Posted in Ramblings

Temptations in the Desert

I hope that we all had plenty of pancakes on Pancake Day, aka Shrove Tuesday, which was on Feb 28th this year. That, of course, was followed by Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent – the 40-day period leading up to Easter (not counting Sundays). I remember that when I was at school, all the girls were interrogating each other about what we’re giving up for Lent. The answer was usually chocolate or pudding, without really giving thought to why we’re giving up these yummy things. If truth be told, it was just an excuse to go on a diet to look more gorgeous, which isn’t really in the spirit of Lent.

So, what is the spirit of Lent? In order to try and explain that to our Kids’ Club kids, we take a look at Jesus:

Jesus in the desert

After being baptised in the river Jordan but before starting his public ministry of preaching and healing in Israel, Jesus goes into the desert to fast for 40 days and 40 nights. (Hmm… that is so drastic, but I guess that’s where the giving up of food during Lent comes from.) He needs to get away from the crowds and the distractions in order to find out exactly what God the Father wants him to do and say.

There is nothing to do out there in the desert, unless you’re David Attenborough with a camera crew. You’re alone with your thoughts, and you have no one to talk to but God. Perhaps we talk to ourselves, and argue with ourselves. At least there isn’t anyone else we can blame, and we’re forced to face our own demons.

1st Temptation

So, Jesus is pretty hungry and the Devil comes to tell him to turn stones into bread if he is the Son of God…

Resist the temptation to take the easy way out! Jesus doesn’t just think of his own tummy. He is sure of God the Father’s love and care for him. So what if he’s really hungry for a while? He understands that there’s more to life than consuming things. It’s important to feed your soul too, and he has been doing just that. He goes for the long haul, not just short term gratification. 

2nd Temptation

There it is again! The Devil’s having another go at Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down (from the highest point of the temple).”

If you’re not sure of who you are, you’d be trying to prove yourself, to prove that you’re worthy of something, of someone’s love and respect. If you’re feeling insecure, you might want to test your significant other’s love for you. Haven’t we all met someone who’s basically said, “If you love me, you’d do this or that”? Testing someone will actually sabotage your relationship with them. Or haven’t we seen a child wanting your attention by shouting the loudest or doing something naughty? You know that it’s easy to cave in, but in doing so you also know that it doesn’t help in the long run.

3rd Temptation

Well now, by this time the Devil knows better than to attack Jesus’ identity. So he’s offering Jesus all the power and kingdoms of the world, if he would bow down and worship him.

Maybe the Devil doesn’t yet know how it’s all going to end. I think it’s a bit like a con man trying to sell you your own piece of land – your family estate which you’ll eventually inherit, but saying that you can have it now and don’t have to wait till your parents die, if you sign on the dotted line with him! Surely we’d all slam the door in his face, which is exactly what Jesus does.

Spirit of Lent

So what does all this tell us about the spirit of Lent? Jesus here shows us that he knows who he is – the Son of God. He has the power to turn stones into bread. He can call on God and have angels sent to protect him and do his bidding. He shall rule over all the kingdoms of the earth. Yet he refrains from using any of his privileges. He doesn’t have to have everything now – he trusts God’s timing and bigger plan. He knows he is loved by God the Father, and so he loves him back by faithfully sticking up for Him.

And what about us? We don’t have special powers like Jesus (maybe that’s why he didn’t use his special privileges, in order to be just like us), but we can follow his example this Lent:

Don’t take the easy way out! Believe that God cares about us and loves us. It doesn’t mean life is easy, but it doesn’t mean God loves us less.

It’s not about me! Let’s not demand attention on ourselves, but let’s give our attention to others, and to God.

Be patient and loyal! Trust God with the bigger picture. Let’s not let anyone or anything undermine our relationships with our loved ones or our families.

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Posted in Crafts and activities, Ramblings, Uncategorized

Light of the World

Having drawn a very rough picture of a house and a wiggly path leading up to it on a flip chart sheet and stuck it on the wall, we played a game of Pin-the-Arrow-on-the-Path (like Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey). The children thought it was hilarious being blindfolded, spun around, missing the picture entirely at first and then some sticking their arrow on a tree instead. However it’s surprising and lovely to see that they were all shouting helpful hints to each other during the game, so they were all winners!

Linking the game to our previous session on St Paul’s conversion, the kids remembered (hurray!) that Saul saw a bright light on the road to Damascus. Well, our conversation went a bit like this:

Me:   So… do you remember who spoke to Saul?
Child A:  Erm… is it… is it…
Child B (putting hand up but interrupting):  It’s Jesus!
Me:   Yes, well done! And do you remember what happened to Saul when he…?
Child C (shouting excitedly):  He was blinded!
Me: That’s right, he couldn’t see.
Child D: Saul changed his name to Paul.
Me: Yes he did… So he couldn’t see. It’s like when you were blindfolded just now.
Child A: She didn’t put her hand up.
Me:  I know. Put your hands up to answer… So what was it like to be blindfolded?
Child E (hand up): It’s dark!
Me: That’s a good answer. So when it’s dark, can you see where you’re going?
Children: No!
Me: Has anyone been out for a walk at night or in the dark?
Child B: My Mum has.
Me: So how can you see where you’re going or what you’re stepping in?
Child E: (hand up): You use a torch.
Me:  Good! So if you have some light, you can see in the dark. You know, Jesus said that he is the light of the world…
Me:  Remember Saul or Paul again? Who did he meet on the road, or who spoke to him in the light?
Child B: Jesus!
Child E: She shouted out!
Me: OK, no shouting out. And you know if you go into a room at night when all the curtains are drawn and there’s no light, is it easy to find what you want? What helps?
Child C (hand up): You turn on the light.
Child A: I don’t think God’s real. I don’t believe in him…
Rev James: That’s OK. I think it’s a good job God believes in you though.
Me: So… it helps you to see if you turn on the light. What happens to the dark when we turn on the light?
Child B (hand up): It disappears!
Me: OK! We’re going to make some light switch covers to put in our rooms, so each time you flip the switch, you can be reminded of Jesus being the light of the world and getting rid of the darkness.
Me: But just before we do that, can you all read this verse from the Bible?
Children (all keen to read):

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12

We then chose our light switch covers to colour in, and the kids took them home… (If you would like to download the light switch cover template, click here. This is for most standard British light switches, and you will need to choose Actual Size when printing.)

However, I was secretly glad that nobody asked me what being “the light of the world” or “having the light of life” means, because I’m not sure I could have given the kids an adequate answer – I’m no theologian, and I doubt they would have wanted a well thought out reply. But I did think that we can all relate to this: we all like light and warmth. Having spent a long miserable winter on the British Isles, we can all agree that the days are lengthening and spring is just round the corner. We all look forward to more sunshine and light – it gladdens the heart and gives us hope. We see new life appearing as spring bulbs come up from the ground and flower. The light isn’t just brightness – it gives energy and life.

And for those of us who’ve had little ones who were scared of the dark, who couldn’t go to sleep for fear of something or someone jumping out from the shadows, the gentle glow of the nightlight was a life-saver! That light, however dim, calms our fears (in the case of the child) and restores our sanity (in the case of the grown-up’s).

So perhaps Jesus is saying that he’s like all of that – he brings life and hope, calms our fears and souls, gladdens and warms our hearts, and energises yet calms our souls. May we all know something of this great Light.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these…

Welcome to our new Kids’ Club website!

I started this blog mainly, but not exclusively, for parents, grandparents, siblings and carers of the children who come to our Kids’ Club sessions. I hope that all the children who come would agree that they enjoy our time together – they sure seem to be very  enthusiastic! Sometimes in all the excitement I forget or don’t have time to get across some ideas that I have prepared, or some thoughts might take a bit more time to digest. So the hope is that, if I can put our messages on a blog, then any kids or their parents or carers who are interested can find out what we did in the sessions and what it’s all about, together with some further food for thought.

I hope that you, or anyone who might stumble upon our site, would get as much out of it as I do, because it gives me and all our Kids’ Club leaders great joy when we do these sessions. It isn’t easy with our limited energy and resources, but it is always a privilege to engage with our children. We learn a lot from them and from preparing for the sessions, and are reminded of Jesus’ words,

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” – Mark 10:14

I hope that you will have a glimpse of this Kingdom of God through our kids too. If you find anything useful here, please feel free to share.

God bless!

Janice, Rev James, Arthur & Rita
Kids’ Club Leaders

** Kids’ Club dates – If you are looking at our mobile site, please keep scrolling down to find out when our sessions are **

Posted in Crafts and activities

How to make a paper plate butterfly

As I was mulling over craft ideas about Saul turning into Paul (yes, as if by magic!), I thought of the transformations that happen in our world, or on Cybertron – but thought it just might be a bit too tricky to make a car that turns into a robot. So I settled for the ever popular metamorphosis of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. In my research on the internet, I came across several good-looking paper plate caterpillars, and since I had a stack of paper plates at home, I went one step further and added wings too.

Here’s how I made it…

Step 1:

Draw lines on the outer ridged part of the paper plate to separate into 3 equal sections. Cut along these lines and around the centre circle of the plate so that we have 3 caterpillar bodies, comme ça.

Step 2:

Draw 3 circles in the centre of the paper plate for the caterpillar faces (or heads). You can find a suitable object to draw around, like my Winnie-the-Pooh pencil sharpener here.

Step 3:

Put some stubby antennae on the top of the heads, then cut them out.

Step 4:

If you wish, write the Bible verse “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17 on the caterpillar body. It may help the children remember why we’re making the butterfly, and not just a science lesson.

Step 5:

Colour in the face and the body. Staple them together.

Step 6:

Now take another paper plate and fold it in half. Hold the doubled up plate firmly and cut into both halves together to make some wing shapes. I did mine freehand – just winging it! Go on, try it…

Step 7:

Open up the wings and colour in on the concave side of the plate. I used Sharpies, but you might want to let the kids use washable felt tips or colouring pencils, or decorate in any way you see fit.

Step 8:

Fold up the wings so the coloured sides are facing outwards. Staple them to the caterpillar body, and voila, you have a beautiful butterfly!

I find that with my group, it’s best to do all the cutting out beforehand, so they can concentrate on the colouring.

Let me know if you’ve tried making this!

Posted in Ramblings

New Year, New You?

Yes I know, this is a bit late for a New Year post, but the idea of starting a blog for Kids’ Club didn’t occur to me right away at the beginning of the year, so better late than never! I gave up making New Year resolutions years ago because I never see them through. However, the very first session of Kids’ Club this year saw me telling the children about how Saul in the Bible became a whole new person when he met Jesus, so maybe there’s hope for me yet – if he can change, maybe I can change too – be a new me and keep going with this blog! Enough about me, and who’s this Saul you’re talking about, you ask, so in case you’ve forgotten the story, here’s a brief summary…

Saul → Paul

After Jesus dies on the cross, his followers are being picked on and a zealous young man named Saul is breathing out murderous threats against them (yes, that’s what it says in the Bible – not such nice things are recorded in there, but at Kids’ Club we tend to use the child-friendly version). One day, Saul’s on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians to put in prison, when a bright light knocks him down on the ground, and Jesus speaks to him in that light, asking him why he’s hurting his mates. Saul thinks, who the heck are you and what do you want? But out loud he says, “Who are you, Lord?”

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Then Jesus tells Saul to go into town and wait for someone to come and tell him what to do. When Saul gets up, he’s blind, and has no choice but to trust those around him to lead him by the hand. After three days, someone indeed comes and puts his hands on Saul’s eyes. Something like scales fall from them and now he can see! Saul believes in Jesus, changes his name to Paul, gets baptised and does an about-turn immediately and tells everyone to follow Jesus.

(If you wish to read all about it, it’s in Acts chapter 9 in the New Testament of the Bible.)

A new creation

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

– 2 Corinthians 5:17

Now that’s a dramatic experience in St Paul’s life, hence we’ve all heard of the phrases “road to Damascus experience”, “seen the light”, “scales fall from my eyes”… and whilst it’s great to have such life-changing and illuminating moments, I find myself wondering how I’m going to tell the kids to change – no, to even want to change, when life at the moment seems so good. We’re alright people; we’re fine as we are. Let’s face it, most kids in our little village haven’t had the chance to mess up big time (yet!) and let’s hope that they never will. That said, we all want to do better, and school and parents tell us to (which is a good thing), and be better people. But haven’t we all thought, “Blah blah blah, yes I know…” and life just carries on.

So, do we, or do we not want to change? When we think of being a changed person, or a new you and me, we might think of a caterpillar changing into a beautiful butterfly. It’s a powerful and dramatic transformation – they love that image in advertising; teachers teach metamorphosis at school (we all love “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”). And that’s what I did with the children at Kids’ Club – we made paper plate butterflies (If you’re interested in our activities, I have just put that in a separate post) to illustrate what St Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians,

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Yes, St Paul should know, shouldn’t he, of what it’s like to act on something you’ve believed in, thinking you’ve been doing the right thing all along, until one day you see things differently. You’re really not a bad person – you just haven’t had your beliefs challenged. Here’s what I find encouraging – Saul, or Paul, didn’t go looking for that life-changing encounter. God comes to him through Jesus. Also, your basic DNA doesn’t need to change – a caterpillar has the same stuff as a butterfly, just that at the right time, you’ll know you need some time to hide away in a cocoon, do a bit of struggling, and emerge having wings to fly. I am still me, you are still you, just God being involved in our lives. Now ain’t that beautiful?!