APRIL: Faith in the family activities for Easter

Story: The Resilience of Jesus

 God was delighted with his world, but not with the behaviour of his children. They were doing the one thing he’d asked them not to – deciding for themselves what was right and wrong. Soon his ‘clever’ children had stopped listening to their heavenly father. Instead they kidded themselves that it was fine to steal, to make war, to ignore the hungry, to pollute the rivers . . . Like straying sheep, they went their own way!

But God still loved his children. So much so, that he planned to send his own son Jesus into the world, a kindly shepherd who would gather his flock into the fold. Jesus would even pay the price for people’s mistakes by dying on a cross. But that would not be the end . . .

From the word go, it was not an easy life for Jesus. God gave him loving parents. But they were far from home when Mary gave birth and Jesus was born in a poor stable. Then they had to flee from cruel Herod. Refugees! But his childhood in Nazareth was peaceful, learning useful building skills from Joseph.

God provided Jesus with an older cousin John who prepared everyone to listen to his message about living God’s way – the way of kindness. But no sooner had he been baptised, than he was tempted by the Devil. Tempted to use his God- given talents for his own power and pleasure. His utter determination to do God’s will enabled him to resist and he voiced this in words of Scripture that he knew by heart.

At least the Devil recognized Jesus as the Son of God! Many people did not – especially those in his own town of Nazareth, where he was rejected. He was often criticized and questioned in a hostile manner but he parried with a question of his own to make others think. His close friends were a support and he taught them to love their enemies and to do good to those who hated them.

Even his best friends did not understand his real mission – especially when he revealed that he would suffer and be killed. But he resolutely set out for Jerusalem, saying, “I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day . . .”

What a welcome there was for Jesus in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday! But within a week, the same crowd was demanding his death. He was betrayed by Judas, arrested, mocked, insulted, spat upon, flogged, disowned by Peter and nailed to a cross on Good Friday. He died.

But he was victorious over death and on Easter Day he rose again. He had fulfilled his purpose to heal man’s broken relationship with God.

Pause for thought: There is no getting away from the fact that life is full of ups and downs. We all need a certain amount of resilience or toughness, to be able to survive the bad times and to provide the capacity to bounce back again afterwards.

Throughout his life and particularly at the end of it, Jesus suffered more than most (see the Bible story above). Knowing that he had to face death on the cross, he nevertheless resolutely set out for Jerusalem to do his Father’s will. Along the way, he faced temptation, rejection of his ministry, threats, betrayal, mocking, insults, he was spat upon, flogged and was killed. He survived it all, even conquering death itself for our sakes.

Children today face a particularly insidious problem in the form of online pressures and bullying. This can be constant since iphones go with them everywhere and parents may not be aware of what is happening. In our competitive world, there is also the pressure to succeed in all sorts of subjects and activities set against a background of complicated family set ups.

So how can we help our children to build reservoirs of strength to draw upon? Perhaps we can ensure that they have a positive view of themselves by being generous with praise. At the baptism of Jesus, and at the start of his ministry, Jesus heard God say to him, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” We need to show too that our love is not conditional upon achievement, but that they are loved for themselves.

Jesus surrounded himself with a group of close friends. We can encourage our children to join in with others, perhaps at one of our church groups, and we can welcome their friends into our homes. In such groups they can learn to share problems and support one another.

We know that Jesus often withdrew to a lonely place to pray. Again, we can build quiet times (without phones!) into our hectic lives giving our children the space to think and pray, and allowing them the chance to get things back into perspective.

Psychologists say that resilient people have a sense of purpose, making realistic plans and sticking to them. They are flexible enough to embrace change and are able to maintain a hopeful outlook despite what is going on. Here are a few family activities for Easter that might encourage resilience!

Sweet and sour recipe: Prepare an easy family meal using a ready-made sweet and sour sauce from the supermarket. Put any phones away and read the story above together. As you eat, chat about the sweet and sour aspects of Jesus’ life on earth.

What do family members find easy or difficult in their lives today? Share how you each deal with these things. Do people agree that a problem shared is a problem halved?

Ups and downs: Start playing some easy board games, such as Snakes and Ladders or Ludo, with young children to get them used to set-backs. At first, they may be upset at having to move a counter backwards on the board. But persevere and demonstrate a light-hearted attitude yourself at moving your own counter back.

The good news and the bad news: Play this game on a car journey or a long walk. One person starts a story about a character setting out to achieve a goal, but unfortunately . . . they run into a problem. The next person takes over the story, saying fortunately . . . and then provides a solution until unfortunately . . . etc. Keep the mini-story going for several minutes until the character achieves their goal and it is someone else’s turn to start a new story.

No gain without pain: It can be useful to learn to think positively about things we have to do but may not look forward to! For example, on the way to the dentist, chat about:

  • What would happen if we did not have our teeth checked
  • Modern dentistry methods as opposed to earlier ones
  • The short time in the dentist’s chair compared to the year!

Can everyone think up some positive thoughts about a cold, rainy day in the Easter holidays, an exam, a boring chore, etc!

What did we all gain from the pain Jesus suffered on Good Friday?

How do I look? Make a regular habit of complimenting children on their natural good looks, especially when they are least expecting it! “Your hair looks such a beautiful colour in the sunshine,” etc! When teenagers are getting ready for a party, you could say things like, “I know its fun to wear a bit of makeup, but with your beautiful eyes/lips/cheekbones, you really you don’t need it!” Give them confidence as they set off. “Wow! You look like a film star!”

Try to give young children the words they need to deal with run-of-the-mill hurtful comments from others. For instance, “If I were you, I’d tell him/her to go to Specsavers!” “Well, if they are going to say that sort of thing, I should think you ought to say, ‘[name], I’ve had enough of you for the moment’ and walk away.”

A home for bees and bugs: Help the mini-beasts in your garden to be resilient by making them a home. As a family activity, build a stack with various unwanted materials such as wooden pallets (good as a base), bricks (to keep the structure together), old terracotta plant pots, etc. Stuff the layers with bamboo canes, twigs, straw, moss and pinecones. Build in semi-shade and cover with something to keep the rain out, such as roof tiles. Mini-beasts will help keep pests away and also pollinate, helping your garden to be fruitful!

 

 

 

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Toddler group Mother’s Day Celebration!

Ready: Decorate a table with a jug of flowers and plates of homemade biscuits (such as gingerbread people!) and cake as a treat for Mums and other carers. Slices of simnel cake would be traditional…

Source: Toddler group Mother’s Day Celebration!

Teddy’s Easter Surprise!

Here’s an interactive story to use at a toddler group Easter celebration. It involves a hen laying eggs, a bird building a nest and a rabbit, but the inclusion of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly provides a simple metaphor for the Easter story.

Toddler groups might like to invite their minister to explain briefly to the adults how this metamorphosis mirrors the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The story leads well into an Easter egg hunt (and is available to buy from CPO with all you need for an Easter Celebration for your group!)

 

Ready: Decorate your meeting room and/or kitchen counter with some Easter items such as some spring flowers, some twigs with catkins, a decorative nest with eggs, chicks, mini eggs.

Pack a story basket with some props/pictures to illustrate the story: a toy hen, bird, rabbit, caterpillar and butterfly. Use a pair of socks for the cocoon and hide the butterfly in one of them.

 

Teddy: If possible, dress Teddy in some play clothes such as a pair of dungarees and wellingtons.

 

Go: You’re ready to mirror the sadness, but ultimately the joy of the Easter story.

 

Storytelling tips: Practice the story out loud several times before you perform it, especially hiding the caterpillar and bringing out the butterfly so that this becomes really slick. Alternatively, ask a helper to show the props for you.

Try to use your voice to show the sadness, happiness and surprise in the story.

 

Leader: Welcome to our Easter celebration, everyone! Have you noticed how everything outside is bursting into life? The flowers, the trees – even the birds are bursting into song! Well, one spring day, Teddy was out in his garden but he didn’t have anyone to play with. It made him feel sad. Poor Teddy! Can you make a sad face?

All: (All pull corners of mouths down and make sad faces)

Leader: If only Teddy had a friend to play with!

Just then, along came a yellow hen.

“Yellow hen, yellow hen, will you play with me?” asked Teddy.

“Oh, no!” clucked the hen. “I have no time to play. It’s nearly Easter. I have eggs to lay!”

And she went running off to the henhouse.

Song: To the tune “Polly put the kettle on”

         Yellow hen where did you go,

Yellow hen where did you go,

Yellow hen where did you go,

Where did you go?

 

I went home to lay some eggs,

I went home to lay some eggs,

I went home to lay some eggs,

Some Easter eggs!

 

Leader: I love Easter eggs, thought Teddy. But it’s much nicer to share them with a friend.

All of a sudden, a blackbird flew down from a tree.

“Hello blackbird,” said Teddy. “Will you come and play with me?”

“Oh, no!” sang the blackbird. “There’s no time to rest. It’s nearly Easter. I must build a nest!”

And the bird fluttered up into a tree.

 

Song: Little bird where did you fly,

Little bird where did you fly,

Little bird where did you fly,

Where did you fly?

 

I flew up to build a nest,

I flew up to build a nest,

I flew up to build a nest,

An Easter nest!

 

Leader: I wish I could show that nest to a friend, thought Teddy.

A rabbit came hop, hopping along the grass.

“Hello, Rabbit!” said Teddy. “Will you play with me?”

“No, no!” said the rabbit. “I’m not being funny. But Easter is busy, if you’re a bunny!”

And the rabbit hopped into a rabbit hole.

 

Song: Rabbit, say where did you hop,

          Rabbit, say where did you hop,

Rabbit, say where did you hop,

Where did you hop?

 

I hopped down a rabbit hole,

I hopped down a rabbit hole,

I hopped down a rabbit hole,

An Easter rabbit hole!

 

Leader: Then Teddy saw something eating a nettle leaf. It was a small, hairy caterpillar. Can you wiggle your finger like a caterpillar? Wiggle, wiggle! How did he go?

All: Wiggle, wiggle!

Leader: “Hello caterpillar!” said Teddy. “I’m feeling so lonely. Can you play with me?”

“Yes I can!” said the caterpillar. He wiggled his way onto Teddy’s paw . . . and up his arm . . . and onto his shoulder . . . and up, up onto his nose!

“Ooh, you’re tickling me!” said Teddy, with a BIG smile on his face. “Hooray! Now I’ve got a prickly, tickly friend!” Can you make a happy face like Teddy’s?

All: (All push corners of mouth up to make happy faces)

Every day, Teddy went to find his caterpillar friend munching leaves in the nettle patch. The more he ate, the bigger he grew. And the bigger he grew, the more he tickled Teddy and made him smile from ear to ear. Can you make such a BIG smile that it stretches from one ear to the other?

ALL: (All make BIG smiles.)

Leader: But one sad day, the caterpillar said, “I must go away now to do something very important.”

“Oh, no, don’t leave me,” said Teddy. “You’re my best friend.”

“Don’t be sad,” said the caterpillar. “I promise you’ll see me again and then you’ll be glad!”

The caterpillar began to spin a silky sleeping bag called a cocoon. (Show the empty sock) He snuggled down inside the cocoon, pulled it over his head and disappeared from sight. (Place the caterpillar in this sock and hide it) Teddy went indoors feeling sad.

But inside the cocoon, the caterpillar began to change. (Show other sock) He wriggled out of his hairy body, and then he grew long legs and silky wings, and on Easter Sunday, he BURST out of his cocoon – a beautiful, colourful butterfly. (Pull butterfly out of this sock)

As he was drying his wings in the sun, Teddy came down the garden. He looked inside the empty cocoon. (Show empty sock)

“Oh, no! Where has my caterpillar friend gone?” he said. “The hungry birds must have eaten him.”

“Look out behind you!” called the new butterfly. “Are you looking for me?”

Teddy looked round.

“It’s you!” he cried. “You’ve come back! But now you’re a beautiful butterfly! What a wonderful surprise!”

“A good friend always keeps his promise,” said the butterfly, fluttering around Teddy’s head. “Shall we explore the Easter garden?”

“Oh yes!” said Teddy, jumping for joy. “Lets go and find some Easter eggs together!”

 

Song: If you’re happy and you know it

           If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap)

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands   (clap, clap)

If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it,

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap)

 

If you’re happy and you know it, jump for joy (jump, jump), etc

           If you’re happy and you know it, say a prayer (ssh, ssh)

 

Prayer: Dear God, Easter is such a happy time of year. Everything is bursting into life! Thank you for the blossom on the trees and nests full of eggs, for the bright colours of spring flowers and butterflies’ wings. Thank you, God, for our friends who help us to enjoy your beautiful world. But most of all, thank you for Jesus who has promised to be our friend for ever. Amen

 

Party-bag: Why not encourage the adults to continue the theme of new life at home by giving them a “Happy Easter” activity sheet to take away with them?

 

Happy Easter!

Have fun looking out for signs of new life in the natural world when you are out and about with your toddler.

Colour in the leaf, caterpillar and butterfly and then cut them out. Use them to tell and play the story of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly together. Use a stripy sock or the cardboard cylinder inside a toilet roll as the cocoon or chrysalis.

 

a/w simple caterpillar with about 6 sections to colour, smiley face and antennae, and simple cutting-out line around it

 

a/w simple nettle leaf (with tiny egg on it and piece bitten out of leaf) to colour and with simple cutting out line around it

 

a/w simple butterfly with simple pattern on wings to colour in, same smiley face and antennae as caterpillar, with simple cutting out line around it.

 

Mime being a caterpillar curled up in a cocoon, then wriggling out of your hairy body, growing long legs and silky wings and BURSTING out of the cocoon as a butterfly. Dry your wings then fly gently around the room or garden!

Vicki Howie

Toddler group Mother’s Day Celebration!

Ready: Decorate a table with a jug of flowers and plates of homemade biscuits (such as gingerbread people!) and cake as a treat for Mums and other carers. Slices of simnel cake would be traditional.

When they arrive, let the children play with any toys that represent the things Mums do (for instance a doctor’s set, toy computer, shopping trolley, household items, etc).

Teddy: Bring Teddy, plus a bigger Teddy to represent his Mum/Granny/ carer! Teddy could be holding a “thank you” card or other gift that you are going to make as a craft.

Go: You’re ready to help the children think about all the things their mums/carers do for them and to say “thank you”.

Story-telling tips: There are lots of actions in this story (based on the boy Jesus in the temple in Luke 2) to keep everyone engaged. You might like to ask them to practise these beforehand and then to listen carefully for the cue to join in.

The story involves everyone walking to another area of your meeting place (the temple), or perhaps going from a hall into church and back again. You might like to invite your minister to be a “teacher” in the temple and to say the prayer. You could use a boy doll to be Jesus and to leave in “the temple”. Divide the story between as many storytellers as you like.

 . . .

Welcome everybody! Introduce Teddy and his Mum/carer. Explain that as it is nearly Mothering Sunday, Teddy wants to thank her for all the things that she does to look after him. Ask the children what their Mums/carers do for them and mime any actions from the story.

 Storyteller: When Jesus was a baby, his mother Mary was very busy looking after him and taking care of Joseph, too. I wonder what she did? Perhaps she cooked delicious food . . . (all mime stirring) Perhaps she swept the floor . . . (all mime sweeping) And I’m sure that she rocked baby Jesus to sleep in her arms . . . (all mime rocking)

Storyteller: Mary watched Jesus grow from a baby into a toddler and then into a small boy. Perhaps she measured him each birthday – to see how much he had grown.

Storyteller: “Wow! You’ll soon be taller than me!” said Mary when Jesus was twelve years old. But what pleased her the most was that Jesus was so kind and helpful.

Storyteller: One spring day, Mary began to pack a basket with some food and clothes. “Where are we going, Mum?” asked Jesus. “It’s time to go to Jerusalem,” said Mary. “We’re going to visit the temple – God’s house – to thank him for looking after us.”

Storyteller: On the way there, Jesus always met all his aunts and uncles, cousins and friends, who were all going to Jerusalem too! Come on everyone, let’s pretend that we’re all going to Jerusalem. Let’s have all the Mums at the front of the line and all the Dads at the back, just like they used to travel! Right, are you ready? We’ll sing a song to help us along!

SONG: To the tune “The Grand Old Duke of York”

It’s a grand day for a walk,

In sunshine or in rain,

Let’s walk all the way to Jerusalem,

Then we’ll walk back home again.

And when we are there we will say,

And when we are there we will say,

And when we are there we will say a prayer,

For the ones we love, hooray! (Repeat as necessary)

Storyteller: Ah, here we are in Jerusalem at last, at the temple – God’s house. It’s like a very big church. Shall we say a prayer to thank God for the people who look after us?

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the people/our Mums who love us and look after us. They do so much for us! Thank you for loving us too! Amen

Storyteller: When everyone in the story had finished saying “thank you”, it was time to go home again. Mary walked at the front with all the Mums and babies. And Joseph walked at the back with all the Dads and the big boys. Come on everyone, can you line up again? Ready? Then off we go . . . (stop after a short distance)

Storyteller: Wait a minute everyone! On the way home, Joseph came to the front and asked Mary, “Where’s Jesus?” Mary stared at him. “I thought he was with you!” she cried. “No!” said Joseph. “I thought he was with you!”

Storyteller: Oh no! Mary and Joseph looked all around for Jesus . . . (all shield eyes with hands). Where could he be? They asked the uncles and aunts, “Have you seen Jesus?” But they shook their heads and said . . .

All: No!

Storyteller: They asked the cousins, “Have you seen Jesus?” But they shook their heads and said . . .

All: No!

Storyteller: They asked all their friends, “Have you seen Jesus?” But they shook their heads too and said . . .
All: No!

Storyteller: Oh dear! Poor Mary and Joseph were so worried. Let’s sing, “Where, oh where has my Jesus gone?”

SONG: To the tune, “Where, oh where has my little dog gone?”

Where, oh where has my Jesus gone,

Oh where, oh where can he be?

With his eyes so bright,

And his smile so warm,

Oh where, oh where can he be? (Repeat)

Storyteller: So Mary and Joseph went all the way back to Jerusalem to look for him . . . They looked for him in the streets . . . and in the market place . . . but they couldn’t see him anywhere. Can anyone guess where they found him . . ?

Storyteller: Yes! They went back into the temple – and there was Jesus! He was sitting with the teachers, learning about God. He listened to the teachers . . . Ssh! Can you keep very quiet and listen like Jesus? And he talked to the teachers . . . Can you make your hands talk to each other? And everyone was amazed at the sensible things that he said, especially as he was only twelve years old!

Storyteller: But Mary couldn’t keep quiet any longer. “Jesus, we’ve been searching everywhere for you!” she said. “Have you?” said Jesus. “ I thought you would guess that I was in my Father’s house!”

Storyteller: “Come on!” said Joseph kindly. “It’s time to go home.” So Jesus did as he was told and waved “Goodbye” to the temple . . . (all wave) Goodbye until the next year . . . Is everyone ready for our travelling song again?

SONG:

It’s a grand day for a walk,

In sunshine or in rain,

We walked all the way to Jerusalem,

Now we’re walking home again.

And when we are there we will say,

And when we are there we will say,

And when we are there we will say a prayer,

For the ones we love, hooray!

 

Storyteller: Well, I’m sure that became a family story, don’t you? And I’m sure that Mary never forgot the time when she looked everywhere for Jesus and found him in the Temple – God’s house! I wonder why she found him there?

* * *

 

FAITH IN THE FAMILY March: His mother treasured all these things in her heart

Pause for thought: This year, Mothering Sunday falls on 26th March. Traditionally this was the day when Christians visited their mother church (the most important church or cathedral) halfway through Lent. In Victorian times, the entire family went to church and returned to a special meal. Working children were allowed the day off to visit their mothers. They took with them a gift such as flowers, gloves or a simnel cake. American soldiers who came to Britain during the Second World War revived the idea of a special day for mothers. Cards were designed to show how hard mothers worked in the home.

Being a parent is never easy. Take time to read the Bible story below. Here Mary has to deal with the first signs of independence shown by her son Jesus as he reaches maturity in cultural terms. Today, we still struggle with the challenge of finding the right balance between letting go of our children, allowing them the freedom to learn and explore, and keeping them safe.

When facing any difficult issues as a parent, it can sometimes be useful to think how our own parents treated us. We may want to follow their example in some areas and do things differently in others. Certainly God (whose love for us is sometimes referred to in motherly ways in the Bible) gives us the freedom to make mistakes. The gift of his friendship is always on offer as well as the chance to make a fresh start.

Being a good friend to our children is important and can be difficult to achieve if we did not have that sort of relationship with our own parents. It implies a ‘coming alongside’ for non-judgmental communication, rather than an inflexible imposition of rules from above. Praise is always encouraging to them and it can be very powerful to speak well to others of our children in their hearing!

A few weeks ago, the book Little Women was serialized on Radio 4. In one episode, Jo bemoans her inability to control her temper. Her mother, far from chastising her, reveals that her own temper was far worse as a teenager, and explains how she gradually came to deal with it. She expresses confidence that Jo will do the same. What a great example of good mothering!

 

Have you seen Jesus? (Based on Luke 2:41-52)

Mary was bent over a large basket, packing for the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The children were playing, so she could work in peace! A thought struck her. Of course! Jesus would walk with the men this year, now that he was twelve. She straightened up. Twelve years since . . . ! It didn’t seem possible! He’d grown from a helpless baby into this lively boy. She smiled. In some ways he was just like the other lads – always hungry, clothes dusty from play! But she knew he was no ordinary boy. How could she forget the visit of that angel with his heart-stopping message – those visitors to the stable with their unearthly story? She’d been over and over it all, trying to think what it would mean . . .

* * *

   Mary relaxed on the long walk to Jerusalem, chatting with relatives and friends, and watching Jesus with his cousins.

“Who’ll be the first to see Jerusalem?” they challenged each other.

“Who’ll be the first to see the Temple – God’s house?” asked Jesus.

* * *

   They spent the week celebrating the Passover and thanking God for bringing their ancestors safely out of Egypt. Mary treasured this time away from so many household chores, soaking up God’s presence. Too soon, it was time to walk come again.

She was at the front of the party with the women and babies, when Joseph caught her arm, his eyes anxious.

“Where’s Jesus?” he asked.

She stared at him. “I thought he was with you.”

“No! I thought he was with you!”

Her breath quickened as she turned to the other women.

“Have you seen Jesus? Oh please, have you seen him?” Heads shook. She could hear Joseph asking the same question, his voice urgent.

“No, no we haven’t seen him – not since we were in the city. You’d better go back there.”

Afterwards, the next few days seemed a bewildering blur. Disjointed memories of market places, narrow streets hemmed in by city walls . . . Often she thought she heard his voice, saw his back view, only to be dismayed as an unfamiliar face was turned to hers. By the third day, even Joseph could not reassure her that their precious son was alive.

Then they entered the temple. And there he was – sitting with the teachers, asking those profound questions of his. She could see they were impressed. If only they knew the way he’d treated his parents! The pent up emotion burst out of her.

“Son, we’ve been searching everywhere for you!”

He turned to look at her, those eyes bright and warm as if lit by an inner light. “I thought you would know I was in my Father’s House!”

She could not speak, her mind struggling with his words.

“Come on!” said Joseph, kindly. “It’s time to go home.”

And as always, the lad obeyed.

 

Have you seen Jesus? Read the Bible story together as a family. Wonder about it as follows:

  • How do you think Mary felt at different moments in the story?
  • Do you think Jesus meant to worry his parents?
  • Do you think that people can seem angry when they are really just anxious?
  • Do you think this episode became a family story, often repeated? What family stories do you have?

 

Unbelievable chores! This could be played on a car journey or long walk. Parents think up chores they do that their children may not even know exist! For example, sorting recycling from the rubbish! Children ask questions to which the answer is “yes” or “no”. Can they guess each job in less than twenty “nos”?

 

How many times? Anyone for some Maths practise? Everyone works out how many times the person caring for him or her has:

  • Made their bed for them so far this week/year
  • Provided a taxi service for them so far this week/year
  • Cooked something for them so far this week/year
  • Been thanked by their children this week!

 

A thank you card: Place an A4 piece of paper in front of you, landscape (long edges top and bottom). Fold the paper in half from left to right and then again. Open the paper back up.

On the first panel on the left, draw yourself holding a huge bunch of flowers/wrapped present. The bouquet or present should spill over a lot into the second panel. Draw the person you are sending the card to in the third and fourth panels, sitting in an armchair with some tea on a table in front of them. Colour in your drawing. Cut out the part of the bouquet/present that spills into the second panel.

Fold the card in half again, but then fold back the first panel so that the flowers/present pops out! You could write “Just for you . . .” on the front, then     “ . . . to thank you for all you do!” where there is space on the third or fourth panel.

 

Where does it belong? Are you always searching for things at home? Who usually knows where they are? Why not challenge everyone to improve the way things are stored in their rooms, so that there is a special place for everything? You could decorate some shoeboxes, or label tins/sealable freezer bags/old mugs, or buy supermarket storage baskets for spare coins, crayons, hair bands etc.

Has anyone ever lost something precious/a person? Link with the Bible story. Why do you think Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple? I wonder what this family story told them about Jesus?

 

Building a nest: It’s nearly Spring when birds will be building nests. You could place some nesting materials such as moss, dry grass, wool, animal hair and scraps of material in a plastic fruit net and hang in a tree.

Go for a walk and collect some small dry twigs, leaves, bark and feathers to make a collage of a bird protecting chicks under its wings. You could supplement with a bag of craft feathers. Write a caption, “He will cover you with his feathers . . .” from Psalm 91: verse 4.

 

Gingerbread Family: Make some gingerbread dough. Everyone cuts out a gingerbread man, woman or child to represent themselves! Before baking, press currants into the shapes for eyes or buttons. When they have cooled, add other features and clothes with writing icing. As you do so, discuss whether you think it is easy to be a Mum/Dad/child today. Was it easy for Mary to be the mother of Jesus? Do you think the story is pointing ahead to something that happened at the end of Jesus’ life?

Vicki Howie

 

 

 

February: Faith in the Family Activities

February: Love story

Ruth and Boaz – a love story (Book of Ruth)

Obed wasn’t ready to sleep yet.

“Can I have a bedtime story?” he asked his mother Ruth.

“Of course,” she replied, sitting on his bed. “Which one?”

Obed thought quickly. “Tell me the one about how you met Dad.”

Ruth laughed. “A long one! Well, as you know, I used to live in Moab, where there was plenty of food. One day, I met a lovely lady called Naomi . . .”

“You mean Grammie Nammie!”

“Yes! God brought her to Moab to find food for her family. Sadly her husband died. But my sister and I married her two sons.”

“So you were married before you met Dad?”

“That’s right. But my husband died soon and so did his brother.”

“Poor Grammie Nammie,” said Obed, frowning. “No husband and no sons.”

“I know,” said Ruth. “It was a terrible time, but my sister and I took good care of her. Then one day, she felt God wanted her to come back here.”

“To Bethlehem?”

“Yes. She heard that the fields were bursting with crops again.”

“And so you came with her.”

“Yes, I did. She said I didn’t have to – but by then I really loved her and I told her ‘wherever you go, I’ll go too!’ ”

“I bet Grammie was pleased,” said Obed. “But what about my Dad?”

“Well, I first saw Boaz when I went to work in his fields. People who were poor and hungry like us were allowed to follow the men gathering in the harvest and pick up any leftover stalks of grain.”

“Did he say anything to you?”

“Yes,” said Ruth. “He noticed me straight away and asked his workers who I was. Then he came over and told me that his servant girls would look after me. He even told me to have a drink from the water jars and to help myself to bread at meal times.” Ruth smiled. “I thought he was such a kind man.”

The story was interrupted by Boaz himself, coming in from the farm.

“Not asleep yet, young man?” he teased, waggling a finger at his young son.

Obed yawned. “Nearly! Just tell me – what did you think of Mum when you first met her?”

Boaz sat down on the bed, next to his wife. “Well, I’d heard all about her great kindness to Grammie. And I could see she was brave and hardworking. I felt that I wanted to protect her.”

“So you got married!” said Obed, grinning.

“Well, they needed a bit of help from this old lady!” boasted Grammie, looking round the door.

Obed felt his eyes closing. “Not just you, Grammie!” he said sleepily. “I think God had a lot to do with it too!”

 

Pause for thought: Take time to read the story of Ruth and Boaz above. You can read their full story in the Book of Ruth, which only consists of four short chapters. Theirs is a gentle love story, full of compassion and honourable conduct, set amongst hardworking country folk. It is a welcome relief from the violence and power struggles of the preceding book of Judges, and shows God at work in the everyday lives of ordinary people, despite the background of political intrigue.

In February, our thoughts turn to love as we see shop windows displaying hearts and roses, and inside, shelves packed with Valentine’s Day cards, perhaps for sending anonymously! All good fun!

However, as parents, we may recognize the serious need for our children to be brought up within the security of long-lasting relationships and for society to be founded on strong family life. Yet do we share our own experiences (whether good or bad) with the children in our lives in order to help them make good choices and achieve long and happy relationships themselves? In today’s world, where the “selfie” seems to be all-important, how can we demonstrate that our outward appearance is less important to others than the state of our hearts and the sort of people we are?

The following family activities might provide some conversation starters and fun activities as we approach St Valentine’s Day.

 

Ruth and Boaz: Read the Bible as a family together, perhaps using a heart shape as a visual aid. Wonder about the story as follows:

  • I wonder how many love stories there are in this Bible story
  • I wonder what you think attracted Ruth and Boaz to each other
  • I wonder whether God meant Ruth and Boaz to be together
  • I wonder what you think helps two people to live together happily

 

Make a Valentine’s Day card: Fold a large rectangular piece of paper in four and lay it in front of you as if it were a greetings card. Now draw a heart shape on some cardboard and cut it out to use as a template. It should be the right size to fit on the front of the card.

Open your card, place the template on the centre fold and draw around it. Now ask an adult to cut around the top half of the heart, so that it pops up when the card is opened.

Place the template on the front of your card and draw around that too. You could add some more drawings and colour them in. Add a message or poem to tell someone why you love them!

Smaller children could stick scrunched up red tissue paper to a big heart shape, which could then be used to make a card.

Send the card to someone you love. Will you sign it?

 

How did you meet? On a long car journey, or round the table, parents/partners could tell the story of how they met. What attracted you to each other? Was this to do with personal qualities, or appearance, or both? Did anyone else help to bring you together? Why did you decide to make a commitment to each other? What things do you always agree about? What things do you think differently about? How do you deal with this?

On a wintry February afternoon, bring out any wedding photos and have a look through them together. If it was a church wedding, why did you want to marry in church?

Today, many couples meet each other online. What does everyone think could be the advantages and pitfalls of this? Think about a couple you may know who make a great team. Why do you think it works so well?

 

Recipe for love! Invest in some heart-shaped cookie cutters in different sizes. Invite some friends or grandparents to tea and make them some scrambled egg with heart-shaped pieces of toast on top. You could make heart-shaped biscuits or a sponge cake or no-bake biscuit cake made in a large heart-shaped tin. Perhaps you can find a good recipe on the Internet. While you are busy, see if you can make up a recipe for a happy marriage! For example, you will need:

  • 1 cup of kindness
  • 1 cup of forgiveness
  • a good pinch of patience
  • a dollop of going out when you feel like staying in, etc

 

METHOD

Take two people with similar interests and . . . Mix in a cup of . . . etc!

 

Welcome to our nest! This is a good time of year to make or buy a nesting box to encourage birds to visit your garden. A box with a small entrance hole may attract a Blue Tit, whereas a House Sparrow will prefer a larger one. The box should be fixed to a wall that is covered with a climbing plant and the entrance should face north or east as direct sunlight may kill baby birds. It should be more than 2m from the ground, out of the reach of cats. Watch out for visiting birds and see if they bring nesting material and then food for their young.

 

Bedtime story: Borrow a picture book about love from the library, such as Guess how much I love you by Sam McBratney or Bear in Love by Daniel Pinkwater. Talk about how much God loves us and say a prayer to thank him for all the ways he shows his love for us, for instance by making our wonderful world, providing us with food, sending us Jesus to be our friend, etc.