Monthly Archives: January 2016

Verse-of-the-Week Box Tutorial

One way to learn scripture is to have it constantly in sight! Here is a tutorial to make a “Verse-of-the-Week” box to keep at a place where you will see it frequently. (The kitchen sink, bathroom mirror, or on a bedside table would be three possible places that could work well for this!) Each week, a different verse can be displayed in the metal curlicue “verse holder.” Each time you see the verse, read it aloud and then repeat it to yourself a few times. By the end of the week, you can have the whole verse memorized!

 

To make your own “Verse-of-the-Week” box:

Purchase a square hinge-lidded wooden box (mine was $1 at our local craft store, and came with an embedded magnet closure!) and some jewelry wire (14 gauge or thicker).

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You will also need craft paint, a paintbrush, an oil paint marker (or paint in another color and a thin brush), a needle-nose pliers, newspaper, a drill with a bit about the width of your wire, and spray varnish (if desired).

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Cover your work surface and paint the wooden box. I painted mine inside and out, allowing one side to dry at a time.

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Once the paint is completely dry, write “Verse of the Week” on the lid of the box. Be careful to have the hinges on the left of the lid when you write. Then, when the box stands upright, the hinges will be on the left when you open the box to pull out a new verse. 

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If desired, spray the entire box with varnish.

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Use the cutting edge in your needle nose pliers to cut a 7”- 8” length of the jewelry wire. Then, holding one end of the wire in the needle nose, carefully twist the end of the wire into a tight spiral, curling it around itself about 3 times, and leaving about 2” on the straight end. Flatten the spiral curlicue inside itself until it is nearly flat. This curlicue will be your verse holder.

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Turn the box on its side, lid side towards you (upright, lid shut, so you can see “Verse of the Week” facing you). This is how your box will stand when it is in use. Mark the center of the now-top of the box. Drill straight down into that mark as far as you can (try not to go through to the inside of the box). Insert the straight end of the metal curlicue into the drilled hole. If for some reason it fits loosely, add a dab of strong glue (such as Super Glue or E6000) before inserting the curlicue. Allow it to dry and paint the box paint color on top of the glue if needed. Be sure that the curlicue curls parallel to the front (lid) of the box.  

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Select 52 verses that you wish to focus on for the year. Write them out on cards or type them and print them out on cardstock, several verses per page. Trim the printed verses down to cards that will fit inside your box. Store the verses inside the box.

12636904_10207445361003977_1614622009_o.jpgSelect one verse each week to stand in the curlicue. You may need to adjust the curlicue spiral to more open or more closed so that it will hold the card. Read, re-read, and memorize!

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Find one set of printable verses, all 52 of them from the Gospel of Matthew (shown in the photos) here: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/52versesmatthew.pdf 

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On Scripture Memorization (part 2)

We recently blogged about the importance of Scripture memorization in the life of an Orthodox Christian. That blog post was geared toward adults and teens. However, our younger children are equally part of the Holy Orthodox Church, and it is also important for them to memorize Scripture. The reasons that children should commit the Scriptures to memory are the same as those for adults. However, because they are children, the methodology should differ somewhat. So the next question is, how can we best help our children to memorize the Scriptures?

We can help our children to learn the Scriptures by taking them to church. The Divine services are filled with Scripture. Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed memory and his wife helped their children to memorize Scripture when they were young. In his podcast, “How to Read the Bible,” he included this humorous anecdote about his children’s memorization of the Scriptures via the services, and how they applied their learning: “My own children, …went to church so much… I remember they used to memorize the psalms of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. And they knew how to use them. I remember when I would try to get my kids to go to bed, …they would quote to me: ‘I will not give slumber to my eyes or sleep to my eyelids until I find the place for my Lord.’. When I’d try to wake them up, they would say, ‘It is in vain that you rise early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil, for he gives to his beloved sleep.’” So, yes, even while in church our children are memorizing Scriptures that are found throughout the services!

We can help our children to learn the Scriptures by exposing them to passages at home. We should be reading the Scriptures to them. The daily readings that the Church offers pair nicely with family prayer time, or we can select a book from the Bible and read it aloud, bit by bit, at bedtime. (One family did this over a period of several years, and eventually read the entire Orthodox Study Bible aloud together!) We can also print passages of Scripture and hang them up around our house. (For example: as beautifully framed artwork; simply stuck with a piece of tape to the bathroom mirror; or posted by magnet onto our fridge.)

We can help our children learn the Scriptures by finding ways to help them memorize them. Some children can benefit from rote repetition of a Scripture passage, as some adults prefer as a way to learn, but they will enjoy the memorization process much more if we find ways to make it fun! One teacher-turned-homeschooling mom, who implemented a variety of methods for Scripture memorization over the years, offers the following ideas: Take turns reading the passage. Read it together in different “voices.” Read the passage and skip words, to see who can fill them in. (Take turns with this reading, as well! Children enjoy trying to stump their parent/teacher by skipping hard words to remember, often skipping several words in a row!) Write the entire passage on a chalkboard or white board and read it together; then erase a word or two and read again; and continue doing so until it is completely erased, but everyone can still “read” the whole passage! Write each word of the passage on a separate note card, mix them up, and work together to unscramble them. (Go on to make a second set, divide into two groups, and have a race to see which group can re-assemble their verse first! After that round, remove cards from the mix, one or two at a time, so players have to remember which words are missing as they re-assemble their verse.) Tape each word of a verse at a different spot in a room, and take turns touching the words in verse order. (Then, see who can do it the fastest!) Use your own creativity to find other fun ways to memorize! The children will be able to help with this.

It is not so much about what method we use to help our children learn the Scriptures: it is just really important that we help them learn the Scriptures and commit them to memory! May we all resolve to better learn the Scriptures this year. May we also help our children to do the same. In the process, we can have fun!

Here are more ideas of ways to help our children memorize Scripture:

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Find additional games and activities for Scripture memorization with kids here: http://www.hiphomeschoolmoms.com/2014/02/5-simple-ways-help-kids-memorize-Scripture/

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Print these A to Z verse cards for kids to memorize: http://www.myjoyfilledlife.com/2014/09/26/hide-em-heart-Scripture-cards-free-printable/

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Here is a set of verses featuring key words from A to Z. Each set offers printables that include the verse (at different levels for different ages) and some related activities to assist in the memorization process: http://totallytots.homestead.com/InMyHeart2.html  

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Here is another set of A to Z memory verse printables: http://wildflowerramblings.com/homeschooling/a-to-z-bible-verses-children-free-printable/

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For this set of simple A to Z Bible verses, each verse begins with a letter of the alphabet: http://www.homeschoolcreations.com/files/ABC_Bible_Verses.pdf

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Print and laminate these A to Z verses, put them on a ring, and just flip through them as you memorize! (free for personal use): http://www.delightingintoday.com/2012/06/abc-bible-verse-cards-free-download/

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Here are Scripture verses printables from 1 to 10 (each contains a number word) for children to memorize: http://wildflowerramblings.com/homeschooling/bible-verses-from-1-to-10/  

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These printables contain excellent verses for children to memorize: http://wildflowerramblings.com/homeschooling/best-bible-verses-for-children-free-printable/

On Scripture Memorization (part 1)

“It is important for us to memorize the Holy Scriptures!” We often hear that statement, ponder it for a moment, agree, and go on with our lives. Since this new year is still fresh and we are still in the process of resolving to be better people, however, let us consider going beyond just thinking about memorizing the Scriptures and actually implement ways to do just that.

Why it so important for us to commit the Scriptures to memory? Metropolitan Kallistos Ware put it simply in an interview on “Come Receive the Light,” when he said, “The answer surely is–memorizing impresses the words upon us. By memorizing, we mark the words of the Bible in our heart. By memorizing, we make the words of Scripture part of ourselves.”

Historically, memorizing the Scriptures has been an important part of Orthodox Christian life. For example, St. Pachomius, considered by many to be the founder of communal monasticism, was a man of Scripture. He required prospective monks to memorize at least 20 Psalms and 2 of St. Paul’s epistles (yes, the entire books!) before they could join the community, and everything in the community itself was regulated by the Scriptures. He said,“The Scriptures are the single most important thing to guide our lives.”

Even today, our life as Orthodox Christian should have at its very core the Holy Scriptures. The Gospel book resting on the altar of our Church is a constant visual reminder for us of how our life in the Church revolves around the Gospel of Christ. St. Seraphim of Sarov said, “We should swim in the words of the Holy Scripture, like a fish is swimming in the water.” In other words, we need to know the Scriptures so well that we breathe them, we are immersed in them, we live through them. As a fish cannot survive without the water in which it swims, we cannot properly live our Christian lives without immersing ourselves in the Scriptures.

So, let us resolve to work harder to commit the Scriptures to memory. As we memorize, the Scriptures will become part of ourself, guide our life, and settle to the very core of our being. Memorizing the Scriptures is a resolution worth making at any time, and regardless of when it is made, it is imperative that act on this one! Our spiritual lives depend on it.

The following are links related to memorizing the Scriptures that can perhaps help us in our endeavor.

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Listen to a podcast about the importance of memorizing Scriptures here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/nassif/desert_spirituality_for_city_folks_part_6_pachomius

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“I can remember going to Russia with a friend of mine who, like me, taught in University–and this was in the Communist era–when Bibles were very difficult to obtain. And I smuggled some copies of the Bible in Russian with me.

And when I was visiting a Church, and there weren’t many people around, I was speaking with an elderly lady and I said to her, ‘Would you like a copy of the Bible?’

And she said, ‘Oh! All my life I’ve wanted to have my own copy of the Bible. Yes,’ she said, ‘I have a friend who has a Bible, and sometimes she lends it to me and allows me to read it.’

And this astonished me. We take it for granted we can easily obtain Bibles. But that was not the situation under Communism in Russia. And so, I gave her a copy of the Bible. We were in Church and she took it and put it on a reading desk and opened it. And she began reading. And all the time she made Signs of the Cross and bowed to the ground. And tears flowed down her face.

And my friend said, ‘If we gave a copy of the Bible to one of our colleagues in the Theology faculty at the University, do you think they would react like that?’ So that opened my mind to what a great gift we have in the Bible, in Scripture. And how we, in the West, take this gift for granted. But often Christians under persecution have not been able to have their own Bibles.

Now in Russia things are much better, but in those days the Bible was a rare and precious book. And we ought to have the feeling that that lady had, as she wept to have her own copy of the Bible.” ~ Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, from an interview on “Come, Receive the Light” http://myocn.net/metropolitan-kallistos-ware-memorizing-Scripture/

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Read about 10 reasons to memorize Scripture, such as: our Lord Himself memorized Scripture; it helps us resist temptation; it renews our minds and transforms us; etc. Find these reasons and more here: http://www.unlockingthebible.org/reasons-memorize-Scripture-bible/

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Scripture memorization also helps to alleviate stress, helps us make wise decisions, and comforts us when we are feeling sad, as stated here: http://rickwarren.org/devotional/english/why-memorize-Scripture.)

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Here is one suggested method for Scripture memorization. It encourages us to learn the location of the verse, then the gist of what it is about, associate the verse with its location, and then carry the verse around with us so we can practice it until we have it completely memorized. Read more about this method here: https://carm.org/how-to-memorize-Scripture

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Wondering where to begin with Scripture memorization? This page offers many Scriptures that are important for Orthodox Christians to memorize: http://www.stlukeorthodox.com/html/biblestudy/meaningfulbibletexts.cfm. You may be surprised to see that you have memorized many of them already!

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This pdf offers ideas of ways to memorize Scripture, as well as beautifully written printable verses from the gospel of John that can be printed and posted around the house to help you learn: https://s3.amazonaws.com/a.voskamp/BlogFiles/theJesusProject(LARGE)MEMORYPRINTS.pdf

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Here are 8 verses from the Psalms, typeset over beautiful pictures, that you can print and cut out to make individual verse cards. Keep one by your bed or at your sink until you have it memorized, and then replace it with another: http://www.lovegodgreatly.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Memory-Verse-Cards-Printable.pdf

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Add a Scripture memory app to your phone such as this one: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.codeinfaith.bibleinme&hl=en

Time for House Blessings

Theophany has passed for those of us following the new calendar. The waters have been blessed. Our souls have been cleansed and refreshed by the drinking/sprinkling thereof. And now it’s time! Time to clean our house. Literally.

Why should we clean our home at this time of year? We want to prepare for the special event that will happen soon within our walls: our house blessing! The traditional “after Theophany” visit from the parish priest to bless each home with holy water has been part of Orthodox Christian practice for centuries. We work to prepare our homes for this blessing, just as we work to prepare our hearts for other blessings (like communion) that we receive from God. While the house blessing is not a sacrament, it is an important part of helping us to live the Faith at home, and so we need to take time to prepare accordingly!

The house blessing is a special time for each family. It is unique because of the prayers requesting God’s sanctification of our home, and also because of the personal time that it offers with our parish priest. Every member of the family can participate (and even help!) with the house blessing, and each person will benefit from it.

So, let us do all that we can to prepare our home, our family, and our hearts for our house blessing! And then, let us participate with joy. We will be the better for it.

Here is a useful printable that can help us teach our children about Theophany and house blessings. It also provides a checklist that we can go over together to be sure that we have everything ready! http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/Antiochian_Theophany.pdf

Here are a few links that may be helpful as you teach your children about and prepare for your house blessing:

The house blessing service can be found in its entirety here: http://www.goarch.org/chapel/liturgical_texts/home_bless

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“If the priest comes to bless the home when the children are present, they have the opportunity to see the parish priest in a different and personal situation. If the priest permits, they can lead the way through the house, or hold a candle. They can show him their rooms or pets or favorite toys. They receive a blessing with water. For children, the house blessing shows the connection of the Church to the home.” ~ Phillys Onest, from http://www.antiochian.org/content/why-do-we-have-our-homes-blessed  (used by permission)

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“…the entire home is blessed, with the family walking with the priest holding candles and the Theophany icon while the Theophany Troparion is sung over and over:

Tone 1:  When Thou, wast baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, / the worship of the Trinity was made manifest; / for the voice of the Father bare witness to Thee, / calling Thee His beloved Son. /And the Spirit in the form of a dove / confirmed the certainty of the word. / O Christ our God, Who hast appeared  / and hast enlightened the world, glory be to Thee.

It is a very good idea for the family to sing this troparion, and know it by heart. Otherwise, of the priest has many houses to bless, his voice will get tired!” ~ from http://www.orthodox.net/10things/theophany-house-blessings.html

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“The blessing of homes by these holy waters maintains the spiritual association between the ‘family church’ and the parish, as well as again providing for the sharing of God’s spiritual gifts… This annual blessing…  should not be overlooked, for it is in this way that the grace of God is extended to individual dwellings.” (Marriage and the Christian Home, http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/xc_home.aspx.)

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“There are few things more vital to our lives than our homes. In our homes we pray, we work, we talk to others, we order our lives, we work out our marriages, etc. What more important place to reclaim for the Kingdom of God – or is it better to continue living in a place which is occupied by the enemy. For the most effective working out of our salvation, we must drive the enemy out of our homes, and keep him at bay by our prayers, our righteous life, and the annual sprinkling by Holy Water at Theophany.” ~ from http://orthodoxwayoflife.blogspot.com/2010/01/blessing-of-homes.html

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“…By sanctifying our home, we extend the grace of God to the neighbors.” ~ from an Indonesian Orthodox house blessing video found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJm2S5qeDns
Consider showing this to your children and talking about how our brothers and sisters around the world worship as we do. Look and listen for things that are the same from your house blessing!

 

On Theophany

On January 6 (January 19 for those following the old calendar) Orthodox Christians celebrate Theophany. What exactly does the term “Theophany” mean? In case you didn’t know, Theophany means “the manifestation of God.” It is the perfect name for this day: for, indeed, Christ was revealed to the world at His baptism.

Why is Theophany so important? (It is the third greatest feast, after Pascha and Pentecost, even greater than the Nativity Feast!) It is significant for several reasons. First, it is the day in human history that marks when our Lord was baptized by John in the Jordan. More importantly, Theophany marks the point in our theological history when the Holy Trinity was revealed to the world. On Theophany, God’s voice was heard as He spoke, the Incarnate Word (Christ) was seen in the flesh as He was baptized, and the Holy Spirit was present in the form of a dove as He descended from Heaven. St. John of Damascus adds the following reasons for Theophany’s significance: “… the Lord was baptized, not because He Himself had need of cleansing, but to bury sin by water; to fulfill the Law, to reveal the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and finally, to sanctify the nature of water and offer us the form and example of Baptism.”

How can we help our children to learn more about Theophany? First and foremost, we should allow them to experience it for themselves by taking them to the services! The Divine Liturgy is celebrated, and afterwards, the service of the blessing of the waters. If we teach our children the troparion ahead of time, they can even sing along during the water blessing service. Many children enjoy this service because they love to watch their priest fling water on the icons and walls of the church, to feel the splash of Holy Water as it lands on them, and to taste the water for themselves after the service! The whole day of Theophany should contain delicious foods and a festive atmosphere, as well: it is a great Feast of the Church! Let us teach our children about it, and together celebrate with joy!

Christ is baptized! In the Jordan! Blessed Theophany to you and your household!

 

Here are additional ideas of ways to help children learn about Theophany:

Print this stand-up centerpiece to be the focus of attention on the dining table during Theophany. It has a lineart copy of the icon, a simple explanation of the feast, and the troparion on the other side! It is a great way to decorate our table while focusing on the importance of this feast:http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/aae2368f6b752c8cba042e21917405cc.pdf

Here’s a printable bulletin called “The Children’s Word,” completely dedicated to Theophany. Print it and share it with your children to help them learn more about this great feast! http://myocn.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Childrens-Word-99.pdf

Find great ways to teach your children about Theophany, including an activity with pictures from the icon, here: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2015/01/kali-fotisi-wishes-to-you-for-good.html

Teach your children about Theophany using the definitions, links to icons (even one to color!), and other suggestions found here:http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/feasts/01-06.htm

Send a Theophany activity e-card to someone else, with well wishes for the Feast, here: http://www.hamatoura.com/GreetingCard/Greetings.php?subject=Theophany%20of%20Jesus%20Christ&link=07JesusTheophany-En

If your children enjoy crafts, consider having them decorate their own holy water bottles, with small new plastic bottles, permanent markers, and other decor (such as adhesive rhinestones, etc.). The children can take these bottles to church to have them filled with holy water for you to take home and partake of as needed. Perhaps they can even keep them in their icon corner in their room, or at the family icon corner! Here is one idea of how to decorate a holy water bottle: http://www.catholicicing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/holy-water-bottle-craft.jpg

To learn more about Theophany, consider listening to this podcast by Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed memory: https://orthodoxword.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/theophany-the-radiant-shining-forth.mp3

or read this blog by Elissa Bjeletich: http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/raisingsaints/teaching-theophany/