Rainbow Family Fun

Here’s a couple fun snacks to make and a science experiment to help your kids explore what the symbol of a rainbow could mean to them.  In our text today (Genesis 9:8-17) God places a bow in the sky as a reminder of the covenant God makes with all living things.  (This is important to bring up! ALL living things – not just Noah and his decedents.)  God will never again bring destruction of the world through water.

Rainbow Snack 1. Taste the Rainbow Snack!

Strawberries, an orange, apples (1 -red & 1 -green), blueberries, purple grapes, bananas and or marshmallows!

Rainbow Toast 2.  Rainbow Toast – using Milk Paint!

Needs – white bread, milk, food coloring, paint brushes, toaster

Pour a small amount of milk into small bowls and add a drop or two of food coloring to make the colors you would like.  Give out pieces of bread and have everyone use a paintbrush to design their bread.  When they are satisfied – put the bread in the toaster.  Enjoy!

Rainbow Science 3. Rainbow Liquid Density Experiment

Need:  food coloring, 1/2 c. corn syrup, 1/2 c. blue dish soap (Dawn), 1/2 c. water, 1/2 c. olive oil, 1/2 c. rubbing alcohol, spoon, measuring cup, and jar/bottle that will hold at least 2 1/2 c. of liquid.

Purple – Mix 1/2. c corn syrup with 1 drop of red coloring and 1 drop of blue coloring.  Pour into the jar.

Blue – slowly pour 1/2 cup of blue dish soap down the side of your jar.
Green – mix 1/2 cup water with 2 drops green food coloring.  Tip your jar and slowly pour the water down the side of the jar.
Yellow – slowly pour 1/2 cup olive oil down the side of the jar.
Red – mix 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol with 2 drops red food coloring.  Tip your jar and slowly pour the alcohol down the side of the jar.
While enjoying the final products you may spend some time wondering:  I wonder what your favorite part of the rainbow is?  I wonder how a rainbow makes you feel?  I wonder how a rainbow makes God feel?  I wonder how a rainbow reminds us of God’s promises to us and all of creation?

Rainbow Covenant

Why and how are two questions that drive us as humans.  Our innate curiosity has helped us to develop amazing technologies, cure horrible diseases, and make life very comfortable for many.  In attempts to make sense of both the world and the divine – cultures created cosmology stories explaining how things came to be.  Prominent in cosmology stories are the major natural forces one encounters daily – wind, water, earth, fire… as they were the forces understood to shape the world.

Today’s text comes after the rain, after the flood, after the messiness. It’s the punchline – the why.  It’s the part we focus on and teach to the children – the happy rainbow in the sky.  God’s promise, covenant, to EVERY LIVING CREATURE (not just Noah!) never again to destroy everything with water.  From this, we are to understand God to be trustworthy.

There are a lot of problematic aspects of this story.  A lot of details we minimize or move through quickly.  The easiest parts are the beginning with the ark and the animals, and the end with the rainbow and the covenant.  I urge you to let yourself absorb the whole story.  Wrestle with it.  Wonder.

The text highlights the covenant – a special relationship and promise that God makes to all of creation.  First here – God does not make this covenant only with humans.  Our theology can often get hierarchical – that first God loves us, and then the animals, and then the rest of creation.  This verse clearly spells out that God is making God’s covenant with every living thing.

Second, it is interesting to wonder why God needed the sign, the reminder.  We use symbols to remind us of many promises we make.  Rings as a sign of our commitment to our husband or wife for example.  In a world of unknown and harsh elements – this sign of God’s love I imagine to be incredibly uplifting and comforting.

Third – context determines meaning.  I imagine this story being told in circles around tents, under the shade of trees, or under shelter waiting out a storm.  We must remember the heritage of our stories of the faith.  As our children become older and their minds develop – we owe it to them to keep returning to this story.  It speaks to all of us.  We owe it to them to wonder together about the people who shared this story to speak about a God beyond themselves.  If we as teachers, as mentors, and as parents allow this foundational story to be only a cute nursery decoration – we do a disservice to the community of faith.  There comes a time where our children can begin to see that these stories, and the bible – the library of the people of God, is not meant to be taken literally.  It is a beautiful tradition that offers a window, revealing aspects of God through God’s beautiful, broken, foolish people.

I wonder what emotions you feel when you are surprised by a rainbow?  I wonder how God’s promises give you assurance of the love your creator has for you?  I wonder how water touches your life in a meaningful way?

Oh God of land and sea, your powerful ways are beyond us Lord yet you covenant with us as a part of your creation.  Guide us in ways that lead to your Kingdom.  Spirit, work within us to claim our identity as the children of God.  Jesus, may your example in the desert remind us that we too need time apart to reflect.  We strive, only in your power oh God, to see your hand through these stories and in the world around us.  In your holy name we pray, Amen.

Whole Body Listening

Listening is a skill that people of all ages could improve on.  In the lectionary text for this week – The Transfiguration story  – we hear the voice of God saying to the disciples present “This is my son, the Beloved, listen to him.”

Listening is hard!  Really listening to others takes a lot of work.  I often tell the wonderful youngsters I work with  – “we listen with both our ears and our eyes!”  This imagewhole-body-listening-poster might be helpful for your youngsters:

  • Eyes – looking at the person who is talking  
  • Head/Brain – Thinking carefully about what you are hearing 
  • Mouth – Sharing ideas and responses once the person is finished
  • Ears – Listening for the key words the person is sharing
  • Heart – Caring about what the other person is saying        
  • Body – facing the person 
  • Feet – Still and quiet on the floor 
  • Hands – still & quiet on your lap or by your sides

Handy chart or not – I can often get frustrated repeating these things over and over again.  However it’s worth it when I overhear one of my students ask another one – can you please listen to me with your whole self?!?  Or one of my older students patiently working to get the attention of some little ones who would rather play.  On the other side of listening, I try to remind them that “No one likes to be told what to do” and “No one likes to be yelled at”.  My friends and staff giggle at these constants from my mouth – however as we all get caught in the moment, these are excellent reminders to help all of us learn to respect one another and communicate just a little better.

Childhood 101 – has a great post on listening games here

For this weeks Family Activity I suggest adapting one for your family!

They call this “Sound Tennis”: It’s like the board game “Encore” – although doesn’t require you to sing!  Works well with teams – or each person can be their own team (depending on the size and makeup of your family or group).  Take turns giving out the categories (or have a parent/older child do it) – with younger children you could start with a letter (Things that start with S) or a sound cluster (Things that have a CH sound).  Older children can do more specific categories – cartoon characters, songs, desserts, vacation spots – etc.

Rules:  Once a category is given, individuals or teams have to name something in the category.  This bounces back and forth between people (or teams) until the ideas run out – OR – someone repeats something already said.  The person/team that ended with the last idea gets a point.  Play until 10 points, or the car ride ends, or when everyone is really loving it.  (Tip:  ending at game when it’s at a climax of fun and excitement gives you the chance to keep it in your pocket and bring it out again and again.  If you play too long, they’ll get tired of any game.)

Take a break in the game to talk about how important it is to listen in this game, and in life.  Ask some wondering questions:

I wonder what are some ways that you find help you listen to others?  I wonder what things can distract you from listening?   I wonder how you feel when others don’t listen to you?  I wonder if listening always means doing?

Read the text from this week – Mark 9:2-8.  Go back to the game.  Category: Things Jesus talked about, or Ways to listen to Jesus – and have fun with what comes!

Peace~ Deacon Erin


In our church year the Sunday before Ash Wednesday is Transfiguration Sunday.  A story filled with amazing and unbelievable events where Jesus brings 3 disciples to the top of a mountain.  Once up there, Jesus is transformed and made dazzling white and Elijah and Moses stop by the party for a bit.  The voice of God is heard – “This is my son, the Beloved, listen to him.”

Wow.   What?

I am not going to pretend I know what happened that day on top of that mountain.  Neither really, do the gospel authors (yes – this account is found in all 3 synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark, & Luke).  The placement of this story is notable – Jesus’s ministry from his baptism until know has focused on teaching and healing throughout various areas of Galilee.  After this story, Jesus begins his trip to Jerusalem.

Each year as we encounter this story, it can speak to each one of us differently.  In years past I have spent time wondering, what change occurred in Jesus at that place?  Is that when he became divine?  We can’t know.  It is a mystery.  Or other times, reflecting upon the significance of Jesus with Moses and Elijah – which is often lost from a Christian perspective.  The original hearers of this story would have picked up on that comparison.  Or Peter… thank you Peter for not being afraid to ask questions out loud – even if your idea turns out to be off the mark.  It gives me comfort to know Jesus hung out with folks who didn’t get it sometimes (or most of the time…?).

In reflecting upon these words this week, and the children at both of the ministries I serve, the words of God in this passage stood out boldly.  We may not know what happened that day, however we clearly know the directions given.  “Listen to him.”

Just 2 chapters before this story in Mark, Jesus is questioned by the Pharisee’s and some scribes about his disciples eating with dirty hands.  Jesus instructs them and the crowd, teaching that it is not outward things which defile the body – but things that come from within.  How we can learn from this and so many other teachings of Jesus today.  As each of us walk our own path of discipleship we must consider what it means to be a Christian.

Are we simply worshipers of Jesus?  Or are we followers of Jesus?  To be followers, we need to often return to bible and read the teachings of Jesus – not only generalize about love and justice – but to go back into the texts and other sources to help us understand the contexts they were written in.

As we stand on this side of the Lenten journey – God is directing us to listen to Jesus.  I find myself often reminding many children I work with  that we listen with both our ears and our eyes.  I find that sometimes I think I can multi-task and listen to a movie or TV show and cook dinner or listen to my husband talk about his day while continuing to draft an email.  Yet when we are honest to ourselves, this is not true listening.  Listening does require our full attention.

I challenge you to use the upcoming season of Lent to really listen to Jesus.  Many of us have heard of the lenten practice of giving something up.  If there is something in your life that distracts you from listening, I encourage you to try and replace that with listening for the next 40 days.  Otherwise instead of focusing on a negative, perhaps for you adding something to your daily routine would be helpful.  Some suggestions:

Daily devotions (the upper room sends out free ones to your e-mail!), or a Daily Prayer practice – the rosary or a formatted prayers of the people can be nice, perhaps there is a song even a hymn) that touches you – download it and take 5 minutes a day to listen to it, doing some journalling or sketching – especially fun to do with your kids, or praying as you walk along the sidewalk for those you are near and the city.

Lent is a time for preparation – so that we may more fully experience the mystery of Easter.  It’s a big mystery, so it take some time to get ready for it.  (Like preparing to have lots of relatives and friends over for a Thanksgiving Feast.)  I pray that it does not become a season of burden or guilt for you, yet one of reflection and learning about our amazing God.

I wonder….

what words of Jesus you find give you the most guidance?  what aspect of the transfiguration story speak to you at this time?  what this lent has in store for the communities of faith you and I are a part of?

O God of mystery, you reveal to us your love through Jesus the Christ.  As we are inspired by his glory and his life we are drawn closer to you.  With the strength of the Holy Spirit help us to take to heart your words today, “This is my son, the Beloved, listen to him.”  In your holy name we pray, Amen.

The Amazing-Healing Man

Let’s start today with the gospel text from the gospel of Mark –

Mark 1:29-39 –  As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.  In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”  And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

In looking over a few resources on this scripture I came upon a suggested movie connection.  Jesus in this passage conceals his identity.  It apparently isn’t time for everyone to know who he is (yet the author apparently does want the audience to know!).  This is very intriguing – the secret identity of Jesus… it helps him to be able to do the good that he came to do – the healing, teaching, and loving the people.

We see this secret identity in a specific kind of stories in our culture – have you guessed it?  Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, and the particular movie this resource suggested to tie in with todays lesson – Peter Parker – The Amazing Spider-Man!

Sometimes as I go about my daily life, I meet new people who don’t know who I am or what I do.  It’s a pleasure – since as “Deacon Erin” sometimes comes with presuppositions about me over which I have no control.  For when these new folks who don’t know of my church connections are enlightened – the conversation can run a bit awkward.  I wonder – how many of us leave our “christian identity” secret at times?  Like Peter Parker – this can allow us to do good, just not outwardly in the name of God.

There is a time and place for everything – the poet of Ecclesiastes reminds us.  Jesus in this passage shows that it again is our actions which speak and shape for others who we are.  The crowds were not then (and perhaps not even later) ready to hear that the Messiah had come.  Over time many, such as the disciples, understood through the healing and the teachings that this Messiah, Jesus, was not exactly what they had expected – but truly God with us.

I wonder tonight…

I wonder how do the stories of Jesus’s healing’s and miracles speak to you?  I wonder how does the overall story of Jesus encourage you in your life?  I wonder what gifts has God given you to make the world a little brighter? (The Amazing _______?)

I pray…. Oh Amazing God, thank you for the stories of faith that give us insight into who you are.  May your Spirit continue to give us the strength and the encouragement to give to the world the gifts you have bestowed upon us.  In your holy name we pray.  Amen.