Counting Noses--The Sweet Smell of Children

Counting Noses 
by Cindy Carlson

It was 6:30 on Wednesday evening. I looked out on sixteen expectant young faces and began.

“Tonight our devotions will be about . . .”

Sixteen hands shot into the air.


“You forgot to ring the bell!”

“But you’re all here already. I ring the bell to let you know it’s time to come in and sit down. But you’re already sitting down.”

A disappointed-looking fourth grader raised her hand. “Couldn’t you just ring the bell anyway?”

“I guess so.”

I reached into the piano bench for my old-fashioned school bell and gave it a clang. I grinned as I saw sixteen satisfied smiles.

“Okay. Tonight our devotions will be about . . .”

A few weeks ago, inspired by a magazine article about the human eye, I had presented devotions about how the eye is a testament to God’s creation. I had included Bible verses about eyes and asked for suggestions on how we can use our eyes to honor God or dishonor God.

The following week, I used the same format for the ear. On a roll, succeeding devotions had been about the tongue, the feet, the hands, and the hair (Samson, Absalom, bald Elisha, and of course the wonderful verse about God numbering our hairs).

A few children had asked me when we were going to do the nose, some innocently, and some impishly, suspecting the Bible was silent on the nose.

“Tonight our devotions will be about the nose!”

Faces lit up.

“I will share five different Bible passages about noses. The first one happens to be in the first book of the Bible. Genesis 2:7 says, “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”

A fifth grade hand went into the air.

“Did you know that the dust under your bed is actually someone’s dead skin?”

A couple of first graders in the front row looked aghast.

“Well, yes, that’s true. Our skin cells do get dry and fall off and gather as dust. But the point of this verse is that God breathed the first breath of life into Adam’s nostrils and he became a living being. Now the second verse about the nose is also in the book of Genesis, in the 27th chapter. It is the story of twins. Do any of you know twins?”

I know better than to ask a question like this. Nearly every hand went up. After listening to several twin stories, I went on. “These twins were grown men, and their father was very old and could no longer see very well.”

“Were they identical twins?” A curious fourth grader wanted to know.

“No, they weren’t. The Bible tells us that one of them had lots of hair on his arms and the other one had hardly any hair on his arms. One day, the father called for his firstborn son to come and receive a blessing. Now, remember they were twins, so they were both born on the same day.”

“I know how to tell which twin is the oldest,” came a comment from the back row. “The twin who comes out first is the oldest.”

“That’s right,” I went on, “And in this case, the twin with the hairy arms was the oldest.”

A third grade hand went up. “Well! My dad is a twin, and he was the second one to come out, but he does have hairy arms.”

“Well, in this story, the younger twin wanted the blessing from his father, so he pretended to be the older twin. He put some animal skin on his arms, so they would feel hairy when his blind father touched him. But the father wanted more proof that he was the right twin, so the Bible says he used his nose and smelled the twin. You see, each twin had his own special smell. But this dishonest twin had thought ahead and rubbed animal skins on himself so that he would smell like his brother, who loved to be outside hunting animals. Excuse me, but what are you girls doing with that shoe?”
A giggling third grader responded. “Well, you said that each twin had his own special smell, so I was letting the other girls smell my shoe, because it has my own special smell.”
“I’m sure it does, but you need to put your shoe back on now so that we can finish our devotions. The third Bible verse about noses is. . .” 

A hand went up in the back row. “I think you should say that the dishonest twin’s mother was the one who told her son to lie. That’s part of the story.”

“You are absolutely right. There are many more details to this story, and maybe we’ll come back to it on another day. But let’s go on to the next verse about noses. In Psalm 115:3-7, we read about idols, or statues, that people made. These statues were made by human hands out of wood or stone, but some people thought they were real gods. “Our God is in Heaven. He does whatever pleases Him. But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak; eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear; noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but they cannot feel; feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a single sound with their throats.”

Apparently no one felt the need to comment on this passage, so I plowed on ahead.

“Here is a verse from the New Testament. In Second Corinthians 2:14, we read, “Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To one, a fragrance of life – to one, a fragrance of death.” So you see, we Christians are supposed to be like a sweet smell to all those around us, so that they will want to know about Jesus.”

A somewhat mischievous hand was raised. “If skunks read the Bible, they should read that verse.”

Uproarious laughter.

“That is a funny thought, isn’t it? But that leads right into my final verse about noses. In Psalm 150 it says, ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!’ That includes people and animals too, because they all breathe through their noses. Did you ever stop to think that animal and bird sounds are like praises to God?”

“Well, not rabbits, because rabbits don’t make any sounds.”

“Oh yes, they do. My rabbit screamed once.”

“I don’t think so. We have a rabbit, and she has never screamed.”

“Well, my rabbit got really scared once, and he screamed.”

A newcomer timidly raised her hand. “Who wrote the Bible anyway?”

The older children exchanged knowing looks. I responded, “God told some men and women what to write, and they wrote down everything God said, and that became the Bible.”

My little seeker let that sink in.

“Let’s pray now before we go to our classes. Dear Jesus, Thank you for the Bible. And thank you for giving us noses, so that we can breathe and smell. Please let all of us be like sweet smells to all those around us, so that they will want to know You. Amen.”

As the children skipped off to their classes, I sank down on the piano bench, inhaling deeply of the beautiful sweet smell of God’s children.
copyright Cindy Carlson, 2012

Cindy Carlson has been smiling (and smelling) through 32 years of involvement with the Children’s Ministry at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Rochester, Minnesota, leading music, drama, and Bible classes. She also teaches music to developmentally disabled adults and tries to keep up with an energetic husband, three sons, and two grandsons. Quilting and writing about her family are favorite pastimes.

Note: I met Cindy over 30 years ago when my husband was stationed in Mainz, Germany with the Army and Cindy's husband was working with IBM in Mainz. She is a special lady and a dear friend. Gail 

January 2012


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