Every summer, kids gather for Vacation Bible School (VBS).
Gregarious games. Sweet and savory snacks. Magnanimous music. Creative crafts. Bodacious Bible stories. Kids would leave the week-long extravaganza with t-shirts, CD’s (remember those?), and new friends.
I think you would agree that historically, Vacation Bible School (VBS) has been primarily for kids.
And as with most things, VBS is not exempt from the “Butterfly Effect” of a global pandemic.
So, this year - what if everybody gets to play at VBS?
Here are three ways that VBS isn’t just for kids, anymore.
Love Kids and Everybody Wins
This one might seem obvious, but it’s a big one.
I learned early on in ministry that the key to every parent’s heart is their most important thing: their kids.
And then, when I became a parent, I learned that kids are not just the key to a parent’s heart - kids become their heartbeat. I mean, there are few things I wouldn’t consider doing to love my kid. And, when other people love my kids, they don’t just have my attention - they have my love, too.
Want to show a parent that they’re loved? Love their kids.
In our current cultural moment, it seems like almost every parent is at least concerned, if not worried and absolutely terrified about how their child is faring and how they will be changed by the past year of uncertainty. The disruptions in schooling, friendships, parent’s job schedules, most likely the death of somebody they know, and if they attended church - Sunday mornings will certainly shape the younger generation because let’s face it - the last 15 months might be all they know of memorable life.
So, yes, VBS is one of the staple, stable, and predictable experiences for many. And that kind of consistency is the key to not just a child’s overall health, but to a parent’s or grandparent’s heart.
Plus, VBS is still very much a perceived safe space in our world (at least, for now).
When you love other people’s kids, everybody wins.
This year, kids, students, and adults get to experience VBS, together either onsite, online, or in their neighborhoods.
Parent(s) hear about God’s love from their kids. Siblings want in on the new games they learned. Parent(s) get the songs stuck in their heads as they hear the music over, and over, and over again. And if the kids make new friends - bring on the playdates!
Want to love parents? Love their kids.
Neighborhoods are the New Church Buildings (at least right now)
That sounds weird, doesn’t it?
Hang with me and allow me to explain what I mean.
Even when restrictions are completely lifted, it will take time for life to return to “normal”. Some even say, we will need to establish a “new normal”. I’m not here to debate which one is more likely. I’m simply saying that I’m not expecting the rush of people to return to any institution, concert venue, or in our case, church building.
I could be wrong, but my sense is that the return to church buildings will be more like the gradual flow of a creek rather than a gushing Rainier waterfall.
This is all to say that the people who would ordinarily gather at a church building for VBS are still living in their neighborhoods. They eat, sleep, play, do yard work, clean their garage, and spend quite a bit of time up and down the same streets you and I live on.
And this is good news.
Everybody who needs to experience God’s love for them are within 500 feet of you.
Paul puts it this way: Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16, ESV).
Indeed, your neighborhood is the new church building. And your neighbors (in a way) live at church.
Why? Because you’re there.
So, if kids used to attend VBS at a church building, and if the new church building is in your neighborhood - then grabbing a few other families and friends to host a VBS in your neighborhood is an incredibly powerful and effective way that God has invited you into His game of loving Him back, loving people around you, and living like Jesus.
You can reach out to Dereem to learn more about hosting a neighborhood VBS in August.
Everybody is Online
The world changed in 2007. In an instant, all of the world’s greatest inventions were in the palm of your hand. The good and the not so good were now accessible within moments. And nobody else would need to know what you’re reading, looking at, or watching because it was on your phone.
Fast forward 14 years later and almost everybody we know has a smartphone. We bank with it. We register for classes. We talk to family. We document our meals. We go to the doctor. We get counseling. So much of what we do everyday could be done or is done on or through our phones.
Simple point: everybody is online.
Mark records Jesus saying, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15, ESV). Let’s be honest, we don’t need to go very far. In fact, I don’t even need to move (as I type this) to “go” into all the world.
Our VBS content will be made available online for you to share and invite other people you know to share.
Sharing “Jesus stuff” can be intimidating. We’re afraid of what others might say or think. We prepare ourselves for a potential adverse response or reaction because we aren’t sure where those we may invite are when it comes to “Jesus stuff”. So, we go back and forth wallowing in doubt and worry until we either give up, forget, or something a little bit “less controversial” comes up to forward on our social media feeds.
The Zero Property applies in both math and invitations. I remember my 3rd grade math teacher saying, “if you multiply anything by zero, you get zero”. Likewise, if nobody invites anybody to consider "Jesus stuff" online, then nobody may ever consider Jesus an anybody.
Zero attempts will always result in zero opportunities.
While sharing our online VBS content might be a “passive” way to be part of God’s greater story of love in somebody else’s life, it can be powerful and life-changing.
Just think, an entire family could be changed by Jesus’ love through VBS that would change the eternal destiny of their future generations. All because you and they were both online in a time such as this.
My friend Greg often reminds me that we are not Jesus salespeople going around and "selling" Jesus. We don't advertise Jesus. We don't sell Jesus. We are Jesus followers who show others where Jesus is alive and working in us and others, our communities and world, online and in-person.
Sharing online VBS content when it's released later this summer on your feed, via email, or however else you can share it doesn't "sell" Jesus - you are following Jesus into a place (online) where Jesus already is working. You simply get to join Jesus in what He is already doing... even online.
Can you think of other ways people besides kids can "play" at VBS?
Send me a note and let me know.
This weekend is Mother’s Day.
So, let’s be honest: It’s OK to feel what you feel.
Happy. Mad. Sad. Glad. And every emotion in between - God made you, you - and God made you to feel what you feel. Own it and see it as a gift from God.
And, to clear the air: Mother’s Day is not a Christian, religious, or even faith-based holiday.
In other words, you will not find Jesus celebrating Mother’s Day in the Gospels. Search the Scriptures and this kind of day isn’t anywhere to be found in the Hebrew Religion or Early Church.
Now, I’m not anti-Mother’s Day. I will be calling my mom and mother-in-law this weekend. My kids will be making cards for them. And, the boys and I will be treating Beth to a day full of love to honor her for how much she gives to us.
However, when it comes to loving and living like Jesus, I want to level the playing field because not every person who wants to be a mom is a mom. I also know that everybody doesn’t have a positive mom-experience. And (I've heard from some moms) that as wonderful motherhood can be, it’s one of the most difficult and challenging experiences of their lives. It’s exhausting. It’s overwhelming. There is no instruction book. It's all on-the-job training.
It’s certainly safe to say that without the Holy Spirit’s help (from the Christian perspective), it’s impossible to have a mom or be a mom.
I’ll just let that thought sit with you today.
So, here are three things about Mother's Day that will help all of us love and live more like Jesus: Remember, Dream, and Celebrate.
When Jesus remembers what might have been, Jesus wept (John 11:35).
Sometimes crying it out ourselves or allowing others around us to cry out their memories is how we can love and live more like Jesus.
For those who are grieving the loss of a mom or child, sad about not being a mom, or angry about not having a mom when you needed one… The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). You can love others like Jesus by taking some time to remember the people you gave life to and know that God is not far - in fact, nothing can separate us from the love of God that is found in Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).
Believe it or not, God is always looking at what is ahead. God’s plans are not always our plans (Isaiah 55:8-9) - but it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a plan (Jeremiah 29:11).
Sometimes dreaming about what is on God’s mind with others is how we can love and live more like Jesus.
For those who are dreaming of motherhood… Dreaming about being a mom who gives life to other people is a God-dream! Remember that after God made humanity, people were blessed and God said, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).
Don’t lose God’s dream that He has given to you. Place the dream you have into God’s hands and entrust your plan to His… remember God’s plan is always better than our own (even when it doesn’t seem like it).
Those who are/have been foster children or adopted/have been adopted… you may not know who your mom was. You may even assume that your mom was an evil person. Being adopted myself, when I fall into this kind of thinking, I have learned that more often than not, it’s my own fear of being completely loved and totally accepted that is clouding my mind and messing with my heart. In those moments, I’m reminded of Isaiah 43:1: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine”.
Keep dreaming and remember that “the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
For those who have mom’s alive today… for those who have children today… for all mom-like people who give us life… we celebrate you. The Psalm writer says: give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever (Psalm 107:1).
One way to celebrate moms and mom-like people today is to thank them for teaching you about God’s love for you. For taking you to church. For helping introduce you to Jesus. For showing you a glimpse of what God’s love looks like as mom gives, and gives, and then gives more life to you.
I think it might be safe to say that we all have someone who is a mom or has been mom-like to us. These are people to celebrate well today. Indeed, God’s love through them lasts forever.
Unless you’re a tree enthusiast, you probably don’t think about planting, growing, or celebrating trees very often.
I know I don’t.
I used to think that only people who knew about trees (like John Muir) would plant them. I recently learned that some 7,000 trees are planted… every minute. That’s 5 million trees, everyday - 158 million trees, each month.
That’s a lot of trees.
The same is true about faith.
I think sometimes we think that only people know a lot about God, Jesus, and faith can “plant” it in somebody else. If that’s the case, then planting would be slow-going. But, I wonder what would happen if everyone who had an ounce of love for Jesus or a nugget of knowledge about faith would pass it onto someone in another generation - older or younger.
In other words, what would happen if we planted, nurtured, and celebrated a Tree of Faith, everyday?
Afterall, Mark 4:32 says a tiny mustard seed, “grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
So, confession - every tree I’ve planted by myself has either died or uprooted in a midwest windstorm. But, I have learned a thing or two about planting tiny seeds of Jesus Trees.
Here are four things I have learned along the way (and how you can join me in planting a Jesus Tree).
Seeds take a long time to germinate. Whether they’re your spring garden seeds or seeds of Jesus’ encouragement sown into the heart of a loved one - seeds take time to begin to sprout. Sometimes, they take root and it’s weeks (sometimes years) to see anything pop out of the ground. And, that’s OK. Be patient.
I often think about how patient Jesus must be with me.
Jesus Trees take time to grow - at least trees that are deeply rooted in Him.
If you're not gentle with seedlings, they will die. When you begin learning how to use a garden tool, you must use it gently. Small movements. You learn how it works so that you don’t hurt yourself or the plants you’re tending to. The same is true with God’s Word. I think sometimes we handle God’s truth like a sword. And while it’s true that God’s Word is like a sword, a tool (or weapon) that is not properly used hurts everybody in its path.
I recently had some very “real” conversations with a group of Christians about some very “real life” things. They know the truth. I learned that in their past, they’ve been beaten down by the truth. They didn’t need another sword to cut them down. They needed the watering can of grace to know that even in their searching for their “true” identity (in Christ!), they are unconditionally loved and completely accepted in the love of Jesus Christ. Not even the confusion and brokenness in that part of their lives can keep them from the reckless love of God. I needed to be gentle… and I’m guessing you might need to be gentle (and yet bold!) with God’s Word, too.
It’s not a matter of life or death.
The poles of whether a tree lives or dies are pretty draconian. There is a lot of life that happens between the time a seed is planted and when a mature tree is cut down, harvested, or dies.
I think sometimes when we are growing Jesus Trees, we get tricked into believing everything is an urgent matter. A situation where repentance needs to happen right away.
We need to remember that growth takes time. Resolution and reconciliation does not always happen after the first, second, or even fifth conversations. And afterall, resolution and reconciliation does not determine life or death - the grace of Jesus has already determined that! We simply get to be part of giving nutrients to the Jesus Tree. Nutrients like the grace, love, forgiveness, and loving exhortation/encouragement to live a life like Jesus that has first been afforded to us through God’s Holy Spirit that is alive in us.
Take the pressure off.
It’s easy to put our sense of success and failure into what we do. I mean, if my garden doesn’t produce the yields that I expect, I beat myself up over it.
The same is true with Jesus Trees.
Some of us beat ourselves up over looking at our kids, grandkids, parents, and friends and wonder if they’re going to ever get to where we expect them to be in their relationship with Jesus.
I’m reminded of Genesis 2:5: The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Take the pressure off. God’s got this. Your success or failure of planting, nurturing, and growing Jesus Trees is not all on you. It’s never been on you. You’re simply asked to tend to it.
So, what are we waiting for?
Let’s go plant, nurture, and thank God for the Jesus Trees around us - older and younger ones!
And most of all, I thank God for you being a Jesus Tree… planted exactly where God wants you to be… to share your fruit in God’s time… so that you can plant, nurture, and celebrate more Jesus Trees in the days and years to come.
Sundays, May 2- June 27
Families with children will connect together in worship with family in singing, the creed, communion, prayers, kids’ message, etc. After this, kids in preschool through 5th grade will meet their Shepherds in the Lobby, and head to the Fellowship Hall for Kids Connect, which is age-appropriate teaching and activities led by trusted adults in a safe environment while adults remain in the Worship Center for their own teaching time and closing song. When service ends, parents will pick up their kids in the Fellowship Hall
Why are we making this shift? We dream that every young person would grow and continue in their faith long after their early years at OSLC. Research shows that intergenerational worship and informal faith conversations are two of the most impactful elements for young people in their faith formation. To learn more about this research, click here.
We are so excited to see all your kids in this new experience!
How Do I Register My Child? Registration to attend worship opens Monday at 7:30am for the following Sunday at our central hub oslc.com. You must register your family for worship and then follow the prompts to register your child for Kids Connect. If you are unable to reserve a spot, please consider signing up for a different time or reserve a spot on the waitlist.
Contact Dereem if you have any questions.
If you would like to be added to our Kids emails on Sundays please contact Angela.
It has been a week after we celebrated God’s Easter peace that we receive through Jesus’ resurrection. How is God continuing to give you peace and restore your soul?
For me, it is driving my in-law’s car from Indiana to California (they’re moving later this spring). So, instead of writing much more, I’m going to share some pictures of how God has reminded me of Jesus’ constant peace in my life - even as He restores my soul with so many good things.
Me and my parents at their new home in Nebraska - a place of constant love, encouragement, and acceptance. It’s the first time we’ve seen each other (in person) since July 2019!
As I pulled off by Exit 59 in Western Nebraska, I’m thinking about and thanking God for all my friends I’ve made over the years... especially those from Nebraska and Wyoming (you know who you are!).
I didn’t get a picture, but I got to hang with my sister and her family (including their 3-week old son!).
I got to pull off and snap this picture near the Wyoming/Utah border. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19) and “look, I’m doing a new thing” (even in Wyoming and Utah).
I’m in Salt Lake City tonight (as I’m writing this). The solitude and silence of a solo road trip has reminded me of Jesus’ constant and faithful peace and work in my life and in our world. . . And I can’t wait to share that same constant and faithful peace with you.
Because that’s how Easter peace works.
God gives His peace to us in Jesus.
We experience Jesus’ Easter peace.
We give that same peace away to others.
I’m curious how God continues to give you peace and restore your soul in these days and weeks after Easter. Send me a note and I’ll respond back after April 18.
I recently read a BBC article about why Good Friday is called Good Friday.
I found it interesting that some would say that linguistically, “Good” is a corruption of the word, “God’s” - so it was originally God’s Friday.
I also learned that “the earliest known use of "guode friday" is found in The South English Legendary, a text from around 1290, according to the dictionary. According to the Baltimore Catechism - the standard US Catholic school text from 1885 to the 1960s, Good Friday is good because Christ "showed His great love for man, and purchased for him every blessing".
It's also interesting to me (maybe not to everybody) that both Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions often refer to the entire week between Palm Sunday and Easter as “Holy Week” - hence, “Holy Friday”.
I’m reminded of something I learned in one of my seminary Biblical Interpretation classes: words are just combinations of symbols to communicate meaning.
My point is that whether you call it Good, Holy, God’s, or just “Friday” - the meaning is the same. For Jesus followers, it’s “all the above”.
With that said - here’s why I think it matters for Easter Sunday…
And that’s why God’s, Good, and Holy Friday matters to Easter. It’s a mystery. It cannot be explained. It cannot be reasoned.
And Jesus did it all for you. So that however we experience the brokenness of our human experience, the mysteries that make today God’s Friday… a Good Friday… a Holy Friday… matter because to get to the supernatural and mysterious reality of Sunday’s hope, peace, and joy - we must experience the mystery of Friday.
We're all busy.
So, here's one simple way to prepare for the biggest celebration in our Christian faith on earth...
Sit with Jesus...
How best can you prepare yourself for Holy Week and Easter when you're busy?
Yes, come sit with Jesus. You will not be disappointed.
This is me and my brother, Paul. I think we are in Colorado… but I’m not sure. And, my parents don’t remember!
Anyway - while none of us remember this moment, I can say with great certainty (and by looking at my facial expression), I was very thankful for my coat.
Each spring, Our Savior collects coats to give away to kids in our community at our August Back to School Fair. How can something as ordinary as a coat make such a huge difference in the life of a child?
Earlier this week, I caught up with Kristi, our Director of Outreach + Connections and asked her why we are so passionate about coats? Here’s what she shared with me...
Giving away coats started as a partnership! A local community member offered to donate coats and asked us to help distribute them to kids who needed them. We reached out to the Franklin Pierce School District to confirm the need. They responded with a resounding, “yes!”. They were so grateful that we were able to meet this pressing (and very real!) need.
Why are coats so important for kids? Practically, coats are a big ticket item that families put off - especially when they must choose between rent, utilities, and food. So, coats help kids go to school on cold days. Without a coat, kids just won’t go outside - or they’ll layer other clothing just to shiver in the classroom. Coats also help kids feel safe and provide a sense of individual value and worth in something they can call their own. Additionally, providing coats to kids is easier (logistically) than shoes or other clothing because kids can typically wear a coat that is a little big for two years and tend not to be gender or age specific.
How are they distributed? Every August before school starts, families look forward to our Back to School Fair. They arrive early to make sure their children get one before supplies run out. The last few years, supplies were so limited and many children did not receive a coat.
Wow! I learned a lot from Kristi about how important this coat drive is for kids in our community (and their families!).
The need for kids’ coats in our local community is great - and we anticipate it to be even greater this year as we continue to move through the pandemic and towards post-pandemic recovery.
Will you join me donating a coat or a few bucks for a coat?
We have a goal of receiving 450 coats. Last year, we gave out 450 backpacks filled with school supplies but the supply of winter coats was exhausted long before that. So, our goal is to have a coat for each student. You can check out oslc.com/coatdrive for more information and keep tabs on how we are progressing toward 450 coats by April 18.
And, if you want to learn more about coats or how to join one of our outreach teams, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hey there friends!
It’s Friday, which means it’s blog day - the day I get to share some encouragement, occasional insights, and the rare deep thought that could leave us all confused. But hey - at least we can be confused together, right?
But seriously, I hope these blog posts inspire you to think and act more like Jesus.
Today, I want to share how play has a lot to do with following Jesus - our discipleship.
I used to think that fun and play was only for kids and that following Jesus as an adult had to be super serious 110% of the time. No time to waste. Don't smile, too much. The obligatory "hi" and "fine" were good enough. I mean, following Jesus was all about digging into deep bible passages and pondering how God really works. Worship had to be scripted and set on a schedule. Prayer time needed to be regimented. And fun? Nope. Fun was at best a distraction and at the worst, evil.
By this point, you might be thinking, "wow, you were super lame". The truth is. . . I was. (Some say I still am!)
A friend pointed the truth out to me... I was a Christian. But, I was not a fun person to be around.
When I think about Jesus, he had to be a fun guy. He was always at parties. He turned water into wine. He was invited to dinner parties at Tax Collectors homes. He always had crowds seeking him out. The gospels tell Jesus’ story as if he was one of the most fun guys to be around. Now, compare Jesus to the Romans or the church leaders of his day who didn’t seem all that fun at all.
Here’s my point - Jesus knows that having fun (or play) is a big part of following Him with other people.
It’s through times of having fun together over a meal, a day outing, a weekend trip, a week at summer camp, a few days on retreat, or a multiple week mission immersion or trip where we both experience the joy of Jesus’ presence being fun and bond with the people God has placed around us to enjoy as we follow Jesus together.
Several years ago, a cousin on my wife, Beth’s side of the family got me interested in the life and writings of John Wesley. Interestingly enough, John Wesley once said, “There is no holiness apart from social holiness.” While some people may think he’s talking about social justice. He’s not. He’s talking about how playing together brings a sense of the divine. When we set aside time to play with others, we actually honor the time God has given us by doing the things Jesus did with His time. Things like eating and laughing with sinners; spending days sailing across lakes with his closest friends; getting away on mountaintops, walking through gardens and valleys, sharing a supper in the upper room, and eating fish and chips on the shore after his resurrection.
So here’s something to think about:
Drop me a note and let me know. And in the meantime… keep playing!
Love you guys.
PS: When we see each other again face-to-face, let's share a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy being together. What do you say?
The OSLC ministry team is a growing collection of women and men who live as a family on mission, leading the OSLC family in connecting an unchanging God with a changing world by loving God, loving people, and living like Jesus.