On the Eighth Day of Christmas …

VanCleave - new (1)On the eighth day of Christmas I’m thinking about traditions. Well, at least what have become traditions when Christmas is different every year.

My husband is a pastor and our traditions have had to be very flexible so we could work around church events. As our kids were growing up, Christmas time also meant an eight to ten hour trip back to Tennessee to visit grandparents. We tried to “choose” our Christmas day rather than letting the calendar demand that it was December 25. Sometimes Christmas and church times were too close to make the Tennessee trip until after Christmas. That was when our son and daughter began their own tradition of staying up all night to watch the 24-hour marathon of “A Christmas Story.” They tell very different stories about who would finally fall asleep first. But for two very different siblings who were almost five years apart, it is still a memory that bonds them.

One tradition we began was called “The Feast.” My son describes it as a meal where, “we eat things we wouldn’t ordinarily eat at a meal.” Even that makes me laugh. It’s basically “name your very favorite things” and, no matter what it is, we’ll put it in the feast. Combined with laughter, family time, and a Christmas movie, it is something we still do even though they are both grown with homes of their own.

And then we have “The Snowman.” It began as a joke between my husband and me. He used to grumble about “plastic things to set out in the yard during Christmas.” I started picking up every $1 giant plastic thing I could find at yard sales. “The Snowman” was the first. We had quite a collection after about 15 years. When we moved back to Tennessee, it was hard to give up “the collection,” but “The Snowman” was part of the family! Even years when sad things have happened at Christmas, including the year we didn’t even manage to get a tree up, “The Snowman” glowed near our front door.

I came home late a couple of weeks ago and there was Mr. Snowman glowing in the front yard. I started to grin. It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Snowman

On the Second Day of Christmas

wooley1 2013This morning Nashville awoke to a world blanketed with snow, and I just returned from the office break room where the holiday classic White Christmas was being played for lunch entertainment. It really does seem like the beginning of Christmas – or in this case the Second Day of Christmas!

Since I grew up in Dallas where snow is typically not part of the Christmas scene, the festivities of this most special holiday truly begins not with snow but when certain foods start making an appearance. My family’s most memorable Christmas traditions are based on food. My father loved to cook. And he especially liked to cook when the expected crowd resembled a small army.

While families traditionally gather around tables overflowing with turkey and trimmings, my family – for at least the last 45 years – has gathered around a table barely able to withstand the weight of dozens-upon-dozens of home-made hot tamales – all lovingly hand-crafted by my father.

Some years a little salsa was needed to add an extra punch. While other years each tamale contained so much fire a full glass of tea was needed to temper the burn. I forgot to mention that Dad was an experimental cook, so you were never sure what the experience would be until you took the first bite. But no matter how hot or mild, by the end of the evening 45 to 50 dozen tamales would become history along with gallons of iced tea, pounds of peanut brittle (another of Dad’s specialties) and peanut butter balls.

Dad is no longer here, but his tamale bowls and steamers have been passed on to another generation, and the tradition remains alive and well.

Merry Christmas to you one and all. May your days be blessed with the sweetness of family, traditions, and the knowledge of the Hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15).

 

 

6 Additional Reasons to Attend VBS 2014 Preview

wooley1 2013Now that CyberMonday is behind us, and before the extreme crush of Christmas begins, we can take a moment to once again think about our favorite subject – VBS! Or better said, VBS Preview!

Chances are, if you are reading this post, you have already registered for Preview, but in case you are still debating here are six additional reasons why my friends think you should join the fun.

1. You will have the opportunity to win a VBS 2014 trivia contest. – Jerry Vogel

2. You will have the opportunity to meet me (Collin). – Collin Spindle

3. You might experience a Secret Service Mission act of kindness. – Carol Tomlinson

4. You will have a chance to get away with friends and laugh until your sides hurt. – Rhonda Van Cleave

5. You will receive fun free stuff. – Henry Dutton

6. You will get re-fueled and return home flying like Rocket Pack Jack! – Bill Emeott

 

Register today at lifeway.com/vbs/preview.

 

Thankful for VBS. Thankful for You!

wooley1 2013Thursday, as I gather with family and friends, you will be counted as one of my richest blessings. Although I may not know each of you by name, I do know you by your spirit.

You are the heart and soul of this great ministry we call Vacation Bible School. Each year you tirelessly give your talents, time and resources that that the spiritual orphans of this world might hear Jesus proclaimed.

Because of you there are countless millions who will be thankful this Thursday that they have been transformed through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

As the Apostle Paul would say, “I give thanks to my God upon my every remembrance of you.”

Why We Need to Train Our Kids to Defend Their Faith: A Dad’s Perspective

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We are excited to have Dr. Micah Carter join our blog today to tell us why he believes teaching kids to defend their faith is important. Micah is teaching pastor at Redemption City Church in Franklin, TN, and also serves as the HCSB Translation Spokesman for B&H Publishing Group. 

I have the joy of being the dad of two sons, a ten year old and a seven year old. Among the many things I’m passing along to them is a love for Ole Miss football (which is often a heart-breaking reality!).

A couple years ago my oldest son was ashamed to cheer for Ole Miss because they weren’t very good and lost more games than they won. When his peers would say something negative, he’d be quick to shove Ole Miss into the shadows and act like he wasn’t a fan at all.

My concern as a dad is that when pressure or questions or criticisms about why my son is a believer in Jesus arise, he’d be tempted to shove Him to the shadows as well – especially because he might not be confident about how to defend his faith or articulate a sound response.

Of course, the stakes are much greater for a child’s defense of his or her faith than rooting for a sports team. For this reason, it’s vitally important that we work hard to train our kids to defend their faith. Let me offer two major reasons why:

First, let’s train our kids to defend their faith because the gospel is for all. It’s likely that some children need to overcome certain barriers in order to follow Jesus. It could be that if our believing children demonstrate, and defend, their faith in Jesus with confidence, other children might be in a better position to trust Jesus for themselves, too, once those barriers are removed.

Peer pressure can work both ways, so maybe helping our kids dispel some of the negativity toward Christianity or following Jesus might actually lead to evangelistic opportunities among those with questions, doubts, or objections. Since the gospel is for all, including children, let’s train up our kids to be confident, compassionate ambassadors of God’s Son and His gospel.

Second, let’s train our kids to defend their faith because truth matters. Our kids are consistently given contrasting worldviews to weigh and evaluate, whether directly or indirectly. Through media, friends, church, and family, our kids are receiving a mixture of secular and religious claims about human identity/dignity, the existence of God, the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus alone, the nature and value of the Bible as God’s Word, and more.

God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). Are we equipping our kids well enough to understand and to present a coherent, consistent Christian worldview based on the truths we find in God’s Word? There’s no doubt that challenges will come, so let’s train up our kids in the truth, so that they have the tools and weapons needed for a confident, effective defense of their faith.

When Ole Miss got a new coach, recruited well, started winning some big games, no amount of criticism from his peers mattered to my son. He was now in a position to defend why he cheers for Ole Miss. I want to foster a similar confidence (but a stronger confidence) for my son to be in a position to defend why he loves Jesus and follows Him, because the gospel is for all and truth matters.

 

D3: Discover, Decide, Defend

carol_editedMost of you reading this title for this blog post are probably thinking, “Wait a minute, where’s the Agency in D3?” No, I have not forgotten or even misprinted this title. D3 is the title for Student VBS in 2014. Yes, you read that correctly. LifeWay does have Student VBS curriculum, and in fact we have Adult VBS curriculum as well. That’s right, when we say we have you covered from birth to death, that includes VBS.  We not only want kids to know how to discover, decide, and defend their faith, we want to equip students and adults to do the same.

Students are pressured on all sides to accept what teachers, professors, peers, and sometimes even family tell them about Jesus. It’s time for them to discover the facts about who Jesus is, decide what they will do with the evidence they’ve gathered, and step out in faith to defend what they believe.

Student VBS can be held at the same time as your children’s VBS, as camp curriculum for Student Camp, Bible study for Sunday or Wednesday nights, or as a weekend retreat.

And if you are looking for a way to get Students excited about defending their faith, consider taking your students to see the movie God’s Not Dead that is releasing in the Spring of 2014. Watching the movie would be a great kickoff or follow-up to D3.

For those of you out there who already use Student VBS, we would love for you to share your advice, experiences, and ideas.

Foto Friday…What is It? Revealed!

tyrrellAfternoon Agents! It’s been a slow week on the comments. I’m thinking I might have actually stumped you!

Here’s a reminder of what the image was.

Photo5

 

Any ideas? Did I hear someone say duct tape? Yes, you are correct!

It’s our “Outlet Safe” craft from VBX!

outlet safe

Marooned Without a Compass Day

carol_editedWho knew that there is day for being marooned without a compass? I love that we can find reasons to celebrate/honor odd days. I mean, who thought, “I know! November 6th should be Marooned Without a Compass Day”? Was it someone who had recently been marooned and rescued? Was it someone who had just finished watching the Tom Hanks movie, Castaway? I’m not sure what the history behind the day is, but I thought it would be fun to poll the VBS team (in honor of Wilson, the volleyball) to see what VBS item they would want to have with them if they were marooned without a compass. I, of course, would take the VBS tablecloths. You can make a lean-to, rain poncho, sleeping bag, or any number of items.

So, in no certain order, here are the responses:

Keith— The giant inflatable to use as a raft.

Rhonda—Wanted to say the inflatable, but she changed to the tablecloths. And since it only said, “No compass,” She’s thinking her pack would have duct tape etc. She would put up a temporary shelter, use them to keep things waterproof, tote the food she would find when she’s foraging, and set a fine table for whomever wanders by.

Gordon—Decided to be all spiritual on us and said The New Testament of course! But he also gave props to Survivorman, Les Stroud for teaching him all he needs to know.

Bethany—Wanted to take the Rocket Pack Jack Stand-up, so she would have a friend. (Kind of like Wilson in Castaway.)

Mary—Opted for the Special Agent Watch, which she thought had a GPS function – thus allowing someone to find her. She was just going to enjoy the scenery until they arrived, but we hated to inform her it might be a long wait since the watch doesn’t have GPS. It does, however, have a cool laser light with which she could entertain small animals and a working watch so she could keep track of just how long she was marooned.

Candace—Settled on taking the balloons, so she could tie them to something and fly away. She has her movies confused – that would have been Up.

Melita—Of course Melita is the rebel on the team, she said she would take duct tape. Because even though it’s not an official VBS accessory, you can’t do VBS without it!

So there you have it. What VBS accessory would you take if you were marooned without a compass?

Random Tip 1403 – A Job For Everyone

wooley1 2013Although it is typically the least effective, the most common way to enlist workers is to place an announcement in the church bulletin or make a passionate plea from the pulpit.

While this type of enlistment will result in a few volunteers, it is often the volunteers who say, “I’m happy to help but I can’t teach and don’t want to be in a classroom with kids.”

So now you have a dilemma. You just made an “all-hands-0n-deck” plea, but you don’t know what to do with people who made the above statement.

Before you ask for volunteers, make a list of all the possible ways someone could make a director’s life easier both before and during the week of VBS. Keep the list with you at all time and be ready (AND WILLING) to delegate a project the moment someone even hints at volunteering.

A few of the things on my personal list would be:

  • Decorating the common areas such as foyer, halls, and registration area
  • Making copies both before and during the week of VBS
  • Being available to make the daily last minute run to the store
  • Picking up trash and helping the facilities crew prepare rooms for the next day
  • Resetting the auditorium after worship rally
  • Parking lot security

Let me know what jobs you would add to the list.

Foto Friday…What is It?

tyrrellHello Agents! It’s time for this week’s “What is It?“! I gave you a break last week. Actually I gave myself a break to find something really good. . .because you are TOO smart and keep guessing what it is! LOL!

Here we go. What is it?

Photo5

What do you think? Can you DISCOVER what it is? Can you DECIDE if it’s a VBS craft or snack? Will you DEFEND your choice?

Give me your best, craziest, funniest responses!