Wednesday, November 3, 2010

God is a birl

"You know. Boy and girl. Like snails."

I swear I was not the one who brought the Bible stories up. It was the third meeting of the Story Club at a certain international school in Budapest, and my adorable eight-year-olds decided to take matters into their own hands, and requested stories from the Bible. They brought the book too, a colorful and easy-to-read kids' version of it, and told me they had been reading it and found it very exciting, and they were almost at the end now. It was fascinating to see the sheer enthusiasm they had for reading through the greatest story of all for the first time in their life.

The Story Club is a colorful bunch. Kids from all corners of the world, native and non-native English speakers, from different backgrounds, cultures, families and languages. And they work perfectly together. They are amazing, creative, friendly and lively. I honestly have no idea if they are having more fun at the Story Club or I am.

One of the boys opened the book on the first page, and started to read the story of the Creation. Since they made it their own rule that they are going to act out every single story we tell, as soon as the tale begun, we were in need of a God. This was the moment when the question of God's gender became an issue. They pointed out that "in this book, God is a he" (since he was picutred as the stereotypical old man with the long beard), but they also knew quite clearly that that's not the whole truth. And then, snails came into the picture, and the group cheerfully agreed that God was a birl.

Chosing one of the boys to create our own story universe, we went on with the tale. One girl ran to the light switch and turned it off and on, illustrating light and darkness. Pillows made the clouds, and the blue carpet was excellent for water, with the green sofa rising from it, forming firm ground. Animals and plants were never a problem for such a creative bunch.

And then we got to Adam and Eve. Adam was a bit shy, and stood next to God, listening to the story; Eve, on the other hand, did an excellent job of acting like she'd never seen... well, anything before. She poked and prodded at things like pencils, bags, pillows, walls and people, and she made funny squealing noises when something surprised her. One little girl with an amazingly deep voice volunteered to be the snake; another boy became the angel with the flaming sword. I couldn't help but smile as one of my favorite books came to my mind.
(Good Omens, what else.)

After we got through creation, we went on to Noah's Ark. All piled onto the green sofa, we floated on the blue waters of the Great Flood Carpet. There are several folktales about animals on the Ark; we acted out quite a few of them. Why the dog's nose is wet; why cats sit on the threshold; why the woodpecker's head is red. When floating on the Ark got boring, we decided to skip to King Solomon.

I know it's not a Bible story per se, but I've always loved the tale of The Butterfly that Stamped. And it has King Solomon in it. And the Queen of Sheba. And genies, which I had to explain to the kids - to my surprise they didn't know the story of Aladdin. Anyhow, we got into the story of the King and the butterflies, and the parents waiting for us outside the door could hear the whole group chanting "Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!". We got a great King with a magic ring, a very smart little Queen, and an amazing genie who could lift the whole palace into the air.

In the few mintues left at the end of the story club, we finished with the tale of Moses dividing the Red Sea (the folktale version of it, where a girl has to walk into the waters first in order to show God the bravery of the people). It was a much more quiet story, and the kids watched in awe as one of the girls walked across the blue carpet with determination in her eyes. That story has a lot to think about. "God doesn't give you a miracle until you give something from yourself first."

I was not planning on bringing Bible stories to them; when I asked them one week earlier what kind of stories they wanted to hear, I was expecting to hear 'dragons', 'princesses', 'fairies', or something along those lines. But they said Bible, and so Bible it was.
We had great fun.

I can't wait to hear what they'll come up with next time.


  1. You ~ and the story club kids ~ are a hoot! What a delightful description & experience! Keep it up!

  2. How lovely! Storytelling with kids is just the most fun thing in the world. I could see Eve poking at all the things in the world and how you all floated on the great flood carpet.


  3. Csenge, this is brilliant. I keep telling my congregation that we need more stories and fewer sermons. Sermons build walls and define boundaries, and what's the use of that when talking about God? Stories are made of possibility. Consider yourself quoted in a sermon to be named later.

    Jerry Morris