Offering Our Bodies

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-2-50-26-pmOne of the more hedonistic reasons I teach Sunday school (and am studying to become a teacher) is the pure entertainment value of being around kids.

This morning at church, while taking up the offering the kids had brought to Sunday school, one little boy without anything to put into the jar called out, “I am an offering!” All the leaders laughed and then smiled at one another because he’s right.

In the bible we read that after David acted out as an adulterer with Bathsheba and murderer of her husband Uriah (the bible = the original soap opera), David wrote Psalm 51 as a way of repentance:

You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
    You do not want a burnt offering.
 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
    You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

And later in the New Testament, the apostle Paul elaborates on this concept when he writes in Romans 12: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Long ago, the Israelites worshipped God by providing “burnt offerings” of slaughtered animals, but under our New Covenant in light of Jesus’ sacrifice, we walk out our days as “living sacrifices” when we die to our selfish, sinful natures and choose to live righteously.

We’ve been learning about God being our Provider, so at the end of our lesson, all of my girls were given a sheet of paper where they could write or draw something they are struggling to trust God to provide. Over half of my group simply wrote the word, “Nothing.”

It must be nice to be seven.

Authentically Aurora

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Faith Like a Child

Rainbow Scratch Paper 2The weak are actually the strong. The foolishness of the world is used to shame the wise. We die to ourselves so that we may truly live. Those who wish to be greatest must humble themselves and become least; servant to all. When our eyes are opened, we see all of the so-called truths of this world turned on their heads. And I continue to learn from little children.

In the new year, I have continued volunteering in the children’s ministry at my church. I teach Sunday school to 1st and 2nd grade girls most weeks now, and I absolutely love it. These girls are so sweet and kind; innocent and affectionate. They constantly surprise me with the adorable things they say, and every week, God uses them to soften my heart.

A few weeks ago, we did a craft using rainbow scratch off paper, where the girls used scratching sticks to write their names or draw pictures, scraping away the black upper layer and revealing the colors hidden beneath it. I didn’t have enough scratching sticks for all of the girls, so I dug around in my wallet for some coins they could use for the scratch-offs.

I handed out a couple of pennies, a few dimes, and finally, a quarter to my sweet little Mia, who waited until last to receive her coin. When she saw that it was the last quarter in my wallet, she asked me, “Miss Aurora, is this your last quarter?”

“Yes, Mia, it is.”

Her eyes widened. “Like… your last quarter EVER?”

I smiled. “No, just the last quarter I have in my wallet right now.”

“Oh.” She looked down at the shiny coin in her hand before glancing up at me shyly. “So… when I’m finished with it, I should give the quarter back to you?”

I patted her on the shoulder. “If you want to. Or you can keep it.”

I watched Mia move the quarter around in her hands, feeling it; thinking about it. Then she looked up at me through long eyelashes. “What do you think I should do?”

I hadn’t planned to say it, but the Holy Spirit gave me the words to speak. “What do you think God would want you to do?”

Mia pursed her lips, thinking hard. Then she smiled slowly as she answered, “I think God would want me to give it to people who need it more than I do.”

Wow. I was astonished by the wisdom of this six-year-old. Yes, Lord. You use the foolish things of this world to shame the wisdom of the wise. I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 

We have a small mason jar for the kids to put any donations into, so when Mia finished using the quarter to scratch her name in rainbow colors, she skipped to the front of the classroom and cheerfully dropped her quarter into the jar with an adorable little smile.

What a witness. What a beautiful testimony. What a joy these children are to me. When we serve, we are truly the ones who receive. Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap (Luke 6:38).

Authentically Aurora

Looking Down to Role Models

ArielI learn so much more from kids than I do from adults.

With adults, there are agendas and ulterior motives; insecurities, projections and complications. But children are simple. They are innocent and straight-forward. Their words and actions are not yet adulterated by societal expectations or unhealed wounds. And so I learn from them, in their simplistic, innocent view of the world.

As I have continued volunteering with the kids’ ministry at church, I am reminded how funny it is that, the more we seek to bless and serve others, the more we discover that we are ultimately the ones blessed as we pour ourselves out on others’ behalf.

A few weeks ago, I had a 10-year-old girl named Ariel in my group. She’s a beautiful African American girl – smart, bright-eyed, a good listener and fast. To drive home one of our bible stories, we played a game that required athleticism, and she won. The prize for winning was candy, but when I showed Ariel the Starburst, she declined politely. “I only like chocolate, not fruity candy.”

I wanted to give Ariel something, though, so I dug in my wallet and pulled out a shiny Sacagawea dollar – the new, golden US dollar coin. My mom is always giving me trinkets like this because she delights in the little things in life and expects that others do as well. She’s sweetly childlike that way.

All of the other kids gathered around Ariel and ooh-ed and aah-ed over her winnings. They had never seen a gold dollar coin before, and – to my mom and to elementary aged kids – its shiny surface looked magical. They took turns passing it around; it was precious and special, and Arial was admired for having this special coin.

After our game and lesson, our rag-tag group of kids joined the larger assembly for music time. While I herded the kids to our assigned green rug space, Ariel walked up to the front of the auditorium and spoke quietly to the worship leader before the music started. I saw the worship leader walk over to a jar we use for collecting offering and extend it to Ariel. We’d already taken up offering for the day, but I watched from afar as Ariel placed her precious gold dollar into the offering jar.

When she wordlessly made her way back to our rug, I asked her, “Ariel, did you tithe your gold dollar?” She looked up at me with a unique combination of poise, innocence, joy and wisdom. “Yes. I wanted to give it back to God.”

I was astonished. What a gem of a young woman. How many adults would have responded that way? How many adults do respond that way? The more we have, the greedier we get. If we have something shiny that draws the admiration of others, we are not going to part with it – certainly not willingly! But Ariel displayed a selflessness, generosity, faith and devotion that was inspirational. She went out of her way to give her blessings back to God.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” -1 Timothy 4:12

Authentically Aurora