What I’ve been up to this week!

kids, VBS

It’s been an extraordinarily busy week for me.  Insanely busy.  Hectic.  Chaotic.  Work is crazy; every day the phone has been ringing constantly with requests that go something like this:

“I’m so sorry to do this to you, but I (forgot about this – just found out about this – need revisions – want to completely change the design and format we were working on) and I need it immediately.”

I’m not joking when I say the phone was ringing constantly.  A couple of times toward the end of the week I almost answered the office phone by saying, “Kim Edwards, graphic designer, what’s your emergency?”  My desk was plastered with sticky notes.  My calendar was a scribbled, jumbled mess of overlapping events.

To top it all off, it’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) week.  I leave work and head to church to take up the duties as VBS director.  For a girl that needs at least seven hours of sleep per night, the four, maybe five I’m getting just ain’t cuttin’ it (pardon my grammar).  About 8 p.m. the tiredness washes over me, and for a minute I really want to just go home, crawl under the covers, snuggle with Toby Dog and forget all the stresses and demands of the day.  But then a volunteer has a question, a teacher needs something or a child is upset and I have to shake off the craving for sleep and solitude and take care of my director duties.

I have managed to stick with healthy nutrition, and that’s largely responsible for my energy to keep on keeping on.  However, my exercise has suffered.  I have managed a few early morning workouts, but poor Toby Dog hasn’t had a good walk since last weekend.  He’s such a good boy and hasn’t complained once.  I do believe when I left this morning he shot me a sarcastic look as I breezed out the door and said, “Bye, Toby Dog, Mama loves you, we’ll have a day to rest soon!”  I just know he was thinking, “Yeah, yeah, whatever.”

It’s just been one of those weeks where I felt like everyone and everything was grabbing and pulling for attention at the same time.  But you know what?

It’s been one of the best weeks I’ve ever had.

I truly believe this has been our best VBS ever.  It’s such a joy to see children having fun at church and in worship.  Young minds are receiving God’s message.  Learning the Bible has been fun for them.  They are asking pretty deep questions about salvation, surrendering to God and what it means to live as a Christian.  They hear stories of how Jesus showed His love to others and how we are called to follow His example.  They are getting it.

Why are they getting it?  Because of the many volunteers that have sacrificed their personal time to make sure these kids hear the Word of God.  The teachers have spent weeks planning lessons and decorating rooms.  There are those that have planned, organized and served meals, then cleaned up after.  The craft leaders put together projects ahead of time and have spent the evenings patiently helping youngsters to make their own versions.  The music leaders learned songs and routines so they could teach them to the kids for performance night.  There are volunteers who served as photographers and floaters, filling in wherever help was needed.

Why did they do this?  Because they have hearts for God and are obeying His Word.  Proverbs 22:6 reads:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

However, the week leading up to this one was not all smooth sailing.  There were last minute roadblocks and problems, one right after the other, bringing on a high level of stress.  As of last weekend, I was on the phone with my pastor telling him I was done with Bible School.  Next year someone else could direct it.  I didn’t need this added stress, I was done, finished, no talking me into it next year.

I know without a doubt that those roadblocks and problems which had me throwing my hands up in despair came from the devil.  He knew that young minds would be receiving the message of God’s grace, love and mercy and he tried all his tricks to stop it.  The last thing he wants is for anyone to be saved, most especially the young ones.  When I realized that’s what was going on, I got my attitude straight, banished the devil from my brain and went to my pastor’s house to apologize for venting my frustration and coming close to freaking out on him.  If God wants me to be involved in VBS next year, I’ll be there. I’m not done, Pastor Jimmie!

I have realized this week how fervently the devil and his armies constantly try to keep us from living a Christian life and spreading the Gospel.  They never stop seeking to destroy those who do so.  I have also realized that, while nothing bad comes from God, He will allow a little “bad” into our lives to admonish us when we let our own selfish attitudes and desires get in the way of serving him.  It’s in such times that we realize just how much we need Him.  He uses this to draw us closer to Him.

God calls us to surrender, sacrifice and serve.  All the volunteers at our VBS are doing just that this week.  Surrendering to His call as missionaries, sacrificing time away from home and families and serving as we minister to and love on these children.

Reflecting on your own life, what are some things that God may be calling you to sacrifice or give up in order to fulfill His purpose or minister to someone?  The issue is this – are you willing to deny yourself, the things you want, to become the person God wants you to be?

It’s difficult to live a God-focused life when we are tempted to live in a me-focused way.  We have to look at our lives to turn down the habits, thoughts and behaviors that do not bring glory to God.

Scripture

Mark 8:34:  Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves.

Prayer

Father God, show me the areas of my life that I need to surrender to You.  Help me to give my own desires to You and flee from the attitudes and actions that are not pleasing to You.  Help me to give to others in a way that allows others to see Christ in me by the way I serve.  In Your Son’s most precious and holy name I pray, Amen.

Click for more VBS pictures:  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011575305989

 

Week two: Pretty façades and empty spaces

SONY DSC

One day recently I was in line at the grocery store.  It was the first week of the month and the lines were long.  As I waited and shuffled forward, I idly gazed at the magazines and other “impulse” items displayed beguilingly, tempting shoppers with their shiny, colorful covers and promising articles such as “The real you:  know her, love her ” and “I don’t have to be perfect!”

I don’t buy those magazines, but with the line not moving and a few minutes to kill, I picked one up and flipped through it out of curiosity to see if the inside articles delivered on the promises the headlines declared on the outside.  All of the articles were pretty much the same – on one hand encouraging you to be comfortable with who you are, as you are, but then giving you a hundred and one ways to improve yourself as well as ways to impress others by your outer appearance.  For instance, the “real you” article was very short on knowing and loving yourself, then listed tips to enhance and improve yourself.

It reminded me of movie sets and the huge, elaborate houses built for filming outside shots, but the inside is an empty shell, not even finished walls, just enough studs and beams to hold up the frame.  I recently read an article about the house used in the filming of the movie “Practical Magic.”  The story was set in New England, but producers found a location perfect for the setting of the movie on an island in Washington State.  It took only eight months to build a “shell” house for the purpose of filming outside shots, a beautiful, huge Victorian (it was torn down after filming).  However, the stately home was completely empty, all of the interior shots were filmed on a Hollywood studio set.  An enormous amount of time and money was spent on painstaking efforts to make the outside look as realistic as possible including an elaborate garden.  The house was very beautiful, but it was only outside boards, nails and paint, empty on the inside, nothing more than a pretty façade.

I think we’re all guilty of that at times, paying a lot more attention to the glitz and shine on the outside than what we fill our insides with.  I admit that sometimes I spend more time on coordinating and accessorizing outfits and worrying over gray hair (I’m trying to embrace my gray but so far it’s a losing battle) than spending time of the inside.  The world we live in certainly pays more attention to outward appearances and material possessions, placing a great deal of emphasis on youthful appearances, designer labels, the cars we drive and the homes we live in, opulent lifestyles and so many other worldly things.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t want to look our best or shouldn’t have nice homes, cars or clothes.  But when we spend more time on outer appearances and neglect our inner selves that it is displeasing to God.  He looks at things from a totally different perspective and is much more interested in our inner selves than a pretty outside.  He wants to meet us at our deepest level, to face the emotions and motivations that we think we have well hidden.

In last week’s Reflections article, we talked about surrendering all aspects of our lives to Him, both physically and spiritually.  This week we take it a step further.  Surrender is not only about giving up control to Him, but opening the door and allowing Him to come in and sweep out those dusty, empty corners of the old habits and compulsions that led us to neglect our bodies in the first place.  It’s about allowing Him to transform who we are on the inside first, filling us with His Spirit, then the peace and joy we receive will be manifested on our outside.

This week, consider some external things that you may be spending more time on than you should.  In your prayer time and as you exercise, ask God to clean your inner house of anything that stands in the way of allowing Him to transform you and mold you so that you may have a more perfect walk with Him.  If you are journaling, write down any insights that come to mind and use them during your prayer time.

Prayer:

Father God, I thank you for loving me.  You know me at my deepest level, even the things I try so hard to hide from others, You and even myself.  I know that You see past the pretty façades I project on the outside and into the dark corners, yet You love me anyway and will never stop loving me.  Today I surrender to You anything in my life that stands in the way of letting me become closer to You.  Help me to see these things, face them and allow You to empty me of all these things so I can be filled with Your Spirit.  I give my entire being, inner and outer, to You, Lord.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Scripture: 1 Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

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