Friday, February 1, 2019

PBT Favorite Posts #7

In celebration of my 700 PBT post (!!!) and the start of February (the month of love), I give you a favorite PBT post. It is a tribute and sort of memorial to my favorite picture book author, Amy Krause Rosenthal. You may recall her NY Times article You May Want to Marry My HusbandSince AKR's death, a TED talk by her husband has had over a million views. It is such a loving tribute to a woman who lived well and an honest testament to the heartbreak of terminal illness and grief. Check it out [here]. And now, that favorite post... 

Last Friday, I posted a tribute to author Amy Krouse Rosenthal after reading that she had a terminal illness. Sadly, AKR died on Monday (3/13/17). [Here’s] an obituary that gives you the breadth of her great work. Below is a post about her most recent publication. I've heard more original works will be published posthumously. I’m glad and very thankful for her life and her work.

Picture Book: That’s Me Loving You
Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Teagan White 
Summary: Each page of this gorgeous book explains how a particular child might find additional meaning in particular experiences of nature. A shimmering star is "me winking at you."
A drifting cloud is "me thinking of you."
The ocean is "me waving at you."
And even a clap of thunder is "me raving about you."
Even insect encounters are given new meaning. A persistent mosquito is "me bugging you"
and a butterfly, "that's me hugging you."
All these nature experiences are moments of transcendence 
and moments of love in the absence of someone who is missed.
Hanna’s Comments: Check out AKR's 1.5 minute short film [Today is a Gift]Similar sentiments under-gird this book. Knowing the plight of AKR, her words here have bittersweet meaning. She dedicates the book to her 3 children and others who are obviously close to her. Mother love has been featured as a sort of parallel to God's love in other PBT posts. Here are links to 2: the ever-present love found in The Runaway Bunny and the unconditional love found in I Love You Stinky, FaceThe kind of love that is expressed in today's PBT book can also be a parallel to God’s unfathomable love and ever-presence. In the United Methodist Church, we hear about prevenient grace, a wooing sort of love that is holy and wonderfully prevenient (anticipatory and constant). Like the mother's love in this book, it is found in God’s generous creation. Find more PBT books that connect to prevenient grace [here]. Children are not too young to hear such an usual word. With their magical thinking, they get that love can transcend time and place. They can find comfort in knowing that God’s presence (and that of an absent parent) can be found in creation in all sorts of ways through acts of contemplation and simply through beauty. Thanks be to God!
Original Publisher & Date: Random House, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: My presence will go with you (Exodus 33:14); In your presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11); Where can I go from your Spirit? Where shall I flee from your presence? … (Psalm 139:7); I (Jesus) am with you always (Matthew 28:20)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children who are learning about how God’s loving presence is with us and can be particularly meaningful when experiencing God’s creation.

Monday, January 28, 2019

PBT Techniques #10 – Shallow to Deep

If you'd like to read more posts in this series, simply type "PBT Techniques" in the search box to the right. 
You’ve read my encouragement to use picture books for adult small groups. In case any of you have doubts about this practice, I’d like to tell you about 2 recent lessons with my Sunday school class, a class that can quickly go from shallow silly fun to deep meaningful conversation. 

Recently, a much-loved member of our class died of early-onset Alzheimer’s. I invited the class to explore ideas of loss and being lost via 2 simple picture books. At first glance, these books might be considered shallow stories for children only, but I beg to differ. There is much wisdom in them. They allowed for gentle tiptoeing into deep waters of meaning and opportunities for serious reflection.

In the first lesson, I read Mo Willems' Knuffle BunnyHere’s that PBT post. It comically tells the story of a pre-verbal child leaving her comfort object at the laundry mat. Once read, I invited the class to write a scattering of losses on a page. Since language is an important aspect of this story, I asked them to write words describing their core feelings about their losses. I reminded them of The Pascal Mystery (life, then death, then resurrection) which is a key aspect of Christ's life and teaching. Then we considered how often Jesus dealt with loss. A profound moment occurred when I asked them to imagine a world with no loss. They could not.

For the next lesson, I took these thoughts a step further. First I shared a few Richard Rohr quotes about transformation being tied up with loss and suffering. Then I introduced Walter Brueggemann's cyclical Rhythm of Life (Orientation, Disruption, Disorientation, New Orientation). Before reading Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson, I asked them to listen for the particular wisdom from the 7 animals that the cub encounters. After the reading, it was easy to find biblical connections to some of the animals' suggestions (Sit still and try to listen. Trust yourself. Don't be afraid. Look up. You are not alone.) Then we shared some stories of being lost. Here's my PBT post about Baby Bear. 

I think both lessons were meaningful, thought-provoking, and enjoyable because of the great literary and visual artistry of  Willems and Nelson. Never let it be said that picture books are just for children!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Are All Welcome at Your Church?

Don’t read either of these 3 books to your faith family unless you are prepared to talk honestly about whether your faith community, without judgement and with fears in check, is willing to welcome anyone and everyone.
Picture Book: A Church for All
Author: Gayle E. Pitman
Illustrator: Laure Fournier
Summary: In simple rhyming verse, an inclusive worshiping community is celebrated. This book starts with a panoply of people anticipating a gathering at their church, a church for all. There they find joyful noises, laughing voices, weak and healthy, plain and dressy. All are embracing and "The Spirit is gracing," even the wailers and the wigglers. This church is full of "hearts believing" and "hearts accepting." 
Hanna’s Comments: Inspired by a visit to Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, this picture book is a challenge to all churches who call themselves welcoming and open to all. Visually it is full of diversity, a loving and active sort of diversity. People who are young, old, gay, straight, physically able and not, and who have other differences are not just included but are the heart of this godly community of Christ. The sanctuary of the church is shown with posters of progressive messages all over the walls. This is not your grandfather's church!
Original Publisher & Date: Whitman & Co. 2018
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Any scripture in which Jesus crosses societal boundaries such as conversations, meals, and the healing of women, tax collectors, and gentiles.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of preschoolers and older. Encourage them to consider this vision of church and how your church is similar or different.

Picture Book: All Are Welcome
Author: Alexandra Penfold
Illustrator: Suzanne Kaufman
Summary: This delightful story is all about a diverse classroom where everyone is welcomed and encouraged to grow. More importantly, it is a place where fears are lost and hope is found. Music, art, and stories are explored and celebrated together. No one is left out. Even bread is served in all its cultural diversity. The text emphasizes that strength is found through diversity so that these children learn from each other and enjoy time together.
Hanna’s Comments: Despite this setting being in a classroom and a neighborhood, there are many parallels to church, particularly in the text. When we enter a church, what we want are our fears lost and hopes found. We want to sing together and tell some stories – Bible stories and personal stories. Two fun bonuses: The center is a big fold out page that captures the glory of diversity. The inside of the book jacket is a poster!
Original Publisher & Date: Knopf, 2018
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Do not judge (Matthew 7:1-5); The Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27 & Ephesians 4:16); Show no partiality (James 2: 1)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of elementary-aged children and talk about how your church compares with this classroom and neighborhood.

Picture Book: Everybody’s Welcome
Author: Patricia Hegarty
Illustrator: Greg Abbott
Summary: This story begins with one little mouse who is determined to have a “great big happy house.” The mouse encounters a series of animals in distress and invites them to help build a home they will live in together. Some animals have had homes destroyed. Some have been chased from their homes. One bear just doesn’t fit in anywhere. He scares others because of his great size. A snail arrives very late but is welcomed just the same. All need healing and want a home that is secure. I couldn’t help but think of parallel human stories of folks walking into the doors of a worshiping community. Some of these characters' troubles are directly linked to scripture. Think Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood (does she have a home or community?) or the man who is mentally ill and living among the tombs. The snail is like the workers in the vineyard who arrive late but are still generously rewarded. Lots of connections here!
Hanna’s Comments: Here you have a metaphor for church or any community where Christ is the center. My favorite aspect of this story is that news of these animals’ work and manner spreads and more animals come to be healed and included. This is what’s happening at my church. Every Sunday I see new faces who have been hurt by the church. They enter with trepidation but are eager for acceptance and longing for love meaning. It feels so good to greet them and tell them they are welcome.
Original Publisher & Date: Little Tiger Press, 2017
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Jesus heals the woman with the issue of blood (Matthew 9:20-22); Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16); Jesus heals the man who lives among the tombs (Mark 5:1-20)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children and help them imagine people who are like these animals, longing for a new church home. Then talk about what it looks like when a church community is a place of healing, safety, and stories.