Yesterday in the Tru curriculum we explored the story of the judge Ehud who was an unlikely hero, due to his being left handed. I love stories that appeal to the boys, and this is a lesser known story that I knew would be new to most of them. However my search to find a coloring or activity sheet that the kids could do during our first service resulted in 0 material. Hmmm, very interesting that no one has made a coloring sheet about this story yet. Do people think it is too gruesome for kids? Yet the kids sure loved hearing the weird grossness of this story. I wish my drawing skills were better.
Anyway, I thought up a fun activity for the kids to do instead of a coloring page (coloring pages get old when used too often anyway). The craft ended up being a huge hit with the girls AND boys. I've never seen the craft station so full during the free time between services. I had to spread out the supplies to another table so that more kids could get in on the fun. Not only did the kids create swords, but the little boys also created pretty awesome mini spears and daggers. The little girls also used their creativity, veering away from the story material by creating little people and flowers with their Popsicle sticks.
For the craft I simply set out Popsicle sticks in different shapes and sizes, glue, jewel stickers, markers and electrical tape. I also made an example to inspire the kids (and because I still like to play with glue and stickers too). I really wish I would have gotten some pictures of all the fun things kids came up with, but alas I don't think of things like that on a Sunday morning.
Being such tiny swords, I didn't have to worry about the kids engaging in play sword fights, because even a plastic toy swords does more damage than these little things.
Wait, I just found that I did accidentally get few of the kid's creations in some pictures. I was taking pictures of small groups to send with their Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, and I love seeing kid's creativity and uniqueness expressed in the things they make.
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 read this prayer on our prayer wall in Sontown today, so I asked Hope’s older sister if their cat got lost recently. Her sister explained that her Dad had to give the cat away this last week. That made me kind of sad as I nodded with empathy and thought “too bad the cat isn't just lost so that it can be found again. How sad that such a sweet prayer can’t be answered” and I prayed that God would help her to understand why.
In the car on the way home Hope’s prayer came back to my mind, and once again it made me sad. Then God spoke to my heart in a way that brought tears to my eyes and convicted me in the loving, gentle powerful way that only he can. If it could be put exactly into words this is what He said:
“Weren’t you just telling the kids in Sontown today about how I am bigger than the Egyptian armies and 400 years of slavery? Weren’t you just telling the kids that I am more powerful than any of their problems? Then how could I NOT be big enough to bring back Miss Kitty, regardless of the circumstances? Even if Miss Kitty were dead, have I not even conquered death?”
Wow! I stand corrected, humbled and amazed. The God, who created the universe, humbled the Pharaoh and his army and has saved my soul from the grip of sin, cares about Miss Kitty. And He can bring her back to a little girl because she asked Him. Do you think He might? I think now I will be pretty much surprised if He doesn't.
I’m not sure what the circumstances surrounding Miss Kitty being given away are, but this week I know that I will be praying that God will show a little girl that he indeed is the Lord and he is indeed more powerful than life’s circumstances, by bringing Miss Kitty home. If you read this, please pray with me.