Thursday, June 5, 2014

Is It Really That Simple?

 I've been spending the week leading "Untamed Games" at my church's Vacation Bible School. When you are in charge of the outdoor games, it gives you a unique perspective, I think. My role is basically to be a little crazy, somewhat loud, and help the kids have a lot of fun.
At some point every day, I get to try to tie the game or games we are playing into the big idea the children hopefully have been learning in all their other stations. That means I have all of 1-2 minutes to try to get them to understand a big truth- and surprisingly most of them get it. 

On Monday, we wanted the kids to understand how God loves us and protects us, but also how we can be God's love and protection to others.

As we talked about it, the children quickly realized how easy it was to get our feelings hurt, and without much prompting gave me real ways they could love those they knew at school and other places by being their friend and inviting them to play. When we extended that each day to talking about trusting God when we don't understand, the children quickly made the connection to being loving to those who aren't nice to them. We do not understand why God wants us to do that, but we need to.

Today, the children also learned that even when we break the rules, God still loves us. And because of that, we can love those who hurt us too!

Children, from grades K-4 figure it out pretty easily. Now, I know as we get older figuring it out is a little harder. What does loving my neighbor mean when the person is across town and in poverty? How much of my stuff do I need to give away to be loving? How much of my comfort and "protection" do I need to share to be that person's Jesus? It gets a little more complicated, or does it? If these kids can figure out, why can't we?

"He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:2-3

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Why I Love Vacation Bible School

Tomorrow morning (weather permitting), I will be out on the lawn at my local church leading a bunch of children in outdoor games. We will play all sorts of wild games, eat a lot of Popsicles, and in little bits learn about the love of God. You are probably thinking I'm about to tell you why that is great for the kids and that all kids should be a part of that. If so, you would be wrong. It's not that all that isn't true (I believe that it is; it's just not why I love VBS so much.)
But this story is how God used Vacation Bible School to change me and it is not a story from my childhood. Surely, I enjoyed VBS as a child.  I still recall getting snow cones at snack time at the VBS in the church I was raised. But this story is how VBS changed me as an adult. Six years ago, I was attending church sporadically- which means mostly when my wife made me go. I had traveled a journey that had left me burnt out spiritually and skeptical of churches, church people, and most expressions of religion. I had simply lost interest and had closed off both my heart and mind to it. But, my daughter Addie had reached VBS age. So, we signed her up. It was something fun to do during the summer.

So, here's where my involvement begins. Since I was a teacher, I felt guilty just dropping her off and going home. Something wasn't right in that, so I volunteered. I remember letting our education director know that I was willing to help, but I specifically asked not to be in a "teaching role." I probably used the excuse that as a school teacher, I spent all school-year teaching and just didn't want to do it. In reality, I was spiritually dry and did not believe I had anything to offer the children.  I was asked to assist another woman with leading group games. I accepted the challenge and played with the kids as best I could- and probably offered at least a minimum of spiritual guidance..."Jesus doesn't want us to cheat." It was the best I could do.

That was six years ago. God's still not through redeeming me, but I look back at that moment as the time he began to break through to me. I still do not teach, but now in my sixth year with outdoor games (though there was the one year it became shoe relay inside with a heavy dose of Simon Sez), I see this as one of my ministries. I look forward to using games to help children love each other and see God's love for them. I look forward to showing them God's grace while having fun. I look forward to helping them realize God is never finished with us. 
So, why do I love VBS? Because sometimes, God isn't just working in the lives of children. He's working on the crusty hearts of us grown-ups too!

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6