Tag Archives: joy

Amazing Grays

There is a word in Greek (thaumazō) that Luke used to describe what happened when human beings witnessed the power and glory of God.  It is alternatingly translated as “to wonder, to be astonished, to be amazed, to marvel, and to be surprised”.  It is the response of the people of Bethlehem after hearing the shepherds declare the birth of the Savior and the disciples after Jesus calmed the wind and the waves.  It is how multiple people reacted to the miraculous acts of the Lord and how Peter felt when he saw the empty tomb.  Throughout the Gospels, men and women come face-to-face with the words and works of God and are amazed.  

This experience of occasional astonishment is, in my opinion, a stark contrast to those who attend our twenty first century worship services.  When was the last time you wondered at the meaning of the words found in the Scriptures or were surprised by the works of the Holy Spirit in our midst?  When was the last time God broke through the mundane and you marveled at the world around you?  In our day and age, our impressions of life on earth is more like that of the author of Ecclesiastes: there is nothing new under the sun.  Where has all the wonder gone?

I believe we get from life and from others what we expect from life and from others.  Beyond “glass-half-full/glass-half-empty” biases, we see what we want to see.  We are not surprised by God, either through His miraculous works or His marvelous words, because we do not think we will be.  Babies are born and all but the immediate family shrugs.  Healing comes to those who are sick and most of us yawn.  Accidents are avoided by random delays and we are oblivious.  Then we consider the biological functions necessary for sustaining life and the explosive power of the combustion engine, it is amazing that we “live and move and have our being”.

…and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  Luke 2:18

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this?”  Luke 8:25b

…and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.  Luke 24:12b

Last weekend, with its reminders of the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus, ought to pique our interest in the amazing.  Easter is a lasting witness to the wonderful and marvelous works and words of God.  It reminds us that while His claims may sound fantastic (i.e. based on fantasy), to our amazement they have all been proven true.  This week, in communities of faith gathered in worship and in places of solitude intended for reflection, we allowed ourselves to be amazed, if only for a moment.  I wonder what would happen if we allowed ourselves to look for the surprising every Sunday morning, or every morning for that matter.

I pray that this week you hear something amazing, see something wonderful and sense something marvelous.  Let me know when you do.

‘I Am’ in Good Hands

Today is Good Friday, the day in which the Church remembers and reflects upon the death of Jesus.  Each year, I focus on one of the gospels as they relate the events of Palm Sunday through Easter.  This year I have been reading through Luke’s account of the Lord’s final days and am struck by what the good doctor states is Jesus’ final utterance (and arguably His “famous last words”): “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  In saying this, He is quoting from Psalm 31:5 and restating the assurances that David made of God about a thousand years before the cross. 

From the context of Psalm 31:5, I do not believe this is a simple statement of resignation, as if Jesus is saying, “I give up”.  Rather, it is a statement of confidence in the Father.  Psalm 31 tells us that David saw his strength as coming from the knowledge that God is his refuge, deliverance, rescue, rock and redemption.  It is in light of all this that David places all that he was, every aspect of himself beyond his physical existence, in the hands of God.   Similarly, this is the same confidence that Jesus expresses from the cross.

This phrase is akin to the words that Jesus spoke in the garden a few hours earlier, “… not My will, but Yours be done.”  It conveys the confidence that Jesus had in knowing that the plans of God and the guiding hand of God can be trusted.  As the agony of the cross began to overwhelm the limits of His human body, Jesus doesn’t give up, but rather gives over control of His existence to the only one who can perfectly accomplish God’s will, the Father himself.  And He is faithful, releasing Jesus from His mortal coil and redeeming us, lost sinners, from the power of death and sin.

Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God.  Psalm 31:5

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  When he had said this, he breathed his last.  Luke 23:46

I pray that I’d have the confidence that David expressed or that Jesus exhibited.  Sadly, I often see the opposite dynamic at work:  when the going gets tough, I want to take matters into my own hands.  Instead of committing my spirit into God’s hands, I futilely attempt to handle my trials and troubles myself.  Instead of acting like David (who just prior to committing his spirit to God asks Him to “keep me free from the trap that is set for me”), I am more likely to stumble into danger by relying on my own sense of direction.  How much pain could be avoided if I committed my spirit to His hands.

It is hard to see the empty tomb when we are enduring what, for us, seems to be the cross.  It is at those times that we need to trust the hand of God, which comforted the Lord, rolled away the stone and raised the Savior.  It is also the hand that can comfort, strengthen and save us.

I am praying that you have a blessed Good Friday and a Happy Easter.

The Stories of Our Lives

As we have for the previous four awards seasons, my wife and I watched, in local theaters and in our living room, the nine movies nominated for the Academy Award’s Best Picture.  This year we were enchanted by a western, a musical, a science fiction thriller, a play adaption, a war epic, a biographical film, a coming-of age story, a historical narrative and a tear jerker.  Each film introduced us people facing challenges different (sometime much different) than our own.  Each movie gave us something to talk about and wrestle with after we viewed it.  And while the process of spending twenty or so hours watching movies may not appeal to everyone, it is a treat and a blessing to my wife and me.    oscar

Invariably, when the conversation turns to our project of seeing these Best Picture nominees, I am asked the question: what do you think will win?  I have some trouble answering that, in part because artistic expression (and that is ultimately what all these movies are) is so subjective, and in part because every film (well, maybe with one exception) had elements of greatness.  What do I think will win?  The Academy will likely choose Lalaland.  What do I think is overall the best picture for 2016, from among those nominated?  This is a much more complicated question.

As I answer this question, I feel that I can eliminate half the nominees from my personal best:  Arrival was good, especially in its character development and the deep conversation that followed was profound, but not great; Fences, with its exceptional acting performances, was too dialogue driven for my taste; Lalaland was artistically stunning but slow and lacked a plot for about a third of the film; and I found Moonlight, despite its important story, too confusing.  I appreciate all these films and the questions they produced in me: what would life be like if we were not constricted by time?  How do our dreams and failures shape our lives?  Can love conquer all?  Can we truly escape our environment?

The other five (Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, Lion and Manchester-by-the-Sea) were better stories more beautifully told with exceptional acting.  These five, at any given moment, fluctuate in my mind as best.  They represent characters who are each faced with challenges (trying to save lives while others are taking them, fighting foreclosure, battling racial injustice, finding a way back home and overcoming an unfair and tragic past), overcoming them, to a greater or lesser degree.  There are images and elements of each of these works of art that will remain with me for quite a while – moments of extreme pain and moments of overwhelming joy.  At this moment, I offer my opinion and would recommend you seeing Hacksaw Ridge, my choice for Best Picture.

For from him and through him and for him are all things.  To him be the glory forever!  Amen.   Romans 11:36

I do not say this simply because it is the most “faith-based” of the nominees, but because it is the most beautifully shot and compelling story captured on film.  All these films, from my personal favorite to my personal worst, have elements which provoke my pastoral side. Each one is worth seeing so that their narratives, whether true or fictitious, can enable us to walk in the shoes of another for 140 minutes or can afford us the opportunity to experience life in a way that we would never experience on our own.  We are surrounded by people broken by society and bruised by circumstance, and it is good to be reminded once in a while that we can overcome poverty, tragedy, rejection, oppression, prejudice and even the occasional success.  In every story our lives tell, no matter our faith system or lack thereof, God has a marvelous way of breaking in and then shining through the cracks the world inflicts upon us.  We all have a story to tell, one worthy of an Academy Award.

God and the Gridiron

The other night as I was reflecting on the fact that the New England Patriots had just won their fifth Super Bowl©, it made me think of God’s grace and guidance. Sure, as a Pastor, I often connect random occurrences in life with Biblical themes; the progression of Sunday’s game and its outcome makes my job easy.  For the Patriots, this was a season which required the team to deal with consequences for bad actions, demonstrated determination when excuses might have been easier and exemplified fortitude and the discipline of finishing strong.  These are things we all could afford to reflect upon, and learn from, as we face the struggles of life.edelman

As even the casual football fan knows, Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games of the season ultimately due to his refusal to cooperate with the NFL Commissioner’s investigation into “Deflate-gate”.  After a lengthy process involving the courts, Brady agreed to accept his suspension, albeit with no admission of guilt.  He then was forced to sit out the first four games of the season.  While we can argue, and many have, about the fairness of the Commissioner’s decision, it was what it was.  Tom Brady, and the team, suffered the consequences of his actions.  Then he was restored to active status and played the remainder of the season.  As I saw the Commissioner shake TB12’s hand and later hand him the Super Bowl© MVP trophy, I thought about grace.  To an even greater degree than the NFL brass and its players, God is correcting and rebuking His children and then, after confession and contrition has been made, fully and completely restores them, separating their sin as far as the east is from the west.  Do the crime, do the time, receive forgiveness and restoration, and go back out and compete.

Before the big game was played, it was reported that Tom Brady’s mother had been battling an undisclosed illness for eighteen months.  Also, the Patriots had suffered significant injuries throughout the regular season, including an injury which sidelined their most powerful offensive weapon, Rob Gronkowski.  No one would have blamed the Patriots if they had said that this was not their year, that the obstacles were too great and the challenges were too overwhelming.  Instead, the team worked hard, utilized “lesser” members, and seized victory.  To an even greater degree, God is drawing together and equipping His church to claim victory over darkness.  He has brought together a wide variety of people with a wide variety of abilities, all broken in one way or another, to become stronger together than they would ever be separately.  Do your job, do it to the best of your ability, trust those around you and taste victory.

Even the most optimistic ‘homer’ in New England may have thrown in the towel at six and a half minutes into the third quarter when the Falcons took a commanding 28-3 lead.  It is almost inconceivable that the Patriots (who had scored 3 points in the first 36:29 of the game) could score 25 points in the remaining 23:31 of regulation.  It is almost equally inconceivable, given the difficulties they had on defense, that they could hold the Falcons scoreless for the remainder of the game.  But that is exactly what happened – touchdown, field goal, touchdown, two-point conversion, touchdown, two-point conversion.  Tie game.  Overtime.  Touchdown.  Champions.  The accolades and the prize goes to those who finish strong.  To an even greater degree, that is the attitude God desires in us.  God’s people ought not to start strong and ultimately give out, but finish strong and ultimately win out.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.   1 Corinthians 9:24

Congratulations to the World Champion New England Patriots.  I am grateful to God that He can use such an earthly endeavor as a football game to remind us of His great plans and hopes for us.

Christmas Break

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.”  Luke 2:8 (NIV)

Of all the people involved in the Christmas narrative, I find myself identifying most with the shepherds.  While I am not a rugged outdoorsman with an extensive knowledge of ovine behavior, there are a few touchpoints with their lives that intrigue me.  These men, and perhaps women, were hard working – braving the weather of ancient Palestine, warding off the dangers that surrounded them, satisfying the needs of those placed in their care – and strong willed.  They were likely underappreciated by those around them (performing a necessary task but smelling like the livestock) and underestimated in their hometowns (battling the assumptions that they were simple-minded and poorly groomed).  They were the “little people” that most of us pass by unnoticed.   xmas

But that all changed when God interrupted their lives.  According to Luke, these shepherds were living out in the fields with their sheep, taking care of business, when suddenly a messenger of God appeared in the nighttime sky.   Many others, before and since, have a similar experience; they were living their lives, doing their best, when suddenly, God breaks through the “business as usual” with His spectacular presence.  Praise God that the shepherds realized what was happening and responded with reverence.  They listened and believed.  Interestingly, at least on this occasion, God didn’t interrupt the prayers of the temple or the plans of the king; He announced the miraculous to the common man.

What happened to that common man, what happened to those shepherds, is equally astounding.  Those who lived out in the fields and smelled like the sheep they tended became the spokespeople for God.  After seeing the child, just the way he was promised, they began telling those around them the good news – that the Savior has been born and the promised one has arrived.  The Bible says that the people who heard the shepherds’ story were amazed, perhaps by the message and perhaps by the messengers.  God broke through into the lives of ordinary people and allowed them to do something extraordinary.

The wonderful truth connected with the shepherds at Christmas is that God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  The one who shattered the darkness near Bethlehem with His brilliant glory is still doing the same thing today.  He is still sending messengers to ordinary people, announcing the arrival of Christ the Lord.  I know this because He broke into my life with His glorious light, albeit not with literal brilliance.  I was happily seeking out an ordinary life after being raised in an ordinary household.  In one moment, I changed from an unremarkable banker to a reflection of Him.  It wasn’t when I first trusted Him or when I was baptized, but rather when I saw and heard the truth and know I couldn’t keep it to myself.

My story led me to become a youth leader and a pastor, but I could have, like those shepherds of long ago, returned to my field with praise and glory to God.  No matter where life finds us, we are all surrounded by God’s glory; we simply need to recognize it.  Especially at Christmas, embrace the enchantment of the Nativity.  Let those songs in the background become a beacon for Him.  Allow those lights on the tree serve as a taste of the light of the Lord.  And when God breaks through, listen.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Specials

We all enjoy a ‘guilty pleasure’ or two during the holidays.  For some of us, it has to do with baked goods; we cannot resist the buttery, sugary Christmas cookies.  For others of us, it has to do with questionable music choices; we are delighted when “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” or “Dominick the Donkey” plays on the radio.  There are also those whose fashion choices are the issue; we find enjoyment in wearing gaudy and garish ‘ugly’ sweaters, complete with sequins and blinking lights.  One of my guilty pleasures is a stop-motion Christmas special produced by Rankin and Bass, “The Year Without a Santa Claus”.ywasc

Don’t get me wrong, I like all the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials.  As a pastor, I enjoy the reference to Jesus’ birth in “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and the extra-biblical tales told through “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Nestor, the Long-eared Donkey”.  But despite its completely secular storyline, I love “The Year without a Santa Claus”.  I love Mother Nature (with her birdhouse dwelling in the sky) and her boys, Heat Miser and Snow Miser.  I love the mayor of Southtown, dancing and singing about snow in Dixie.  I love Ignatius Thistlewhite and his family around the kitchen table, unknowingly talking to St. Nick.  I love that the ‘socks over the antlers’ trick can fool a dog catcher into thinking a reindeer is a pooch.  I love the little girl that sings “Blue Christmas” near the end of the hour-long show.  I love it all.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.   1 John 4:9 (NIV)

I have no trouble confessing that, “I believe in Santa Claus, like I believe in love…just like love, I know he’s there, waiting to be missed.” I have no problem having a belief in Santa Claus (a transliteration of Saint Nicholas – a real man who sacrificially shared the love of Christ with those around him) and I have no dispute with those who, unaware of the greatest truth of Christmas, personifies the loving Christmas spirit as a ‘jolly old elf’.  I enjoy songs and specials about the magical workshop at the North Pole, where the dreams and wishes of the young (and young at heart) are made true.

But stop-motion Christmas specials about flying reindeer and a living snowman – and that Christmas before we were born when Santa needed a holiday – are still ‘guilty pleasures’.  They are flights of fancy that must not distract us from reality, but accentuate it.  We seek out figures like Santa, Rudolph and Frosty because we want to live in a world of unconditional love and grace.  These secular symbols serve to identify the need we have – an emptiness in our hearts – and not to fill it.  That void can only be filled by the gift of God that 1st Christmas – the incarnate word and presence of God, Jesus Christ.

I hope you have the opportunity to indulge in your guilty pleasures over the next two weeks.  However, I pray that these differing ways of celebrating Christmas are not an end unto themselves, but rather a means to appreciating the true joys of Emmanuel’s birth.  As for me, I’m looking forward to a little time with Jingle and Jangle…and getting ready for Jesus.

A Peace of My Mind

The events of last Tuesday night greatly disturbed my household.  We were all gathered around the television watching the election results when suddenly we were surprised by some jarring noises – a work crew from the gas company was setting up shop in the middle of our ‘cul-de-sac’.  Before we knew it, a truck, a backhoe and a team of experts were opening a hole in the asphalt, blocking us from driving out of our driveway.  Eventually we were told that the gas main (installed in 1928) had ruptured and needed to be replaced; the gas company was cutting a trench down our street when I left for work on Wednesday.  Thankfully, the workers could move their equipment and we could move our vehicles with little inconvenience. flag

As we watched these developments on Tuesday night and the aftermath on Wednesday, our displeasure with the situation increased.  We were angry that we were not consulted and our needs were not considered.  We were bothered that our freedom was hindered and we had no one to blame.  While we wanted to go outside and loudly complain to whoever would listen, we remained silent – we knew our angry outbursts would not accomplish anything good and possibly produce something bad.  We were faced with the ubiquitous station in life where we had reason to be angry.   But should that reason result in our making it a right?

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.   Romans 12:18 (NIV)

We live in a strongly individualized society.  We are continually offended, insulted and aggrieved by those around us exercising their freedoms.  We hear things that disturb our sensibilities and see things raise our rancor, causing us to consider seeking retaliation.  But if we know Jesus as Lord and Savior, we must reconsider our desires to indulge these inner voices. We, as Christians, are called to live at peace.  And the best way to live at peace is through practicing three peace-making disciplines.

Hostility is not the answer and “fighting fire with fire” only increases the flames.  When we want retribution, we would be wise to pray, to have patience and to show compassion.  Whether it is for authorities (like presidents or police) or aggravators (like gas company employees), we can lift them up in prayer and seek for them God’s wisdom to make the best decisions.  Whether it is for commuters (noisy riders on the train or aggressive drivers on the roads) or critics (with ‘helpful advice’ or hateful rhetoric), we can exhibit patience and endure discomfort.  Whatever separates or divides us (economics, experiences or ethnicities), we can show compassion by choosing to consider their side and contemplate our shared struggles.

The world needs peacemakers, people who are actively seeking reconciliation and common ground.  If the national events of Tuesday night are any indication, half of us are dealing with disappointment and the rest are (very) cautiously optimistic about our country’s direction.  We are a divided nation needing people who seek unity.  We need people who will pray, be patient and bring compassion to our neighbors and our neighborhoods.  Will you accept the Bible’s challenge and live at peace with everyone, as much as it depends upon you?

The Cubs and the Eschaton

Hope is a wonderful and mystical thing.  It is wonderful in that it can uplift the soul during the most discouraging of times and it is mystical in that it has a spiritual meaning that is difficult to see or understand.  Hope is what enables us to share stories of the past with the future generations and what allows us to anticipate the good while enduring darkened days.  Hope tells us that one day all our tears will be dried and all our pains will be taken away, replaced by an overwhelming new reality where we are the victors.  Hope reminds us that there is something within us that is preparing us for our day in the sun.cubs

It had been generations since the people had experienced victory.  All those who were witnesses to the prior celebration have long since passed and all that remains were their written accounts of those jubilant days.  The oral tradition, told by fathers to their children (who told it to their children) recounted how long ago there was a leader who built a team who conquered the world.  Young people hearing these tales shook their heads in disbelief while the ‘old-timers’ looked forward to that team’s return to the pinnacle.  But years passed and the team never reached the level of success they once enjoyed.  Over time all that was left was hope.

Others eventually heard and read of this band of ‘lovable losers’ and began to pray for the team’s success.  They would gather with like-minded individuals at all times of the day and night, developing rituals and recounting the exploits of those who went before them.  Even people from other cultures and belief -systems began to take notice of this hopeful group; some of them even changed allegiances and began following this team, hoping that they too would be able to one day see the triumphal return of their boys, and their leader.  They were sure that one day – one great and glorious day – everyone on earth would witness what seemed impossible: the hope of a people fulfilled as their beloved team finally wins it all.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.   Ephesians 1:18-19a (NIV)

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs who, after 108 years of hoping, finally saw the fulfillment of their dream as they secured the World Series trophy early Thursday morning.  They are champions of the world.   But this post is not about the Cubs; it is about the church.  The faithful people of God have been waiting, in hopeful anticipation, for nearly 2,000 years for their team (all believers in Christ as Lord and Savior) and their leader (Jesus) to return and claim the victory.   Some wonder if that day will ever arrive or if the accounts from those who witnessed Jesus’ initial victory (through the cross) are true.  Some question whether they are delusional in hoping for something that most days has little evidence of happening.  Some wonder if there is any good in hoping.

If you’re questioning the value of hope, just look at the people surrounding Wrigley Field, ecstatic over a baseball game.  Imagine the certain celebration that will take place when Christ returns to claim His victory.  I hope I will still be alive!

For Freshmen

Tomorrow morning at 9AM Jeanine and I will be dropping off at college our only daughter, Rebekah.  At that time, she will begin orientation week at American University in Washington, DC (which is 447 miles from our new apartment in Dorchester).  This is not the first time we’ve driven a child to college and waved as we drove away; we were in a similar situation four years as we hugged our son in front of a dorm at Gordon College (a mere 33 miles from our current apartment in Dorchester).  I can say in my mind that this is the same thing, but my heart tells me that this is going to be different.AU

As Rebekah begins her collegiate career, I feel the need, as I did for her brother before her, to pass on a few words of wisdom from my own experiences:

  • First, I would want to tell her to allow this experience to enhance her beautiful qualities instead of changing them. She will meet a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds whom she will want to emulate; I’d want her to know that she is able to resist that temptation and remain true to herself.  I hope she makes friends with people from other cultures, countries and capabilities and she is better for these interactions while keeping within her what makes her unique;
  • Next, I would want to tell her to focus on the important and not just the interesting. I’d want her to remember why she is where she is – to gain the skills and special training she needs to improve her chances at accomplishing her goals.  I’d tell her that going to class and preparing for exams are essentials disciplines that will reap rich rewards.  However, there are important things beyond the classroom as well: I’d want her to look for those lifelong friendships and life-shaping experiences that can be found in unexpected places;
  • Then, I would remind her that God has directed her to our nation’s capital for a purpose. I would encourage her to take advantage to all that her campus and community allows.  Go to the Smithsonian and absorb great art and artifacts, read the words inscribed on the monuments and memorials, and witness the pageantry of diplomatic motorcades and an inauguration; attend worship in some of the great churches in our nation, serve the needs of the poor and underprivileged, and take a skull along the Potomac.

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’  Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”  Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)

Honey, I want you to shine so brightly that in the dark moments we can still see you 447 miles away.  Your mother and I are so proud of you and all that you’ve become.  We cannot wait to see the great things God will continue to do through you!

For all those leaving for college for the first time this week, and for their families who love them, I pray God’s richest blessing and watch care as you pursue your dreams.

For those wanting to read my thoughts four years ago, read  https://calvaryboston.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/a-parents-hope-for-freshmen/

Bless You, Patty Stanley

There are plenty of things I love about serving in ministry in a small church: despite my introverted nature I love preaching and teaching people from various walks of life; even though only a handful of people read these posts I love relating the truths of God to everyday realities; and, maybe above all, although it will only reach a couple dozen kids during one week in July I love directing Vacation Bible School.  Vacation Bible School is both exhilarating and exhausting.  While it brings out the best (it gives an outlet for my creative silliness) and worst (I am woefully inadequate in encouraging our volunteers), I am blessed every year by God’s presence, experienced by and through all those who participate.Logo1

My first experience with VBS was at First Church of the Nazarene in Brockton when I was invited to participate by Patty Stanley, a third grade classmate.   While I don’t remember much more than going, the experience planted deep seeds within my soul.  These seeds would take about a dozen years to bear fruit, and now, after 25 summers of leading children through VBS, I am beginning to realize why I love this week so much. VBS reminds me that:

  • Church should be fun: Sometimes I feel that a typical Sunday morning is not what most participants would categorize as fun – majestic, illuminating, encouraging and equipping, yes, but ‘a blast”, sadly not. VBS is lively music, energetic games, sweet food, sometimes messy crafts and silly surprises.  It is fifteen hours of exuberance and laughter.  That is what I picture heaven to be like and those lucky enough to participate get a little glimpse of it in church basements across the country every summer;
  • Church should involve everyone: I wish every program in the church involved as diverse a collection of people as VBS. Not only can kids from every aspect of our society participate (regardless of age, education, religion, race, ethnicity or economic status), VBS also attracts volunteers that reflect the same diversity.  It is not uncommon for a 70 year-old to interact with a 7 year-old or a teen to laugh alongside a toddler.  Again, this is what I picture heaven to be like, and those who participate in VBS get to experience that joy here and now;
  • Church should share the love of Jesus: VBS does this in word and in deed. Certainly, the Bible lessons are intended to share the great truth that God loves us so much that He sent His son to pay the penalty for our sin on the cross and restore our relationship with Him.  But the willingness of volunteers to give of their time, talents and resources, sacrificially spending hours of retirement or vacation time simply to share the Savior with our smallest family members expresses the great love of God.  Perhaps VBS is the best example of evangelism most churches portray.

That is why I love VBS.  I have fun, interact with others and share God’s love.  This year, as in years past, I was blessed by all that occurred in a little church in the big city as we went on a “Deep Sea Discovery”.  It has been a good reminder that God is with me wherever I go!

“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go….”  Genesis 28:15 (NIV)