Tag Archives: Laws Mennonite Church

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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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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Jesus, The Sparrows and The LITTLES

 

We’ve been having some wonderful times in the big, sunny classroom in the upstairs right hand corner of Laws Mennonite Church.  The LITTLES and I have been working our way through the Spring Quarter of the Shine Curriculum that has been produced by MennoMedia for early childhood.  I have enjoyed the ideas and lessons put forth there, but often it is a spring board for my own take on the lesson, or ideas as to what we can do with the particular lesson that is proposed for a given Sunday.

Two weeks ago, we had the lesson about the birds, and how God cares for the birds.  Part of the lesson was what Jesus said in Luke 12:6: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”  I looked into their open, beautiful faces after we had sung our opening prayer, and I told them the story of God’s wonderful care over the birds.  We talked about how five sparrows were sold for two “pennies,” and I asked them why they thought that someone would sell sparrows.  Of course, they had no idea.  And so I told them that in Jesus’ day, people were terribly poor, and they would buy sparrows to eat.  And they could get these five sparrows for only two pennies and it would give them a little bit of meat for their hungry tummies.  And then I went on to emphasize how God said that He noticed each one of those sparrows, though they were worth so little money, and how he noticed when even one of them died, and that Jesus said that we weren’t to ever be afraid or think we weren’t important, because we are worth MANY sparrows.  And He watches over us and cares so much for us.

I had made them each a sheet of paper with the cutout of an outline of a child on it, had gone into my photos, printed out a picture of each child and cut out the face to fit on each paper and had printed, “I am special to God”  at the top with their names on the bottom.  Middle Daughter and I had come up with a bag of fabric scraps that I took along to class.  And so, we talked about how special each child was to God and they each picked out some fabric and we cut out clothes for each child’s outline and glued the clothes onto the picture.

And what a mess that was!  Second Oldest Girlie wanted a dress, Oldest Girlie wanted a shirt and jeans.  Oldest Boy was observant and chose carefully, but then scribbled his face into obscurity while Youngest Boy didn’t much pay attention to anything except to use his glue stick indiscriminately over the whole thing.  Then Oldest Girlie got way too much glue on her paper, and made a terrible mess, Youngest Boy wanted to get up and find something more interesting to do, and it was pretty wild in there for about 15 minutes.  All the while, I kept coming back to the lesson, about how special they were to God, and how God cared for birds, but He cared even more for them!  (There was much exclaiming and goings on about this principle while I tried valiantly to stay ahead of each child’s requests for help and to finish in time.)

And then the first bell rang.  “What about my snack??!!??” Wailed Oldest Boy, looking in dismay around the cluttered table.

I took a deep breath, looked at where we were in finishing up, and said, “Okay, kids, let’s get things put away and you can have a quick snack.  We don’t have much time, but if we help each other, we can get this all done!”  And they helped remarkably well.  (When there is a snack coming, it’s easy to be motivated!)  And before I knew it, things were cleaned up, they were munching on fruit snacks and pretzels and drinking their juice.  It was a good time to review the lesson.

“Okay, kids,” I said cheerfully, sure that they would easily remember the lesson.  I mean, I HAD been reviewing all morning.  “What was our lesson about this morning?”

My question was met with blank stares.  They looked at me, they looked at each other and then there were shrugs and general dismissal of the question.  But I didn’t want to let this go.  We had an important lesson and I thought they should remember!

“Can you think?” I asked, just as brightly.  “What about the sparrows?  What did Jesus say about the sparrows – – – ?” I left the question hanging in the air expectantly.

And then a hand shot up.

“Oh, I know, I know,” said Oldest Girlie.  “The poor people ate’m!”

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Filed under The LITTLES Sunday School Class, Uncategorized

The Feetwashing Tubs

When our church burned almost six months ago, one of the things that did not melt was our stack of tubs for feetwashing.

Our church family still practices feetwashing.  For those of you who are not acquainted with this tradition, it is usually held in connection with two of our communions a year, in keeping with the passage in John 13:4-17, where Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.  In verses 14 and 15, Jesus said, 14 “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash each other’s feet. 15 I did this as an example so that you should do as I have done for you.”  We have chosen to believe that there is value in taking these words literally and beautiful symbolism in this act of humility, servitude and vulnerability.  Many, many sermons have been preached on what this really means, and I have found it incredibly precious in different ways at different times,

That being said, as we were preparing for communion this spring, Certain Man was under the impression that the elders were planning for feetwashing, and as the deacon, it is his job to take care of the physical preparation for the celebration.  So he stopped one evening on his way home from work and looked for the stack of eight, gray Sterlite tubs that we use for feetwashing.  He found them, alright.  For some reason, they were not melted as were most plastics in the church that terrible morning.  But they were blackened by smoke and dirty from water.  He brought them home.

“Hon,” he said.  “Someone has to clean these up.”  (“Someone,” I took it to mean, was his wife.)  They sat on the cupboard in my laundry room and I looked at them with distaste and dread.  I really didn’t want to scrub them up, but communion was only a week away and I knew I didn’t have much time.

Then the Elders decided that, given the shortened time frame, Sunday school being such a big part of our Sunday morning service, and us not being in our own place, that they were going to forego the feetwashing part of our communion this time.  And I, glad for the reprieve, did not scrub the tubs up.  They sat on my counter sometimes, in my laundry sink sometimes, sometimes being moved so I could work in the area that they were, and for some reason, they did not get any cleaner.  They just sat there and waited.  I kept thinking that maybe someone would get tired of seeing them and would do something with them, but it did not seem to be the case.  Last night I looked at them again (probably for the hundredth time at least) and decided that I would do something with them.  TODAY!

So this morning I drew a big sink full of water with bleach, fetched myself a magic eraser and set to work.  I watched the black spots come off, saw the smooth clear gray come clearer and clearer as the black water was rinsed down the drain.  I thought about our church and about feetwashing and how the brothers and sisters there are such an integral part of who I am and what I do.  I prayed for Alex and Joey and wondered what they would do differently that December night if they could do things over.  I thought about redemption and how, even though it seems so simple, it is never easy, and how, even for them, there is Grace enough, if they would only choose it.

The last tub was especially covered in soot and grime.  I thought about how washing these feetwashing tubs was something that came down to me being willing to do it, and I prayed that in this washing, God would reckon it as a way that I washed the feet of my sisters and brothers.

I took the tubs out, stacked them on the steps to the upper deck to dry.  They were so common in the morning sun, but so glorious in my eyes.  Another thing set wrong by the arson was back to order.  Slowly, one step at a time, things are getting done– not only in the building, but in our hearts.

And I give grateful praise.

012

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Filed under home living, Laws Mennonite Church

Tears in the night

We are traveling a familiar road, Certain Man and I.  I knew when we set out on this Deacon call that we would be going this way, but I was not prepared.

We came around the curve and came up a small hill.  Far away in the distance, the lights of our church building shone through the Sunday evening cold.  It took my breath away.

“There are lights???  At the church???” I asked Certain Man.

“Sure are!”  He replied in his off-handed way.  “They’ve had them on ever since they got electric back in after the fire.”

“But how???” I am still more than a little incredulous.  “The lights were all taken down!”

“Oh, they just strung them up however they could.  They want lights on, especially at night.”

Oh.

We come on down the road, closer and closer to the church, and my eyes drink in the light shining out of every window.  As we get closer, it was plain that the lights are from various wires, strung all over the empty, gutted church.  Up close, it isn’t half as beautiful as it was from the distance.  I look hurriedly and hungrily through the dusty windows.  It is full of light, but without life.

I am sad and reflective on my side of The Silver Chariot.  “I’ve not been in,” I say quietly.

“What???  You’ve not been in since the fire???”  I feel Certain Man’s disbelief spearing me through the darkness.

“No.”

“Why not???”  There was so much coming and going in the days following the fire, so much traffic from our house in particular with Certain Man being the first on the scene from our congregation and then both Eldest Daughter and Middle Daughter playing a part in the aftermath and the clean-up that it had been so easy to hide the fact that I didn’t go.

I feel the tears welling up in my eyes.  “Because,” I almost whisper.  “I just didn’t think I could bear it.”

“Well, Hon, I think you need to go,” says my steady spouse.  “I really think it’s something you should do.”

“Why?  I feel so terribly sad, and it is something I just don’t want to see.  Maybe after it is all fixed up, I won’t hate it so much.  But for now, I have no desire to go in and see it.”

He doesn’t push me, and we stop at the four-way stop sign at the corner of Carpenter Bridge and Canterbury Road and then go on.  I sit in the dark and think about this church family that I call “mine” and I think about the strength and courage and grace and forgiveness that has marked these days since that early morning call on December 2, 2014.  Our people have not wallowed about in despair or self pity or been immobilized by this bump in the road.  They are still gathering for worship, encouraging one another, doing the things that have been a part of our lives for so many years.  We are still praying, singing, giving to needs outside the congregation, some of us are teaching Sunday School, some are volunteering at Stevenson House, some are preparing and delivering sermons, and last week, in the middle of the coldest, icy-est, darkest time of our winter, most of us gathered together for renewal meetings and the majority of us didn’t miss a night.  And this doesn’t cover the everyday lives of our people who work and play and raise families and maintain their homefires.

And so I remind myself that we are not defined by that damaged church house there on a country road in Kent County, Delaware.  These people are The Church, and though we are certainly re-evaluating and seeking to hear what God is saying to us through these difficult times, we are very aware that God has something so good for us through this fire that has truly proved to be a Refiner’s Fire.

And while I may shed some quiet tears when I look at a building that holds the church memories of almost 50 of my 61 years, I will not hang my heart on a structure that can, well — be destroyed.  This made me think about a passage in 2 Corinthians that goes something like this:

1-5 For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less. (The Message)

And so, when it is all said and done, it isn’t a church structure.  It isn’t even these earthly bodies that are so prone to letting us down.  The Hope is in that Home that will not be destroyed.  Heaven.

How my soul wants that to happen!  Job 19:27b

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