Dance! (But keep your clothes on)

Year B, Seventh after Pentecost, Lectionary reading for July 11, 2021: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

Last night, I spent way too much time reading arguments about David’s apocryphal state of undress. We know he wore an ephod (a kind of ceremonial apron), but other than that… no one’s really sure. His disgruntled ex-wife accuses him of being vulgar and uncovered, but as king, standards would have been pretty high. Perhaps he wasn’t wearing his usual kingly attire, or perhaps there wasn’t anything at all under that ephod; we’ll never know.

While there’s no consensus about what he was wearing, this passage from 2 Samuel makes it clear that this was a party, and nothing could stop David from dancing! He brought the ark back to Jerusalem, and despite a setback that delayed the ark’s arrival by three months, King David danced for the Lord without caring about what anyone thought.

“Dance like no one is watching.”

-King David

I never planned to share two giraffe books in a row. But if King David can dance with abandon before the Lord, then you have to meet Gerald the giraffe!

In this book, jungle animals play the part of King David’s judgemental ex-wife, and they tell Gerald that he’s clumsy, weird, and can’t dance. Gerald goes off to sulk while the rest of the animals party at the Jungle Dance. He meets a wise cricket who suspects Gerald isn’t the problem, rather, Gerald needs a different song. Gerald listens to the song of the moon, the grass, and the trees, and his body starts to move until he’s dancing like no one has ever seen!

David danced to praise God, and Gerald, by listening to the music of creation and trusting himself is doing the same. Now break out the craft supplies, make some instruments, and have a dance party!

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A Million Metaphors

Sixth after Pentecost, Reading for June 27, 2021, Psalm 48

I read a lot of books in preparation for writing this blog. I regularly pick up dozens of new storybooks I’ve requested from our local library, and I’m constantly on the lookout for more to request. It’s important to me that I’ve held a book in my hands before I recommend it. There’s some toxic theology in some so-called “religious” children’s books. Before any book appears here, it’s been through my request-read-take notes-return routine.

A few months ago, during my usual search for more books that might be featured here, I heard about What is God Like? and something told me this was a book that needed a permanent spot on my shelf and not just borrowed from the library, so I put my name on the pre-orders list and waited. I was right.

I love this book. It answers a child’s question about God, but it does something else even more important—it teaches children that there is more than one way to think about God. On the very first page, this book acknowledges that no one has ever seen all of God, since God’s just too big for any of us to see fully. Instead, every colourful page points to something familiar to children, like a candle, an artist, or the wind, and helps children know God through metaphors.

And then Psalm 48 appeared in the lectionary! Coincidence? I think not! Many of the Psalms try to answer the same question as this book. Psalm 48 compares God to a mountain, a city, a defense, a temple, and a wind. The psalmist wants us to understand the power and might of God through these heavy comparisons, but something beautiful happens in the very last verse. The psalmist reassures us that, despite the militant metaphors of the psalm, God is our guide. God is our guide forever!

The psalm commands us to tell future generations about God, but when God hides behind the cloud of unknowing, it’s difficult to answer a question like “what is God like?” This book, by Rachel Held Evans and Matthew Paul Turner, gives you page after page of beautiful comparisons and metaphors with which to talk about God with your children. This isn’t a book you’ll read once every three years when Psalm 48 comes around in the lectionary; this is a book your children will turn to over and over again.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What does God look like? How do you know?
  • What does God sound like? How do you know?
  • Does anyone know these things for sure?

Questions to ask before you read:

  • Which comparison did you like the best? Why?
  • Were there some comparisons that made you uncomfortable?
  • What other comparisons might describe what God is like?

Thanks for visiting Storybook Ministry! Please share these posts with your friends and colleagues in children’s ministry so we can make Sunday mornings a little easier for more faith communities.

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Who Do You Think You Are, Anyway?

Fourth after Pentecost, Lectionary reading for June 20, 2021; Job 38:1-11

Call me crazy, but I love the book of Job. Do I really believe that God ruined a man’s life to settle a bet with Satan? No. But we all suffer: Job, Jesus, every one of us. How we react and respond to our suffering and to the suffering of others is up to us, but there is no way to avoid suffering. Job and his friends spend most of the book arguing about why we suffer, but to me, that’s not the important part (other than offering us lessons in how NOT to help a grieving friend).

The book of Job shows us it is perfectly acceptable to cry out to God. We can pour out all our anger, frustration, bitterness, and pain in our prayers and still be loved by God. In the midst of our suffering, we can scream and cry and question, and God is big enough to bear it all and still love us.

My other takeaway from the Book of Job is that we will never fully understand the mystery of God. While modern science has answered some of the questions God asks Job in chapters 38-41, the message remains pertinent: we will never understand the mind of our Creator or the full glories of creation. Assuming we know God’s plans or God’s thoughts is hugely arrogant. We have clues in the Bible and in creation (what the Franciscans call the first bible), but we need to accept and even embrace the mystery in which we live.

This week’s reading from Job is a great opportunity to marvel at creation, and ABCs From Space is a perfect book to gawk over. It isn’t a storybook in the traditional sense, but as you browse its pages, you can’t help but wonder at the beauty, diversity, and mystery of God’s creation. Little kids will enjoy finding the letters and tracing them on each page, and older kids will enjoy reading the explanations in the back pages. This book is a real conversation starter and you’ll enjoy looking through it over and over again.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What is something people used to think about the world that we know is wrong now?
  • How did we find out?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Do you think we will ever know everything about the world?
  • Why do you think God made some things so hard to figure out?

Well folks, I’ve been kicked out of the Amazon Associates program because of a lack of sales, so I no longer have clickable links on my page. You can find this book on Amazon, but check your local library first, and if you are lucky enough to live somewhere that still has a physical bookstore, go support it!

NEW! Storybook Ministry is reader supported, and to keep it ad-free, I’ve started a Patreon page. Check out the exclusive patron perks at https://www.patreon.com/storybookministry

Voiland, Adam. ABCs From Space. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Year B, Pentecost Sunday, Lectionary reading for May 23, 2021: Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

I try not to let my faith get too self-centred, but geez, am I glad God created Earth! Humans have been gazing up at the stars forever, and even with all the astronomical advances that came after Galileo pointed his telescope skyward in 1609, we haven’t found a single planet that even comes close to Earth’s life-friendly characteristics.

Psalm 104 is a song of praise to God’s creation, so let’s celebrate along with the psalmist! Today’s book is a tongue-in-cheek autobiography of our planet full of details that will captivate not just the children of your ministry, but the whole congregation.

Stacey McAnulty and David Litchfield first introduce us to Earth’s family, and then take us back to Earth’s time as an explosive, gassy, and very cranky baby. It takes awhile to get to us humans, but don’t worry, Earth likes us, even if we forget to play nice and clean up after ourselves sometimes. After all, we are the first species that has ever been interested in learning about Earth!

Questions to ask before you read:

  • How do you think Earth came to be?
  • What do you think Earth was like when Earth was a baby?
  • Would you like to live on a different planet?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Did God create Earth just for people?
  • What do you think is the best thing about Earth?
  • What can we do to protect Earth?

Whether or not you add this book to your children’s ministry, please consider sharing this post with other people so Storybook Ministry can reach more churches, families, and schools. I want to make children’s ministry easier on the adults and more fun for the kids!

McAnulty, Stacy. Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years. Henry Holt and Company, 2017.

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God’s Light Through the Universe

Year B, Second Sunday of Easter; 1 John 1:2-2:2; Lectionary reading for April 11, 2021

Did you know that there is more light in the universe than scientists can explain? Even if they take into consideration all the light emitted by all the stars and galaxies, and reflected off all the planets, moons, asteroids, and dust, there’s still more light than there *should* be. Even the darkest parts of outer space still have some light in them, and scientists are still puzzling out how this could be.

Like many people, I love going outside and looking into the night sky to watching the stars and moon, but I don’t enjoy stumbling back through the darkness into my home! But the problem isn’t that it’s too dark, the problem is that my eyes can’t see enough light to guide me home. It’s a problem of perception, not of light. Our eyes can only see a narrow little piece of the spectrum of light, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any light out there! When God created light to begin the universe, he banished darkness. God is light, and so is creation.

What Is Light? by Markette Sheppard captured my attention because it connects literal light to metaphorical light. There are many excellent books that cover the science of light (here’s a link to my favourite) and some that focus on the metaphorical light within us all (this one is amazing) but this gentle little book gives us a little bit of each. It isn’t a very long book, but that gives you extra time to talk to the children in your ministry about light, both the kind that shines from the sun and the kind that God placed in each and every one of us.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What do you use light for?
  • Every single food we eat depends on light from the sun. Can you figure out how the sun helps make pizza? What about ice cream?
  • What does it mean when someone says, “you light up the room?”

Questions to ask after you read:

  • The story ends by saying that light can be seen in everything you do. How can you be light for someone today?
  • How are the kind things you do similar to actual light from the sun?

Sheppard, Markette. What Is Light? Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Illustrated edition (May 5 2020)

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