Posted in Crafts and activities, Ramblings

What fruit tree are you?

Sitting here in the autumn sunshine, looking out at the glorious colours the leaves have turned, I realise that I had better share with you what we did at Kids’ Club near the beginning of the school term.  While summer was coming to an end and the leaves were starting to put on their autumnal colours, the children were gathering conkers from underneath the big tree on the corner of the school grounds. The inspiration for a Kids’ Club session came to me and I thought of what Jesus said in the Bible,

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bears good fruit. Each tree is recognised by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn-bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” – Luke 6:43-45

There’s a lot to think about here, but with the current group of children at Kids’ Club, because of their younger age, it is necessary to keep things simple and to the point. I was trying to find a fun game to engage them. They could all relate to gathering conkers from the school playground, and have come across different fruit. So, in preparation for a quiz, I went foraging for conkers and some big leaves from the conker tree (horse chestnut) with the “help” of our new puppy (who’s occupying a lot of my time and hence the delay in writing posts!). I also went round to the other group leaders Arthur and Rita’s to ask for some twigs and fruit from their fruit trees – apples, pears, and tomatoes. From my own garden, as it’s so overgrown with weeds, I found plenty of brambles with blackberries! I also had some elderberries from the elderflower bush, some blueberries (shop-bought) and a small branch from my blueberry bush.

The game was to inspect the leaves and twigs, guessing what trees they came from and hence match the different fruits to them. When I showed the children the conker tree leaves, many of them immediately knew what tree they came from. Many of them also knew that the thorny bramble produced blackberries, and one girl knew what a tomato plant looked like. Then it became trickier with the apple and pear tree twigs as their leaves were quite similar. It became easier when I brought out the actual fruit and we matched up the rest of the fruit to the leaves or twigs.

The point of this game is to illustrate what Jesus said above, to show that sometimes we don’t know what a tree or plant is, even if we look at the leaves, but if we see the fruit with the plants, then we know whether they are good trees or bad.

Each tree is recognised by its own fruit.fruit of the spirit colouring page

This game led us to introduce the fruit of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. After a brief prayer, we moved onto the next activity, which was to colour in a sheet with fruits which represents these qualities. One can find a variety of colouring pages on the internet, but this is the one I used.

I find that the children easily lose focus if I just talked at them, and they’re not going to remember all 9 fruit of the Holy Spirit, but they absorb more information as they’re doing an activity. And because we’re usually blessed with a high adult to children ratio in our sessions, we sometimes have some meaningful conversations whilst the grown-ups help the kids with their activities. For example,

“What colour are you using for the kiwi fruit?”
“Green!”
“Brown?”
“Greeny-brown then…”
“Ew! I don’t like kiwi fruit.”
“Why?”
“Cos the bits get in your teeth.”
“Well, that’s what it says here – you need patience to get the bits out!”

Let’s hope and pray that some of these truths sink in, take root and grow!

Look out for my next post, as the next Kids’ Club session build on this theme of bearing fruit…

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Posted in Ramblings

What does the Ascension mean for us?

Last week at Kids’ Club, Arthur read to the kids from the Children’s Bible about Ascension Day – when Jesus went up to heaven 40 days after Easter Sunday. We usually ask the children to listen carefully because at the end of the story there would be questions, and if they answered correctly there would be a reward (usually involving sweets). You would have thought that the promise of rewards would help the kids concentrate and listen well, but where the enthusiasm was there and they all raised their hands to answer questions, the responses were often pure guess work. Needless to say, they received a lot of hints from the helpers – God forbid that anyone should miss out on a sweet!

This made me think that perhaps as grown-ups we are not any better. You see, when Jesus was with his disciples, he told them what was going to happen – that he was going to be killed and then raised to life, and that he was going away. Right up to the moment that all these things happened, and even a bit afterwards, the disciples hadn’t taken it in. If they heard what Jesus said, they hadn’t processed it. I imagine that the disciples loved being around their Teacher, and they can be forgiven in wanting Jesus to remain with them forever – life was going to be so good when the kingdom of heaven comes. After all, Jesus did teach about the coming kingdom an awful lot. Perhaps much like we dangle the carrot at Kids’ Club with the promise of sweets if correct answers are given, and the children know that they will be rewarded anyway. Who isn’t excited by that thought?

To me, the Ascension speaks of God being a loving and wise parent. Let me explain – Jesus always carried out God the Father’s plans, which reach far beyond the here and now. He wasn’t there only for his disciples whilst he walked on this earth, as he clearly stated that he had “other sheep that are not of this sheep pen”. (John 10:16) Jesus’ ascension meant that God could send the disciples the Holy Spirit, without whom they would not have been empowered to preach the gospel. Like a good parent, Jesus prepared ahead for the time when his followers would have to cope without him being around physically. He said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18) But he also said, “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7) .

I admit, if I were one of his disciples listening to Jesus back then, his messages would seem a bit conflicting, and I wouldn’t have been able to understand what he was going on about! The penny hasn’t dropped, as one would say. As a parent myself, I often wish that my own kids would take on board what I have told them countless times, especially the more important life lessons. Sometimes one cannot tell whether they have or not, until the opportune time comes or a certain situation arises. I’d like to think that when I cannot be there for them, whatever their age, somewhere at the back of their minds will surface some useful advice their parents have given them!

You know, it is not a deliberate act of disrespect – they are good kids, just as the Kids’ Club children are good kids; just as the disciples and us followers of Christ are good people – sometimes it just isn’t the right time for us to grasp it yet. One day hopefully we will, but in the meantime, life isn’t all plain sailing, and there will be tough times ahead. It would be reassuring to have someone to guide and comfort us along the way, even to journey with us. This is what God did. Like a loving parent, God prepared a way for us all not to have to deal with it all on our own.

Our prayers are that God will comfort and heal, give us strength and hope, and walk amongst the broken-hearted.

In the account in Acts chapter 1, just after Jesus was taken up into heaven, two angels appeared next to the disciples and said, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11) Perhaps it suddenly dawned on the disciples that they had to fend for themselves like bereft children, and perhaps the angels appeared in order to give them a helping hand and point them in the right direction. But I would also like to think that they were there to stand with them for a little while to give them moral support and to remind them of the hope they longed for. Jesus’ ascension isn’t the end. The Holy Spirit will come to comfort and guide them, to give them strength and to remind them of their hope.

This week’s atrocities in Manchester left many people shocked, bereft and deeply affected. However, there have been so many people from around the country and the world who offered support and prayers for the victims’ families, and many of us, like those two angels on Ascension Day, stand with the people of Manchester. Our prayers are that God will comfort and heal, give us strength and hope, and walk amongst the broken-hearted.