Updated: May 8, 2019
Before I talk about my book, let me share some background. This article is not really about Easter bunnies. It is about children and their inborn spirituality. We just happen to be in the season of Easter, which is very important for my faith as a Jesus-follower. I felt that my book (more on that below) would be relevant especially this week as we think about our faith and spirituality, where ever we might find ourselves in our relationship with Jesus.
I have asked countless children what they know about Easter and why we celebrate it. I admit that the historical events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus are not the simplest events to explore with children. And still I find it surprising how few children whom I have come in contact with have any idea that the celebration of Easter (or Christmas for that matter) is a Christian holiday or even that it is a religious holiday at all.
In today’s religiously diverse communities we must educate ourselves and our young about the faith traditions that surround us. Matters of faith and religion cannot be reduced to mere socio-political debates. Religious illiteracy impacts our social lives, cultural understanding, and personal development.
Children's Inborn Spirituality
Next to cultural and social reasons, religious education (in the holistic understanding of the term) has another, much larger purpose, which is the nurturing of the child’s spiritual development. If we don’t acknowledge children's spirituality, we deny a fundamental part of their shared humanity with us. Children, just like adults, ask the ultimate questions of meaning and wrestle with the reality of existential limits.
I am grateful that science is catching up with what many of us have either known intuitively or witnessed in children around us for a long time. Human beings are born with spiritual hard-wiring, and our spirituality has direct connections to our mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. By not offering children a wide variety of opportunities to explore, express, and develop their spirituality we deprive them from a holistic human flourishing.
“Science now tells us that this spiritual faculty is inborn, fundamental to the human constitution, central in our physiology and psychology. Spirituality links brain, mind and body…the capacity for a felt relationship with a transcendent loving presence is part of our inborn nature and heredity: a biologically based, identifiable, measurable, and observable aspect of our development, much like speech or cognitive, physical, social and emotional development.”
— Lisa Miller, The Spiritual Child
The doors are wide open for us to come alongside children in our shared quest for personal, felt communion with the God who is Love. The opportunities are limitless. The language of faith gives us, both children and adults, a framework to make existential meaning from our experiences. When we embrace the shared full humanity with children, we come to conclude that "the Jesus story of Easter" (not the bunnies) is as relevant and meaningful Good News to children as it is to adults.
"The repression of our existential limits is a major reason why adults maintain the fiction that children are always happy. Adults hope this is so, but this is cheap hope. It masks adult limits we share with children, and it hides from the responsibility to listen respectfully when children try to tell us about their ultimate concerns. This neglect traps children in a double bind. They must either please the adults and repress their anxiety or express their anxiety and risk having adults ignore, dismiss, and shame them. This is why children usually remain silent about their ultimate concerns."
— Jerome W. Berryman, The Spiritual Guidance of Children
Peace Beads Ebook
It is with this desire and invitation in mind, that I wrote Peace Beads. What would it look like if every child, adolescent, and adult had an experience of the mutual blessing of praying with others about their feelings and experiences? How much do we all long for a chance to tell the story of our hearts and feel that our our joys, fears, and hopes are well listened to? Peace Beads offers a tool for this shared experience of prayer and deep listening.
I wonder, could we open ourselves up to the young people among us and enter with them into the wider transcendent realities, perhaps voice some authentic emotions, and express questions of meaning, wonder and mystery? Could we take a risk of asking and then patiently listening for the children's souls? We know that children’s souls are made of more than crafts and candy. They might just take a little while to come out and reveal themselves.
Peace Beads ebook includes:
A listening prayer practice for all ages and a mentor’s guide (prayer in 4 languages).
Tools to facilitate exploration of spirituality, emotions, and experiences of God, including printable worksheets.
Many other ways of using beads as a prayer, communication and reflection tool.
Illustrated craft guides for making prayer beads.
Extensive reference lists to related literature and other resource, and much more...
Get your Peace Beads ebook on my Etsy shop by clicking the link below:
Easter Egg Hunt with a Twist
Here is an idea. Use My Day in Beads prayer guide (included in Peace Beads) as a part of your Easter Egg Hunt. Follow the mentor's guide in the book and simply replace beads with chocolate eggs. (Each bead is matched with a set of reflective questions for prayer and conversation.) Hide 5 different colors of eggs per each participant. Color code each bead in the prayer to match a chocolate egg (e.g. blue chocolate egg=Peace Bead, brown chocolate egg=Joy Bead, and so forth). Hand out My Day in Beads worksheet, which is the map for the eggs and the prayer guide. Invite the Egg Hunters to color the worksheet according to your example. Then it's a hunting time. Once all participants have found their five different color eggs matching their worksheet, guide them through the prayer practice as shown in Peace Bead ebook.
The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving by Lisa Miller
The Spiritual Guidance of Children: Montessori, Godly Play, and the Future by Jerome W. Berryman
Children's Spirituality: What It Is And Why It Matters by Rebecca Nye