Sunday, 25 August 2019

In this school, we will giggle!

Photo by Frank McKenna on Unsplash

I heard a great interview on Focus on the Family with a creative and joyful blogger, author and speaker, Courtney DeFeo, who has written “In This House, We Will Giggle”. (Yes - you can buy it at Koorong – and today there were two copies at the Woolloongabba store!)

The interview got me thinking about our schools and classes and I thought we might be able to use this book and some of its ideas in Chapel. I am thinking of younger students – but you could definitely make this work with older students.
Courtney has written a book with 12 chapters and each chapter is based on a VIRTUE! Those of you who know me, know my passion for Character Education – so I loved the idea of this book.
In the introduction to this delightful book, it reads, “According to Oxford Dictionaries online, a virtue is a ‘quality considered morally good or desirable in a person’. So our goal is to teach our children a core set of traits that we value most and desire to see them live out daily ... such as love, generosity, service, and responsibility.” The idea is that the hearts of children will reflect the character of Christ.
              January – Joy
              February – Love
              March – Forgiveness
              May – Patience
June – Perseverance
July – Respect
August – Responsibility
September – Service
October – Humility
November – Gratitude
              December – Generosity
There are plenty of ideas that might work better in the home or the classroom – but there are also some great ideas for Chapel. One is the “Catch Phrases”.
Joy is a choice every day.
Jesus Christ is the source of my joy.
I have delight in my soul because I am a child of God.
Let’s praise Him in all things, even when things don’t go our way.
Great friends do not steal you joy: they celebrate others (even when life doesn’t go our way).
Image by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash

One idea that Courtney talked about in the interview was the difference between joy and happiness. Great topic to discuss! The Bible says little about happiness but a lot about joy!
Do we confuse joy with happiness? Here is an article that might help. 
“Joy should be a constant companion. If someone tells you they are always happy, be skeptical. Because everyone faces unpleasant situations in life. But inner joy is a quality that is not dependent on outward circumstances. So we are told to, “Be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
 Joy is not defined by circumstances. If someone told you, “Be happy, no matter what happens,” would you agree? And yet the Bible instructs us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
 Joy is dictated by our faith and trust in God. Another passage, also written by the apostle Paul, who was no stranger to adversity, declares joy a byproduct of growing faith in God. “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope…” (Romans 5:2-5).”

What is the difference between Joy and Happiness?

Here is the Jelly Telly take on Joy!

The story of Paul and Silas – the difference between joy and happiness!

If you are looking for a framework – this  very practical yet creative book, "In this House We Will Giggle: Making Virtues, Love and Laughter a Daily Part of Your Family Life"  could be a way to link religious education and Chapel. It could also be a way to develop a common literacy across your school. Some of the ideas are really more for families – but all the Chaplains and teachers I know are brilliant at adapting resources to suit their own context.
I also love Courtney’s cards – which I think would be perfect to have in your classroom or your office – or a set for every teacher! I saw them online at Proverbs 31 Ministries and they do ship to Australia. I think these would be a fabulous resource for your school.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Can we use Fables in Chapel?

Photo by David Siglin on Unsplash

 Is it appropriate to preach using Aesop’s Fables?

I am not a Chaplain, but I do think that stories that engage our students and make them think certainly have a place in our religious education lessons and Chapel services. I have some wonderful books of wisdom stories on my shelf (thanks to Dr Stephen Harrison and his family for letting me borrow their treasured books!) and I love to delve in to these when I am seeking inspiration for my teaching. I have blogged about using these stories before - but someone mentioned them again and reminded me - so I am just sharing this idea again.

If you introduce a wisdom story in Chapel, students will often return to class, ready to delve deeper in to the story and its meaning. It can be a powerful way to connect Chapel with the classroom.  A great resource might be the website Wisdom Stories to Live By by Fr Philip Chircop, a Jesuit priest.

As an example, Man, Boy and a Donkey, is a great way to introduce a lesson on people pleasing. Read the story here. As Fr Philip puts it, “Try to please everyone, and you will please no one.”

I love the quote Fr Philip refers to, from Ralph Waldo Emerson : “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” – 
From “Self-Reliance” in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s first series of essays.

People pleasing has been linked to bullying  and social emotional problems. One Christian website,  notes, Living for the approval of others is never a worthy goal. Let’s face it; people pleasing is a moving target. We’ve all heard “You can’t please all the people all the time,” so if you’re a people pleaser, you will exhaust yourself trying to measure up to everyone else’s standard for success. When you bow to the standard of others, you’ll also lose peace of mind."

So what does the Bible say on this topic? I am sure you have lots of ideas already but why not think about the standards that God asks of us – to love God and to love others (Mark 12:30-31).

Joyce Meyer even has books on this subject of People Pleasing and Approval Addiction and reminds us to think about Colossians 3:23-24.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Joyce Meyer  explains that we can still care about the needs of others, but we need to take care if we have an unhealthy need to be accepted and approved by others.

Do we even have to mention Social Media? Think about Galatians 1:10. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

I wonder if you have tried using Wisdom Stories as a provocation for you lessons or in Chapel yet? I think you could  plan an entire Term around Aesop’s Fables! These stories could be adapted for any age and there are plenty of resources available. I am sure your library will have a selection of relevant books ready to borrow!
Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

Monday, 11 March 2019

These footy players don't pray to win!

Here is a great video. It is from The Bible Society and called, "These footy players don't pray to win." Please take time to watch it. It could provoke some great discussions and reflections. (I cry whenever I watch it!) I tried to insert it but I think you may have to buy it from our good friends at The Bible Society but you can watch it online.

There is a wonderful football coach in our team of religious educators, Garry A  and I know that Garry inspires his sporting teams through his faith. I talk to boys at school all the time – and every time I do – someone tells me how wonderful Mr A is! Mr A lets his teams pray! Pretty special.

If you are coaching sport – then do let your light shine.

After you watch the footy players praying, why not have a look at Try Praying?

"Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." 
Jeremiah 29:12

With prayers for you!

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Some gifts are more than just a gift!

I know that many of our religious educators have focussed on the theme of Gifts this Christmas.

Maybe you could take time to reflect on the message in this year’s John Lewis Christmas advertisement. Enjoy this fabulous Elton John Christmas message!

I love a department store that really thinks about the Christmas message. If you haven’t spent a Christmas in Singapore, then let me tell you, it is a magical time. The lights are amazing. Have a look at the way Tangs department store in Singapore decorates for Christmas! Pretty special!!

Here is a great video about gifts for Jesus.

Thinking about gifts, their meaning and purpose, can add so much to the way we celebrate Christmas.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Scallop Shells Anyone? An End of Year Chapel Service Idea!

Many years ago, we moved house suddenly due to the First Gulf War. In fact we were part of a swift evacuation that involved leaving the country almost overnight with one suitcase – which was packed with mainly baby supplies and photographs! While living in Dubai all that time I ago, I had collected shells with my own children. Dubai was a very different place then and the beach where we used to play is now home to the Burj Al Arab! I was sad that we lost our shell collection because those shells were part of our story. Shells have long been a part of people’s lives.

For early Christians, the scallop shell was a symbol of pilgrimage. People who travelled and crossed the seas would often bring a scallop shell home as a souvenir. The scallop shell became the symbol of someone who was a pilgrim or who had journeyed with God.
The wonderful website Barnabas in Schools, which always has great resources, has a fabulous end of year school service. I know that most of you have already written your End of Year services and printed the prayers – but maybe save this idea for next year.
The Scallop Shell Service idea is about using pilgrimage imagery to reflect positively on the past year.

“The end of the school year, like other stages of transition, can be a bittersweet time of both looking back and looking ahead, with wistful goodbyes and hopes for the future. Reminiscences and regrets can blur. This idea helps you to celebrate the positive, place the negatives in some helpful context and focus attention on going forward.”

If you are a priest, you probably use a scallop shell when baptising a baby. You could show your students the shell and explain that sometimes, when someone is baptised as a Christian, the priest will pour water on their head with a scallop shell to show that this is their first step in making that long life-journey with God.

The website gives you an outline for a service and plenty of information.  You could also have a scallop shell prayer space where students reflect on their time at school by writing about their own journey on cut out scallop shells. You could create an entire ‘beach’ with the scallop shells of your students.

Remind the students that some journey are difficult but we can persevere and be joyful as we remember the good times. Mistakes are a part of our learning journey and help us to grow.

I know the plans I have for you... They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT)

Jesus said:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. (Matthew 11:28–29, NIV)

There are plenty of articles online about the scallop shell to help you with your message. You may even know someone who has walked the The Road to Santiago.  Here you can read about St James and the scallop shell. The scallop shell is the iconic symbol of the Camino de Santiago.

I think the symbolism of the shell is something with which children will connect and it will be an image they will remember. Imagine sending off all your students on their summer holidays, knowing that some will see a shell, pause, reflect and possibly even think of their own journey with God!

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Christmas for our Littlest Folk

Sometimes you need a really short but effective video to use with students. The Christmas video from Little Bible Heroes is a great little video and only about 2 minutes long.

For another great video, you can always rely on The Beginner’s Bible for any story! It is my ‘go to’ resource!

Finish off with a lovely song, and your students have heard the message 3 times! "Oh What a Special Night!"

Sunday, 28 October 2018

What is a Christingle?

Introducing a Christingle might be a wonderful way to engage your students in a very Christmassy Chapel Service.

You could perhaps demonstrate creating a Christingle with the help of some students as you explain the meaning behind these special symbols.

Everything you need to know is on the Request website. There is a video and a great hand out to help you make the Christingle.

 The website explains very clearly the meaning behind this tradition.

“The origins of Christingle services are unknown but the word means ‘Christ Light’ and celebrates Jesus coming as the light of the World to show people the way to God.

The orange is round like the world. It means that God’s love is for everybody, everywhere.

The candle symbolises Jesus. He talked about himself as light coming into a dark place. Christians believe he brought people God’s love into the world in a new way.

The red ribbon goes all around the ‘world’. It is a symbol of Jesus’ blood – a reminder that he died for the people of the world.

The four sticks point in all directions representing the four directions: North, South, East and West. It’s another symbol that God’s love is for everyone. The fruit, nuts and sweets represent all God’s good gifts to us.”

You might find teachers might like to create something similar in their own classrooms after your Chapel Service.

You will find these instructions and a video on the website at