Saturday, June 15, 2019

Pointing Fingers

I'm a little late this week. I’ve moved my daughter to Cleveland to join Teach for America. I’ll be visiting her now and then so if your church or your church-based school is in that general area and interested in a PBT workshop, I’d love to come your way. Teaching is one of my joys and strengths. Contact me to the left, and we’ll work out the details. I’m willing to travel outside of Cleveland too if you’re willing to pay my driving expenses. Today’s book is so fun and profound and very human with lots of scripture connections!
Picture Book: You Are (Not) Small
Authors: Anna King
Illustrator: Christopher Weyant
Summary: This story begins with a pointed finger and judgement...
that quickly rebounds.
Perhaps there is comfort in a crowd, but peers sometimes encourage more arrogance and ignorance and...
Arrogance, ignorance, and aggression. How these very human inclinations change everything. 
What could have started as loving diverse community  
has to get through some violence     
and surprises 
 before understanding is expanded
 and connections are made. 
But these characters don't learn any quicker 
 than humans do.
Hanna’s Comments:  If you are struggling with name-calling and teasing among the children/youth in your church, here's a book for you! Spend some time on the feelings of all parties and invite some story sharing. Make scriptural connections, in a non-judgmental way of course, and then apply to your community, Christianity in general, and even your present political environment. Remind them of the inherent worth of every individual as a child of God, imaged in the divine. Don't want to talk about the nastiness of politics or racism at church? Your kids may be soaking it up already. If they see such attitudes in the church community or spiritual leaders, their confusion is inevitable and their role models may be scarce. Be careful to talk about aspects of respect and love in diverse community without drawing divisive political lines. This may be the first opportunity children/youth experience this. As for adult programming, here's a quick intro to a conversation on The Fruit of the Spirit when in boundary-crossing dialogue. This book is the first in a series that includes That’s (Not) Mine, I Am (Not) Scared, and We Are (Not) Friends. These you can get separately or in a boxed set. There’s even a growth chart, activity guide, and Common Core guide to go with this title!
Original Publisher & Date: Two Lions, 2014
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up, Toddler and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: All humans are made in God's image (Genesis 1:27); Do not judge so that you will not be judged (Matthew 7:1; Luke 6:37); passing judgement on another, you condemn yourselves. (Romans 2:1); There is neither Jew nor Greek... (Romans 3:28); The Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23); Do not speak evil against another (James 4:11); ...encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14b)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to any age. Focus on the judgmental nature of humans and how Jesus and the early Christian community warned us against this. 

Friday, June 7, 2019

PBT Grab & Go #17 - Extra Yarn

Here’s another gem in the PBT series I call Grab & Go in which I feature again secular books that are extremely easy to use in sacred settings. I don’t recommend this, but you could literally grab one of these books and go to your audience. The rich sacred connections will easily rise to the surface. Your job is simply to encourage your listeners as they find a godly character, spiritual practice, holy idea, or scripture connection. The book below is a favorite! In fact, I sell a lesson for elementary-aged kiddos connecting this book to the story in Acts of Dorcas/Tabitha’s resurrection. Contact me (see left column) if you’re interested in purchasing for just $4!
Picture Book: Extra Yarn
Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Summary: In a colorless world, Annabelle finds a box filled with multi-colored yarn and begins knitting for herself and others. Miraculously, the yarn never runs out. As Annabelle faces criticism for her knitted pieces, she knits for the one who is criticizing and all are converted to the beauty and transformational nature of her work. When a rich archduke wants to purchase the extraordinary yarn and Annabelle refuses, he steals the box. Once in his castle, he opens the box to find it empty. Angrily he throws the box out into the ocean where it floats back to Annabelle so that she can continue her knitting.
Hanna’s Comments: This metaphor of how a young girl’s loving creativity can transform a community is beautifully intriguing. I especially like the way the illustrator shows yarn attaching a character to another character, demonstrating the loving bonds Annabelle is creating with her generosity.
Original Publisher & Date: Balzer + Bray, 2012
Age and Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Available in Spanish? Yes
Scripture Connections: Jesus’ healing power, Tabitha’s good works (Acts 9:36-42), Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12); Gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)
Idea(s) for Application: This book offers a beautiful metaphor for spreading love with your giftedness. Use it with a lesson on the transformational & healing power of generosity and good works. Tie it to the work of knitting or sewing ministries.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Darkness & Fear

Picture Book: The Dark
Authors: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Summary: Lazlo is a young boy who is afraid of the dark. The dark is sometimes in Lazlo's closet or behind the shower curtain, but mostly it lives in the basement. 
At night, the dark goes outside and spreads itself against the windows and doors of Lazlo's house. 
Lazlo greets the dark each morning, hoping it will stay in the basement.
But one night, the dark visits Lazlo in his room (the nightlight goes out) and says that it wants to show Lazlo something... 
in the basement. The dark lures Lazlo to a bottom drawer of a chest, all the while explaining why the things Lazlo is afraid of are important, especially the dark. 
"Without the dark, everything would be light, and you would never know you needed a light bulb." 
Lazlo takes the light bulb, says thanks to the dark, and returns to his bedroom. 
When Lazlo visits the dark the next morning, he notices how the open drawer looks like the dark is smiling. 
The dark is never scary to Lazlo after that night. 
Hanna’s Comments: If you know the work of Lemony Snicket, you know he is an expert at dark humor and dark wisdom. Here he plays with concepts of fear and darkness but also courage and perseverance; all are important subjects for people of faith to explore, especially knowing we can have coping strategies and spiritual practices in particular. Recently, I read a beautiful article about the death of writer Rachel Held Evans. At her death, our world lost a great Christian witness, but her 2 young children lost much more. The article mentions that RHE often read this book to her young son. Heartrendingly, his experiences with this book and the conversations they likely had during the reading might help him grieve the loss of his mother. Children are naturally fascinated by fear and darkness. They want to be more resilient during such experiences. Reading books like this one and others are one way to encourage more meaningful spiritual formation. For adults this book could introduce a small group based on Barbara Brown Taylor's excellent book Learning to Walk in the Dark. On Sunday, I plan to teach a lesson to elementary children by reading this book and Caroline Woodward's Singing Away the Dark, another PBT favorite. Then I'll simply guide the children in a conversation comparing and contrasting the two books. Afterwards, I'll tie their ideas to our summer sermon series featuring some OT heroes who all experienced fear and showed courage. 
Original Publisher & Date: Little Brown, 2013
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet, Audio
Scripture Connections: Be strong & courageous... the Lord is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9); Trust in the Lord with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5); …in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33); God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7)
Idea(s) for Application: As described above, this book would be a great tool for exploring darkness and fear with children and adults.