Mrs. Gore Says Y-Y-Y-Y-Yes to No-No-Stress VBS

We are returning back to earth after a week of Vacation Bible School, and while it is fresh on my mind, I wanted to share a quick word with my fellow brethren and sisterns about this most important week on the church calendar…

What gives you the authority to speak on any subject, let alone one as important and all-encompassing as Vacation Bible School? you ask?

Well, two things…

1. I am Mrs. Gore, first lady of my church.

2. I happen to attend (BY THE AMAZING GRACE OF GOD) a church body that is super laidback and kind, one that a) has the most non-stressful VBS I’ve ever heard of and b) has no problem with their pastor’s wife addressing herself as “the first lady”. (or if they do, they keep it on the down low).

To prove my point, let me show you a picture of our VBS decoration.

That’s right, I said decoration.

Not decorations, plural.

Decoration. Singular.

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I got so tickled everytime I saw this inflatable car. To promote our Bible School, our director (and my truly incredible friend), Chrissy, had it hanging from a string in the foyer (and my kids were obsessed with it…).

And then when it was time for VBS, she moved it on the stage of the sanctuary in front of the promotional VBS poster that came with our curriculum (after she cut the Sharpie-written dates and times off the bottom of the poster).

And I knew things had completely gotten out of hand when I noticed my 2-year old daughter sitting on that car, rocking it back and forth, and saying “Wheeeeee!”

Who knew a VBS decoration could bring such joy and multi-faceted entertainment to the children of our church? It’s a ceiling fixture. It’s a centerpiece. It’s a ride. Our inflatable car knew no bounds, really.

Okay, okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit. It wasn’t our only decoration. There was also some crepe paper and some posters and some sheets and tablecloths draped over stuff. Between Sunday and Monday, while I was at home chasing after the chaos that is my family, several very sweet and hard-working ladies (including Chrissy) gave up their time  and energy to turn our church into a welcoming, festive and kid-friendly atmosphere.

But my point is – and what that car represented to me all week – Vacation Bible School, a week that can sadly be known for its drama and stress and division and expense, can…and SHOULD…and MUST…be a week of simplicity, fun, unity, togetherness, and most importantly, gospel love.

And if it is not all of the above, then my, my, MY, are we missing the forest for the trees…

And this past Sunday night, as I watched the children of our church (and several from the community) cluster around my husband on the stage, answering impromptu questions about what they had learned this week, singing a few great hymns and a few fun songs, feeling comfortable and happy and doted upon in their church home, I was so pleased at what God has done among us.

The tension that can sometimes surround weeks like VBS and church camp and every single extra-biblical event just doesn’t exist.

And the stiffness of a stilted and nervous performance at the end of the week is not necessary.

But most importantly, more and more with each passing week, church feels as warm and cozy as…home.

Such was the atmosphere of our entire week together, and even though we were dead on our feet by 8:30 p.m. each night, it was glorious and the kind of stuff from which the sweetest memories are made.

And get this…aside from the nightly meals we shared together, the entire week cost us about $200. Get out, Jack!

And so I simply wanted to encourage you today. If you have the time and talent, if it brings you joy and peace, and if it helps you to meditate on the coming week of ministry, feel free to completely trick-out your VBS rooms with the coolest decorations you can dream of.

Likewise, when you are planning the format of your VBS – night or morning, 3 hours or 4 hours, meals or no meals – maintaining a spirit of love and unity, feel free to continue to do things as you’ve always done them or completely change the way you’ve done things before.

But if you find yourself getting edgy…

getting snippy…

sharing unkind and unnecessary opinions…

growing bitter at everyone else for not doing what you do…

feeling annoyed in any way at your church family…

fighting for your way more than you are working toward grace and unity…

take a step back and remember what weeks like VBS are supposed to be about: having fun, sharing the gospel, teaching young hearts, enjoying the brotherhood, and, mostly, saving young mothers like me from going off-the-charts insane in the midst of long summer days of heat and boredom.

Simple as that.

Regardless of what curriculum you use, let these things be the ANNUAL theme of your Vacation Bible School, and I promise you, it will be a roaring and happy success.

For, true to John 13:35, the children you are ministering to will be won to Christ FAR more by your love for one another than by the impressive and grandiose whirligigs you built in the church foyer or the tick-tock-timely manner in which your schedule runs. You can have all of the above, but never, ever sacrifice the former for the latter.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to conclude this happy ending by riding off into the sunset in my inflatable VBS car.

~

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A Non-defensive Defense of Halloween

I understand it would be folly to answer every disagreement that finds you on the internet…

In such a public – yet somewhat anonymous – forum, it is so easy to start lengthy, and sometimes passionately spirited, discussions that would probably never see the light of day in our real, face-to-face lives. Once we dip our toe into the realm of internet discourse, we then can feel the need to try to counter every argument and answer every question and defend every stance, an occupation that could keep us busy from sun-up to sun-down…and what do we really gain from such banter? Perhaps our vehement responses and well-stated arguments might shape and mold the opinion of another reader, but more likely than not, those who agree with us will say “yeah! what she said!!” and those who disagree will skim right past our argument so they can post their own.

That is why I choose to keep private any comments on my blog that might lead to controversy, or long, drawn-out discussions that really wouldn’t benefit many, and would most likely draw me away from the real people in my life as I sit at my computer desk to wait for responses to come in so that I might counter-respond. The very thought of such a life gives me the shivers; I’m here to celebrate life, not engage in word-fights with people I can’t see. And besides…word fights would totally clash with my soft, floral background.

That said, I received a simple comment to my last Halloween post, and I wanted to respond to it. If you go looking for it, you’ll not find it, for I never approved it and made it public; it was not mean-spirited at all, but I knew the minute I read it that it would have led to a long and unnecessary discussion. However, it did trigger a memory for me of a blog post I once considered writing and had kind of forgotten about, and hopefully, the post that ensues might answer some questions some of you might have had about me…and better yet, it might encourage some of you who feel conflicted about the holiday I speak so often and so fondly of: today, dear friends, I’d like to share with you why Mrs. Gore, the wife of a Southern Baptist preacher, so joyfully celebrates Halloween.

So the comment I received yesterday was nothing more than a gentle suggestion that I should look up Halloween and what it truly means – but it was rather loaded, for I knew exactly what the commenter was saying (without really saying so)…that Halloween is a dark holiday with evil origins and that Christians should not celebrate such a holiday. I am quite positive that the commenter meant no ill will in this recommendation, and only means to help me, and I appreciate that very much. However, this is a subject that I’ve given much consideration to over the years, and I’ve got to tell you, in all humility, I feel great freedom in our personal decision to partake in the innocent fun that is Halloween.

And here’s why. Regardless of the origins of Halloween (and those origins are foggy, indeed), there is simply nothing pagan about what our family does on this Fall holiday. We dress up in fun costumes and we have an absolute blast. We thank the Lord for our chili and caramel apples and fun-size candy bars, just as we thank Him for every meal we partake of. We strive to glorify Him as we traipse through the streets of our town, knocking on the doors of our church members, many of whom are also dressed up in fun costumes, just as we strive to glorify Him on every other day of the year. In other words, we might be enjoying Halloween, but we are still, by the grace of God, living a gospel-centered life. Halloween neither detracts nor adds to that, unless you consider how fully this day draws us together as a family. In that light…Halloween actually adds to our gospel-centered life, silly as that may sound, and is one of the highlight days of our year, every year.

But I know this has been a very tricky subject for Christians over the years. Many of us don’t really know what to do with Halloween.

Should we do away with it altogether?

Should we celebrate, but keep that information on the down-low lest an another church member find out about it?

Or my personal favorite, how about we celebrate Halloween, but call it a “Fall Festival”…then we can have a party at the church, and we can still dress up, we can even throw evangelism into the mix, and…everyone is happy and no one feels guilty or condemned.

The opinions are obviously varied, even among the most devout and theological.

And so, in my truly humble opinion, what Halloween and all the trimmings comes down to is just another of those instances of Christian conviction. There are matters of Biblical truth that we must be unwavering on, no matter what our culture says, or even our own deceptive hearts. But then there are other (secondary) matters that we must pray over and examine, honestly seeking the direction and peace of God and the wisdom and authority of our local pastor and congregation. The conclusions we are led to in these secondary matters become convictions that are very personal and are often unique to our different situations and settings, and sometimes even change as we grow in our faith. And I think a lot of subjects fit in this second category – Halloween, Santa Claus, certain TV shows and movies, clothing, music, dancing, card-playing, pool halls, Harry Potter, Disney…just to name a few.

And, sadly, a lot of times, we mistake these convictions as universal truths, and pretty soon, we’ve taken something personal and perhaps Spirit-led and created an extra-Biblical standard that all Christians must live under or meet our unsolicited disapproval. And, what scares me the most about this is, if we’re not careful, our good intentions can tear up the Kingdom and the unity of the church as we become warriors for our pet causes, trampling over the unifying blood of Christ in our haste to have the entire Church – and the world, even – share our opinion.

So…is this blog post a defense for Halloween? Not really. I’m not that in love with Halloween, that I would defend it to my grave, and am even open to the thought that God might change my convictions about it someday (but please no, God!).

But I try to be pretty serious about the verse that states the following: The world will know we are disciples of Jesus if we have love for one another (John 13:35).

Therefore, I think the most important thing we can do on Halloween – and every day of the year – is strive for unity and grace and love, to the point that we go out of our way to submit to our God-ordained authority (remember, your pastor has been commanded to watch over your soul and you have been commanded to make this easy for him) as well as our brothers and sisters in the faith, and show, by our actions and our attitudes, that we esteem each other even more than we do our own lives. I don’t know what that will make October 31st look like for you, but I definitely thing it is worth mulling over.

And if you are like our family…you might get to the end of all that examination and decide, quite happily and confidently, that Halloween is alright by you, at least for now, and that, at the end of your holiday, love and peace and unity reigns. Because, after all, isn’t that what Halloween is all about?…

Wait…that’s Christmas.

So…what I guess I’m trying to say is, let’s live every day – including Halloween – like its Christmas.

Merry Christmas, dear readers! And Happy Halloween/Plain-old-October-31st/Fall Festival/Reformation Day…

~

As mentioned above, I will see and welcome all comments, but reserve the right to only publish those that are edifying and that will not lead to further debate, therefore causing my readers distress or the temptation to watch drama unfold on the internet. Thanks for understanding!