Monday, January 28, 2019

PBT Techniques #10 – Shallow to Deep

If you'd like to read more posts in this series, simply type "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!

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