Friday, June 18, 2010

God Sightings

Maybe we expect a burning bush. Maybe we are waiting for manna to drop from heaven. Maybe we are anticipating a thunderous crash from the clouds and an unmistakable deep voice giving us a definitive answer to our every question. Surely God would be "sighted" in those things, right?

But in all the searching and all the angst, maybe we are missing the answers all around us. That's what Vacation Bible School has been about this week. We have been using Group Publishing Company's "Egypt: Joseph's Journey from Prison to Palace."

I've been the snack lady. But I've overheard snippets of conversations from the students and their leaders as they have searched for "God Sightings" this week.

It's easy to read incredible, true stories in the Bible and quietly wonder why God doesn't do those things today. Joseph's special gift of interpreting dreams literally changed his life and freed him from prison chains. Joseph, as an instrument of God, saved the Egyptian people from famine. He forgave his brothers even after they attempted to kill him. (And yet we can't seem to forgive the person who slighted us in some way or who cut in front of us at the stop sign. What does that say about us?)

The Bible is full of miracles. But we seem to forget to look for miracles all around us today. During VBS, the students were encouraged to look for "God Sightings" in their everyday lives. They were to "look for the evidence of God in things like a sunset, a rainstorm, a laugh, a kind word, and a tasty snack."

That's where I came in - the tasty snack part and, hopefully, a kind word or two. It's not an unusual role for me, but the circumstances were unique this year. As a small membership church in the Kansas West Conference of the United Methodist Church, a team from Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina came to Stafford to help us with VBS. There were Carl and Sandra, the group leaders and teachers. Karl with a "K" has used his beautiful voice to lead the music. Janea has used her physical fitness training as recreation leader. Chelsea's art background has guided the craft area. Coby has portrayed Joseph this week.

They ably demonstrated the lesson from Day 2: "In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well." Romans 12:6

I didn't see the actual VBS materials, so I was left to come up with snacks I hoped would complement the lessons. In the advance materials, the KWU team suggested things like animal crackers and goldfish crackers. Those snacks are just fine, and I could have done that with a lot less time, effort and money. I know they were trying to make the snack time quick and easy, which I can appreciate.

But I was also struck by a story my sister told earlier this month. She was helping with VBS at her church and noticed a little boy taking a photo of his snack. When she asked him about it, he said that his mom seemed really interested in what he was having for snacks every day, so he was going to show her.

I laughed out loud when I heard that (and the pressure was on!). It reminded me of our Sunday after-church dinners when we would quiz our kids about what they had learned in Sunday School that day.

"We learned about God and Jesus," was the standard reply, even as they got older and were saying it with a grin just to perturb their mother.

But I do hope there were a few moms out there asking about the VBS snacks. It's not because I want a lot of praise and kudos for putting snacks on the table. But I hope the kids were listening as they discovered their homemade pretzels looked like a heart to represent God's love for us. And I hope they heard me say that the monks in Germany shaped pretzels in that way to remind young children to pray.

Teddy Grahams were stand-ins for ancient Egyptians in a couple of different snacks.

Randy helped me shape Scotchoroo no-bakes into pyramids. Then I put graham cracker "sand" underneath and had Teddy Grahams stand guard. (I would have used chocolate ones for more contrast, but my grocery store didn't have them.)

I made "Sand Cups" instead of dirt cups, as we talked about the dry desert lands and the famine that came to the Egyptian people.

I hope the VBS kids had a God Sighting as their families came together for a Wednesday night meal of sloppy joes, baked beans, cookies and fixings. I hope their families had God Sightings as they watched their children sing songs and enthusiastically do the actions.

I personally have seen God Sightings all around. I saw it in the laughter of VBS students ...

... and helpers.

I had a sighting and heard it, too, as they sang, "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord."

I saw Him when church congregation members opened their homes to house the Kansas Wesleyan team. The evidence of God's miracles was abounding as other congregation members fed the team lunch and supper. I saw it when the congregation opened their wallets to help with VBS expenses.

I experienced the love of Christ as my husband helped me make pyramids on a rainy day (and maybe I helped him forget about the rain-soaked wheat fields for just a little bit, so maybe it was a God Sighting in both directions.)

(Randy was a much better pyramid builder than me!)

And then it happened again as Randy and other friends helped me serve the Wednesday night supper.

But it's not just about looking for things that God has done or made for us. It's also about sharing God's love and being a God Sighting for someone else.

I've been doing Vacation Bible School a lot of years. I hope I never forget that's what it is all about. I pray these kids have heard the message this week. If they don't remember anything else, I hope they will remember to look for God in others and to demonstrate God's love to others.

And I also pray they will hear and then truly know the message from one of their daily Bible verses, the day they were to learn that "God gives us hope."

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11