Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
Like most churches across Christendom, we held our Vacation Bible School last week. Based on this year’s Cokesbury material, our kids learned scripture verses and Bible stories in settings filled with colorful sea life. They sang songs about “going deep,” made some amazing crafts and, on Sunday, created some of the biggest smiles I have ever seen, on faces young and old! I am profoundly grateful for the gifts, the talents and the time that were given to make this a wonderful experience for so many children.
I helped with the storytelling on some of the days. The role they needed filled was Peter. The person they had was me. (Perplexingly, this happened to me the last time I volunteered for VBS many years ago at an entirely different church. Same role. Peter. It’s getting a little scary.) I decided that my sandals and purple toenails would break the suspension of disbelief, even if I were to draw on a beard. So I became a nameless fisher and we pretended that this was a woman’s job.
To all of the parents who came – especially those who weren’t from our church – I emphasized that our children’s programs were year round! That no amount of fun and learning can develop a full faith in one short week. I hope they heard. More and more I am feeling the importance of Proverbs 22:6, the magnitude of “training up” our children.
Too often, in the lives of our children, I see the practice of faith get squeezed out by other religions, though we rarely call them that. We call them things like “sports,” or “achievement.” Those sacrosanct practice schedules, the hallowed tournaments of travelling teams get raised to the level of spiritual creed. It becomes hard to distinguish between these things and our true and urgent need for God. I deeply sympathize with parents who only want to give their children the best that they can; the benefits of organized sports and the activities that all the other kids are doing. I just wonder how we will teach our kids about building priorities when kicking a ball gets the first place on our calendar
As much as our children need it, though, we adults probably require some “training up” ourselves. Too many of us – and we clergy are not immune – can treat our faith as if it is another item on the calendar, and a dispensable one at that. We know we ought to do it, but, like eating our vegetables or flossing our teeth, it is something we lack the motivation for after the important stuff is done. The practice of our deeply held beliefs becomes one of those things that tugs at our conscience, but gets our leftovers.
We need a paradigm shift. We need a radical change in our understanding of what our faith, our God and our lives are about. Belief is not an item on the calendar. It is not a thing that we squeeze in where it will fit. It is all of who we are and what we do; as necessary as eating and drinking. Our lives are too short to ignore what is most important. We don’t have time not to attend to the purposes of the One who made us.
As our children sang songs and learned Bible verses, they feasted on cookies donated from Trader Joe’s and pizza from Publix, so I have little actual cooking stuff to add to this post. But some of the most devoted Christians I know are the women and men who gave up their time to put cookies on 70 small plates, who filled cups with juice and did the myriad other jobs that make such experiences possible. May all of our time be arranged like theirs.
This is a recipe for tarts much like the ones I ate when I was VBS age. My grandmother made them from scratch, but this is a good alternate.
Pear TartsPear preserves cinnamon
1 can biscuits (cheapest ones)
Sprinkle flour liberally on cabinet top. Roll out one biscuit to size of a saucer. Spoon 2 T. (approximately) preserves on one side of rolled out biscuit. (*At this point you may sprinkle cinnamon on the preserves.) Dampen edge of dough with fingers dipped in water. Fold dough over and press edges with fingers. Then press edges with a fork. Lay finished tart aside and proceed to finish all 10 tarts. Pour oil into 10” skillet to a depth of 1/4 to 1/3 inch. Turn skillet on high to preheat then turn down to medium. Place three tarts in oil with folded edge toward outside of skillet. When the tarts are browned, turn with spatula, rolling the tart over the round side (not the pressed side as the edges may tear open). When both sides are browned, place tart on paper towel. After they cool a little, I cut each one in half and arrange on a platter. – Hazel Trawick.