Monday, July 28, 2008


Funny story...

Well, not funny really, more like a tale born out of deep tragedy and personal pain that may possibly have good results in the end.


There is a room in our church that has been set aside as the "C.E. Office" It is an office in name only. No one uses it as an office. It probably resembles more of a storage center. When our talented painter created the fantastic bucolic mural that adorns our breezeway, she used the C.E. office door as the horse barn door (complete with horse). "Barn" is a good description. Over the years, I have cleaned and straightened and organized, with limited results. Either some stuff gets out of place, or I don't finish the task, or more stuff gets stuffed in there. For example, when I was told that the tape library archives had to be moved or disposed of, I put them in the C.E. office. A rather large storage cabinent was slated for removal, so all the items in it were moved to the C.E. office. And on it goes. The result is no place to walk or move.

Fast forward: Vacation Bible School is fast approaching. We needed some sturdy, industrail looking shelves to put on the stage for our set. Hey, let's get the ones out of the C.E. office! No problem, except for the fact that the shelves are packed full and there are two or three solid layers of boxes, items, and debris. So I set up two long tables in the hallway and engaged in the task of clearing the area in front and around the two shelves and then clearing the shelves themselves. After an hour or two of work, the shelves were free. I navigated them out of the still overwhelmingly cluttered office/barn/storage closet and we used them for our stage set for VBS. And since all the stuff couldn't sit in the hallway all week, I shoved it all back in the "office."

That's when I had a brain storm. After VBS was over, I had to get the shelves back in the C.E. office. That meant I had to clear out the stuff I had just put back in. Soooo...why not just empty everything out and do a massive sorting and cleaning project, putting things back bit by bit? So on Friday, I told our Craft Director (who was using the sizeable youth room that sits next to the C.E. Office) to leave her craft tables up. My plan was to whip through all this stuff on Saturday, leaving a lean, mean children's ministry office machine!


Understand, that VBS is a physically demanding week. Since it was in the evening, it made for a week of very long days. I slept in on Saturday, but I knew I had to get started. So Saturday morning, I headed to the church and began unloading items onto the tables in the youth room. It took all morning and part of the afternoon just to get the stuff out of the office. I dusted and vacuumed (so that's what the floor looks like!) and marvelled at just how big the C.E. office actually was. I put the shelves back in the room, took a late lunch break, and began the task of purging the "stuff." My criteria was simple: unless it had clear historic value, was irreplaceable, or would likely be used in the future, out it would go. This wasn't easy, as I subscribe to the "this might come in handy one day" school of hoardng. But I determined to be brutal and reduce years of accumluation to a manageable size.

But as daylight turned to darkness, the piles had not shrunk that much. I headed home at about 11 p.m., in order to finish my final prep for Sunday morning.

The Sunday Morning activities went well. The youth group was very understanding and forgiving of the mess in their room, especially when I mentioned I could get them donuts. I took my wife to lunch, came home, changed clothes, and returned to the church. My gaze was weary, but steady. My determination was strained, but still strong. My organizational skills were peaked. I threw things away that some people, if they knew about it, would hang me in effigy. I faltered a couple of times, the bone crushing weariness and fatigue catching up with me. But finally, about 9:30 p.m., I put the last thing away, cleaned up the youth room, and went home.

Now to be honest, the project is not done yet. I have two boxes labeled "to be sorted." I have not touched the filing cabinent, nor the files full of older curriculum. But compared to how it was, it is much, much, much better.

So why did I spend so much time on this project when I should have been at home resting and recouperating frm VBS? Three reasons:
  • It will help me get better organized.
  • There is more to me than a messy, cluttered office.
  • Should I be definitely removed from children's ministries, I want my successor to have better.
Meanwhile, I will bask in the glow of the accomplishment of this weekend, yeah, verily and forsooth.

Yeah, whatever!

VBS LOG 2: The Week is Over

Another Vacation Bible School is in the books. All the months of planning, preparation, thought, and constant prayer come down to one week of insanity! But what an incredible week it was! 124 kids walked through the door during the week, with an average nightly attendance of 97. Our missions project (as in years' past) was Kidzana Ministries, with the kids raising approximately $75.

Were there bumps in the road? Absolutely. I already posted an entry about what has become known as the "hashbrown incident." There were technical difficulties along the way. And, of course, there were the inevitable challenges that arise from dozens of personalities being brought together in one place for the week. As a friend of mine likes to say, "I heard so much whining, crying, complaining, and temper tantrums...and the kids had behavior issues too!"

But all the statistics available, all the challenges along the way, and all the physical (and yes, to be honest, emotional) weariness incurred throughout the week were offset by three very important things:

1. I shared this in a previous post, but it bears repeating: The Word of God was proclaimed and the kids had fun! Oh yeah!

2. So many adults and teens came together just to focus on children. Wow...that just warms my heart every time I think about it.

3. At one of the stations, a girl stayed afterward and asked about how to make Jesus her forever friend. The station leader, holding back tears, shared the gospel and led her into a profession of faith. All the statistics, compliments, and fun are nothing compared to the rejoicing in heaven.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Our first night of Vacation Bible School went off without a hitch.
Except for everything that went wrong.
Actually, after several years of directing this summer phenomenon known as VBS, I have learned to not only expect the unexpected, but to keep everything in its proper perspective. That proper perspective is as follows: the kids had fun and the Word of God was proclaimed. Score! It was a good night!

But I feel a special burden tonight to unload a deep secret from my first night at VBS. You see, during our closing program, we were to do a special object lesson in which dry ice is placed in the water, it churns and bubbles, and then the leader (that's me!) creates a film of soap over the top of the bowl. The fog from the bowl expands the film bubble, until it bursts over, symbolizing our thankfulness (okay, you Power Lab directors, you're with me on this!). The instructions made it look cool. The video clips made it look cool. It looked cool. I couldn't wait.

Unfortunately, due to various and assorted challenges, I was unable to get the dry ice until the afternoon before VBS. I determined I was going to practice this experiment, so that I would get the feel for it before doing it in front of assorted kids and volunteers. But the Monday of VBS is always a bit like running a Nascar race with a're pedaling as hard and as fast as you can, but your little bell just won't tell the other drivers to get out of the way (VBS directors, can I get a witness...?) Anyway, my rehearsal time got eaten away with a myriad of unforeseen (or foreseen, but not addressed) challenges.

Finally, with approximatley 40 minutes to go, I found my practice window. But there were still challenges. The glass bowl had disappeared. I hunted, asked around, and eventually located it. I knew I would have to fill the bowls with pitchers from the nearest sink. Hey...the pitchers were too big to fit under the faucet of the nearest sink (ding..ding..move out of my way, Gordon!).

I finally had all my ingredients. My wife had put the dry ice in the church freezer. The dry ice was in brown wrappers. I took the ice chest to the kitchen, put on the safety gloves, and took the four very cold, brown-wrapped packages out of the freezer, and returned to practice the experiment. Only 20 minutes to go.

I cut the bags open and emptied the shaved dry ice into the freezer. I then carefully picked up a big hunk of the shaved dry ice (which had fused together in a lump) and I dumped it in the water, waiting for the bubbling, churning effect to start.

At this point, I should let everyone know that, while I have seen the foggy, churning effect from dry ice, I have never actually handled dry ice. I knew what it was supposed to do, but I did not really know how long it was supposed to take to do it. I also did not know that dry ice could come in shaved form, but since regular ice could be shaved, I didn't give it a second thought.

So why was this taking so long?

The shaved dry ice sat there in the water. I saw a tiny bubble or two make its way to the surface, but nothing like the cascading white fog I was expecting. Yup, the shaved dry ice sat in the bowl looking a lot like......


Shredded, frozen (but thawing), hash browns. White, soggy hash browns. I poked at them with my finger, half hoping it was indeed shaved dry ice (in which case the flesh on my finger would rip apart from the intense cold of the carbon dioxide). But no...alas. It was, in no way, shape, or form dry ice. It was hashbrowns (ding..ding..splat!).

I quickly dumped the bowl, cleaned up my mess, and got ready for when the kids arrived. I found the other brown package in the church freezer and it contained the chunks of dry ice. I did the experment live with no rehearsal. The kids ooohed and aaahed as the water bubbled, churned, and fogged over. But try as I might, I could not get the film to stick over the bowl. Sorry, Group Publishing, I know it said to be patient and keep trying, but the kids and volunteers were threatening a boycott, so I just tied in the bubbling and churning and how our lives should be marked by overflowing gratitude (yes, Teacher Tim, even when experiments go wrong).

As kids were leaving, I almost thought I heard some of the children saying how much they liked VBS so far. One of them said, "I know Teacher Tim tried his best on the experiment. I think he's just way too hard on himself. There's no way I could get angry with him over this."

"Yeah" said the other. "Hey, by the way, are you going to Kid's Camp in a couple of weeks? There's lots of fun and good food. I'm especially looking forward to the breakfast: eggs, bacon, and lots of yummy hash browns!"

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Today was set-up day for Vacation Bible School at our church. All the weeks and months of preparation and planning come down to this. A lot of us returned to the church after lunch and stayed until the evening hours transforming our building into the Power Lab, dealing with last minute questions and orientations, and enjoying pizza! So, needless to say, I'm tired and ready for bed. But I wanted to share some random thoughts before going to sleep.

  • Every year, I marvel at how hard it is to get volunteers, but then how the Lord brings a whole herd of them at the last minute.
  • I continue to be impressed by the creativity and ingenuity of our team members in decorating and problem solving.
  • We have some 14 year olds serving. We also have some 70's and 80's serving. What a neat mix!
  • My daughter may very well have a black eye from a stack of folding tables falling on her this evening. She says she's going to wear an eye patch and warn people to wear protective eye gear before doing scientific experiments.
  • I needed a couple of bookshelves from the C.E. office/storage room/catch-all. I never realized just how much stuff lay in front and upon those shelves. The upside is, I will finally be in a position to clean the room.
  • After years of service, my VBS assistant was unable to serve this year. If my VBS assistant is reading this: you are loved and appreciated....and I don't think everyone has fully comprehended just how important you have been. I have missed you...and you are in my prayers.
  • My wife correctly guessed the number of pizzas we would need for dinner tonight. How does she do that?
  • is, in my humble opinion, one of the best children's ministry distributors on the planet.
  • The Dollar Store is the children's worker's friend.
  • I'm tired, I'm sore, I'm worn out. And after much thought, I have decided that I still love VBS
Bring it the glory of God to the benefit of the kids!

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Last weekend, we finally got to take the first camping trip of the summer. Our destination was Whiskey Springs, a few miles past the charming town of Butte Falls. We had a few adventures during the trip, like a family emergency that required us to rush back home the second night. When we returned the next day, we had the privilege of helping a couple whose ride out of the campsite had "stood them up." We learned that he was a Desert Storm vet who got injured jumping out of a plane. We knew some of the same people...and we got to find out some of their church background as well.

I enjoy camping. Not only are there tall trees, fresh air, and gorgeous scenery, but it's an opportunity for me to do absolutely nothing! There are no demands on my time, no big decisions to be made, and no phones (nope, I still do not own a cell phone...and the signal is poor anyway!) I bring my laptop for writing, but there's no internet. I read, I walk, I read, I study, I walk, I attempt to grill burgers, and, oh yes, I read. And study. And think. And sleep. And plan. And dream.

The road to Whiskey Springs

Bridges cross little water streams along the hiking trail

Looking down at the creek

What secrets lurk below the pond? The beavers know! If you walk out here at early dawn or dusk, you may see a beaver or two busy in the pond.

A less than welcome tent guest (for the record, I strongly dislike spiders. However, they also fascinate a distance. This is as close as I will get without a shoe or heavy, blunt object).

Our family dog contemplates the nature of...well, nature.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


I was watching part of documentary one afternoon about the space program. Archival footage showed the classic mission control room of countless space missions. Shortly before the final countdown, the head honcho begins checking with each and every station with one simple question: "go or no go?" One by one, the station leaders call out "go," signifying that their area is functioning and ready for the launch. But should a leader say "no go," then the final countdown is halted. Fascinating stuff.

In approximately one and a half weeks, our church will be launching its annual Vacation Bible School. And tonight, at our weekly VBS meeting, I shared that we are nearing the final countdown and I needed a "go or no go" from everyone involved.

Of course, I'm not saying that we will scrub VBS if someone says "no go." But I did take the liberty of applying this dramatic scenario two ways:

1. It is time for each individual to say "go" or "no go" regarding their respective missions. Like hundreds of VBS directors through history and across the country, I find a lot of commitment takes the form of, "uhhh...I dunno", "maybe," or "let me think about it." But it is now time for each station leader, each volunteer, each support person to sign on the dotted line and say, "yes...I'm a GO." And I need to reaffirm myself as well. As I shared in a previous post, I've struggled somewhat with VBS this year. But now is time for me to step up, to go the distance, to shoot for the net, to hit the ball outta the park, to go for the middle of the uprights, to....well, you get the picture. I've always been on board for Vacation Bible School. But now is the time to loudly shout, "GO"

2. It is time to act as though we were in the final countdown. As I was reading some forum boards related to our VBS, I came across one discouraged poster whose whole organizational system caused dely after delay in their planning. They lamented that they only had a month left to order supplies, recruit, and get the program going. The responses varied, but many of them had the same basic message: "you have a month left? PRAISE THE LORD!" The church with 30 days until VBS has to do the same thing as the church with 30 weeks. They just have to focus and stick to the basics. God brings the harvest, God controls the results.

We've got a week and a half! PRAISE THE LORD! Our original target date would have placed us in the middle of VBS this week...and then what? Hey...we've got another week and a half! Time to set aside distractions and make every day count. I'm talking back at myself at this point, but also to anyone else who is struggling with similar situations.

Vacation Bible School is going to be great. Kids will hear the gospel and experience a fun-filled Christian environment. Songs, games, snacks, stories, and surprises! I can hardly wait.



Friday, July 04, 2008


Happy Independence Day!

If you haven't been to a "small town" 4th of July celebration, you don't know what you're missing. Even though our city is one of the fastest growing cities in the state, it has always maintained its charm and friendliness when it comes to things like the 4th. I started the day early with the community breakfast: eggs, ham, and pancakes. But it's not about the food, it's the faces: familiar and not-so-familiar folks coming in to share a meal, joke around, and get started on the day's events.

The day began overcast (it rained last night). It provided some cooler weather as we sat and waited for the parade. And then, right before the parade was to begin, the sun broke through. It was especially nice to have the clear skies, after spending the week choking on smoke from the wildfires in northern California. The parade was good, with all the elements a "small town" parade should have: fire trucks, vintage cars, horses, floats, and the corny jokes from the MC's. As the parade begins (officially, it starts at the review stand, but in actuality, it begins further up the street), the honor gaurd stops and everyone rises for the National Anthem. It is an incredibly moving thing to see hundreds of people on both sides of the streets stand in absolute silence as the flag is presented.

We wandered the many booths and shook hands with people for awhile. Then it was off to home, to relax a bit, and then grill some burgers for dinner.

About dinner time, I was starting to feel a headache coming on, so I bowed out of the fireworks show at the stadium. But it's a show that can be seen and heard throughout the city. One of the highlights is at "halftime" with "Skydiver Bingo." Throughout the day, people buy paper plates and put their names on them. At halftime, the plates are scattered all over the football field. A local skydiving club then sends skydivers over the stadium. It is an awesome thing to be staring up into the dark night sky and suddenly see a figure gliding in almost as if on one giant wing. He lands and scoops up a paper plate. The three winners get various cash prizes. And in one of the most exciting developments of the evening, my oldest daughter won a prize! Whoo hoo...dinner's on her!

For whatever reason, the pictures I thought I took today were non-existent. So, you'll have to settle for a thousand words instead of pictures. But believe me, the 4th of July in "small town" America is worth it.

Random thoughts from one tired puppy dog!

PS One more addition: One of the local newspapers took some parade pictures and posted it on their gallery. You can see them here. (let me know if this worked...I wasn't quite sure)
ADDITIONAL NOTE: I have fixed the link to show the 2008 pictures. Thanks to my anonymous commentator who noticed and brought it to my attention!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

TIME TO CHANGE: A Brief Introduction

Okay, time to get serious. I intended to write a blog about changes, choices, and getting what I want. As I stand at some heavy duty crossroads in my life, I am deciding to make some changes. Some will be gradual, some will be immediate, but all will have one thing in common: they will start with the simple decision to do it.

One day soon I will write more about these changes, but at this moment, I'm bumping up against a deadline. Why not just post when I have more time? I guess by introducing the subject now, it not only leaves the readers in suspense, but it also reminds me to finish writing it!

So stay tuned and keep reading.