September:Friends for life!

FAITH IN THE FAMILY

 Diary of Jonathan, Son of King Saul

 PRIVATE! NOT TO BE READ BY ANY PERSON

 Father in bad mood again today. “Tormented by evil spirit!” Keep out of his way . . .

Still bad. Servants fetch lad from Bethlehem. Brown face. David. Plays the harp to Father. Great! The King feels better! We keep David on! . .

I get chatting to David. He’s about my age. Not shy! Looks after his father’s sheep. Asks me about my success in battle . . .

I talk to David again. Says he’s a warrior, too – he’s killed lions and bears with his hands. Really? But I like him – and so does Father! . .

Crisis! The Philistines threaten our army. Their champion Goliath looking for fight. Nine feet tall . . . INCREDIBLE! DAVID KILLED GOLIATH WITH SLING AND STONE! THE LORD IS WITH OUR YOUNG SHEPHERD!

 

David is here to stay! I love this guy! We make solemn pact – friends for life. Give him my sword, etc, as sign . . .

Yes! Father gives David high rank in army. Deserves it. Popular with the men – and the ladies!! BUT Father uneasy again. Feels God not with him as before. Horrible bursts of anger . . .

Father truly disturbed today. Wants me to kill David! Why? I warn David to keep away. I speak up for him. Remind Father of all D has done for us. Why kill innocent man, etc? Dad promises D is safe. Feel reassured . . .

David leads our army to victory again! Am I jealous? NO – because I know God is with him . . .

Strange – David says King trying to kill him. “What is his crime?” he asks. Know this cannot be true. Father would have told me. David says he’s keeping me in dark because of our friendship. We make a plan. David to hide in archery field while I confront King. If he means D no harm, I’ll go out later and shoot three arrows at target. Then shout to my boy, “Go fetch my arrows. They are on this side of you. Bring them here.” But if father does mean him harm, I’ll shout, “Look, the arrows are beyond you.” That’s D’s sign to flee . . .

I’m trembling. Angry. Spoke to King who flew into rage. Accused me of siding with David, giving him my future throne. “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” I asked. The King hurled his spear at me.

I saw his eyes, full of hate. Now I see, he means to kill David. It’s shameful. Call for my bow . . .

* * *

Feel numb. David is gone. We wept. Thank God he went in peace. We once swore friendship to each other and to each other’s families and we won’t forget that – whatever happens.

Pause for thought: They say that you can never have enough friends. The supposed diary extract above tells the story of the strong relationship between David and Jonathan – an unbroken friendship.

As parents, we want our children to find good friends and also to be a good friend to others. How can we help them to do so? Take time to think back to your own school days. How did great friendships come about and how have you managed to keep them going? Be prepared to pass on these stories.

It’s also great to model being a good friend by communicating our thinking. For example, “I’m meeting Sue for a coffee today – she’s been feeling a bit down recently. Maybe I can cheer her up.” “Ben’s got a job interview tomorrow, so I’m sending him a text to say I’m thinking of him.” We can also model speaking well of our friends, rather than running them down.

It’s interesting that David and Jonathan make a serious promise of friendship before God. It’s a decision they make and stick to, not something that comes and goes according to how they feel – or abandon when the going gets tough.

If children understand the true meaning of friendship, they can better understand the friendship that God offers to us.

 

 David and Jonathan: Read the diary extract above together about the friendship between these two young men. Wonder about it as follows:

  • I wonder why the King wanted to kill David
  • I wonder who was a good friend in this story
  • I wonder what you think makes someone a good friend

Pizza Party: Invite new school friends round to make pizzas together! You could buy some ready-made bases (or make your own dough) and prepare some tomato sauce in advance by heating tinned tomatoes with a dessertspoon of tomato puree and a pinch of oregano or mixed herbs.

Provide a variety of toppings for your friends to choose from, for example:

Tuna pizza: black olives, capers, tinned tuna fish, sliced onion

Spicy sausage pizza: chopped ham, sliced spicy sausage, sliced pepperoni, grated

     Mozzarella cheese

Courgette pizza: sliced courgette, sliced mushroom, sliced onion, gated cheese

 Lay circles of dough (about 13cm/5 in diameter) on a greased baking tray. Spread the sauce over the bases, leaving a small margin. Add the toppings and bake until bases are golden brown (approx 15-20 mins at 220 C/425 F/ Gas mark 7).

 

Friendship bracelets: You will need rectangles of white paper, about A5 size; pencils; crayons or felt-tipped pens; sticky tape; scissors

(Each piece of paper makes three bracelets)

Fold the rectangle of paper in half, short edges together, and then in half again (in the same direction). With the short end of the folded paper towards you, draw a circle (for a face or head shape) near the top of the paper. Connect each circle to the long edges of the paper with two lines (rather like a narrow watch strap). Repeat in the middle and bottom.

Cut out each bracelet, taking care not to cut along the folds of the ‘straps’. Open them out and decorate them with your friends. You could draw your own face and those of three friends. Or you could decorate them with pictures of David and Jonathan and some items from the story!

Help each other to fasten them around your wrists with tape. You could even make a long chain of everyone in your class or Sunday Club and hang it up on the wall!

 

A good friend . . .

Write this heading on a big piece of paper and leave it pinned or taped where family members can write their ideas. For example:

  • Always wants the best for you
  • Tries to understand you . . .
  • Never . . .

 

‘Friends’ scrapbook: Why not keep a diary, scrapbook or photo album of all the things you do with your friends this year. Write some notes to remind yourself in the future of all the things you are doing together now. Send paper birthday cards and tell your friends how much you appreciate them – or thank them for their support in the past. If you take a good photo of a group of friends, perhaps you could buy a ‘friends’ frame for it and give as a birthday present.

 

Bedtime meditation: Remind children that when God made the world, he wanted to be good friends with us. Chat quietly about all the things he did for us (giving us plenty of food, a beautiful world, trusting us to look after his world, etc). Ask children to close their eyes and use their imaginations as they listen, answering the questions in silence . . .

 

(Speak slowly and quietly) Imagine you’re standing in a beautiful garden with God. He smiles at you and asks you to walk with him through his garden. As you walk, he seems to match his steps with yours, so that he is always by your side. The sun’s just setting. What colour are the clouds? He points out some trees with fruit on them. What kind of fruit hangs on the branches? Now you come down to some water. Is it a lake, or a river? Is the water flowing fast or still? What reflections can you see in the water? A bird flies down to the water’s edge. What’s it like? Now God beckons and a horse comes trotting up to make friends with you.

You walk on together and God asks you about your day. What do you tell him? You chat together happily – what are you chatting about?

Now you are both quiet, but it doesn’t matter at all because you feel quite at ease – with a good friend you can be happy whether you are talking or just being quiet together.

 

Prayer time: Thank God for particular friends or ask him to help us find friends. Ask how we can give them support. Thank God for sending Jesus to be our friend forever.

Vicki Howie

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FAITH IN THE FAMILY FOR JULY/AUGUST

 Let’s get creative!

The Story of Creation (Based on Genesis 1-2:3)

A story poem to read aloud, mime and join in the repetitions!

In the beginning, there was nothing. (Show empty hands) So God made the heavens and the earth. “Let there be light!” said God. And light appeared!

That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the land. But there was nothing growing on it. “Let all kinds of plants grow on the earth!” said God. And they did! There were trees and bushes, fruit and vegetables and colourful flowers. (Mime growing up, spreading branches)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the sky. But there was nothing shining in it! “Let there be lights in the sky!” said God. And there were! There were brilliant suns, glowing moons, spinning planets and twinkling stars. (Wiggle fingers like twinkling stars, spin like planets)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the sea. But there was nothing swimming in it. “Let the sea be filled with all sorts of sea creatures!” said God. And it was! There were crabs and dolphins, turtles, fish and sea-horses all swimming through the water. (Mime swimming, diving, floating)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the air. But there was nothing flying through it. “Let there be birds!” said God. And there were! The air was filled with birds. There were swallows and parrots, eagles and owls all flying and swooping and hovering (mime flying, swooping, hovering)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the jungle. He made forests, fields and gardens. But there was nothing moving through it. “Let there be animals!” said God. And there were! There were big animals and tiny creatures. There were wild animals and friendly pets. (Mime crawling, galloping, stalking, trotting)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

So God made the world. But there was no-one to look after it. No-one special to share all it’s joys. “Let there be a man and a woman!” said God. And there were! And soon the world was filled with families – Mums and Dads, boys and girls, Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles. They sowed seeds, they made music, sang and danced, they made clay pots and carved wood . . . (mime different activities) . . . and God was very pleased – especially when they made time to walk and talk with him!

“That’s WONDERFUL!” said God. “That’s REALLY wonderful!”

And God was so pleased with all that he had made, that he stopped work for a rest and to bless and enjoy it all!

 

Pause for thought: Take time to read the story above and the Creation story in Genesis 1-2:2 on which it is based. The Bible story, written over two thousand years ago, is not meant to tell us how the world was made – scientists do not know for certain today. In fact, the writer probably believed that the earth was a flat disc mounted on pillars, with water beneath and above the great dome of the sky. What interested him was not how this happened but why – and he makes it clear that it was at the will of God and not by accident.

The writer was a devout member of a community which saw the seventh day not only as a day of rest from work, but as one on which to gather for worship, prayer and seeking the will of God – in other words a chance for recreation in a profound way. In his great hymn of Creation, he sees the working week as a reflection of the great creative acts of God who, on the seventh day, rests and refreshes himself, content with a job well done!

The Bible passage sees man in a privileged position, able to run the world but accountable to its Creator. He is made in God’s image and is therefore capable of great things, with the freedom to respond to God.

The summer holidays are a great opportunity for us to delight in the natural world around us and to encourage our children to do the same. We can help them to create memories and family traditions that will give them pleasure in years to come and which they in turn may introduce to their own families!

  

The Creation story: Read the story above out loud while other members of the family do the mimes. Wonder about it together, as follows:

  • I wonder if you could leave out anything that God made and it would make no difference to the world
  • I wonder which part of the story you like the best
  • I wonder how we can look after God’s world
  • I wonder why God rested after all his work

 

Recreation time for Mums and Dads! As a busy parent, it’s easy to feel we are simply “Emma’s Mum” or “Ben’s Dad”! The more relaxed summer months may be a good time to resume an enjoyable interest or therapeutic hobby dropped through lack of time. Arm yourself with the right equipment (water-colours, walking map, maintained bike, yoga mat, etc) and put aside some time to “recreate” your own identity! If personal prayer time has been short, perhaps now is the time to refresh it!

 

Recreation time for kids! During the summer holidays, encourage children to find new hobbies for relaxation both now and for their future benefit. For inspiration, you could:

  • Visit a craft store such as Hobbycraft for ideas and supplies
  • Visit a good bookshop or a library. Search for books that inspire, for example a book on how to draw/make origami animals or a storybook about an animal by Michael Morpurgo
  • Invest in a book of 365 poems for children and start reading one every day
  • Have a look in the supermarket for “creation-themed” sugar cake decorations, such as stars, butterflies or carrots (for carrot cake!)

 

On a car journey: On a long car journey, play the alphabet game, with each person naming something that God has made starting with A,B,C, etc. For example, Alligator, Berries, Corn, Daisy . . . You could do the same thing with names of people and countries, for example, Andrew, Belgium, Christopher, Denmark . . .

 

Put on a good show! Perhaps children could get together with friends to perform the Creation story above. Instead (or as well as) the mimes, they could draw and paint stars, animals, sea-creatures etc as props to be brought out of a box at the appropriate moments in the story. They could have some regular craft and rehearsal sessions.

Why not perform this to family and friends? Everyone could bring some themed refreshments (star biscuits, butterfly cakes, tuna rolls, etc) to serve afterwards. You could ask for donations to a favourite charity or towards the mission of your church!

 

Plants: Give children a small bed or container to dig over or look after during the summer. If you have a flower press, experiment to see which flowers press the best. Alternatively, wrap them in tissue and put between the pages of a heavy book. Once pressed, use them to make greetings cards.

Visit a garden centre to plant up a herb pot or small alpine garden in a container.

 

The National Trust: Look out for some fun family days out at local NT properties. In the south-east, for example, at Emmetts Garden, there’s a family trail from Sat 1 Jul – Sun 3 Sep (10am-4pm) and there’s a performance of Wind in the Willows on Thurs 31 Aug at 4pm. At Chartwell, there’s a “Winston and other animals” family trail over the summer and at Sheffield Park and Garden you can enjoy a night under canvas at a wild camping weekend (Fri 7 and Sat 8 Jul). Cook on the campfire and enjoy a spot of stargazing.

For these and other events, visit nationaltrust.org.uk/southeastevents

 

Fabulous Fruit Lollies! Make some refreshing fruit lollies! Put 50g (2 oz) each of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries into a saucepan together with 1 ½ tablespoons icing sugar (sieved). Cook over a gentle heat for a short while until the fruit is soft. Puree and sieve, then stir in one 150g (5 oz) pot raspberry yoghurt. Pour into 4 ice-lolly moulds and freeze.

 

Prayer: In the story of Creation, God rested on the seventh day. As a way of making Sunday special, have a time of family prayer and thanksgiving for the summer holidays. Talk about the things that each person has enjoyed over the past week before each one says a simple one-line prayer thanking God. Finish by thanking God for our wonderful world and for giving us the gift of time to enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

January: Faith in the Family Activities

January: Speaking and listening

God speaks to Samuel (1 Samuel 3: 1-10)

Samuel heard it as he lay on his bed in the room with the golden chest – the one that held the laws God gave to Moses. It had been busy in the Temple all day, but now he listened to the silence and watched the light from the oil lamp flicker on the bare walls.

“Samuel!”

That must be Eli, his guardian, wanting him to fetch something. He’d go and see what he wanted. The old man could hardly see now.

“Here I am!” he said, running in to Eli. “Here I am, you called me.”

But Eli said, “No, I didn’t call. Go back to bed.”

Samuel obeyed. That was strange. He was sure he’d heard his name called. He tried to sleep, but couldn’t. He thought about his mother and wished she wasn’t so far away. If only she could tell him a bedtime story – like the one about her praying and praying for a baby before he was born. He smiled. She’d chosen the name Samuel for him because it meant “asked of God”.

“Samuel!” There it was again. That must be Eli. He ran in.

“Here I am! You called me.”

“My son, I didn’t call!” said Eli, puzzled. “Go back and lie down.”

Samuel was wide awake now. Was the old priest getting forgetful? This had never happened before, not since his mother had brought him here when he was very small. How homesick he’d felt at first. But his mother had made God a promise. Her son would serve God all his life, as a thank you. He’d soon got used to helping Eli in the temple, learning how everything was done. And now it felt like home. Except, he did look forward to his mother’s next visit . . .

“Samuel!” There! He wasn’t imagining it. What was going on?

“Here I am, Eli! What do you want?”

The old priest sat up, paused for a moment, wondering.

“My son, I think the Lord is calling you,” he said. “Go back and lie down. If he speaks to you again, say, ‘I’m listening, Lord. What do you want me to do?’”

Slowly, Samuel went back to bed. He lay down. Could it be true? The one who’d made the world, talking to him? He lay still as a statue, straining to listen above the beat of his heart, roaring in his ears. It would drown out every other sound!

But when it came, the voice was as clear as if the Lord were standing right next to him.

“Samuel!”

“I’m listening, Lord,” Samuel answered. “What do you want me to do?”

Pause for thought: As we gaze out of our windows at this time of year, we see the bare branches of trees silhouetted against pink sunsets. Ponds may be frozen, and gardens sometimes lie under a blanket of snow, muffling every sound. Silence! There is no doubt that we have arrived in the depths of winter.

At the time of the Bible story, God hardly ever spoke directly to people. Silence! But one night he did speak, not to Eli the experienced priest, but to his young helper, Samuel. The boy didn’t recognize God’s voice, and so it was up to Eli to explain whose voice he’d heard and how to respond.

There are many instances in the Bible when God speaks to someone unexpected. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when the children we know show amazing spiritual insight. Then, like Eli, we need to listen to what they say and take it seriously. However, it may be up to us to interpret what they are experiencing and to advise on how they should move forward.

 

God speaks to Samuel: Read the Bible story together. Wonder about it, as follows:

  • I wonder why God chose to speak to Samuel
  • I wonder how God speaks to people today
  • I wonder if prayer is about two-way communication
  • I wonder if you have ever felt God speaking to you (perhaps through a Bible story, through the words of a Christian friend, or a quiet voice in your head)

 

The listening game: How good are we at listening to each other? This game could be played on a long car journey. One person tells a story about something funny/embarrassing that happened to them. Then someone else has to repeat their story, eg “One day when Mum was six, she was riding a donkey along the beach when . . . “ Take turns at telling and relaying the stories. How much detail can everyone include?

However old our children may be, they always need us to listen to them, whether it is that important time straight after school or on the odd weekend when they come home from working away. Sometimes having someone to listen is enough. At other times, we may be able to interpret a situation for them, saying, for example, “Well, perhaps your friend was just having a bad day,” or, “Hmm, if you keep feeling like that, do you think God might be telling you something?”

 

The name game: You could play this while sitting at the table before or after a meal. Put a baby name book on the table. Does everyone know what their name means? Have a guess and then look them up. Chat about why those names were chosen. Look up the names of other relatives. You might like to draw a family tree together on a big piece of paper, with the names in circles. Add the bare branches of a wintry tree and its trunk in the background. Can anyone remember what Samuel means?

 

I hear with my little ear! Go on a wintry walk. Stop still for a few minutes in different places to find out what you can hear, for instance

  • In your street
  • On the bench in a churchyard
  • On a footpath
  • In your garden
  • In the woods

Have you noticed these sounds before? Next, when each person wakes up in the morning, try guessing what time it is by what you can hear, before checking a clock. How did everyone do? Can you get more accurate as the days go by?

Link this with the idea that prayer is all about listening to God as well as speaking to him. As a family, agree that each person will try to pause for a short while between their prayers in order to listen to God, perhaps saying, “I’m listening, Lord.” This could be a New Year’s Resolution!

 

Feed the birds! We don’t hear the birds singing so much in the early morning at this time of year. But they may be hungry. You might like to get or make a bird table as a family project. To make a simple one, use a piece of plywood for the base and thin strips of wood for the edges. To hang it from a branch, fix a screw-eye at each corner and make two loops with thick string. Put food on the table (seeds, dried fruit, cooked potato, bacon, hips and haws, acorns) and keep a record of the food different birds eat.

You can make a bird pudding by mixing kitchen scraps and uncooked porridge oats with melted fat. Pour the mixture into an empty yoghurt pot with a hole in the bottom and string threaded through for hanging upside down.

 

Big ears! Make bunny/alien ears from a paper plate! Turn it upside down and, starting from the inside of the crinkled rim, draw two bunny-shaped ears (ie, within the middle of the plate). Cut out the inner circle of the plate, going around the ears and being careful not to cut across the place where the ears join the rim. Colour the ears and then fold them up. Write, “I’m listening, Lord!” around the rim. Try it on!

 

Bedtime story: “Play” the Bible story with your toddler and a soft toy with big ears, such as a rabbit, a mouse or a dog. For example, “ This is Sam. Sam was just going to bed – night-night, Sam – when he heard a voice calling him. Samuel, Samuel! So he jumped out of bed and ran in to see (your toddler’s name) saying, ‘Here I am! Did you call me?’ Your toddler says “No, I didn’t call. Go back to bed, Sam!” So Sam goes back to his bed. He snuggles down and he is just going to sleep, when . . . etc.

End by saying, “Well, perhaps that was God speaking. Let’s say a prayer and listen to God together!”

. . .