VBS for grownups: Even though you’re different

Vacation Bible School.  That’s just for kids, right?  Silly songs.  Silly skits.  Silly costumes.  Kids stuff.  Sure.

But is there any message in Scripture that God delivers just for people 12 and under? We older and ‘wiser’ ones sometimes make faith so complicated when the simple beauty of truth is what we really need.

This week, I’ll be singing songs and doing those silly skits from Group Publishing’s Weird Animals VBS at my own church.

Here on the blog, I’ll be sharing with you those same stories, the same lessons, the same truth, but for grown-ups.

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Many years ago, I sat across from a ministry leader at a McDonald’s, having a deep life conversation while snacking on chicken nuggets. We had met that day because I wanted to talk to him about going deeper in ministry, feeling like I wanted to be ready for whatever God had planned for me to do. I wanted to be useful, effective, a vessel fit for God’s purposes, and I was looking for some guidance.

So, he leaned back for a minute and gave me his words of wisdom as my spiritual adviser.

“Heather, if you ever want to be effective in ministry, you’re going to need to be more like her.”

I sat stunned for a minute and thought about the implications. The girl he named was a perfectly good Christian, but she was my opposite in every way.

Not just some ways, mind you, but pretty much in any way it’s humanly possible to be different from someone else–that’s how different we were.

Extrovert versus introvert. Feeler versus thinker. Spontaneous versus super-organized-planner-with-three-calendars.ephesians2-10, Photo by  Martin Damen

So, what exactly did it mean for this man to tell me I had to be like “her” in order to be effective in ministry? Did it mean that God couldn’t use me with the spiritual gifts I had?

Had God made a mistake when designing spiritual gifts, accidentally giving some people gifts like teaching and administration rather than gifting us all with mercy or serving?

Were introverts all God-mishaps who needed just to get it together and become extroverts in order to be used by God?

I wanted so much to be used by God, though, that I decided to become more like “her.”

And I made myself sick with the effort.

That’s what so often happens when we are pushed and yanked and smashed into positions we shouldn’t be in to become people we’re not called to be and forced to do what God didn’t design us or ask us to do. All that effort to be someone else can make us sick and stressed. It steals our ministry joy and stunts our growth and effectiveness.

Forced sameness crushes us and destroys the beauty of God’s design.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).

We are His handiwork, His masterpiece, His poem, and we are designed for His own purpose and plan.

Made just right.

Even when others don’t see that and they try to shove us into uniform boxes of acceptability and usefulness.

Even when we’re embarrassed by the differences and wish we could just fit into the same mold everyone else seems so comfortable in.

Even when we think He can’t possibly use us, because He only uses people like “her.”

Even though you’re different….Jesus loves you.

The Samaritan woman at the well needed this.  She needed a Savior who saw beauty in unexpected places.

This Messiah, this Jewish teacher, sitting at the well in the heat of the day shouldn’t have been talking to a woman, much less a Samaritan woman.

More than that, she was a sinful woman who likely drew her water from the well at noon so she could avoid the jeers and stares of the town gossips.

Not only did Jesus break all the societal rules and talk with her, not only did Jesus love her, not only did He extend salvation to her, but He used her to share the Gospel with others.

That’s what she did.  She dropped her water jar right there and ran to town saying, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him (John 4:29-30 NIV).

She didn’t just find Jesus herself.  She brought others to Him, a crowd of others, all of them needing a Savior.

Surely Jesus knew sitting down by that well that the best person to minister to that Samaritan town wasn’t a Jew, not a Pharisee, Sadducee or Rabbi.

He needed a Samaritan, one who had been drenched in grace until her parched soul just couldn’t stand to keep the Living Water all to herself.  She had to spill out her joy so others could come see Jesus for themselves.

The disciples didn’t understand.  She was….so different.  So unexpected.  So unlikely.

But God loves to use the weak, the small, the foolish, the most unexpected and unlikely of all because it’s never about us anyway.  It’s always about Him.

 

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

A Curtain, Alice, Cinderella and God’s Custom Design

She wanted to be Alice, she said.

This year, they celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday by dressing as their favorite literary character at my kids’ school.

We have the world’s largest dress-up collection.  This should have been easy.

But we do not own a pre-made costume for Alice during her whimsical Wonderland adventures, which meant we needed to make one.

Creativity, sewing, costuming—not my best things.

But surely, I thought, someone in my town must have once owned a white pinafore-style apron perfect for an Alice costume and large enough to fit a third grade girl.

And surely said person wanted to pass that on to someone else by donating it to a local thrift store or selling it at a consignment shop or yard sale on the very weekend when I needed such an apron.

So, we shopped.Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_wolfelarry'>wolfelarry / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

All afternoon I shopped.

I did not find an apron.

I did, however, find a curtain with white eyelets and ruffles reminiscent of an Alice apron.

Many women could have snipped and sewn that curtain into an apron in about 15 minutes.

I took an hour or more.  It was an extended evening project complete with ripping out the seams where I messed up and re-sewing what I got wrong.

But in the end, I held up that custom-made curtain-to-apron (complete with a pocket!!!) and felt real and true pride like I may never have felt before in my life.

I had overcome my allergy to crafts and my sewing machine phobia.  I had labored and been found worthy.  I had toiled and reveled in my success.

Or something like that. I was super proud.

Last week, my second daughter announced she needed a pauper Cinderella costume for her song in the school talent show and that meant she needed an apron.

But not an Alice apron.  A Cinderella apron.

See the difference?

Dear children, have mercy.

So, I adjust the original design and adapt, turning the curtain that had become Alice into Cinderella.

At some point in the 9 years of being a mom to daughters, I have become a seamstress who produces custom designs; not a good one, perhaps, but after all, we all have our limits.

And while I’m still apt to prick my finger with the needle and still have to pull out the instruction manual every time I have to re-thread my sewing machine or my bobbin (wow, I know what a bobbin is!!), still I sew.

Still I stumble along into creativity so that I can draw near in the presence of the Creator.

Because God, He is this expert artist.

I read in Colossians:

 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him (Colossians 1:15 ESV)

In He is My All, Debbie Alsdorf writes:

 “By Him and for Him.  Those few words give new meaning to my life.  They are my personal slogan.  They explain what I love for and who I live for….those words—by Him and for Him—-simplify my purpose and meaning.  They simplify my choices and help me focus on what’s important (He is My All, p. 82).

God teaches me between stitches and threads that He is the Custom Designer.

You and me—Alice, Cinderella—whoever we are, we are by Him and for Him, handmade.

Not just who we are, either, but He weaves in this also: what we’re placed here to do.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

You are made by Him and for His purposes and what you’re doing right here and now, it may not seem life-changing, world-altering, stage-worthy, award-winning, or crowd-gathering, but it is of value to Him.

This home…this husband…these children….this ministry….this friendship….this job….this calling….this waiting….this service….

He has designed You for this…

and this for you.

So, feeling insufficient?  Feeling restless?  Feeling unworthy?  Feeling unnecessary?  Feeling uncertain?  Feeling overwhelmed?  

Remember His custom design and the way He creates perfection, and the way He creates beauty all in His time.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Create Beauty’?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

 

An Origami Failure Learns to Fold

I am a failure at origami.

My oldest daughter, crafty soul that she is, begged me to help her with some origami projects.  Knowing my handicap for all things artsy, crafty, and based on following a pattern, I decided that our best option was to purchase an origami book for kids, complete with simple step-by-step instructions and special papers.

Surely if children can supposedly follow these directions and magically fold panda bears and peacocks, I in all my grown-up wisdom could also understand and succeed in folding a paper zoo.  I can, after all, read, and that seemed to be the minimal requirement here.

I was wrong (of course).

Our origami sessions together typically go like this:

Open book, choose the simplest pattern we can find and then select an appropriate paper.

Fold the paper in half.  Then open it back up.

Fold it in half the other way.  Then open it back up.

Crease here, flip the paper, crease there.

Smile in confidence at one another in the assurance that we have finally mastered this whole origami thing.  Look at us!  Our paper absolutely totally matches the diagram in the book.
We return to the instructions with renewed confidence.

Reverse internal fold, flip, crease, outside reverse fold, open up, fold to center, reverse, flip, spin around, repeat, pull out the flap, push in and squash, inflate, rotate, fold and unfold, mountain fold.

Wait, what?

Pretty soon I’m sputtering in frustration and my daughter is just randomly folding and flipping her paper.  I’m talking to the book as if it could answer me, “What does that mean?  How do you do that?  How come you don’t show a picture of the step in between this and that?  Is this what it is supposed to look like?”

I begin sighing those deep-shoulder heaving sighs that say, “Oh, I should never have bought her this origami book for Christmas.”

Then I declare with supreme Mom-wisdom that what we really need here is a YouTube video with step-by-step instructions.  We Google search.  We find a video.  We pause it after each step and make our paper look like the paper on the computer screen.

We fold.  We create.  We conquer (sort of).

The fact is that I’m not adept at following picture patterns in books and matching my every move to the instructions given, not with origami, sewing, knitting or crafts of any kind.

I have too many questions that the pattern doesn’t answer and too many places where I can go wrong.  I can’t visualize the finished product and the steps needed to get there.

What’s true for me in arts and crafts is sometimes true in life also.  We all can choose the patterns for our lives and then we make continual choices, daily decisions, to yield, bend and fold . . . or not.

Paul tells us:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2 NIV).

The pattern of the world isn’t meant for us.  The world’s priorities, its pursuits, its dialogue and messages, and its destination all fold us into a crazy mess of disorder and frustration.

We can choose instead to “follow the pattern of the sound words . . .in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:3 ESV) and to “obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance” (Romans 6:17 ESV).

Yes, Scripture is our pattern to follow and Christ is our model: the picture in the book that tells us what we should look like in the end.

Yet, while we may choose which pattern to follow, the world or the Word, God Himself takes a hands-on approach to our lives.  “We are God’s handiwork,” after all—the result of His efforts, the creation He forms and reforms daily (Ephesians 2:10).

So, He is at work folding and unfolding—sometimes moving us forward and then back again.

He creases us now, teaching us and working on us in ways that we won’t understand until years later when He uses those grooves as part of His plans for us and our ministry.

He flips us around.  He pushes us beyond what we thought were our limits.  Sometimes He trims our edges.

Sometimes we complain and balk at the confusing pattern as it unfolds.  We look at the folds He has made in us and think He must be getting it all wrong.  Surely this can’t become that.  It’s confusing and we don’t see and understand.

But He does.  He knows what it takes to transform a piece of paper into a penguin or a peacock.  He knows how to conform us “to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King