Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

For one of my Sunday school classes, I made little wooden people, out of clothespins and embroidery thread.  We use them to re-enact stories, and to play.  For example, when another child was baptized earlier this year, I got beautiful little dishes of water, and even smaller ones of oil.  We talked about God, and the Holy Spirit, and the blessings of water and oil.  And baptized many of the little wooden dolls.  At a certain point, of course, it devolved into stirring the bowl of oil with the head of the doll, but: c’est la vie.

I got the idea from The Small Object Steno Pad, but all of her “peeps” are white-people colored, and none of my children at this church is white.  So I needed to make my own.

One wonderful thing, is that when we’re setting up the story, I begin by saying, “Which one should be Peter?  Which one should be Jesus?” and more often than not, they will choose all brown figures, or a brown Jesus.  It just reminds me: give kids lots of options, especially when we’re playing at being little people.  


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Sunday school

With the new school year comes the start of Sunday school.

I teach at two churches, one in the morning and one in the evening on Sundays.  Last year, the curriculum began with the story of baby Moses, and Miriam’s faith, and Moses’s adoption into the royal family.  

My main method when teaching Sunday school is to trust in the divinity that is within the kids.  That is, I believe that they are also near to God, and close to God.  I do not like or trust curricula that try to evangelize to children, as if kids are not already faithful.  I think that if the children begin to understand and internalize the stories over time, the stories will begin to shape their internal landscapes.  I also believe that it’s important to _be with_ every child, and allow things to move at their pace.

I generally start a “lesson” off with just talking to the kids.  I check in with them, ask them how they are, about school, or birthdays they’ve had, the week before…  I like hearing from them, and giving them all my attention.  For really little kids, we play with wooden dolls I’ve made, and as the play develops, I introduce the story for that week.  Although I do like crafts, and always include them, I don’t feel like rushing the kids to finish them, or insisting that they do them a particular way.

Last week, a mother who came to visit the Sunday school asked me, “So what are you doing today?”  I wondered if it might look like we weren’t doing very much.  I tend to put more emphasis on the experience of the kids (relaxed, calm, caring atmosphere, time and attention, gentle story-telling, and truthful question-answering) than on the _production_ of things.  As ever, it’s a human endeavor, a Graceful undertaking.  I’m lucky to get to be with these little people, and share these ancient stories with them.

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For many years, I “gave up” meat and cheese.  Just giving up meat was never enough; I didn’t “feel it” until I added cheese.  For two or three years, I fasted until sundown.  I found this to be a surprisingly rich discipline–by the end of a day, I felt small (in comparison to the Divine, to the universe, to my creator).  It was good to remember the limits of my body, to feel dependent.

 This year, I’ve made a harder choice.  Make-up.  I’m giving up cosmetics.  This is going to be a long walk.

 First of all, let me say that I love make-up.  I love the colors, the tiny pots and brushes, glitter, the quick intimacy of department store make-overs–a stranger’s hand brushing on eyeshadow, other customers stopping to comment upon my eyelashes or lipcolor.  But…

In the past year, I’ve noticed that I really don’t like the way I look without it.  If I only have a few minutes in the morning, and am running late, I would rather put on mascara than get a drink of water, or make sure I have what I need for work or school.  I’d rather make sure I have the lipstick I want for the day than spend a few minutes in morning reflection, or in making a lunch.  What does this say about my priorities, of how I perceive and rank my needs?  I don’t like what these choices tell me about myself.

Also, I’m uncomfortable that evidence bears out that I don’t like the way I look.  Well…I rather don’t, really, without make-up.  My skin is too fair, my eyelashes are invisible without color, and my lips barely show up at all.  I feel like a big, blank moon-face, devoid of color without make-up.  And I don’t wear a lot!  Sigh.

But I do believe that I should be accepting of the way I look.  And I do believe that I need to engage these feelings of trepidation and self-criticism.  Lent’s the perfect season in which to engage this inner struggle/dialogue/exploration.  I just wish it didn’t start tomorrow…  I’m not ready to go out into the world bare-faced, yet. 

I have, though, an inner sense that I should, and that this disbalanced feeling of “I’m not ready!” is natural, and precedes all spiritual growth. 

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