Monday, June 10, 2019

Judgment

Judge not lest you be judged. Condemn not.Remove the log before offering to remove the speck.

God has been convicting me relentlessly over these verses.

I have caught thought after thought of senseless judgement:

the way they dress

the way they drive

the groceries in their cart

the extravagance clearly spent on their appearance

their fakeness


and on, and on. And, shamefully, most of that was at church (well, not the groceries).

Yes. When my focus should have been solely on worshiping the God of the universe, the God who has forgiven me my sins at the cost of His own son's life. Just then, I felt the need to nitpick over trivialities of those around me. Worse yet, I passed judgment on things I could not even see or know to be true! Awful.

Thankful for friends who know this about me and still love me.
Thankful for friends I can share this raw, ugly truth about my thoughts.
Thankful for friends that challenge me to keep after this sin in repentance, confession, and surrender.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Learning to Savor - even more deeply


With a house full of littles I learned, however imperfectly, to savor each moment. Not to rush it, not to wish it over.

But, in the midst of savoring I was not blind to the things I would not miss.

I would cherish the 2 AM feeding, but be grateful the 10, 12, 4, 6, 8 feedings wouldn't last forever.

Hold tight to the snuggles, but find peace that I would not have kids hanging on me forever.

Live in the simplicity of early childhood routine, while still thankful that I would not always need to remind them to change their clothes, brush their teeth, make their bed, do their chores.

Now, on the cusp of another child leaving home I savor the whole season.

Midnight conversations, wrestling through tough decisions and full schedules, managing who has what vehicle and where and until when, seeing faith personalized, hearing of relationships deepening, God on the move, child initiated daily devotion time.


But, at times I still think I won't miss the stuff left around the house as they hurry from one commitment to the next, the empty gas tanks, the full laundry baskets, the unpredictable meal count, or the irregular hours.

I'm really just fooling myself. I'll miss it all. Every bag, shoe, and article of clothing found in a random spot. Every "disruption" to routine.

I'll miss every bit of it. The same way my heart grows heavy yet full when I see a young mom with three or four littles in tow at the grocery store.

The same way my breath grows shaky when I realize I don't trip over toys in the family room any more.

The same way my eyes sting just a bit when I realize the morning snuggle time with my youngest has grown sporadic.

They grow and change, and become the people they are supposed to. I wouldn't want it any other way.

But, I have learned to savor both the good and the bad, because I will surely miss every little bit of it.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Neighborhood Bible Club - picking a curriculum





While meeting with various experts in the field, I took time to look at their curriculum and evaluate it in action as well as in theory. I liked what I saw, but also saw room for improvement.

So, I set out on a curriculum search. Not satisfied until I had found the best (in my opinion).

Child Evangelism Fellowship puts out a time tested curriculum that you can purchase from them for use out of your own home. It is a quality product. Large, colorful pictures. Song Lyric books readable from a good distance. Bible stories. Games. Songs that were fun to sing and simple to learn. And, the missionary story (I had forgotten how much I loved these!)

The nearby church produced their own curriculum which  included all of the above, except a missionary story, and also crafts and an object lesson, and it was also a strong product.

However, I saw areas lacking in both.

CEF had oversimplified their program to make it pretty much completely non-consumable. While this makes it easy to reuse and inexpensive to produce and replicate, it takes away some of the fun. You could carry the whole curriculum in a messenger bag and be set from start to finish. Easy, but kinda boring (again, my opinion).

I want stuff for the kids to touch and interact with. Game supplies, pictures, take home crafts, hands-on activities, etc.

As with most things, I kept what I loved and tossed the rest. But, I still needed a curriculum.

In googling, I came across Lifeway's Backyard Bible Club curriculum. Ordered a set and never looked back.

It is excellent -- Made for use on a residential lawn (low tech, not based on videos like most VBS curriculums for sale); full of truly fun game ideas and a variety to last throughout the week; program includes a version for school age as well as one for preschool.
 
My biggest criticism is that they seem to be moving to a digital format except for their most current year, and they do not seem to have as many back versions available (I assume they are not replacing as they sell out). This is fine as long as you plan to get the new one each year, but I was hoping to have the option to buy older products  as well.


I do truly love these kits. Let me open them up for you with some pics . . .

In each kit is a folder to distribute to other members of your team. These give step by step instructions to each point person on how to fill their role with excellence.

These folders answer a million and one questions and help everyone prepare for the expected and the unexpected.

Vivid, full color 11x17 posters are included to make story time memorable. 

And, cards for the Game leader help in organization and give lots of inspiration to last the whole week and for a variety of ages. 
 


 Craft samples are also included and can be purchased for an additional fee 
(in packs of 10 for $5 - $6 each). We ended up making our own with supplies we had on hand, but even these are an affordable add on.


And, last but not least, the music. Easy to pop in and enjoy with the group and a choreography DVD can help your song leader learn the motions ahead of time.

Really, what could be simpler? 

You can do this. Just about anyone can do this (with a couple friends). If you are an introvert, find at least one extrovert for your team. If you are an extrovert, find at least one introvert for your team. Just another observation that seems to be true of the best teams for these at home bible clubs. One person to spread the word and another to reign in the details.

We used this kit last year with a group of about twenty kids and the week just flew by. They had fun, came back excited each day, and learned more about Jesus's love for them and their friends.

Remember, less than two hours a day! You can still fit lots of your own summer into each day while having an impact for eternity.

Prayerfully consider hosting your own this summer. No excuses. If you live somewhere not conducive to this kind of outreach (too rural, too urban, townhouse, etc.) find someone with a house in a neighborhood full of kids that needs you to help them run it. I would love to see and hear about more people bringing the gospel right into their neighborhood in the years ahead.
 


 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Hard season


While I'm thankful that I started back blogging again this year, I am also disappointed at the pathetic number of publishable posts I've written.

Oddly enough, I have written a good number of posts. However, most could never make it beyond the rambling or venting (where most of my posts begin) and turn into publishable material that I thought could provide anyone else help or insight.

I continue to wrestle through this difficult season, unable to finalize my thoughts on pretty much anything.

Yet, God continues to refine and teach. It's painful at times. When I want to point the finger outward, I find it turning around with deep conviction and repentance. Sometimes our sin settles beneath the surface and becomes less obvious, but He has been gently using many scripture passages and various Bible studies to root out pride, self-righteousness, discontent, confusion, and frustration. There is still so much work to be done. He keeps pruning, preparing for the next task, the next chapter.



It might start soon, might start in a year, but for now I continue to sift through His word and my emotions while He sifts me.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Neighborhood Bible Club - learning from others part 2





While I gleaned a boatload of information from CEF, I still needed more. Now that I knew the questions to ask and had an idea of what a club could look like, I wanted to seek out the best way to do a backyard Bible club.


Through a bit of networking I heard about a nearby church that has used Neighborhood Bible Clubs exclusively in place of the traditional VBS for many years now.

I had to learn more.

Fortunately, our eight year old was willing to play along and he was subsequently dragged to multiple clubs and meetings with the program coordinator.

More information, more learning, more second-hand experience.

What we learned (and relearned) along this second ride:

  • Connect with area Christians. Partner with your church, find other believers from other churches in your neighborhood. The more people on your team, the more kids in your immediate circle of contacts.

  • Attendance will grow over the years. Have a long range vision. I talked to a woman who started with a good sized club of 25 kids about 15 years ago. Now they host 300 kids!!! Of course, God has brought a few families alongside them and they get a permit from the city to block of the whole street for a couple hours each morning that week. 

  • Train the hosts and let them assemble and train their teams. I love this! I had been so stressed trying to coordinate everything myself and suddenly - light bulb! - I didn't need to. The hosts are completely capable of taking all the tools and running their own club. Game changer right there.

  •  Involve teen helpers. But, choose their roles wisely. They are great game leaders, small group guides, support volunteers, snack distributors, craft helpers, etc. Choose adults to lead large group time and teaching time. Don't short change safety and the ever imprortant gospel message.

  •  It feels like a birthday party. Parents dropping off kids for a couple hours of organized fun, music, and stories. Really felt like the casual, but fired up atmosphere you would find at a party.

  •  Communicate with parents. Collect email addresses or cell numbers to send a summary of the day. Memory verse, story hits, and some conversation starter questions do use over dinner at home that night.

  •  The church (or other organizer) provides the tools. The host might find their team and train them, but someone else should be supporting all the hosts and helping them have all they need for a successful club: water jugs, craft supplies, game supplies, curriculum, signs, newsletter samples, various paperwork templates, etc.

 I am unbelievably thankful for the people who have gone before me and paved the way and shared their wealth of knowledge that erupts from decades of experience. The vision is catching on and I can't wait to see where God takes it.

But, we haven't even gotten to the part of the process where I actually host a club! More to come . . .


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The messiness of sin


He took the blood and threw it against the altar. (Leviticus, over and over)

The fat, the burning flesh of animals, the stench, the visible reminders of the wretchedness of sin.

Over and over and over and over. They (we) kept on sinning and kept on sacrificing.

Death. Blood. Stench. Sacrifice. Pain. Bleats. Fear. Regret. Fire. Death. 

Now we have a sterile reminder of our sin in communion - tangy juice and a crispy cracker are fairly friendly memory-joggers of the cost of our sin.

Golden crosses, bath-robed disciples, cute lambs, ornate figures, wooden decorations. Nothing that gets to the guts of the matter. Nothing that dredges up the raw disgustingness of our sin the way animal sacrifices use to.

And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. Leviticus 9:24.

When have I been that overcome by my sin, by God's holiness and might?

Part of the reason we don't have those reminders today is because of the miraculous truth that Jesus paid the price for all eternity. 

God made a way when there was no way.


Our sin was a sticky, messy obstacle to our intimacy with God. I don't grieve over it often enough.

I could never let it grieve me enough as it was this, my sin, that nailed him to the cross.

And still, as his love held him there, he paid that price and made a way.

Only He could make a way for my vile, perpetual sin to be forgiven.

Leviticus usually comes across as an endless list of animals and shekels and rules and rituals. But this time, the messiness of the sin and the sacrifice cut me deeply. Spending some extra time, yet again, with a mirror to my self and relentlessly letting God point out and dig out the sin that still festers.

The sin He already paid for.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Daily Battle



David knelt down and fingered the surface of the coolness of the quiet brook. His mind recalled the many times he had chosen rocks previously. Each time brings a rush as he knows God leads even the choosing of a rock. As the water trickled between his fingers, he spoke with the God of the universe, “Oh Lord, I know you give victory to your chosen king, you answer from your holy heaven. By your power you give great victories. Some may trust in their chariots, their horses, their giants, but I trust in Your power alone. You, my Lord, my God.”

His hands grasped the first perfectly shaped stone. Round, smooth. It drops, heavy into the pouch.

“Give victory to the king, O Lord.”

Another perfect stone dropped into his pouch, clanking against the first.

“Lord, give me what I desire, make all my plans succeed.”

A third stone ready for battle

“I will shout for joy to You for Your victory.”

Stone four.

“I will praise You, my God, trusting You for triumph. Answer my request, hear my prayer.”

He secured the fifth and final stone and closed the sack.

*****

David suiting up for the battle of his life.

Everyday, I must follow his example. Preparing for the daily battle.

Surrendering to God.

Grabbing my weapon, the Sword of the Spirit.

Trusting God for the outcome - the victory is His.

Praying, praying, praying. always praying.

Pray with each step.

Pray with each swing.

Pray with each breath.

Pray with each word, each glance, each decision, each email, each minute spent.

To God alone is the victory of the day ahead which I claim for Him alone.