Been in a shipwreck lately?

A beached shipwreck

Have you been in a shipwreck lately? I mean of course, a figurative shipwreck.

The kids are driving you bonkers… The car needs extensive repairs… Or someone you know received a dire diagnosis…

What can comfort you?

It can be hard, can’t it?

Kids can experience shipwrecks too.

A friend moves out of town… A new school is looming on the horizon… Or there is sibling strife…

What can comfort your kids?

Sure, you’ll be there to give them a hug when needed. But what will they use as comfort inside?

What sort of self-talk will get used, in a shipwreck when you’re not around?

A recent Bible story our kids encountered at Vacation Bible Camp was about Paul in a shipwreck; a literal shipwreck! Read the story in Acts 27. Paul received comfort from God, before, during and after his shipwreck.

Will our kids seek comfort from God in the midst of their shipwrecks?

We hope that they will, but it takes some practice.

God’s word is comforting.

Spend time teaching your children to search for comfort in God’s word – the Bible.

The key is to put God’s word into their long-term-readily-available-brain-storage. (Often known as “learning by heart.” Call it memorization if you must, but perhaps not in front of your kids!) Make this a regular (and fun) activity – at bed time or at dinner time or at breakfast… any time. Just make time.

Why not start with the Bible Buddies – those little plastic characters that the kids receive at VBC. Look at them closely. There’s a Bible verse printed on each one! Tuesday’s verse was:

Open quote markYour promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.

That’s from Psalm 119:50.
If that seems too complicated, try this version:

Open quote markWhen I am hurting, I find comfort in your promise.

What can you do to ensure that in your child’s shipwrecks, they turn to God?

a blue line

A heart with the word 'God' etched in itFor hints on ways to work at verse “memorization” see here and here and (updated) here!

Photo credits:
Shipwreck, by Katherine Hoppe, licensed on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
Heart clip art by rygle, who has waived rights and dedicated the work to the Public Domain.

Saul: The Before Snapshot

Our Sunday’s school Cool classes in April are studying Saul/Paul’s conversion: the story of one who traveled for the purpose of eradicating Christians… but ended up being changed into someone who ended up traveling to preach about Christ!

On the road from Jerusalem to Damascus, Saul became a new person.

So how can you help your children understand why this transformation of Saul is momentous?

It helps to look at the way Saul was before his switchover. And, it helps to compare Saul to a character your child may know.

Saul: The Before Picture

Saul was a Pharisee. Pharisees were a group of Jews who believed that a redemptive relationship with God could be achieved through strict obedience to the law. Their view of “the law” was two-fold: the written law and oral laws.

The “written law” included the Ten Commandments and other God-given laws described in the book of Exodus. The Pharisees also believed that Moses had received equally binding “oral laws.” It was felt that these oral commandments helped make the written law clearer and thus, easier to follow… but unfortunately, these oral laws often made it more difficult to be loyal to God.

How does this example sound: Many types of work, such as carrying a “burden,” were prohibited on the Sabbath (Jeremiah 17:21-22). The Pharisees felt that this written law needed further interpretation; just exactly what was a “burden?” Thus was born an oral law specifying that things such as money or trinkets were in fact burdens. (Better watch what you pick up!)

Some Pharisees got so caught up in the details of their man-made laws that they lost sight of the spirit of God’s law. It’s almost as if they forgot why they were following the laws in the first place!

Jesus had not condemned all Pharisees but he did frequently argue with those whom he called “hypocrites,” reprimanding their self-righteous behavior and their strict interpretations of the law. (A few examples: Matthew 12:1-12, Matthew 15:1-20 and Mark 7:1-13).

Who does Saul remind you of?

Saul was a particularly zealous Pharisee. He loved God and tried very hard to follow the Jewish law. But somewhere along the way, he became what we might call a fanatic.
A picture of Wile E. Coyote on a drinking glass

To help explain Saul’s “before” picture, choose a character from your child’s repertoire. Wile E. Coyote, of cartoon fame, reminds me of the before-Saul. How does Wile E. Coyote feel about the Roadrunner? (He wants to destroy him!) We could say that Wile E. Coyote is a fanatic; he is focused on getting the Roadrunner! Likewise, Saul was also a fanatic. He was focused on getting Christians and putting them in jail and sometimes, he even had Christians killed.

Once you’ve got a character that your child can compare to Saul, describe a turn-around in their behavior. Have fun and ask your children to think up transformational examples. Here’s one:

Saul’s transformation on the road to Damascus is like… Wile E. Coyote starting a “Rescue Roadrunners” Facebook group.

What words and characters help you explain the before snapshot of Saul to your kids?

Photo credits:
Wile E. Coyote by Adam Dale, who licensed this photo under: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

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Saul/Paul: noticed any changes lately?

a spring flowering treeSpring is a great time of year to talk about change! Every day brings new changes in God’s creation. Have you noticed buds ready to burst forth into blossoms? How about trees; yesterday they were just branched silhouettes! And doesn’t it seem like if you stood still, the grass would grow greener beneath your feet?

It is thus appropriate that discussing change is a part of our April 2010 Rotation (for our 1st – 6th graders at FUMC in Ann Arbor, MI). Our Bible story for this month comes from the New Testament book of Acts (in Acts 9:1-22).

We’ll be studying the revolutionary transformation that came about in a man known by two names: Saul and Paul. Saul’s life was turned around when he met Jesus.

stain glass windows depicting the conversion of Saul/Paul

Saul/Paul’s conversion is an event that is remarkable for its dramatic impact and profound results. Saul started off determined (and violent!) in his quest to squelch Christianity, which at the time, was beginning to spread. A meeting with the risen Messiah transformed him; he became a courageous, dogmatic advocate of Jesus as our Lord and Savior! (And a traveling missionary who braved ship wrecks, imprisonment, beatings, and death threats.)

Studying the change that occurred in Saul/Paul leads us to questions for ourselves:
  • What does the presence of Jesus in our lives look/feel like? Is it as obvious as a bright flash of light or subtler? What ways does God use to get your attention?
  • How does being in the presence of Christ change me?
  • Do we change just once, the initial time we meet Jesus or are we continually changed as our relationship with Jesus deepens?
  • How do we seek out this sort of change?
  • After Saul met the risen Jesus he was a changed man. His life was totally different. How do others know that I am a follower of Jesus? What in my life is evidence of it?

Just a few questions to get some discussion started in your family.

And be sure to catch church this weekend because… Rev. Gil Miller is set to preach on the story of Saul using Acts 9! His sermon is titled “Saintly Sinners.” I wonder what we'll learn?

Photo credits:
Flowering tree:
All licensed under: Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

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Saul/Paul’s Transformation – Workshop Schedule

During the school year, each Rotation for our Sunday’s Cool Disciples (what we call Sunday’s school for our 1st – 6th graders at FUMC in Ann Arbor, MI) includes six workshops.

In April 2010, we’ll be studying the story of the Transformation of Saul/Paul. Read this story in Acts 9:1-22. Here is the schedule for this Rotation…

{The schedule has been removed, as it is no longer applicable.}

What’s happening in each workshop?

  • In the Art Workshop kids start off talking about how transformations are happening at a rapid rate! Buds are becoming blossoms, tadpoles are changing into frog… and artists transform supplies into art. Use all of their creativity to transform ordinary clay.
  • In the Cooking Workshop they’ll discuss changes that can occur on our outsides and on our insides. Then they’ll change ordinary ingredients into a tasty surprise snack.
  • In the Drama workshop hear about how Saul/Paul was changed on the inside by Jesus. He looked the same but believed and behaved in different ways. Enact a conversion story.
  • In the Games workshop we’ll play a quiz game to see how much of the story they know. Get ready to be the first to ring the bell! We’ll be running two games workshops each week – one for older kids, and one for younger kids. (Exception: on the 11th we’re expecting a lower enrollment with everyone out on break.)
  • In the Video workshop kids will hear the Bible story while viewing pictures that depict the story in an unusual way. Then watch portions of the animated video from Nest Entertainment, Saul of Tarsus. Discuss how getting to know Jesus can change us.

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