On Philippians 4:13: “I Can Do All Things Through Christ, Who Strengthens Me”

Note: This week’s post features the theme for the 2019 Creative Arts Festival of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese. Philippians 4:13 graces the archway to the Antiochian Village Camp, a place where children, adults, and clergy meet together to play, hang out, worship, and be transformed together. This verse is an excellent scripture for all of us to live by and to learn, whether or not we have been to the Antiochian Village!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

This verse shows up time and again in Christian circles, usually implying that whatever we do, Christ will give us the strength to do it. It is true: He does! But perhaps this verse is about more than us getting the power from Christ that we need to accomplish/succeed in the things that we want to do. Could it mean more than just that?

It is helpful to study Bible footnotes to get additional information about specific passages, so we went to our Orthodox Study Bible (OSB) and looked up Philippians 4:13. The OSB offers a footnote on the verse. To be more precise, the footnote is about this verse as well as the two before it. The footnote on p. 1616 reads, “Here is the secret of contentment.” And that’s all it says!

At first glance, this seems a diminished notation of what is, in some Christian circles at least, one of the most popular verses in the Bible. But this little footnote forces us to actually look at those preceding verses. When we read them, not only does the footnote make sense, but we also can begin to understand verse 13 in its intended context. When we do that, we see that the footnote is spot on.

Philippians 4:11-13 reads, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The passage speaks to success and accomplishment, yes, but it also is talking about emptiness and need. And St. Paul says, “I can do all things” (both success/accomplishment and emptiness/need) “through Christ who strengthens me.” In context, the verse is so much more than we thought it to be!

Now that we know the context, we can understand why Philippians 4:13 is such an appropriate verse to have on the arch at the gateway to the Antiochian Village Camp. It reminds all who enter the camp that our whole life is powered by Christ. Time at the Antiochian Village Camp offers the opportunity to connect with Christ and His Church in a special way, which “recharges” all who pass through that arch. At the same time, the verse reminds all who leave there that, regardless of what they face away from that place, Christ is with them to give them strength. And those who have studied the context of the verse know that it is also a nod to choosing contentment in whatever state we find ourselves.

Children participating in the Antiochian Archdiocese’s Creative Arts festival this year will have their choice of subject matter, ranging from the Antiochian Village to how camp has changed them to how God strengthens us to asking God to help us. And of course, thanks to that little footnote, they can also focus their project on choosing contentment in all circumstances!

Here are some ideas of ways to help your students learn about Philippians 4:13 and the Creative Arts Festival as a whole:

***

Find a lesson for grades 1-3, focusing on the Creative Arts Festival theme, here: https://antiochianprodsa.blob.core.windows.net/websiteattachments/2019%20CF%20Lesson%20Plan%20Grades%201-3.pdf

***

Find a lesson for grades 4-6, focusing on the Creative Arts Festival theme, here: https://antiochianprodsa.blob.core.windows.net/websiteattachments/2019%20CF%20lesson%20plan%20Grades%204-6.pdf

***

Find a lesson for middle and high school students, focusing on the Creative Arts Festival theme, here: https://antiochianprodsa.blob.core.windows.net/websiteattachments/2019%20MS%20HS%20Creative%20Festival%20Lesson%20Plan%20Final.pdf

***
This science experiment/object lesson demonstrates Philippians 4:13 using some twine, a straw, some tape, and a balloon (and a bit of explanation!). https://www.christianitycove.com/try-this-balloon-experiment-to-show-how-god-helps-direct-our-spiritual-energy-0907/1030/

***

Find additional ideas that you can add to a lesson on Philippians 4: 13 and/or the Creative Arts Festival in general, here (we especially like the 10-finger prayer method of learning the verse!): http://ww1.antiochian.org/festivals/cf/using-the-theme-2019

***

On this page, there are a beautiful variety of printable coloring pages featuring Philippians 4:13: http://www.widewallpapers.org/philippians-4-13-coloring-page/

This version includes the verses immediately before, and thereby offers some context for the verse: https://coloringpagesbymradron.blogspot.com/2018/01/philippians-413-print-and-color-page-i.html

And this version has a “camp-y” feel to it.

Advertisements

On the Sacraments: the Sacrament of Baptism

This post is part of a series about the sacraments of the Orthodox Christian Church. In this post, we will look at the Orthodox Christian Sacrament of Baptism.

Baptism is the first sacrament or mystery that we encounter in our Orthodox Christian life. It is the door through which Orthodox Christians enter into the Church. Stepping into the life of the Church through baptism enables us to experience all of the other sacraments. Our baptism marks the beginning of our death to ourselves, and the glorious unification of our soul with Christ.

The “Orthodox Study Bible” defines baptism as “The sacrament whereby one is born again, buried with Christ, resurrected with Him and united to Him. In baptism, one becomes a Christian and is joined to the Church.” (p. 1776) It continues by discussing Christ’s baptism. His baptism was significant because of its effect on the physical world. Our Lord’s baptism made water become holy, and now water can be used as the means for the Holy Spirit to grant us new life!

We begin the sacrament of baptism with the exorcism, wherein the person to be baptized (or their godparents, on their behalf) rejects Satan and unites themself instead to Christ. Prayers for the consecration of the water happen next, then the anointing by oil of the person to be baptized. After that comes the triple immersion, where the person is baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The newly-baptized person is then chrismated, given the gift of the Holy Spirit through the Holy Chrism which is used to anoint them. After the newly-baptized person has been chrismated, they are tonsured. Tonsuring (cutting bits of hair and burning them as an offering to the Lord) shows that the newly baptized person is willing to be obedient to Christ and sacrifice to Him. Following the tonsuring, there is a procession wherein the newly baptized person and his/her Godparents process around the font and/or table. This procession is a sign of spiritual rejoicing, and it’s done in a circle because God is never ending, as is a circle. The baptismal service culminates in communion. The Eucharist is a physical way in which Christians can mystically be united with Christ, and the freshly-baptized person is now so thoroughly transformed that they are able to meet and receive Him through the Eucharist.

St. Gregory of Nyssa called the baptismal font “both tomb and mother,” a picture that helps us grasp the importance of the sacrament of baptism. At the moment of our baptism, we die to ourselves, and in the same instant we are born into life in Christ and His Church.

Glory to God for His gift of the sacrament of baptism!

Here are some scriptures and quotes from Church Fathers on baptism, as well as a few resources that you may find interesting and helpful as you study this important sacrament. What baptism resources have you found helpful? Comment below and share them with the community!

***

Teachers of young children may want to use this lesson plan and printables to help their students learn more about baptism: http://www.orthodoxabc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/013-EN-ed02_Holy-Baptism.pdf

***

The Teaching Pics ( http://ww1.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics) offer a series of pictures on baptism that can be very helpful as you teach a lesson on the subject to any age group. Pictures S1 – S8 show the significant events of a baptism. The text that goes with each picture explains the process well. If you do not already have them, you can order the teaching pics here: http://orthodoxchristianed.com/files/4114/9885/4473/ocec2017_2018.pdf

***

This book can help younger students learn about their baptism: http://orthodoxchildrensbooks.com/eng/index.php/Baptism-Chrismation/View-all-products.html

***

Dr. Pat’s Orthodox Super Sunday School Curriculum offers free online lessons. Here are links to lessons on baptism for each age group:

For ages 3-5: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/3-5-years-old/baptism-0

For ages 6-9: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/6-9-years-old/baptism

For ages 10-12: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/10-12-years-old/baptism

For middle school students: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/middle-school/baptism

For high school students: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/high-school/baptism

***

Other Christians with whom our students interact have vastly different beliefs about baptism and its importance, so it is imperative that we help our students to know what baptism is, how it works, why we practice it even with infants, and how vital it is to our life in Christ! Invite older students to read this article during a class on the sacrament of baptism: http://ww1.antiochian.org/content/infant-baptism-what-church-believes. After reading it, challenge the students to read at least one of the biblical accounts of baptism listed in the article, and to make a list of 3 things they didn’t know about baptism or found interesting.

***

What difference does our baptism make in our life? This article shares two accounts of the power of baptism. Teachers will be encouraged in their own faith by reading these accounts. Perhaps older students will enjoy reading these accounts, as well, if you decide to incorporate them into a lesson on baptism. http://orthochristian.com/80501.html

 

On the Sacraments

This is the first in a series of posts about the sacraments of the Orthodox Christian Church.

We hear about the Sacraments, and we know that they are part of our life in the church. Do we really know what the Sacraments are? If we do, is there more that we can learn about them? Whether we’re new converts, or we’ve been Orthodox our whole life, could there be a way for us to more fully enter into the Sacraments of the church? This series of posts will take a closer look at the Sacraments to help us begin!

So what, exactly, are the Sacraments? The glossary of the Orthodox Christian Education Commission’s wonderful student book, “The Way the Truth and the Life,” does not offer a definition for “Sacrament.” In that space, it simply says, “see Mystery.” The Orthodox Study Bible‘s glossary agrees, listing the following definition for “Sacrament:” “Literally, a ‘Mystery’. A Sacrament is a way in which God imparts grace to His people. Orthodox Christians frequently  speak of seven sacraments, but God’s gift of grace is not limited only to these seven—the entire life of the Church is mystical and sacramental…” (2. p. 1786) It goes on to list some of the Mysteries that the Orthodox Church recognizes: Baptism, Chrismation, Eucharist, Confession, Ordination, Marriage, and Healing or Unction. In each of these Mysteries, we rely on the Holy Spirit to work a change in us. “The Way the Truth and the Life” explains the use of the word “Mystery” in lieu of “Sacrament” as follows: “The Greek word mysterion was used by the Church Fathers to describe these acts. The word was translated to Latin as ‘sacrament’.” (1, p. 173) The Latin word for holy is “sacred,” so the Sacraments are all about making us holy.

Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed memory once wrote that Orthodox tradition does not limit the Sacraments to the seven listed above. Rather, “The more ancient and traditional practice of the Orthodox Church is to consider everything which is in and of the Church as sacramental or mystical. The Church may be defined as the new life in Christ. It is man’s life lived by the Holy Spirit in union with God. All aspects of the new life of the Church participate in the mystery of salvation. In Christ and the Holy Spirit everything which is sinful and dead becomes holy and alive by the power of God the Father. And so in Christ and the Holy Spirit everything in the Church becomes a Sacrament, an element of the mystery of the Kingdom of God as it is already being experienced in the life of this world.” (3)

So, whether we use the word “Sacrament” or “Mystery,” and whether we count seven of them or more, our Orthodox Christian life should be pushing us towards increased holiness! May we be mindful of that reality, and press on to become ever more holy, by the grace of God. As we do so, we will encourage and enable others to help us, and to join us.

Sources:

  1. Hopko, Fr. Thomas (2011, October 5). The Sacraments. Retrieved from http://ww1.antiochian.org/sacraments.
  2. Various editors. (2008). The Orthodox Study Bible. USA: St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. (available here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/osb-hardcover)
  3. Various editors. (2005). The Way the Truth the Life. Yonkers, NY: Orthodox Christian Education Commission. (available here: https://store.antiochianvillage.org/The-Way-The-Truth-and-the-Life-Student-s-Edition.html)

Here are some links and ideas of ways to help our Sunday Church School students to learn more about the Sacraments:

***

Find illustrations of the sacraments on these puzzle blocks. http://store.ancientfaith.com/orthodox-block-puzzle-the-holy-sacraments-of-the-orthodox-church/ Teachers of young students may find that solving the puzzles with students is one way to introduce the idea of the sacraments to their class.

***

This picture book offers an overview of the sacraments, as well as an explanation of each. Teachers of younger Sunday Church School students may find it helpful in introducing a series of lessons about the sacraments: https://www.amazon.com/Christina-Learns-Sacraments-Maria-C-Khoury/dp/B007EVO56S

***

This “Be the Bee” episode (#119, “What is a Sacrament?”) takes a look at the sacraments and helps its viewers begin to better understand them. https://youtu.be/JN20cpM6zpQ It would be a great way for Sunday Church School teachers to introduce their students to the sacraments and begin to discuss what they are and how they help our Christian life.

***

Orthodox ABC offers several lessons (with printables!) about the sacraments. Find them here: http://www.orthodoxabc.com/faith-sacraments/

***

Find lessons about each sacrament at every age/grade level, here: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts

***

This printable image offers a short definition of each sacrament, as well as a scripture verse related to each one. Teachers of middle-years or older students may wish to refer to it as they introduce the sacraments to their students: http://orthodoxsundayschoolresources.tumblr.com/post/35064918375/the-seven-sacraments-of-the-orthodox-church-click

***

“Most of the Sacraments use a portion of the material of creation as an outward and visible sign of God’s revelation. Water, oil, bread and wine are but a few of the many elements which the Orthodox Church employs in her Worship. The frequent use of the material of creation reminds us that matter is good and can become a medium of the Spirit. Most importantly, it affirms the central truth of the Orthodox Christian faith: that God became flesh in Jesus Christ and entered into the midst of creation thereby redirecting the cosmos toward its vocation to glorify its Creator.”

 

Share this quote with older Sunday Church School students. Invite them to think of ways in which something material is transformed in each of the sacraments. Challenge them to look for the ways God transforms their life through each sacrament. (the quote comes from this article: https://www.goarch.org/-/the-sacraments)

***

 

Gleanings from a Book: “I Live Again” by Ileana, Princess of Romania, Archduchess of Austria

“I Live Again” by Ileana, Princess of Romania, Archduchess of Austria was recently re-published by Ancient Faith Publishing after being out of print for many years. The memoir was originally written in 1951 by the princess herself, only a few years after she was forced to leave her beloved Romania. This re-publication contains additional forwards and afterwards which enhance the reader’s understanding of the book and appreciation for the author and her experiences.

At the start of the book, Princess Ileana greets her readers from her cozy New England house. She invites the readers to “look around” two rooms of her house, detailing the items in each room, and offering a glimpse at the history behind them. In the first chapters, she begins to answer the question posed to her many years before, when she was a teen visiting the United States on official business with her mother, Queen Marie of Romania: “What is it like, to be a princess?”

The rest of the book takes the reader on the journey of Ileana’s life as a princess. It begins by introducing her younger years in the palace; then goes on to tell of her life as a refugee during World War I; then back to palace life when the war was over. Finally, the bulk of the book discloses the subsequent changes and challenges presented by World War II and the subsequent struggles of Romania and her people in its aftermath.

Time after time in her story, the reader wonders at Princess Ileana’s strength, feels exhausted by her hard work, and is amazed at her diligence and determination in the midst of the difficult situations surrounding her. Again and again she tells instances of God’s provision, not just for her and her family, but also for the people she served and loved. This story would be unbelievable, were it fictitious, but it is true.

So, “what is it like to be a princess?” This book will forever change the reader’s view on that title. Commitment, pain, joy, trust in God, and dedication all are themes in this book. Perhaps they are what it is like to be a princess? They were, at least, what it was like for Princess Ileana of Romania!

When she wrote this book, Princess Ileana’s beloved country was still under Soviet rule. Nearly 40 years later, Romania was freed from that rule, and she was able to return to visit. By this time, she had been tonsured a nun and was the abbess of the monastery which she had founded in Elwood City, Pennsylvania. Mother Alexandra departed this life a few months after her return to Romania, from complications related to a hip fracture.

Mother Alexandra’s gravestone reads, “None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord and if we die we die to the Lord, so then whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:7). Truly, her life exemplified this passage. May her life challenge and encourage us to live to the Lord with all of our might!

Purchase your copy of “I Live Again” here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/i-live-again-a-memoir-of-ileana/

 

Following are a few gleanings from the book, as well as a few resources that can help us learn more about Princess Ileana/Mother Alexandra. May her memory be eternal!
***

“My life has been spared often by what has seemed sheerest chance: the chance that the bomb fell in the other end of the trench where we were crouched; that the Communist under anesthetic for an operation in my hospital babbled of the plans for its destruction.” (“I Live Again,” by Ileana, Princess of Romania, Archduchess of Austria, p. 21)

***

“Like Brother Lawrence, ‘I have need to busy my heart with quietude.’” (“I Live Again,” by Ileana, Princess of Romania, Archduchess of Austria, p. 29)

***

“I know now that love and pity, implemented with the will to serve, can transcend all things and work incredible miracles; that one can overcome shyness, fatigue, fear, and even what seems uncontrollable physical repulsion, by a simple overwhelming longing to serve and be of use… Before death and pain men are equal, and most men realize this and are ready to help one another. I have learned that where there is faith in the Lord, His work can be done.”(“I Live Again,” by Ileana, Princess of Romania, Archduchess of Austria, p. 84)

***

39162701_10215077016310590_4994127524419076096_n

“Here in my New England bedroom, on the night table beside my Bible and prayer book, is a heavy silver cross… Wherever I go it accompanies me. Whether I am in a friend’s house or have made a journey to a strange town where I must lecture, it lies beside me; a continual token of the power of faith and sacrifice. It reminds me of my home and of my work, and of the trust that those whom I left behind have given me. It is a symbol of the Strength that enables me to ‘live again,’ for as I look at it the words spring to my mind: ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’ If He had not overcome the world, and in doing so left us His example, how could I ever have borne the day upon which I received this silver cross?” (“I Live Again,” by Ileana, Princess of Romania, Archduchess of Austria, p. 131)

***

“The wish to succeed the easy way, to take the road that lies open and clear before us, often makes our work superficial. Besides, an outward success is not an adequate measure of the depth and durability of what we accomplish. Worldly success did not crown even our Lord’s life when He was on earth, though that work was divine and far above our own human efforts.” (“I Live Again,” by Ileana, Princess of Romania, Archduchess of Austria, p. 157)

***

“…I do not want you to think that what we were doing was simple or easy, or went along as quickly as you can read about it. I have never found that anything worth doing can be accomplished without considerable effort, and transporting forty wounded was no exception…” (“I Live Again,” by Ileana, Princess of Romania, Archduchess of Austria, pp. 192-193)

***

“…A great sorrow had come to me… So I sought refuge again at the little chapel, seeking for strength to bear the unbearable; for even physically I felt that I could not endure the pain. Then my eyes fell upon the eternal unmoved perfection of the mountain. So long had it stood there just like that.. And suddenly I understood that such things did not matter; that they were of no importance at all. Such things were there simply to be overcome; they were put in our way for us to use in building the staircase of life. On each one we could mount one step higher until finally we attained the Mountain, the eternal reality of living.” (“I Live Again,” by Ileana, Princess of Romania, Archduchess of Austria, pp. 231-232)

***

“Can you understand why I so loved this hospital? It was because everything in it was a symbol of love. Behind each bit of it stood some act of kindness, some gesture of nobility, some memory dear to me; and woven through all were the hours of ordinary, essential hard work which made it truly a part of myself. (Once someone asked me how I had got ‘all that’ done. ‘With my feet!’ I replied. And this in many ways is true, for things do not drop into one’s lap. One has to go and find them.)” (“I Live Again,” by Ileana, Princess of Romania, Archduchess of Austria, p. 268)

***

(on visiting her parents’ and her baby brother’s graves)

“I felt like a ghost from the past visiting the past. Had I known that it was for the last time I came there, how could I have borne it? God is merciful in that we do not know what awaits us.” (“I Live Again,” by Ileana, Princess of Romania, Archduchess of Austria, p. 319)

***

“But to try to escape with my own family from the oppression to which my people were condemned could never be the right solution of the problem for me. It was my duty to stay with the country that had given me life and held my heart, and not to desert it in a time of stress. I was not simply an individual, a mother who had only her own children to think of…I resolved to try harder and more courageously. I returned with the family to Bran, carrying this resolution in my heart and not knowing that soon all decision would be taken out of my hands.” (“I Live Again,” by Ileana, Princess of Romania, Archduchess of Austria, p. 364)

***

“The purpose of this book is to reveal the broken heart of the author and to be a reflection on the bruised heart of her people. How does a grand duchess and princess reflect the suffering of her own people? How does she accept exclusion from the life of the nation she represented and served? She was given no choice, but a command: ‘Leave the country!’ ‘Perhaps you can understand the shock of an end to all these things coming, not naturally but as if a knife had rudely cut through a whole life in a moment. It condemned me, not to death, but to a living death…’” (“I Live Again,” by Ileana, Princess of Romania, Archduchess of Austria, p. 393)

***

Find links to a gallery of pictures from Princess Ileana/Mother Alexandra’s life, as well as links to important articles throughout history, related to her life, here: http://www.tkinter.smig.net/PrincessIleana/index.htm

***

This biography of Princess Ileana/Mother Alexandra, written by Bev Cooke, tells her story including her experiences beyond her years in Romania. Find it here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/royal-monastic-princess-ileana-of-romania/

***

The Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Elwood City, Pennsylvania was founded by Princess Ileana, after she was tonsured a nun. Mother Alexandra is buried at the monastery. Visitors are welcomed. See http://www.orthodoxmonasteryellwoodcity.org/home for information about the monastery and to inquire about staying there if you choose to visit; or to virtually join in on the monastery’s beautiful services via their online chapel.

***

 

On Resolve for the New (Church and School) Year

As we draw nearer to the start of another Church (and for many of us, another Church School) year, we should prepare accordingly. This new year offers us the opportunity to begin afresh and look for ways to improve ourselves. With this in mind, let us approach this new year(s) with resolve.

Resolve is an appropriate word for the beginning of a year. Two of its definitions are especially appropriate. One way that Google defines resolve as a verb is, to “decide firmly on a course of action”. The start of a new Church/school year is a great time to do that! What action should we firmly decide to take?

We do well to consider that question, perhaps in the context of a few others! Let us take this chance to sit quietly alone, or with a spouse/family member/friend, and ponder the following:

  1. Evaluate. Think back over this season we’ve just come through. How did we do in that season? How have we changed for the good?
  2. Prioritize. Sort our habits, identifying the good “keepers” and bad “time to change this” habits. Also, make a list of what lies ahead in our schedule. Of everything on that list, what is most important?

Once we’ve looked at where we’ve been, how we’ve grown, and where we’re headed, we are ready for the noun form of resolve. One of Google’s definitions of resolve as a noun defines it as the “firm determination to do something”. There are many things we should firmly resolve to do. We will look specifically at these two:

  1. Slow down. Choose NOT to do everything. Some of our busyness is necessary, but if we are honest with ourselves, some of it is fluff. We need to grant ourselves permission to cut the fluff and not feel bad about it. So, what makes the cut in our schedule this year?
  2. Focus and talk. We need to decide who takes priority in our life. Once we’ve established that, we must plan ways to show them that they have priority over the other people and things (for example, technology) which demand our attention. When we genuinely talk with those around us – truly giving them focused attention – they know that they are really a priority in our life. How will we build face-to-face talk this year? And how will we minimize the distractions such as technology?

Let us resolve to grow together, both with our family and with our Sunday Church School students this year. It will be messy. That’s okay. Messy growth is still growth. In the process, let us embrace our imperfections and the imperfections of those growing with us. We need each other. How can we help each other to grow this year?

Here are some related links. Check them out to be further challenged in each of the ways mentioned above! May God bless our resolve in this new Church (and Church School) year!

***

Evaluate this past season: How have we changed for the good?

“Be the Bee” episode #43 points out some of the beautiful things about Orthodox Christian Summer Camp. Perhaps one of our students was blessed with this opportunity this summer. How did camp change them for the good? What aspect(s) of camp can/should we continue on in the upcoming year? “With Christ at the center, every aspect of our days is blessed, lifted up and transformed into an opportunity to draw closer to God and neighbor.” (Watch the episode here: https://youtu.be/9Tw4XQa4QrA)

*

Although this post is written for parents, we Sunday Church School teachers can certainly benefit from taking time to consider what all we have learned from our students during this season of our life. https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/on-learning-from-our-children/

***

Prioritize.  Sort our habits, identifying the good “keepers” and bad “time to change this” ones.

“Be the Bee” episode #79 encourages us to pluck out the bad habits and plant good ones, instead! http://bethebee.goarch.org/-/-79-habits

***

Slow down. Choose NOT to do everything.

In case you missed it before, this post encourages us to “save time.” Believe it or not, it is a post about slowing down. Check it out for yourself here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/on-saving-time/

*

“People’s lives are sheer misery because they do not simplify things” ~ St. Paisios
Read more of what St. Paisios has to say on the subject, here: https://orthodoxword.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/simplify-your-lives-with-elder-paisios-of-the-holy-mountain/

*

“…Telos.  A Greek noun, it means ‘an end, purpose, or goal; an ultimate aim…’ Our telos affects everything, even if it’s not what we think it is.  What do we really aim at? What do we really love?” Read one mom’s take on the culture of busyness here: https://thelivescript.wordpress.com/2018/02/22/for-which-generation-on-telos-and-techne/

*

What mental and physical impact does our culture’s desperate busyness have on our students? Is that really what we want for them? Read about it in this blog post: https://raisedgood.com/childrens-busyness-not-badge-honour-need-change/

***

Focus and talk. We need to decide who takes priority in our life.

Electronic devices have become an addiction in our culture, even among those of us who want to focus on Christ and teach our children to do the same. We’ve shared a few of these challenging links before, but are sharing them again in case you missed them the first time. It will take some time, but we strongly recommend that you read/listen to each of these:

“It’s easy to think of weekends as simply another opportunity to get more things done. But downtime is crucial, and there’s more evidence than ever it’s essential to our productivity and wellbeing.” Deacon Michael Hyatt challenges his readers to take breaks and close their laptops for their own good, in this article: https://michaelhyatt.com/close-your-laptop.html

*

This conference speech points out some rather frightening ways in which technology is affecting even Orthodox Christians: http://www.ancientfaith.com/specials/2017_family_ministry_conference/technology_that_unites_and_divides

*

This secular article divulges the psychology behind social media, and its intentionally addictive lure: https://medium.com/@richardnfreed/the-tech-industrys-psychological-war-on-kids-c452870464ce

*

“…Focusing on the relationship with your child, rather than all of the tasks she must complete, will not only make your mornings easier, but it will also promote your child’s optimal brain development in the long run…” This article is geared to parents, but how could we apply it in our Sunday Church School classroom? How connected do our students feel with us, from the moment they walk into class? https://www.parent.co/one-thing-parents-can-make-mornings-smoother-according-science/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=SocialWarfare

*

Some of these discussion starters could be used in a Sunday Church School classroom:

As you eat a snack together, consider playing one of these (age-leveled) games: https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/fun/dinner-games/

Here are 45 questions that will help you get to better know your students! https://www.nestedblissfully.com/funny-questions/

Find some sample questions here which will help to get children chatting. (If you want more, there is a link to where you can purchase the printable cards, too.) http://www.truelifeimateacher.com/2017/05/how-to-have-meaningful-classroom.html
***

Let us resolve to grow together this year. It will be messy. That’s okay.

“The outcome of a growth mindset is a love of learning and a resilience, to accept and use constructive criticism.” This article reminds us that we’re not perfect, and that’s okay. We all have room to grow. Others – including our students – will help us. We need to embrace the imperfections, acknowledge our need for growth, and accept the help. https://angelinasgarden.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/my-kids-arent-perfect-and-im-okay-with-that/comment-page-1/#comment-295

 

A Handful of Resources – Summer 2018

Several fantastic resources have recently come to our attention. Some of them have been around for a few years, while others are recently published, but all of them were new to us and we consider them well worth sharing! Here they are:

  1. The SuperHolies series of books by Mireille Mishriky includes three books from 2016 to date, with more to come: Philo and the SuperHolies, Philo and the Patience SuperHoly, and Philo, Rose, and the Joy SuperHoly. Each book explores the “SuperHolies” (the virtues mentioned in the Scriptures as the fruit of the Holy Spirit), which can be “activated” in our life when we ask for God’s help. Each book tells about a time when Philo (a Coptic Orthodox boy) finds himself in a tough spot, remembers the SuperHolies, and then prays by making the sign of the cross. This activates the “SuperHolies” in his life and helps him respond as he should!

38122991_10214979452591558_1783420491751489536_n

Philo and the SuperHolies introduces Philo to the SuperHolies and offers him the opportunity to activate the Kindness SuperHoly when he unexpectedly meets up (again!) with a neighborhood bully.

Philo and the Patience SuperHoly tells about one time when Philo was feeling impatient during liturgy at his Coptic parish, and how activating the Patience SuperHoly helps him not just during the service, but throughout the remainder of the day!

Philo, Rose, and the Joy SuperHoly follows Philo to the hospital early one summer when he falls and breaks his arm. He laments all the summer fun that he will have to miss because of his cast. His new friend Rose (who has a heart condition) encourages Philo to activate the Joy SuperHoly in his life; demonstrates her own Joy SuperHoly in the way that she lives; and gives Philo ideas of ways to rejoice in the midst of his suffering.

  1. Love & Joy Coloring Book by Draw Near Designs, copyrighted 2017, is a child-sized (or purse sized!) coloring book with 25 spreads featuring saints of the Orthodox Church and a quote from/about each.

38152814_10214979453791588_1263488892112207872_n

  1. Beautiful Things: An Orthodox Coloring Book for Children, illustrated by Megan Elizabeth Gilbert, was just published in 2018 by Ancient Faith Publishing. It features 64 pages of illustrations to color or activities to complete that are based on beautiful things that we learn about in the Church.

38177085_10214979453871590_4114410375569473536_n

Purchasing information:
Find the Philo books here: https://www.mireillemishriky.com/books/

Find Love & Joy here:  https://amazon.com/Love-Joy-Coloring-Book-Gann/dp/1977981887

Find Beautiful Things here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/beautiful-things-an-orthodox-coloring-book-for-children/

 

Read on to find more about each resource, as well as a few suggestions of how to use each one of them with your Sunday Church School class:

***

The Philo/SuperHolies books offer a story-based way to help children think about the virtues of peace, love, joy, kindness, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – the fruit of the Spirit of God. Each book stands well on its own, and the entire series will be a great addition to a Sunday Church School classroom where the virtues, especially the fruit of the Spirit, are studied. In each book, Philo learns how to demonstrate a fruit of the Spirit, after asking for God’s help.

Philo and the SuperHolies gives its readers a chance to learn and talk about virtues in the context of a story. Author Mireille Mishriky has cleverly written each “fruit of the Spirit” virtue into a superhero-styled person called a “SuperHoly.” Each SuperHoly is briefly explained in this first book, along with a very realistic example of how it can help us to live a truly Orthodox life. The SuperHolies are introduced in the context of a story about Philo and a neighborhood bully. Philo gets to test out the power of the Kindness SuperHoly when that bully shows up in a place where Philo least expected to meet him. While this book is not “preachy,” it is cleverly educational, and an excellent way for Sunday Church School teachers to introduce the fruit of the Spirit. The superhero qualities of the SuperHolies will help all of us want to have them “activated” in our life!

38212455_10214979452471555_6655010516156547072_n

Philo and the SuperHolies is a great introduction to the fruit of the Spirit. After reading it, invite each of your students to draw or write about their favorite SuperHoly. Give them opportunity to share with the class if they wish, including why they like the one that they do. Create a few scenarios of times students might need to activate one of these SuperHolies in their own life, and ask them to tell which SuperHoly they’d activate for each scenario. You could even act these out, depending on your class and time limit! Before the end of class, see how many SuperHolies your students can name without looking at the book. Then invite them to personally reflect on which one they most often fail to activate. Pray and ask God to help each member of the class (yourself included!) to remember that this help is available to them, when they need it!

***

Philo and the Patience SuperHoly tells the story of one Sunday when Philo is looking forward to a family barbecue after church. He finds himself feeling very impatient during liturgy at his Coptic parish. He tries so hard to be still and quiet, but does not succeed. Activating the Patience SuperHoly by praying with the sign of the Cross helps Philo during the remainder of the Divine Service and even throughout the rest of the day!

38253890_10214979452431554_7659934019043196928_n

Philo’s Patience SuperHoly offers him a variety of ideas of ways to be patient during liturgy. Invite your students to share their stories of times when they’ve felt impatient (not just in church!). How did they handle it? What worked? What did not work? Do they have additional ideas to share with each other for times that they feel impatient (including at church!)? Let each student write or draw their own illustration of a time when the Patience SuperHoly helped (or could help) them. Pray together, asking God to help each of you activate His gift of patience in your life when you need it the most.

***

Philo, Rose, and the Joy SuperHoly naturally causes the reader to consider whether or not they are living joyfully. Readers compare themselves to Philo, who is whining and lamenting all that he’ll miss during summer vacation in the four weeks he must wear a cast after breaking his arm. They also compare themselves to Rose, born with a heart condition causing her to spend much of her life in the hospital, whose very disposition radiates gratitude and joy. Most readers are somewhere between the two. In the story itself, Rose sets aside her own struggles and instead gently encourages Philo to activate the Joy SuperHoly in his own life. She then gives him ideas of ways to rejoice in the midst of his suffering (even though it’s much less permanent than hers).

38180771_10214979452511556_2292770202506493952_n

This book pairs well with a lesson on suffering as well as it’s obvious value, teaching about joy. Share the book with your class, then ask the students what stood out to them in the story, and why? Why do they think that Rose says, “Thankful people are always joyful?” Does anyone in your class know someone who is thankful and/or joyful? What’s it like to be around that person? Did that person ever have any hardships in their life? How do you think they came to be so joyful, if they did? If you don’t know anyone personally, can you think of any saints or biblical stories that demonstrate this kind of thankfulness and joy? Invite your students to design on paper a sticker, magnet, or button that reminds them to activate the Joy SuperHoly in their life. Provide the materials that they need to actually create the final product. Encourage them to place it where they will see it and be reminded to live a life of joy and gratitude. Close with a prayer asking God to help each of you to live joyfully.

***

Love & Joy Coloring Book by Draw Near Designs is a beautiful little coloring book that is not just a coloring book! Each of the 25 spreads offers a simplified-icon-like drawing of a saint (or two), along with a quote related to them. We love the size of this book (it is a compact 5”x7”), the carefully drawn saints, and the wisdom of the quotes. This book is unique in that even after the entire book is colored, it will be useful because of the saints’ pictures and quotes which can be read and pondered.

38284530_10214979453911591_6066236848529735680_n

This coloring book could be used by middle-years or older students as a focusing activity at the beginning of class, as people are gathering, if you have one for each student. Or, it could be the basis of almost an entire year’s curriculum, if you studied one of each of the 25 saints depicted and considered/discussed the quotes each week. Of course a third option would be to give this book as a Christmas or Pascha gift to classes of older children or teens. (If you do this, we recommend that you pair it with colored pencils, as the paper will likely bleed with markers.)

***

Beautiful Things: An Orthodox Coloring Book for Children, illustrated by Megan Elizabeth Gilbert, is a coloring book for all ages. There are a range of drawings from simple to complex, and all feature beautiful things about our Faith. The book is not just a coloring book: it also includes a variety of activity pages, as well as open-ended drawing pages.

38284398_10214979453831589_8691545533879156736_n

Depending on your lesson plans for the year, this book could be an occasional lesson companion for younger Sunday Church School students. It is not reproducible, so you would need one copy for each of student. Amongst its 64 sturdy pages are illustrations and activities related to stories from the scriptures; beauty that is found in different parts of the Divine Liturgy; tools that help us on our journey (for example, a prayer corner, a pile of books, a censor, etc.); symbols used in iconography/the Church; and a few “lower-case t” traditions from different jurisdictions. So, for example, the dove and the ark pages could accompany a lesson on Noah; the grapes and the wheat pages could be colored during a lesson on the eucharist; the draw-yourself-praying page could be used in a lesson about icon corners or prayer; etc. If it does not fit with your lesson plans, be sure to keep this beautiful book in mind for your students’ birthdays, Christmas, or Pascha gifts!

Learning About the Saints: St. Tikhon of Zadonsk (August 13 or 26)

In 1724, in the village of Korotsk, in the Novgorod diocese of Russia, Sabellius Kirillov and his wife had a baby boy, who they named Timothy. Timothy’s father was a cantor. Unfortunately, when Timothy was still young, his father died. The family was very poor after Sabellius’ death. Timothy’s mother planned to send Timothy to live in the home of their neighbor, who was a coachman, but Timothy’s brother Peter stopped her. Since the family was so poor, Timothy had to work outside of the home, even while he was still very young. He would work all day just to get a piece of bread to eat.

When Timothy was 13, he was sent to a school near the Novgorad archbishop’s home. He paid his way through school by working with the vegetable gardeners. Three years later, God provided a grant that allowed Timothy to attend the Novgorod Seminary. He did really well in school, and became a teacher at the seminary after graduation. He taught Greek, then rhetoric and philosophy. Four years later, Timothy was tonsured with the name Tikhon and he became the seminary prefect.
A year later, Tikhon was transferred to Tver, where he became the archimandrite of Zheltikov Monastery. He worked there until he was made rector of the Tver Seminary and placed in charge of the Otroch Monastery.

Fr. Tikhon was named as one of eight candidates for bishop of Novgorod. In the process of discerning who should be bishop, three times the lot fell in Tikhon’s favor. So, on May 13, 1761, Fr. Tikhon was consecrated as the bishop of Novgorod.

Two years later, Bishop Tikhon was transferred to Voronezh. While he worked in that diocese, the bishop encouraged his people by his life, his guidance, and the books that he wrote. He did what he could to make sure that every priest, deacon, and monk had a copy of the New Testament. He encouraged them to read it every day. He also encouraged them to be very reverent when they were performing their holy duties. He worked very hard to build up the churches in his diocese, to convert a school into a monastery, and to help pastors realize how important it was for people to be educated. He worked so hard that sometimes he did not have time to sleep! Because of all of this work, by 1767, Bishop Tikhon’s poor health forced him to stop being the bishop. He went to the Tolshevsk Monastery to rest and recover.

After almost two years of recovery, Bishop Tikhon went to the monastery of the Theotokos in Zadonsk. While he was there, he taught people about the Christian life. He was so wise. But Bishop Tikhon did not just tell people how to be a good monastic! Instead of telling them, he showed them with his own life how to do so! Almost every day, he went to the church and served or read or sang in the choir. Later, in humility he stopped doing those things that made him visible. Instead, he would just stand quietly in the altar during the divine services, reverently making the sign of the cross. Outside of church, Bishop Tikhon spent a lot of time reading about the saints and reading the writings of the Holy Fathers. He memorized the whole Psalter so that he could recite or sing the Psalms while he traveled from one place to another.

When he was healthy again, Bishop Tikhon considered going back to Novgorod. He missed his flock there and wanted to help them, and they invited him to return. But his elder, Elder Aaron, would not allow it. Bishop Tikhon did not argue with Elder Aaron even though he wanted to go. Instead, he tore up the invitation to return and continued quietly serving at the monastery. During these years, he kept writing. He wrote “A Spiritual Treasury, Gathered from the World” in 1770 and “On True Christianity” in 1776.
Throughout his life, Bishop Tikhon lived very simply. He slept on straw and used a sheepskin coat for his blanket. When workers laughed at him for his simple lifestyle, he would calmly accept their laughter and say, “It is pleasing to God that even the monastery workers mock me, and I deserve it, because of my sins.” One day a fool hit Bishop Tikhon on the cheek and told him not to be so haughty. Instead of being angry or dismissing the fool because he was a fool, the bishop was thankful for the reminder. For the rest of his life, he gave the fool 3 kopeks every day, out of gratitude. The bishop often said, “Forgiveness is better than revenge.”

Bishop Tikhon loved the common people and did whatever he could to help them. Sometimes that meant going to their landowners and helping them become more compassionate to the poor who lived on their land. Other times he gave his own money to the poor. He ended up giving away all of his retirement money! Gifts that his admirers sent to the bishop were also given to the poor.

Near the end of his life, Bishop Tikhon saw visions of the Theotokos and the Apostles Peter and Paul. He was given the ability to prophesy that Russia would win over France in 1812. His attendants reported other wonders performed by the bishop, as well, including seeing him transformed in prayer, with his face glowing. In his humility, he asked them not to talk about it.

Bishop Tikhon knew that he would repose on a Sunday, and he was given a three-year warning before his repose. This is how he learned about it: he had a vision of a beautiful meadow. He wanted to go into the meadow, but was told “In three years you may enter. For now, continue your labors.” After seeing the vision, the bishop stayed in his cell much of the time, and received communion frequently. Not long before he died, he had a dream of a tall, twisty ladder. He heard a command that he should climb the ladder. He was afraid at first, because he was ill and weak. But he told his friend Cosmas, “when I started to go climb, the people standing around the ladder lifted me higher and higher, up to the very clouds.” Cosmas told him that he thought perhaps the ladder was the way to the Heavenly Kingdom, and that the people helping him climb were all the souls that Bishop Tikhon had helped by his advice. Now they were helping him into heaven as they remembered him. The bishop, crying, agreed that he had had the same thought and that he would soon depart this life. And he did, on Sunday, August 13, 1783. He was only 59.
Almost 53 years later, on May 14, 1864, Bishop Tikhon’s relics were uncovered and found to be incorrupt. He was elevated to sainthood by the Holy Orthodox Church on Sunday August 13, 1861.

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, please pray for our salvation!
Sources: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/73196.htm and https://oca.org/saints/lives/2011/08/13/102287-st-tikhon-the-bishop-of-voronezh-and-wonderworker-of-zadonsk-and

 

Here are some ideas of ways to help your Sunday Church School students learn about (and from) St. Tikhon:

***

Listen to this 2-minute “Saint of the Day” podcast about St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, to help your students learn about his life: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/saintoftheday/aug_13_-_st._tikhon_of_zadonsk

***

This well-known quote by St. Tikhon of Zadonsk is a great focus for your class, after having heard the story of his life: “As a merchant from various lands gathers various goods, and brings them into his house and treasures them there, likewise a Christian can collect from the world soul-saving thoughts, and by collecting them in the treasury of his heart can form his soul.”

Share the quote with your students, then hand each of them a copy of this printable pdf of a treasure chest: http://coolest-free-printables.com/2013/02/03/printable-treasure-chest/ Talk together about the quote. What did St. Tikhon mean, “soul-saving thoughts?” And where in the world can we find these? Spend a period of time brainstorming and sharing thoughts that you all may wish to collect in the treasury of your heart. They can include Holy Scriptures, songs from the church, quotes from the church fathers, etc. Have your students write (or draw) their favorites into the treasure chest, to help them remember that they are collecting that treasure. (Alternate idea: instead of using the pdf treasure chest, purchase simple boxes or hinged treasure chests – available for about a dollar at craft stores – and have your students decorate them. Throughout the year, allow students to add a quote or scripture from each lesson to their “treasury.” At the end of the Sunday Church School year, they can review the SCS year by looking through their treasure chest and remembering the lesson associated with each insert. Send your students home with their treasury at the end of the Sunday Church School year, with a copy of this quote from St. Tikhon and the admonishment to continue to collect these kinds of thoughts in their hearts for the rest of their life!)

***

Did you notice, in  the story of the of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, that he had the entire Psalter memorized? Well, guess what? He had also memorized the entire New Testament! May his life encourage us to continue our efforts to teach our students to memorize the scriptures, as well! After studying his life and telling the students about his broad memorization of scripture, select a passage to help the children to memorize. Need ideas for how to do so? Visit our blog post on that subject! https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/on-scripture-memorization-part-2/
***

St. Tikhon has been called “The Chrysostom of the Russian Church” because of his many straightforward and beautiful writings and teachings. Here are a few of his teachings. Share some of them with middle-years (or older) students, and discuss them together!

“Prayer does not consist merely in standing and bowing your body or in reading written prayers….it is possible to pray at all times, in all places, with mind and spirit. You can lift up your mind and heart to God while walking, sitting, working, in a crowd and in solitude. His door is always open, unlike man’s. We can always say to Him in our hearts, ‘Lord have mercy.’” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
***
“In going to church, think that thou art going to the house of the King of Heaven, where with fear and joy one ought to stand as in heaven before the King of Heaven. While standing in church, do not look around to the sides and do not look at how someone is standing and praying, lest thou be condemned with the Pharisee, since thou didst not come to judge others, but to ask for mercy for thyself from God the Judge and Knower of hearts. Gaze with compunction toward the altar alone, where the holy sacrifice is offered. More than anything else, beware of laughter and conversations, for whoever laughs or converses while standing in church does not render honor to the holy place and tempts others and prevents others from praying.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
***
“If we want, Christian, to have our heart filled with divine love we must first empty them of the love of this world, its frivolous and sinful customs and then turn our hearts to the one God, our only good and happiness and eternal beatitude.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
***
“Do we refuse to forgive? God, too, will refuse to forgive us. As we treat our neighbours, so also does God treat us. The forgiveness or unforgiveness of your sins, then, and hence also your salvation or destruction, depend on you yourself. For without forgiveness of sins there is no salvation. You can see for yourself how serious it is.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
***
“As fire is not extinguished by fire, so anger is not conquered by anger, but is made even more inflamed. But meekness often subdues even the most beastly enemies, softens them and pacifies them.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
***
“True Christians live in this world as travelers, pilgrims, and sojourners, and they look ever toward their heavenly homeland with faith and with the eyes of the soul, and they strive to reach it. You should also be a pilgrim and sojourner in this world and constantly look toward that homeland and strive to obtain it, and so the world with its enticements and lusts will become abhorrent to you. Whoever seeks eternal blessedness and desires it and strives to reach it will despise everything temporal, lest while seeking the temporal he be deprived of the eternal.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

May his words bless and challenge us to follow Christ more fully!
***

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk once said, “…love of God cannot exist without joy, and whenever a man feels the sweetness of the love of God within his heart, he rejoices in God.” Talk together with your Sunday Church School students about this quote. How did St. Tikhon show this to be true in his own life? How can we live in such a way as to “feel the sweetness of the love of God” in our hearts? Have each student illustrate or write ideas around their own copy of the quote, and then take it home so that they can put it somewhere that reminds them of it. Find a printable pdf of the quote here: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/st_tikhon_of_zadonsk_love_of_god.pdf
***

With your students, read what St. Tikhon of Zadonsk had to say about their duties to their parents! Talk together about each duty. Share from your own experience any stories related to these duties and how you did/did not uphold them in your own life. Invite students to share from their story, as well. Then talk about the duties: How do these duties compare to what the rest of the world is telling us right now? How would following St. Tikhon’s guidance help each student? What ideas do they have of how to fulfill these duties, especially the ones that seem different from what today’s world says that kids should do? http://serfes.org/orthodox/children.htm

***

Here’s a 2-minute video featuring a quote from St. Tikhon about loving your neighbor and not judging them. Discuss this quote with older students: https://youtube.com/watch?v=Jw7oiZU9qzc

***

With older students, review what St. Tikhon of Zadonsk had to say about love of God by visiting this blog: http://livingorthodoxfaith.blogspot.com/2009/11/signs-of-love-for-god.html Encourage each member of the class to select one point to work on in their own life, one way in which they desire to better love God. Invite them to create something (written, musical, or artistic) to help them meditate on that point.

***