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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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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