Devotion in Motion: Time to paint

14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 19:14  (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”

Well, I guess by now all of your little ones are getting back into the routine of school. This school year, Seth and I have been eating lunch each day at the elementary school next door to our career and technical campus. We love seeing the grade-schoolers each day as they eat their noontime meal.

Some things about schools haven’t changed any in the past 40 years. On the first day of school, there are still kindergarten kids who are sobbing in their school-lunch plates. Children still have to be helped when they open their first little carton of milk. Teachers still warn their students that there is going to be trouble if they try to eat their pudding before they finish their noodle-hot-dish.

There are always cardboard cutouts of apples and yellow buses on the cafeteria walls.  And, best of all, the lunchroom ladies never, ever change. They still have the same ones as they had in the 1960’s. It’s really comforting to know that in this fallen world that is full of uncertainty that there are things that are the same as they ever were.

But some of the things that have changed are rather alarming to me. A school lunch this year costs $2.25 for a student and $3.50 for an adult. My goodness! When I was in first grade, a kid could who had $2.25 could eat school lunch for 8 days (and still have enough money left over to buy an extra 3-cent carton of chocolate milk each day.)

Another major change is that all school kids in America have only about 12 minutes to each lunch.  When I was in grade school, we got a long time for lunch. We played on the playground after we finished eating. You may be thinking, “John, it just seems like it was a long time that you had back then. You remember it as being a long time because you were a little kid.” But, I know we had a long time for lunch, because I was able to walk home to eat my lunch, and then I walked back to school.  You can’t do that in 12 minutes.

(All across the United States this week, there are teachers shouting at small children: “Why aren’t you finished with your lunch?  Your 12 minutes are up!  What do you mean you haven’t gotten to go through the lunch line yet!  That’s no excuse!  Go back to the classroom!”)

But I digress….

Of all the changes in elementary schools, there is one thing that bothers me most: Not a single child has a paint box. When I was in school, a water color paint box was a required piece of personal equipment. Your teacher listed it on your beginning-of-the-year supply list, right next to the wide-ruled tablets and #2 pencils. And you actually needed a paint box, because children painted at school.

I remember a particularly dismal winter day when I was in the 2nd grade. Because it was too rainy and cold to go out for recess, our teacher said that instead we would paint. She hung a copy of a still-life painting of a bowl of fruit and told us to use that as our model. Probably mostly by accident, my painting turned out to be wonderful. I was very proud of it, and my teacher admired it and told me what a nice job I had done. I took it home with me and showed it to my family. When my grandmother passed away in 2005 at the age of 95, I found that painting in a chest of drawers in her bedroom—among her other “important things” that she had saved. It made me very happy to see it again.

So, what’s my point? I think that kids don’t have paint boxes any more because there is so much pressure on the teachers to spend every waking moment preparing their students for the end-of-the-year standardized tests. It’s a crying shame.  I’m almost 50 years old, and I have taken more standardized tests than anybody I know. I don’t remember any of them. But, I do remember my paint box, and the picture that I painted.

We are not supposed to “add to, or take away” anything from the Holy Scriptures. So, I don’t want to be blasphemous here. But when it comes to children, I’m pretty sure the Lord Jesus would like paint boxes. A lot.

Children should have happy childhoods. Your babies are precious. Some things are more important than others. Dear Lord, please help us to see all the most important things—that we can give them to the little children.

Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 26 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days he works at a public school.)  He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 20) and Seth (age 17) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the preacher’s sons liked to paint things when they were little.) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to