Sunday, October 14, 2018

Pumpkin Time

... Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this. Esther 4:14

The world celebrates with witches and ghosts and worse if there is such a thing. We either join in or try to change the tone to something less evil (let's call it like it is). But is there a way to be in this world and help our children not be of this world? If you homeschool, the answer is yes, but if, like most people, your child attends a public school, it becomes ever more difficult to be separate from the world. I teach in a public school because God has opened that door of witness for me. The fall is a difficult time of year for Christian teachers and students because we are bombarded with Halloween. Though jack-o-lanterns have a less than perfect history, they are one thing I can use to create a positive situation. I center my unit on fall farm with pumpkins as the highlighted crop. Of course, Old MacDonald gets his place with the animals as well. We get to learn about the night, moon phases, constellations, and nocturnal animals. You know, bats and owls. All of these things, pumpkins, animals, bats, owls, moon, even chilly weather are all part of God's creation and need teaching in a positive way. In my classroom, The Five Little Pumpkins don't say "there are witches in the air". I take the liberty to change the words to "there's a chill in the air". See, it goes right along with fall, not ghouls. 

The day the school celebrates Halloween, we carve a pumpkin. We measure the height and the circumference before we slice into it. When the pumpkin is opened, my pre-K class does all the yucky faces about the "guts". So. I allow each child to reach in and take out the yucky stuff. They then have to count the seeds. The students choose the shapes we will use to carve the face but we discuss the smile; scary, sad, happy, funny. Here is where we discuss that the pumpkin is like us. Is there yucky stuff in us? Does it make us happy or sad? Are we sometimes angry? How do our feelings affect others? If we take the yucky stuff out and replace it with good things, how do we feel? Do we smile or frown? Are we happy or sad? 

Our conclusion is that when we take out the yucky stuff inside of us, then we smile. Our pumpkin gets a smile as well. We add a candle to our jack-o-lantern because just like us when the yucky stuff is out, our lights shine in our eyes and in our smile. Scholastic has a version of This Little Light of Mine that works well in my secular situation. It shows a girl who helps, takes turns, and shares. Isn't this the way Christians first begin to show others that Jesus has taken out our yucky stuff and replaced it with His Light? Do not our actions speak far louder than our words? 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Hey Kids:
If you carved a pumpkin, I doubt you hid it under a bushel. You probably set it out on the porch or by a haystack or scarecrow. You probably lit a candle for all your neighbors to see. Do you think your neighbors smiled when they saw your pumpkin all lit up? 

Think about ways you can demonstrate Jesus' light. Can you be a helper at school and home and at play with your friends? Can you take turns with your siblings and friends? Can you share your toys with others? You may want to keep a journal of drawings and/or writings of how you felt and how others felt when you let your light shine. 

If I sneaked a peek at your journal, I would probably see a lot of happy faces and stories. Would you allow us the privilege to see a few ways you lighted your world by posting a picture or story?


Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Innocent for the Guilty

The boy's stomach growled. Several of the boys looked his way. Most just looked straight ahead.

When the teacher dismissed the students for lunch, the boy watched as Big Jim left his lunchpail by the steps to play ball. The boy knew stealing was wrong. He also knew Big Jim could squash him in a minute if he got caught. His stomach growled again. Surely it was worth the risk. Besides if Big Jim was hungry he would eat and not play ball. Just this once, no one would know. He grabbed a ham biscuit and scooted behind the school where no one would see.

When Jim came back for lunch, he was surprised there was nothing in his pail. No one ever dared to steal anything at school. Teacher would use that big stick in the corner and whoop a boy good if he was caught stealing. The teacher spied Jim's look of surprise.

"Ma must have forgotten to pack my lunch pail," Jim replied. The teacher rang the bell for the students to resume class.

"Now," said the teacher in a stern voice, "who took Jim's lunch today?"  No one answered. They only looked around the room for the guilty child.

"I took it, sir. I didn't have any lunch and I was powerful hungry, " answered the boy.

"Step up here," replied the teacher as he reached for the stick in the corner.

"Wait." Big Jim jumped from his seat and ran to the front, standing between the boy and the teacher. "Sir, he's awful small to take a whooping. You see how scrawny he is. I know you got to punish someone for the deed so's no one else tries the same, but could you whoop me instead?"

"Yes son, I can." The teacher motioned the boy back to his seat. With tears streaming down his face he gave the licks to Big Jim.

"Can you fix an extra biscuit every day for a friend so he doesn't get a whooping?" Jim asked his ma that evening.

From then on, Big Jim and the boy ate lunch together. The teacher didn't need to use the stick again.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9

This is the story the preacher told the night I confessed my sins and took Jesus as my Savior. He's taken care of me ever since. This is my modern day parable. Yes, it's just historical fiction but it worked to touch my heart.

Hey Kids: 

Last week I wrote about Jesus' story of the wise man who built his house upon the Rock. It was a parable the people of the first century understood. With all the floods and hurricanes, it may be one that you understand as well.

Do you have a parable you can share with a friend or family that could make a difference in their life? Ask Jesus what He'd like you to share. We would love for you to share your stories with us.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

The House Upon the Rock

He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. Luke 6:48

Remember that Sunday School song about "the wise man built his house upon the rock"? This year has been quite a reminder with all the rain and mudslides, hurricanes, and floods here in the Carolinas. It brings another song to my mind as well, "All other ground is sinking sand". It's hard to control where our houses are built and how the foundations are laid but houses can be replaced. Our souls are eternal and must be "built on Jesus blood and righteousness." Jesus is the Rock on which our lives must be built. 

Jesus used many visuals from the world around him. He told about sheep, fishing, seeds, and fields. Paul preached about the altar to the unknown god. John Bunyan wrote about cities and a dungeon. What visuals can you find around us that will help others understand the importance of a life given over to Christ or the destruction of a life built by its own means? 

Hey Kids:

How can you help others understand that a life for Christ is better than a life for self? 

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

How can we relate technology to the gospel? 
What do you notice in nature that can be an analogy for the gospel?
Can we relate school to Jesus' message of forgiveness and salvation? 
If you have already made your decision to follow Jesus, what touched your heart to seek His forgiveness and salvation? 

I've got a school lunch story for my analogy. Won't you share your story and stick around to find out more about mine? 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Apples Make a Church

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. Acts 2:41 KJV

 Here in the Carolinas, the apples are in, so apple butter is in the making. It's really quite simple when you have the right tools. I use a crank apple peeler. I can crank out a 1/2 bushel of apples in about an hour. Try hand peeling that many and see how long it takes. And I have a large turkey roaster that holds my apples. It will cook a 1/2 bushel of apples into apple butter while I sleep. The next day, all I need to do is put it in the jars. The apple peeler will take out the core, peel the apple and slice it into rings all at the same time. I use a large variety of apples so the mixture brings out the best apple flavors. Winesaps and Cameos are my favorites. I also added Mutsu, Golden Delicious, Fuji, and maybe a Gala or two. Add a little apple pie spice and sugar, a few splashes of apple cider and the apples have a new purpose, the makings of great homemade apple butter.

I was thinking about how we tell the kids about the salvation transformation with pumpkins, taking out the yucky stuff and putting the light inside to shine through the smiling face. That put me to thinking about apple butter and the church. Apples have a core with the seeds. The seeds contain a cyanide compound. It won't hurt us to eat the seeds. A person would have to eat a tremendous amount to cause harm but our mothers told us apple seeds were poison. We take out the core before we make apple butter.

We have a core that has to be removed before we can become a Christian. That core will kill us if left inside. You know I'm talking about our sinful heart. We have to allow Jesus to cleanse us of our sins if we want to be saved. That's the first step in becoming part of a church. Just as a rotten apple would spoil the whole batch so an unsaved person will spoil the witness of the whole church.

The appearance of an apple has to change before it becomes apple butter. The peel has to be removed. To leave it on would add a tough consistency to the butter.  It has to become soft, sweetened and spiced to have the right smell and taste. It needs to be cooked on low for several hours to get the tenderness and consistency needed to create great butter.

What do you think we might need to be a great church? With salvation, our tough exterior will come off. We become the tender-hearted, loving person that desires to be like Jesus. We become part of a church where we can become that sweet odor of God to the world. Our lives are spiced with the truth of God's word. We are warmed to the things of God. We mix with others who may be of other races and cultures to create a wonderful mix that is able to reach out to a lost world, telling them, once, we too were lost but now we're saved. Once, we too were tough guys who didn't need help. Once, our attitudes stunk, but with Jesus, we have a new life and a new attitude and a new purpose.

Apple butter is the best a mix of apples can be. Just put it on a little homemade bread and see how delectable it is. Apple butter on a foundation of homemade bread, that's another analogy in the making. Got it? The church on our foundation, Jesus Christ the Bread of Life.

Be the church sitting strong on our Foundation, Jesus Christ, to a lost world who is searching for truth and purpose.


Hey Kids
Apple butter can be as easy as pie. If mom has an apple peeler ask if you can help crank. 
Wash and peel about 12 apples.
If you don't have an apple peeler, have an adult peel the apples. 
Slice the apples into small pieces with a plastic picnic knife. 
Place the apples in a crock pot.
Add about 1 cup of apple cider, juice or water.
Add 2 cups of sugar (optional)
Stir in 2 1/2 tsp of apple pie spice.
Place the lid on the crock pot and turn on low overnight. Stir once in a while, especially in the morning until the apples have cooked down to the consistency you desire.
Sterilize 4-6 jelly glasses (1/2 pint jars)
Spoon apple butter into glasses.
Bring to a boil in a water bath and boil 5 minutes.
If you don't have a water bath, place several table knives in the bottom of a large pot. Place the jars on top of the knives so they don't touch the bottom of the pot. Cover with water and boil the same way as with a water bath.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Watch the Bread

Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. Matthew 13:33

Making bread is one of my favorite kitchen activities. When we make bread we have to bloom the yeast, mix and knead, rise and roll, finally we cook and eat. Making yeast bread is time consuming. It also gives the baker a work out without a gym fee!

I think watching the yeast raise the dough is the most fascinating part. Less than a tablespoon of little dry critters grows a quart of flour into almost a gallon of bread dough. Making bread can be tricky if the water isn't the right temperature. Hot water kills the yeast and it will not raise the dough. Cold water also prevents rising. It won't wake up the critters. The temperature of the water has to be just a little warmer than body temperature. The dough also has to be kept in a warm place to rise. 

That is just what Jesus was explaining to those listening to Him the day he told them of the woman who put yeast in three measures of flour. It's fascinating watching as God uses a few disciples, then and now, to make a difference in the world. If we are so religious we become legalistic we kill the gospel message and no one listens. If we are cold, worldly Christians, the world doesn't see we are different. We have to be consistently burning so others see a real difference in our lives. Our lives have to be that warm, happy place where we can grow in Christ. We have to show others how to grow in Christ as well. 

Making bread is hard work. Kneading the dough takes time and energy. So does working the gospel into the world. We have to work at being a consistent, insistent Christian. We can't let political correctness cool down the gospel. 

Raising the dough takes time. We have to wait for the dough to reach the right rise or the loaf will be less than satisfactory. So spreading the gospel takes time, patience, a never give up attitude. It won't happen overnight.    

When the bread comes out of the oven, ahhh, the wonderful aroma and taste. Oh, when a soul is saved, what a sweet aroma the prayer of salvation sends up to the Father. As the saying goes, "All the world looks bright since I got right." 

Our consistent witness in the world will change us, our families, our churches, our communities, our country, and our world. What a wonderful promise of peaceful satisfaction a loaf of bread brings. 


Hey Kids:

You can watch the yeast change and grow the flour as well as present an unusual loaf of great tasting bread for your table. There are many opportunities to use this bread as a witnessing tool as friends and family enjoy the bread together.
Making bread is a lot like playing with play dough. 
After mixing the recipe, kneading is folding, pushing, folding, and pushing over and over to make sure the gluten is stretchy. That's not exactly a good technical, scientific explanation, but the dough will look and feel stretchy. 
After the dough rises to double it's original size, punch it down and cut the dough in half.
Play dough time again. Roll each half into a loooong snake  of about 36 inches. 
Braid the two dough snakes and connect them into a circle. 
You might want to try tucking cored apples into the dough with a few spices. Don't cut the core all the way through so the juice doesn't ruin the bread. 
If you'd just like loaves of bread, shape the two halves into loaves and place in oiled loaf pans. 

Check bread recipes online for accurate ingredients and how long to bake at what temp. 

Or you might just ask your grandma. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Pedaling Faster

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: I Peter 3:12

My five-year-old grandson Lucas, rode his bike around and around on the paved driveway. Papa watched and smiled as he saw Lucas' skill as a biker growing. Soon he wouldn't need those training wheels. 

We can only guess what goes on in the mind of a five-year-old. Suddenly Lucas turned the bike off the pavement and down the terraced yard toward the garden he pedaled. Faster and faster until he jumped the huge terrace at the top of the garden. It was a Yee-haw moment. Then the crash landing. The bike lay on top of Lucas. I was the first to the scene as I was in the garden. I could see the bone as I lifted the bike. 

Papa gently lifted him and headed for the house. I ran to grab a cold pack to keep the swelling down. We laid Lucas on the couch and placed the cold pack on the arm before he could see the bone. "Gammaw, you gotta fix my arm." There were no tears, only the brave pleas of a little boy in pain. 

The Lord constantly watches over us. He proudly watches us grow in Him. Then we suddenly turn away and fly off into the lures of the world's excitement. Like Lucas, there's always some sort of crash landing. There we lay, praying for God to do something about our brokenness. 

I couldn't fix Lucas' broken arm. All we could do was call his mom and dad to take him to the hospital. The prayers of the surgeon and the family brought success in the surgery and in time, healing to the broken arm. God doesn't immediately heal our brokenness, but he knows how to hear our prayers and bind up our wounds. In time we will be well and hopefully wiser than we were before.

Hey Kids:

Daredevil moments are part of growing up, but considering the consequences is a sign of maturity. 

When we asked Lucas what he did when Papa called out to come back, he answered, "I pedaled faster." We all laughed at his little kid answer. However, it did show there was no remorse for his actions that scared us all half to death! Maybe we should keep a close watch on this little risk-taker. 

Do you have a story about the day you . . . ?
Would you do it again? Why or why not? 

What lessons is the Lord trying to teach you through consequences?

Hey Parents:
Maybe you have some stories to share as well. 
Let your little ones know you weren't/aren't perfect either. 
A good laugh at immature actions could produce better outcomes for our own children.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Following the Recipe

You will again obey the Lord and follow all his commands I am giving you today. Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, Deuteronomy 30:8-9 NIV

This week we made playdough with our little ones. We were learning skills in measuring and following a recipe. We couldn't just use a 1 cup scoop and not fill it to the top. We couldn't substitute ingredients. We wouldn't put a cup of salt in a cookie recipe. Nor would we put a cup of sugar in a playdough recipe. Things just wouldn't turn out right. We had to follow the recipe "rules" to get a good outcome. 

As adults, we think nothing of following a recipe, but rules are a little trickier. Even as children we tend to be rule breakers. Rules, like recipes, are given to us for our best outcome. God's rules will keep us healthy and happy both physically and mentally even when we are in the midst of life's storms. Where can you find God's recipe for life? David declared he had hidden God's Word in his heart that he might not sin against God (Psalms 119:11). David knew following God would give his life the best outcome. 

Following God's recipe, rules, plan, whatever way you want to phrase it, still applies today. What other "rules" have you found in God's word that you are diligently following?  

Hey Kids:

Got a favorite recipe? Have you messed up a recipe? 
A friend of mine mistakenly put oil of cloves instead of vanilla in a banana pudding and invited the preacher to have some. Wonder if he followed the rule of being truthful? 

Please share your thoughts and recipes with us. We enjoy hearing from you.

Here's my school's no cook playdough recipe.

1 cup of salt
3 cups of flour
2Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup of water
2 tsp of oil
1 Tbsp of food coloring

Mix the dry ingredients and pour into the wet. Stir together then knead.