Category Archives: Preschool Theology

The Joys of Christian Parenting

The Good

When your child has worn you out with her constant “Why?” questions, you can end the string of queries with the answer, “Because God made them that way.”  (Pro Tip: This is the Christian version of “Because I said so.”)

The Bad

When your child is lobbying for more TV time, she has this weapon in her arsenal: “But . . . but, God wants me to watch the rest of the movie.”  (Pro Tip: This is the Christian version of “But I really, really want to.”)

The Theologically Challenging

When you coax your child to put her coat on, saying, “It’s a new coat, with snowflakes on it!  Maybe this coat will make it snow!”, and immediately regret making this claim, your child will come to your rescue with this response: “God makes it snow!  We can’t make it snow!”  (Pro Tip: If God controls the weather, does that mean that God sends hurricanes and other natural disasters?  Do you want to discuss this with a three-year-old?)

What good, bad, challenging encounters have you had this week?

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God’s Long, Confusing Story

Religion Plays an Important Part in the Lives of Residents ..., 10/1974

It’s always dangerous to ask questions during the children’s sermon.  The kids could say anything.  Or nothing.  Or, they could pull their dresses up over their heads and roll around on the floor.  (Pro Tip: The kid most likely to pull that one is the kid that comes home with me.)

But sometimes, asking questions provokes conversations like this:

Me: So, whatever kind of prayers you put in your prayer basket, God listens to them.  You can pray when you’re happy, or when you’re sad, or when you’re angry or cranky.

Emma: Yeah, or I could just write, “I love you and I miss you.”

Me: Yep! You sure could.

Emma: Because, Jesus dies.  At Easter.

Me: That’s true.  But he comes back, right?

Emma: Yeah, he does!  At Christmas!”

Me: Well . . . yes.  It’s a confusing story.

Emma: And it’s a really long story, too!

Easter garden in church

Of course, this is a cute conversation with one of the cutest kids in Minnesota, so the congregation loves it.  We all laugh in a good-natured way.

But it’s true: Jesus dies at Easter, and he comes back not just when God raises him from the dead, but when we meet him as a baby in the manger every year.  In the course of the church year, Jesus goes from being a baby, to being a grown up healer and teacher, to dying on the cross, to rising from the dead, to being alive again.  He is constantly on the way to the cross or appearing to his disciples after he’s been raised.  It is confusing.

This year, we’re using the Narrative Lectionary at First and Beckville.  We’ll hear only Old Testament stories through the fall.  At Christmas, we’ll hear about the birth of Jesus.  We’ll hear about his life and death until Easter, then spend the spring hearing from the book of Acts and many of the New Testament letters.  One of the goals of this lectionary is to make God’s confusing story a little easier to understand.  To show us how God moves through the stories of the Old Testament, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the witness of the first Christians.

It’s a long story.  We’ll spend nine months telling it.  And then, we’ll tell it again.  Because it’s a confusing story, and there’s lots to wrestle with, wonder about, and absorb.

Religion Plays an Important Part in the Lives of Residents. The Largest Group of Churchgoers Are Roman Catholics...

What stories are you grappling with lately?

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Faith and Duplos

LEGO Duplo

A few weeks ago, my favorite advice columnist let me down.

Now, I don’t turn to Carolyn Hax for theological guidance–nor does she usually offer it–but I do think her relationship advice is pretty solid.  So, I was disappointed to read her take on faith:

“Faith isn’t in the teachings or rituals of the group. It’s in the individual’s belief—with one after another after another combining to create a religion.”

I was so disappointed, I included this quote in my sermon that week so I could preach against it.  Take that, Ms. Hax.

Truly, I think this understanding of faith is more than wrong.  It’s dangerous.

Zoe and I were having a Duplo build-a-thon yesterday (Duplos, for the uninitiated, are Bigger Legos).  Zoe wanted to build a tall tower, with just the smaller blocks “one after another after another.”  Guess what?  This is not the sturdiest way to build.  You need the bigger pieces.  You need a base.  And, when the tower gets really tall, you need at least one pair of hands to hold it up.

Not to get all metaphysical on a Sunday afternoon, but . . . piling little block on top of little block doesn’t sustain a tower, and piling individual belief on top of individual belief doesn’t sustain a religion.  We need each other.  We need each other’s voices, each other’s stories, each other’s hands. And when the tower falls down–as even a reinforced tower will do–we need each other to cry or laugh with us as we get ready to build again.

We need to know that, no matter what,  it’s God’s hands that are holding us up.

Lego-duplo

What are you building these days?

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Filed under Ministry Matters, Preschool Theology

Revolving Joy

When my best friend Sarah (or, as she is known in this house, Baby Jakey’s Mama), took Baby Jakey on a family trip to Poland, his favorite part was . . . the playground.  He was just a wee one, so you can’t really blame him.  Kids like what they like.

Zoe’s favorite part of our recent Chicago trip–besides throwing the petals for Aunt Claire’s wedding, of course–was probably the revolving door at her grandparents’ building (close second: the cab ride to the rehearsal):

My country baby doesn’t see many revolving doors in her daily life.  She had a ball going round and round, first with Mike, then by herself, then with me and Mike.  It was a delight to watch her concentration and her joy in the accomplishment.

My friend Lyle (hey, Lyle!) asked me on Monday night, “What has Zoe taught you lately?”  I came up empty at the time, but here’s what I learned from watching Zoe go round and round:

Take joy where you find it, and don’t worry what the doorman thinks.

And, oh yes, there’s video:

Where are you finding joy today?

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Four Pigs, a Wolf, and a Zoe

File:Three little pigs and mother sow - Project Gutenberg eText 15661.jpg

We do a lot of fairy tale reenactments at the Cumings house these days.  Cinderella, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and The Three Little Pigs.

It’s fun to see what parts of the story Zoe thinks are most important, and to hear her give me dialogue prompts (“What do you say?”).

Her interpretation of the three little pigs is a delight.  At the end, the mama pig joins the three little pigs in the safe brick house.  And the wolf, rather than getting boiled in a pot or merely wandering away disappointed, turns out to be not a bad wolf at all.  He comes over for a visit, then rebuilds the house of sticks for himself.  And they all live happily ever after.

File:Three little pigs - third pig builds a house - Project Gutenberg eText 15661.jpg

I love this.  I love that there is room for everyone in the brick house: three little pigs, one mama pig, and one visiting wolf.  I love that everyone finds a home.  I love that the pigs and the wolf work it out.  There is something so hopeful about this story of Four Pigs and a Wolf.

Loss of Innocence Update: Just a day later, Zoe has accepted the Usborne Book of Fairy Tales interpretation of the story: the wolf ends up in hot water.  Literally.  (Pro Tip: This is thecorrect use of the word “literally”.)  I’m a little sad about this development, but I take comfort in the fact that the mama pig still moves in with the three little pigs.  And, most importantly, the little pigs say, “Not by the hair of our chinny-chin-chin!”  Usborne, what were you thinking leaving out this immortal line?

Well, what do you say?  

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Jesus on Fifth

Zoe loves to sing the song “Blind Man” (or to put her own lyrics to its tune).  After singing a few lines this afternoon, we had this theological discussion:

Zoe: Who’s crying on the road?

Me: The blind man.

Zoe: Why is he crying?

Me: Because he doesn’t know the way home.

Zoe: How does he get home?

Me: He follows Jesus.  Jesus is the way.

Zoe: But . . . what way does Jesus show him?

Me: The blind man can’t see, so Jesus walks right next to him.

Zoe: No!  What way does Jesus show him?

Repeat those last few lines of dialogue several times.

Zoe: What way?  Where does Jesus take him?

Me: Jesus takes him down Fifth Street.

Zoe: Oh!  Okay.

This, my friends, is why they tell you to avoid metaphor and simile in a children’s sermon.

Street scene, Christiansted, St. Croix Island, Virgin Islands? (LOC)

What funny conversations have you had lately?

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Weather Advisory

Joyce Oglansky playing in the snow, Minneapolis

Zoe has been asking for snow all summer.

When she saw a happy otter family making snow angels in one of her bedtime books last night, it was too much.

“GOD!” she yelled.  “God!  Send the snow!”

Then, she revamped her musical rain prayer, singing, “I want God to send the snow . . . because I want snow.  That’s what I want.  God, send the snow!”

So.

If you woke up to snowflakes this morning, I guess you know who to thank.

What silly or crazy requests have you made?

Mailing Letters

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The Power of a Preschooler’s Prayer

Teenage Workers Are Barely Visible as They Detassel Corn During the Summer in Fields near New Ulm, Minnesota...

As you may know, Minnesota has been experiencing a drought.  It’s terrible to watch the grass turn brown, the flowers wilt, and the field corn . . . well, I don’t know a lot about corn, but I imagine those ears are pretty thirsty by now.

So, we’ve been praying for rain.  A few weeks ago, a woman in town held a garage sale hoping to bring the rain (and it worked, for about ten minutes).  Last night, Zoe and I took matters into our own hands.

You know how some pastors have a “pastor voice” they use for official pastoral acts?  It’s calm and serene, a sort of fancy praying voice.

Well, Zoe has a preschooler voice.  As she led us in a call and response prayer, she was not calm and serene.  She was yelling:

GOD!

Send the rain!

The grass needs a DRINK!

The FLOWERS need a DRINK!

The TREES need a drink!

Send the rain!

Amen!

I was startled but delighted.  Have you read the psalms lately?  Some of those prayers are pretty shouty, too.  And God can handle it–whether we come to God laughing or crying, shouting or serene, God always hears us.

Sometimes we shout to God, and sometimes we sing (the psalms are songs, too).  Right after her shouting rain prayer, Zoe did a singing rain prayer.

Notice that she sets the second half to Gaston’s song from Beauty and the Beast.  I could not be prouder:

Best of all, we woke up to thunder and the blessed sound of rain falling.

Actually, Zoe woke up to those sounds.  I woke up to the sound of Zoe’s joyful voice: “Mama!  A storm is starting! God is sending the rain!”

What are you singing or shouting or praying about today?

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The Things We Teach Our Children

“Looks like someone’s not keeping her baptismal promises,” my friend joked (at least, I think he was joking) at lunch yesterday.

My three-year-old did not have a ready explanation for the doctrine of the Trinity.  Clearly, I have failed as a parent.

I am not worried–yet–about Zoe’s grasp of Christian doctrine.  But I do worry sometimes that I am not teaching her Important Things (if I had an example it would go right here)  while accidentally teaching her Wrong Things (cold pizza for breakfast).

As I hope  is obvious based on the content of this blog, Zoe is currently an only child.  She is also still the only grandchild on both sides (looking at you, siblings). Oh, and she’s the pastor’s kid in a community she entered at nine weeks old, which makes her the church baby, too.  So, there is no shortage of presents and attention and praise for this girl.  (Pro Tip: She’s totally worth it.)

But as a PK, Zoe spends more time in nursing homes and assisted living centers than most preschoolers.  She certainly gets plenty of attention in these places, but she gives attention, too.

Yesterday, we visited with the ladies over coffee and graham crackers, sang a few nursery rhymes to a lady with advanced Alzheimer’s, then retired to the day room for a little noodle ball.  (Pro Tip: Probably not the official name of the game.)

Here’s what I think Zoe is learning on these excursions:

1. Not to be afraid of people who are old, or of people who can’t talk / walk / hear / see / eat very well.

2. How to be comfortable in uncomfortable places.

3. How to spread joy.

So, I think if we eat cold pizza for breakfast and are a little fuzzy on the doctrine of the Trinity, we’re probably doing okay all in all.

What Important Thing do you most hope to pass on?  

Or, what Wrong Thing do you most hope to avoid sharing?

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Filed under Preschool Theology, Your Moment of Zoe

“Trust God Louder!”

This week Zoe got to do two nights of Vacation Bible School at our friends’ South Dakota congregation.  As I was putting my very tired little girl to bed after the first night, she sleepily murmured something about “the Jesus song O”, and then looked me in the eye and said, “Trust God.”

This, it turns out, was the take away line from that first night of VBS.  When we were getting ready to head over for the second night, I repeated it to her, and she grinned and yelled, “Yeah!  Trust God louder!”

And my heart soared.  Because, this is exactly the kind of thing you want your kid to be yelling with a smile on her face.  On the list of Favorite Zoe Sayings, it is right up there with “I love you so much!” and “Let’s take a nap!”

Children are amazingly impressionable (Pro Tip: This is not news).  They listen to everything you say (except when you say things like, “Stop running!” or “Come back here!” or “Don’t throw that!”), and they will repeat it at the most inopportune time.

So, if instead of saying, “You want a beer, Mom?”, Zoe will sometimes say, “Trust God louder!”, I call that a big win.

What wonderful or terrible things have you heard out of the mouths of babes this week?

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