The end of the journey

Pilgrim’s Progressed

and we reached the end of this series

Weeks four, five and six of Pilgrim’s progress are up!

As part of the story Bunyan wrote this song (well not this exactly but it’s pretty similar) and I think it’s fantastic in its teaching. I do find the traditional tune stirring: it is also pretty fun to rap! Here it is for your encouragement:

He who would valiant be ’gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.

Who so beset him round with dismal stories
Do but themselves confound—his strength the more is.
No foes shall stay his might; though he with giants fight,
He will make good his right to be a pilgrim.

Since, Lord, you do defend us with your Spirit,
We know we at the end, shall life inherit.
Then fancies flee away! I’ll fear not what men say,
I’ll labor night and day to be a pilgrim.

I really hope that this is true of me and all of us on this journey with Jesus; not in our own strength but reliant on our king, our guide and our protector!

New Series!

A Pilgrim’s Progress

and how it helps us realise what it really means to be a Christian

I cried the first time I read it.

When Christian loses his burden in the shadow of the cross: I broke down.  I knew what that felt like and to my embarrassment I knew (and still know) I was picking up that discarded burden again and again; fighting Jesus for the right to carry it. That’s way although PP isn’t one of my favourite books – I really value it as an allegory. There are no perfect Christians here only redeemed sinners struggling along.

I hope that this series, which is a heavily abridged version of the story accompanied by questions to link it to its Biblical inspiration and apply it to our lives, helps your young people. It may prepare them for struggles ahead or help them to realise they’re not trusting Jesus yet.

It’s largely adapted from Geraldine McCaughrean’s retelling of the classic, although I turned to the original for help sometimes. I also used Jason Cockroft’s beautiful pointillist illustrations in my powerpoint where I could (because they’re stunning!) but since I have no rights to them I haven’t shared them. You could buy the book and scan them in as I did. That’s why, in my version, Christian is young and Hopeful is female – it matched the illustrations.

More in this series next week.

Distinctives

Living a life that’s different

because that’s what following Jesus looks like

Here’s another short youth work series: Distinctive Living. I adapted Vaughn Roberts book Distinctives into five short studies for teens. The idea being; it’s hard as a teenager to stand out from the crowd and they need all the encouragement they can get that it’s a) not just them and b) the right thing to do.

It’s worth checking out the book, not only for the two chapters I didn’t adapt, but also for the in-depth thinking, explaining and examples that I couldn’t remotely do justice to in half an hour. I may adapt Purity in a World Obsessed with Sex and Certainty in a World in which Everything is Relative at some future date: the only reason I haven’t already is that I had a five week term and those two were harder. I myself occasionally use the book for my morning devotionals as it’s nicely divided up with thoughtful questions on each chapter. And it’s not just teenagers who need to be reminded that living distinctively is plausible, possible and profitable.

Edit:

I found Narnia!

Not at the back of my wardrobe unfortunately.

Instead I updated the Narnia page on this blog with the talks and powerpoint from that series. I’m not entirely sure how or why they disappeared in the first place. Nevermind, they’re back now!

Shadows of the Carnegie

Some thoughts about culture

Inspired by Children’s Literature

The Carnegie Prize is awarded to the best in Children’s Literature (although the short list is mostly what we’d call Young Adult) you can find out more about it here. They run a shadowing scheme in which libraries, schools, book clubs etc. can read the short list and offer opinions at the same time as the judges do – although I’m pretty sure public opinion makes no difference.

I’ve been shadowing this years shortlist with work and thought that some of the themes in these books for children were worth talking about. Of the five books I’ve read so far the main characters are:
A young girl threatened with near murderous bullying.
An orphaned young carer in temporary accommodation.
A teenage thief from a single parent family on the run.
A boy born in a refugee camp who hasn’t realised his mother is dying.
A girl left brain damaged after being raped and beaten, whose mum is gone, dad has died, grandfather is in prison and grandma is slowly dying from emphysema.

As you can imagine they are, on occasion, very sad stories. Even the sci-fi stories are filled with real people facing real events: lies, betrayal, confusion, cruelty, loss and death.

But there is also hope in these stories, in fact it is often the case that stories themselves bring hope. (Which is only to be expected when the creators of the stories are authors.)

I think it’s natural to be drawn to these kind of stories as writers, judges and readers; they are the same type of stories Jesus told. His parables are brief but full of realistic characters – the whiny older brother, the self-obsessed successful farmer/businessman, the nagging widow, the woman who manages to lose something very valuable then has to panic clean the house until she finds it (yep, been there!) They fully live in a world that is far from ideal and yet there is hope, the hope of rescue, restoration, retribution, reward and relationship.

There is definitely a role in using the excellent literature aimed at young adults and children as a starting point for discussion of some real world issues, the effects of sin in this world and the role of hope. It’s great motivation to praying for and serving the vulnerable and damaged in our society and others.

It’s also great as a way of evaluating how we teach. Are we realistic about the falleness of our world and the ways that affects young people? Are there issues we would never talk about or do we realise that our young people may be experiencing them? Are we teaching historical events with as much interest, personality and excitement as the real world has?

And most importantly when we talk about hope; are we talking about a hope that helps and heals even the most broken? Are we seeing that gospel hope threaded throughout the Bible? Are we talking about the difference hope has made in our own experiences? Are we talking about a hope that is built on the real person of Jesus – who invites the broken and abandoned into his family and makes them whole?

Advent’s completed…

We’re nearly there

and I’m nearly ready

At last! Four advent scripts for four advent Sundays. Head on over and enjoy hearing from fictionalised (but I hope plausible) Biblical characters about some the events in the run up to Christmas. Joseph wonders how the start of his new family will play into the promise that God made to his ancestor King David. One of Herod’s advisors investigates rumours that the true king will come from Bethlehem. Elizabeth considers the strange circumstances that have led to her old age pregnancy and Mary’s mum shares the shame that her daughter’s pregnancy will ring on their family.

As I’ve been writing these I’ve been considering (with a lot of help from Tim Chester’s book One True Story) different perspectives on the story we all know and love. People weren’t expecting God to do what he did: to come into the world as a vulnerable baby, to be part of a human family with all its complications and challenges, to work miracles in ordinary and unimportant lives, to fulfil reams of OT prophecies yet not to act in the way we expect and people just weren’t ready for it.

Advent is a time to get ready then. I, with a lot of help, have completed my Christmas shopping, also bought presents for December family birthdays, visited and been visited by relatives and friends, wrapped presents and decorated the tree. I could consider myself ready for Christmas but there is much more to it than that.

I’m ready to celebrate but am I ready to embrace the fullness of God as a saviour, as a judge, as God with us? Am I ready for him to come again? Am I ready to admit where I fail to trust God in my life? Am I ready to admit where my understanding of God is wrong? Am I ready to change my life and my attitudes this Christmas?

I think, once again, I am going to need a lot of help with this. Thank God, then, that I have it!

Narnia

The Chronicles continue

but we haven’t finished yet

Yes, unfortunately the series is unfinished and will remain so for a while longer. We only had five weeks left before the holidays when I was writing these so that’s not enough for the whole series even if we hadn’t copped out and just had a Narnia themed party for our final week. Costumes were mainly of Pevensie children because that’s easy but we had a few talking animals and a very enterprising lamppost!
Check out the Magician’s Nephew and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

I do have plans to create talks for the rest of the series at some point, even if it’s only for the benefit of the blog.
#includesspoilers #althoughyoushouldhavereadthesebynow

The Chronicles of Narnia

Step through the wardrobe

and get the discussion started

This is a slightly new style for the disorganised sunday school blog: no games, songs or memory verses but a youth group style talk and discussion. Great for older kids as it is (we played games either side) or an exploration of themes you can adapt for younger kids if you want. Also it includes what is probably my best idea ever! That’s for those of you who don’t find Narnia itself enough of a draw.

This week: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (2 talks)
Next week: Assorted other books