June 27, 2016
Evan Weppler on Beauty in the Moment
For a children’s pastor, there is always one week (often this time in June) that you spend half the summer preparing for and the other half recuperating from: Vacation Bible School. I love VBS. I grew up attending VBS and still remember VBS songs from my childhood. I’ve been fortunate to work alongside some gifted individuals who have made VBS such a special week. But now that I work on church staff, every time it rolls around, I am just exhausted—before it even begins! When there are hundreds of details, questions, and plans, I just get overwhelmed. I would love it if I could take on one item at a time-- but that’s not how life goes sometimes, is it? Life usually goes like this: It’s the first day of VBS. The microphone is on the fritz. Six volunteers haven’t shown up. First graders are jumping on the stage. The A/C isn’t working. You have ten more kids to place in groups. Preschoolers are crying. You are set to teach in fifteen minutes. And someone just grabbed you to ask you a few questions…Sometimes, everything happens at once.
That is why I love the stories of Jesus being followed and surrounded by crowds of people-- partially because I can empathize with him! People asked him questions, shouted at him, pressed in on him, reached out and touched him—sounds like a week of VBS with a bunch of bouncy kids! But Jesus always loved with the power of God. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). I can honestly say I am not always that patient. Not always that compassionate. Not always that aware of my place in God’s story. Jesus cared for the least of these in ways we just can’t fathom. But Jesus was also fully human—and you know what he did? He took time to rest. “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). Jesus demonstrates how we are to live. We weren’t created to work nonstop, always moving, always surrounded by tasks and people. We were made to work-- and made to rest. As Ecclesiastes repeats, there is a time for everything under the sun. There is a time to give your all, work your hardest--- but also a time to stop and rest and reflect.
And I tell you, there is nothing more beautiful than finishing a week of VBS, standing back (or, more likely, sitting down) and reflecting on all that God has done. Visitors who experienced the love of Christ. Kids who heard the gospel for the first time. Volunteers who used their spiritual given gifts in inspiring ways. In that moment, you remember exactly why you love VBS. You finally have a moment to catch your breath and thank God for all the crazy, hectic, frustrating moments, because every moment is a gift.
In the summertime in Texas, there’s nothing better than a large cup of Busch’s Sweet Tea, cold and refreshing, with little nuggets of ice. To sit and sip and enjoy the sweetness of the moment— ahh! Truth be told, any type of tea will do. Hot tea. Unsweetened tea. Even Lipton. You can put as much work into it as you want-- ice, lemon, sugar or sweetener, fruit, honey, or just grab a Snapple. I’m not too picky-- but you might be! Whatever you like, however you like it, all that matters is the sip. Slow, steady, refreshing. Take in the scent and the taste and let it do its work. Calm. Rest. How sweet.
“Small Wonders” by Rob Thomas
Breathe Out, Breathe In. As you breathe out, think of something that you are carrying that you don’t need—or something you need to surrender to Christ. Take your time. Don’t rush. As you breathe in, receive Christ into that space that is left behind. Where you had stress, receive the peace of Christ. Where you released materialism, breathe in the all sufficiency of Jesus. As you breathe out and breathe in, pray these words:
OUT—“Empty me of all I do not need” IN—“And fill me with You”
Jim Elliot, martyred missionary to Ecuador, once wrote “Wherever you are, be all there!” I confess I don’t live this way as often as I should. I spend too much time looking back or looking forward. But I encourage you to be present today. Let’s do it together. Go all in with what God has called you to do at work, at home, wherever you are. But then hit pause at the end of the day and withdraw, rest and pray. “"Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).