Monday, 17 September 2018

Angels, Hope and Change

Time for Everyday Kindness

A kind word, a helping hand, an encouraging smile or a nod of appreciation can all be acts of everyday kindness according to Karen Bedford who has written the most helpful little booklet to accompany the ‘Angels’ Cards – The Strengths of Everyday Kindness published by St Luke’s Innovative Resources.

Angels – the strengths of everyday kindness is a tool for building conversations about the strengths we see within ourselves and within others. It uses the metaphor of an angel – a bestower of blessings – as a way of noticing and acknowledging the strengths that are demonstrated by others and offered to us, or that we ourselves demonstrate and offer,” writes Karen Bedford.

The cards come with suggested teaching and learning ideas. In my experience they work wonderfully well in Circle Time and I have seen the brilliant Sue Roffey use the St Luke’s resources in her Circle Solutions seminars.

One great activity you might like to try that is explained in the booklet is called 'Inviting Angels – Goal Setting'.

Students choose a card that represents a strength or quality they would really like to develop. They then discuss why they have chosen this card or you could allow the students to work in pairs and talk to their partner about the card. Ask them to think about one step they could take towards developing this quality. Who do they know who might help them develop this quality?

These are such powerful resources and so useful in the classroom or for working with individual students. The illustrations are so delightful and rather whimsical, inviting the students to look deeply and connect with the strength.

You could use these absolutely adorable cards in connection with any lessons on angels as well. Angels are messengers of God and I love the idea that these strengths of kindness can be attached to the idea of angels delivering in to our hearts messages of grace, generosity, hope and so much more.

Have a look at the fabulous St Luke's website and explore the resources. There is sure to be something to appeal to you!

Thursday, 6 September 2018

How is Your Walk?

Sometimes Christians talk about their faith as their ‘walk’ with Christ.
As a Chaplain or religious Educators, we may be asked about about our faith and how we face struggles and doubt. 

Perhaps you could use the movie clip, The Walk, with your older students, to introduce the ideas of courage, trust and faith.

With your younger students, perhaps try this fabulous story of Blondin.

You could so easily develop many lessons based on these clips. Perhaps you could discuss choices, beliefs and how our actions honour God. So many ideas!

I showed this clip in Chapel many years ago – and a young man wrote to me and told me he had just been to Niagara Falls and remembered the message from Chapel. We never really know how and when our messages in Chapel or class will affect our students. I suppose that is part of our own ‘faith walk’. Enjoy!

Thursday, 30 August 2018

An Attitude of Gratitude

Researchers such as the team at the Greater Good Science Centre have concluded that gratitude is linked to better health, more happiness and stronger connections to others. 

We also know that the Bible teaches us that gratitude is part of the life of a Christian.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:15-17
So, if you wish to focus on developing an attitude of gratitude in your students, why not try using the My Thank You Bible.
There are 4 of these bibles.
My Thank You Bible Storybook – Thank You God For All You’ve Made (ISBN 9788772030692)
My Thank You Bible Storybook – Thank You God For Friends And Family (ISBN 9788772030708)
My Thank You Bible Storybook – Thank You God For Protecting Me (ISBN 9788772030715)
My Thank You Bible Storybook  – Thank You God For loving Me (ISBN 9788772030722)

Dr Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude has explained that research carried out on years 6 and 7 students who were taught about gratitude revealed that not only did the students have positive wellbeing effects from developing an attitude of gratitude, but their academic results also improved!

Try using these Bible Storybooks in your Chapel or Religious Education lessons. You will have enough lessons for an entire year! I love the illustrations and the students will love lifting the flaps!

Friday, 20 July 2018

How to become our best, most authentic self?

I was listening to the Typology Podcast   about how to become our best, most authentic self – and I was hooked. I thought this is a great way to support the Religious Education curriculum for our students. It is so important to “begin with the end in mind”! (Thank you to Stephen Covey and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.) So how do we help every student to become their ‘best self’?

Rabbi Evan Moffic wrote a book called ‘The Happiness Prayer – Ancient Jewish Wisdom for the Best Way to Live Today’.  The Happiness Prayer is a Hebrew prayer written over 2000 years ago, but according to Rabbi Evan, it is still perfect for today. “Happiness is not always pleasure. It is not always easy. It is connection.”

A review of this book on the Huffington Post by Nell Minow,  says that Rabbi Evan Moffic “begins each day with an ancient prayer, but could just as easily be called meditation or a mindfulness exercise. It is just a way to connect to essential elements for happiness: purpose, meaning, direction, and gratitude. The prayer calls on us to honour our parents, to keep learning, to comfort others, and to recognise the sources of joy in our lives…”

Rabbi Moffic says that we can get addicted to stress and victimhood. Happiness is a choice we have to make and it takes certain actions. Focussing on The Happiness Prayer is a way to realign our lives to help us find happiness.

Here is a paraphrase of the Happiness Prayer from Lisa notes
How will you find happiness in this world and peace in the world to come? By learning these wisdom practices from your ancestors:
  • Honour those who gave you life
  • Be kind
  • Keep learning
  • Invite others into your life
  • Be there when others need you
  • Celebrate good times
  • Support yourself and others during times of loss
  • Pray with intention
  • Forgive
  • Look inside and commit
It is the little things or the habits which lead to happiness, according to Rabbi Moffic. He teaches that it is the ongoing, consistent attention to these practices that will make us happier. Just as the action of the water will reshape a rock, these practices will reshape our soul. It is not the once in a lifetime really magnificent events that will change us, but rather it is the consistent attention to these practices that will transform our character.

You might like to take time to share this with your students. This could be fabulous as part of a sermon, or indeed, a lesson for Religious Education. You could easily link this to your Character Education focus as well. It is filled with teachable moments and great wisdom.

As you reflect on these ideas, challenge your students with some big questions.
v  So what is happiness? The ancient Greeks defined happiness as the joy you feel moving towards your potential. Do we agree?
v  Is happiness the same as pleasure?
v  Is there a connection between faith and happiness?
v  Do you need faith to be happy?
v  What practices lead to a life of joy and happiness?
v  What is the connection between happiness and success?
v  What is it about religion that makes spiritual people happier?

Rabbi Moffic has a fabulous way to dovetail positive psychology with spiritual truths as he explains the ancient Jewish guidelines for following God and in turn, achieving happiness. If we seek to find ‘shalom’peace, inner harmony, wholeness and ultimate wellbeing, then taking time to read The Happiness Prayer: Ancient Jewish Wisdom for the Best Way to Live Today might be just the answer!

Monday, 9 July 2018

NAIDOC Week 2018 - Because of her, we can!

"NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community."

"NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. This committee was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC Week and its acronym has since become the name of the week itself."

The NAIDOC week site has some resources that can be used in the classroom. Find them here.

The theme for 2018 is "Because of her, we can"

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Is Jesus the Point?

If you sometimes feel that you might be missing the point in your lessons or sermons, why not listen to the thinkers at The Gospel Project.

In their series, Building a Gospel-Centered Foundation, Brian Dembowcyzk, Jeff Vanderstelt and Matt Chandler possibly give us more questions than answers in their videos.

There is so much great teaching on The Gospel Project website, but one discussion that really stood out to me was The Cure to Biblical Moralism. 

In this video, the presenters explore the way that we can ensure that we are teaching our children the Gospel, and not simply creating moralists who have not trusted in the grace of Christ.

As teachers and Chaplains, with little time to teach our students, we can be keen to get to the ‘application’ part of our lessons. When teaching the story of David for example, we might focus on the importance of bravery and courage. This is not a problem in itself. However, are we teaching this in the context of the bigger picture – the Gospel message or are we teaching students to simply look for the ‘moral’ of the story? While the ‘moral’ is relevant and important, we need to explicitly make the link to Christ. Are we teaching in a way where every story points to Christ?

If we leave the ‘application’ part of the lesson simply in terms of ‘morals’, we can burden our students. We want our students to be brave and courageous, but for some it might be a crushing weight to be brave. If they are struggling, they may feel guilt and shame and a sense of ‘not being good enough’.

Perhaps we need to link our lessons to Christ in a more grace based way? In this case, we can teach Matthew 11:28-30. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Are our lessons about gospel transformation rather than behaviour modification? Do we open our students’ minds to the idea of letting God change their hearts and then the behaviour follows?
Are we teaching in a way where every story points to Christ?

Let us remember Ephesians 4:15 as we teach. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

In your classes, why not debate ideas about Religious Moralism? “Religious moralism is an emphasis on proper moral behaviour to the exclusion of genuine faith,” according to Got Questions. Ask your students to comment on this quote.
“Christian moralists tend to reduce the Bible to a manual for moral behaviour… The moralist relies on his moral actions: if he prays, goes to church, and helps his community, then he is good with God. Moralism says that, if you don’t lie, cheat, steal, or cuss too much, then you are a good person and deserving of heaven.” 

So what can you do as a teacher to avoid teaching moralism to your students? Karen Jones from The Gospel Project has these 5 tips

1.       God is the central figure of every story.
2.       Draw attention to what we learn of God’s character and ways in each story.
3.       Point to Jesus.
4.       Teach morals by rooting them in the Gospel.
5.       Weave the gospel throughout your teaching.

As a teacher or a Chaplain, you may wish to watch this before you teach your next lesson! Encourage your students to reflect on these big ideas as they make choices.Do our students think that the Bible is just a guide for moral behaviour? I wonder?

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Reconciliation Week 2018 Videos

The RAP group in the Anglican Church Southern Queensland have created a number of videos sharing stories of reconciliation action. Check them out here.