Friday, September 29, 2017

Obsession and Friendship

If your church uses The Revised Common Lectionary for planning your messages, you’ll find that today’s simple story perfectly illustrates verses from one of the selected scriptures for this week, Philippians 2.
Picture Book: We Found a Hat
Author & Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Summary: Two friends on a journey, who happen to be turtles, find a hat -  one hat, two turtles. 
Each tries on the hat, 
and each declares it looks good on the other. 
They know it would be wrong for only one turtle to have the hat. 
Solution: They must leave the hat behind. 
They don't go far. The hat is still in plain site which proves to be really hard for one turtle. 
The two turtles watch the sunset together. 
It is clear that their company is important and this daily event worth their attention. 
But once the sun is down, that one turtle's eyes look back... 
to the hat, a new obsession. 
Both turtles turn and prepare to sleep, one turtle sleepier than the other. 
After a while, a night time excursion is inevitable. 
The sleeping friend is neither far in distance nor far from the thoughts of the secretive turtle. 
Next is a sort of confession. Dreams of owning the hat are declared. But... 
quickly that dream expands to both turtles owning hats and wearing them very well. 
The hat is considered again. What's this hat worth? An important friendship? 
No. 
The turtle returns to the more important relationship and settles in for a good night's sleep. 
Still there is the dream.
Hanna’s Comments: Be sure to point out the eyes as you read to your audience for they are crucial to the story. Klassen is known for his simple but profound books. This book is part of Klassen’s Hat Trilogy, but the stories are not connected - different hats, different animals. This is Not My Hat is about a fish stealing a hat. A great PBT option if you are looking for a book about “Thou shalt not steal.”  I Want My Hat Back offers another great PBT experience for exploring The Parable of the Lost Coin.
Original Publisher & Date: Candlewick, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: The story of Lot's wife (Genesis 19:15-26); Be of one mind; don’t do anything out of selfishness. (Philippians 2:2-5)

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of people of any age and then explore ideas of obsession, selfishness, or greed and how these can harm important friendships and be obstacles to spiritual formation.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Psalm 23 x 4

Four books are featured today! All of them have as their text the 23rd Psalm. The language is traditional except for the book for preschoolers (listed first below). I show you a sampler of their illustrations, then give you some details for each. Applications in ministry are obvious. Consider presenting 2 books and having your audience talk about which illustrations most appeal to them and why.

The Lord is my shepherd.
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads in paths of righteousness for His name sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me 
all the days of my life.
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord 
forever. 

Now here are the 4 books!
Picture Book: Found: Psalm 23
Adaptation: Sally Lloyd-Jones
Illustrator: Jago
Hanna’s Comments: This book for preschoolers is pulled from the Jesus Storybook Bible. If you are not Christian, do consider it. The Jesus Storybook Bible does refer to Jesus, but this beautiful book does not. Its text is a simple paraphrase of the 23rd Psalm.
Original Publisher & Date: Zonderkidz, 2017
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

Picture Book: Psalm Twenty-Three
Illustrator: Tim Ladwig
Hanna’s Comments: The preface of this book explains that the illustrations are of urban America and highlight a "black family living among urban dangers." A stained glass window of Jesus is a crucial part of the visual story.   
Original Publisher & Date: Eerdmans, 1993
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present

Picture Book: Psalm 23
Illustrator: Richard Jesse Watson
Hanna’s Comments: These illustrations are more magical and dramatic which will appeal to some in your audience. The images are all of children or a lamb. It uses “thy” and “thou” and has the th endings on some of the verbs (He maketh me to lie down…).
Original Publisher & Date: Zonderkidz, 2013
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet 

Picture Book: Psalm 23
Illustrator: Barry Moser
Hanna’s Comments: Zonderkidz, 2008
Original Publisher & Date: This is my favorite version for older children for it shows the meaning of these words more realistically in a context closest to the original psalm. The illustrator explains that his images are inspired by travels in the Caribbean. Here you have a shepherd boy as an image of God as well as other images of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit such as doves, butterflies and a pelican. Have your audience find them.
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: None at present

Friday, September 22, 2017

Peace Grows Like Coffee

A few weeks ago, we remembered the tragedy of September 11, 2001. I found myself thinking about how the world had changed because of that horrific event. In my mind, few changes are positive. This picture book tells of positive changes in an African village inspired by the events of 9/11. 
Picture Book: Growing Peace: A Story of Farming,                                               Music, and Religious Harmony
Author and Photojournalist: Richard Sobol
Summary: This story begins and ends in Africa in the village of Namanyonyi, near the border of Uganda and Kenya. 
Namanyonyi is unusual. In this small Ugandan village live Christians, Jews, and Muslims. They live in harmony, but they used to live more separately. Here you see children from each religion enjoying futbol. (The hats identify the boy in the middle as Jewish and the boy on the right as Muslim.
Since one villager's witnessing of 9/11, they live more cooperatively and productively. J. J. Keki, a musician and coffee grower, happened to be in New York City on his way to The World Trade Center on 9/11. 
He emerged from the subway station in time to see one of the planes hit a tower. His life, like so many others, would never be the same. 
He came home and realized his village offered a perfect opportunity to model interfaith cooperation. Most families have a garden for food but also grow coffee for export. (They prefer to drink tea.) 
Through contacts made in his village via his children's many friends, Mr. Keki met with village farmers of all 3 religions: Islam
Christianity 
and Judaism.
Together they created a farming cooperative so that they can import their coffee at a better price and highlight their cooperation despite their village's religious diversity.  On the sign below find the word "Kawomera." It means "delicious." The Delicious Peace Growers Coop was born and has transformed this community! 
A model of interfaith cooperation was been born thanks to one man's determination to counteract religious hatred! 
J. J. Keki has even written songs celebrating the extraordinary peace and joy that his village now experiences. 
Besides a detailed account of this story, you'll find the process of growing coffee beans. Children and adults are photographed demonstrating the steps: the harvesting of coffee cherries,  
the drying of their seeds, 
the shaking to remove skins, the bagging, and the transporting to a Kenyan sea port. 
Growing Peace offers a wide but pragmatic perspective on peacemaking, integrated with economic cooperation. 
Hard work is celebrated here as well as the joy of living in the diversity that God ordains through nature and humanity.
Hanna’s Comments: There is so much text in this book that I highly recommend reading it over a couple of sessions or telling (rather than reading) this powerful story while showing the photographs. Find in the back an Author's Note and lots of resources including a glossary which will help with pronunciation. The music behind this story is available [here] and you can purchase the fair trade Delicious Peace Coffee [here]
Check out other PBT books about Africans' responses to September 11, 2001 [here] and [here].
Original Publisher & Date: Lee & Low, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 7 and up, 2nd and up
Formats other than Book: this story is told in a feature-length video available at [Youtube]
Scripture Connections: Two are better than one, because they have good reward for their toil. If they fall, one will lift up the other. (Ecclesiastes 4:9); Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called people of God. (Matthew 5:9); Consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24); Strive for peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of older children or adults and consider how scripture encourages cooperative community, even across religious traditions.