Category Archives: AWANA

Snatched from the Mouth of the Lion

I have the best impromptu drama team ever. Week after week, they faithfully show up and bravely take roles in the AWANA skits I write, often with less than an hour’s rehearsal time. They are clever, expressive and hilarious, rich in verbal banter and slapstick physical humor.

I usually write my scripts in the hour I spend on the train on Tuesday mornings. By Tuesday evening, I’m often too tired to fine-tune the skit, and so I put it off until Wednesday. Today, I was furiously finishing Daniel and the Lion’s Den at 4:30 pm. This kind of writing schedule can produce some interesting imbalance.

As my oldest son remarked: “You spent five pages setting up the situation, and then burned through the whole story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den in four paragraphs.”

Before being thrown to the Lions, Daniel was briefly jailed, while the King tried to find a way to avoid killing him.

I recruit my actors and actresses via Facebook, like all the big studios do. After describing the skit at a very high level, I made my usual casting call via Facebook messages, rounding up the usual suspects: “Who wants a part?”

“Try to be there at 4:45 today,” I told them. “Today’s skit is a long one, and we’ll need extra practice time!”

King Darius tried desperately to find a loophole in the law, so he could save Daniel.

Poor Nate, he showed up at 4:45 pm. At 5:03 pm, we breezed in; fortunately, Nate is very patient and forgiving. We zipped through two quick rehearsals and scrambled to find props and costumes.

I love writing scripts for these talented teenagers. Joshua naturally gravitates toward narrator and kingly roles, while Nate and Daniel excel in physical humor. Rosala and Rachel feed off each other with their clever banter, often playing evil characters in a way that kids can understand. Candace, Logan and Austin are frequently involved in various roles, and James debuted tonight as an Angel. It is a delight to produce a skeleton of a skit and to watch the AWANA Players turn it into a masterpiece, for the edification of the kids in our program, and to the glory of God.

When it came time to pull Daniel out of the lion's den, we had some technical difficulty with the rope.

It is particularly fun to build on some of the silly traditions, week over week: like making sure there is always a ‘Dum, di-dum, dum, dum’ line for Nate, or finding new and dangerous ways of man-handling Daniel around the stage. Nate’s elaborate and exaggerated efforts to sneak across the stage have become a core element of any skit, as has Joshua’s official Narrator’s Staff ™ or his silly Scottish and Russian accents.

I didn't have any difficulty recruiting lions, willing to leap upon, and messily devour the evil advisors.

Every week I feel as though I have been saved from the Lion’s Den by the work of these teenagers. It is a huge blessing to me to have such faithful and enthusiastic thespians involved in our AWANA program — and this on top of their existing duties as T&T, Sparks and Game leaders. On behalf of our church, the AWANA kids, and most especially from my own heart: Thank You, AWANA Players!

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Push-up Prophet

A few days ago, I wrote a quick blog about Daniel and his passion for Diamond Push-ups. Who knew that in a few short days, these words would come home to haunt me?

It all started with a phone message from our AWANA Commander.

“Hey, Tim, I’m in Anchorage. You’re on your own,” Jimmy chortled remorselessly into my voice mailbox.

This is the kind of leadership and support I get from our fearless Commander. Other, more fortunate AWANA T&T Directors probably enjoy thoughtful mentoring and compassionate direction from their Commanders, but mine jets off to boondoggle in Alaska at a moment’s notice, leaving me to flounder alone.*

It was Crazy Hat Week at AWANA. Here David showcases his Spartan Mystery Knight look.

And flounder I did. I forgot to open the Cubby room, and didn’t turn on their heat until almost too late. I didn’t pray with the other workers, and I barely remembered to pick flag-bearers for the Assembly, which I convened a full minute late. I stumbled over the words in the pledge to the AWANA flag, but finally we arrived at the ‘Singing of the AWANA Song’, my favorite part of the Assembly.

Nate and Josh cut a dashing figure in their Crazy Hats.

When I was in the Army, I discovered that I had a loud voice, especially when lifted in song. Maybe it was a legacy from playing the trumpet for four years in Junior High (no, I didn’t spend four years in Junior High, it was only mostly over my Junior High period), or perhaps it was a gifting from God, knowing that I was destined to be the father of five children — but for whatever reason, I can be very loud. I like to think that I am setting a good example by putting my heart into singing, especially at church. (Except that we never sing the hymn about the ‘C-130′s, rolling down the strip’. I keep waiting for it, but our worship pastor doesn’t seem able to work it in.)

And so, when I sing the AWANA song, I try to drown out all the other kids and leaders (and I often nearly succeed). This week, I challenged them to a sing-off: “If you can sing louder than me, I’ll do pushups, otherwise, you will.” I chose Nate (who had always before been trustworthy) to be the judge.

The kids blew me out of the water. I could barely hear myself sing — even standing on tiptoe, bellowing into Nate’s ear, I think the kids were still louder.

As it turned out, Nate was immune to my crafty bribery attempt, and insisted that the kids "were just a little bit louder" than I was.

So I did pushups. In retrospect, maybe I should have done a few with Daniel in the past couple of weeks — it was embarrassingly difficult for me to pump out ten measly pushups.

My drill sergeant would not have been proud, this day.

I must be getting old. Maybe next week, I will challenge them one team at a time. I’ll bet I can drown out that sissy green team any day of the week.

Whatever happens, it has to be better than getting a pie in the face.


* The remarks about my AWANA Commander are pretty much all fabrications. Jimmy is actually a very godly and conscientious man, who does his best to rein me in and to minister to my leaders in spite of my abrasive personality. He travels to Alaska because he has to, and it is no boondoggle. It was just more fun to malign him.

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Dreading AWANA Council Time

Perhaps my favorite time of the week is Wednesday night, after AWANA. This is closely associated with my least favorite time of the week, often about an hour or two before AWANA. (AWANA stands for ‘Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed’. A weekly program hosted by many churches, AWANA is a little like a Christian scouting program. It involves a lot of memorization of scripture.)

As the Truth & Training (T&T) Director, I’m responsible for the third, fourth and fifth grade part of AWANA at our church, including about 40 kids and a dozen adult leaders. Each week, I oversee Handbook Time (in which the kids work at memorizing scripture in their AWANA work books), Game Time (in which they play various games in our church gymnasium) and Council Time (in which they listen or watch a presentation). Each section is about 30 minutes in length, and Council Time is pretty much my responsibility.

The bold and talented Games Leader Team -- Nate and Josh.

Most of the work of Handbook Time is done by the leaders, who listen to the kids labor through their memorized (or in some cases, not-so-memorized) sections. Game time is handled almost entirely by Joshua and Nate, the fearless grey-shirted Game Directors. But Council Time is always a challenge. How do you get 30 or 40 wiggly kids to sit still for a 25-minute lecture on discipleship? Mostly, I don’t.

Gideon's mustachioed neighbors blissfully sleep the night away

Not long after I became the T&T Director, I hit upon a happy solution: performing skits and puppet shows. As it turns out, the T&T kids love to watch the high school leaders appearing in the skits I invent on the train, Tuesday mornings on my way to work. Strangely, the high school leaders seem to greatly enjoy serving as impromptu actors and actresses — they show up, week after week, cheerfully accepting whatever roles I hand them, often as little as an hour before AWANA starts.

This week’s skit featured the first part of the story of Gideon; with Midianites and idol worship and God’s selection of an unlikely hero. In a surprise twist, the younger students (Sparks, Kindergarten through 2nd grade) joined us for Council Time. As is often the case, our skit included lots of physical humor, and a period of pain-staking explanation afterwards, to make sure they understood the key points.

I played the part of Gideon's cowardly servant. "I'll be right behind you," I assured him.

I don’t know why, but I’m often surprised when the Holy Spirit empowers the skit and makes it effective, in spite of my hurried script-writing, and our usual lack of rehearsal time. I dread Council Time beforehand, but am almost always euphoric afterwards, thanks to God’s goodness. I think God must really love these kids, because He seems to pour out His Spirit on our efforts on a regular basis.


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The Thankful Chair

In my perpetual search for AWANA teaching points, I often review the skits on Skit Guys for something that will resonate with the third-to-fifth graders in the Truth and Training program.

Thinking of what the Bible has to say about thankfulness, I determined early in the year to take special effort to teach the kids the foundational importance of giving thanks to God for His many good gifts. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Church:

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. — I Thessalonians 5:18

So I bought this short video, and I show it from time to time:

Each week, I ask my leaders to pick a volunteer. We set up a special ‘Thankful Chair’ on the stage, and the volunteer sits in the chair, and tells us how and why they are thankful to God.

One week, my heart froze as I saw the girl who was chosen as the volunteer: her father had been killed in a training accident just four weeks before. She came forward and stood beside me, looking a little nervous, but otherwise calm.

My mind raced. “How can I ask this hurting girl what she is thankful for? How can I put her on display in front of her classmates, when her heart must be raw with grief?” I floundered for a way to escape, but found nothing. I realized that this must be God’s doing. “God, please don’t let me cause any further harm,” I prayed.

A way to remember our duty and joy of thanksgiving to God.

So I sat her in the chair, and asked her the standard question: “What are you thankful for?”

She spoke up boldly, with hardly a quaver in her ten-year-old voice. “I’m thankful for a good family. Even though my Dad has died, I still have a family who loves me and takes care of me.”

I hugged her and sent her back to her seat, in awe of her faith and her trust in God. Would that I could be so thankful, in the midst of such loss!


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Blog Narcissism

One of my favorite targets for mockery is Hollywood, when they make a movie about the making of a movie. There is just something sad about an industry so in love with itself, that it thinks the average viewer will be riveted by a ‘behind the scenes’ peek.

Alas, such blatant narcissism is not only found in Los Angeles. Some novelists write about the process of writing a novel, and photographers have been known to take pictures of each other, taking pictures …

Here at the Duckabush Blog, we’re above such crass and vulgar display. We would, however, like to take this opportunity to showcase some of our most celebrated readers.


  • At nearly eleven years of age, David is one of our most enthusiastic fans. His cheerful praise of each post encourages us to forge ahead in our fight to resurrect our blog. Lately, thanks to our “Related Posts” feature, he’s been going back over archived entries, reading up on our family’s history (as seen through the blog).

David wears that T&T shirt well - his is an AWANA superstar


  • Self-styled as the ‘Queen of Comments’, Sarah has begun responding to each of our posts, with clever little one-line remarks in her distinctive prose. Also using the “Related Posts” feature, she’s been going back over blogs from years ago, giggling about events that are perhaps hazy in her memory. It is a pleasure to write for such a responsive audience.

Sarah and Kathy often enjoy a sneak peak of the AWANA skit of the day.

Strangely enough, this is exactly why we resumed our blog posting this year, after a few technical interruptions. It has been said, “Whoever tells the stories, defines the culture.” (I’m not sure who said it, whether David Walsh, George Gerbner, or possibly Aristotle.) But I think it is fairly true, and so Kathy and I are taking some effort to tell the story of our family — to define our family’s culture by the stories we choose to tell, and the way that we tell them. The virtues we praise and the events we highlight, help to establish what it means to be an Edgren in the memories of our children.

Thinking about some of the things I’ve written, it would seem that a key part of being an Edgren is being a little silly and weird. I guess I’m OK with that.


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