Fuel the Fire
Author: Sara Blackstock
FUEL THE FIRE!
A DIALOGUE WITH PARENTS AND SHARINGS FROM PARENTS AND TEACHERS ON
Kindling the SPARK of the Spirit
Religious and spiritual leaders in various faiths and organizations are asking the same questions as we are in the Urantia community: How do we cultivate our children’s personal relationship with God? How do we bring our children along with us on our spiritual journey?
Looming over our youth is the pop-culture they are exposed to every time they turn on the TV, pick up a magazine, listen to “their” music, or hang out with their peers. This “non- culture” is enticing, invasive, and persuasive. It grabs kids at their emotional essence. If we have the clarity, courage and understanding of what to provide as real cultural and spiritual underpinnings, then the pop-culture may entice them, but not invade them. They may experiment and look, but not be caught up in a tangled web of materialistic and superficial intrigue.
There is indeed conflict in the lives of our children. Jesus said to Ganid:
“There are only two groups of mortals in the eyes of God: those who desire to do his will and those who do not. As the universe looks upon an inhabited world, it likewise discerns two great classes: those who know God and those who do not.” [133:0.3]
Adult Responsibilities And Challenges
Our first responsibility, and greatest challenge, is to live the truth, moment by moment. (HA! ) Next we must provide an environment in which our children may discover, explore and understand truth. (This we can do!)
Consider the following metaphors:
1. Fueling the “Spark” of God: Many of us have had the experience of sitting by a smouldering fire on a starlit night watching the last coals die out. If we put twigs on the embers the fire flares up in hopeful flames, then quickly dies back to embers. We blow on the little embers creating a little flame but we realize that there must be something to burn. We experiment with more kindling, with different kinds of kindling — perhaps a pine cone, or an abandoned bird nest. We realize that all it takes to create a blessed fire with warmth and light and energy is some kindling and breath on those embers. What kindling will fuel the fire in our youth?
2) Cultivating the Soil: “The soil essential for religious growth presupposes a progressive life of self- realization, the co-ordination of natural propensities, the exercise of curiosity and the enjoyment of reasonable adventure, the experiencing of feelings of satisfaction, the functioning of the fear stimulus of attention and awareness, the wonder-lure, and a normal consciousness of smallness, humility.” [100:1.5]
As we find ways to “Fuel the Fire of the Spirit”, to “Kindle the Spark of the Divine”, to “Cultivate the Soil”, we will be helped if we keep several “principles of education” in mind:
* Schools of Thinking, Feeling, Doing – the three parts of the brain
* Learning Modalities – there are at least 7 styles of learning which have been identified. These are called Multiple Intelligences – a comprehensive way of exploring the many ways that children and mortals in general learn – Howard Gardner…….
The Purpose of the activities suggested in the Guidebook is to highlight Truth Concepts which we have found in the Urantia Book. I do not believe that we “teach” truth, but we can provide metaphors for helping our children to recognize truth, to understand ideals, to desire to live God’s will. For the essential foundation for their truth they will first look to their parents and how they live their lives.
What THE MOST USEFUL part of our guidance for the children will be is an attitude of living – our attitude towards life. Children find live in every moment; they sink into life; they succumb to life; they live life. If what we do under the guise of teaching dulls any of their life we are doing a disservice to their growth. We must be acutely aware of the moment and of the moments of teachability as we wash the dishes, go shopping, get dressed. In almost everything we do there are to be found living metaphors which will throw some kindling on the spark of the divine in our children. Most of these are little everyday twigs like saying as we hand them a drink of water when they are thirsty: “Jesus said, ‘I am the water of life.’ Or uttering a Psalm of praise as the sun sets or rises. Or smiling at an old lonely person who is just standing around with no where to go and nothing to do; Or on a hike pointing out the incredible patterns of divine found in nature and noticing the similarity of patterns everywhere – the whorls on our fingers, the whorls on shells, trees trunks,
The more connections we help them see and elicit from them, the more connected they will feel with life. We can help our children weave webs of connections not only with family, friends, neighbors, community, but with the world. We can provide environments which are conducive to enriching connection of thought; and we can stimulate their observational abilities so that they may feel alone but not lonely; apart from but not disconnected; struggling, but not hopeless.
Our main job is to validate the truth as it desires to be expressed in them….the unique way that God will bring forth the personality of this absolutely unique child of his. And you are the agent, one of the agents God will use.
I have worked to simplify this guide. After looking over materials from other religions, I noticed several things which could create difficulties for adults reading the material, (and for youth who may be on the receiving end) – complexity of presentation – too many words, too much dogma, and too unrelated to real life, and teaching only to one kind of learner. I have tried to correct some of these errors, but what we do with our children whether in the home or in a group is so individual, that you will throw out what does not work for you and put in what you have found works and please send it to me so for the next edition we can increase the usefulness. AND, what works for one child as kindling may hide the spark for another. For one child hiking up a mountain and camping out under stars and beating the drum and chanting will connect her; for another, reading stories about Jesus as a child, singing gentle songs and drawing pictures for a picture books will connect him. KNOW YOUR CHILDREN.
We can use these metaphors as living guides for developing and evaluating “kindling” activities for our children. For example, notice that one of the ingredients is adventure. I have invited many children into my office at my day care center and asked, “Have you decided which side you are on, good or bad?” Between the ages of 5 and 10 years old, most kids do not have the sophistication to cover up their thoughts very well. Some will say, “No, I haven’t decided”. I ask, “Why not?” Some have said, “The bad is so interesting and fun.” I respond, “and has adventure?” They usually agree. I challenge children to make a decision about what side they want to be on and to take the responsibility of finding out how to present good to be more adventuresome than bad.
Like Jesus, we must say, “Come with me” and show the way. What do we have to show them? Our lives and a pile of appealing “kindling” from which they can choose. The adventure lures of this life will lead us to the last shores of the Havona worlds where the “tonic of adventure and the stimulus of curiosity” will disappear and be replaced by the “impulse of eternity.”
“Love of adventure curiosity, and dread of monotony –these traits inherent in evolving human nature–were not put there just to aggravate and annoy you during your short sojourn on earth, but rather to suggest to you that death is only the beginning of an endless career of adventure, an everlasting life of anticipation, an eternal voyage of discovery.” [14:5.7]
Those of us who have been involved in this revelation for years are feeling the necessity to examine how, to be aware of why, to learn about what, and to increase our consciousness of when and where to provide our children and youth with spiritual stimulus.
The need for appropriate spiritual stimulus has been expressed by parents, study group participants, and society and conference planners. Activities ideas are needed for children and youth in the home, during study group time, at special ceremonies (such as Jesus’s birthday celebrations), and during regional and international conferences. The need seems to be far and wide, ranging for activities which will bring forth the “spiritual”, reinforce values, challenge the imaginations, dramatize the stories of The Urantia Book, emphasize relationship, nurture creativity, illuminate facts, experience glee, and just plain fun. Sometimes, too, children need appropriate activities to keep them quiet while the adults do their thing. (And reality being what it is, sometimes this is entirely valid, for our own sakes, like turning on the TV and allowing them to sit there while we take care of ourselves.)
The Family Life Committee was commissioned by the Fifth Epochal Fellowship to compile an activity guide for children and youth of all ages. This guide is only a beginning. Our hope is that adults and youth will experiment together, communicate, and evaluate what works and what doesn’t so that other activities, perhaps with even greater depth and spiritual creativity, may be added.
As you experiment with and learn about what works with the young people around you, we ask that you contribute to the benefit of the whole by giving us feedback. Send us your activities as they creatively spin off from these or develop on their own. I invite you to send to the Family Life Committee any and all ideas and activities that “fuel their fire” so that others may benefit by the experience.
To provide a rich, interactive environment for children, it is important that we have a philosophical foundation which allows for spontaneity and creativity to kindle the flames of the spirit within our youth. A good program for children begins with the love and training of home life, supplemented by group and community involvement in the “village.” Group wisdom will rise above peer pressure.
Current child development principles leave no doubt about the fact that the psychological growth and social learning in young children is primarily a result of their imitation of the adult role models around them. In The Urantia Book, we read:
“Children are permanently impressed only by the loyalties of their adult associates; precept or even example is not lastingly influential.”[100:1.4]
It is difficult for children who are living in or around over-much strife, anxiety, or hostility to be able to be balanced. If their physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual needs are not being met, what they get out of any experiential activities may be diminished. If there is balance in all these areas, then their engagement in social relationships, activities, and spiritual pursuits may flower with great fulness of expression and creativity. Yes, children are like weeds — they will grow in almost any environment. But like the straggly, barely surviving weeds which are never watered, never fertilized, or growing on the shady side of the freeway, children in impoverished social and spiritual environments will exhibit failure to thrive compared to the weeds in your garden which have been watered, sunned, and fed.
We do not have to rely on chance with our children’s spiritual lives. Deepak Chopra says in his profound and fascinating book, The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents:
“The deepest desire in a parent’s heart is to see one’s child achieve success in life, yet how many of us realize that the most direct way to success is through spirit?” [pg. 19]
We, as Urantia believers, surely know this, but most of us are in the beginning process of learning how to achieve this with our children. According to Chopra, true success:
“…depends on who you are, not what you do. Being or essence or spirit–call it by any name you want–lies at the source of all achievement in life.” [pg. 13]
What desires do we all have in common?
1. That our children know God as a loving spiritual parent, and can rely on their own intimate personal experience with divinity to take them through their lives in the most soul-deepening way possible.
2. That our children know that all beings on this planet are ONE FAMILY; that we live on this planet together in peace and harmony, serving each other.
3. That our children have a spiritual identify and are able to answer the commonly asked question: “What is your religion?”
This guide is the initial attempt of the Family Life Committee to address these issues, by both posing the questions that frame the issues and by providing resources for the further development of spiritually based family culture.
Framing the Issues
As we endeavor to provide activities for our children, we should consider some preliminary questions, be aware of differences, keep perspective regarding costs, and keep in mind some basic “do’s” and “don’ts.”
Consider these preliminary questions:
1. What do we want for our kids?
2. What do our kids want?
3. Who are we as a group, and what are the parameters of what we can provide?
4. Why, for any given setting, are our kids with us? For fun only? To keep from hiring a sitter? To give them religious education? To provide them with activities through which they can learn more about themselves? To develop esteem? To keep quiet while the adults study? To entertain them? To help them establish relationships? To learn about The Urantia Book? To learn about the religious life of Jesus? To learn about other spiritual paths?
5. What is “spirituality”? What does it mean for us or children to have a spiritual experience? What stimulates this? What hinders it? How “spiritual” do you feel when you are reading through the parts of The Urantia Book that are merely technical or historical?
1. In what different people or groups might want their kids to experience at conferences and study groups. Some parents and study group members want their children to learn The Urantia Book in the same way the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran has been learned, by presenting the great truths, stories, cosmology, and concepts. Others want their children to just have fun and not be “educated” by others.
2. Between personal religious experience and group religious experience.
3. In learning styles. Could it be that an experience which constitutes the reality of spiritual experience is so unique and individual for each person that what stirs one will leave another cold? While some individuals are stirred by studying and reading, others are more attuned to God when dancing, singing, making music, or creating dramatic and visual art. Our children are not any different. As a group of religionists, we must continue to learn about the many forms of intelligence and learning styles and offer a diversity of opportunities.
4. In the conventional areas of differences: gender, age, and cultural and ethnic diversity.
Counting the cost. The cost of developing a culture that we can pass on to our children’s children is also relevant. “Count the cost,” as Jesus said. What might this cost be for us? A program for kids can be created anywhere and anytime with little or nothing, for that is the nature of kids….they do with what they have. A full spectrum program, however, almost certainly involves supplies, space, and stimulating activities which require funding. Even more important to our success is the commitment and enthusiasm of adults who are willing to expend energy and give of their time. Religious movements must support and encourage child-centered adults, for they make the difference in programs which offer children smouldering fires with limited fuel and those providing rich stockpiles of fuel choices to allow the spirit to burn brightly.
1. Light a fire…perhaps a candle during dinner, when reading aloud, at family meetings, or at bedtime. Candles add a touch of the sacred to events.
2. Explore, create, make mistakes, fail, be humbled, be strict, share the adventure of making your own religion or creating your own spiritual path, require, challenge, love and cry as necessary.
3. Ask children and youth in your care what they feel, want, and think.
4. Invest in a resource library for your family, study group or society. There is much excellent material in print. (See the Resources section that follows.).
5. Devote a little bit of study group and conference time to the kids. We are a village, and raising these children with a God-consciousness is the responsibility of our whole community.
6. Laugh, be enthusiastic, wild, adventuresome, playful, spontaneous, and even silly.
7. Become an excellent storyteller– some of the world’s greatest stories are in The Urantia Book. Telling stories is many times more powerful and emotionally grabbing than reading them.
8. Integrate truths and activities from all paths into the teachings and truths of The Urantia Book. The authors of the revelation encourage us to seek for living truth in all paths; we should be neither elitist, nor isolated.
9. Gather the usual stuff kids use –paper, pencils, pens, crayons, balloons, balls, etc. Gather unusual stuff too! Ask your kids to go to garage sales or second hand stores with you and use their imaginative help in finding play shields, swords, costumes from the times of Jesus, scarfs, helmets, bangles, hats, drums, cymbals, and other dress-up clothes–the more outrageous the better.
10. Do try to have animals around; animals bring out natural compassion and desire to care for and love others. They touchingly teach us about death. Even rats are among the best of the little animals–they are clean, intelligent, interactive and can take a lot of holding.
11. Do something on your spiritual path in addition to reading, especially in the presence of children.
12. Do ask the older children to teach the younger ones….this is a Universe principle.
13. Do collect a wide array of at materials for your home so that not only can activities be planned with a minimum amount of running around, but that materials are on hand for spontaneous activities. See the addendum at the end of this guide.
1. Don’t ever make children sit still too long.
2. Don’t make them listen to too many adult words without an opportunity to participate.
3. Don’t assume that something you experience as sacred will be experienced the same way by others.
4. Don’t limit a child’s concept of the spiritual. Remember, we live in a universe where a healthy balance between activities of body, mind, and spirit is important. We tend to promote the physical and mental at the expense of the spiritual.
Remember, the most important events happening within a group of children are relationships. The “lesson,” and the “teaching” is secondary.
“Everything non spiritual in human experience, excepting personality, is a means to an end. Every true relationship of mortal man with other persons–human or divine–is an end in itself. And such fellowship with the personality of Deity is the eternal goal of universe ascension.” [112:2.4]
Furthermore, our perspective on child-culture is broadened with the following:
“It is to the mind of perfect poise, housed in a body of clean habits, stabilized neural energies, and balanced chemical function — when the physical, mental, and spiritual powers are in triune harmony of development — that a maximum of light and truth can be imparted with a minimum of temporal danger or risk to the real welfare of such a being.” [110:6.4]
HOLISTIC LEARNING TECHNIQUE
Children need to do, to feel, to see, to smell, to touch and to move in order to experience reality. Believers in The Urantia Book can learn something from other religions about how children learn and experience religion. Sometimes we will be inspired to get up and dance, or chant, or smoke peace pipes, or play the drums, or gong bells. It could be that we adults will also benefit from more color, sound, smell, taste, touch and emotions in the process of making spiritual growth more concretely appealing to our children. As they see our own joy, they will be more likely to seek truth everywhere, not only in The Urantia Book, but along all religious paths.
Sometimes the most simple things are the most powerful. Sometimes all that is necessary is to light a candle in order to fuel the fire! The purpose of this activity guide is to be a stimulus for adults–parents, teachers, friends, mentors–who are around children. All spiritually oriented adults have the desire that children know God as their loving, spiritual Father. We feel that this guide may help.
Notes to adults are written throughout in cursive like this. If you read what the Urantia Book says about a particular TRUTH CONCEPT, think about it, stay open to finding it everywhere, even in the noisy, the ugly, the dirty, the hard, you will develop an ATTITUDE –
a way of thinking which can be much more creative than the ideas in this guide. This is meant to be a stimulus for your own creative spiritual guidance of children, however you and they interpret that.
With the help of readers, like you, we look forward to providing supplements to this guide. As you experiment, modify, adapt and create new activities, please share them with us.
Sara L. Blackstock
Family Life Program
Fifth Epochal Fellowship of Readers of The Urantia Book
God Lives Within Me
Suggested Reading from the Urantia Book for Adults
The Spirit in Man – 380 [34:6]
“Man is infinite, but he is indwelt by a spark of infinity.” 1221
Light a candle every night, once a week, at families meetings, on special holidays, or on any other occasion where you want an extra emphasis. As the child gets older, s/he can have the privilege of lighting the candle.
Receiving the Thought Adjuster ceremony
Thank you to Linda Buselli and Bob and their children and probably by now grandchildre.
Between the ages of 5 and 6 most children will receive their Thought Adjusters. A simple ceremony can be held to acknowledge this amazing gift.
Gather a group of children together with their parents, or experience within a family. The parents stand behind the children. The children and their parents are each given an unlit candle to hold. The leader of this ceremony will light his/her candle and say something like: “We are here to receive the great gift of God which is given to all of us about your age. My candle represents the light of God. I will light each of your candles with this symbol of His light.
+ A song may be sung, or music played.
+ Lights can be turned low if they are on.
+ A prayer of thanksgiving may be said:
Thank you Father/Mother God for giving your most precious gift to these children to be with them and guide them all their lives.
The children can then light their parents’ candles and thank them for the life they have given them. All can stand in a circle with another song, special music, singing Jesus Loves Me, or any other offering which will help create an atmosphere of sacred thanksgiving.
+ A special and beautiful certificate can be given to each child acknowledging this special gift.
+ A box wrapped in beautiful paper with a small “jewel” inside can be given to the child to unwrap
* VISUAL AND EXPERIENTIAL ANALOGIES
Jewel Inside Me – ( 3 years – 12 years)
Give each child a lump of clay, preferably tan which is not as “messy” as red clay and a “jewel”. As you talk about the gift of God within them or read them the children’s version below of the coming of the Thought Adjuster, all can be molding a figure out of the clay. When the figure is done, ask each child to push the “jewel” – a symbol for the part of God in them – into the clay somewhere and cover it up. The child may take this home, let it dry and remember, even though it cannot be seen that there is a beautiful jewel, a part of God, hidden in the clay.
Fragment of God – ( 6 years – 12 years)
“…we know that there dwells within the human mind a fragment of God,….” (17)
“There sojourns with each moral being of this planet a fragment of God, a part and parcel of divinity.” (26)
“Man’s adjuster is a fragment of God and everlastingly seeks for divine unification;…” (42)
“There dwells within you a fragment of the Universal Father, and you are thus directly related to the divine Father of all the Sons of God.” (448)
Get a puzzle of the most beautiful picture with the most pieces you can find – 1000 or more. Spend some time putting it together. Maybe this would be a project that would be ongoing for a couple of weeks, or a family could have it out on the table while family members work on it over a period of time. When the puzzle is done, admire it, comment on the wholeness of it, talking about the wholeness of God. Ask someone to play “God” and choose a beautiful piece of the puzzle and give that piece to each child. This is symbolic of God giving away parts, fragments, or pieces of himself. Point out that God never runs out of pieces.
+ For younger children a puzzle with just a few pieces can be used.
Gift of God (3 years to 12 years)
Put a “jewel” inside a small box. Have a box for each child present. Wrap the box with beautiful paper. Have a child play “God”, giving a gift to each child. The children open the gift, find the jewel, and then wrap the box with beautiful paper to keep as a remembrance of the gift God has given them.
“Those who have received and recognized the indwelling of God have been born of the Spirit. ‘You are the temple of God, and the spirit of God dwells in you.’ It is not enough that this spirit be poured out upon you; the divine Spirit must dominate and control every phase of human experience.
“Jesus taught the appeal to the emotions as the technique of arresting and focusing the intellectual attention. He designated the mind thus aroused and quickened as the gateway to the soul, where there resides that spiritual nature of man which must recognize truth and respond to the spiritual appeal of the gospel in order to afford the permanent results of true character transformations. (1705)
* Music – incorporate music into, around, within, behind an activity.
Instruments: Drums with a good sound; egg shakers, rhythm sticks, triangles.
CD/cassette player with a variety of kinds, styles, and countries represented.
* Nature – take them out into nature – a walk around the block or a climb up a mountain. Get them out at night. Find ways of having them experience their senses – touch, smell, sight, hearing, taste.
* Physical contact
Most children of all ages respond to warm, loving touch as you work with them.
Wrestling (5 years and up)
Materials – mats
Sometimes it seems that is what we do with God, with the still small voice within us – we wrestle with it; we wrestle with our own thoughts, with the suggestions of our parents, teachers, and even peer group.
+ Shoulder Massage
Family or group can sit in a circle. Each places their hands on the shoulders of the one in front and kneads. The circle can be turned around with each one facing the opposite direction.
+ Foot Massage
Materials – a bucket of warm soapy water for each pair of children; several kinds of aromatic oil – lavender or pine seems to be enjoyed; a large towel for each pair.
Children can massage each other’s feet with a delicious smelling oil. First have them wash their own feet in a bucket of soapy water. Dry off with a towel. The partner pours the aromatic oil on the foot and with their hands give each foot a good massage. They switch roles.
Affirmations can be used in many ways on a regular basis:
– said or read by the adult to the child;
– said or read together as a group;
– said or read by an individual child;
– written on an index card and chosen at dinner time, at the beginning of the day, on a birthday or special day of any kind.
The light of God has been given to me. I will follow the light.
God’s light will show me the best way to walk each day.
I carry a spark of the divine God in my heart.
My body is a temple of God; I will take care of this temple.
God’s light is in everyone. I look to see God shining in each person I meet.
I want to kindle the spark of God within me.
STORIES FROM THE URANTIA BOOK
The discovery of fire by the twins. Once upon a time there were two …….
The story of how the Thought Adjuster chooses us: Every part of God chooses the child whom they are going to indwell. They study you…..
Look for or make up stories about story about sparks, flames, lights, torches.
FUN AND MEANING WITH WORDS
Make a list of words which have to do with FIRE – print this list on a piece of paper and hang it up. For example sparks, flame, kindling, torches, candlelight, flashlight,
Write a prayer to the Though Adjuster thanking it for choosing you, and asking it to guide you.
CONCEPTS COME ALIVE
Get a piece of flint and some dry grass or other kindling. Strike the flint to get a spark. Have a child or youth put some kindling on the spark.
Affirmation: Talking to God in my own heart and mind is like kindling for the spark of God who lives in my mind. Helping those around me is like kindling for the spark of God who lives in my mind. Thanking God for life and family and friends is like kindling for the spark of God who lives in my mind.
QUESTIONS TO STIMULATE DISCUSSION
1. What can hinder the Thought Adjuster from being powerful in us?
2. What can I do to help the Thought Adjuster?
3. When is the Thought Adjuster most active?
4. Are Thought Adjusters the same in me as other people?