This week in VBS, our theme verse has come from James 1:5 – If any of you lack wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. The Message renders it, "If you don't know what you're doing…"
Let's condense it for just a moment- If you lack wisdom, ask God and it will be given to [you]. That's will. A promise. God doesn't want us wandering through life, so He makes a guaranteed offer to help us out.
Now that part we condensed out is just as amazing. This wisdom is available to anybody who asks for it. Not just leaders. Not just super-Christians. God gives it to everyone. And that's "gives" not "gave". The offer is still open. God gives that wisdom generously (the way He gives everything!). He doesn't parcel out a piece of wisdom here and there and make us figure out the details ourselves. Finally, He doesn't criticize or rebuke us for asking. There's no "how dare you?", no "how could you NOT know the answer to that one!" He encourages us to freely ask.
This blanket offer hinges on wisdom. Wisdom is applied knowledge. God is not promising to answer every question we come up with. He's promising to give us direction and help us move forward. So like The Message says, "If you don't know what you're doing" in that relationship, in that vocation, in that ministry, in that… whatever, ask God
What am I writing? – I started a new book draft this week! Yay! It feel so good to be writing new stuff once again. I'll post the chapter once I get it tweaked a little. The August newsletter went out this week. If you didn't get one, you can read it here, and sign-up for future ones using that form at the right. What have I learned? Nerdy things about the site here, and my newsletter manager- Vertical Response. I won't bore you with the details. 🙂
What am I reading? Where Did I Leave My Glasses? about normal memory loss, partly because learning, memory and brain function fascinate me, partly for research purposes for Doug's book. It's a fun read, but still incorporates the latest research in cognitive neuroscience (without making it sound that heavy and boring). Next week… a month of fiction begins!
What has God taught me? We're doing Lifeway's Boomerang Express VBS this week, and the tagline is "It all comes back to Jesus". It does. In the end, nothing else matters. I told the kids Wednesday night, that we make dozens of decisions every day- what to eat for breakfast, which shirt to wear – and most of those decisions don't matter at all, but what we decide to do with the facts about Jesus Christ… that matters for all eternity. Sometimes we get so familiar with the gospel, it loses its wonder. It's been great to see the fresh unabashed enthusiasm the kids have for Jesus. It's definitely given me a boost.
We are most of the way through our week of Bible school, and I have to say, it has been the least stressful VBS I can remember since I was a kid. (Not counting the VBS my brother and I came down with the chickenpox.) If you’ve prayed for me, for us during this week, thank you. God has answered in a tremendous way.
I know I’m supposed to exercise, but I don’t like it. I don’t like being sweaty. I don’t like that gasping for my next breath and I really don’t like being sore the next day. BUT… I like those really cool high-tech, moisture wicking shirts, and I love good running shoes. So I bought three of those shirts and thus obligated myself. Sigh. Last week, I started getting up early and interval training. (I call it that because I can’t run very far yet. I run til I think I might die, then I walk until I can breathe again. Rinse Repeat.)
My husband, who is a real runner, is extremely encouraging (and wise 😉 ). My goals for running are set pretty low. I just want to make it around the park, maybe twice (around a mile and a half). For me, it’s less about the fitness and more about self-discipline- the getting up and doing it part. Sure, I’d like to drop some weight, and get all those other benefits that come with exercise, but self-discipline takes practice. If I can do it here, exercising, it will be easier the next time I try it in some other area of my life. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul talks about self-discipline in relation to effective, credible ministry. Sadly, we’ve seen ministries destroyed when individuals couldn’t practice self-discipline.
The physical life often reflects the spiritual life. Jesus healed people physically as proof of His ability to heal spiritually. My ultimate goal is to translate some practiced physical self-discipline to spiritual discipline. Maybe God is honoring that desire with a less stressful VBS. Even so, I’ll be up… oh about 5:30 in the morning. I can’t quit now. Besides, I bought the shirts.
Vacation Bible School in this week, so that’s at the front of my brain, and will likely be the subject of the posts. Several years ago, I got put in as director. While I love VBS, love leading the music, love being around the kids, I hate being in charge of things. Hate it. Leadership is not my gift. Administration, I can do. I’m a great assistant director, but our church is small and we don’t have that luxury, so here I am in my fifth year as director.
My point is God often takes us outside our comfort zone to stretch and grow our faith. However, He’s not going to take us outside our ‘gift zone’. How can you tell the difference? Ask God to show you your heart as you pray and study. Ask yourself these questions as a guide.
- Am I passionate about what I’m doing? Does it bring me joy or dread?
- Does it cause unhealthy stress?
- Do I procrastinate (more than usual) with this task?
- How do I respond to others when I am in this role? Am I irritable, or defensive?
- If I stop doing it, do I miss it?
- Do I have ideas for ‘next year’?
- Does it help or hurt the cause of Christ to be miserable in His service?
- Is this ministry for Him or for me?
Tough questions, I know, and the answers aren’t any easier. Several years ago, I stopped doing youth ministry with my husband after more than ten years. My stress level dropped, but the tip-off to me that I had made the right decision was that I didn’t miss it. I still cared deeply for the kids, but I wasn’t visualizing new program ideas or study topics or outings.
As a body, we tend to suffer from “Institutional Ministry Inertia” where we get stuck doing the same thing forever. We’re sure the roof will fall in if we stop doing it or worse, that somebody will think we’re unspiritual or unfaithful. If we’re in ministries that God didn’t call us to, and didn’t gift us for, then we are unfaithful stewards of His gifts.
Friday! I love Friday, even better than Saturday. I especially love this Friday because… *whispering* I made it a whole week getting up early to walk/run. Last Friday, I bought some really cool exercise shirts and shorts… I’m obligated. Plus… I’m really tired of these extra 15 pounds. But I did it, and I lived. BTW, when you run until you think you’re going to die and then have to walk… that’s called ‘interval training’, not ‘wimping out’. However, in the ‘lack of positive reinforcement’ department, the scales haven’t moved. Jon tells me to be patient. I am not. Here’s what else is going on…
What am I writing? Not a living thing this week. I didn’t even plot or plan. Instead, I worked on VBS. It’s next week and I needed to get a handle on it. NEXT week, however, I hope to get started on a new draft. Claire’s book. I also plan to get the newsletter out next week- just a little late. (When I have a staff, this will never happen again, I’m sure.)
What have I learned? This week was ‘computer maintenance week’, electronic housekeeping- almost as much fun as the real stuff. This means next week, I won’t be able to find any files on my computer. I downloaded some audio file editing software from AVS4YOU. It was easy and intuitive. I also downloaded a ringtone maker, but haven’t had a chance to use it yet.
What am I reading? Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic by Anne Jackson. In this book, she is bold enough to shine a light on a reality most folks would prefer to ignore. The $64000 question, “Does working at this church interfere with your communion with Christ?” For whatever reasons, doing the ‘work’ of the church is sucking the life out of the workers. I admit I’ve been there, and not too long ago. Yes, I’ve tried to come down with the stomach flu between 8:30 and 9 a.m. on Sunday morning. Her discussion doesn’t pull any punches, but it’s not an exercise in church-bashing or staff-bashing. She’s quick to point out how we contribute to our own burnout when we lose focus on God whom we are to love with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. Her advice is simple, but not easy and may take a complete realignment in our thinking about how we ‘do’ ministry.
Two things struck me as I read. For a body who claims to depend on Christ’s strength, we are shamefully intolerant of frailties in our brother and sisters. Why would an unbelieving world want to bring their burdens to the foot of the cross when they see how we respond to each other. Perfection is not achieved in this life, period. We can’t expect in ourselves or demand it from others. Which brings me to the second point. Instead of transforming the culture, we have adapted the success-driven model around us, and have fallen into competitive comparison of our ministries. I think we genuinely want to see people transformed by the gospel, but the plan is God’s not ours. It is a very telling thing that minutes before His arrest, Jesus Christ prayed for our unity (John 17:21), not our protection, not our growth, not our success, but our unity.
Oh yeah, I’m also reading In the Wake of the Plague by Norman Cantor. My sister understands 😉
In fact, she got it for me.
What has God taught me? Stay focused… because He gave His life, because He makes me whole, because He strengthens me (because I need it!), because He deserves my total devotion, because my purpose on this earth is give Him my whole being as a living sacrifice.