Category Archives: Exploring Faith with Children

Teach Us to Pray

Teach Us to Pray

 

Sometimes people believe they must teach children about all manners of the Holy –

Names for God, when to dance divine praise, how to pray and the likes.

Yes, there are concepts to teach and opportunities in which to invite,

But there is much to learn about spiritual matters from the young,

Even those we do not completely understand.

 

His language not completely his own invention

Hatful of words are as clear as a pane untouched by his adventurous hands:

Mama, Daddy, no, yah – verbal skills in process.

We wait … and listen,

Eager to understand this mono dimple-cheeked boy.

Phrases repeated oft in chant-like fashion

Sounding like a foreign, incomprehensible tongue,

But he knows, yet remains somehow unperturbed by us

And our slow-to-understand ears.

Vocabulary sprouts daily

Words linked for phrases, expanded to stories.

His joys are simple:

Strawberries, being chased, filling every room with laughter, his sister,

Family gathered ‘round the table to eat,

Loved ones holding hands before table grace,

Praying…. and praying …. and praying again.

Before-the-meal prayer offered by an older person,

But when the Spirit moves him

He cues diners to clasp hands again.

His face morphs to instant serene; his non-stop body holds still;

Only his lips move with hardly an audible sound projected.

He prays and those gathered are caught up, taught, inspired.

He prays for God-only-knows what –

Berries? World peace? People who love him? The child who bit him?

When he is finished – for the moment –

He concludes with his version of Amen and a delighted-with-the-world smile.

He prays and with less than two years on his life calendar

Does what many with theological degrees long to do

He leads people to God.

 

©Father’s Day (June 14) 2014 Cynthia Langston Kirk

 

 

The Blessing of Children

 

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This past Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, the K – 2nd grade Sunday school children immersed themselves in the story of Jesus blessing the children and his admonishing the disciples (and others) not to distance children from him and spiritual growth. After considerable discussion, I told them that I was going to anoint their heads with oil and bless them. They got to choose between almond oil and grapefruit oil. Most chose grapefruit.

I made the sign of the cross on each head and said something like, “_______________ (each name), you are blessed by God’s love to be a blessing for others”. When the last child had had hands laid on him, I asked Neill to anoint my head with oil and bless me. Immediately, each of the children exclaimed her or his desire to bless me. One by one they stood before me with oil on a finger and made the sign of the cross on my head (without any prompting or instruction by me) and repeated the phrases I spoke.

Think about that for a minute – all those little hearts and fingers blessing me. Describing it as powerful and transformative does not do it justice.

“There’s nothing magical about the oil,” I told the children, “but we need to be reminded of God’s love for us and how we are to love others as often as possible. The oil is a reminder.” One first grader inquired, “Should we put oil on our heads every hour?” “That’s a very good question, I replied. (Which one of you readers could not use a reminder every hour or so?) Closing my eyes and putting my hand on my forehead, I said, “Any time we want we can just hold our forehead, remember the oil, and think God’s love for us and how we are called to love others. I opened my eyes and every child had their eyes closed and a hand on their forehead…. remembering.

 

Baby Blessing Song

This blessing song was written for two sets of twins born to friends of ours within a month of each other. You can change the plurals to singular, if singing to just one baby or child. 🙂

Babies’ Blessing Song

Can be sung to tune of “Braham’s Lullaby”

 

 You are love, you are joy

You are grace overflowing

 Full of goodness, full of charm

Precious miracles you are

 Drink in love, drink in joy

Grow in wisdom and grace

 Drink in love, drink in joy

Grow in wisdom and grace

   ©March 2012 Cynthia Langston Kirk

A Hands-On Advent

IMG_7217.jpgblog2A Hands-On Advent

 Advent and Christmas seasons are the times that shiny, sparkly and breakable goodies are removed from special boxes and put on display.  And then we want children to keep their hands off. Perhaps the following can help with that dilemma.

As I have started the process of preparing the house for Advent, I thought about Willa, our goddaughter who is here every week (and other little friends who might come to visit) and want to create a space for them to explore the Christmas story. I’ve created a children’s table by clearing the coffee table and displaying items safe, unbreakable and engaging for children.

First, I put out the stuffed felt nativity set with which Willa frequently plays and added an embroidered placemat underneath to denote this special season. This set, given to me by a dear friend several years ago, came in a felt bag. Sometimes Willa puts other people or creatures in it so I displayed what was currently in the bag: Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, a lamb, a cow, a bunny finger puppet and a soft water buffalo. (Who is to say who was there that first Christmas?)

The table also holds a felt Advent wreath with felt candles that can be velcroed on each week. One of our daughters had several beanie babies years ago and I obtained two that I display with legs draped around each other every Advent: a lion and a lamb. These soft creatures are on the children’s table. Willa loves to remove lids and put them on again so I put three small Christmas tins on the table. On the table is also a Scandinavian-looking tree with limbs made of dowels. Underneath the tree is a set of metal angels. Willa or whoever comes to visit can decorate this tree as often as they wish.

Years ago our dear friend Jack Bird made tiny baskets out of walnut shells and filled them with Spanish moss. Two of those baskets are also on the table. Two bears join the group, one is a jointed wooden bear and the other a soft angel-bear. These are not part of the biblical Christmas story, but Christmas ornaments that little ones might find inviting and fun.

How would you create such a space in your home? I encourage you to not only craft such a place for the children in your life, but invite you to share your ideas on this blog.

And as we prepare our homes for the first Sunday of Advent, may we also make time to share, read and act the Christmas story again and again with our children.

In gratitude for the season that is upon us,

Cynthia

Blessing Children

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                                                        Blessing Children

How would a life change, how would the world change if, every night, a parent or both parents held their child and uttered words of blessing?  Isn’t that an amazing concept – to bless your baby, your child every night!? 

“Raising Healthy Babies,” an entry point into Faith Inkubators, provides parents with education and encouragement for blessing their baby every night. When our youngest daughter told us about this program at their church and how she and her husband would soon participate with their baby Sophia, I thought of Bea and Charlie, saints of the church, saints of the faith whom I had known for 25 years or more. Charlie died years before Bea and, when the family gathered to plan her memorial service, their son Fred shared a recurring ritual of his parents that formed his life.

“In the old house where we were raised, he said, “I could hear my parents through the vent in my room. Every night as I was going to sleep my parents would give thanks for each us kids and pray for us. They would pray for the family, the church, the world. That is one of the most vivid memories of my parents, one that had a tremendous impact on my life.”

Hearing about the Crawford’s nightly ritual made me want to redo some evenings in our house so children would only hear blessings as they went to sleep. I do not have that luxury since all our children are adults, but I do have such opportunities with grandchildren and a godchild who come to visit.

Perhaps your children are young and you still have a choice about laying hands on their heads at night and speaking words of blessing. Perhaps you still have the choice of praying for them aloud every night so they can hear how you trust God for guidance and thank God for the blessing of each child. Each evening after your child is completely ready for bed (pjs on, teeth brushed, books read and re-read):

 Light a candle (can be battery operated for young children).

 Choose one of the sample blessings or create your own.

 Parents/Stepparents each lay one hand on the child’s head. If you have several children, bless each one separately.

 _______________________, you are a blessing from God and full of joy. May God’s joy shine through you tomorrow.

 _______________________, you are God’s special blessing. May God help you be/become a cheerful giver.

 _______________________, you are a blessing from God and a blessing to our family. May you help God care for the world.

 Close your time together in a brief prayer.

The blessings I wrote are two-part: 1) naming that a child is a blessing simply by being/ simply by being God’s creation and 2) asking God to bless him or her to act in love, compassion and generosity for others / asking God to bless them to be all God envisions/knows they can be. You may choose other words and foci.

Reflecting with Children: St. Ignatius’ Examen for Families with Children

Preparing to Practice the Examen

For the Adults:

St. Ignatius’ Examen provides a tool and encouragement for us to review our actions, inactions (ways we showed love and ways we withheld showing compassion for a person or group) and the events of our day. Practicing the examen in community (i.e. a family gathered around the dining table) allows people to live an examined life, get to know one another more deeply, support one another, feel supported, and come to know ourselves and our Creator more intimately.

 Practicing the examen with children will require patience on your part. Of course, remember that practicing the examen with parents may require patience on the part of your children, especially older ones.

 As you begin young children might express gratitude for a new toy. Remember they think and believe in concrete terms.

 This time of sharing will give you many opportunities to learn from your children, no matter their ages, for they are spiritual beings with great wisdom to share.

 The purpose of the examen is not to critique or instruct children on their behavior. The purpose is for each person to look carefully at their day, name that for which they are most grateful and least grateful, one way they showed love and one way they did not show love or withheld showing love.

 Practicing the examen must be a safe place for each person: no criticizing, no raising voices, no judgement. It is a spiritual discipline to view and name the ways each person saw God present in her or his day or made God manifest through his or her actions.

 It is also a time to receive God’s mercy and love for times when we have missed the mark by not loving, being kind, compassionate, or sharing with others.

 It is important to be consistent with this daily practice.

 You may want to practice the examen each evening as you gather around the dining table for meals. I know dining together at a table is largely a lost occurrence, but know it can be a bonding time for families that is well worth the effort.       

 Of course, the younger children are when you begin this practice, the easier it is and the more they will help in remembering and guiding the process.

 Start with question #1 and ask each person to respond about his or her experience for which they are grateful. After each person has responded to #1, allow time for each person to respond to #2 and so forth until you have finished 1 – 4.

 If you are practicing the examen during mealtime, other topics may emerge that are semi-related or totally unrelated. Allow the person to finish sharing or asking a question. When they are finished, redirect the conversation back to the examen. There should be nothing heavy-handed about the examen.

 The Examen:

1. For what time or event today are you most grateful (thankful/happy)?

(Initially, you may have to name a few things in a young child’s day to help them catch on to the practice for #1 and #2.)

 2. For which moment are you least grateful?

 3. How did you show love today?

            (For very young children, you may ask additional questions as your family begins this spiritual practice. Ex.: Who did you share with today? Who did you help today? It won’t be long before they understand the question and can reflect and respond without your assistance.)

 4. What was one time your actions or behavior were negative or you withheld showing kindness?

            (Again, for young children you might ask:

                        Was there a time you did not share today? Was there a time you said a hurtful word or did not help?)

 5. Briefly give thanks for this time of reflection and sharing and for God teaching each of you to be more loving.

 Words of Encouragement and Blessing

Your family will find your own rhythm. You may rephrase the questions. You may choose to use only questions 1 and 2 or 3 and 4. Remember this is a time of reflection – allowing God’s light to shine on our day – and a time of sharing in a circle of love. May God bless this journey with your loved ones.

 Cynthia Langston Kirk

Song of Blessing

 

Two years ago this month when we had a baby shower for my friend Amy, each person was asked to bring a poem, blessing, etc. for the baby. No one knew the gender and friends and family did not know possible baby names.

This was my gift to the Barron-Gaffords and all the sweet babies of the world.

Feel free to use this song or make up a blessing song of your own. Babies don’t care if your voice can win an award. What matters is that you sing Love to them.

                                     Song of Blessing

 Baby dear

Gift from God

All creation is singing

You are precious

You are joy

You are blessing to the world.

 

Baby dear

Hear the song

Friends and family sing

You’re beloved 

You’re a joy

You’re a blessing from God

      

© September 2007  Cynthia Langston Kirk

May be sung to the tune of Brahm’s Lullaby 

If possible, substitute the child’s name for Baby or Baby Dear