Friday fun with children

I have enormous respect for parents, they really do have to contend with a myriad of challenges while bringing up their offspring. Even good things can cause prolonged periods of trial – like ensuring children develop musical skills. Its widely agreed that this is a good thing, but getting from the beginner level to the ‘pleasant to listen to’ level can take quite a while.

In my case, I tortured my parents with the descant recorder for quite a few years (I could produce particularly piercing top G’s) and now wonder if my move to the treble recorder was in fact initiated by my mother (how she hated the descant…) rather than my music teacher perceiving talent in my fingers. The piano’s not so bad – at least the tone will always be good, even if the notes aren’t; but my sister learnt the violin and trust me, it takes a very long while to get to ‘pleasant’ with that instrument.

Between the two of us, my sister and I at various points studied the descant recorder, treble recorder, violin, piano, clarinet, percussion and singing. Inevitably, this meant that my parents were forced to attend a large number of concerts, assemblies and recitals in order to pay homage to our ‘talent’. Only recently have I realised just how tedious this must have been and how painful Junior Orchestra (and possibly even Senior Orchestra) were. However, I’m very certain that we were never as bad as this:

Growing up in a church environment, the other thing we had to get good at was reading aloud – particularly prayers and Bible readings. Every year our church’s carol service would feature contributions from a Brownie and a Guide and I think both me and my sister fulfilled this obligation at least once. [In my case requiring the step from our bathroom in order to reach the lectern (I was 8), but meaning that all the congregation could see of me was the bobble on my Brownie hat…]

As with musical performances, children reading aloud can have comic moments. At the same carol service, one particular Brownie reading went down in legend, thanks to her way of reciting a certain line from the Annunciation (Luke 1: 26-38) – “But I’m a virgin!” said with high pitched emphasis on ‘virgin’ had the grown up congregation stifling giggles. (I’m convinced that the Christian sense of humour never actually matures.)

Sometimes we just don’t expect children to be good at things. When I stumbled across a video of a girl telling the story of Jonah, I assumed that some kind of catastrophe would evolve. I was wrong, instead I watched 7 minutes of beautiful story telling, complete with gestures and excellent intonation (not to mention a fantastic choice of hair adornment). This video is long, but utterly worth it – I particularly enjoyed the voices she used for God and the ship’s captain.

By the way, that’s done completely from memory – she learned it from a children’s video. Quite impressive.

I feel like that’s quite a worthy Friday Fun, I do apologise. If you simply want something frivolously fun, how about this video of a cat who likes climbing into boxes being confronted with a series of boxes that are too small for him? Yes, I know, it sounds ridiculous, but it’s super cute and funny – plus, the last box features Miffy. What’s not to like?

Naturally embarrassing?

Last night, I listened to a talk at church on the subject of Mark 5 – specifically Jairus’ daughter (who was raised from the dead) and the healing of a sick woman. The sick woman in question, we’re told, had been subjected to bleeding for 12 years. The Bible doesn’t go into the medical symptoms in detail, but we’re led to believe it was of a gynaecological nature.

The person speaking (who is a great speaker/leader and I’m not criticising at all!) mentioned that it was basically as though “she’d been menstruating for 12 years” and then continued to use the term throughout the talk. Now, I’m all for correct medical terminology, but the audience was a load of students and it the number of times the word was stumbled over (it’s long and multi-syllabled, so fair enough) made me wonder if he couldn’t have just said “period” at some point and be done with it.

I appear to have a little bit of a bee in my bonnet on this subject, having mentioned it a few times before. Why do we still exist in a culture of embarrassment over something so natural and essential?

Here’s something of a personal example (don’t worry, I’m not about to go into medical detail…). I had a bad day on Monday. It all started out a big wrong; was compounded by multiple Jubilee Line issues; a long day and not enough sleep the night before. On top of those already irritating factors, I had terrible period pain. This meant that pilates wasn’t the haven of peace, tranquillity and stretching that it usually is – it’s hard work strengthening your core when the same part of your body is twisting itself in knots. But I don’t like to mention it because who would want to know – apart from the odd female friend who might sympathise?

Similarly, unlike days when I’m under the weather with a cold or similar, I’m unlikely to tweet for sympathy, or hash tag ‘periodpain’ the way certain friends throw around ‘manflu’. The closest I got to mentioning it was a coded “[Liz]would quite like her body to end its apparent vendetta against her”. So instead we suffer in silence and eat cream doughnuts. It’s funny that in a world that can be as crass as it likes about sex and apparently adores TV shows about ’embarrassing’ illnesses, this is still such a touchy subject.

One location which has had to confront the issue head on is New Zealand, where just last week a debate broke out over the banning of pregnant or menstruating women from a tour at Te Papa – the national museum in Wellington. The tour includes the Taonga Maori collection, which contains items used in battle and to kill people, and because the Maori regard women in these categories as sacred they should not come into contact with them. There has been an outcry – on both sides, as this editorial from the New Zealand Herald outlines. On the one hand, we shouldn’t discriminate based on something that only affects one gender and can’t be helped, but at the same time I quite like the idea of being regarded as sacred. It’s going to be a difficult policy to enforce, but I hope the Pakeha (Europeans) who visit actually take the time to respect another culture’s beliefs.

Hmmm, Bible references, cultural anthropology and a bit of a whinge about a rubbish start to the week – this blog post is almost educational. That’s worrying.

Re-writing the Bible

The 10 Commandments are a pretty solid bit of Biblical teaching, aren’t they? I mean, most people, even without a church background, could probably name at least half of them (or at least ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s ass’…).

When I realised that it was the theme for my session with the under-6’s yesterday morning, my initial reaction was one of relief – a familiar story, rather than the occasionally spurious ones the notes come out with – plus, a fairly easy concept to get across to small people: there are rules, but it’s because ‘God helps us to know how he wants us to live’.

As I perused the various activity options, I noticed that the week’s accompanying activity sheet was mentioned as including a picture of people illustrating the 10 commandments. I was (naturally) intrigued…how would commandments #7 (adultery) and #6 (murder) be depicted??

Disappointingly, both were excluded. In fact, for the benefit of the tinies, the laws were re-written as:
1. Worship me.
2. Think about what I want first.
3. Smile when you say my name.
4. Have one special day a week.
5. Make your parents happy.
6. Be kind to other people.
7. Look after your family.
8. Ask before you take anything that’s not yours.
9. Always tell the truth.
10. Be glad for what God has given you.

Hmmm, nice and child friendly, but are we not meant to be teaching good Biblical knowledge too? Couldn’t we have left the decalogue until a more grown-up age?

In actual fact, yesterday could have done with some peacemakers and dragon slayers. One boy decided to build aerial bombers out of Lego in an attempt to destroy the Sullivanian Family home a group of children were happily furnishing – later he used Lego bricks as bombs – beautiful.

I spent much of the session steering clear of an imaginary dragon another child insisted was sat on the edge of the rug. Hopefully some of his imagination and creativity will have rubbed off on me…

"There’s a fine line…

…between the persistent widow and a psychotic stalker.”

An excellent point and one I should remember! This gem was one of several during the last night of my church’s four week long relationship course.
Others included some dubious statistical analysis, in which it was revealed that St M’s men rank intelligence & humour above the hot factor, yet below ‘Godly’. I shall clearly have to get working on some intelligent biblical jokes.
On a more serious note, the course has been tough in places. The problem with ‘megachurches’ (mine probably is as close to a megachurch as the UK gets) is that they sometimes seem very focused on coupling up its congregations. Marriage is the ultimate goal and those who have to yet to achieve it sometimes seem to be left standing awkwardly on the sidelines.
Four weeks of discussion on dating and the rest can leave one feeling oh so slightly despondent and with a rather idealistic view of marriage. Luckily tonight, as well as the above, there was a down to earth insight into ‘the ideal’ from our vicar & his wife. Essentially speaking on communication, it was real and at times brutal, but was the most positive part of the entire course.
And what am I taking away from this? To not worry. To not set unrealistic standards. To not look for a ‘perfect’ man (he doesn’t exist & neither does the perfect woman, sorry). To not envy what I don’t have. To not make assumptions that others have got it sorted.
And most of all, that actually, it’s not in my hands at all.

Can I ask you a question about the Bible?

Today’s Friday entertainment comes thanks to my Dad and the BBC. (More thanks is probably due the BBC, Dad simply e-mailed me the link.)

I’m sure I’ve raved about Outnumbered before, it’s a gem of a sitcom – mostly thanks to its precocious cast whose roles are almost entirely improvised. My parents love it and I think this clip is now a part of my Dad’s mission to educate his students (he’s principal of a school for vicars) in how to deal with over-intelligent children who ask too many questions.
Dad says he’s well placed to teach this as he had to deal with his own Karen (the 6 year old star of the show) for many, many years. Apparently he means me. I’m trying not to take offense.
Anyway, this is a hilarious clip. The e-mail that went with it ended with the line: “If this doesn’t put people off ordination, nothing will!” Duely noted. Thanks Dad.
If you’ve ever wondered why baby Jesus didn’t simply zap Herod, here’s the answer…