Nothing New Under the Sun

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How easy it is to find ourselves living in a world like this. Where there is nothing new under the sun. Where everyday life becomes a monotony. Where the washing basket is always full and the dishwasher always needs emptying. We travel to the same places day after day; we follow the same old routines; we meet the same people. Life is predictable, mundane – and boring.

 

And in our relationships, we play out the scenes from tales as old as time. The age old themes resurface again and again and again. It’s all been said before, felt before, done before.

 

Yet within our familiar surroundings, God is waiting to surprise us.

 

A daffodil can lift our spirits.

A stretching cat can bring a smile to our face.

The intricate detail of a butterfly’s wings can fill us with wonder.

 

Our children never cease to amaze us.

Our friends have the capacity to surprise us, when we least expect it.

And how little we actually we know ourselves!

Let’s marvel as we travel deeper into the adventure that is self awareness.

 

A flash of insight can bring a different perspective.

An exciting revelation can invigorate the most monotonous of tasks.

An unexpected discovery can feel like a glimpse of eternity.

Right here. Right now.

 

I’ve come to the conclusion that boredom is a state of mind.

An adult state of mind.

Blue Bells in Long Acre woods

We took our children for a walk in a nearby wood the other evening. They were dragging their feet, grumbling that they would rather be at home in front of the television. Until we turned a corner and there was the most amazing sight. A carpet of bluebells amongst the trees. Suddenly all the moaning and cares were forgotten. The children were scampering around excitedly like little puppies. This vibrant scene bursting with life had filled them to overflowing with joy.

 

I want to recapture that sense of abandonment. I want to be lost in wonder, awe and praise. I want to be like a child, walking around with my eyes wide open, waiting to be surprised. I want to see with the eyes of a toddler, stopping at every interesting leaf along the path. I want to look for God and find Him in the most unexpected of places.

 

I want to live life in colour, not in black and white.

 

New Secondary School Assembly: JUST DO IT

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Just Do it is a secondary school assembly suitable for the whole school (ages 11 to 18).

The aim is to challenge students about their response to need when it is presented to them, using a well-known event from the life of Jesus and Bob Geldof’s experience with Live Aid.

The assembly is based around the bible passage Matthew 14.13–21.

View JUST DO IT on the Assemblies website »

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New school assembly on SEAL Theme 5: Good to be me

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Unique You is a school assembly suitable for Key Stage 1 children. The assembly aims to remind the children of how special they are because they are unique and to challenge them to make someone else feel special today (SEAL theme 5: Good to be me).

View UNIQUE YOU on the Assemblies website »

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Rest is a state of mind – Part 3

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“I really love the name of your boat,” he was sayingQuerencia, right?”

“Yes,” she said. “You speak Spanish?”

“No, but I read a book about bullfighting once. Isn’t that the spot in the ring when the bull feels protected and secure?”

“Exactly,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a place in the sun. Other times it’s in the shade. It’s where the bull goes between charges. It’s like an invisible fortress, the only safe place.”

“Just like your boat.”

The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud

 

And that’s another thing I turn to in the school holidays – losing myself in absorbing “light” fiction. Then sometimes I find a truth right there in the escapism. True rest is there to be found in the wildest storm, when attacks are coming from all sides. True rest requires protection and security, strength and safety. It’s where I need to go between battles.

 

My thirteen year old adopted daughter can whip up a storm in seconds. The anger is raging, the hurtful words are hitting the target over and over again. Feelings of helplessness, hurt and failure threaten to overwhelm me. Even when she has long forgotten what she was angry about and has fallen asleep, I lie awake into the night, trying to find some peace, some rest, some restoration.

 

Where is my Querencia?

 

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

Though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Psalm 46:1-3

 

God is my Querencia.

 

God is my invisible fortress.

In him, I can feel protected and secure.

God is my only safe place.

In him, I can find the rest to let love win again.

 

There was no grave…

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A performance poem for Easter Day by Stewart Henderson.

There was no grave grave enough
to ground me
to mound me
I broke the balm then slit the shroud
wound round me
that bound me.
There was no death dead enough
to dull me
to cull me
I snapped the snake and waned the
war
to lull me
to null me.
There was no cross cross enough
to nil me
to still me
I hung as gold that bled, and bloomed
a rose that rose and prised the tomb
away from Satan’s wilful doom
There was no cross, death, grave
or room
to hold me.

(c) Stewart Henderson – All rights reserved.

Find more Stewart Henderson poems at Eden Books

Rest is a state of mind Part 2

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So the school holidays are a notoriously difficult time to experience rest. The waters are not so quiet when filled with the shrieks of children splashing in the freezing cold stream. The pastures are not so restful with games of football and Frisbee going on all around. If God is only there in the quiet times, then I‘ve had it.

I therefore turn my thoughts to mindfulness – practising the presence of God in everyday life. Maybe hope is to be found here.

My friend has determined to practise mindfulness on her daily morning walk with the dog. Rather than obsessing about all that she has to do that day, she concentrates on her surroundings, tries to feel positive about being out in the fresh air rather than in bed and notices something new every day.

“I never realised nature was so noisy,” is her conclusion. “The running water, the birds in the trees, the breeze in the leaves – when you listen, it’s all there.

Creation crying out in praise to the Creator. Cool.

So when I am out with the kids, I try to be really out with the kids (rather than at home in my head, composing lists and worrying about unfinished tasks.) I enjoy the sunshine and the blossom. I concentrate on what the children are wanting to tell me. I draw their attention to the wonderful world that we live in. I celebrate the moments of laughter and love. I draw on my reserves of patience and love when things start going pear-shaped. (most – some – of the time).

And I wouldn’t say I feel rested, but I am getting through this Easter break so far without resorting to mindless colouring in (not with the kids, but in the evening when the kids have gone to bed!), a sure indicator in my experience of a fried brain. I don’t feel like packing my bag and running away. God is there in the midst of it all, waiting to be noticed, wanting to be found. The housework can wait.

 

PS: I’m obviously not doing as well at the whole holidays experience as I thought I was. When one of my husband’s colleagues asked him how I was, he replied “she’s wearing that slightly haunted look she always has in the school holidays.”

Shame.

Some way to go yet then.

 

Rest is a state of mind – Part 1

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As someone who is perpetually exhausted, my bed is one of my favourite places. Surprisingly, that is not the rest I am talking of today.

Let’s consider some of the best known words in the Bible

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul” (Psalm 23:1-3)

“Really? As if? When would I have time for that? Five children and husband to keep house for, lots of friends to support and spend time with, writing projects on the go, church activities to fit in….when have I got time to lie down in green pastures and be led beside quiet waters? You’ve got to be joking. Anyway, keeping busy is what matters in life, doing good things for God, using my time and resources wisely and effectively. How guilty would I feel if I took time to sit down, to be quiet? And what would everyone else think of me? I’d soon be labelled as the lazy one around here.”

What can you hear? Bitterness and resentment? Fear and paranoia? Duty and responsibility?

But when I read the words of Psalm 23, I actually want to cry. When I sing “Rest, my soul, in Christ alone”,  a yearning wells up inside me – to rest, to let out a big sigh, to relax in the presence of God. When I hear Jesus say “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), I desire to do just that.

I’ve just been to my weekly Pilates class, which is my opportunity to focus for one hour a week on getting my body back into alignment after a week of misuse, overuse and bad posture. One session a week is not enough of course, but it does just enough to leave me physically restored and refreshed and to remind me of the importance of looking after my body.

So wouldn’t it be good to set aside an hour a week to sit in the garden contemplating the breeze in the trees or to go for a walk by the stream in the nearby woods (WITHOUT FEELING GUILTY)? This could be my opportunity to focus for an hour a week on getting my soul back into alignment with my Creator after a week of emotional struggles and spiritual exhaustion. One session a week would not be enough, of course, but maybe it would do just enough to leave me spiritually restored and refreshed and to remind me of the importance of looking after my soul.

So make me lie down in green pastures.

Please lead me beside quiet waters.

Restore my soul.

And then my yearning will be satisfied.

Tears will no longer sting my eyes.

Then the Lord will be my shepherd and I shall not be in want.

 

This morning’s parable

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With five children with the most varied abilities and emotional needs imaginable, the sibling rivalry displayed in our home knows no bounds.

Especially on a Monday morning.

 

Imagine our joy when our nine year old son who developed a fear of ghosts at Christmas and has not slept alone since, slept through the night alone last night in his own bed.

Imagine how proud he was to announce to the family that Mum and Dad had had their first night together in their own bed in four months.

Imagine his excitement when the incentive of buying a new puffle (think Club Penguin) finally became a reality

 

And then imagine the rage of his younger sister –

“It’s not fair. I sleep in my own bed every night and you never buy me a puffle. I go to bed nicely. I let you shut the door. I even sometimes let you turn the light off. You never give me anything for all that. Why should he get a puffle and not me? It’s so not fair.”

 

She’s spoiling the moment. She’s ruining the celebration. I start to get angry.

And then I remember the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Her reaction is just like the older brother –

“It’s not fair. I do everything you ask of me and you never throw a party like this for me. I work hard. I behave appropriately. I don’t waste your money. You never give me anything at all. Why should he get a party and not me? It’s so not fair.”

 

So I try the loving parent line –

“ Come here to me. You know that I love you. You know how much I appreciate you going to bed nicely. This is something that your brother finds really hard and today, we are celebrating his achievement with him. There are other things that you find really hard and when you achieve them, I will celebrate with you too. So today, be happy for him if you can.”

 

And actually, I’m not just saying the right words. I really, really mean it. I do love her and look forward to celebrating with her too. And that’s how God is with us. When I’m jealous of the person giving the talk at the front of church or wish it was me who had been healed by God, I need to remember this story too.

 

And when the two older ones get in from secondary school later, this parable will be replayed. I received a postcard from the school this morning praising my daughter for her outstanding work in PE recently which is great as she struggles to apply herself to her work in any subject. But when I celebrate this achievement with her, I know that my son will go mad –

“What are you praising her for? I work hard in every lesson. I get good results all the time. And what do you give me?”

 

The Bible brought to life by me and my dysfunctional family.

I love it.

 

Body Matters – A New Discipling Children Series

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Body Matters is a series of eight sessions on the body of Christ for children aged 5 to 11, followed by an all-age celebration.

Download the first session for free


This series was written for use in the Sunday School of my local Anglican church in Lobley Hill, Gateshead. There were three leaders, each playing a different role, and about twenty children each week. Some of the material was delivered to the whole group and for some of the time, the children were divided into smaller groups for age-appropriate activities. The objective was to teach the children the Bible truths found in Paul’s letters about the body of Christ by pretending to be a sports team with a team coach, a team physiotherapist and a team sports psychologist.
This material could easily be adapted for any size group, geared towards a particular age within the range and delivered by any number of leaders. You will need to tailor the material to the group that you have, but there is plenty of variety and choices of activities to pick and choose from.

Theme
This material is best delivered within the context of a Sports Clinic. The hall should be decorated with anatomy- and sports- related posters and objects. There are three different sports professionals named in the material and they should be dressed in a medical uniform (white coat or blue tunic) or sports and fitness gear. They should treat the children as part of a team.

Refreshments
If these are to be served at some stage throughout the session, it would be great if they could be healthy drinks and snacks – water or fruit juice and fruit / raisins / cereal bars.

All-age celebration
At our church at the end of the eight sessions, we held an all-age service for all the Church family. The children could bring their parents along and there was a presentation, all-age worship and an insight for the adults into what the children had been doing and learning about. The order of service is available as an idea for use by you in your church.

Buy all 8 weeks for just £10. Pay via PayPal and we will email you the final version in Word and PDF formats.




Welcome to the relaunched site

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Welcome back to the relaunched Fools4Christ. Over the next few weeks we are going to be working hard on launching a wide variety of free and paid materials. So whatever your work in the church you will find useful resources to help you. The first raft of materials will be aimed at working with young people in groups.

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