Is There Anything I Can Say?

Let’s face it…things have been better. Way better. Right now the coronavirus has the world in a tight grip. The good news is, yes, it will eventually have to loosen its grip. But that doesn’t help with the here and now. It doesn’t pay the bills or put food on the table for those who’ve lost their jobs. It doesn’t bring comfort for those who have loved ones who are sick or who have died from the coronavirus. It’s a scary time.

During these tumultuous times I have been praying specifically for the children. It’s been said physically they will weather this trial better than most. I don’t know if that’s true or not but I hope it is so. My prayers have been focused primarily on their peace of mind and their fears. I’m close to my grandchildren, and yet, I can’t even begin to imagine the emotional toll this is having on them.

Is there anything I can say that will make this easier for them? Probably not. Their lives have been turned upset down over an extremely short period of time. (I mean, whoever thought that even finding a package of toilet paper would be a big deal?) I can’t make this thing better for them. What I can do is allow them the freedom to express themselves. I can allow them to share their fears, their disappointments, their anger.

When they cry, “It’s not fair,” because they can’t see their friends…they’re right. It’s not fair. It’s not fair when they can’t play sports. It’s not fair when they can’t go to school. It’s not fair when they have to be confined to the backyard on a beautiful spring day. It’s not fair when their relative dies from the virus and they can’t say good-bye. It’s not fair when dad and mom lose their jobs and now they have to do without some conveniences they’ve taken for granted.

I would encourage you to allow your children to express what they’re feeling. Allow them to release the emotions which are bottled up inside. Allow them to mourn the loss of graduation celebrations, not participating in sports, not being able to play with their neighborhood friends, not getting to say good-bye to their teachers with a hug. To adults, some of these things may seem minor compared to paying bills with money they don’t have, trying to put food on the table and put toilet paper in the bathroom.

But it’s not minor to them.

There’s a fine line between all of this and having a pity-party. A pity-party isn’t going to make them feel better. However, allowing them to express themselves and release pent up emotions will probably help them in the long run. You’ve probably seen the fear in their eyes anyway. Or the sadness on their faces. Or the explosive anger over minor incidences. Or the dark bedrooms where they’ve been keeping themselves.

God is an emotional God. And since we are created in His image, we are emotional beings as well. Perhaps it’s time to take the cork out of the bottle and let our kids express what’s really going on deep within. Maybe they simply need to have their feelings validated by someone no matter how trivial it may seem. And once they do open up, don’t judge. Hug them tightly and pray with them.

 

God Set Me Up, Again

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God did it again…He set me up royally. Once in a while, He reminds me that ever since I starting calling Him Lord, I freely relinquished my life’s control to Him. (He also likes to remind me He has a keen sense of humor.) Take last night for example.

Shortly before I left home for Superbook Academy (a children’s ministry at our church), I told God this was going to be the last year I’d teach. I reasoned that at my age it was getting harder for me to keep up with the 3rd & 4th graders.

One teacher couldn’t be at church due to her public school’s parent/teacher conferences. Since her kiddos have joined our class before, I was glad to have them do it again. We had a great time and everyone enjoyed themselves. Right before we dismissed, my regular students put stickers on their charts. (Once they earn 30 stickers, they receive a super cool toy or large candy bar from the “prize closet.”)

I need to put a disclaimer here. What I’m about to share doesn’t mean I’m a better teacher than Camille. I’m not and never will be. The key factor is the lure of prizes.

Several boys from Camille’s class wanted to add their names to the chart. I explained they couldn’t since they weren’t in my class. The boys begged to join our class. (Again, it had to do with prizes, not me.) I found out several of them would be in 3rd grade next year. In the middle of their protests, I promised them I’d be their teacher and we’d put their names on the chart then.

In that moment I heard the Lord say, “Gotcha!” I’m fairly sure He chuckled too. After promising the kids they’d have an opportunity to win prizes, I think I committed myself to another year of teaching.

Even though He got me good I’m not frustrated. I know if He’s called me, He’ll give me the zip my old bones will need to hang out with these incredible kids a little longer.

Living My Childhood Dream, Almost

Buddy Barrel

I’m living my childhood dream, almost. I lived with my grandparents until I was five years old when my mother remarried. During those early years, Grandma Walls took me to church every Sunday. She said when I was four-years-old I wanted to be a missionary.

The denomination we belonged to had a program for children called Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade. (It’s still around with a slight name change – Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge.) The children took home wooden barrels (now they’re plastic) which they saved coins in. Once a month they returned the barrels to church. The money went to missions around the world.

B.G.M.C. evidently made a huge impact on my life. I wanted to be a missionary. Unfortunately, the closest I came to being one was going on a mission trip to Mexico. I did travel for four years with an evangelistic team in the 70’s called “Early Church on Wheels.” Even that didn’t fulfill my dream of impacting lives for Jesus in a foreign country.

And yet, I feel like I’m fulfilling it now. At the church we’re attending, I’m the B.G.M.C. director. How cool is that? I may not reside in a foreign country but I help support the missionaries who do. Who knows? Perhaps I can influence some of our children to become what I always dreamed of becoming.

What childhood dream did you have? Is it possible for you to pick those desires up again? If you dreamed of being a classroom teacher and you’re not, maybe you could teach Sunday School. If you longed to be a professional singer and it didn’t happen, maybe you could conduct a church or children’s choir. Did you want to be a doctor or nurse? Most folks in the medical field have compassionate hearts. Maybe you could volunteer at a nursing home or homeless shelter allowing your compassion to flow towards those who desperately need it.

I may not be living my childhood dream in the way I’d hoped but I’m living it in the way God intended. Perhaps you could too.

Out of the Mouth of Babes

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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.