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.)