last layer – a blanket of fresh white paper. This layer represents a new start — growth. Adding to your understanding of who God is and how he wants us to “see that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God” (Micah 6:8).

And the final layer comes off… to revel the Bible!

the final layer is ripped off revealing the Bible

And the digging in starts…

A  child looks for the Gospels a child checks out the Bible notes
She knows the quick way to find the New Testament! Look at all of the special notes!

They’ve opened up the Bible! How can you be sure this happens frequently?

  • Set aside a time every day to read it. Make it a habit. You read books to your kids everyday, how about including the Bible in the line up? Or perhaps pull it out at the dinner table. Readers can take turns with a verse or two.
  • Take it with when you’re going someplace where there will be time to read.
  • How about encouragement from a non-family member? Ask one of the third graders (or any kid) when you greet each other in church: “What interesting thing did you learn from your Bible this week?”
  • Subscribe (up at the top, on the right when viewing the blog page) to receive an email every time there is a new post (which will generally include a new idea to use your Bible).

3rd graders with their new Bibles

We have hope that our children will read the Bible, not to read a book of rules, but to discover and connect with God! What are your ideas for ensuring the Bible is opened?



Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Other photos from my archives.

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The Calling Continues…

We are moving from one call to another! A call as in…

Call   \kawl\   v.  (but sometimes n.)
As a verb (in our usage): to ask or to invite; as a noun: a message.

In our last Rotation Samuel anointed David, signifying David’s “calling” as Israel’s next king. We didn’t identify it as a calling per say, but sure enough, it was one. It was also a message from God to David.

God texts David

The Bible doesn’t tell us but we can imagine that David and his family were surprised at this invitation.

As equally surprised as the fishermen that Jesus invited — called — to be his disciples; a lot of years later.

As I said, moving from one call to another!

Our next calling story is about Jesus calling his disciples. Read about it in Matthew 4:18-22, 9:9 and in Mark 3:13-19.

From the Brooklyn Museum - The Calling of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew by James Tissot
        A painting by James Tissot, “The Calling of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew”

Join us on Saturday nights and on Sunday mornings at FUMC our Cool Disciples experience Rotation Model Christian education, as they learn about Bible stories and concepts through kid-friendly multimedia workshops. And view a growing list of opportunities to foster faith learning at home for this month’s story.

For Saturdays at the Green Wood location, here is the schedule…

Date Workshop Activity
10/4 Enjoy worship with your family
10/11 Art Workshop Use the Japanese process of Gyotaku – fish printing – to open discussion of Jesus calling fishermen as disciples.
10/18 Storytelling Workshop Hear a member share their story of being “called” to follow Jesus and what form that calling has taken.
10/25 Work on a service project for the Green Wood campus.
11/1 Cooking Workshop Make (and eat!) “fish-shaped” pizza.
11/8 Video Workshop Watch a video about the story.
11/15 Children will assist in worship!

And on Sundays, at the downtown location.

Date Our workshops for 1st through 5th graders…
10/5 Enjoy worship and Communion with your family
Cooking Storytelling Video Art
Social Hall Asbury Room
Except on 10/26
Room 215 Room 212
10/12 5th grade 1st & 2nd grade 3rd grade 4th grade
10/19 1st & 2nd grade 3rd grade 4th grade 5th grade
10/26 3rd grade 4th grade
in Room 204
5th grade 1st & 2nd grade
11/2 Enjoy worship and Communion with your family
11/9 4th grade 5th grade 1st & 2nd grade 3rd grade
11/16 Enjoy worship – kids will participate!

And the 6th graders… (All workshops will be in the Pine Room)

10/5 10/12 10/19 10/26 11/2 11/9 11/16
No workshop
Attend worship
Cooking Art Storytelling Workshop No workshop
Attend worship
Serve in the 3-5 year old classes. Participate in worship!

What’s happening in each workshop?

  • In the Cooking Workshop students will make (and eat!) “fish-shaped” pizza to recall the significance of fishing in the calling of the disciples.
  • In the Storytelling Workshop students will hear congregation member share their story of being “called” to follow Jesus. They’ll learn that “calling” takes many forms!
  • In the Art Workshop students will use the Japanese process of Gyotaku – fish printing – to open discussion of Jesus calling disciples. View the slideshow of completed prints!
  • In the Video Workshop students will watch portions of the live-action video The Visual Bible: Matthew and play a game to spark discussion about ways we are disciples of Jesus.

If you are in the area please join us for the fun learning at First United Methodist Church in Ann Arbor, MI.



Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
The Calling of Peter and Andrew by James Tissot, in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons. Text message created from speech bubbles also in the Public Domain, via wpclipart.com.

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God chose David; God chooses you

“He is the one.”

Samuel distinctly heard God say the words. In a flourish, Samuel uncorked the animal horn; the one he had so carefully carried all the way to Bethlehem; the horn that held the olive oil. Not for cooking! No, this oil would be used in a sacred ceremony.

We are not told what words accompanied the pouring of oil on David’s head, but we do know the significance of this action: this “anointing” signified assignment of a special task. David had been chosen by God to be the next king of Israel!

David is anointed by Samuel

What do you suppose the family dinner table conversation sounded like that night? It could have gone something like this…

An open quote
Jesse (David’s father): … I was very surprised at how it all turned out!
Eliab (Jesse’s oldest son): I realize that it was God doing the choosing and all, but it was unnerving! As we all approached, Samuel kept muttering, “The Lord hasn’t chosen him…”
Jesse: Please pass the bread.
Abinadab (Jesse’s 2nd son): All seven of us…one by one… nixed!
Shammah (Jesse’s 3rd son): When Samuel asked you, “Are there any others?” I thought to myself, “what does he mean? All of us kingly-handsome, nice-and-strong sons are right in front of you!”
A closed quote

David was an unlikely candidate for king. He was a downright surprise candidate! After all, boy-David — who was probably 10 to 15 years old — hadn’t even been initially invited to visit with the prophet Samuel. Nope; small-fry-David was sent to tend sheep.

So why did God choose David?

Because God looks at the inside character of people. (See 1 Samuel 16:7c)
And God liked what he saw.

God decided that David was a man after God’s own heart.

A man after God’s own heart? What’s that mean?

Let’s back up in our Rotation Bible story. We know that God was in search of a replacement for Israel’s current king, Saul. Saul had started off as an okay king, but then he turned away from God. The prophet Samuel reported on the consequences for Saul:

You have not kept the Lord’s commands. Your kingly rule is falling to pieces. God is out looking for your replacement; he is looking for someone after his own heart.

(Translation of 1 Samuel 13:14).

Of course “heart” in this case doesn’t mean the organ that pumps our blood. (You might know this but what about the youngsters around you? Explain it as: The Bible uses “heart” meaning our inner thoughts and feelings; the part of us where we wrestle with life, where we check it out inside.)

God was looking for someone who had a “heart” just like his!

Someone who…

  • cares about the same stuff that God cherishes;
  • is humble; empties themselves so they are not focused on their own plans & agenda;
  • admits to their wrongs and keeps on turning to God for forgiveness, for guidance and for help.

And do you know what?

God believes that this describes your heart!

God thinks of you as someone who has potential! As someone who displays admirable inside character. You are the one! Chosen by God!

You are a person after God’s own heart.

Who? Me?
Yes you! We do not have to be “perfect” to be chosen by God. David was far from perfect! (Refer to 2 Samuel 11:2-4, 14-17.) God values each one of us because we were created by him. God sees good qualities and possibilities in each one of us; each person is important to God!

So what does it mean to be a person after God’s own heart?

Hard work! God gives us a choice. We can choose to work at living up to the way God sees us, or we can ignore God and make a go of it all on our own.

What you can do?

  • Talk with your kids about how hard this can be in the midst of today’s societal pressures. Living a Christ-like life means we often have to go against the ways of society. (Good news: God has given us the Holy Spirit to help us attain this; to follow the example of Christ.)
  • Role-play situations where this choice may be exhibited: Standing up to a bully; noticing someone cheating; observing someone doing good. (Yes, practice affirming the positive!)
  • Over time we come to believe the words we say to ourselves. Fill your child’s mind with affirmations by regularly blessing them.

God looks at our heart, our motivations, and desires, at who we are on the inside. He chooses you! How will you respond?



Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
David is Anointed from an unknown publisher of Bible Cards, Date=early 1900′s; in the Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Open and closed quote marks by Dustwin, in the Public Domain.

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