This morning in Sontown I utilized the "shock factor" as a method of storytelling. The overwhelming fragrance of body spray/perfume permeating my hair right now was and is totally worth it to see 30+ little mouths agape as I poured said perfume from a pretty vase into David's dirty rubber flip flops. Not stopping there, I proceeded to dry them with my hair (which I first had to dislodge from a stubborn pony tail). All while I recounted Mary's lavish act of worship, the reactions of the dinner guests and Jesus' words in response.
As I started to wipe the shoes with my hair one girl questioned, "are those dirty?!" I smiled inside, knowing a new part of the story had just come alive. I truthfully answered "yes" and explained that Jesus' feet and shoes were probably even more dirty.
I set up the stage for this unexpected display by giving the kids facts about the perfume Mary used and some background into the culture. We talked about our prized possessions and how much perfume like that cost (a year's wages). This helped set the scene not only for the strangeness of what I was about to do, but how much more lavish and over the top the original actions of Mary were towards Jesus.
I can't say for sure what God did in the hearts of each of the kids. But as is often the case when I teach, the story has come alive in my own mind and imagination as I ponder the implications. To some level I can now better understand the powerful love and emotion that would have inspired such an act. Although mine was not nearly as sacrificial or outrageously inappropriate as Mary's was, it was still quite a humbling posture.
Both myself and the kids also experienced first hand the fragrance filling the room just as Luke recounted in the original story. I never realized that you could smell an act of worship! In addition as I still smell the fragrance in my hair, I realize how both Mary and Jesus probably smelled like nard for days. The memory of that lavish act lingered on long after the moment was past.
After the story, I asked my little group of kindergarteners if they thought maybe it was hard for Mary to do what she did, considering how expensive the perfume was. One little boy replied "no I don't think so. She loved Jesus so much. She loved the stuff a lot too. If she had loved the stuff more than Jesus it would have been hard, but she loved Jesus more than the stuff." Wow! I never realized that! I understood that it was a huge sacrifice, but assumed it must have hurt to do what she did. I may have even assumed that perhaps that was one of many reasons she was crying. But no, her love for Jesus was so overwhelming that the sacrifice was nothing compared to the love. I do believe this little boy understood the story better than I did.
Sometimes I wonder if God allows me to teach children not so that I can teach kids, but so that He can teach me. I learn from them, and through the process of teaching them so many amazing things about His love and what it means to love him. What a privilege it is to teach and be taught by children!
P.S. The word lavish so perfectly describes Mary's act, and is my favorite word for today. Microsoft word defines it's synonyms as: Extravagant, Profligate, Wasteful, Over-the-top, Immoderate, Unrestrained, Excessive. The antonym being frugal.
May you discover the beauty of lavish worship and the lavish worship that is unique to you! May you not only discover Jesus' lavish love for you but may you also find the beauty of loving Jesus like Mary did. A love that overshadows any pain of sacrificing dignity, wealth or prized possessions. Read two accounts of the story in John 12:1-8 and Matthew 26:6-13 and wonder with me at it all.
I said it again, the forbidden word, this and the last time are the only times I can remember being accused of using a "naughty" word. In a passionate recounting of the story of the prodigal son and how foolish the son had been I let slip "stupid..." Right there, interrupting what I perceived to be a vivid and beautiful storytelling experience a little girl piped up loud and clear "that's a bad word!"
My storytelling trance was broken as I tried to excuse my slip. As much as the word really does describe the actions of the prodigal son I knew the little girl was right in the context of children's church. Hooray to that little girl for speaking out about what her parents have taught her!
The other time this word slipped I was talking about how "stupid" sheep are. I don't remember if a little voice corrected me that time, but I do know that I cringed inside seeing some of those little eyes grow wide at the word.
Call me overly sensitive or legalistic. But I take seriously my role in these little one's lives. I know of little girls that were disappointed when I cut my hair because they were growing their hair long to match mine. I hear of little people who copy the posture of prayer I have taught for "a prayer of release" (palms raised to release distraction and accept what God has to teach) to the confusion of parents. I know that although more often I can't see it, what I say (and don't say) has an impact.
The Bible says that teacher's are held to a higher standard (James 3:1). The Bible has especially harsh things to say regarding a person who leads a child to sin (Matthew 18:6-9). The Bible also commands children to obey their parents. If by using the word "stupid" carelessly I am leading a child astray from what their parents have taught them, then will I not be held accountable if I take the conviction lightly?
So what would you do? What faux pas have you committed in teaching kids? Have you ever been called on the carpet by a child?
I know from now on I will be extra intentional to eliminate that word from my storytelling vocabulary and interactions with children in general. While I personally do not feel "stupid" is a bad word (although it will probably be discouraged as a regular piece of my someday kid's vocabulary), I will choose to die to myself in even this small way for the sake of God's beloved children whose angels see the face of our Father in heaven (Matthew 18:10).
Oriental trading company has these fun posters
where kids can write "all about" different topics and draw pictures according to some guided questions. I looked for a poster about moms for the Sontown kids to do as a mother's day gift, but only found picture frames and spinner things.
Since I have been having fun playing with Adobe Illustrator lately and my new graphics pad I decided I would go ahead make my own "All About Mom" poster for the Sontown kids, and share it with you. :-)You can download it at the bottom of this post. The poster is designed to be printed on 11x17 size paper so, but if you don't have access to that size paper or a printer that can print that size you could try it on normal letter size (8.5x11), the writing spaces will just be a little more cramped. This is what it looks like:
I would love to start creating coloring pages, but alas my drawing skills are sorely lacking and I have been incredibly disappointed with my efforts thus far. For the time being you and I will have to be satisfied with basic shapes like these.
I ran across a blog post I never posted last year. Since it is that time of year again, I thought maybe you'd enjoy it.
This is what it said:
"My heart kind sped up this week in staff meeting when the question was asked "what are we doing for Mother's day?" Mother's day! This week, already? I have been thinking about what to do for my own mom, but suddenly I realized that I really should provide some means for the Sontown kids to express love and appreciation to their mother's as well.
Thankfully my creative juices have been flowing really well as of late. I think it has something to do with more sunshine and color finally peeking through the gray. Inspired by the tissue paper pom pom/flowers
I created a while back, I made up my own variation of a tissue paper flower. This one the Sontown kids can use to decorate cute cards for their mothers. I'm rather proud of it too! I think I'm falling in love with tissue paper."
Bonus idea: Instead of having kids poke the brad through a card, try having them poke it into the eraser of some pencils to make a fun flowery bouquet.
- First print the card onto card stock. You can find the PDF download at the bottom of this post.
- Next cut some circles and flower shapes out of tissue paper in 3-5 different sizes. Some older kids could do this by themselves. Since I was working with a range of kids between K and 4th I just pre-cut the shapes.
- Then have kids assemble the flowers in their desired combinations of shapes, sizes and colors by poking the brad through the middle of the tissue paper "petals" and then through the front of the card.
Here is the PDF for a card that can go with these flowers.
Stay tuned for Mother's day Project # 2 tomorrow