Category Archives: Laws Mennonite Church

Sundays That Do! (Go better, that is)

My precious granddaughter, Charis, had spent the night on Saturday night.  She is an early riser, as a rule, and I felt her slip into bed beside me just as I was ready to get up on Sunday morning.  The smell of roast beef was wafting up from the kitchen, and I remembered that it was “Carry-in Sunday” at our little country church.

The man who was supposed to bring the morning message had been waylaid by surgery that hadn’t gone as well as expected, so Friday night, the Leadership Team had decided to have a “fifth Sunday” plan for the morning service and that meant we would have a song service instead of a morning message, and follow that by a potluck “dinner on the grounds” kind of thing.  Only it wasn’t dinner on the “grounds” to be honest.  It was “dinner underground” in the basement of our church.  It’s a beautiful and convenient gathering place and will easily handle our congregation.  I was so glad for the decision to have carry-in.  I missed last month’s when we were in Missouri, and it’s always a good time with our church family.

So Charis and I got ourselves up and betook ourselves downstairs.  We stirred about, she having coffee and a breakfast sandwich and watching Veggie Tales, and I, making succotash, getting the roast out of the oven, making gravy, collecting the mushrooms for the mushroom dish I like to take with the roast, and trying to calculate if there was enough tea concentrate to take Garden tea along for the meal instead of the usual Southern Sweet eat that we take.  Certain Man came into the kitchen and carefully sliced the roast into the usual pan, and Middle Daughter came down and helped out with the dinner preparations, and we finished in good time.  It’s always a scramble to get out of the door on time any Sunday, and this day was no different, but with the good, good help of everyone, we got everything loaded and got to church on time.

We had a wonderful time at church.  The “mature women’s class” had a splendid time together.  There was so much to catch up on and there were things to cry about, things to laugh about and lots and lots of things to pray about, for sure.  And the song service was heartwarming and worshipful and familial.  And yes, I did mean familial.  If there’s anything we are at our church, it is that special feeling of being a family.  We don’t always agree, and we don’t see everything eye to eye and sometimes feelings get hurt, but most of the time, for most of the folk, people are caring of each other and how people feel and think.  And we really do love to sing together.  I thought Sunday’s songs were especially thoughtfully chosen and enthusiastically sung.

But it wasn’t just the service and the meal.  It was the announcement that was made during the service.  The announcement had to do with a notice that was put on the back bulletin board.  And for all of you who haven’t heard, this is now the official word.

Here, see for yourself.

Clint & Sharon

Now you know!

(This is the “happy news” alluded to in the last post, and it is exciting for all of us.)

My heart truly does give Grateful Praise!

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Filed under Family, Laws Mennonite Church

Another Sunday with the Littles

I got to spend time with The Littles at our country church in Slower Lower Delaware this morning.  The class has the same four children, but this morning I looked into their faces and saw how much they have grown up in the four short months that they’ve had another teacher.  Katie and Judah have a new baby brother, which got discussed thoroughly and delightedly.  Jamison, far more verbal than he was four months ago, joined in the conversation with feeling and much expression.  Charis, the oldest, was thoughtful and participant, but the only one without a brother (or even a sibling for that matter) was quieter than usual.

We sang the song that we had used to open class time last year, and they all remembered and helped along.  My heart warmed to hear each of their four voices soar in the familiar words and tune.  The story we were covering today was the story of Jesus coming to John the Baptist for baptism, and I laid the background of what John’s mission was, and desert lifestyle and diet and his message to the people of his time, and there were appropriate expressions of disgust at the garment of camel’s hair, and talk of “throwing up” over the locusts and wild honey.  (Especially the “grasshoppers” business.)  And then we got to the part about Jesus being baptized by John.

The teacher’s manual provided a cutout that made a dove “spinner” to emphasize the dove that descended upon the head of Jesus, and each of them had their own spinner and a chance to try it out.  Also suggested was using ribbons for blessing and praise.  I had made each of them a “Blessing Stick” by attaching ribbons to a 12″ dowel stick, and after speaking a blessing over each one of them, I told them that we were going to use the sticks with singing a song.  They gathered, excited and gloriously distracted and yet eager to sing.  We sang an old children’s song that I learned many years ago, using the sticks in different motions for the two different phrases.

Hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelujah!  (Shake sticks in front of you)
Praise ye the LORD! (Wave in a wide arc over head)
Hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelujah!
Praise ye the LORD!
Praise ye the LORD!
Hallelujah!
Praise ye the LORD!
Hallelujah!
PRAISE YE THE LORD!

About the third or fourth time through it they really got into it, and there was much waving about of the ribbons and the words were intelligible and they even got the standing up and sitting down motions that we were using.  But time was getting a little short to finish everything up, so we went back to the table to get the coloring pictures and take home papers and one last activity from the home papers.

“Pra-a-a-a-i-i-i-i-s-e-e-e   y-e-e-e-e-e–e–e–e—e the L-o-o-o-r-r-r-r-d” warbled Charis in a vibrato mode as she pulled her chair back up to the table. “Ha-a-a-l-l-l-e-e-e-e-el-u-u-ujah!”  She was really putting her soul into the music as she sang with pronounced showmanship.

After a time or two of this, Katie looked at her with puzzled disdain.  “Charis,” she said with a hint of annoyance, “why are you singing that song like a goat?”

Charis looked at her pityingly.  “That’s opera!” she said and resumed her song.  It went on and on.

“Charis,” I interrupted.  “Do you like opera?”

“Oh, yes!  I love it!” And she resumed her song again.  I listened as she sang and could hear the “opera” in her rendition.

“I think you could be an opera singer some day,” I told her.  “You seem to have the voice for it.”

“Really?” She asked excitedly.  “I would really love that!”

“I think you could,” I told her, “but you would have to study hard and get a trainer and all of that.  But I think for now, maybe we’ve had enough opera.”

“Okay,” she said agreeably, bent her head to her papers, and started to sing again.  Then stopped.  “Oh, dear!” She said impatiently.  “Now I got that song in my head!”

I think we all did.

And I smiled to myself as I thought about this class of LITTLES.  They are growing so big and it’s happening so fast.  Life is moving right along and the happenings of our world are impressing themselves on their minds and hearts.  They live in a world that is divided by hate and bigotry and mixed messages and uncertainties and so much division in the Family of God.

And I’m trying to sing a song to this old world.  It’s the Story of Jesus and His Love.  I would like it to be vibrant and full of harmony and joy and hope and love.  I would like it to catch on with the people around me.  I would like it to stick in their minds and I would like them to wave banners of light and beauty and blessing.  I would like them to “jump out of their chairs” at the right moments and I’d like them to do it with unity and peace and courage — but mostly to bring His Love to the rest of the world.

I’m singing it the best I can.  I’m singing it with all my heart.  I’m singing it when I’m thinking about it, and I’m singing it when I’m not.  Because it’s stuck!  Not only in my head but also in my heart.

And it’s my fervent prayer that no one wonders why I’m trying to sing like an old goat. I do make mistakes in the music.  I sometimes jumble the words.  I sometimes even forget them.

But the basic melody of JESUS, friend of sinners, hope of the world, SAVIOUR — This, I pray will be heard.  And whether the listener likes opera or classical or modern or country, may it fill their ears, stick in their heads and find its way to their hearts, inviting them, drawing them into The Family.

“Oh, LORD JESUS!  May it be so!”

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Laws Mennonite Church, music, The LITTLES Sunday School Class

Monday Morning in the Bean Patch

I went out to my bean patch on Friday afternoon, and looked very sorrowfully at the beans hanging there. It looked like there was a lot there that were ready to be picked, but I knew it was going to have to wait. I was getting ready for church retreat and there was just no way that I would be able to get to my patch yet that afternoon.

“Maybe I can scurry out here in the morning,” I thought hopefully. “We don’t need to be at camp until 11, so maybe I can squeeze that in before we need to leave.”

The thing was, I wanted to make cinnamon rolls for our church family for brunch on Saturday morning.  Friend Torre was spending the night with us, and she would help me put the dough together when we got home, and all I would need to do would be to roll out the dough and put the rolls in the pans in the morning.

Friday night was hotter than all get out at Mardela Springs camp.  Certain Man took a big chicken house fan along to try to move some air, and we milled about, sweaty and sticky in the big room.  It was noisy with the hum of the big fan and the conversations that went on between the adults and the playing of THE LITTLES.  We ate hamburgers and hot dogs and ice cream and lemonade and tea and finally came home around nine.  I had gotten Friend Normie to stay with OGA and BL, because they really do not like going to Church Camp under aesthetic conditions, much less ones that are noisy and hot, and I was so thankful they were already in bed when we got home.  Torre and I got the dough mixed up and into the refrigerator, and I went to bed.

In the early, groggy minutes soon after five the next morning, I was aware that I had a really insistent headache.  This is not my usual malady.  I almost never get headaches, but I did that morning and I tried to go back to sleep, hoping to sleep it off, but then I remembered that I had cinnamon rolls to make, and that I wanted to pick them thar’ beans, and so I decided to get up and get moving and see what I could get done.  I came down to the kitchen, got some medicine and a cup of coffee and sat on my chair for a bit.  I was soon feeling rather muchly better, so I got the cinnamon rolls started and worked at straightening the kitchen, looked for a recipe for sticky buns that didn’t have milk, got BL up and showered, got OGA her breakfast, and kept my eye on the time.  Then I started the icing cooking on the stove and called Friend Normie and told her we weren’t going to be gone before at least nine-thirty.  I fed BL, iced cinnamon rolls, and inverted the sticky buns onto a hard flat surface and called Eldest Daughter to see if she could pick up the cinnamon rolls and sticky buns to take them over to camp.  Whew!  She could!  That was a big load off my mind.

I kept thinking and thinking about the Lima beans hanging on and thought about just giving them away to someone who would pick them.  But it’s been a slow year in my bean patch, and even though we’ve had some good eating, I haven’t frozen a single bag of this year’s crop.  This wears hard on this Delaware Grammy’s heart, but as  the time got shorter and shorter until our intended time of departure, I realized that there was no way that I was ever going to make it out there before we left for Mardela Springs.  I decided to just wait and see.  Maybe we would be home before dark –?

We weren’t.  And it doesn’t work very well to pick Lima Beans by the light of the moon or the beam of a headlight or even the steady beam of a LED light, plastered against a sweaty forehead and held in place by a big piece of elastic.  I gave it up for the night and went to bed.

Sunday morning came, and it was off to camp again.  There was the usual last mad flurry of activity where church members cleaned up and then Daniel and I delivered non-perishables to the church, took some leftovers to a local homeless shelter for veterans and pulled into our driveway at about 3:20.  We unloaded our ladies and emptied our mini-van, then dropped the van off at a repair shop for a Monday morning appointment and came back home to catch some rest.

“Maybe I should go pick those Lima Beans,” I said to my weary spouse as we walked to the house after parking his pickup in the pavilion.  “I know it is Sunday, and all that, but I also think I am going to lose quite a few the way it is.”

“Well, you don’t want to go do it now,” he said.  “It’s too hot!  Besides, you should take a break!”

“You’re right,” I said, “but do you think it would be okay to do it later, after it cools off?”

“I guess you can do what you want,” he said, without enthusiasm.  And headed up the ramp into the air conditioned coolness of the farmhouse at Shady Acres.

I followed him in and did some serious thinking.  I thought about my Daddy.  I thought about hay down in the fields on  a Saturday night, needing to be baled, but his unwavering commitment to NEVER doing unnecessary work on Sunday.  I thought about how he would leave everything sit over the Day of Rest, and then get back to it on Monday.  I thought about how he would leave his farm on busy June evenings to be the superintendent for Summer Bible School at a little country church in the rural Frederica/Felton area and how hard he worked to bring children to Bible School.  I thought about people who had no religious sense of obligation, who planted and cultivated and harvested whenever it seemed like a good time, who thought that Daddy was foolish to sacrifice so much for “so little” in monetary rewards.  I remembered Daddy saying to us children, “Always remember that God doesn’t settle His accounts in September.”

I thought and thought, and knew that I was going to wait to pick beans until this morning.  Daniel wondered about what I was going to do, and I said, “I’m just going to get out there in the morning, first thing, and I’m going to pick those beans, and what I lose, I lose.”

Through the early morning while I changed the washer, made beds, showered BL, fed breakfast, and did meds, I thought about my bean patch.  I had sent some fervent prayers Heavenward, begging for protection and that the patch wouldn’t have too many dried and ruined bean pods.  Maybe God would choose to bless the decision to wait until this morning, and give me an overabundance of beans for my freezer.  The longer I thought, the more excited I got to just see how God was going to make this my best picking ever.  Or at least this year.

I put BL on her bus after telling OGA that I was going straight to the bean patch immediately after she was gone, and headed out for my garden.  I got a five gallon bucket from Certain Man’s stash, and contemplated taking the second one that I had convinced myself I would need, but then decided that I would just come back for it.  I left it down where it was easily accessible, and started down my first row.  The dew was heavy, and the sun was warm.  Even with the cooler temperatures, it was still a hot, wet job.  I picked the first five feet and got about that many beans.  Five.  There were almost no dried, brown ones, but neither were there many that were full and ready to pick.  I searched the plants high and low and wondered if I would even get enough to make this worth my time.  The second five feet yielded another ten or so, but also had wilted, green and yellow pods hanging lifelessly from the stems.  The leaves were mostly full and lush, and there were plenty of blossoms, but there were almost no beans to pick.  I looked at the bottom of my five gallon bucket and it wasn’t even covered.  I wondered about my optimism and hope for a good picking this morning.  I couldn’t say that there were terribly many that went to waste, so far at least, but there just wasn’t the abundance I was looking for.  I thought about how I was planning to give God the glory for a great crop, and about how encouraged I had planned to feel if I hadn’t lost very many and had a better than expected picking.  I wasn’t to the point of feeling resentful, but the temptation was growing in my disappointed heart.

And then in my pocket, my cell phone began to ring.  I checked the screen and saw that it was from my brother, Mark, Jr.  I wiped my fingers off on my t-shirt and swiped the screen.  The voice on the other end was subdued, but warm.

“How are you doing?”  We exchanged pleasantries, talked briefly about my bean patch, his bean patch and how nobody’s bean patch seems to be doing well this year. And then he said, “What I really called to tell you was that I got a phone call this morning that I’ve been sort of expecting for a long time, but I still don’t know how to deal with it.  (—-) took his life last night.”

In that millisecond, time stood still.  Around me, the dew still hung on the bean leaves.  The cicadas made their crazy noise and the crickets chirped.  I felt the sucker punch of denial and sadness and shock and regret settle in my stomach with a sick, sick feeling and I tried so hard to not believe what I had heard. (—-) was a childhood friend, born between Mark, Jr. and me.  He often spent the summer days at our farm, playing with Mark and turning brown in the sun.  He was allowed to go without his shirt and he could make those offensive noises with his armpits and he showed off his skill often to the point of sometimes being obnoxious.  I remember his skinny, sinewy arms and his shock of blond hair.  He loved to tell stories and among our family treasures was this one.

His father had taken to doing a little farming in the fields beside their big white house, and one of the crops that he planted was some corn.  Young (—-) watched the corn with great interest, and lo!  And behold!  There came a day when it sprouted tassels out the top the way corn is supposed to, but this phenomenon had never been observed by him before.  He came striding down to our house with the air of something to tell.

“You’ll never guess what!” He said with great excitement.  “My dad planted all of his corn upside down!  The roots are growing straight up in the air!”  He paused a bit for effect and then said, shaking his head with disbelief, “How dumb can you get?”

Life so often disappointed him.  He never married, and had a succession of failed relationships, failed enterprises, and failed dreams.  He often told my brother, “You’re the only friend I have.”  Mark was always kind to him, lending mowers and other equipment to him, always willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, always trying to speak Jesus into his life, but also sought to give him the space he 0ften desperately seemed to fight for. And now he was gone.  The thought hung heavy in the morning air.

“I know he had choices,” Mark was saying now, and I brought myself back to the bean row and his voice.  “But on mornings like this, I cannot begin to say how thankful I am for the home that we had, for the parents and the upbringing we had.  Sometimes it just seems like there are some people that are just so shortchanged on so many counts.”

I looked at my almost empty bucket of beans and thought about how easy it is for me to expect God to do the special things or give special gifts because I am keeping my attitude right or because I am doing the right thing, and I suddenly felt so ashamed of my petty expectations and my selfish heart.  There was more than enough reason to give glory to God and to shout aloud His praise.  He had given me so much in so many ways that counted far more than a bean crop from a Delaware summer.  I finished my call with my brother, and looked at the sum total of beans in my bucket.  It wasn’t even half full.

But my heart!  My heart!  It was brimming over with praise for God’s incredible Mercy towards me in a thousand ways with every single breath.  I felt the sting of sadness for our friend and his family, and I don’t think I will ever make my peace with suicide, but I also can stand in the presence of an almighty God and lay the questions at his feet, and decide to trust Him with the things that I can never personally explain.

God doesn’t settle His accounts in September.  And God’s mercy is not measured by a five gallon bucket that is standing almost empty.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

And so, my heart gives humble, grateful praise!

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Filed under home living, Laws Mennonite Church, My Life, Stories from the Household of CM & CMW, Suicide, Uncategorized

Church Retreat, 2016

Another church retreat weekend for Laws Mennonite Church is history.  It feels like I have some perspective on the weekend as I sit in my chair in my air conditioned house after getting some down time.

The weekend felt like it was terribly long — until today when it was suddenly over.  There was the usual scramble to divvy up the leftovers, clean the kitchen, and get the dining room/gathering place back in order, the cement floor swept and even mopped in places..

We heard a lot this weekend about this particular church camp and memories of times there through the years.  (http://www.campmardela.org/index.htm)  We had cooks there from Gateway Fellowship, previously known as Cannon Mennonite Church, where the whole idea of church retreats was first begun in this community back in the late 70’s by John Mishler.  We also had people with histories at Tressler Mennonite Church, who used Camp Mardela for Church retreat at some point in time.  And there were people there who have memories of family reunions that were held there, and even a family who sent a child there in the late 70’s.

Actually, I never really understood that this Brethren Church campground was something that could be utilized for a church camp, but we found out!  For sure!  The facilities are great — (but OH! Was it ever HOT!)  Our church does plan to go back to Mardella next year, only in late September. For years we’ve used Denton Wesleyan Family Camp but they have increased in price so much that it is cost prohibitive for our church, plus they gave our already “scheduled and deposited for” weekend away last year, and seemed to think that it wouldn’t really matter.  Because of how our church members plan their schedules around this event, it really made scheduling extremely difficult for us. In fact, it was enough of a fiasco that we decided to go somewhere else!

Last year we went to Redden Forest State Park, and that was okay on short notice but the facilities were inadequate as far as the lodging space and kitchen provision. So this year, the committee researched our options early on and we were able to get this.  We had originally planned for the last weekend in September, but out of consideration for some of our congregation who were planning for a family wedding that weekend, we asked to change it and this was the weekend that there was an opening.  Camp Mardela is nice as far as activities for recreation, playground equipment for the children, a well equipped kitchen and space for group activities.  It even has some nice lodging accommodations for reasonable prices. The lodging rooms have A/C so that was especially appreciated this weekend. The main gathering hall does not, though, so that was just a little bit hard on us “oldsters.”

We had nice activities planned — the kids decorated t-shirts, played in the sandy dirt, ate snacks, drank copious amounts of liquid, rode on the swings, merry-go-round and played carpet ball, four square and air hockey with the adults.  The camp even has a tractor and wagon for “hayrides” and we had made arrangements for that on Saturday evening.  Ms. Shirley had made the arrangements with the camp caregiver, and she asked Certain Man to drive the little old John Deere tractor.  They went across the lawn to the shed where it was kept and brought it around to the front of Kraybill Hall where we were meeting. (You can check it out here: http://www.campmardela.org/Facility/Facility_Kraybill_Hall.html)   I looked up from a park bench in front of the hall to see Daniel driving the tractor with the wagon on behind and the sole occupant was Ms. Shirley.

IMG_2104

“Well, look at that,” I said to my friend Loretta, who was sitting beside me.  “My husband has taken to hauling around another woman!”  But it wasn’t something to belabor or to be jealous about.  It was just another example of the kind of working together that made the whole weekend a whole lot easier and memorable.  CM brought the tractor to a stop in front of the hall, taking note of where the sand wasn’t as deep, and the people lined up to get on board.  The wagon was just big enough for all who wanted to ride, and ride! they did!

IMG_2108 (2)

So, yes, it was HOT, and yes, the yellow jackets did buzz around, and yes, we had some things that made our hearts exceedingly heavy.  But we did have a great time and such a wonderful message from David Yoder (from Dover) this morning to draw our hearts towards things that are Eternal, and principles by which to live.

. . . Church retreat weekend! Ah, me! The memories are wonderful! And the committee this year was stellar. (Shirley Miller, Jesse and Christina Yutzy Bontrager, Tyler and Amy Schrock) Our cooks, Carl and Sue Chupp, did a splendid job, and the food was delicious and adequate, the leftovers were not too abundant, and we were able to bless the Home of the Brave with some supper fixin’s!

There is just so much for which to be thankful!

My heart gives grateful praise.

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Sunday Evening at Shady Acres

Am I the only one who can hardly believe that summer vacation is over and school is starting again?  Wherever has this month/summer/year gone?  People, this is serious!  I’m getting old at an alarming rate.  I’ve been regularly told by my LITTLES that I’m “really, really old!” and I’m starting to believe it.

The other Sunday while we were discussing a younger sibling’s birthday, the discussion turned to how old each of The LITTLES was, and we discovered that we had a two year old, a three year old, a five year old and two seven year olds.  That was good for a couple of minutes of discussion, then Charis looked thoughtful.

“Grammy!” She said, “How old are you?”

“How old do you think I am,” I asked, because I always love to hear their responses and I’m never offended at their answers, only entertained.

“Well,” she said thoughtfully, “I think you are probably 77!”

Her friend, Amanda, a frequent visitor to the class said disdainfully, “Nah!  I think she’s 58!”

“Well,” I said, “I’m 62!  I’m going to be 63 on my birthday in a few months.”

“Oh,” said Charis, philosophically, “Well, Amanda and I were almost right.  We were each just one off!”

That made me laugh, of course, and I thought about how a child’s mind works, and how totally logical it seemed to them that anything in the 60’s would only be “one off” from something in the 50’s or 70’s.

My LITTLES have given me lots of pause to consider over these last months.  There was an especially impressive time on the Sunday that we discussed Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit.  I struggled with how to make this lesson real to this age spread, and wondered about how we could even begin to catch the importance of the Holy Spirit. One of the suggested activities was to tie red crepe paper streamers to a fan, and to explain how even though we cannot see the wind, it has an effect on the streamers.  It is a force that is very real, even though it is invisible.

I had thought about this lesson a lot over the week before, and had decided that the streamers and the fan were a good idea.  While I was pondering what else I could do to emphasize the lesson for the LITTLES, I saw some of those small windmills on a stick sticking out of an end bin at Walmart, and had a flash of inspiration.  This was something that the children could hold in front of the fan and see how a fast they would go in a strong and forceful wind and they could take them home at the end of the class period and it could be a reminder.  I pounced upon the stash and procured the five I needed and felt like God had provided a small miracle and burst of inspiration especially for me.

Sunday morning.  Certain Man helped me to carry the large fan up to the classroom and I attached the red streamers to it.  When the class started, the kids were so excited to see the fan, and of course wondered what in the world we were going to do.  The windmills were held in reserve until after they had a chance to hear the story and I could turn on the fan to show them how the streamers worked.  They were duly impressed.  They gathered around and tried to catch the dancing and swaying streamers and laughed and talked and jostled for a place in the strong breeze.

Then I brought out the windmills and gave each of them one.  This was high attraction. The fan was very large, and there was plenty of room, but it didn’t take long before there was more than friendly competition for what was perceived as the best place, and whose windmill was spinning the fastest and there was much stomping about trying to have the most air.  I contained the commotion for quite a while, encouraging them to give each other room, to share the space, and to not shove.

When it seemed that they had all had adequate exposure, and enough time to watch their windmill spin merrily around, I said, “Okay, kids.  Let’s take our windmills back to our seats.  You may take them home with you and play with them there.”  And I turned off the fan.

You would have thought that I was depriving them of their personal oxygen supply.  There was great disapproval and grumbling until one enterprising youngster said, “Wait!  Look! You can blow on these windmills and they will still turn!”

Immediately there was great huffing and puffing while the five of them attempted to make their windmills turn under the power of their own breath.  In comparison to the fan, the windmills barely turned but the five of them were so occupied with the fact that they were moving that they barely noticed that they were about to hyperventilate.

And that was when the Spirit of the LORD spoke to my heart.  I stood there, watching my beloved LITTLES, and it was almost funny until I felt like God said to me, “That’s just what you look like to ME!”

“Excuse me?  Is that you LORD?”

“That’s just what you look like to me when you step away from the mighty power of the Holy Spirit and try to produce results in your own power.  It’s every bit as ridiculous, and it’s far more futile.  So often you try to do or say things in your own strength, and it really doesn’t go anywhere because it’s not of me.  Pay attention, Daughter.  This lesson wasn’t as much for your LITTLES as it was for you.”

I really can’t tell you much about the rest of that class period.  I had so much to think about.  There were so many thoughts and pictures running through my mind.  Pictures of times when intentions may have been good, but the power source just wasn’t right.  Pictures of times when the Power was blowing, but my little windmill was off on a shelf or looking for another breeze.  Times when I just didn’t get it at all, and was depleted and tired and almost “hyperventilating” from trying to reproduce in my own strength what I could have gotten from the Power that was far greater and not only promised to me, but readily available.

My LITTLES took their windmills home, and I hope that they remember something about that lesson.  But even if they never do, I will!  It sits in my heart, a cherished lesson for this teacher of LITTLES, who desperately needed it in this time and in this place.

My time with this group of LITTLES is coming to an end.  Today is my last scheduled Sunday for teaching.  Next Sunday is our Church Retreat weekend, and the following Sunday is the beginning of our new quarter.  How very much I shall miss them!  But this is a good move.  A young couple will team teach and they have relationships in place already within the class.  I am content, as well as certain that this what should be.  Certain Man and I want to do a little traveling (yes, ME, TOO!) and I am looking forward to a bit less chaotic Sunday mornings.  We’d like to have more Sunday company, and I also am greatly looking forward to being a part of the Older – (Ahem!) Mature Women’s Sunday school class.

And so, my heart gives grateful praise for the blessings of my life.  I am so blessed.  May each of you see the blessings that are yours as well.

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Sunday Morning with The LITTLES

They came into the classroom, full of joy and smiles and LIFE. I looked into their eager faces and mentally reviewed my morning. It was going to be busy, to say the least. And lately, they’ve been so talkative. (Which I absolutely cannot resist. No matter how hard I try to stay on the subject, if I think there might be something one of them needs to say, or some sort of childish wisdom or insight, I cannot bear to shut it down.)

We gathered around the table, and sorted out the chairs and who got which one.  There was an extra again this morning, so the routine of “who sits where and on which color chair” was disrupted a bit, but finally, everyone was settled and ready.  A few months ago, as I was considering the whys and wherefores of Sunday School for these children, I realized that what was most important was that they have a sense of GOD in THIS PLACE, and so we’ve been talking about the fact that “God is here, in this classroom!  He sees us and He loves us.  He is our friend!”  And we follow that by singing the old song that my first and second grade teacher, Sadie Bissey, taught us so long ago:

Into our class
Into our class
Come into our class, Lord Jesus
Come in today
Come in to stay
Come into our class, Lord Jesus

So, this morning, as we were sitting around the table, I asked them the question that I’ve been asking them over the last few months.  “Who is here in our class this morning?” I asked them.  “Who is right here with us today?”

“Jesus!”  “God!”  The answers chorused around the table.

“That’s right,” I smiled at them.  “God is right here with us today.”

He was sitting at the end in his usual spot, and he looked around curiously.  “He’s not here today!” He said with a note of disappointment.

“Ah, but He is!” I told him.  “He’s right here with us!  Even when you can’t see Him, God is with you.  He’s here.  He’s with you when you are in trouble.  He’s with you when you have work to do and helps you.”

“We did lots of work,” he told me earnestly.  “We had to to do really hard work pickin’ up stuff in the yard.  And God didn’t help us at all!”  He shook his little head sadly.  He obviously had some feelings about this.

I pondered a bit and then suggested, “Maybe He did!  Maybe you just didn’t realize –”

“Nope,” he said decisively.  “He didn’t.  We did it all by ourselves!”

Oh, Lord Jesus!  How often have I been so sure that I was alone trying to do jobs that seemed big and hard?  And when I got done, I was sure I had done it “all by myself” when, in fact, I was under the protective oversight of a loving parent, who enabled and gave strength and tempered the job to my abilities.  Thank you for the reminder through one of my LITTLES that we don’t know the half of how your presence surrounds and enables and LOVES us in our “hard work” and never leaves us until the job is done.

Hebrews 13:5b-6a (NCV) “. . . God has said, ‘I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.’  So we can be sure when we say, ‘I will not be afraid because the LORD is my helper’. . .”

For this promise, for my LITTLES, for shelter on this stormy Delaware evening (and so much more!) my heart gives grateful praise.

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The Kingdom of Heaven is like . . .

Matthew 13:33:  “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”(NLT)

I looked at the proposed lesson for my LITTLES and wondered what in the world I could do to teach this lesson in a way that would help them remember the gist of the lesson.  There were two parts to the scriptural background; the verse about the yeast, and also the two preceding verses about the mustard seed. The word pictures and the activities that were suggested were good activities, but how do I use up a whole class period discussing “The Kingdom of Heaven” with children this young?

And just what is the Kingdom of Heaven in our lives, particularly as it would relate to these verses?  A  small seed, planted, growing into a great bush?  Or yeast, leavening a large measure of flour, completely losing its identity as it bonds with the other ingredients, yet it affects the whole batch of dough, and effects change in unmistakeable, cognitive ways.  What does this mean to me, for Heaven’s Sake?  And how can I make it real for my LITTLES.  I mean, they totally missed the lesson about the sparrows, and this is far more obscure than that.

So I thought and thought, and finally decided to bake some bread with them.  From scratch.  I would ask them what they thought the Kingdom of Heaven was, and we would talk about what it means to do things the way Jesus would do them, and how when we are kind and share and obey and tell the truth, how that “grows” inside our hearts and makes us happy.  I would ask them how it made them feel when other people were kind to them, and shared with them.  What it looked like when other children were disobedient or told lies or were mean, and whether that made them want to be their friends.  And we would bake bread and this time, I would constantly talk about the Kingdom of Heaven and what it means, and how it is like the yeast.  And maybe, this time, they would remember.

So we started out class period by meeting in the basement, and donning our aprons.

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We had two extra children, but that was just fine.  And everyone entered into the discussion before getting to the actual mixing of the ingredients.  But once we got started, there was no turning back!

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Most of the ingredients, I had pre-measured, so they each got a chance to add something. Here, we are softening the yeast in warm water.

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Here Victoria stirs the yeast while we get ready to put the sugar in.

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Judah dumps in the salt.

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The boys watch the yeast to see if it’s growing.  They get a good understanding of what it smells like, too.  (I don’t think anyone spit, coughed or sneezed in it, but I can’t prove it.  I can say with a great deal of confidence that it did get breathed on!)

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And then we stirred . . .

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and stirred . . .

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and stirred!

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The yeast had been rising all this time, and now it was time to add it to our bowl.

Then it was time to talk about what that yeast was going to do to that bowl of dough.
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(And they all listened carefully!)

And then it was time to add more flour and stir some more!

Then we finally got it pour out onto the table


. . . and every child got a chance to work the dough.  For videos of each child, go to https://www.facebook.com/maryann.yutzy and scroll down.  This was one of the best parts of the whole morning!

And then it was into the pans to rise.  Of course we had to check on the progress!  Sure enough, the dough was rising!


And then it was into the oven:  Whew!  That’s HOT!  But if you put your little hand on the outside of the oven after it was shut, it wasn’t hot at all.  That’s pretty exciting!

 

And then they waited and waited, and finally, the bread was brown enough and we took it out of the oven.

 

Oh, so exciting!  They each got to choose a loaf that was “theirs” and then they buttered the tops and lined up so protectively by the one that was “theirs.”


By that time we had survived the singing of the “blessing song,” when we sang to each child and during which I put my hands on each head when we say their name.  It was when I was doing that,  that we found a tick on one of the children’s heads.  Well, that caused it’s own excitement while Mom and a nurse and eventually Dad came to assist in the removal.  This tamed the excitement somewhat, and eventually, long past the ringing of the bell marking the end of Sunday School, we talked one more time about how the Kingdom of Heaven was like a small amount of yeast that we put into a measure of flour (and salt and sugar and shortening and milk) that made the dough grow and grow until it was enough for nine loaves of bread.  We stood together on  the tile floor in the Gathering Place of Laws Mennonite Church and gave thanks.

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“For all good gifts, thy Grace imparts–
We thank thee, LORD, with humble hearts!”

After the church service, they came to claim their loaves, and to gather bread for giving away and thus ended another morning of teaching my LITTLES about The Kingdom of Heaven!

Will they remember?  I don’t know for sure, but I think they just might!
If not now, then maybe someday.

And I pray God that it might be so!

Photo Credits:  Christina Yutzy Bontrager

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