Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thankful for a Great View

My daughter was in conflict.  She was eager,  she said, "dying," to get back to a church mission project at a child development center,  but not willing to ask for time from work as a swim coach, as she is the only coach comfortable with the little boy on the team who has autism.  She likes coaching him and they have made some real progress in the pool. 

That is some dilemma. 

It's something to see God at work in your kid, recognizing this is not some inherited trait, like her height (paternal) or her stubbornness (also paternal) or her tears over sad songs (maternal) or her love of ice cream (both ma and pa gene pools generously contributed). 

Nor is it the result of some whiz bang parenting trick that I read, applied and presto!  Results! 

It's her responding faithfully and actively to the grace given her by God. 

I don't count myself as naive, I think there will be moments, perhaps seasons, which lead to different blog entries. 

For now, today,  it's a glorious thing to see from the front row of life.

Friday, June 17, 2011

VBS: A Whale of a Week

VBS wrapped up yesterday with much celebration.  Day 3 had been a huge hit with a giant whale that held the whole group for discussion.  We had talked much about Jonah, but focused on chapter 1-3.  I encouraged the kids to go home and read chapter 4, letting me know what they learn.  I was thrilled at the response--why was Jonah still so angry at God's mercy to the people of Nineveh?  Answer from Rachel, age 9:  He still did not think they deserved it, and that's not loving other people.  Home run Rachel.  I have decided the only real way to study the book of Jonah is within the belly of the giant fish.

Next challenge, we as a group had to convince Peter, who looked so much like my teaching partner Jenn but with tremendous fuzzy beard, to go to Jesus and ask for forgiveness for denying him--even though that is hard,  The group's compassion and passion for all three classes just touched me. 

Typical experience, I learned much, I came away with more than I walked in with.  I blessed by 60 medium sized people who love to question and challenge but without any cynicism or sarcasm.  I was blessed by a teaching partner who brought wisdom, humor and insight into presenting each lesson.  I was blessed by "walkers" who "travel" with each group--they were helpful in practical ways but also participated with joy. 

We talked a lot about the 2 jobs we all have (purpose) to love/worship God and Jesus and to love others.  We asked ourselves what do we learn about God, about people and what are we supposed to do this this lesson after VBS?  We laughed ourselves silly over skits, costumes and props and celebrated with chocolate. 

Faith & Fun--it works well together.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

VBS: A Sacrifice Reveals A Value

Day 2 of Pandamania, old school VBS:  take one baby pool, fill it with landscape pebbles and rocks and sticks and then have the kids build an altar just like Elijah.  One student was quick to point out this is a skit, it really did not happen that way.  So, with the altar building out of the way all we needed was a bull and for fire to rain down from heaven and lick up the stones (1 Kings 16--great moment in Scripture).  Well rather than use a baby stuffed animal or poster, the clever minds at VBS suggested an extra large Hershey candy bar.  Genius!  It's not an understatement to say the kids were really upset, it bothered them to put that giant candy bar on their altar, douse it with water and wait for the sacrifice (a firefighter interrupted our event to remind us of what happened the last time Elijah did this with all of the fire and to please cease the activity in the name of safety first). 

What amused us was the passionate response to the sacrifice.  My middle schooler would describe the class reaction as a "freak out" and she would be right.  The candy, and in such large and unique quantity was valuable to them and hard to give up.  They were really bothered by it.  It was a great lesson for me, as I thought:  what's my candy bar?   What do I have trouble giving up?  Do I only sacrifice what I calculate as not that costly?  Do I get upset at giving up things I really like but are not all that valuable? 

As I considered this I was asked to help with some youth events (that greatly minister to my daughters) and my first response was, uhhhh--errrr, well don't ya know I am doing VBS and really behind in some other ministry work as a result?   My second upon reflecting from the profound Hershey lesson:  yeah sure, I will give up some time and order in my schedule to help. 

What if I take that milk chocolate wisdom into every arena, avoiding "freak outs" and present the blasted treat with joy?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

VBS: Big Story, Big Questions, Big Response

VBS launched in such a fun way.  The kids are great and the time too short.  We tried too many things and completely ran over schedule.

We read Genesis 1, the creation story and the emphasis was on how wonderfully complex God made us.  I added the idea of purpose and blessing--the reality of one's wonderfulness is leverage to motivate and encourage us to use that to honor God and serve others--in the context of being 8,9, 10.  I am also pushing the kids to think about how these truths can live on in their hearts after VBS.

My teaching partner Jen wondered if they would question the story of creation in Genesis.  I thought nah.  She was right, I was wrong (happens a lot). 

"God did not really create in a day because a day is like 1000 years to God right?"

"What about evolution"   "What about the dinosaurs?"  Then there was Jen's question:  "Why create plant life before the sun." (read the order of creation, think about it). 

So, VBS is not just for faithful cartoons, cool treats and spray bottles.  It digs up some real theological issues.  At what point do you move from just teaching kids through stories and into theology and acknowledging the questions Scripture does not answer (it's not a science or history book, it's God's word to us and there is a difference).

My answer to the kids yesterday was a quick change of direction...God is a spirit and not bound by time.  He created time and we can't imagine what that reality of being outside time is like, so we can't fully understand how this all looked.  Nice dodge, I know. 

My answer to Jenn, "I dunno."  (She is used to that).

However, creation still points to God's power and purpose and it still begs the question:  how to respond in faith, and of course fun.

Today:  Elijah and the prophets of Baal.  Baby pools, stone altars and Jenn as a firefighter.  Gonna be good.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

VBS: it's starting to look a lot like a Birthday Party


Jenn's authentic additions

Blessings from clearance rack at big box store!

The church campus looks transformed to an Asian Jungle.

My VBS classroom looks like its ready for a birthday party. 

A fun party--with subtle hints of Tiki Huts and Luau (big box store again), but not exactly the Panda/Bamboo Jungle captured in the curriculum.  It sports loads of lanterns.  Happy, clearance rack ones that I brought, like these hanging from the ceiling.  Teaching partner Jenn knew how to make ones (she home schools, so she has cooler hands on solutions to dilemmas like VBS decor). 

The whole thing makes me laugh.  It's the only week where a friend of mine asks, "Hey do you want a campfire for this week, because I know I stored one in the attic and you can have it?" 

My oldest who helped decorate pointed out that the theme was Pandamania and we don't have a single panda in the room.  She suggested I draw one but I think it would look like a glob of b/w circles.  She agreed my gifts are elsewhere.

It's a good thing the point of next week has nothing to do with the the room decor, but has every thing to do with a marriage of fun, some folly and a heaping pile of faith.  From the beginning of creation to the resurrection, we will get to laugh, sing and our way through God's grace and truth.  What a privilege.

I need to write that now, because if memory serves, by Thursday morning the kids will be fearless, realize they are at church not school and containment will come only from divine intervention.  The theme will shift from "God is Wild About You" to "You are Wild, Time to Scoot Home." 

I consider it already a great time. 



Friday, June 10, 2011

A VBS blog series

I wonder if we will ever outgrow Vacation Bible School in my house.  My kiddos now help with VBS leadership, we are all on the giving end of VBS, and  yet we gain so much.  Count me as a fan. 

I am a huge fan, even easing into the annual chore, I mean opportunity, to decorate, I mean, transform my room to an Asian jungle.

I love VBS for many reasons:  it engages the whole church;  it balances serious ministry with serious silliness; most of all it has a lasting impression on the hearts of kids (all ages and stages) who share in this unique ministry.  There is a lot of staying power in the messages, music and mayhem of VBS.  Studies show that the repetition of themes and a variety of approaches (music, drama, rec, craft and Bible study) combine to leave a permanent mark on the children and adults who share in this week. 

I am going to blog throughout the week, my observations, my oh wow and oh no and oh my and okay moments. 

Right now I am prepping.  I need to run to one more store for some paper and plastic jungle supplies, but I wanted to start with what I have learned in getting ready for day one of Pandamania from Genesis 1. 

First I discovered that when God created man in "his image" the work tselem means a replica, a likeness and resemblance.    He then blessed them--barak it means both to bless them like giving the a salute or praise them but it also means he equipped them the the capacity to be fruitful--the ability to live out his plan and purpose for them.  He sat back and said it was "very good" (m 'od) exceeding good--to a very great degree, it like God with much excitement said to the angels, , "well my my, would you look at that?"

It was new, it was exciting, it not only had God's fingerprints but it had God's likeness all over it.

That is the beginning of the story for the kids next week.  What a cool way to start a week and to start a life:  --created, with purpose, looking a bit like God and blessed with a purpose and direction.

My partner Jenn and I have plans that involve dry ice and aluminum foil and several water spray bottles and,  of course, a flashlight. Tucked into the middle of that giggle inducing chaos will be a message that I hope will be planted in some fertile ground for growing in faith.

Time to go find a paper lantern and plastic bamboo.  It's time for a summer time blessing.

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Roswell, GA
Loves to find the answers to three questions of a sound Bible study: what does it say, what does it mean, what difference does it make?