I love a parade, don’t you?

It’s Lent!
Rather than giving something up, how about adding daily family faith discussion.
Make it your Lenten investment!

Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey on what we now call Palm Sunday

If you are doing a Rotation on the events of Holy Week, you are covering a lot of scripture! So this post will be the start of several which will provide mini reading plans for small portions of each story in the “Events of Holy Week.”. Included are discussion questions for use around the family dinner table. (Or wherever your family is gathered together—perhaps in the car on the way to soccer practice?) Use the chart below to read and talk about this portion of our story… in stages… over the course of several days.

First up: What we now call Palm Sunday!

If you’d like to print out this reading plan/discussion guide, click here.

Read Talk about or do…
Matthew 21:7-9 This is like a parade! Describe a parade you’d like to be in.
What town is Jesus entering? (Jerusalem)
Why is this first event in Holy Week called “Palm Sunday?” How do you plan to celebrate Palm Sunday?
Matthew 21:8-9 Imagine the excitement! Does the Bible you are using have a footnote that explains the meaning of the word “Hosanna?”
In Hebrew Hosanna means “save us now,” although over time it had come to be an exclamation of praise. What words do you shout when you are excited and full of appreciation? Shout some worshipful words!
Mark 11:1-6 Take a look at a Bible map (here’s one). Find Jerusalem, Bethany, and Bethphage. Jesus and his disciples walked everywhere. How far did they walk between those towns? What is the furthest you’ve ever walked?
Luke 19:28-34 What would you think if someone asked you to do what Jesus asked? Would you wonder how you’d ever find this colt? Would you be afraid of being accused of stealing?! Would you be anxious to see Jesus riding a never-been-ridden-before, animal? I wonder why Jesus felt that these details were important?
Matthew 21:1-5 Does the Bible you are using help you to discover which prophet said these words? (Hint: Look at Zechariah 9:9)
What sort of king were the people expecting?
+++++A) a riding-on-a-giant-horse, ’m-going-to-whip-everybody-into-shape sort of a king OR
+++++B) a gentle-loving riding-on-a-donkey king?
What sort of king did Jesus turn out to be?
Matthew 21:10,11 Obviously not everyone knew about Jesus! The people had been waiting for hundreds of years for the Messiah! Look up the word “Messiah” in a he dictionary (there is usually one in the back of a Bible).
Matt 21:8,9
Mark 11:8-10
Luke 19:36-38
John 12:12-16
What differences do you notice between these four accounts of this story?

Why do you suppose these differences exist?

What do you make of John’s reference to looking back on this story after Jesus’ resurrection?

How does it feel to add faith talk for Lent?

Photo credits:
Sunday, originally posted by Waiting For The Word on Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

How to read a long story – a little at a time

Gleaning by Arthur Hughes Pose this question at the family dinner table. (Or wherever your family is gathered together.) True or false: Dumpster-diving was practiced during Bible times.

Want to find out? Read our scripture together as a family. Since it’s a long story, use the following plan to read and talk about our story in stages, over the course of several days. Read a passage and then discuss the question(s) or do the activities. (Scroll down for suggestions on reviewing this story with preschoolers.)


Read in Ruth Readers notes Talk about or do…
Chp 1, verses 1-2 written as 1:1-2 Elimelek (or spelled, Elimeleck) is
pronounced: ee-LIM-eh-lek. Mahlon => MAH-luhn. Ephrathite => EF-ruh-tight.
What is a famine? Where have we heard of Bethlehem before? Find Bethlehem and Moab on a map (look here). How long do you suppose it took to travel there?
1:1-5 Orpah => OR-puh.
The Moabites and the Israelites were enemies! In fact the Israelites had strict laws forbidding these foreigners from participating in the Israelite community (Deuteronomy 23:3).
What is an “unusual” place you’d like to visit? Why does Moab seem like a strange choice as a place for an Israelite to go?

Naomi has bad news! What do you suppose life was like for women back in Bible times?

1:6-18 In a patriarchal society, where women did not have access to jobs, widows were completely dependent upon men – either a grown son, or another husband (if they were able to remarry).
Choices, choices! Which choice would you make: Go with Naomi or go back to “safety?” What could have made Ruth decide to follow Naomi’s God? Why do you suppose Ruth was so devoted to Naomi? Where do you suppose this loyalty come from? Who is someone to whom you are loyal?
1:16-18 Verse 16b, c is our key Bible verse for this Rotation. The “b, c” means the second and third portions of verse 16. Why does this seem like such an extreme promise for Ruth to make? What promises have you made lately? Any this radical?
1:19-21 Mara is pronounced: MAY-ruh.
The meaning of names was important in Bible times. Naomi meant “pleasant;” Mara meant “bitter.”
How is Naomi feeling? She is hurting! She is moaning about her situation! She is doing what is called “lamenting!” Read together the classic Psalm of lament: Psalm 13:1-2. When have you lamented? Do you suppose that a little bit of lamenting is okay every now and then?
1:22-2:13 Elimelek => ee-LIM-eh-lek. Boaz => BO-az.
For the laws which set up gleaning, read: Leviticus 19:10; 23:22
What does “gleaning” mean? (It was like welfare for the poor.) What sorts of programs do we have today to help people get food? Make a plan to attend FiSH Fri Service Night.
2:14-23 Israelite law required all farmers to leave dropped grain (or other crops) in the fields for the disadvantaged to glean, however it was the landowner who determined the generosity of the gleanings! In verse 20, what word is used to describe Boaz’s relationship to Naomi’s family? A close relative? Nearest kin? Guardian-redeemer? Who do you have in your family who takes care of you?
Is Naomi still lamenting? What has caused her attitude to change? Count all the ways Boaz showed kindness to Ruth.
3:1-18 According to Israelite laws, the nearest blood relative (a “kinsman redeemer”) was to marry a widow to continue the family line. Naomi is setting up a plan to implement this process. Which verses tell you that Boaz is an honorable man? How are things looking for Ruth and Naomi? Why do these demonstrations of loyalty seem counter to the Israelite-Moabite prejudice?
4:1-10 Is this a coincidence that Ruth finds her way to Boaz’s fields, or is it God’s grand plan to bless the life of Ruth and Naomi through Boaz? (Methodists say that God works inside of people, to transform them, and others around them.) What did you think of the handing over of the sandal? In what way do you seal promises?
Remember Ruth’s lavish pledge to Naomi? (1:16b, c) What do you suppose Ruth thinks of her promise now that Boaz is going to take care of her? Do you suppose that Ruth gave thanks to God? From this story, what does God teach us about caring for others?
4:13-22 You may wish to take care in how you read verse 13. What is the significance of the family tree? (King David was their descendant!) David had a great great great… (many greats)… grandson whom we talk about a lot, and who was born in Bethlehem just like Obed; who was it? (Jesus!) What would have happened with Jesus if Ruth hadn’t gone with Naomi?

a blue line

Reading and talking about the story for younger children:

Here are several versions of the story:

The cover of The Little One's Bible The Little One’s Bible

This Bible storybook has appropriate questions on each page.

The cover of The Beginner's Bible The Beginner’s Bible

Show a map and point out Judah. Identify Moab as the place where Ruth and Naomi were.
At the end of this story, add in the part about Obed being the grandfather of King David and about David being the ancestor of Jesus. Draw your family tree.

From a Jelly Telly video on Ruth A video by Jelly Telly (What’s in the Bible?): Ruth

What’s in the Bible: popsicle stick puppets – Ruth (If reading this in an email, you can watch this video on YouTube.)

a blue line

Photo credits:
Gleaning, a painting by Arthur Hughes is in the Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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More family talk on Esther (part 2 of a reading plan)

Our current Rotation story covers several chapters in Esther. Start with part one of our reading plan (covering chapters 1 – 3 in Esther) breaking the story into manageable chunks so that you can review it a little bit over several days. And here is part two, covering Esther, chapters 4 – 10.

Start off your discussion time by asking family members to tell the story up to where you last left off. Why not use a fun way to do this! Watch the first part of our story in this video. (If you are reading this in an email click here to view the video.)

Or use one of these ways to retell the story:

  • Begin the story with one sentence such as “Our story starts off with King Xerxes having a big party.” Let each person add one line to the story until you are caught up on the story.
  • Pictionary style: Take turns drawing parts of the story (and guessing what is being drawn!) Then put the pictures in story order.
  • Tell the story with inaccuracies and let them correct you — especially fun for the younger ones!

Note: Some portions of our story are rather graphic, especially for younger kids. For example, people are hanged or impaled on poles, depending on which version of the Bible you are reading. To be on the safe side, ahead of your family reading time, plan to skim a passage to check out what you may need to adjust in your reading.

Read in Esther Talk about or do…
4:1-7 What is sackcloth? (A definition). Can you imagine sitting on a heap of ashes? What do you suppose the advantage is of such public display of sorrow? How do you show sadness? Discuss other outward signs of inward conditions? Adults: You’ve heard it said that we need to help our children name their emotions but what about naming our own emotions? Do you ever do that? I’ve learned it’s important to say to myself: Right now, I am doing _____ (frustration or depression or whatever), now what can I do?
4:8-11 Does your child’s classroom ever use “talking sticks?” Why does it appear to work?
Name an instance when you feel “unsafe” talking. For me it was speaking up in class as a child! Oh, if I could have imagined someone holding out a gold scepter as a sign of my acceptance! What “gold scepters” do we need to display to others?
4:8-14 What is Mordecai’s challenge to Esther? Esther was in a pickle. If she went to the king, she could be killed. If she did nothing, her people would be wiped out. Name a stuck sort of situation you once found yourself in, where no matter what you did seemed like trouble.
Focus on the later portion of verse 14: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Sometimes the stories of our lives don’t make much sense. Can you imagine a “such a time as this” situation as an opportunity to serve God? Has such a situation ever occurred? (Adults: This is important sharing time!) How can you remember to think of each “right where you are this minute” situation, as to how you can possibly be Jesus to someone else?
4:15-17 What is a “fast?” (Refraining from eating food.) Esther’s calling for a fast, was essentially asking all of the Jews to pray for her. Name some situations where prayer has helped you do something hard. How is it helpful to know that others are praying for you?
God used an ordinary woman named Esther to save his people (who happened to be Jesus’ ancestors!) Do you suppose that God could use you to do something special? How does it change your life to know that God has something special planned for you to do?
chapter 5 Whew! King Xerxes held out his scepter to Esther! Esther chose to have faith in God and to take her chance at approaching the King. Discuss the athletic shoe company’s campaign to: “Just Do It.” How does such a saying apply to this story? Are the happenings in this story, and in our lives, coincidences or the special workings of God? (Room for lots of debate!)?
chp 6 Ah, the book of records comes into play! Who did Haman think that the king was talking about when he asked, “What should I do…?” How did this make Haman feel to have to do all of these lavish things for Mordecai? (verse 12) How can thinking of ourselves as better than others, get us into trouble? What is one thing you can do to help you amend this sort of character trait in yourself?
chp 7 This is a good time to play a game or two of “Hangman” using names or phrases from the story. For older children: How can you seek justice in a situation where you currently see injustice? What can you do if justice is not served?
chp 8 God provides not only for Esther and Mordecai, but for all of the Jewish people. How do the people respond? (They rejoice!) In what ways can our response to God be rejoicing? Have you ever thought of going into worship with an attitude of rejoicing?
9:20-10:3 (Note to adults: skipping all of the killing!) What is something that your family can commemorate and celebrate (beyond the typical birthday and graduation)? How about the day you were baptized? Or is there something that God has done for you that you would like to remember? What are some ways you could celebrate it?

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A reading plan for the book of Esther, part one

Have you thought about this…

Your home is the primary learning lab for your child’s faith growth.

That’s right. In your home.

Not what they get at church once a week.
Not what they get from Vacation Bible Camp once a year.
(Though those things certainly can help.)

At home.

A boy at the dinner tableBut, have no fear! Why not use the following “reading plan” to lead your family to deeply discuss our current Rotation story, which winds it’s way through several chapters in the Old Testament book of Esther.

Read (and talk about!) our story over several days. Try it at the family dinner table or wherever your family gathers together with a few spare moments.

This reading plan needs some map work. As a kid, I loved maps! Don’t be too quick to point out places on a map. Let kids work at finding them. This looking helps cement concepts in their brain! (Such as how far it was from Susa to Jerusalem.)

Middle East Map

Read in Esther Talk about or do…
1:1-2 (chapter one, verses one and two) Do some map sleuthing. Start with a map of the world. See if they can find Michigan! Name an African country for them to find. (How about Kenya! A bunch of folks from our church will be headed there soon.) Have them find Egypt and Israel. (Clicking on a country brings up a map of that country.) Now go to this map and note the outlines of the Persian Empire. Where was the home base of King Xerxes? (verse 2). Find Susa on the map above. Bonus points: Today what country was Susa in? (Check back with the world map).
1:1-8 King Xerxes (what a fun sounding name! It’s pronounced: Zurk-seez) gave some parties! How long was one of his galas? (verse 4) What’s the longest “party” you’ve ever attended? I’m putting the word party in quotes because perhaps it’s time for the adults to tell the kids about that days long event they’ve attended in the past. What about Art Fair in Ann Arbor – that counts as a party of sorts. Have you ever been to Art Fair more than one day in a row? It’s time to tell stories about special events!
1:9-22 This queen’s name is pronounced: VASH-tee. What did Vashti do that got her banished from the kingdom? What do you think of the kings advisor’s reasoning? Do you think Queen Vashti’s action was insulting to everyone? Discuss how roles in families have changed!
2:1-10 [Adults: Read this chapter ahead of time to plan to use substitutions for some words.] Here’s another character with a strange sounding name: Mordecai is pronounced: mor-di-KI. Why do you suppose Esther hadn’t told anyone about her family origin? Look back at the map above. The homeland of Esther and Mordecai’s Jewish family was where Israel is today. (Find Jerusalem on the map.) Do you know how Jewish people ended up in Susa? (Read about the exile.)
2:11-18 How do you suppose Esther felt about being removed from her home with no choice in the matter? How do you suppose she felt about a year’s worth of “beauty care?” About winning this beauty contest? Everyone seems captivated by Esther’s beauty, but beauty, all by itself, doesn’t cause people to like you! It also takes… what? (your character and your actions!) Do you see yourself as a “beautiful” person? (God does!)
2:19-23 [Adults: Be prepared to perhaps change the wording used in this passage.] What plot did Mordecai stop? Why do you suppose it is significant that this event was recorded in “The Book of the History of King Xerxes’ Reign?” Does anything ever happen that you wish could be written down so that you could refer to it later? Just for fun, try writing down the events of one day.
3:1-6 What behavior made Haman so angry? As second-in-command to King Xerxes, Haman held a rank that required everyone to bow down to him. Does the story tell us why Mordecai wouldn’t bow down to Haman? (Not really!) We know that because Mordecai was a Jew who only bowed before God, he would have refused to bow down to Haman. How does this sort of loyalty make you feel? Is there anyone (or anything) in your life that asks you bow down to it? Bonus question: Which of the Ten Commandments was Mordecai following?
3:7-15 What does it mean to “cast lots?” (basically, to roll dice!) How did Haman surreptitiously persuade King Xerxes to issue an edict condemning the Jews in the entire Persian Empire? Check the map of Xerxes’ empire. Compare that to the map above to discover what Jewish homeland would have been included in this order-of-death decree. (Jerusalem!)

Stay tuned. More to come!

Photo credits: Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
At the supper table by Eric Peacock, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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How to promote pondering?

Tonight, at the dinner table, “noodle around” and ruminate. Reap the benefits!

A young boy says sarcastically: my day was fine

Does this sound like conversation in your household?

You: How was school today?

Child: Fine.

You: What did you learn?

Child: Nothing.

Sometimes it can feel like pulling teeth!

Try turning your inquiries into a dinner table game.

Open quote mark Tell me two things that really happened today and one thing that didn’t happen, and I’ll try to guess which ones are true!

This suggestion comes from a book by Drs. Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, The Whole Brain Child: 12 Proven Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. ← (That is the link to the Ann Arbor District Library’s copy of the book.) Now, admittedly this line of questioning probably won’t go over well with older kids — for them try asking for a “true” opinion and a “false” opinion they hold on some newsworthy subject.

Regardless of the discussion topic there is benefit to this inquiring tactic — besides revealing your child’s activities, or learning how they feel about life — kids unwittingly receive practice in pondering.

What is so important about honing reflection skills?

Asking children to dig back into their memory is known by educators as essential to moving learning to long-term storage. Reflection has been described as the “mind’s strongest glue.” [1]

So promote some pondering! Let’s continue to mull over the events of Holy Week. Use the chart below to read and talk about the next portion of our story.

If you’d like to print out this reading plan/discussion guide, click here.
Or, check out the other mini reading plans for our Rotation on the events of Holy Week here. If your kids aren’t clear about the order of the events of Holy Week, start at the beginning.)

Read Talk about or do…
Matthew 26:36-39 What are Jesus’ feelings? If you were facing some sort of crisis, what three friends would you ask to be with you?
Bonus Q: Who were the two sons of Zebedee? Hint: Luke 5:10-11.
Mark 14:32-26 Tell about a time when you knew what was coming up; you knew what you were up against. Did you follow through? What is Jesus asking of God? What does he mean by “the cup?” (He’d like a way to avoid the cross!) What model does this give us as to how we should approach God?
Matthew 26:39-41 Why do you suppose the disciples fell asleep? What is another way to say, “my spirit was willing but my body was weak?” (I knew what the best thing to do was, but…) Name an instance when this happened to you.
Luke 22:41-45 Jesus is being very honest with God. What is something that you’d like to admit to God but are afraid to do so? Luke is the only gospel which includes the angel helping out Jesus and Jesus sweating blood. Do you suppose that Luke being a doctor had anything to do with the latter inclusion? (It has a medical name: Hematidrosis. Research this on the internet.)
Matthew 26:44-47 Do you suppose Jesus felt let down by his disciples? When is a time when someone let you down? Tell about a time when you may have let Jesus down.
Mark 14:43-46 What do you suppose is going through Judas’ mind? Who were these “chief priests” and why were they interested in arresting Jesus? (Review who they are here. Review why they are out to get Jesus by reading one example at Matthew 12:9-14.)
Luke 22:49-51 Why do you suppose Jesus’ followers were so quick to bare their swords? (and also seemingly quick to fall asleep!) What would you have done? How do you suppose the guards felt when they saw Jesus heal the man’s ear? Do you suppose they wondering: are we arresting the right guy?
Matthew 26:47-56 Explore the differences in the way the gospel writers tell this portion of the story — in Mark 14:43-50, and in Luke 22:47-53. The disciples go from sleeping on the job, to wielding swords, to running away. What about this surprises you? How would you have reacted to these events?
How do you value and encourage pondering in your family?


[1] Kate Charner-Laird, Sarah Fiarman, Frederick Won Park, and Sylvia Soderberg, Cultivating Student Reflection: A Step-by-Step Guide to Fostering Critical Thinking in Young Children, Issue 6 (Dorchester, MA: Project for School Innovation, 2003).

Photo credits:
Pouting child, by Sergio Vassio Photography, licensed on Flickr under a Creative Commons License. (Picture was cropped and text added by me.)

The strangest things can happen around your table

What happens around your family dinner table?

a very messy eatera boy eating at a table

  • Food is served (and sometimes eaten).
  • Conversation unfolds.
  • Stories are told.
  • Things get messy.
  • Games are played.
  • Bread is broken.
  • Memories are made.

Here’s a table where I’m sure this happened…

Last Supper, 1896 work by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret
Jesus and his disciples share the Last Supper

Well, okay. They probably didn’t play any games.
(But don’t that that stop you! See here for suggestions of games to play at the dinner table.)

What happens around your dinner table?
Are questions expressed, discussion encouraged, and disciples of Jesus cultivated?

Why not start today? Use this mini reading plan with discussion questions.

If you’d like to print out this reading plan/discussion guide, click here.
(Check out the other mini reading plans for our Rotation on the events of Holy Week here. If your kids aren’t clear about the order of the events of Holy Week, start at the beginning.)

Read Talk about or do…
Luke 22:7-15 What is your favorite mealtime gathering? What sort of preparations are required? What is served at this meal? Why do you enjoy it?
Why do you suppose Jesus “earnestly” wanted to share this meal with his disciples?
Mark 14:12-16 What is the Festival of Unleavened Bread? What is the Passover lamb? (Hint: look at Exodus 12:1-14.)
How likely do you think it would be for the disciples to find a man carrying a jug of water? (Remember this is back in Jesus’ time when water retrieving was strictly women’s work.) There seems to be a bit of secrecy to this planning. Why do you suppose that was needed? (Remember what sort of danger was Jesus in.)
Describe the details about how you would plan a secret location for a party.
John 13:1-5 Name the worst clean-up task that you can imagine. (Perhaps cleaning up after a sick puppy or washing the kitchen floor after a mishap involving a dozen raw eggs?)
Why do you suppose the disciples feet needed washing? (Hint: think about their footwear and the roads in those days.)
John 13:1-11 Why do you suppose Peter didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet? Would you want your teacher at school to wash your feet? Name someone whom you’d never want to wash your feet. Why not?
What do Peter’s feelings tell us about his relationship to Jesus?
John 13:12-17 How is washing someone’s feet an act of service? What do you suppose Jesus meant by saying that his disciples should wash other people’s feet? Did he mean literally??
Get out a small basin, some soap and a towel. Put some warm water into the basin and wash each others feet. What are you thinking as your feet are bathed?
John 13:14-15 We know what will happen to Jesus. We know how Judas will betray him, and Peter will deny him. Yet Jesus washes both Judas and Peter’s feet! Think about an act of service that you would struggle to do for someone, if you knew they were going to be mean to you in the future.
Name some acts of service we can do for others. Are these hard or easy to do?
Matthew 26:20-25 What reaction do the disciples have when Jesus drops this “bomb?” How would you have reacted?
The Bible doesn’t tell us why Judas snitched on Jesus. Some theorize that he wanted the money (John 12:4-6). Others propose that Judas was hoping that Jesus’ arrest would prompt Jesus to act more like the warrior king that the Jews had been expecting. (Or as one person has said: “Maybe Judas was throwing Jesus into the deep end of the pool, hoping he’d swim.” Quote source Have you ever wished that God would move a little faster in his plans for you? Have you ever betrayed someone’s trust? Can you describe why you did this?
Luke 22:19-20 What elements of a traditional Passover meal did Jesus turn around and give new meaning to? What is Jesus asking his disciples to do? What is he asking us to do? (Hint: reread Luke 22:19.) What are we suppose to remember – the way Jesus shared the bread and cup or what meaning it has? What meaning does it have?
Matthew 26:26-28 Do you suppose the disciples understood what Jesus was saying about his body and his blood? Would you have understood if you’d been there? How would you have felt when Jesus passed around the bread and the cup?
Matt 26:26-29
Mark 14:22-25
Luke 22:19-20
What similarities do you notice between these three accounts of this story? What differences exist? What do you think of Luke’s additional words about why we should repeat this act? (“Do this in memory of me.” When do we hear those words in church? (at Communion!)

Are memories being made around your table?

Photo credits:
At the table, by kate hiscock and a messy eater, by Matt Preston, both licensed on Flickr under a Creative Commons License. (No changes were made.)
Last Supper, an 1896 work by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Bothered & Bewildered: Stuck in a playpen?

The book Bothered & Bewildered by Ann Morisy“Bothered and Bewildered” — that’s the sermon series for Lent this year (2014) at FUMC. The idea for this theme came from the writings of Ann Morisy. That is one of her books over on the left: Bothered & Bewildered: Enacting Hope in Troubled Times.

Ann guest-lectured this past weekend in Ann Arbor. In one of her three talks, Ann spoke about bringing hope to those who are troubled and anxious — to those in a bothered and bewildered state.

Ah, that would be me.

I’ll admit – I’m often dazed and downright dizzy, and in the in midst of an overloaded life, I’m wondering, who me? A child of God? And why am I here?

What about you? Ever feel that way?

I’m thinking that a generous dose of uncertainty also applies to our current Rotation on the events of Holy Week. Some of the characters in our story were definitely a bit baffled.

  • Why did Jesus overturn the tables in the Temple? (Matthew 21:12-13).
  • What was Jesus talking about – “the Son of Man will be handed over…” (Matt 26:2).
  • And what brought Judas to snitch on his teacher?! (Matt 26:14-16).

Yes, I’d say that the portion of our story covered in this week’s mini reading plan (below), includes people who are troubled and anxious.

Can we relate?

To continue a previously started trend, let’s explore the concept of people bothered and bewildered during that first Holy Week. People, not unlike us, who (to borrow another Ann Morisy viewpoint) fear stepping outside of the playpen.

a child chews on the edge of a playpen

Do playpens even get used any more?

Those places where we placed a small child to keep them out of harms way while we were otherwise occupied? Keep the thought of a playpen — a safe place — in mind as you use this mini reading plan with discussion questions around the family dinner table. Or wherever your family (or your friends!) gather together. Use the chart below to read and talk about this particular portion of our story… in stages… over the coming weeks. Or print it out.

(Check out the start of the mini reading plans here.)

Read Talk about or do…
A bit of a review: Why is the crowd all worked up; who is coming into town?
Why were they shouting words of praise – Hosanna!?
What sort of king did they expect Jesus would be? What hint should they have taken from Jesus’ choice of a mode of transportation?
How do you suppose the sight of this parade makes the people think: perhaps it would be safe to leave our playpens?
Why do you suppose Jesus turned things upside down in the Temple?
Imagine you were a money-changer in the Temple; what would you have thought? Imagine that you are someone who needed to buy a dove to offer as a sacrifice in the Temple. How do you feel being turned away? (Sorry there are no doves; that man let them all loose when he was overturning tables.)
What about this event bothers you? What questions do you have? If you were there would you feel like you were in need of a playpen of safety and security, or a playpen full of challenges? What do you suppose Jesus is trying to tell us about prayer and worship?
Why do you suppose the chief priests and the teachers of the law were so upset about kids making noise in the Temple? This is just one example of how they seemed to always butt heads with Jesus. Jesus came to earth to help put the world right again, but he used ways that were different than what people expected. What way do you suppose a “take-charge” type of king would have used in this instance to right the unfair practices at the Temple?
A review: What did the festival of Passover celebrate? (Hint: look at Exodus 12:1-14.) What does the word “crucified” mean? (killed on a cross) Why did Jesus allow himself to be killed (he could have run away)? (It’s okay if you don’t have a definitive answer to this question. Discuss it anyway!)
What festival were the religious leaders talking about? (Hint: look in verse 2.) What sort of playpen were they setting up for themselves to avoid a backlash of protest from “the people”? Why do you suppose they were worried about what others thought?
Which disciple tattled on Jesus? (Judas Iscariot)
What was the bad plan that Judas made? Have you ever made a “bad plan”? What happened? Was forgiveness necessary? Do you suppose that Jesus forgave Judas?
What sort of playpen would you retreat to if you made a really bad plan? Or would you think to choose to run to Jesus instead?

Are you ready to continue with the next in our series of mini-reading/discussion plans?


Photo credits:
Youngster in a playpen by Ross Belmont, licensed under Creative Commons BY NC-SA 2.0

Take time to travel through the story

A public domain image: Abram Called to be a Blessing
(In Canaan) the Lord appeared to Abram and promised:
“I will give this land to your family forever.”
Abram then built an altar there for the Lord.
(Genesis 12:7)

The story of Abraham and Sarah winds it’s way through several chapters in Genesis, so here is a reading plan that breaks it down into manageable chunks. Print out this plan and over the course of several days (weeks!), have your family read the story together. Included are activities and questions to go with each reading!

a girl readingIf you’d like to print out this reading plan/discussion guide, click here.

Read in Genesis Talk about or do…
12:1 If God called you to suddenly move to a not-named spot, would it be an adventure, or something to avoid? Would you go? What would you pack?
12:1-5 Abram faithfully goes! He doesn’t know where he is headed! (The Bible can look in hindsight and tell us that he went to a land called Canaan.) Someone’s actions reveal their character. What type of person is Abram? What would you like your actions to reveal about you?
12:1,4 Have each person take a turn at being led while blindfolded. Talk about how this felt. (Trust was required!) How is our walk with God sort of like a blind faith walk?
12:4-7 Hey, wait a minute! But God said he’d give Abram this land and yet the Canaanites seem to have gotten there first. Yet what does Abram do? (Hint: 12:7 – he hears a repeated promise of land & builds an altar to worship God.) Name a time when your expectations didn’t meet what happened. How did you react?
11:31, 12:1 See if you can find on a map, all the places where Abram went. (Try this one.) Can you figure out how far Abram and Sarai traveled? What is the longest trip you’ve ever taken?
12:1-3 What does it mean to be blessed? (Ans: that you’ve received something good.) What does it mean to be a blessing? As Thanksgiving approaches, collect a list of your blessings. Everyone write or draw a blessing. Place them in your box you made in the Art Workshop! (or save them up if you haven’t visited Art yet.)
12:1-7 God has both made commands and promises to Abram. What has God asked Abram to do? What are his promises? Why does the promise to make Abram into a great nation (which requires lots of offspring) seem like a farfetched dream? (Hint: 11:30) What outrageous promises have you received?
13:14b-18 God is reminding Abram of the promises he has made. Abram used altars he built out of rocks to remind himself of encounters with God. Go on a walk and gather a few stones. Take them home & build a table-sized “altar.” Periodically restack the stones. Remember God is always with you.
15:1-7 Abram doesn’t bottle up his feelings! He tells God about his doubts. When have you doubted God? (It is okay to share your doubts with God!) What reminders of his promises has God given you?
15:5 Plan a star gazing night. What do the number of stars represent for you?
15:18a, 17:1-4 What is a covenant? (Look up the definition in your Bible dictionary.) A covenant is like a special agreement including a promise. What examples of covenants (special promises) can you think of? Write a family covenant that everyone can participate in. Bonus Q: What does the little “a” mean, after the 18?
17:1-9 How old is Abram? (99!) Look back at 12:4 to see how old Abram was when our story started. How many years has Abram waited for God’s promises? Why do you suppose God waited so long to fulfill the promise of a son? What can we discover in waiting for God’s promises?
17:3-5, 15 Caregivers: provide the story of how your child’s name was chosen. If you could change your name, what would you change it to? What if your name change signified a change in relationship with God?
17:7-9 What does God mean when he says that this is an “everlasting covenant?” What does this mean for us? Hint: check out 17:7 (it’s our key Bible verse). Develop a family cheer using the words: “God is our God!”
18:1-15 Who are these three visitors? What do you make of the way Abraham treats them? How do you treat visitors?
17:15-17, 18:10-15 Why do Abraham and Sarah laugh? Tell about a time you laughed at an inopportune time. Speculate about what makes God laugh.
21:1-3 What does this story teach you about God? What long-awaited event has brought you the most joy?
Bonus questions: How are Jacob & Esau related to Abraham? How about Joseph? Draw the family tree.

Photo credits: Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Abram worships God in thanks for God’s promises, by Providence Lithograph Company, circa 1906; in the Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.