A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Lessons 4 and 5

This is the third in a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism). This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-the-good-samaritan-a-childrens-catechism-by-the-very-reverend-fr-michael-shanbour/. In each post of this series, we will focus on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We will begin with a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We may also occasionally include a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.

 

Lesson 4: Jesus Christ

The fourth lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” begins by reminding the reader that sin has made us spiritually sick, and we are not able to turn back toward God on our own power. We need a strong medicine that can heal us. It goes on to talk about how Jesus, the Good Samaritan became the medicine that we need.

In this lesson, Fr. Michael incorporates objects like an inside-out t-shirt and a sponge with water to help the visual and tactile learners better understand what Christ did in taking on our inside-out humanity and absorbing our sins to remove them and turn our humanity aright once more. The lesson talks about all of the things that Jesus set aright. He healed our broken/sick humanity; He broke the power of death over us; and He also raised us to a new, resurrected life.

The new, resurrected body He had was like Adam and Eve’s had been before they sinned. And He did not leave that body on earth, but took it to heaven with Him! Then He sent us the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, to help us to receive God’s life and light. Christ is the most powerful Medicine for all of us!

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

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“We needed medicine, not just for our bodies, but for our souls. We needed the light to be brought back to our spiritual eyes… Like the man in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, we needed someone to have compassion on us, to stop as we lay on the road wounded and half-dead and bring us back to life.” (p. 34, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Jesus made our human nature alive again by joining it to God’s nature, taking all the sickness out. He re-made us by putting on what we’re made of. And now each of us can be re-made by putting Him on. That’s what happens when we are baptized. We put on Jesus Christ and his clean and healthy humanity. ‘As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.’” (p. 36, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Jesus has become our Medicine. He remade us by becoming Man, He destroyed the power of sin and death through the cross, and He rose from the dead to take away our sickness and fill us with His life!” (p. 38, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

CHILDRENS CATECHISM - COVER, FRONT copy

Lesson 5: The Church

 

The fifth lesson of “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” begins with a concise review, to remind the reader of what has been discussed thus far in the book. The bulk of the lesson focuses on “Finding the Medicine”, beginning by making a life connection. The lesson invites its readers to remember a time when they were sick and/or injured, and what happened: likely they were taken to a clinic or hospital, which provided them with the needed treatment and/or medicine.

The lesson reminds the reader that the Church is our spiritual hospital. Christ is the Great Physician, and in the Church we find the medicine that our souls need. Our priest(s) are like “spiritual medicine practitioners”. They receive their orders from Christ and then apply the “medicines” that we need to be spiritually healed.

The medicine that the Church offers is God’s life, the Holy Spirit, which is offered to us through the Church. We in the Church call this “God’s grace”. The lesson goes on to cite two examples from the Scriptures of God’s grace pouring into someone and healing them. Then it establishes once more that God’s grace is poured out through the Church, Christ’s Body, for the healing of our souls and bodies.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“Then Christ Jesus rose from the dead, ‘trampling down death by death.’ He swallowed up Death with Life! (1 Cor. 15:54) He beat the devil at his own game! God planned a surprise attack. The devil thought he had a mere man, but instead he found himself face to face with God!” (p. 40, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“So where do we get the spiritual medicine that the Lord Jesus has for us by His becoming Man, dying, and rising again? It is similar to the doctor and the hospital. Jesus is the Doctor, the Great Physician, and the Church is the Hospital. It is in the Church that we find the medicines for our soul. The medicine is from Christ, who is the Head, but we find it in the Church, His Body.” (pp. 41-42, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“But how is it that God’s grace is in the Church? Because Jesus is joined to His Church as a head is joined to a body… Does your head go anywhere without your body? I hope not! …Your head is attached to your body. It is one with your body. The same is true with Christ’s body. Christ and the Church are one.” (pp. 43-44, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

 

A Page to Help with Focus During Streaming Liturgies

The OCEC’s “Divine Liturgy Activity Book”, available here, includes a page that can be helpful as we lead our children through streaming Divine Liturgies at home. The OCEC has very kindly granted us permission to share this page, page 12 in that book, with you in case it would be helpful to you.

Consider printing one copy for each child. The first time your child follows along with a liturgy, with this page in hand, they can number the items in the order that they see the priest do them. The copy could be used a second time, if the child colors each piece of the circle on the page as he/she sees it happening during a subsequent liturgy.

Here is a link to the printable page.

We thank the OCEC for allowing us permission to share this page.

A Handful of New Resources

We have recently come across a handful of new resources that can help Orthodox parents and educators as they instruct the children in their lives. We thank the authors for sharing electronic copies of these resources with us. We are sharing the resources with you in the order in which they came to our attention. We hope that you find them helpful as you instruct our young brothers and sisters in the Faith.

 

Philo and the SuperHolies VBS

https://www.mireillemishriky.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Philo-Commercial.mp4?_=1  

Fans of Mireille Mishriky’s “Philo” books will be delighted to know that she has collaborated with Shereen Marcus (of Bridges to Orthodoxy) and they have created a SuperHolies-themed Vacation Church School program. This five-day program provides its purchasers with videos, crafts and activities, lesson plans including Bible stories, saint stories, and memory verses, and even “parent recap cards” that can further the children’s learning as parents ask additional questions about each day’s experience.

Each VCS session focuses one one or two SuperHolies each day. (If you are not familiar with them, the “SuperHolies” are the fruits of the Spirit). The session begins with a video featuring Philo and his “Super Challenge” of the day. The children are invited to help Philo to use a Fruit (or two) of the Spirit to help him overcome his challenge, and that Fruit, that SuperHoly, is the focus for the entire day’s session. Every session also contains a saint’s story and a passage or story from the Scriptures.

The program is designed to include two small group sessions for the children. In one, they’ll learn about an Orthodox saint who is struggling with a challenge similar to Philo’s. In the other, they’ll focus on a passage from the Scriptures that is also related to that struggle. There are planned activities, discussion suggestions, and even crafts that will support this learning. The goal of the day is to help Philo figure out what to do about his Super Challenge.

The program includes suggestions for each day’s opening and closing large group sessions (including the video of Philo’s Super Challenge of the day); two small group session lesson plans for K-1st, 2nd-3rd, and 4th-5th for each day; extra ideas (including game suggestions, songs, and videos) and the printable Parent Recap card for each of the 5 days.

Find more information here: https://bridgestoorthodoxy.com/collections/pathways

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Divine Liturgy Guide

Gina Govender has developed a Divine Liturgy book that can help children to follow along with key portions of the Liturgy. “The Divine Liturgy: A Guide for Orthodox Children” was illustrated by Althea Botha, and has been endorsed by Archbishop Damaskinos of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The intent of this book is to provide children with instructions so that they can easily follow along in the Divine Liturgy. At the beginning of the book, a section called “The Meaning of the Divine Liturgy”, talks children through the liturgy and encourages them to look for ways that each part of the liturgy points to the life of Christ. The pages that follow walk the children through the liturgy by including actual portions of the liturgical text illustrated by a colorful watercolor-and-ink picture. These portions of the liturgy are shared in the book: Commencement, Prayers for Peace, the Little Entrance, the Readings, the Great Entrance, Spiritual Prayers, the Creed, the Mystical Supper, the Invocation & Sanctification, Supplication, the Lord’s Prayer, Holy Communion, Prayer of Thanksgiving, and the Dismissal.

The acknowledgements page of the book encourages parents of the readers to bring their children to church, even if they are wiggly and noisy. After all, “The presence of children is a gift to the Church and a reminder that our community is growing. As Christ said, ‘Let the children come to me.’” This book can help to welcome the children and involve them in the liturgy.

Inquire about purchasing the book here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/SAHETI-Pre-Primary-and-Playschool-PTA-154113824686210/shop/ (Notes: the price noted is listed in South African Rands, and at the time of this post, equals slightly less than $15, not including shipping/handling. The book is a fundraiser for upgrades at a Hellenic playschool/pre-primary school in Senderwood, South Africa.)

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Super Secret TreeHouse Bible Club and the Prophet Micaiah

Author Mireille Mishriky has introduced a brand new series of children’s picture books! “The Super-Secret TreeHouse Bible Club” will take children on an adventure with a group of children who are struggling with the virtues. Along the way, the children in the Super-Secret TreeHouse Bible Club will get to know some of the lesser-known saints from the Bible. The first book, “The Super-Secret TreeHouse Bible Club and the Prophet Micaiah” walks alongside Marina, Theodore, and Marcorios as they learn why it takes courage to be honest, and how God blesses people who tell the truth.

Marina isn’t sure what to do because her friend encouraged her to lie, or she would no longer be her friend. Theo doesn’t know how to LIVE the Bible, as their priest said in his homily. Marco also doesn’t know how they can possibly “…not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says”, but he suggests that they begin by praying. And so, they do.

A bird appears as they pray, and it helps them find a story in the scriptures about the prophet Michaiah, who told the truth when hundreds of others were lying. It landed him in jail. But in the end, he was right, and if the kings had listened to him and obeyed his words instead of the ones they wanted to hear, they would have been spared much heartache. Marina makes a secret wish, and the bird helps it to come true: the children get to meet the prophet Michaiah, who appears in their treehouse, and they ask him a few questions.

His wisdom helps Marina know what to do, and the book ends on a positive note as Marina and her friend Sarah come clean on what happened.

This book is available as an ebook, and you will find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Super-Secret-Treehouse-Prophet-Micaiah-ebook/dp/B085TBL5XH/

 

A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Lessons 2 and 3

This is the second in a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism). This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-the-good-samaritan-a-childrens-catechism-by-the-very-reverend-fr-michael-shanbour/. In each post of this series, we will focus on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We will begin with a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We may also occasionally include a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.

 

Lesson 2: The Fall

 

The second lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” helps children to learn about the choices that Adam and Eve made and the consequences of those choices. As is characteristic of the book, the lesson is written as a conversation. It uses only words that children can easily understand.

The lesson begins by describing Paradise as a place that was beautiful both inside and out. When God placed Adam and Eve in this beautiful place, they could have lived there with God forever, if they had chosen to do so. They had a lot to learn, since they were newly created. Their bodies were grown up bodies, but they needed to grow spiritually.

God provided all that Adam and Eve needed, and set only one limit: they were not to eat from one tree in the middle of the garden. Just as we are all easily tempted to do the things that we know we are not supposed to do, Adam and Eve fell prey to the serpent’s tempting words when he told Eve that God’s limits on the tree were not quite fair.

The lesson explains how they ate, and everything changed. Their communion with God was broken. They felt cold and naked. They even tried to hide from God. Then it goes on to show how God in His mercy extended the opportunity for Adam and Eve to repent, to own up to what they’d done, so that their relationship could be restored. But they blamed others rather than admitting their own choice.

The lesson tells about how this made God feel very sad and that because of their choice, He had to send them out of Paradise, and eventually they would die. However, it explains that this was not a permanent separation: it is more of a “time out” until God could do something to cure them. That “something” is Christ.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“God gave them everything they needed. And He wanted them to love Him and to be obedient so they could always know His embrace. But sometimes kids are not obedient. Have you always been obedient? Tell the truth! Did your mom and dad tell you not to touch a hot plate, but you did, and you burned your hand? Did they tell you not to eat so much candy because you would get sick? Did you eat it anyway and end up with a stomach ache? Most of us have done something like that. Adam and Eve did something like that too.” (p. 19, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“What did Eve do? She listened to the serpent… Eve was tempted with pride. And so, she ate. Then she gave some to her husband Adam. And he ate too. And what happened? They began to feel different inside: sad and lonely and cold. God seemed so far away now. Things changed outside too…” (p. 21, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“God wanted to give Adam and Eve a chance for Confession. But they didn’t confess their own sin: they confessed the sin of others. In the Church, God has given us the Sacrament of Confession… whose sins do we confess? Only our own, right? We don’t blame others like Adam and Eve did. This is very important to keep us healthy and close to God.” (p. 22, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

Parents and older children may benefit from hearing more about the Fall in this podcast: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/emmaus/three_falls_of_man_and_return_to_paradise_mar_10_2019

***

CHILDRENS CATECHISM - COVER, FRONT copy

Lesson 3: The Sickness of Sin

 

The third lesson of the book focuses on the sickness of sin. It begins with a quick review of the preceding lessons, since they lay the groundwork for this one. It also offers several footnotes which contain additional activities that could be done during the reading of their particular part of the lesson, to enhance the lesson and better demonstrate the point(s) being made.

After the brief review, the lesson goes on to talk about how God has created each person in His image, stamped with His image on our heart. Beginning with Adam and Eve, anytime someone chooses to sin, this icon, the image of God, becomes dark and difficult to see. It is easy for us to forget God when His image in our heart is dirty with sin. We think more of ourselves and what we want. His image in our heart needs to be cleaned and restored. The lesson mentions that only Christ can clean it, and that the reader will learn more about it in a future lesson.

The lesson goes on to teach the reader about their nous, the eye of their soul, which was created to help each of us to see God and His blessings. It tells the reader that when we sin, our nous becomes dark like a window at nighttime: we can not see through it because it is darkened. When God’s light is not in us because of our sin, we can’t see Him clearly and it feels like He is far away (even though He is not).

The lesson explains how Adam tried to replace loving God with things, as he tried to become happy again. All of us do the same, choosing to follow our passions instead of God. It compares passions to magnets and offers a memorable hands-on suggestion of how to demonstrate the lesson using actual magnets. The lesson talks about how everyone has passions, even saints. The saints, however, have learned to turn their passions over and turn to God instead, which makes the passions no longer able to “stick”. (The suggested activity of turning one of the magnets over at this point to show how they repel each other will be an effective way to make this point.)

Before its close, this lesson touches on the struggles we all face to keep our hearts clean, keep our attention on God, and keep our trust in God. Sin fights against all of these. But Christ can provide the medicine that we need to be saved in these struggles, and the forthcoming lessons will help us to learn more.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

**

“…God did not create Adam and Eve to die… He was sad to see their hearts darkened and sick with sin. For this meant their hearts could no longer see Him and experience His perfect love.

Because we are children of Adam and Eve, we also live with this sickness… How can we become healthy again?” (p. 27, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“…after Adam sinned he had difficulty seeing the stamp of Jesus in his heart. This means that Adam forgot about God and thought mostly about himself and his own desires. He no longer sensed that God was in him and with him. Do you ever forget about God?” (p. 28, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Like a magnet, when our passions get too close to sin they want to stick to them. These passions pull us toward sin. And the more we sin, the stronger the magnetic force becomes. Sometimes it feels like we can’t stop from sinning, but with God’s grace we can.” (p. 30, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“The saints cleaned their hearts from the dark passions so that the light of God could come in.When the light of God comes into our hearts, we can see what is really important and true. Our spiritual eye—our nous—is filled with light. We find joy and peace. Then we can turn our attention to the love of God and our neighbor.” (p. 31, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

Parents and older children may benefit from listening in as Mother Melania from St. Barbara Orthodox Monastery in Santa Paula, California talks with Kevin Allen about the passions, how they cloud the window of our hearts, and how we can begin the work to be free of their grasp in this podcast: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/illuminedheart/the_passions_how_we_got_into_this_mess_and_how_we_get_out

 

While at Home: Choosing to Make the Most of Bonus Family Time

In this season of social distancing, many of us find ourselves at home with our children, with considerably fewer activities and opportunities filling our schedule. At moments this may feel daunting: how can we possibly keep our children “entertained” for that many hours, for an uncertain number of days? How will we not all go “stir crazy”?

Right now, at the beginning of this season – however long it may be – is a good time for us to carefully choose our mindset, which will shape the atmosphere of our home. If we view this “bonus” time together as a gift from God, wherein we can build our relationships with each other and continue to grow toward Him, our children will respond accordingly. We are being given the opportunity to teach our children, through our example, what it means to trust God and to love and serve others. They will see – even more than usual – our gratitude towards God and His provision; our generosity with our neighbors near and far; and the love that we have for Christ, demonstrated in our prayer/study/participation in church (as possible).

Will we fail? Yes. When we do, let us model asking for forgiveness and getting back up again. Fall down, get up again: this is the way our Faith works! How we handle our own failure is also an opportunity to teach. Glory be to God, Who never gives up on us when we fail.

This bonus family time affords us the chance to help our children learn more about the Faith. Of course, our own example is the best way to teach them! But there are many resources available that we can access from home that can help. We aim to share these resources (and some others, just for fun!) with the community. It is our hope that these resources will help you to build your (and your children’s) faith while also creating many fun family memories.

May the Lord bless us all, and strengthen us for the days ahead.

***
Here is a large collection of resources that you may wish to comb through: http://ww1.antiochian.org/christianeducation/index

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Orthodox Educational Resources:

Listen to Dr. Chrissi Hart reading a great variety of children’s books at https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/grapevine

Every day, you can listen to Deacon Jerome Atherholt’s readings about a saint commemorated that day, here: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/saintoftheday

Prepare your heart for Sunday’s Gospel reading by listening to https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/letusattend

Each week you can listen to this meditation and then discuss it together: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/tendingthegarden

If you have small children in your life, don’t miss this resource: https://orthodoxpebbles.com/

Find Orthodox crafts, ideas, and even some recipes here: https://raisingorthodoxchristians.com/

If your children enjoy activity books, check these out! Themes include “Saints Who Were Physicians and Healers”, “Saints and the Animals That Served Them”, “Saints in Times of Trouble”,“Saints of North America”, and more! Find them here: http://dce.oca.org/page/activity-books/

The OCA’s department of Christian Education has these wonderful focus units (“Journey to Pascha”, “My Orthodox Family”, “The Theotokos”, and more) available for free download: http://dce.oca.org/page/focus

Potamitis Publishing offers all sorts of children’s books and activity books. Their “Paterikon for Kids” books are child-sized and colorful, and will be a useful resource to any family! https://potamitis.us/

This is a great time to take in the “Be the Bee” video series and talk about them together as a family! Find them here: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/bethebee

Celebrate spring and new life with these activities: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/on-celebrating-new-life-in-springtime/

There are so many needy people around us, and now we “see” them more easily. How can we help, even if we have limited resources? Here are some suggestions of ways to work together as a family to help someone in need: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/on-finding-a-way-to-help-even-on-a-limited-budget/

Here are a few of the Orthodox books that we’ve shared, as well as some learning ideas that could be used at home (even though the ideas were originally written for Sunday Church school classes): https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2019/06/14/gleanings-from-a-book-anthony-the-great-by-john-sarantakis-illustrated-by-misha-pjawka/ https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2019/05/10/gleanings-from-a-book-spyridons-shoes-by-christine-rogers/                                         https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/260/ (“H is for Holy” by Nika Boyd)

Learn more about the saints during this time! They have all been through great struggles and show us how to be faithful to God to the end. Although these blogs were written for Sunday Church school, many of the ideas will work in a home setting, as well. Search “saints” at https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com  to find ideas like these: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2019/01/25/learning-about-a-saint-st-kendeas-commemorated-oct-6-19/ https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2018/08/10/learning-about-the-saints-st-tikhon-of-zadonsk-august-13-or-26/ https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/learning-from-the-saints-st-peter-june-29/ https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/learning-from-the-saints-st-nina-january-1427/ https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/saints-of-recent-decades-st-paisios-july-12june-29/

Find a variety of Orthodox-related art and craft ideas here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/back-pocket-ideas-for-creative-expression-in-lessons/

Other Educational resources:

Many companies are offering free subscriptions during the social distancing period. Here’s a list: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/1/d/1t3r618pd8MAi6V87dG2D66PtiKoHdHusBpjPKXgm36w/htmlview?fbclid=IwAR1MdJ7K0-_QEbSGW78tR9hYtY9KGs9_2YOat1Ow8jPk0E-b14Vm5HN8qiY&sle=true#gid=0

Free printable pages by theme or age level: https://www.123homeschool4me.com/home-school-free-printables

Online educational resources for a variety of ages: https://funinfirst.com/free-online-learning-at-home/

Take these virtual field trips without any of the expense! https://www.tripsavvy.com/virtual-field-trips-for-kids-3129414

Here are even more virtual field trips: https://adventuresinfamilyhood.com/20-virtual-field-trips-to-take-with-your-kids.html

Just for fun:

Here are a variety of spring-related activities: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/05/22/a-handful-of-spring-memory-makers-for-families/

Here are 50 (!) family-fun activities you can do together: https://www.kcedventures.com/blog/50-fun-things-to-do-at-home-with-kids

This is a wonderful season for reading. Here are some suggestions for great chapter books: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/bedtime-and-other-rituals-reading-books-together-part-3-books-to-read-with-older-children/

Perhaps it is too cold to do some of these activities, but others may be fun! https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/06/26/on-family-fun-ideas-for-summer/ and https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/go-out-and-play-ideas-for-summertime-outdoor-fun/ and https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/back-pocket-ideas-for-summer-fun-activities/

This is the perfect time to practice random acts of kindness. What a gloriously fun way for us to be thinking of others more than ourselves, and to bring joy in this tense time! Need some ideas? Check these out: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/try-a-little-kindness/

Take a daily safari with the Cincinnati Zoo! From their Facebook post: “While the Cincinnati Zoo is closed and kids are home from school, let us help make your children’s hiatus from school fun and educational. Join us for a Home Safari Facebook Live each weekday at 3pm where we will highlight one of our amazing animals and include an activity you can do from home.” https://www.facebook.com/cincinnatizoo

Here’s a daily lunch doodling time with author/illustrator Mo Williams: https://www.kennedy-center.org/education/mo-willems

Craft idea: make a Godfulness Jar. https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/07/17/on-creating-and-using-a-godfulness-jar/

Explore a variety of art styles together (yes, you too, mom or dad!) during this time at home. Here are a few suggestions: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/back-pocket-ideas-for-creative-children/

Work on learning the scriptures together by scripture journaling. Here are a few ideas: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/02/03/on-learning-the-scriptures-by-creating-a-scripture-journal/

There’s a whole series of art tutorials, each featuring a cross (but could be used for anything), that you may enjoy trying together. The first in the series focuses on using paper as the main medium, and is found here. (At the end of the blog post there’s a link to the second in the series. Follow that link and the subsequent ones to find all of the different tutorials.) https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/art-projects-for-sunday-church-school-paper/

A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Introduction and Lesson 1

This is the first in a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism). This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-the-good-samaritan-a-childrens-catechism-by-the-very-reverend-fr-michael-shanbour/. In each post of this series, we will focus on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We will begin with a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We may also occasionally include a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.

 

Introduction: the Good Samaritan

 

The very first chapter (after the author’s preface) unpacks for its readers the parable of the Good Samaritan. It opens our eyes to see that the whole purpose of the Church is to help us heal from our sins. The lesson recounts the Good Samaritan’s story in its entirety. Then, piece by piece, it unlocks each significant detail of the parable, showing how that part of the story relates to humankind throughout history, as well as to our own life. These elements help the reader to understand how St. John Chrysostom and other saints have interpreted this parable.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is foundational to the rest of the book. Each of the 13 lessons that follows comes out of that introduction. Each pushes the reader to better understand a particular aspect of the Faith. Throughout the book, the reader will find opportunity to take frequent looks back to the parable of the Good Samaritan and see how that lesson’s theme is reflected in this helpful story.

Here are a few quotes from the introduction to the book:

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2. The man travels down from Jerusalem to Jericho.

Do you know what it’s like to go from Jerusalem to Jericho? You have to go down, down, down. It’s like a long hike from a high hill to a low valley. So, Jesus is telling us that Adam went from a high place to a much lower place. What is the Lord trying to say to us? He is telling us that Adam sinned.” (p. 4, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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4. The man was left half-dead.

Now the story shows us what sin does to us. Sin makes us sick. It hurts us. It brings darkness and spiritual death into our minds and hearts. God created us to be like Him and to have life, to be well. Sin distances us from God and makes us sick or unhealthy…” (p. 5, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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8. The Samaritan puts the man on his donkey and takes him to the Inn.

The Inn was like a hospital. People went there to find rest, to be cured of their sickness and to be well again. What does the Inn represent in the story? The inn is the Church! The Church is the hospital for sinners—you and me.” (p. 7, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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Parents and older children will benefit from reading more about the Good Samaritan and how this parable relates to the Church and our own life, in this article: http://saintandrewgoc.org/home/2016/1/13/on-healing
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CHILDRENS CATECHISM - COVER, FRONT copy

 

 

Lesson 1: Paradise

 

The first lesson of the book takes a close look at the beginning of the world, as God created it. He created the whole world and its creatures. Then he created humankind and put them in a special place, a joy-filled place, the beautiful garden of Paradise, called “Eden.”

The lesson describes paradise, citing many church fathers’ descriptions. Fr. Michael adds child-friendly insights along the way. For example, as he describes the grass in Paradise, he suggests, “Perhaps Adam could take a nap by rolling up the grass like it was a soft mattress or blanket.” Throughout the lesson, the descriptions are colorful and easy for children to understand.

The lesson tells how Adam and Eve lived with God so closely. But, even though they lived a life that was so close to Him, they still had a lot to learn so that they could grow to be even closer to God. It exerts that the level of spiritual growth in the context of Paradise is what God intended for humankind: that we would be able to care for His world and grow closer and closer to Him.

The lesson helps its readers to see that Paradise was like the Church. It was heaven on earth. God intended for the whole world to become that way. He wanted all of it to be a place where we could live in closeness to Him.

But He also gave humans the ability to make choices. He wants each of us to choose to love Him. He does not force us to love Him. Adam and Eve made a choice to turn away from Him. Sin is the choice that they made which turned them away from Him.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

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“In the garden of Paradise, the air was completely pure and sweet, and breathing made one remember the Lord (kind of like Church incense does)! The weather was always beautiful. In paradise it was never too hot or too cold. There were no tornadoes or hurricanes or thunderstorms that could scare or hurt any living thing. So Adam and Eve did not need a house to live in, or even clothing to protect them from the elements.” (p. 12, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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“Paradise was not just a place outside that Adam and Eve could see and touch; it was also how God lived in their hearts. Paradise was also inside Adam and Eve because God lived in them and spoke to their hearts… God gave them the Tree of Life. This Tree was like Holy Communion, and they could have eaten of it eventually if they had remained in Paradise.” (p. 13, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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“Do you remember in the Divine Liturgy when the priest lifts up his hands and extends an invitation to us? ‘Let us lift up our hearts! Let us give thanks unto the Lord!’ This is an invitation to be like Adam and Eve in Paradise, to do what they failed to do. Do you know that in the Divine Liturgy we experience Paradise for a little while? Do you experience it? (Or do you just feel bored and tired?)” (p. 14, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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Parents may find it helpful to hear this short homily on how Paradise can be re-opened to us: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/prayingintherain/paradise_is_open

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Gleanings from a Book: “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas

For many of us, it is nearly the end of a dreary winter. Although spring is just around the corner, the wintry series of gloomy house-bound days may be tempting us to despair. And now Great Lent has arrived, bringing with it its own set of challenges and hard (but beautiful) work. This is the perfect time for Nicole Roccas’ journal to become available, for we need the grace and challenge that it offers.

In “A Journal of Thanksgiving”, Nicole has compiled and edited a variety of quotes about giving thanks to God in all things. Instead of simply collecting the quotes into a nice little book for her readers to read, ponder, and likely, forget them, Nicole has upped the ante. Each quote appears at the top of a page marked for a specific day of the year, and is followed by three sets of lined spaces, wherein the reader is invited to record a sentence or two of gratitude for something from their day. The intent is for the reader to daily record their gratitude in this journal over a period of three years, welcoming genuine thanksgiving into their life in the process.

In a brief letter at the beginning of the journal, Nicole sets the stage for the reasoning behind its creation. She reminds the reader that thanksgiving has always been at the heart of Orthodox Christian spirituality, so we should continually be working toward endlessly offering thanks to God.The quotes she has selected for the book encourage giving thanks in the good things and for the beauty around us, always recognizing God’s provision for our lives. They also challenge us to give thanks in the struggles, the hardships, the ugliness in which we find ourselves, all the while recognizing God’s omniscience and wisdom.

The book is set up to follow a calendar year, beginning with January 1st. However, Nicole encourages her readers to just begin immediately, when they receive the book, and continue on from there. If, on any given day, one cannot think of a single thing for which to be grateful, never fear: the book ends with 33 thanksgiving prompts that will help anyone who is struggling in ingratitude.

Readers of all ages who wish to grow in their spiritual life will challenge themselves to embrace life with genuine gratitude that pours forth to God, heedless of their circumstances and comfort level. This book is a small step in that direction. Giving thanks – even just for one thing each day – for three years will begin to grow gratitude in the reader/journal writer’s life, and they will grow closer to becoming the person that they were created to be: a grateful, humble servant of God.

The timing of this book’s release is impeccable. After all, what could be a better time to begin the discipline of growing gratitude in our hearts than during Great Lent? May we all grow more grateful, not just during the lenten season – or even “just” for the three years it will take us to work through this book – but for the rest of our lives.

Find the journal here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/a-journal-of-thanksgiving/

Readers who are journeying through the book are encouraged to share their journey on social media with the hashtag #ThanksWritingAFP

Here are a few of the quotes from the book, to help you begin to think about giving thanks to God:

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“Just as athletes win crowns by their struggles in the arena, so are Christians brought to perfection by the trial of their temptations, if only we learn to accept what the Lord sends us with patience, with all thanksgiving. All things are ordained by the Lord’s love.” St. Basil the Great, Letter 101 (January 2, “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas)

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“Nothing is holier than the tongue that in distress gives thanks to God; truly in no respect does it fall short of that of martyrs.” St. John Chrysostom, Homily 8 on Colossians (February 18, “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas)

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“Life-giving and merciful Trinity, receive my thanksgiving for all Your goodness.” Akathist of Thanksgiving, Kontakion 13 (April 11, “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas)

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“We shall give thanks to You, O God;

We shall give thanks, and call upon Your name.

I shall describe all Your wonders.” Ps. 74:2,3 (June 25, “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas)

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“We give thanks unto You, O King invisible, who, by Your measureless power, made all things and, in the greatness of Your mercy, brought all things from nonexistence into being.” The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (August 31, “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas)

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“Let us increase our thanksgiving—not in words, nor in tongue, but in deeds and works, in mind and in heart. Let us give thanks unto Him with all our souls.” St. John Chrysostom, Homily 19 on Ephesians (October 1, “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas)

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“Do you eat? Give thanks to God both before and afterwards. Do you sleep? Give thanks to God both before and afterwards. Do all in the Name of the Lord, and all shall be prospered to you.” St. John Chrysostom, Homily 9 on Colossians (December 16, “A Journal of Thanksgiving: Record Three Years of Gratitude in a Sentence a Day” Compiled by Nicole M. Roccas)

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