picklesink

A mom, a dad, and two nutty kids.

The Rainbow Connection

I picked up a really lovely book a while back at the Grand River Book Store at the Five Oaks Retreat Centre outside of Paris, Ontario: God’s Dream, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams.

God’s Dream
Cover art by LeUyen Pham

It’s fitting that I picked it up at the beginning of February, Black History Month, as telling Ben and Molly about Archbishop Tutu sparked a conversation about apartheid and racism. Ben was shocked at the idea that anyone would think that people should be treated differently because of what they look like, citing examples of his friends at school who had different-coloured skin but were just the same as him. We also talked about Archbishop Tutu’s own experience of growing up in South Africa during apartheid and witnessing and experiencing the mistreatment of black people by white people, but always advocating for both change and forgiveness.

God’s Dream comes in both a large hardcover edition with a dustjacket or a smaller board edition; I chose the board book in the interests of durability. The language is simple and the pictures bright and appealing, making the book suitable for children from infancy to school-age. In 28 sentences and 15 illustrations, the book covers love, racism, ageism, diversity, apology, reparation, forgiveness, theism, and universality, delivering as its core message that we are all God’s children, worthy of love and respect, and called to love and respect one another.

The engaging illustrations depict cultural and religious diversity (sadly, as with so many children’s books, it is missing pictures of children with disabilities) and the universal message makes the book relevant to and suitable for families with any theistic worldview not specifically Christianity (or organized religion at all): You could read the story to a group of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish children, for example, and they could each recognize their faith’s core message.

God’s Dream ends with the message that when people fulfill God’s dream by loving one another, “God smiles like a rainbow,” and ends with a picture of a rainbow made up of children’s handprints.

Book illustration

Final page of God’s Dream
Art by LeUyen Pham

Ben and Molly immediately asked if we could do a craft like that, and I suggested that in the interests of size we try fingerprints instead. We started with rainbow-coloured paints in an egg carton…

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Rainbow-coloured paints in an egg carton
©PicklesINK 2013

..then took turns painting each others’ fingers with cotton swabs…

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Molly painting Ben’s finger yellow
©PicklesINK 2013

…and stamped the painted fingers on the canvas to make the rainbow.

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Ben stamping his yellow fingerprints
©PicklesINK 2013

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Ben painting Molly’s finger purple
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Molly painting my finger pink
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Finished painting

Finished rainbow fingerprint painting on canvas
©PicklesINK 2013

The finished product was a complete team effort and is now proudly displayed on the playroom wall.

~ karyn

Have you read any particularly meaningful children’s books lately? What would you recommend?

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How to make 187 palm crosses without completely losing your…ooh, shiny!

Last Sunday was Palm (or Passion) Sunday in the Christian calendar, which commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where crowds greeted him by waving and covering his path with palm branches, and marks the beginning of Holy Week. Many churches distribute palm branches or fronds for people to wave as part of the worship service.

For our Palm Sunday service, I rashly volunteered to go looking for individual palm strips that could be folded into crosses for Easter. “Who will fold them?” they asked. “Oh, I’ll do it,” I said. “How much work could it possibly be?” *Cue evil laugh track*

After the Palm Sunday service, I came home with the bag of still fresh palm strips and I asked my good friend Google, “Seriously, Google? How hard COULD it be?”

Palm fronds

Bag of (purportedly) 100 palm strips. Actually more like 150 as many of them were made up of 2 layers stuck together.
©PicklesINK 2013

Google replied, “Mwah hah hah hah hah…!” but also helpfully directed me to some instructional websites and I got to work.

I found a lot of the instructions and pictures tough to follow, so I decided to try my hand at making one of my own. Please note that unlike the actual palm strips, the paper I used is blue on one side and white on the other so you see how the folds really go! The wider end of the palm/paper is the bottom and narrower part the top; if it’s really stringy at the top, trim it. If it’s extra wide (more than 1.5″), cut a notch at the bottom and peel the two halves apart to make 2 strips.

Paper palm

Blue strip of paper cleverly trimmed into palm strip shape
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #1: Fold the top straight down over the bottom at the height that you would like the cross to be (in this case, about 5″).

Fold 1

Fold #1: Fold top down over bottom. From bottom to fold will be the height of your cross.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #2: Fold to the right at a 45° angle to start to form the first arm of the cross.

Fold 2

Fold #2: Fold to the right at a 45° angle
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #3: Fold straight back towards the left to complete that arm and start to form the second arm of the cross.

Fold 3

Fold #3: Fold straight back towards the left.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #4: Fold underneath to complete the second arm. The paper/palm should pass behind the cross.

Fold 4

Fold #4: Fold underneath to complete the second arm.
©PicklesINK 2013

Turn over.

Fold 4 over

This is what is should look like when turned over after Fold #4.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #5: Holding the cross together in the middle, fold strip at a 45° angle to pass behind cross from top left to bottom right.

Fold 5 flat

Fold #5: Holding the cross together, fold strip at a 45° angle to pass behind cross from top left to bottom right.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #6: Fold from bottom right straight across to bottom left (keep holding middle of cross together).

Fold 6

Fold #6: Fold from bottom right straight across to bottom left.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #7: Fold up at 45° angle so strip passes behind cross from bottom left to top right.

Fold 7

Fold #7: Fold up at 45° angle so strip passes behind cross from bottom left to top right.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #8: Pass top of strip over top right and tuck into where the strip wraps around the bottom of the cross.

Fold 8 and tuck

Fold #8: Pass top of strip over top right and tuck into where the strip wraps around the bottom of the cross.
©PicklesINK 2013

Then pull tight.

Fold 8 and pulled tight

Fold #8 pulled tight.
©PicklesINK 2013

Turn over and trim excess to finish.

Finshed and trimmed

Trimmed, completed cross.
©PicklesINK 2013

Here are some of the real thin, front and back, in various sizes.

Work in progress

Completed palm crosses, front and back.

And here I am with crazy eyes having just spent the last 4 hours making 187 of them!!

Completed (with crazy eyes)

Karyn with crazy eyes and 187 palm crosses in a basket.
©PicklesINK 2013

It was strangely soothing, as repetitive tactile experiences go. When we delivered them to the church, Ian proudly declared, “Oh, it was easy! At least, it didn’t look that hard…”

~ karyn

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Confession Cam

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Admit it – you’d confess too!!
©PicklesINK 2012

I feel like I should have a little video camera set up on a tripod in a closet in front of a bare wooden stool for this. Okay, here goes – Confession time – A big old truth-storm coming right at you, just between you and me:

I Hate Kids.

*phew*

That was a weight off my chest.

Now for the explanation: I love my children. I love your children. I am fascinated by child development, both normal and exceptional. I have always connected easily with children, and I spent most of my adolescent spare time babysitting and helping out with the children’s programs at my church.

It logically followed that I skipped off to university starry-eyed and determined to become The Very Best Kindergarten Teacher Ever. By the end of my very first day of my very first placement in a preschool classroom, I found myself (figuratively) rocking back and forth in the fetal position muttering, “Oh god. I hate kids. I hate them. What on earth made me think I wanted to do this?”

Some soul-searching later, I realized that a love of children does not necessarily equate a love of working with children, and even a love of working with children does not equate a love of working with lots of children. In mathematical terms, ∴ I love kids ≠ I should be a teacher.

I have many, many wonderful friends who are amazing teachers, and I have so much respect for their being able to do and love a job that I would rather stick needles in my eyes than pursue. They make it seem so effortless when all I can think is “But HOW? How do you get them to all sit down at once? What do you do when one of them runs off? How do you get them to all listen to you? HOW DO YOU DO IT WITHOUT YOUR FREAKING HEAD EXPLODING??”

Last year, I started up a Cherub Choir at my church. This was rather a frustrating exercise, due I think to a combination of lack of enthusiasm/participants and the fact that it coincided with the height of my (untreated) depression, and throughout last year I felt a constant push/pull within myself between “If my friends really cared, they would bring their kids out to support me!” and, “I am choosing to provide this service and it’s not my friends’ responsibility to populate it!”

I was on the verge of calling the whole thing off one Sunday morning as I arrived, yet again with just my two kids in tow, only to find a strange 12 year-old girl waiting, alone, in the church – her name was Aimee, she said in teenaged upspeak. “I saw your sign downtown? I’m here for the kids choir? To be a youth helper?” She had come with the grudging consent of her mom, who had given her permission to go for choir practice but not to stay for church because she wasn’t dressed properly for it. Aimee’s arrival ended that push/pull in my head with a swift kick in the butt of, “Okay, now I get it – I’m doing this for that shy, lonely 12 year-old who took a chance and found a place where for half an hour every Sunday she felt like she belonged.”

This year, my choir grew from two (Ben and Molly) to three and now to FIVE kids. Can you believe it? MORE THAN HALF of the choir is now NOT the fruit of my loins!! I’m torn between delirious excitement and abject terror – which brings us back to the part where I Hate Kids, because this is starting to feel suspiciously like a teaching gig. But weirdly enough, it’s also feeling kind of fun. And rewarding. And not as hard as it used to be.

Maybe the times, they are a-changin’, just a little bit.

Cherub choir, January 6, 2013

Cherub Choir and Senior Choir singing together
©PicklesINK 2012

~ karyn

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Grinning from ear to ear – Part 3

and finally…

THE VOTE.

We won.

The knot that has been in my stomach for weeks has finally disappeared and has been replaced by a whole-body glowing sense of relief. Not only did we win, but we won by a landslide – for every person who voted to keep the status quo, 4 people voted for change, and the atmosphere in the room when it was announced was alive and joyous.

I explained it to Ben and Molly thus:

We had a really important meeting at church yesterday, and I was really worried about it because we were having a vote about something that I think is really important. Our church had a rule that not everyone could get married at our church. That meant that for some people, even if they came to the church and said, “We really love this church, and we really want to have our wedding here!” we would say, “No,” and I didn’t think that was fair, because God loves everyone equally. I thought that anyone who loved God and loved the church and wanted to have their wedding there should be able to do that, and so did a lot of other people, so we had some meetings, and we arranged some times that when anyone could come and talk about how they felt about it, and when that was all finished, we had a vote.

Everyone wrote on a piece of paper if they thought we should keep the rule the same, or change it so that everyone could get married at the church if they wanted to. And I was really, really worried that more people would want to keep it the same, but it turned out that lots more people wanted to change the rule and so we did, and now EVERYONE who comes and says, “We really love this church and we would like to have our wedding here!” will get a, “YES!”

~ karyn

Jesus with Rainbow Sheep, http://www.othersheep.org/

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I am a Christian, so I support same-sex marriage.

I am a Christian.

To me that means 2 things. First, it means that I believe in God. That doesn’t mean that I think there’s some old white man who looks like Santa sitting on a cloud shaking his finger at us. When I think of God, I always think back to The Secret Garden and Mrs. Sowerby’s description of “the big good thing,” something or someone that encourages goodness and gives us strength through troubled times. Second, it means that I try to live my live the way that Jesus taught, and that also boils down to 2 things (I don’t know; is there something about the number 2?): Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and love your neighbour as yourself (Luke 10: 27).

A very wise man, now gone from us, once preached a powerful sermon on the topic of the former commandment that has stuck with me. He spoke first about loving God with all your heart and soul, and said that that’s fairly self-explanatory. You let that love show in all that you do. You revel in that love, and you see God in everything and everyone around you and love them too.

He then spoke about loving God with all your mind, saying that that is the part that people often have trouble with. Using the example of evolution, he said that he had heard people talk about how believing in the concept of evolution is totally at odds with what the Bible says and is the “greatest danger the church has ever faced.” He paused for a moment and then said, essentially, that that was hogwash. If you love God with all your mind, you honour the mind that God has given you and you think with it. And if science, or society, has made new discoveries and come to new understandings about topics that the Bible, in its historical and geographical context, once described differently, you think about those concepts in relation to those new discoveries and understandings using your God-given brains, and you maybe realize that what the Bible says, outside of that historical and geographical context, doesn’t make sense. So in order to love God with all your mind, you recognize that God wants you to come to realization, that the times, they are a-changin’, and that your beliefs need to change along with them.

An extremely thoughtful and articulate young man, Matthew Vines, gave a sermon recently that has been now been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people and has been changing minds all over the world.

Watch the video here – it is an hour long, but well worth the time.

or

Read the transcript here, but a lot of the power is in Matthew’s presentation.

He makes a compelling argument that if you look at what the Bible has to say about homosexuality, taking into account historical and geographical context and nuances of language and translations, not only should the Bible not be seen as condemning same-sex relationships, but in fact that 1 Corinthians 7, where Paul says, “It is better to marry than to burn with passion,” should be interpreted as encouraging marriage between two people of any gender who love each other. He also points out that Jesus himself has given us a litmus test to weed out false teachers and false teachings: In Matthew 7 Jesus tells us that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit – therefore, good teachings will have good consequences and should certainly not lead to the destruction of human dignity and tearing down of self-esteem.

Very soon, my church will be embarking on a journey that I really hope will lead to a new understanding of how to love our neighbours. We will be making a decision about whether or not to change our marriage policy, which currently prohibits marriages between same-sex couples in our church building. The people at my church who wish to keep the policy as it stands do not consider themselves homophobic. Their understanding of the Bible is that it prohibits same-sex marriage, and they feel that they can accept and welcome gay people as neighbours and church members while still being true to their belief that the Bible dictates that marriage is between a man and a woman. I disagree — strongly — but I also have to acknowledge that for many of them, even coming to that point has been a journey in a positive direction. I just hope that over the next few months, with thoughtful discussion, they will come even farther on that journey and we will become a truly accepting and welcoming community.

To me this situation epitomizes the question of “What Would Jesus Do?” If two consenting adults are in love and wish to have God be a part of their marriage, would the Jesus who told his disciples to “Let the children come unto me,” really say, “Nope, not on my watch!”? I believe that my church could be a good tree, but right now the fruit we are bearing is a little hard and underripe. I hope that in the next few months we will plant some seeds that will flourish and grow and soon come to bear plump, juicy, satisfying and life-sustaining fruit.

~ karyn

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