VBS for Grown-ups: Even Though You Do Wrong…

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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Some days, you must choose grace.

Not just to give, but to receive it, take it in, soak it up past the superficial skin and let it seep down deep into your soul, into the places of self-condemnation and records of wrongs and mistakes and imperfections.

Like yesterday.Photo by Mingman Srilakorn

It was a day of frustrating grocery shopping with lost coupons and a store that hadn’t stocked the chicken that I needed for almost a week’s worth of family meal planning.

And having to skip out on my exercise because I had to trek to a second grocery store to find said elusive chicken so I could feed my family more than one meal in the next seven days.

Then I finally unloaded it all at home, over-budget, discouraged, and frustrated with my non-exercising self for messing up my fitness plan.

As I sorted the groceries onto shelves and into drawers, I noticed the dirt in the corners of my kitchen floor, the apple juice splatters, the toothpaste in the bathroom sink, the laundry piled in the basket.

Wow, I just can’t ever keep this house clean enough.

And that writing project I planned for the day…didn’t get done.

My children had breakdowns, so did I, and there were the devotions I put off until 9:00 that night.

At the end of the evening, after dinner and bath time, and after my kids didn’t practice the piano, I read one chapter in a book to my daughters and sent them off for “independent reading” before lights out.

It had rumbled inside me bit by bit all day, but as we finished up that little bit of reading time together, my daughter reached over and turned down the corner the page to hold our place.

And I felt the full rush of failure.

I’m a page-turner-downer from way back.  Despite a lovely, inspirational, unique and large collection of bookmarks, I fall back on a long-established bad habit: I just dog-ear my page and snap the book shut.

Unfortunately, it’s a bad habit I’ve unwittingly passed along to these daughters of mine.  In fact, it’s so extreme they’ve even coined a term for it, transforming the word “chapter” into a verb.

“Mom, don’t close the book until we ‘chapter it!” they say and I dutifully slip the corner of the page down.

In that moment I thought: I’m passing along my bad habits to my children, handing them down like ill-fitting jeans and worn-out shoes.

Unfortunately, some of them aren’t as immaterial as dog-eared book pages–like stressing perfection too much, having too little patience with ourselves and others, and not accepting grace in the wake of messy failure.

Oh, how I recognize some of my kids’ hand-me-down perfectionism.

Don’t we all have days where it seems we meet with more failure than success? Where Satan can barrage us with reminders of the mistakes from long ago and the crazy mishaps of today.

Where every mom on Facebook seems to have it all together, gourmet meals for their family, a spit-n-shine house, Martha Stewart-like crafting ability, time to bake, snazzy Scrapbook pages, award-winning kids, and time for family service projects….”

Or maybe you feel it at your job or in your ministry or with your friends.  What you should be doing.  What you failed to do.  What you said that was wrong. How you fall short.  How you could be better.

The pressure of perfection is far too much for our imperfect selves tripping along in an imperfect world.

That’s why there’s grace.

Jesus looked at that thief on the cross and promised eternity in paradise right there at that first profession of faith.  The thief didn’t earn it, didn’t have a lifetime of ministry credentials or a life heavy-laden with fruit.

Jesus forgave Him.

Period.

Sometimes we make grace so complicated.  We think He forgives us when we prove we’re worth it or when we’re mostly getting things right.

But He knows our hearts.  He knows our desire to please Him, our desire to be close to Him, and He knows sometimes we’ll still get it wrong.  He died for us anyway.  He forgives us anyway.

As John says:

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Even though you do wrong, Jesus loves You.

So we must choose to receive the grace He offers, deciding it’s okay if we didn’t get it all perfect today and if our life got a little bit messy.

Doesn’t God love us?
Didn’t we try our best to walk in that love?

That’s the point and that’s enough.

Originally published November 2, 2012 

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

VBS for grown-ups: Even when you don’t understand….

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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I’d been a mom for just under two years when I got pooped on for the first time.

It turns out new babies can’t quite tell when the diaper is on and when Momma has removed it for bath time.

You just never expect this. You go to college, study hard, earn a degree.  Go back to school and earn a Master’s degree.  Have your dream job.1john4-19, photo by Cora Miller

Then two years later you’re cleaning yourself up after being mistaken for a diaper.

Every mom has Kodak moments of familial perfection.  For a few minutes, it’s domestic tranquility.

Kids are healthy.
They used their manners at the dinner table.
The homework is done.
The laundry is put away.
You cooked a delicious and healthy dinner in your Crock Pot and baked homemade bread.

You are, in fact, Super Mom, the ultimate domestic diva.  You are June Cleaver, Betty Crocker, and maybe even Mr. Clean in one grand super hero package.

Until noses start running and children start fighting when you have a headache.  A stomach virus shoots through your family.  You realize that “dressing up” now means wearing the jeans without the worn knees and Sharpie stains from your child’s experiments with permanent marker.

Does Super Mom lose her cape now?

But right then when you’re the diaper,  when you’re worn down and weary, when you’ve cleaned toilets and scrubbed floors and you feel broken and overlooked.

Maybe you pray it: “Can you help a girl out, God?  It’s pretty hard to feel like this job has any eternal significance.  Do you even know what it’s like to put other people first all the time?”

But oh, may we pause there and remember who we’re talking to.

Oh, sure, Jesus was the Savior of mankind.  He had the power of divinity at His fingertips.  He could multiply the bread instead of having to knead it by hand.  He could command the fish into the nets instead of pushing a cart around Wal-Mart with a shopping list, a budget, coupons, and a toddler.

And yet.

When we over-romanticize the life of our Savior, we forget the utter humility and selflessness of Jesus, who emptied Himself for us and sympathizes with us on our hardest days.

Christ bends Himself low to wash our feet and heal our hurts.

And maybe it doesn’t make sense.

Like Peter, I’m tempted at times to refuse the humility of Christ as He stoops to wash my feet.  How shocking to see the Messiah on His knees.

Foolish Peter—he didn’t know how much He needed a Savior who served, so he told Jesus at the Last Supper, “No…you shall never wash my feet” (John 13:8 NIV).  Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

Even when he didn’t understand Jesus’ purpose or plan, Peter submitted.  He stopped protesting and willingly accepted the gift:  “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (John 13:9).

Maybe Peter didn’t get it, but Jesus knew these disciples needed to see humble ministry face-to-face so He could tell them this:

I’ve set the example.  Go and do the same.

As I’ve washed your feet, wash one another.

I’m still needing this lesson now, on days when I’m the diaper, when I’m worn or weary, when it seems like I’m making no difference, that Jesus made Himself low….for the disciples….for me.

Sometimes grace does the unexpected.  Sometimes God shatters the confines of the cardboard box we’ve put Him in and we just can’t understand: “Why, God?  Why this?  Why not that?”

It doesn’t make sense.

Not to Peter.

Not to us.

Yet, here is what we know:

Even when you don’t understand….Jesus loves you.

And He has a plan and a purpose for this and for you, so we bring it all to Him as an offering:

Lord, I don’t get it, but I know You love me.

Lord, it seems all wrong to me, but I know You love me.

Lord, this ministry You’ve called me to doesn’t seem to have any eternal impact, but I know You love me.

Lord, I don’t see how this can possibly be used for good or how this can be Your best plan, but I know You love me.

Like Peter we submit and we trust.  We quiet our quaking hearts and choose to rest in His love.

Originally posted March 16, 2013 

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

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.

***********************************************************************************************

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