Unpacking Life with God for Children (LWGFC): Center Down

If you are tracking with us through the curriculum we are on the second bolded phrase in the lesson cycle: Center Down

Center Down is a Quaker phrase that essentially represents a process of quieting the body, mind and spirit. It is a space to remember, “Ah, Yes. I am a child of God.” In our increasingly loud, loud, loud world it’s a place of quiet.

Children? Quiet? Have I met children, seen children, or ever been a child?

Our assumption that children cannot be quiet is a false one. Remember back to that time we were standing in the kitchen and the children were playing in another room and all the sudden it fell quiet. We rushed into the other room to find our children “up to something.” They weren't necessarily quiet because they didn’t want us to hear instead they were absorbed, completely enthralled, in watching a spider creep across the floor, or a Lego structure built just right, or the grand masterpiece they have just finished creating on their baby brother in permanent marker.

Children can be quiet and reflective they just need something that is compelling to ponder.

Jesus is the place of quiet that we all need. The centering down space in LWGFC is an open, quiet space for Jesus to meet the children.

We open this space first by telling the body, “Hey this is different than normal.” One way to do that is to remove our shoes and leave all electronic at the door. A little bench inside the door helps to make this process quick and relatively painless. Invite the children to remove their shoes and tuck their electronic inside one shoe. Place them both under the bench. 

We create an environment that lends itself to quiet and invite the children into it with our presence.  

That environment might look like books and throw pillows. It might look like coloring pages and coloring pencils. It might look like finger labyrinths and quiet music. It might even look like teaching the children a breath prayer and breathing it with them.

The only must have requirement is an adult or two depending on how many children. As I mentioned in the last post, the children follow you. If you are resting in quiet with Jesus, they will rest in quiet with Jesus. If the teacher is up preparing or chatting with folks, or checking FB (guilty.) the children generally won’t Center Down.  I don’t know about you, but I could use a quiet space a few minutes, no more than 12-15 minutes, to “be” in the quiet with Jesus and his children.

A Few Tips: These are tips, suggestions—not law. Sometimes they work, sometimes not so much.

·      Rhythms take time to establish. You and the children might need a little time to get used to this slower, quieter pace. “Be still and know that I am, God,” doesn’t happen overnight. So give everyone (including yourself) a little grace. Begin with 5 minutes, then try 10, and so forth. But keep working on it don’t give up.

·      12-15 minutes is a guideline, not a deadline. We are teaching children, not curriculum. So if the children are really settling down into the quiet, stay there as long as you can. They may need it. You will be able to tell where they are if you are with them, sitting, coloring, resting in the quiet. Pay attention to both the children and the Spirit. Is She moving you on to Prayer Time (which we will talk about in the next blog post) or is She speaking to them in the quiet?

·      Children’s Books: Here are a few lovely ones that might be helpful during Center Down.

  • Psalm 23 by Tim Ladwig
  •  Glory by Nancy White Carlstrom and Debra Reid Jenkins
  •  The Blessing of the Beasts by Ethel Pochocki
  •  Journey to the Heart by Frank X. Jelenek and Ann Boyajian
  •  Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and John Schoenherr
  •  Granddad’s Prayers of the Earth by Douglas Wood and PJ Lynch
  •  Our Solar System by Ian Graham
  •  The Universe by Ian Graham
  •  And the two very best…. Images of God: For Young Children by Marie-Helene Delval and Barbara Nascimbeni and Psalms for Young Children by Marie-Helene Delval and Arno

·      Labyrinths can be found all over the Internet. Here is one example, http://www.relax4life.com/finger-labyrinths.html

  • Invite children into a conversation with God as they move their fingers. On their way into the center space invite the children to talk to God. To tell God about their week, what makes them happy, sad, or worried. Once they get to the center, breathe three deep breaths—One for the Father, One for the Son and One for the Holy Spirit. As the children move outward from the center invite them to listen for God to speak to them.

·      My opinion is that traditional children’s color pages are terrible. Full of stereotypes and mostly bad art. Try a few of these instead:

·      Breath Prayer for children:

  • Close your eyes. Breathe in and say, “Jesus.” Breathe out and say, “Loves me.”
  • Keep breathing “Jesus Loves me” until you know he is beside you. 

(Go ahead, you can try that now. It's good for adult souls too.)