Thursday, 26 January 2012

The wise and foolish builders SEAL theme: going for goals. Making choices and making mistakes

wooden building blocks, 
tray with glass nuggets or pebbles stuck to it (or some other way of creating an uneven surface).

Choose three children. Ask one to build a tower with wooden bricks on a firm surface, another on a tray of pebbles or glass nuggets (stuck down, so they can’t build between them), a third on the palm of someone’s hand. Which do they think they will build the tallest tower on? What actually happens? 
Then swap and try it the other way. (In retrospect, it might have been better to have chosen one child and let them do each activity in turn – it would have been a bit clearer and less frenetic…!)

Why was it better to build on the firm, level surface? The bricks were the same. The builders were just as good as each other. The children all got the idea that it was the surface that made the difference and that it was really pretty impossible to build on uneven or shaky surfaces.

Jesus told a story…

There were once two men  who each wanted to build a house. The first one came along and looked around for a good place to put it. He found a nice level spot beside a river. The soil was fine and sandy, it was nice and smooth and level. He would’t have to do anything to it at all. He could just get building. Now there were a few people who said to him…Ahem, do you think its wise to build there. Wise? Why not? It’s very easy to build here. I can just get right on with it. “Well,” they said. It is right by the river, and the reason why that sand so smooth and level is that he river washes over it during storms and smooths out all the sand…” But the man didn’t take any notice. Storms – what storms? He said.
 He got the very best building materials he could. The best strong wood. Marble floors. Gold taps… What ever you could think of, he had. He started to build. And he built and built. Then he sat in his house and thought – what a fine house this is! And it was.

The second man, meanwhile, was also busy building and he had found another spot by the river. His house wasn’t nearly finished yet, though, because he had started not by building upwards but by digging downwards. He knew that the best and strongest houses have deep, firm foundations. The first man had seen him doing this – what a fool, he thought! Why dig downwards when you could build upwards? What a waste of time.
It was hard going too, because the second man had chosen to build his house not on the soft sand, but on hard rock, so he had to dig with a pickaxe. He’s making life very hard for himself, thought the first man.
But eventually, long after the first man had finished, he finished too. And his house was a very fine house as well.

And he only just finished in time, because that night, the rain began to fall. And it rained, and rained and rained and rained. And the wind got up. And it blew and blew and blew and blew. The rain ran down the hillside and into the river that ran past the two houses. The river started to fill up, but still it rained. It got right to the top of the river bank, and still it rained. It lapped at the doorsteps of the houses, and still it rained. And little by little it began to wash away the sand under the first man’s house, just like it does at the beach when the tide comes in. And eventually the house started to lean a bit, then it started to topple over, then it washed away completely and broke into pieces…

But the house on the rock stood firm. No amount of water could wash away the rock it was built on and it had firm deep foundations. And when the storm ended, the second man’s house was still there, but the first man’s house was nowhere to be seen, and he had to start all over again…

  • What do you think the story tells us? (The children talked about “starting properly)

When we do something it is important to make plans – (we talked about writing a story or drawing a picture) – and take advice too.
Jesus said to his disciples, if you listen to God’s words and do what they say you will be building on good foundations and when something bad happens you will be able to cope much better.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Manna in the wilderness (SEAL theme: Going for Goals. Patience and Persistence)

  • Have you ever been on a long journey?
  • Where have you been?
  • Did you get fed up? (Children told me about plane flights where there were delays, car journeys where they got lost etc… Many children came to me as I sat in the school Quiet Garden during playtime after assembly with other stories of long journeys)
  • Did you ask “are we nearly there yet?” (almost every hand went up…!)
  • What do you do on journeys to help pass the time? (looking out of the window, playing games of various sorts…)

I’m going to tell you a story about people on a long journey

This is a story about Moses. Moses was a great leader, a great hero. All his people, the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. They had to do just what the king – the Pharaoh – told them. They had to work hard all the time for nothing, and if they complained then their masters beat them.
They were miserable, and they wanted to be free. But they couldn’t see how that would happen.

Then along came Moses. God had told him that he should go to Pharaoh and demand that he set the people free. Let my people go, said Moses. No! said Pharaoh. Again and again he said no. He said no even though God sent a plague of locusts – flying insects to eat all the plants in the land. He said no even though God turned all the rivers red so no one could drink the water. He said no even though God sent a plague of frogs…He just kept saying no. Moses could have given up, but he didn’t. Finally, though, Pharaoh had had enough, and just for a moment, he said yes. Moses gathered up the people and they got out as soon as they could. Only just in time, because Pharaoh changed his mind… No! he said again, and sent his soldiers after them. They chased them but they didn’t catch them.
Phew! Finally the people were free. They’d never been free before. They danced and they sang, and they were really happy. Free at last!

But now what? Moses told them that God would lead them to a new country where they could live, a really good place, full of good food for them, milk and honey. It sounded really good, but when would they get there?

They walked all day, and the next day and the next day…They kept on walking, and walking, and walking. Where was this Promised Land?
They started to grumble.
Grumble, grumble, grumble.
“Are we nearly there yet?” When are we going to get there? Do you even know where you are going? We’re too hot. We’re too cold. We’re thirsty. We’re hungry. Why did we even come anyway? At least when we were slaves we had food to eat. It might not have been much, but it was food. We’re probably going to starve to death out here. We might as well have stayed behind.
Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Oh, for heaven’s sake! Said Moses. Aren’t you glad to be free?

Grumble, grumble, grumble….

So Moses prayed to God.
God, these people are driving me nuts. What can I do with them? I don’t know where to get food for them. What are we going to do?
And God said to Moses, don’t worry, just give them the message I am going to give you…And God told Moses what to do, and Moses spoke to the people.

Listen up! I know we can’t see any food anywhere, but God is going to feed us. Go to bed, and in the morning we’ll see what we can see. Well, they didn’t think anything was going to come of it, but they went to bed anyway.
And in the morning, when they came out of their tents they looked around. The ground was covered with…something. It was a bit like a wafer, and it tasted like…honey! It was good. But what is it? they said to each other. What is it? In their language, the word for “What is it?” was manna, and so that’s what it was known as – the “what is it?” Now, said Moses, God says that you can gather up as much as you like. Some people worked really quickly , some people could only gather a little at a time, but when each of them came to measure out what they had they found it was just enough – no more. If they tried to save any for the next day it would go all horrible and filled with worms… They just had enough for everyone for each day …

They wandered on for years and years, but always there was manna to eat, until the day they finally came to that land God had promised to them, then they never saw it again.

The manna kept them going through the wilderness. I wonder what keeps you going when you have to do something that takes a while – learning something new…? There was a long silence at this point as the children thought… clearly the idea of having strategies to keep themselves going was a new idea. I asked the football team, whose success we had celebrated earlier what kept them going when they were losing matches, and one said – the thought of winning one day… which triggered a few other contributions like “telling yourself you mustn’t give up”. One child said that God could help us.
I suggested that friends, teachers, knowing our goals etc. might help us.

Prayer: silence to think about the times we struggle and how we keep going. Prayer for help at these times.