VBS for Grown-Ups: Even When You’re Afraid

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.

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

I wish I had my four-year-old’s bravery.

She’s this tiny powerhouse of courage, stepping onto roller coasters and water rides that drop you straight down and splash you in the face as you land.

She handles shots, injuries, and dental repairs without tears or drama.

But me?

I’m tossing and turning at night, not thrilled at the thought of food, outright terrified, edgy and far too prone to cry, and I’m wondering how I can bottle up this tiny daughter’s courage to fill up my own wimpy soul.matthew14, photo by Decha Thapanya;

Funny how trying to obey God, trying to step out and do what He’s called you to do can be exhilarating and frightening at the same time.

Sure is like a roller coaster, I guess.

But you know what?  I hate roller coasters.

Maybe that’s what makes this so difficult.

In one month almost exactly, I’ll be swimming in a huge ocean of other writers at my first ever writer’s conference.

It may be a month away, but the battle is here and now.

What if everyone is better than me?

What if every woman there looks more polished and more confident and has all the style and pizzazz that captures attention and I’m the easily overlooked tag-a-long that no one remembers?

What if I stumble over my words? 

What if everyone hates what I write or hates my ideas?

What if I’m just not good enough?

What if I make all the sacrifices to be there and walk out with nothing more than capital F Failure and capital R Rejection?

God calls us to daily obedience.  That’s hard enough some days.

Then sometimes He calls us to all-in, risk-everything, put-yourself-out-there, this-is-crazy kind of vulnerability and trust.

It takes courage.  That doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid.  Courage means you obey Him even when you’re terrified because you trust Him with the results.

The disciples had that courage.  They walked right away from their fishing nets and steady paychecks.

The prophets spoke up for right against all that was wrong despite raging kings and queens and the bounties on their head.

Esther stepped into a throne room not knowing if the king would kill her or lower that scepter and hear what she had to say.

Paul strode into city after city and taught in the synagogue every time, knowing he faced the possibility each time of stoning, imprisonment, beatings, death.

And here I am, doing what I’m supposed to do to get ready:

Write the proposal. Come up with a tagline. Pack a briefcase.  Print business cards.  Connect with other authors. Build a platform.  Choose a snazzy outfit.  Get your hair cut and colored or at least maybe some highlights (maybe that terrifies me more than anything).

Most importantly: Pray.  Pray some more.  Pray every single day.

Here’s what I need:  Holy Spirit courage to do what He’s called me to do and leave the rest up to Him.

Like it says:

But Jesus spoke to them at once. Don’t be afraid,” he said. Take courage. I am here!” (Matthew 14:27 NLT).

Take courage because He’s here, right here with you, present with you, not abandoning you, not sending you out all by your lonesome self.

Ananias needed courage like that, too.  The Lord called Him to seek out a man from Tarsus named Saul.

Not any Saul from Tarsus either:  THE Saul from Tarsus, the notorious Christian-persecutor and murderer.

He had to choose.

Risk it all, even death, and obey?  He knew the cost.  Ananias recited the risks for God, as if God clearly didn’t know the details before sending down the divine orders.

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” (Acts 9:13-14 NIV).

“But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go….” (Acts 9:15 NIV).

Maybe God has called you out, asked you to do something that takes true courage and your heart just trembles at the thought of the call.

Yet, He says, “Go….”

Take courage, dear one.  He is with you.  Even when you’re afraid, Jesus loves you.

He knows the risks.  He knows what makes your heart quake.  He knows the results.

And He promises to be with you.

May I ask this of you?  Would you pray with me and for me this month as I prepare to go to She Speaks in July?  I am so blessed by your prayers for me!

 

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 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.

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

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: God’s Love Helps Us

Every year at Vacation Bible School I watch as adults lead the excited children around the church from station to station, sing the songs (maybe we even do the accompanying motions), shout and laugh. kingdom-rock-logo-hi-res Do we also, though, compartmentalize? Do we box up the VBS messages and declare they are just for kids and not relevant for us?

But is there any message in Scripture that God delivers just for people under 18? We older and wiser ones sometimes make faith so complicated and fail to recognize or really consider the beautiful truths in these simple messages. So, this week, I’m thinking about VBS and what the lessons for children mean for you and me.  Our church is doing Group Publishing’s Kingdom Rock VBS, so that’s what I’ll be sharing about here with a mixture of old devotionals and new ones on the theme for each day.

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

Originally posted as “Feeling Unloved, January 4, 2013
“I love you, Lord; you are my strength” Psalm 18:1

She was sobbing next to me and finally put all those unmanageable, messy feelings into four words.

“I feel so unloved.”

One fight with her sisters, one afternoon of correction and quiet discipline….and this totally loved daughter of mine told me she didn’t feel loved at all.

She sat with her tissue, snuggled against my side, my one arm hugging her shoulder, my other arm smoothing her wild hair that had been mussed by all the emotion.

But she felt unloved.

I had packed her lunch for the day, putting in her favorite snack and slipping a tiny paper with a joke on it into her bag of pretzels so she would smile and laugh and think of me.

She was wearing the outfit I had bought her and a ribbon in her hair that I (yes, the mom recovering from an allergy to crafts) had made for her with my own two clumsy hands.

Her favorite dinner was simmering on the stove.

Before bed the night before we had studied her Bible verses for the week and read together from books I ordered used online because they were out-of-print.  But they were her favorite, so I had happily spent an afternoon performing Google searches to find them.

I had combed out her long blond hair after her bath and sprayed it down to ease out the tangles and reminded her to brush her teeth.

And I had told her I loved her often, hugged her and kissed the top of her head throughout the day, then tucked her into bed under the blanket I had made for her myself.

But still she felt unloved.

She didn’t know that some people grow up without the kindness, the physical provision, the confidence that they are loved.

So I told my crying girl how loved she is and how even when her emotions push their faulty lies into her heart and mind, she can shut them down with truth.

We’re just as forgetful as my daughter is at times, feeling unloved because of a circumstance, a correction, a trial or sadness.  And we sit among our piles of blessings, of salvation and daily grace, and think, “God, don’t You love me?”

We meditate on the lies and feed them with our feelings, just like the Israelites did in the Old Testament.

Psalm 106 follows their long journey through forgetfulness and betrayal…

they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses (verse 7).

But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his plan to unfold (verse 13).

They forgot the God who saved them,
who had done great things in Egypt,
miracles in the land of Ham
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea (verse 21-22).

They didn’t just forget minor provisions of lunch box meals and some new outfits for school.

They forgot miraculous deliverance out of slavery in Egypt, the parting of an entire body of water so they could cross on dry land, daily provision of manna from heaven and the protection from war-loving enemies on every side.

But always God was faithful:

Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
to make his mighty power known…

Yet he took note of their distress
when he heard their cry;
 for their sake he remembered his covenant
and out of his great love he relented (Psalm 106:8, 4-45).

They forgot.  He remembered.

“Yet, He….” it says in each verse. In my NKJV Bible, it says, “Nevertheless…”

That’s what God is...never at any moment less than good and powerful, mighty and merciful to us.  He is never less than His character or His faithfulness to His promises.

Even when our feelings tell us otherwise.

Even when we’ve believed the lies.

Paul writes to Philemon:

I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ (Philemon 1:6 NIV).

His prayer was that the church would “get it,” would deep-down understand the blessings of God and the totally undeserved, thoroughly unconditional love of our so-gracious Father and the Savior who died in our place.

If we really believed that God loved us, we would have confidence for the bad days and strength for the hard times.  We’d have the help we need when we’re annoyed, frustrated, tired or overwhelmed.

Even when we mess up we’d remember the truth: never-the-less He is faithful.

It’s God’s love that helps us stand strong.

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 upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 06/23/2012

Hiding the Word:

Last night, our kids colored their last craft, ran around the gym for the last game, and tasted their last snack of Vacation Bible School.  All week long, we taught the kids to trust God . . . no matter what.

Whoever they are . . .
However they feel . . .
Even when people hurt them . . .
Even when bad things happen . .  .
And anywhere they go . . .
Trust God

Sounds so simple.  Sounds so childlike.  Sounds so easy.

But of course we know the truth.  Most of us need the constant reminder, encouragement and challenge to trust Him.  We need a perpetual bright red string tied around our finger.

So, this week I’m choosing to meditate on a verse that speaks truth about that trust.

It’s not based on anything I do or whatever I muster up in my own strength.  We trust God because of His steadfast, unfailing, loyal, everlasting covenant love for us.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation (Psalm 13:5)

Weekend Rerun:

After a week of lessons on Group’s Sky VBS!, I’m reminded of the lessons I wrote last year on the Group PandaMania VBS.  This was one of my favorites that week:

God Loves You, No Matter What
Originally posted June 23, 2011

After a conversation with a friend this week, I recalled the first time I had to turn over my green card on the classroom behavior chart and leave the yellow card on top.  I was in third grade and had forgotten my math homework.  The teacher asked us to hand it in and I quickly zipped open my backpack to grab up my finished paper.

Only it wasn’t there.  So, I pushed things around gently and then more energetically.  I scrambled through the papers and then yanked everything out.  Slowly I realized my paper wasn’t in there.  I had nothing to turn in.

So, I had to shuffle over to the behavior bulletin board and take my punishment.  A yellow card for Heather.  Bright yellow so everyone in the class could see I messed up.  I forgot.  I was careless and irresponsible.

Embarrassed, I slinked back to my desk and slumped down hoping to become invisible in my chair.  My face was burning red hot, the kind of shame that makes your ears sear into the sides of your head.

But, when I sheepishly glanced at the bulletin board the next morning, I saw a green card next to my name again.  It was a new day and with it came a rush of joy that the mistakes of yesterday could be so simply erased and forgotten.

It was the astonishing grace of a fresh start.

That’s what Christ did for us.  Raising us up from the dead.  Taking our place on the cross and erasing the record of our wrongs so that we could stand before the Most Holy God and look . . . holy and pure.

He saw you and me as worth saving even when we were splattered with the mud of sins and caked in the foul dirt of this world. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

So, what should we do with this amazing grace?

I know what I do most of the time—forget it, take it for granted, or, even worse, nullify it by trying to be perfect.  I begin to live in a spiritual world of musts, shoulds, do’s, don’ts, shalls and shall nots.

The Psalmist wrote, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness; therefore, You are feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).

Yes, we would be pounded into the ground if we carried the weight of our sins on our wimpy shoulders.  We couldn’t stand in His presence much less crawl face to the ground before His throne.

But.

But with Him there is forgiveness.  Praise God!

The Psalmist ends that thought with, “Therefore, You are feared.”  Not the fright of might, though.  Not the run and hide kind of fear.  Not obeying God to escape His wrath.  Not surrendering to Him in order to earn His love.

The Old Testament Bible Knowledge Commentary says this is the fear of “worship and obedience.  The Scriptures state that many results come from fearing the Lord; the most notable is that the person keeps himself from sin.”

In January of this year, I felt the heavy nudging of the Holy Spirit asking me two questions, one of which was, “Are you ready for where I want to take you next?”  The God who loved me passionately was asking me to walk in worship and obedience—holy fear in response to abundant grace.

“That depends,” I answered.  “Where are we going?  How long will it take?  What is the expense-to-benefit ratio?”

It sounds mercenary, but those are the questions that rumbled around in my head and heart for weeks.  Was it safer to stay where I was?  Was safer necessarily better?

His question sounds so simple and easy when we belt out “I surrender all” in a church service.  Then there’s that moment when God takes you up on your offer and asks you to surrender your plans for the future, your comfort, your life, and you wonder how much “all” actually is.

And then I felt it, the pull of performance and the tug on my heart to just do what God wants so He’ll love me, so I won’t let Him down, so I can live up to what a Bible Study girl should do.  It was a works-based response of duty rather than the bride’s response of affection to the overwhelming passion and love of her Groom.

So I waited to answer God.  I waited until I truly believed that God would love me no matter what.  That the choices I make here may affect God’s plans for me, may affect my impact on others, may affect how I am blessed, but they will never affect His unconditional and unending love.

Only then, in the light of so much grace, knowing that I answered Him out of love and not duty, I bashfully answered, “I do.”  I do want to go with You.  I do want whatever you desire for me.

Why do we obey Him?  Why do we whisper “I do” when He asks us to surrender?  Why do we choose the difficult right over the much easier wrong?

So He will love us?  No—because He loves us. 

We ask Him to “lead me along the path of everlasting life”  because there’s no other place where we can walk next to Him, our tiny palm nestled inside His nail-scarred hand (Psalm 139:24).

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.