Posted in Faith

Three Things Every VBS Volunteer Should Know

I’ve learned a lot about vacation bible school and children directing VBS over the last few years. It’s one of the most exhausting time of the year for everyone involved. We dedicate all of our spare time to this event starting weeks, most of the time months, in advance. Each year I’m surprise, as I’m sure all churches are, at the way God ensures we have what we need, and all the volunteers necessary to make the event happen.

Three Things Every VBS Volunteer Should Know (1).png

There are three things I wish everyone knew coming in to this.

  1. It’s not about you. Kids are loud, messy, and sometimes a little wild and can leave you wondering why on earth you’re spending an entire week of your  summer saying things like, “don’t lick the table! Get that out of your nose!” VBS cuts into summer vacations and lazy summer days. Yes, being rewarded for your efforts with snacks, meals, recognition, and more can be relieving after a long week, (Or more.) and can make you feel like your effort was worth it, but VBS is about the children. (And if you’re a teen volunteer reading this, nope, not kid. 😉 The smaller ones.) VBS is about stepping out in faith for a week and giving all we can through Christ to these children. When you’re exhausted at the end of the week, know that your exhaustion may have led a child to Christ, or fifteen years from now, may lead an adult to try out your church, remembering the impact this yearly event had on them. One of my favorite stories in our church is from a yearly volunteer that grew up in foster care. She says VBS was one of her favorite events as a child, that the snacks and ability to have days of fun has always stuck with her. She now ensures we have yummy snacks made with lots of love every year. She pulls kids into the kitchen to give them special treats, and solves behavioral problems with quiet and kind words, and usually a pocketed piece of candy. You can make VBS an event to remember with lots of grace and selflessness.
  2. VBS is not school. These kids (Most of them.) are on a much needed break from quiet walks through the halls, rigorous schedules and intellectually challenging school work. We want them to get to know Christ, not just learn facts and memorize scripture with no context! Let’s paint them pictures of the amazing stories of God’s people, that we as adults, can translate clearly (And maybe not so clearly sometimes.) from the black text of the Bible. Let’s help them create wonderful memories of VBS while instilling in them what it feels like to be part of a church family. Telling mom or dad about every little “oops” the kid had when they come to pick up, may very well be the reason they don’t come back. I’m not saying if Susie chops off another girls ponytail you keep it to yourself, I’m saying if you had to tell Susie to stay with the group five times, or if Peter just couldn’t stop talking during the Bible lesson, you could probably just keep it to yourself or let the director or pastor know if it’s a problem. When a child isn’t following directions perfectly at a fun event, most of the time a parent reaction will be, “if you can’t behave you can’t go.” And that’s the exact opposite of what we should want! My favorite saying is, “a child that needs the most love will show it in the most unloving ways.” What better place to show unconditional, Christ-like love than VBS!
  3. Fun IS important. Having fun doesn’t mean they’re not learning. In fact, the more fun you can make a lesson or game, the more likely they’ll remember it. VBS isn’t school, if they miss a day, or the whole week, there are no black marks or required notes. If a child isn’t having fun, they won’t be back. Let’s turn their jumping in the halls into elephant stomps. Their running into monkey’s swinging from a vine. Entice them with imaginary lions, and and hidden animals in the “grass.” The more fun they have they more likely they’ll be back.

As volunteers in the church our goal is to serve Christ. Jesus wanted us to understand the importance of leading the children to Him, so at the end of the day when you’re exhausted, over-stimulated, and maybe a little frustrated, just remember all of the sweet faces that heard the name Jesus that day.

 Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” Matthew 19:14

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Posted in Faith

Q & A with God

It’s been roughly six years since I came to Christ. Not a long time by any means, but long enough that I’ve become comfortable enough in my faith to ask questions. Maybe it doesn’t take years for other people to ask the nagging, clawing questions inside their brains, maybe some people don’t even have questions about their faith. But I did, and still do sometimes.

Don’t misread, I believe Christ is our one, true savior. My faith is wholly in Him, but I do have questions.

When I was about seventeen I said, out loud and multiple times, that I didn’t believe in Christ. My unbelief was based on my feelings of being forgotten, and well, just not getting what I wanted.

When I sought out Godly relationships and a community in church I didn’t ask questions and I tried to mimic as best as possible what “good Christians” do. I volunteered, kept my house as clean as possible, (‘Cause that’s what matters and all.) cut out secular music and shows, disciplined my children like good, American, Christians should, and only recently did I consider that maybe, the front of being a good, American, Christian was just that– a fake exterior hiding real people, real sins, and an array of personalities, beliefs, and looks.

Questions were bouncing around in my head. Questions about why I chose to do things in the name of faith, questions about why I became a Christian in the first place. Questions about why I was so happy to blindly believe the things I read in the Bible without asking the big, looming question that I now realize isn’t a bad question.

Why God? Not, “Why are you doing this?”, not “Why did so-and-so do this?”, but the deeper almost taboo questions.

Why? 

Why should I believe? 

Why should I trust?

Why should I follow?

And, yes, I know I could find quick, one lined verses in the Bible that I could take out of context and apply to myself as though God is speaking directly to me, but let’s be real. The majority of the time He and the authors were addressing a person or a specific group of people. But, these stories are references of real people who sometimes asked hard questions and took the long way around, to get to God, providing insight and guidance for our trip.

So, in the midst of my months of questions, I was afraid to voice aloud for fear of angering God or asking someone who would be ready to judge me for my need to seek answers, I was asked to lead a Sunday School class using Beth Moore’s, The Quest. Now, I don’t particularly enjoy Beth Moore. I have a hard time listening to her or reading the things that she writes and I wasn’t convinced I’d get much out of it, however, this entire study is on asking questions that aren’t normally asked.

Yup.

Ya, know, like a slap in the face. “Hey! Wanna know what I think about you asking questions you’re too afraid to actually ask out loud or in prayer? Ha! I gotcha now!”

At one point in the videos a woman Beth is speaking with asks if it’s okay to question God or only your personal faith? Beth venomously says no, that you shouldn’t question God.

But, wait.

So I can only ask nice questions or questions that are kinda hard, but not really hard?

I think anyone with a working knowledge of the Bible knows that hard questions are asked in the Bible and probably so we don’t have to ask them, but…

We’re broken.

We’re fallen.

We’re misguided.

We’re sinful.

So I started to ask the hard questions. Questions like, “If God is perfect, why does He have emotions? Wouldn’t perfection equate the ability to not get angry or sad?” Maybe in our world of sinners, and my pastor quickly pointed out that I’m projecting what I would consider perfection onto God, who, is already perfect and tells us emotions aren’t sinful, rather our reactions are.

And other questions like:

Why do I do this? Why do I get up on Sundays and fight with the kids?

Why do I sit in a pew and remind them continually to be quiet if I could be home, letting them run around outside while I enjoyed my Sunday?

Why do I spend countless hours teaching other children when my life could be easier without Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings?

Why do I have to feel called to these things?

I asked the questions, realizing, that it’s okay to ask God ANY questions, so long as you realize you may, in turn, get a harsh answer.

Like so many examples in the Bible. But, one of the most powerful is in Job, when the people in his life question God, and his motives.

Tell me, where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” Job 38:4

And that’s where it starts, the harsh answer that is, that is really answering a question with many questions, and while God specifically answers Job (Even though he’s not the one that asked the question.) it’s quite an answer that’s given in roughly four chapters starting in Job 38. God’s answer comes across as almost sarcastic, “WHERE WERE YOU?” So THAT’S where I get it from!

You wanted to argue with God All-Powerful. You wanted to correct me and prove that I was wrong. So give me your answer!” Job 40:2 

Uh, yikes.

The answers to my questions aren’t “because it’s the right thing to do” or “that’s what good Christians do” like modern Christianity would like us to believe. My answers have been the realization that this isn’t about me. It’s not about how I could make life easier, not about having a perfect relationship with his people inside of my church. It’s about His love, and how I choose to share it with others.

It’s about asking the hard questions that feel taboo so I have the answers I seek and the ability to use them to further my faith and others and to understand my faith to the best of my earthly abilities and be able to share my testimony.

Eves need for answers to questions drove her from the garden, but that’s a pivotal moment for Christians and an example that God will answer all of our questions good, or bad.

Don’t let your fear of judgment from others or societies view of Christianity stop you from asking hard questions, so long as you’re asking them with an open heart, willing to receive whatever answer God has for you.

Without questioning first God’s existence, and then my faith I wouldn’t have the answers to why I chose to believe and follow Christ today.

Do you ask God tough questions? Or question your faith or the things you do for your faith?

Posted in Faith

“I’ll Pray for You”– but Will You?

People have been arguing since the beginning of time. The disciples fought over who was the greatest, and I wasn’t there, but I’m pretty sure there was quite the argument between Adam and Eve at least once…

“Salty” is the new “petty” and I think the reversed meaning of “bless your heart” is also being replaced. As Christianity becomes increasingly whittled down to fit into today’s society, a common thing we see is the phrase “I’ll pray for you” thrown out without any real intention behind it, primarily during an argument but also jokingly when speaking to a friend.
I'll Pray for You
“I’ll pray for you” is plastered all over shirts and other merchandise with a sarcastic undertone that basically says, “I don’t like you/your behavior/your situation,” or a not-so-subtle way to say, “I’m better than you because I know Jesus.” Whether this is what you mean to say while walking around with a shirt that says “I’ll pray for you” in pretty script letters, it’s what’s being conveyed.

When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.” Matthew 6:5

Jesus does call on us to pray for our friends, family, and enemies alike, and maybe when you’re in the midst of an argument, you do use the phrase sincerely or when someone vents about their struggles you let them know you’ll be praying… and then you DO. That’s wonderful, and what prayer is meant to be. However, if you’re comeback or knee-jerk reaction to an argument or hate is “I’ll pray for you,” and you intend to “kill them with kindness” but you’ve never actually sat down and talked to God about the problem in private— don’t say it. Just DO it. Kindness and prayer come from love, not from anger or annoyance.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:20-21

I promise, even if the relationship is never mended, your heart and mind will be through prayer and any anger you’ve felt will be washed away. Through speaking your fears, pain, and worries to Him, you will find a solution and forgiveness.
Don’t say it, do it.

When telling others,  “I’ll pray for you” becomes something it’s not, it puts a negative connotation on prayer and will cause people to see prayer as a jab in response to discord. Prayer can and does solve problems. Telling people you’re going to pray for them does not. Prayer is a conversation with God that may very well reveal that, in fact, you were the one in the wrong.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Maybe I’m wrong, though. Do you, or have you ever owned a shirt or other merchandise with this phrase? Did you see the meaning behind it as a sincere promise to pray for your brothers and sisters or as a sarcastic remark? I’d love to hear from you! 🙂