Arabah Joy’s “In Christ” E-course

A few months ago, I had the privilege of joining an online e-course for bloggers developed and led by Arabah Joy, a blogger friend of mine.  The e-course was free for those of us who responded to her offer, but I wasn’t really certain what to expect.  After all, I was relatively new to blogging and even newer to things like e-courses. :)  However, I was so blessed by the wisdom AJ shared from the Word.  She has a gift for taking people deep into Scripture and for asking thought-provoking questions.

At the same time, I found AJ’s lessons to be incredibly encouraging.  Truth poured forth accompanied by much gentleness and personal honesty that I found refreshing.  AJ isn’t afraid to be authentic.

So, my sisters in Christ, I’m really excited to share with you today an opportunity to learn from my friend, who is also a mom to 4 (one via adoption), a missionary, a wife, a writer, and a committed Christ-follower.  Arabah Joy is offering a new e-course (an online bible study) and registration ends tomorrow!!

Make 2014 a year of spiritual growth with the “In Christ” eCourse by missionary and blogger Arabah Joy. Understanding our identity in Christ is foundational to successfully living the Christian life. This spiritual growth course will aid participants in understanding their identity, how to abide in Christ, and will impart tools for letting the word of Christ richly dwell in the heart and mind (Colossians 3:16). The unique blend of story, scripture, community discussion, and practical application is thoughtfully geared for participants to experience ongoing life transformation.

The 4 week course will begin February 4 and run through March 4, 2014. Registration closes January 31, 2014. Course fee is $19.99

For full course details and to register, visit Arabah Joy’s “In Christ” eCourse page Click here to view more details .

If you are interested in participating in this bible study, the discount code Arabah has given to affiliates to share is “InChrist25″ and don’t forget, registration closes tomorrow!

Praying you’re finding strength and rest in Him today,

Jen :)

7 Creative Methods for Teaching Scripture to Children

We all know scripture memorization is important.  If only it were also easy!  If memorizing Bible verses proves difficult for adults, then imagine how much more difficult it can be for our young children to learn scripture.

Over my years of mothering our four kiddos and working with children at church, I’ve learned that teachers of  preschoolers in particular need to be really creative.  Sometimes that’s a real struggle for me because what works for adults doesn’t always work for kids, and even more, what works for one child may not work for another.

So, for all of the purposeful parents, the homeschooling mamas, the Sunday School teachers, the toddler nursery workers, the Children’s Church volunteers, the daycare providers, the AWANA teachers, for anyone who desires to teach kids bible verses but isn’t sure where to begin, here are my favorite methods for teaching scripture to children:

7 Creative Methods for Teaching Scripture to Children

1. Check it – Be sure the verse is short enough.

For very young students even a single sentence might be too long.  If the verse you have chosen is lengthy even in a children’s bible version, condense it further.  For example, if “Be kind and compassionate to each other” is too much, shorten it to “Be kind to others” or for very young children: “Be kind.”

Equally important, be sure that that your children or students understand the words in the verse.  What good is memorizing a verse that holds no meaning for them? :)

When teaching scripture to children, be sure to consider the age of your pupils!

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2. Act it – create motions to go along with the verse.

In general, preschoolers tend to learn more when they are being active rather than passive. Even many elementary-age children prefer to learn through movement rather than seatwork.  So, especially for those little learners who always seem to have ants in their pants, this technique can work wonders.

 For example, in our Cubbies class (preschool class for AWANA at church) we recently learned the verse “Children obey your parents in the Lord.”  The word “children” was portrayed by holding a hand out flat, palm down, and stair-stepping down, as in “stair-step children” (that’s the best I could think of – anyone have a better idea for children??).  Then for the phrase “obey your parents,” we pointed our finger straight out like a mommy telling a child what to do (picture Uncle Sam’s we-want-you pose – the kids really understood that gesture well, haha).   Finally, For “in the Lord” we simply pointed straight up into the air as if we were pointing to God in Heaven.

If you happen to know sign language, the easiest gestures would be actual signs, especially for words or phrases that will be repeated often, like God, Jesus, or Bible.   Sometimes my Cubbies are able to help me think of appropriate gestures, too. It’s important to include their input when teaching scripture to children.

Youtube example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwWO4qhntt4

*One important note: do not try to attach a gesture to every single word in the verse.  Doing so will frustrate some children and will interrupt the natural flow of the verse.  You only need a gesture for each concept or phrase in the verse.  A second note: if the children look confused, then your chosen hand gesture or motion is not computing. Let it go and try something else.  :)

3.  Play with it!

We usually repeat our memory verse a few times together before we get a little silly with it.  When the boys’ eyes begin to glaze over, I know we’ve repeated one too many times. :)

Once we can mostly say it together, I usually ask the children to stand up and push in their chairs so we can be more active.  We might crouch down and say the verse very, very quietly (gestures included) and then hop up and say it as loud as we can.  Sometimes we march around our table and say it, or we chant it to a rhythm, or we sing it, or clap it out, or use silly voices, and so on.  Songs in particular work very well at this age.

Creativity is key when teaching scripture to children!

Sometimes we march around our table and say it, or we chant it to a rhythm, or we sing it, or clap it out, or use silly voices, and so on.  Songs in particular work very well at this age (Tip: you can use familiar tunes such as Farmer in the Dell, Old MacDonald, Three Blind Mice, etc. to put the words to if you don’t already know a song for the verse you are trying to teach).

Youtube example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUNxotDbv54

Once we used the suggested game for that week from our Cubbies book – let’s call it, “Lights on, lights off.”  When the lights were off, the kids were free to move around in whatever manner they desired: walking, creeping, running, hopping, crawling, etc.  When the lights came on, everyone had to freeze in place.  Once they understood the concept of the game, I used the “freeze” time to repeat our verse.  The same concept could be used with music rather than lights.

If scripture memorization is hard for adults, then it's even more difficult for kids! Try these 7 creative methods for teaching scripture to children. Great for parents, moms, homeschool, AWANA, Children's Church, etc.

4. Repeat it – give each child to a chance to say it alone.

Once we have played around with the memory verse a little bit, most children will have at least part of the verse, if not the whole, in their minds.  At this point, I usually test my Cubbies a little while still trying to keep it fun.

For instance, if we’re chanting our verse to a beat, then in between each repetition, I’ll give a single student a chance to say it on his or her own.  Then the whole class says it together, followed by another individual, and so on.  Be sure to support those who need it so they don’t become embarrassed.

And we always, always celebrate, even if we are only partially successful at saying the verse!

5.  Draw it!

Some students prefer putting crayon to paper over reciting verses aloud.  Since my preschool Cubbies cannot read yet, I might ask them to draw a picture of their verse.

Of course, at their age I always have a few who choose to draw something totally unrelated, but for those who process information visually or spatially, drawing can really help to cement the concept of the verse in their minds.

6. Forget about references…for now.

Not that we shouldn’t attempt to teach the reference at all – I still do.  However, I just don’t stress about it anymore when teaching scripture to kids.

At this age remembering a reference that doesn’t hold much meaning (for them) and is difficult to even pronounce can be really challenging and frustrating, especially for kids who might not be familiar with the books of the Bible. How many three-year-olds can actually pronounce books like Deuteronomy, Ecclesiastes, or Thessalonians?  Even if they can pronounce them, do they understand what those words followed by numbers mean?

If not, then they are learning words that make no sense to them, hold no meaning.

Thus, in my humble opinion, the priority should be the conceptual learning taking place: truths about God making us, God loving us, loving others, etc.  I still teach the references, but I don’t emphasize them as much as the body of the verse itself. As long as a child remembers the main idea of the verse, I count it a win!

 However, if you are going to be working on a verse for an extended time, then by all means, include the reference!  Additionally, if your children or students are older and can understand the purpose of a reference, then the reference should most definitely be included! :)

7. Remember variety, different methods work with different children, so use a variety when possible.

Our preschool daughter loves to say her verses carefully along with hand gestures as if she is performing on stage.

On the other hand, her twin brother resists the hand gestures, but he love, love, LOVES anything repeated in a weird or sing-song voice. (True story – I once entertained him through an entire grocery shopping trip simply by repeating the same phrase over and over again in a robot voice.  Whatever works, right?!)

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 Of course, sometimes during AWANA, or even at home, the kids are so crazy and energetic that we fail to accomplish much in the way of teaching scripture to children.  And we don’t always make time for memory verses either, but when we do, I want to make sure that it’s time well-spent.

Whether you are teaching scripture to children at church or in your own home, I hope you find these tips helpful!  I have yet to find any ways to address tactile (touch-based/sensory) learners who cannot read yet, so if any of you have ideas for me, I’d really love to hear them.

Blessings to you brave mamas and teachers of little ones,

Jen :)

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More Than a Visit

It’s Five Minute Friday, and the word for this week is “visit.”

Visit.

He came into the world squalling, screeching more like it – his cry so sharp and loud that it was unmistakable, our long-awaited, second-born boy.  When we brought him home, we quickly learned he would be nothing like his even-tempered older brother.  This one, this tiny red-faced infant, would make his demands known.  He would be a challenge to our previous parenting prowess.

Visit, New Baby, Motherhood, baby won't sleep

Sleepless nights turned into weeks, and eventually months, the worn carpet in the hallway testifying to the demands of our newest family member.  We loved him dearly, but sometimes we just wished for peace and quiet or that he would nap longer than thirty minutes.  He never slept “like a newborn” and even today, no matter how late he stays up, he wakes at the crack of dawn.  His Grandad affectionately nick-named him “The Raptor.”

At that time, Daddy had a second-shift job and little time off. He worked hard and long.  And we did, too, trying to just survive that long and lonely winter.

Aside from prayer, it was Grandma’s visits that got us through.  She’d often call at the end of her workday just to check in because she had a squalling, colicky baby once, too – me.  I was known as the baby who cried. all. the. time.  According to my aunt, she once came to visit us only to find my mother sitting on the front stoop crying while I lay peacefully in her arms, worn out by hours of fussing. My mother knew the frustration of the long nights and even longer days of mothering a cranky baby.

“How’s it going today, Jen?”

On the good days I answered, “Fine.” And then I told a story of something new one of the boys learned or something funny the oldest said that day.

On the bad days my silence betrayed me, a silence born of threatening tears.

Knowingly, she asked, “Want me to bring McDonald’s for supper?”

Gratefully I gulped out, “Yeah, that would be good.”

fussy baby, motherhood, colic

And so we waited, the five-year-old boy, and the fussy baby, and me.  We waited for the visit, for the promise of another set of hands and the comfort food they brought.  Her presence itself calmed me as the fear that so often comes with loneliness slowly ebbed away.  When it was time for her to leave, we wore smiles once again, determined to face the challenges of the evening with faith and hope for better days ahead.

brothers, cranky infant, baby

it gets better, new mommy, tired mommy, fussy baby

She always called when I needed it most, it seemed.  She often still does today.  I have no way to explain her uncanny awareness except to say that she’s close with the Lord, and I guess He must let her know when we’re in need. :)

I’ll never forget those supper visits, nor the time she gave willingly to be the hands and feet of Jesus to my weary-mama soul.

It was just a visit,

but to me it meant the world.

Matthew 25

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me;I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

John 13

34 Anew commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jen :)

It’s Five Minute Friday, so I’m linking up with the brave and creative crew over at Lisa Jo Baker’s place.  She gives us a one-word prompt and we freewrite for five minutes (-ish). :)   No planning, no editing, no stressing.  Come on over and join us if you like!

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Confessions of a Holiday Hypocrite

December had finally arrived. The hope and joy of  the Christmas season lay spread before me as thoughts  of maximizing holiday fun and education swirled through my head.

I envisioned handmade gifts and peaceful evenings at home near the brightly lit tree, my husband walking our children through the Christmas Adventure Box advent.

Yes, I fell prey to Pinterest Syndrome, quite deadly to a mama’s often already shaky confidence.

Pinterest Syndrome begins with a few deceptively simple ideas and grows into a nasty and surprisingly strong anticipation of all things good and no things ordinary…. or, heaven forbid, even bad.

Expectations soared to incredible heights, destined to plummet at the first sign of potential failure.  And here I thought I was creating a “simple” Christmas this year (I’ll forgive you if you snicker a little at this point.)

In my defense, the holiday season was progressing suspiciously well for our family.

Thanksgiving came and went with no major incidents, and everyone was healthy for the moment, a rare winter treat in a family of six.

My husband and I even managed to put up the Christmas tree and lights with no arguing and minimal frustration, despite the circus of craziness that four enthusiastic children create when forced to wait.

We had conquered a pattern of holiday frustration for the first time in years!

Sometimes in all of our holiday fervor, we set ourselves up for an epic failure.  The disappointment that follows can be difficult to overcome, and for some, it leads to serious depression.  One way to help ourselves out of that pit is to....   Confessions of a Holiday Hypocrite

Then somewhere along the line, life began to get very real.  Our youngest son, four years old,  decided the holiday season would be a good time to test our parental authority in various, publicly humiliating places.

Our budget grew tight.

I stressed about all of The Things on my list.

On top of all of that, we became suddenly busy with all of the typical holiday concerts and programs and gatherings.

Not exactly the peace I had anticipated.

And it was all fun and good and mostly necessary, but it does make one a little weary…

For the most part, I was able to maintain the joy and hope of the season, after all there was a lot of sweet memory-making sprinkled into the mix.

But I held onto a dark secret.

After all of the praise and promise of the Christmas Adventure Box that I shared with you previously, we didn’t even manage to do it this year! At all.  Nothing.  Nada. Zip.

It just didn’t happen.

In fact, we only managed to hang onto a few of our typical holiday traditions. I didn’t even attempt to mail out Christmas cards or get a family portrait.

I felt like a failure, no worse – a holiday hypocrite!

Sometimes in all of the excitement of the holiday season, we set ourselves up for an epic failure. Overcoming holiday disappointment is no easy task!  What helps is to remember who we...

 

My carefully planned and highly anticipated season of hope and joy crumbled before me.

The disappointment that followed was slightly bitter and came with a side dose of  viral illness, as well as over a foot of snow, that kept us cooped up at home for weeks.

I could have written about it, but to be honest, I felt unworthy. So like most hypocrites, I hid from you all.

I quit writing.

I quit taking pictures.

I made excuses and planned to resume in the new year.

And when I finally succumbed to the viral plague making the rounds in our home, I wallowed in my misery.  For a few days, God and I were barely on speaking terms.

I wasn’t just disappointed about failing to do advent as a family – after all, sometimes as mamas we have to pare life down to the nitty gritty in order to survive with sanity (and with a family who still wants to be around us).

My disappointment came more from my hiding away in blogger shame and silence.

The thing is that I believe in Grace, I really do.

I’m very aware that without Grace, I’d be a hopeless mess.  Even with Grace I still have nothing to boast about except for a God who gives second chances, and third, and fourth, to infinity and eternity, a God who loves me deeply for who I am, not for who the world thinks I should be, a God who through the blood of Jesus, sees the best version of me even when I’m acting my worst.

But like many mamas, I have a hard time extending that grace to my own messy self.

So, I confess.

I’ve been a Holiday Hypocrite.

In fact, I could be called an everyday hypocrite, too,  because I’m far from perfect.  I still lose my temper. I still forget important events and birthday cards.

I still argue with my husband and become impatient with my children.  I’m still selfish with my time.  I’m still prideful.  I still say “no” to the Holy Spirit in so many ways.  I’m still learning who God made me to be.

But that’s the beauty of our journey in Christ, friends, that we get chance after chance to do things differently.

Those failures we feel so deeply are not the end of the story.  We are given an abundance of opportunities to let our Father God change who we are, from the inside out.  And that good work He began in saving us from a life of sin, He promises to continue to the very end (Phil. 1:6).  We can have complete confidence in that!

Sometimes in all of the excitement of the holiday season, we set ourselves up for an epic failure. Overcoming holiday disappointment is no easy task!  What helps is to remember who we...

So, keep up the good work, friends, even if your holidays failed to live up to your expectations.

Fight the good fight.

Run the good race.

And when you fail or fall, let Him pick your hypocritical self  back up again and hold you for a while, heal your wounds if needed, and send you off on your way, but not alone for He runs alongside you.

Don’t let those fiery darts from the Enemy bog you down, not now, but put on the full armor of God so you will stand firm in your faith.

No more hiding away, no more pretending to be something we are not, no more fearing what the world thinks, Instead, let’s embrace our work-in-progress status and the hope that it affords.

“Not to us, Lord, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.”

Psalm 115:1

Praise be to His Name!

Jen :)