February: Going in the right direction!
Pause for thought: Take time to read the Bible story about Jonah and the whale, below. This is a well-known story or parable, which is often depicted in picture books, but has deeper elements.
God asks the prophet Jonah to tell the cruel people of Nineveh to turn away from their brutal behaviour and to change their ways. Jonah doesn’t want to go and preach in this foreign nation! He suspects its people will obey and, knowing God’s capacity to forgive, he is afraid that his enemies will not receive the punishment they deserve!
Jonah sets off on a ship bound for a far off place, probably in Spain. He goes in the wrong direction! But can he really run away from God . . ?
As parents, we want our children to go in the right direction – for their own good. Since God wants the best for them, this means helping them to be aware of him and what he might be asking them to do. During February, lets seize the opportunity of the ordinary things we do as families to point out the extraordinary degree of God’s love for us all!
Jonah runs away (based on Jonah 1 – 3: 3)
Jonah was enjoying a snooze when God spoke.
“Wake up, Jonah! I have an important job for you. Please take a message to the people of Nineveh!”
“ Oh, no!” cried Jonah, “I’m not going to that city of baddies!”
“Tell them from me to change their wicked ways,” continued God, “or it will be curtains for Nineveh.”
“I bet it won’t!” muttered Jonah. “As soon as those Ninevites say they’re sorry, you’ll forgive them and then they won’t get the punishment they deserve.”
“Off you go, now,” sighed God, “there’s a good prophet!”
Jonah packed his bag and set off – in the wrong direction. When he reached Joppa-on-Sea, he boarded a cargo ship bound for Spain – far, far away (he thought) from God and his uncomfortable plans. Yippee! But what Jonah didn’t know as he went down below, was that God could see him – and he was not too pleased.
“I’ll show the rascal,” said God, and he created quite a storm!
“Listen to that wind!” yelled the sailors, “Look at those waves! Our boat will be dashed to pieces!”
“Quick! Let’s fetch cargo from below,” ordered the captain. “We’ll throw it overboard to make the ship easier to steer.”
Down in the hold, the captain was horrified to find Jonah snoring.
“Mister Jonah!” he said. “For heaven’s sake, shake a leg and start to pray!”
Meanwhile, the sailors obeyed their captain. Over the side went the heavy cargo. But still the boat was battered.
“Someone on board has made God angry,” they agreed. So they put all their names in a hat and pulled one out. It read – ‘Jonah!’
“It’s true!” said Jonah. “I disobeyed the God of earth and tide. You’d better throw me over the side.”
The kind-hearted crew tried to row the boat ashore. But it was no good, and . . . “one, two three” . . . they tossed him into the sea.
At once the storm abated. “Three cheers for Jonah’s God,” exclaimed the captain. “We are at your service!”
Poor Jonah sunk down, down to the seabed. There was water up his nose and seaweed round his toes, and scaly fish swam around his head. Who could help him now? Glug!
But God heard his call. And he sent a BIG fish to swallow Jonah – seaweed and all!
“Fancy God sending a whale to rescue me!” spluttered Jonah.
“And why not,” sung the great creature. “When God gives me an order, I obey! Think where you’d be if I’d swum the other way!”
Jonah did think about that, for three days and nights.
“What a wonderful God you are!” he prayed at last. “I’m sorry I tried to run away. From now on I’ll do as you say.”
So God asked the whale to swim to land where it spat Jonah out on the sand. Hic!
“Now then, Jonah,” said God, “Will you please . . .”
“Yes!” said Jonah, and he set off – in the right direction!
Jonah runs away! Read the Bible story together. Younger children might enjoy hearing it at bath time and making waves for a toy boat. (If you have any Paw Patrol toys, link them with the idea of God rescuing Jonah.) Chat about the story:
What’s your favourite part of this story?
Why do you think Jonah wanted to run away from God?
I wonder how God feels about the people we don’t like much?
What are the highest and lowest places you can think of? Do you think God is there?
I don’t want to! How are those New Year Resolutions going? All of us put off doing things we don’t enjoy! Sometimes the neglected task can become huge in our minds and we run away from it all the more.
Have a family chat about the things each person puts off doing and why. Try to think of ways to help each other, for example:
(Sorting the kitchen) How about tackling just one drawer or shelf every day?
(Doing homework) Make a start – it may not be as bad as you think!
(Making up after a quarrel) Try texting SORRY and see if you feel better?
(Doing boring jobs like hanging up my clothes) Try doing them quickly to get them done.
(Reading the Bible seems too overwhelming) Try reading just one Gospel.
Seabed supper: Serve fish-shaped fish fingers (available from the supermarket) on a bed of noodles or long strands of green pasta (sea-weed!) If you have a spiralizer, add long pieces of cucumber and other fresh vegetables to resemble sea-life!
Fishy finger food: Slice one end off a long roll (cut in half length-wise). Cut out two triangles near the straight end to make the tail. Spread tuna mayonnaise over the roll. Starting from the tail, layer thin slices of cucumber and radish on top, overlapping to look like scales. Make an eye from half an olive and a mouth from a slice of red pepper.
Pancakes: This year, Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is on 13 February. (2018). Traditionally, this was the last opportunity to use up eggs and fats before the Lenten fast. The name Shrove Tuesday comes from the ritual of shriving – saying sorry for wrong things done and receiving forgiveness. (When Jonah eventually did what God wanted, the people of Nineveh said sorry for their past behaviour and God forgave them.)
Big Friendly Fish Craft:
- Fold a piece of A4 paper in half lengthwise and then again.
- Now place the top and bottom folds along the central line so that the paper appears to be only half the size.
- Draw a whale shape (a circle with a tail attached) with a mouth along the central fold. Add an eye.
- Open up the paper. Join up the mouth (adding long pointed teeth!) and the tail.
- Decorate your big fish and add Jonah, about to be swallowed up!
Young children might like to paint the back of a paper plate blue. Cut out a big triangle for the mouth and glue it under the opposite side as a tail. Add a big eye!
Hide and seek: As adults, we sometimes forget how good it is to laugh and play! Have a family game of hide and seek in the house or on a walk through the woods. Link this with the idea that Jonah tried to hide from God. Point out that wherever we go in the world, we are always within his sight, love and care.
If you are feeling creative, you could make a whale by draping a blue cloth or blanket over a low table or box. Stick on some paper teeth and eyes! This could be ‘home’ in other games, or simply an adult-free den!!
Prayer: Think about the sailors in the story throwing the heavy cargo into the sea. In this time of Lent, it’s good to think about behaviour that weighs us down and stops us growing closer to God. Imagine throwing this overboard as you say sorry to God.
Meditation: As you curl up in bed, imagine being safe and dry inside the whale. Whatever your worries, you are held safely in God’s hand.
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens you are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there;
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139, vv.7-10