What I've been thinking and what I've been reading for you to compare notes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lessons Learned from Teaching Kids

Every once in a while I like to report on my turn on the rotation of teaching kids on Wednesday night. Last week I had my wife Deb lead the adult Bible discussion while I got to learn from the children.

Since we're in 40 Days of Love at Pathway right now, I decided to teach the children on the topic of love from 1 Corinthians 13. I used the Contemporary English Version of the Bible since it is supposed to have an understanding level simple enough for 5th graders.

I had the kids read the verses one by one and we discussed whether or not we were good at showing love the way a particular verse talked about:

Do I take turns patiently without getting upset?
Do I get jealous of a friend's new clothes?
Do I show off or act as if others don't matter?
Am I polite and respectful of my parents and teachers?
Do I let someone else have the biggest piece of cake?
Do I call others names and try to get back at them?
Do I stay angry at someone for what he or she did?
Do I look for good in someone others say is bad?
Do I stand up for someone whom others pick on?
Do I believe that God can change difficult people?
Do I encourage others to do and be their best?
Do I choose to love others even when they disappoint?
Do I refuse to give up on someone, no matter what?

That's a pretty good list for adults to consider, let alone children!

If the children thought they were pretty good at showing love in a particular way, then they got to write their name beside that question. If not, they put a little star beside it to remind them what they needed to work on.

When the Bible was passed around and came to one little girl to read, she said, "I don't know how to read. I read backwards."

In a previous teaching/learning experience with the children I had noticed this same girl was able to put puzzle pieces together more quickly than anyone else in the class so I knew she was intelligent. (I had been using the puzzle as an object lesson about the story of Esther and how God put all of the pieces together in her life to bring out a beautiful result. As we put the puzzle together we talked.)

So, now trying to encourage her to read I said, "Oh, you have dyslexia. Did you know some of the smartest people who ever lived had dyslexia." (Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, etc.)

When I said this her mouth dropped open but she didn't say a word.

We went on reading a few more verses and talking about which areas of showing love that we each needed to work on.

When I asked for the next verse to be read she said, "Give me the Bible. It's my turn to read!" She sounded out the words slowly but with just a little help on a few big words, she was able to complete the reading.

After we discussed that verse the Bible was supposed to be passed on but she said, "Pastor Brian, is it okay if I read the rest of the verses?"


Another humorous incident in this same teaching setting was when I asked, "If you love others, why shouldn't you brag?" One little girl piped up and said, "Because you might hurt yourself!"

Kids are so cool!

Monday, March 02, 2009

"Great" or "Good?"


"At the turn of the 20th Century, a disillusioned man who had failed at almost everything he had attempted wrote to his sister, 'When I was young I longed to write a great novel that should win me fame. Now that I am getting old my first book is written to amuse children. For, aside from my evident inability to do anything 'great,' I have learned to regard fame as a will-o-the-wisp...but to please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one's heart.'

"The man was Lyman Frank Baum, and his best-known book began to take form when a group of children, led by his own four boys, waylaid him one evening in his modest Chicago home, demanding a story. After a hard day's work, Baum often turned to fantasy as many men turned to alcohol. Sitting down with the children surrounding him, he began to talk. He gave no thought to what he was saying and later wrote in amazement, 'The characters surprised even me - it was as though they were living people.' Baum told of a little Kansas farm girl named Dorothy who was carried by a cyclone to a strange land where she met a live scarecrow, a man made of tin, and a cowardly lion. One of the children asked, 'What was the name of the land, Mr. Baum?' Stumped, Baum looked around him for inspiration. In the next room were filing cabinets, and one bore the letters O-Z. 'The land of OZ!' exclaimed the storyteller and continued with the tale, unaware that he had added a new word to the English language." (From "The Father of Oz, by Daniel P. Mannix)

It appears to me that L. Frank Baum was finally able to do something "great," but it came out of an effort to do something "good," to entertain little children.

How often, I wonder, do we aspire to greatness when God wants us to aspire to goodness? (And, in turn, greatness becomes the end result?)

Jesus taught us that goodness and faithfulness (loyalty) are the primary characteristics by which we will be evaluated when we stand before Him. (Matthew 25:21) Goodness - not greatness.

One of my favorite new TV shows is "Eleventh Hour," a CBS drama about Dr. Jacob Hood, a biophysicist and special science advisor to the U.S. government. Hood spends his life in "pursuit of those who would abuse and misuse scientific discoveries and breakthroughs for their own gain."

In one episode he hunts and eventually confronts a physician known only as Geppetto, who has cloned several children in order to use them as spare parts to replace her failing organs and save her own life. (Makes one think what dark goals may actually be reached by people of science devoid of conscience and character.)

Anyway, as Dr. Hood confronts the selfish "puppetmaster" (undoubtedly code-named Geppetto for the similarity to the toymaker who created Pinocchio) on her sick bed, an interesting exchange brings the entertainment to a denouement. Geppetto, thinking she is about to receive body parts from the cloned children that will help her regain her health, is instead met by Dr. Hood with the news that the game is up.

Geppetto: "You are good Dr. Hood...but you will never be great."

Dr. Hood: "I can live with that."

And so should every follower of Christ be able to say, "Good...I can live with that."