Tag Archives: Shine Curriculum

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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Sunday Grumpies

This was the Sunday morning when I felt just plain grumpy.  It’s a ridiculously beautiful day.  I had a wonderful lesson for my little people at church.  I had made fairly good preparation.  We moved Youngest Daughter home from Philadelphia yesterday. Certain Man and I had a very nice afternoon together, walking by the water at Delaware City, stopping for a quick supper at Chick fil a, and coming home in good time after our Philadelphia run.  I was terribly tired last night, to the point of finally going to bed early and sleeping soundly most of the night.  But I woke up grumpy and irritated.

It shouldn’t have mattered that OGA was up and dressed by 6:30.  This was a good morning for her to do that, but she looks at me so reproachfully when things don’t move according to her schedule, and things did not move  according to her schedule  this morning.  And she didn’t like the music I put on for her.  I was in no mood to hear Johnny Cash or Conway Twitty or The Oak Ridge boys while I showered and dressed Blind Linda.  Usually I just keep the music off on Sunday mornings but this morning, I felt like my spirits could use some music, so the choice was classical.  She didn’t want that.  It didn’t have words.  After I left the room, she asked Deborah to change it.  Deborah, not knowing that I had chosen the station with intent this morning, called out to the kitchen that she was changing it for her.

“No, you’re not,” I said more sharply than I intended.  “I do not feel like hearing country music this morning.  I put that on on purpose.”

“But she doesn’t like it,” said my surprised Middle Daughter.  “It doesn’t have words.”

“I know it doesn’t,” I said testily.  “I don’t feel like hearing words.”

“Oh.  Okay, then!” Said Deborah, and went and told OGA that she wasn’t changing it after all.  Whereupon OGA came out to the kitchen to tell me that she wanted the channel changed.

“No, Audrey,” I said, again, more firmly than necessary, “I don’t want you to change it.  You can listen to that this morning.  I don’t feel like hearing Country.  You listened to that all day yesterday.  This is Sunday morning music.  You can listen to this for a change.”

She looked at me like I had just told her that I was withholding her daily sustenance.  Disgusted she went back into her room without another word.  I felt even more out of sorts.  Probably in part from the exchange immediately preceding this. (Which went like this:)

“Hon, we need to get the holders for the communion cups out here.”  It was Certain Man, helping to get stuff together for communion.

I looked at him blankly.  “Um.  I think those are up at church,” I said.

“We never kept them up there before,” he said emphatically.

“Yes, we have,” I said just as emphatically.  “I never thought to tell someone to get them, but I’m sure they are up there.”

“Hon, we always bring them home and wrap them in plastic and put them in there on the shelf.”

I knew they weren’t in there, but I went in to check anyhow.  ‘I think,” I said, “That I have been storing them up at church ever since I forgot them that time  and you had to run back for them.  But I never thought about it when we were getting things together.  I’m sorry.”

He came and looked  over my shoulder at the empty spot where they should would have been if they were there.  “Well, they certainly aren’t there.  I’m going to have to run up to church and see if I can find them.  Hard telling where they are.”

“Why don’t you ask Deborah.  She would know if they were up there.”

“She’s still sleeping.  I don’t want to wake her up.  I’m gonna’ go do my chores quick and then I will run up there and see.”

“Whatever you think, Daniel.”

That’s what he thought.  And he went out to check his chickens, feed his livestock and check on the general state of affairs at Shady Acres.  He came back in shortly.

“Is Deborah up?”

“I haven’t seen her yet.”

“Well, I’ve gotta get going.”

“Wake her up, Daniel.  I’m sure she would go with you”

“Hon, I can’t wait that long.  It will take her a good 20 minutes to get ready and I can’t wait that long!”

“I think she would throw things together in a hurry and go with you, Daniel.  She and Chris and Amy did the sorting up there after the fire, and I think she would know right where they were.  You could at least ask her if she knows where they are.”

I went back to my morning things, but noticed that he did go over and call quietly from the bottom of the stairs.  I heard them converse for a  bit and then he left, and Deborah came down to the  kitchen to help out with morning things.  She worked at ironing the linens for the communion table, talked to Audrey, and did any of a number of helpful things for me.

I got lunch into the oven and kept thinking about OGA, stewing in her room over the music.  I finally went in.

“Audrey, I am going to turn your music on, but I am closing the doors.”

She made little response except to acknowledge that she heard me and to act like it was about time I saw the light.  She said she didn’t care if I closed the doors.  And I did.  I did not slam them, but It was a pretty firm closure.

I went out to the kitchen to finish class and communion preparation.  Our lesson this morning was from the parable of the yeast.  How the Kingdom of Heaven is like the measures of leaven that the woman put into the dough and how it grew and grew and grew.  I had been looking forward to this lesson for some time.  I love working with yeast products, and it fell on communion Sunday, and there was this simple recipe for making bread in my teacher’s manual.  I had made arrangements to use the bread from the lesson for the communion celebration. I had made a batch ahead of time, and wasn’t very impressed with how it turned out.  However, it held promise, and I knew instinctively of some things that I could do to make it better.  It was imperative, though, that I make a batch ahead of time that would be for our communion service this morning, and then the children would make a batch in class that would be theirs to take home.  I stood at my kitchen counter and thought that it just wasn’t such a great idea.

“I don’t know about this,” I said to myself.  “I’m thinking that this is going to be  a hot mess.   The Sunday school room isn’t all that big.  There will be flour and water and who knows what else on the floor before I’m done and the kids will be dirty.  If I make this first batch at home and take it in, it’s liable not to turn out if I’m moving it around while it’s rising.  And how am I going to liken the Kingdom of Heaven to baking bread, anyhow?   Besides, what does the “Kingdom of Heaven” mean to these kids?  I am not sure they really are understanding what this is trying to say.  And I am using yeast when it should be unleavened bread.  And I don’t know how to make yeast bread out of Gluten-free flour, so what am I trying to do?  Someone is likely to feel left out or rejected or not part of the body.  This just feels like such a mess!”

I looked at my ingredients and kept plugging away.  Partly because I didn’t know what else to do.  Partly because I had promised the children.  Partly because it was too late to try to do something else.

And then, at the edge of my conscious thought, came that familiar nudging.  “It just might be a mess.  It might not turn out right.  But think about this.  The crucifixion, to borrow your vernacular, was a hot mess.  There was nothing predictable, easy, clean or orderly about it.  It was messy.  It was awful.  It was anything but nice. Somewhere, you’ve gotten this idea that communion has to be perfect, aesthetically pleasing, tasting just right, looking just right and unoffensive to anyone — particularly you!  That’s not how it was . . .you need to let this go.  Think of why you wanted to do this in the first place and remember that ‘nice and easy’ and ‘discipleship’ are not synonymous.”

It was a thoughtful Delaware Grammy that finished mixing up the bread, and got ready for church.  Certain Man found the cup holders and got home in plenty of time,  He loaded the van with the communion supplies, Sunday school supplies, checked to make sure everything was packed that was needed.  He was his usual pleasant and kind self.  Middle Daughter helped and encouraged and the rest of the morning went quietly along.

And things went well at church, too.  The Three Littles were their usual exuberant selves, and participated heartily and happily and even shared with each other. The bread baked beautifully golden and smelled wonderful, and the Kingdom of Heaven was talked about repeatedly as we mixed yeast, watched bread rise and repeatedly checked the baking process.  What a special time we had together.  How I love these three little people.  They make me laugh and they teach me things about human nature, and they cause me to dream dreams about what they will be someday and how they might change the world.  And they compel me to pray for them by the newness of their raw materials, the light of Heaven in their eyes and the prospect of the world that they will live in.  Charis, Katie and Judah:  You cannot imagine how much Jesus loves you.  How I pray that you catch just a glimpse of what you can do in this old world for Jesus’ sake.

And then our communion service was sweet and celebratory and the church family was so kind.  Not a single murmuring word against the leaven or the gluten.  We remembered our Lord’s death and celebrated the sacrifice that was made for us.  We celebrated our church family, and the love that holds us together, causes us to overlook the irritations, and even hears honest confessions of repentant hearts with reassurance and encouragement.

For this and so much more, my heart gives grateful praise

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