Out of the Mouth of Babes

photo of a boy listening in headphones
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I love when children and teens respond to God’s presence with expressions of joy, song, dance, and shout. Every summer at Camp Lex (in Lexington, NE) there’s always a lot of praising going on. I wasn’t at Kid’s Camp but saw videos where kiddos passionately expressed their love for Jesus. However, at a couple teen camps I worked in the kitchen. For me personally, the highlight of both weeks was when during evening services, teenagers uninhibitedly worshiped Jesus.

I’m thankful that at Omaha Christian Center children are part of our worship service before they’re dismissed for Children’s Church. I’m sure Jesus is thankful too since He understands the importance of their praises.

Remember the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem? People greeted Him shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” After His grand entrance into the city, Jesus briefly visited the temple. (For the complete story read Matthew 21 and Mark 11.)

The next day, Jesus returned and became furious when he saw folks desecrating the temple. He got a little hot under the collar overturning tables and scattering money changers everywhere. But it didn’t end there. Read what happened next:

Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes, have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?”    Matthew 21: 14-16 (NKJV)

Did you notice the children’s actions? They worshiped Jesus as passionately as they did the previous day. It was one thing for their parents to cry “Hosanna!” in a large throng of people with the priests a safe distance away; however it was quite another when the children didn’t hesitate to honor Him right there in the priests’ midst.

What happened when pure praise flowed from the children’s hearts? It frustrated the enemy…those who were opposed to Jesus, the True Messiah. The chief priests hated the children’s response, and yet, they were powerless to stop them.

In Matthew 21, Jesus quoted from Psalm 8:2: Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that you may silence the enemy and the avenger.

Even now, one of the greatest spiritual weapons we have is the praises of our children and teens. Often, their sincere worship is more effective than any defense we adults might present. It has the ability to confound the opposition and silence their arguments. It also has the ability to soften the hardest of spirits opening the way for the Holy Spirit to minister.

I would encourage you to allow children to be in the sanctuary during your church’s worship service. If they’re in Children’s Church the entire service, then set aside time for them to sing and praise Jesus. Also, find ways to incorporate teens on your worship teams.

I wholeheartedly believe their praises can directly impact the spiritual dimension of your church.

Do You Need A Good Laugh?

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When I taught Kindergarten, every Friday morning was show and tell. We invited other grades to join us…and quite often they did. It was usually a highlight of the school week and the kiddos looked forward to it. They would plot all week long as to what cool stuff they could bring from home to wow all their friends. By far, the funniest show and tell item was brought by Alaina, a sweet little five-year-old. Never in a million years did I ever think she was capable of bringing such a thing.

What did she bring? I’m glad you asked. She brought a fart machine. Seriously. It made about a dozen different fart sounds. In all the years of show and tell that, by far, was the most popular toy ever brought. There is no way I can describe the awe of the other children when she demonstrated the machine. I didn’t even know such a machine existed until that momentous morning. All day long, fart sounds could be heard throughout the school.

It still puts a smile on my face every time I think about it. Hope my little story brightened your day as well.

Adaptability: When Plan A Doesn’t Work

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I’ve been teaching children since 1970 (school, Sunday School, children’s church). I should be a master teacher with wanna-be teachers sitting at my feet gleaning from my years of experience. For good reason, that’s not the case. I have a tendency to do stuff the hard way. For example, I offer you a lesson learned from the what-was-I-thinking and I-really-knew-better kind of experience.

I taught children’s church this past Sunday although it wasn’t my usual week. Since lots of folks were gone the class was smaller than normal.

Great. Small class. What can go wrong?

The answer is everything can and did go wrong. And I have no one to blame except myself.

Even though Kindergarten through 6th grades are grouped together, a lot of what I do is geared toward the older children. Fortunately, they’re extremely helpful in taking the younger ones “under their wings.” With their help, we make the wide range in ages work for us.

On Sunday, about 75% of my students were in kindergarten and first grades. I knew the lesson wouldn’t work because most of the older children were absent. Plan A was a mistake. I knew that, and yet, proceeded with it anyway.

Surprise! Surprise! (Not) The kiddos were a challenge. I knew from the start these little ones weren’t able to go where I wanted them to go. But I plodded on while chaos ensued.

Adaptability. I should’ve changed class up a bit but, instead, stubbornly clung to Plan A. There were several things I could’ve done differently; however, I simply chose the harder way. As a result, the children were miserable and I felt frustrated.

Adaptability. If I would have paused for a moment asking God for new direction, there might have been a different outcome. He’d gladly have guided me.

Adaptability. One of the first applications a teacher needs to grab a hold of. It can help them keep their sanity and bring peace into the classroom. Learn from my “do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do” method. Otherwise, you too might be in for a long day.

I Can’t Always Be Their Best Friend

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I’ve spent most of my life hanging with children. Even now, as a senior citizen, kids impact my life on a daily basis. A lot of my close friends are children and we have loads of fun together.

I enjoy being their friend. However, if I compromise my beliefs or shirk my responsibilities to them just so they’ll like me, I’m not doing them any favors. At times, I have to make tough calls knowing I’m not winning any popularity contests. Unfortunately, I’ve seen teachers who want to be liked by the children, so much so, they will forego doing the right thing.

When boundaries in a classroom (whether in academia or Sunday School) aren’t set then frustration and anger usually raise their ugly heads. I’ve seen folks put up with complete chaos because they want to be the “cool” teacher; after all, “cool” teachers don’t scold or bring discipline. The fact is learning doesn’t take place either.

Sometimes I have to bring correction to a child. Sometimes I have to give them a resounding “No!” Sometimes I have to remind the child their actions or words aren’t acceptable. It’s okay. It’s okay because these children know I want what is best for them. We’ve hung out together enough that they know my heart.

*Proverbs 3:11, 12 states, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.” God loves me enough to bring reproof. It’s for my own good and He knows it. I need to care enough to do what is best for the children too.

I learned this lesson the hard way. The first year I taught at a church school, it took almost the entire year before I gave out my first demerit. When I finally did, I felt terrible and bawled like a baby. Fortunately, the second demerit was a whole lot easier to give. As a result, it brought structure to my classroom which was desperately needed.

If I truly love these children, then there’ll be occasions when I’ll need to speak the harder things into their lives. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or that I like doing it. But it’s necessary. I want them to understand these boundaries are for their good. My desire is for them to grow into responsible adults able to function in a challenging world. I’m not doing them any favors by coddling them.

Sometimes I have to “speak the truth in love**” even when they don’t like what I have to say. I care about them enough to put forth the effort.

*(NKJV)

**Ephesians 4:15

I Have Some Devotions…

Awesome sauce…I had the privilege of writing a couple devotions in this book. The book will be available on Wednesday, July 3rd. To God be the glory. The women who were involved in this project love Jesus passionately and care about others deeply. It’s a great way to start or end your day meditating on the Word of God.

Drawing Near1

To order books:

Drawing Near 90 Day Devotional

https://www.amazon.com/dp/179757826x?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860

 

 

You Can’t Fool Kids

Here’s a simple fact: You can’t fool kids. They have the ability to see what is true. If you’re not prepared for class, they know it. If you don’t like hanging with them, they know it. If you don’t have the all the answers, don’t try to pretend that you do, because they’ll see right through you. If you’re frustrated, they will see it and jump all over your frustration making your life miserable. If you can’t accept them for who they are, they will know it and will shun you.

There’s a little guy in the preschool children’s church class who’s four years old. You wouldn’t think a little guy like that could keep things crazy busy all morning but sometimes it does get crazy busy. Don’t get me wrong. He’s a great kid and says funny things that make me laugh. He’s a little reluctant to hang with me, though. It didn’t take long for him to figure out I like things well structured with a tight schedule. His busy, can’t-sit-still-too-long way of doing things and my tight schedule don’t mix very well.

He also knows I’m trying to change him and that my teaching comes with conditions. It’s like he’s a rectanglar peg that I’m trying to pound into my circular hole of teaching.

But he loves my husband, Mike. And my husband really likes this little guy. And this little guy knows it. He’s always asking my husband, “Can I go to your house today? I want to go to your house. Let’s go to your house.”

It helps that Mike’s teaching style usually involves him lying on the floor having the kids crawl all over him. He still manages to get the lesson across, minus the well structured class with the tight schedule. And he never tries to change this little guy’s personality. He may have to occasionally discipline him, but there’s still an acceptance of Mike liking him no matter what the boy does.

You can’t fool kids, especially this one. He knows I’m going to attempt to change him and squeeze his rectangular personality into my round peg. My husband has learned something I’m still trying to figure out…one size teaching doesn’t fit all just like one size learning doesn’t fit all. AND IT’S OKAY FOR THERE TO BE DIFFERENT WAYS OF DOING IT. Fortunately, Mike’s way of handling things is just right for him and the preschool class as a whole.

I think both these guys have something to teach this round peg.

 

 

Well, That Was Downright Embarrassing!

I can’t believe I’m sharing this embarrassing moment with you but it does bring glory to God so, yeah, I’ll share it. Last night at Superbook Academy (children’s outreach program at church), we had some visitors and three of them would be in my class. Whoo-hoo! I was excited.

We always start out with a group session with all the children together. I was sharing something with the group and told them that I was 66 years old (it went with the story, like okay?). One of the visiting girls exclaimed, “Sixty-six? I thought you were like 86 years old.” Waaaaaaaaaaah! Of course, my first thought was to go find a hole and crawl into it.

And then it actually went downhill from there. The three visitors were friends (two girls, one boy) and once they realized they were going to be in my class all three were noticeably disappointed. None of them were thrilled. On the way down the stairs to class, the same girl said, “Oh man! We got the old, ugly one.” Waaaaaaaaaaah! I was ready to throw in the towel thinking, “She’s right…I’m way too old [and evidently too ugly] to be doing this.” The odds of us having a good time weren’t great. It was obvious they didn’t want to be in my class and I certainly didn’t want to be there either since I was too busy licking my wounds.

But God…I’ve said it many times before and will say it again that “But God” is one of my favorite phrases…had other plans. We had a wonderful night laughing, playing games, laughing some more and getting into the Word of God. Arts and crafts were a HUGE mess but a HUGE success as well. I don’t get any of the credit because the last thing I wanted was to be in the same classroom with that little she-devil and her little imps. Despite all the negativity, God showed up in a remarkable way. By the end of the class all three of the visitors excitedly told me that they couldn’t wait to come back next week. I love how God took an ugly situation and turned it around into something beautiful. To God be the glory. God is Good. Always.

Reese’s Pieces

I love how God sets us up sometimes even when we don’t realize He’s doing it. That’s what happened to me yesterday during Children’s Church.

My family has been dealing with a crisis situation for the past seven weeks (see lolliehofer.blogspot.com for the full story) and life has become much busier than normal. This past weekend was especially hectic. By the time I got to church yesterday morning I was totally exhausted from the craziness of the weekend.

It was Mission’s Sunday using a program called Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge and our emphasis was on Fiji. The children give a special offering for the focused country and I always provide a little reward for them…this time boxes of Reese’s Pieces. However, once the children were settled into their seats, fatigue hit me so hard I had a difficult time even standing. The children were surprised when they heard me say, “Hey! Let’s each grab a box of Reese’s Pieces and head outside. I don’t think God will mind one bit if we just sit around eating Reese’s Pieces for a while.” And that’s exactly what we did.

We went out one of the back doors to a stoop of steps. Sitting on the steps, we ate our candy and talked about absolutely nothing of importance for about fifteen minutes. The children loved it. While hanging out on the back stoop, a couple of the neighborhood kids showed up on their bikes. I knew Kyle and Tessa because they come to our Wednesday night neighborhood outreach, “Superbook Academy.” I told my grandson, Micah, to go to the classroom and get boxes of candy for them as well. The church kiddos did a great job of including Kyle and Tessa in our discussion about absolutely nothing of importance.

When it was time to go back in and actually learn something about Fiji, Kyle and Tessa asked if they could join us. Since they both lived close to the church, I told them to run home and ask for parental permission. Within five minutes they were both back and joined us for the rest of Children’s Church learning about missions around the world and particularly in Fiji.

What I loved was that a missionary outreach took place right in our church’s backyard. Even though both of the children attended regularly on Wednesday nights, we were able to open the way for them to attend on Sunday mornings as well. I know they enjoyed themselves and plan on returning.

Don’t you love it when God sets you up like that? We thought it was about playing hooky and eating Reese’s Pieces. God had something even better in mind.

 

Kids Are Fairly Smart Human Beings

After teaching in many different capacities (Children’s Church, Sunday School, Christian School Teacher, Friends & Heroes, etc) for some 47 years, I have learned one extremely important fact. Kids are fairly smart human beings. I’ve come to realize it’s wise to listen to what they’re saying once in a while. When I do listen to them I’m sure to experience something new. Case in point…

Several years ago we were using two dog puppets, Suzi and Ruff,  as part of our Children’s Church curriculum. Every Sunday we would use the dogs to bring life application to a Biblical truth we were studying and just about every Sunday the children would ask if the dogs were boyfriend and girlfriend.

Every week they would get the same answer, “No.” One week in particular when I said, “No!” the children wanted to know why the answer was always no. “Why can’t they be boyfriend and girlfriend?” “Is there a law that says dogs can’t have boyfriends and girlfriends?” “My grandma said her dog has a boyfriend that lives across the street from her house.”

I finally talked with my Children’s Church staff and asked them the same thing. We decided that these fairly smart human beings were onto something. We started allowing the two dogs to express interest in each other and made it obvious that there was a “like” connection. I did make it clear to my puppeteers (teenagers) that there was to be no amorous affection displayed. Even when we announced they were officially “courting” each other, there was very little display of affection. We wanted it to be about them getting to know each other and not about kisses and hugs.

It was fun to watch them grow more in like as they pursued a relationship with each other and with Jesus. The children absolutely went ballistic the week we announced Ruff’s and Suzi’s engagement. Even then there wasn’t a whole lot of physical attraction displayed but it was apparent by their words and actions they were very much in love.

When their wedding day arrived we decorated the Children’s Church room like a wedding chapel. We had the children dress up in their finest clothing. There was an actual ceremony where Ruff and Suzie finally professed their love one to the other and kissed. Afterwards, we had a reception complete with wedding cake and punch.

They “registered” at Target…we had the women’s ministry make a list of needed kitchen items…and the children were encouraged to bring inexpensive gifts which could be used in the church’s kitchen. Each child opened the gift they gave to the happy couple.

We didn’t stop with the wedding. A couple months later we announced that Ruff and Suzi were going to be parents. Since Ruff and Suzi where white fluffy dogs we made five puppets out of white socks. Once we announced the birth of the puppies we then had a baby shower for them. Again, we encouraged the children to bring inexpensive gifts that could be utilized in the church’s nursery. We played games and once again finished with cake and punch.

The puppies led praise songs in Children’s Church. They learned about Jesus. They had great times bonding together. They argued just like ever other sibling. They lived lives to which the children could totally relate. We had a blast! But to be honest, it was a lot of work and so after about 7 months of friendship, courtship, marriage and puppies we had the family move away. It was a lot of work but we sure did create some great memories.

I’m thankful the Lord put something special in the heart of our children which made us think outside the normal box of learning. If I hadn’t listened to the children we wouldn’t have these incredible memories that we still reminiscence about whenever we get together.

You know, children really are smart human beings and sometimes it’s to our benefit to listen to them.

 

 

Who Am I?

I am a Christian who loves Jesus. I am also a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a Children’s Church teacher, a Friends &  Heroes teacher and a school teacher. Wait, scratch that last one. For the first time in many, many, many, many, many, many (did I mention many?) years I am not a teacher. At least not in the academic environment. I taught at a church school full-time for several years and then part-time for a few more years. During those part-time time years of teaching I babysat my three grandchildren, plus I homeschooled two of them for a couple of years. In the middle of all that craziness I found time to tutor. However, this year I am not teaching at the church school nor homeschooling the grandkids nor tutoring. For the first time in a long time I will not be hanging out with children on a daily basis. I haven’t retired from teaching (at least I don’t think so) but I won’t be teaching this year. That’s tough on a little ol’ lady who loves children and enjoys showing them the wonders this world has to offer.

I certainly didn’t lose my identity as a person by not teaching, and yet, I have to admit I feel a little lost. There’s still plenty to keep my busy…I’ll be working more hours at our auto repair shop…I had worked at the shop part-time when I was teaching anyway. I’ll still be involved in children’s church and Friends & Heroes and will eventually return to tutoring.  I will adjust to things being different but, just for today, I have to admit I feel a little sad. And that’s okay.