Church – just part of the furniture of play

Much of my non-work time at the moment is spent in the dining room – or more specifically in Flower-lake City, T’s playmobil town. As you can see over the Christmas break a huge number of different buildings and sets have been put together, carefully arranged to form a town with a main street alongside an out of town area for the stables and the conservation and animal rescue center. It has given us the opportunity for hours (yes literally hours, I really wouldn’t want to keep count!) of storytelling, co-operative play (as long as I do & say exactly as I’m told of course; any of you with any experience of PDA will know what I’m talking about) imagination and stretching our thinking, and sharing outside the box.

As you can imagine it’s not always smooth sailing, there have of course been the usual obstacles because it is incredibly difficult for T to share the imaginative space and story tell with me. Sometimes we have to replay till I get it right, other times I get away with a suggestion or my own twist on what’s required – quite often with a lot of giggles. We’ve had a few moments when cats have wanted to join in too, which have proved a little tricky to navigate without meltdown. Those moments have brought back vivid memories of having to call A a ‘Giant’ whenever B’s games were changed or ‘ruined’ by her baby brother crawling or walking through – especially when he picked things up en route. Giving A a character took the intensity of the reaction away from him a little and over time became more of an expected part of the stories we played out with the dolls, marbles or whatever figures of choice we had organised.

The very first building as you go into Flower-lake city is a church. Over Christmas we had an exciting event in the community. Izzy & Charlie got married – we had no church at the time, and so we created a very outdoor wedding which suited them very well. But T got thinking, and Daddy made suggestions and our community church was created. A building that was in the loft (thank you Aunty E!), origionally a school building was found and cleaned and with a bit of card and imagination transformed into a welcoming church. Rev Ricky joined the town as our minister – still in need of a planned wardrobe change so she has a collar but very much becoming part of the furniture of the town.

What’s been so lovely to watch is the way Rev Ricky has got involved and the way the community has been using the building. I’ve found it so exciting to see T’s own experiences of church being played out so positively. To be honest sometimes (esp over the pandemic) I wonder if church is a positive for T at all.. or if she even wonders at why we do what we do. So what an encouragement. Rev Ricky has come in to do assemblies in the school – which is next door to the church, just as our church infants school is where we live. Most days she fetched the snacks and drinks for the school kids and drops them off. PE lessons have happened in the church space – with the stack of chairs neatly at the back out of the way of course – health and safety!

And when it’s church day in Flower-lake City a lot of the families come to a service, during which the children have their own teaching groups – acorns and mighty oaks (I’m pretty sure B helped name these groups one day when she popped in) – and they have their own notice boards to display their art work in the church building. Next plans Rev Ricky has are a mid week acorns group for the babies, and a movie night – always a favourite here where we live. I’m not going to lie, its also been a lovely excuse to do some mini crafting at the same time as trying my hardest to assist in the play as I’m asked to!

Love is patient, love is kind…practicing family love during lock down

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The trouble with lock down is that it is magnifying our weak spots! It is intense being together 24/7 for this length of time!! (Or is that just us – please tell me it isn’t)

Loving each other as a family cannot stay as words only, this pressurized time needs us to step up big time and become much more conscious of our actions towards each other. Not at all easy! Our actions means our tone of voice, our assumptions (often based on un-forgiven baggage lets face it), our body language and facial expressions (which of course we don’t all read in the same way which adds another layer of complexity), our acts of service and choices that affect each other.

The Bible gives us a daunting description of family love…

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

from 1 Cor 13

… and of course shows us what that love looks like in practice in the life and death of Jesus. The passage finishes with ‘LOVE NEVER FAILS’. Oh help!

Truth is, when I rely on my ability to ‘try, try, try again’ with even just one of the adjectives in the passage I run out. My fragile, incomplete ability to love is not enough to never fail my family. It is true that being a Christian is not to be perfect – but rather to know we need perfecting by the grace of God.

This week one of the new words for T in her school work at home was ‘invoke’, to actively invite and welcome in, to call upon the presence of. A word that for me conjours up a picture of embrace… which is not simply me embracing an abstract concept when it comes to God, but rather a real living, holy presence who is also actively invested in the embrace! I’m reminded of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal’s return and the Father who out ran the shame and disgrace to reach his child and clothe him with honour, and crown him with love. We are invited into an embrace full of love – love so abundantly given that there is enough to fill us to overflowing.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Col 3:12-14

We still ‘try, try, try again’ – but wrapping the clothes God gives us really close, fully embracing his loving grace-filled presence (yep – on a good day!!), allowing his love to embrace us – our thinking, our actions and words.

God’s not finished with me yet!

 

 

Caring for creation during lockdown

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It should I suppose come as no surprise that because God the creator of the world also made us we have an innate close bond with his creation. The Bible reminds us that everything in creation reveals God’s glory to us – points us to God.

Every little part of his creation is a testimony of his character and his heart.

psalm 104 v 24

Scientists will tell us that gardening boosts good mental health, anything creative and focused helps us become grounded and mindful of the present which reduces anxiety and regulates emotion. It has all the health benefits of getting outside in the sunshine and fresh air, and physical exercise to help us stay healthy and sleep better.

Animals too are well recognized for their therapeutic benefits. Again, potentially reducing anxiety and regulating emotion.

None of this is any surprise to God, who made us and placed us in a garden to live in harmony with his creation and himself. Caring for creation is a part of what makes us tick.

So how on earth can we stay connected, keep caring for creation during lock-down?

Easy enough I suppose if you happen to have a private garden, all that’s needed is the motivation to get everyone out there and taking part! A scavenger hunt, or a personal little patch of soil and some seeds; a mud kitchen; or a fairy garden or dinosaur landscape to play with.

But what about caring for creation if you are inside, without a garden? 

I was reading today that in Spain at the moment children are not permitted to leave their houses at all. That does require a lot of outside the box thinking in order to care for creation (and ourselves!). Here are 5 ideas for connecting with nature during lockdown that don’t need a garden!

  • Grow caterpillars – We sent off for a kit that included a butterfly (zipped and netted) enclosure, and a pot with 5 tiny caterpillars in containing all the food they needed. Simple! It has been amazing to watch them eat, and grow – shed their skin, eat, poo and grow some more. (They became huge!) The sealed pot has made it so easy to keep them safe and well as we have enjoyed watching them change. Today they have all turned into chrysalises and we have moved them to the butterfly enclosure to wait for butterflies.

 

  •  Window watching – make time to bird, bee or butterfly watch out of the window. RSPB are hosting a bird watching breakfast between 8-9am in the UK during the lockdown. The Big Butterfly Count(which happens between July – Aug in the UK) has a good printable guide to UK butterflies. Now is a good time to start getting in some spotting practice. There is also an app and ID guide to help with spotting bees from Friends of the Earth.
  • Share the care for pets – if you have a pet, get everyone who’s in lockdown with you involved in their care. Invent new toys for them, study their behaviours, find out more about them, take photos, enjoy more cuddles than usual.

  • Watch a nature documentary – yes it’s not the same as getting out there, but it’s good. Be amazed at God’s creation. Get up close to animals or places you wouldn’t be able to normally in the great outdoors and be inspired to marvel at the God who made and sustains it all.
  • Fruit and Vegetables – spend some time really noticing and enjoying the fruit or vegetables in your kitchen. Make some pictures using vegetable prints and be amazed at the patterns they make. Do a blind smell or taste test and find out who can guess all of the fruit and veg correctly. Find out where they grew, and what their plant looks like. Hold a seed from a fruit in your hand and think about how it contains all that is needed to grow into a new plant which will produce new fruits. God is an astonishing designer.

 

 

 

Need help to keep bedtime calm tonight? 5 hope filled Bible stories to listen to

 

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 You’re tired, they’re tired. Nothing is how it should be – we’ve had another day with many of us at home rather than school, college or work – anxieties are running high for everyone. You’re frazzled and yet you all need and want a calm snuggly, safe bedtime – don’t know about you but I’m not the best story teller on days like this!

 Here are some great places to find hope-filled stories told by other (calmer!) people to get you all ready for bedtime…..

Sally Lloyd Jones  – author of ‘The Jesus Storyteller Bible’ and many other books, is going to be reading some stories on Instagram while there are a lot of us stuck in at home.

The Bible Society has an animation ‘Super Cool Jesus’ which tells the story of why Jesus came, and how he loves us.

Saddleback Kids quirky animation of Matthew 6 is all about how much God cares for each of us – especially when there’s lots to worry about!

Bob Hartman has a wonderful story song all about God’s good world.

Bible App has loads to choose from, and activities to download and print that follow up on a story if you want to.

Have you heard of Illustrated Ministry yet? Sign up for free contemplative colouring

Illustrated Ministry have some free download contemplative colouring pages available during the Coronavirus crisis. Sign up with them to be sent a new design each week.

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T & I started this week’s today with our morning break.

It asks God calls me…

T replied “lovely”!