How to bring up certain topics

Does your family play games together? Why not use a game as a way to open up conversation about faith topics. How about at the family dinner table? (Or wherever your family is gathered together.) You can do this!

Play the “Face Game.” That’s where someone calls out an emotion — such as mad, or sad, or over-the-top-glad — and everyone has to make the face that was named.

Three different facial emotions are depicted

With each emotion named, ask this follow-up question: What could happen that would cause you to make that face?

When the “scared” emotion gets named, and everyone has shared something that causes fear, ask these additional questions:

  • Why do you suppose that your Sunday’s Cool classes this month have compared Goliath to a problem that you’ve faced?
  • How would it look like if you used faith in God to face your fear?
  • David’s experience protecting his sheep helped him to know that he could face Goliath. What would help you to have a stronger faith in God?

Games are a great way to open up to faith conversation with your family. Give it a try.

Photo credits:
Faces are in the Public Domain, offered via

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Advice from David: Stop and contemplate

In our Rotation this month, we’ve been asking how a person develops faith in God. So far we’ve covered some ways to grow our faith. Let’s expand on the one that suggests we spend time alone with God. How does one practice doing that?

What if you followed David’s lead?

Not the part about hitting Goliath in the head with a rock, but what comes before the actual battle: What David likely did as he picked out stones.

Stop. Think. Take time to ponder as you carefully choose your rocks.

A child contemplates rocks

The Bible doesn’t give us many details about the picking of these stones but I can imagine there was some thought that went into it. Let’s call it “Meditative Time.” Can we practice that? Yes!

You might first think of meditation as something that Buddhist’s do. It may be surprising to learn that meditation is found in all religious traditions. In Christianity it is the heart of the contemplative teaching of Jesus on prayer.

Here are the simple steps to begin meditation:

  • Sit with your back straight and lightly close your eyes.
  • Focus on your breathing.
  • Silently begin to recite a single word – a prayer word or “mantra.” Try the Aramaic [1] word that means “Come Lord” – Maranatha. Break it into four syllables:
    Breath In: Ma
    Breath Out: Ra
    Breath In: Na
    Breath Out: Tha
  • Let go of all thoughts (even good thoughts), images and words. When your mind drifts, bring yourself gently back and continue repeating your word.

(For a graphic with these steps refer to this website.)

Other questions:

  • How long should this last? With young children start with one minute. When it becomes apparent that they can handle one minute, “praise them and say that since they are so good at it now, you will reward them by increasing it to two minutes. Every time they are at ease with the length of time, increase it by one minute till you reach their age – 4 minutes for age 4, 5 minutes for age 5 and so on.” [2]
  • What if your child asks: Why say “Maranatha.” Is that some sort of magical word?” An answer.
Give David’s plan a try: stop and contemplate.

[1] Aramaic is the language that Jesus spoke.
[2] Suggestion from the website of The School of Meditation, of The World Community for Christian Meditation.

Photo credits:
Contemplating rocks by Hagerty Ryan, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Image is in the Public Domain, provided by Public Domain Images.

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Choosing the good road

This Lent at FUMC, as a congregation we are walking once more to the cross and to Jesus’ resurrection. Along the way we are looking at “road options” that Jesus and his disciples chose along their journey. How might these same decisions be open to us? Which road will we take? Will we recognize the best choice – the good road? Let us journey together this Lent as we “Walk The Good Road.” See you in church!

Last weekend Rev. Doug Paterson’s sermon on the “Good Road” series spoke to the quandary that the “The Good Road is Not Always Smooth.” I don’t think he mentioned David and Goliath, but he could have.

When the road is not always smooth, perhaps we are facing a giant.

Cartoon painting of 'The Scream'

Perhaps that giant, creating yawning potholes in our path, is…

  • A conflict with a person — family or friends or teachers or co-workers or bullies…
  • A situational problem — I can’t figure out math, my grandfather is dying, my dreams don’t seem to be happening…
  • Peer pressure — I’ve got to be the best soccer player. I’ve got to be in the in-crowd. I’m worried about having a bad-hair-day. I’ve got to have a bigger house/car/phone. I’ve got to be thinner/sexier/smarter…
  • Or maybe the giant you’re facing is you! You want to change but you don’t understand why you do the things you do and how to be transformed.

This last one is my current giant! My giant says to me “Carol, who are you to be speaking about faith?” “Who are you to make decisions about Sunday’s Cool?” “Who are you to be a leader in a Christian educators organization with thousands of members?”

It would be easier for me to back away from my giants, letting them win. Sometimes the road we must choose is harder than we would like.

The Good Road is ever before us. Will we recognize it when we see it?

Can I trust God’s definition of me as Imperfect, God-seeking, Confident, Child-of-God, One-who-has-work-to-do?

Thankfully God is always with me (regardless of the road I choose). But I also know that I am called to move in the direction of faith. But how? Here are some ideas:

Intentional Practices for growing faith:
  • Remembering: Where and when has God been with me in the past?
  • Provide a platform for lingering together, for the asking of questions, and for finding hope. Encourage the expression of ideas and inquisition. (Ask: What do you think about ___?) Honor with attention and thoughtfulness.
  • Spending time alone with God. Perhaps practicing a bit like this.
  • What scripture can I learn so that strengthening words roll off my tongue? (How about this Rotation’s Key Bible verse?)
  • A "shrine" of things that invoke the memory of God's goodness

  • What visual reminders will I place in my path? A cross here, scripture written on an index card there? Set up a spot in your home that is designated as a “quiet spot.” Fill this space with objects that invoke memories. Allow touching and rearranging and additions and subtractions. (Photo on right is such a spot set up at the Nelson home around Easter time.)
  • As well as the usuals: communicating with God through prayer; learning God’s advice by reading the Bible; strengthening my relationship with God through worship; serving others. (Read more here.)

Which of these practices will you implement in your family this week?

Photo credits:
Cartoon “Scream” by Prawny. Used with permission from
“Shrine” photo from Chris Nelson. Used by permission.

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How was it possible?

David vs. Goliath? How was it possible that little David won the battle?

It was a little guy vs. a BIG Giant! Sort of like the tug-of-war we set up last week.

a tug-of-war between a little kid and a big man

We wanted kids to realize how unlikely it was that David could have won against Goliath. One little guy was a piece of cake for “our Goliath,” just as it should have been for the real Goliath.

Two kids even tried to beat him. Nope. Couldn’t do it. I realize that David didn’t face Goliath in a game of tug-of-war but… how did David pull this off?

Goliath vs. two kids

Meanwhile, tnree tried. Goliath didn’t even break a sweat.

Three kids try against our Goliath

So ask these questions in your family get together: How did David do it?
  • All of the other Israelites, including King Saul, were terrified of Goliath. No one else had enough courage to fight him. Why do you suppose David volunteered to fight Goliath? (Read David’s reasoning in 1 Samuel 17:37).
  • David trusted that God would be with him, I wonder how he came to believe that?
  • Why did David go into battle without any “protective” armor of the heavy-duty metal sort? (Read David’s answer in 1 Samuel 17:39).
  • Just because it didn’t feel right!!? David must have had some sort of super-weapon. His slingshot must have been the extra-whiz-bang-model! (Read about it in 1 Samuel 17:40). What! It wasn’t! What did David take with him into battle besides the 5 smooth stones and a slingshot? (Get a hint: 1 Samuel 17:45-47).
  • He had faith! He knew he could defeat Goliath by trusting in God and relying on God’s power! Let’s look at the way David thought of God: Read Psalm 23. (To David, God was a shepherd that took care of all of his needs.)
  • What lesson do you take away from this story about David’s faith and trust in God?

A cross decorated with palm branchesIt’s Lent! Here are some resources for the season:

Short spiritual practices to try during Lent.

More Lenten activities for your family.

A way to tell the Easter story using plastic Easter eggs.

Photo credits:
Photos are from my archives.

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David & Goliath: It’s not about bullies or stones

Our kids recently learned about David in the story of David’s anointing as Israel’s next-in-line king. Now we turn to a more familiar story of David, and his encounter with the giant Goliath. Read about our story in 1 Samuel 17:1-49.

A scene showing David slinging a rock at Goliath

Some keys points to take from this story (with help from Rev. Neil MacQueen):

  • This is not a story about bullies. The “giants” for our kids might be problems with other kids, but that’s where the literal parallel ends. This is a story about using faith in God to take-down our troubles.
  • The rocks in this story are not secret weapons. David’s slingshot is an improbable weapon; small stones are highly unlikely to dent a giant’s armor. We need to trust God to help us face giants.
  • David is a role model. He was raised in the faith, and when the time came, his heart was found true and that gave him both the opportunity to serve God, and the courage to do so! How can we raise kids so that they are prepared to serve God, and to courageously do seemingly impossible things?

It all comes down to this:

How does a person develop faith in God?

Journey with us and learn!

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

Date Our workshops for 1st through 6th graders…
2/15 Everyone will gather together in the Social Hall to watch the animated video, The Beginners Bible Series: The Story of David and Goliath. What a great way to start a Rotation!
Date Our workshops for 1st through 5th graders…
Drama Bible Skills
& Games
Cooking A variety!
Room 215 Room 211 Social Hall See below
2/22 4th grade 1st grade 3rd grade 2nd & 5th – Games in Room 212
3/1 Enjoy worship and Communion with your family.
The sermon is on Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16. Read it before hand! It should sound familiar.
3/8 2nd & 5th grade 3rd grade 1st grade 4th grade – Cooking in the Social Hall
3/15 3rd grade 4th grade 2nd & 5th grade 1st grade – Storytelling in Room 212

And here’s what the 6th graders will be doing… (They’ll mostly be in the Pine Room.)

2/22 3/1 3/8 3/15
Cooking Workshop Worship with your family. Games Workshop Attend the 7th/8th grade Explorer’s Class

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

Date Workshop or Activity
2/14 A service project
2/21 Games Workshop
2/28 Drama Workship
3/7 Video Workshop
3/14 Cooking Workshop

What’s happening in each workshop?

  • In the Drama Workshop students will experience, through performing a skit, how faith in God gave David victory and can give us victory over the giant problems in our lives.
  • In the Cooking Workshop students will make (and eat!) a giant cookie while learning the story details.
  • In the Games Workshop students will learn story details by playing a game that involves throwing a “sock rocket” at a giant Goliath.

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 credit:
David and Goliath copyright MMBOX PRODUCTION, from; used under license.

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 with oil

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

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!”

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 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 and 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…
David is Anointed from an unknown publisher of Bible Cards, Date=early 1900’s; in the Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Who do you want to become?

Do you remember that persistent question you faced from a very young age?

What do you want to do when you grow up?

I always hated that question. (Because, how did I know?)

I believe we are asking kids (and ourselves) the wrong question. Instead we should be asking…

Who do you want to become?

We are surrounded by a culture where the focus is on “appearances.” Who thinks about what a person can become? People are impressed by good looks, by how well you speak or how strong you are. How are we to help our kids combat this bias?

By teaching them to look inside.

Our current Rotation is a good place to start. In our story, David is chosen as the next king of Israel. Can you hear his family sputtering, “Him? He’s just a young boy; a lowly sheep-keeper.”

Ah, but we learn that God doesn’t look at outside qualities, he looks at our inside, at our heart.

word art

Here’s what God tells Samuel about why David’s older brother, Eliab, wasn’t the one chosen king:

'Samuel, don’t think Eliab is the one just because he’s tall and handsome. He isn’t the one I’ve chosen. People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts.  1 Samuel 16:7

What did God “see” in David’s heart?


David is thought to have been between 10 and 15 years old when he was designated as Israel’s next king, but he didn’t take the leadership right away. David continued to care for sheep, building courage, a good leadership quality. David also wrote Psalms. We can look in his Psalms to find other seen-by-God heart characteristics.

Bring out a Bible and read the following Psalms. Try to figure out the heart quality conveyed.

  • Psalm 23 “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want…” (Potential expressed heart-quality: Trust)
  • Psalm 5:7 “I am filled with wonder as I bow down to worship.” (A worshipful attitude)
  • Psalm 139:14 “I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me. 
Everything you do is marvelous! Of this I have no doubt.” (Gratitude)
  • Psalm 5:3 “Each morning you listen to my prayer, as I bring my requests to you and wait for your reply.” (Asking for help)
  • Psalm 19:11 “By your teachings, Lord, I am warned; by obeying them, I am greatly rewarded.” (Obedience)
  • Psalm 25:11 “Be true to your name, Lord, by forgiving each one
of my terrible sins.” (A repentant attitude)
  • Psalm 16:2 “I say to God, ‘Be my Lord!’ Without you, nothing makes sense.” (taken from The Message) (Realizing the importance of a connection to God)

God sees these qualities and possibilities in each one of us; each person is important to God. God looks at who we can become.

Discuss with your family about what heart-attitudes you see in each other. You may be surprised!
Are their qualities you need to work on adding?

Who do you want to become?


Photo credits:
Heart-shaped word art was created by moi, using Image Chef Word Mosaic.

Starting off the school year with… A Chosen King

I’m a summer kind of gal… kicked-back, long days, sunshine, and gardening! Yes, please! So fall is not my favorite time of year. But there is one thing that I do find appealing about fall: the return to a full program of the Rotation Model!

Rotation Model logoThe Workshop Rotation Model of Christian Education at FUMC rocks! Here’s why I get excited:

  • A Bible story is explored and learned in-depth through a variety of creative teaching mediums (workshops) over a period of several weeks.
  • Each new workshop visited deepens kids lesson memory.
  • Adults who help out in our program are learning right along with the kids! (It’s adult ed disguised as a children’s program!)
  • Kids from age 3 to 6th grade, whether attending Sunday’s downtown or Saturday’s at Green Wood, are all focusing on the same story, which allows families to share learning at home.

To kick off, we are studying about how a lowly shepherd-boy, David, was chosen by God to be the King of Israel. The prophet Samuel anointed David with oil (shown below).

Why did God choose him as king??

Read about our story in 1 Samuel 16:1-13. And come along with us as we begin our year of Rotation!

Stained glass from a cathedral in Ely, England

To see a growing list of opportunities to foster faith learning at home…
for this month’s story :: click here.

This is where the “Schedule” used to appear — which grades were visiting which workshops over the course of this Rotation. However it was removed as it was sort of out of date 🙂 Our current schedule of workshops, for whatever Rotation we are currently on, can be found on this page.

For prosperity, here is what we did in each workshop during this Rotation:

  • In the Art Workshop students will create modern “name” art based on the style of artist Paul Klee. Contemplate your inner character as you work!
  • In the Cooking Workshop two teams of students will make muffins with two different recipes. One has something special in it and one does not! Students will note that both look the same in a raw state. I wonder about the baked muffins?
  • In the Creative Writing Workshop students will create an acrostic poem using the word “heart” and describe their inner character. What attitudes are in your heart?
  • In the Bible Skills & Games Workshop students will participate in a variety of games – voting with your body, a game of “Spoons,” and a quiz game that involves collecting “heart” qualities (graffiti-style).

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

Photo credits:
Stained glass of David’s anointing by Lawrence OP, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.