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When Life Is Sad, God is Good

Meet Fortune

Fortune's life may seem a little sad. He doesn't have a dad, and his mom can't walk. But Fortune has seen so much of God's goodness that his heart is full of joy! Today's memory verse is "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted." In this video we see Fortune's mother thanking God for the provision made for them. Even in extreme hardship, her grateful heart allows her to celebrate God's blessing. One of the things that children learn from VBS, and from participating in the VBS offering, is that the life we live here in the Midwest is often much easier than children's lives in other countries. Hopefully, the students this week have seen the children in Africa with God's eyes of love and have broadened their life perspective.

However, one broken heart cannot be compared with someone else's broken heart. The Bible doesn't put conditions on what causes the broken heart. The promise is that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted. Is your heart heavy with grief? Are you in an uncertain place in life and your heart is heavy with worry? Has someone you love disappointed and hurt you with unthinking words? The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. Share your brokenness with God in prayer. Thank God for the blessing you have. Remember that even Jesus felt alone and deserted on the cross. But God is faithful. He feels our pain along with us. 

Our children feel sadness as well. They often don't have the words to share that sadness. It may come across as misbehavior. God will use you to help them in their brokenheartedness if you listen closely and help them give word to their pain. Even what seems a small hurt in an adult eye can be big to a child. Take the opportunity in the small hurts and the big hurt to pray with your child about them. As the old hymn says, "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me."

Posted by Janet Hill at Thursday, July 11, 2019
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Watch for God by Janet Hill

We don't talk about seeing God in our every day lives very often. But God is all around us and when we take the time to look we can appreciate the loving care God provides. In VBS each day, children are asked to share about a "God Sighting" they have had. Sometimes, God sightings are easy to identify. I can remember teaching a recent missions class. I had invited a woman, Isabella, who was a new English language learner to come to class and share. She was nervous about doing so. She was nervous about if the children would understand her, so she brought her daughter who had grown up speaking both English and Spanish. But mostly, she was nervous about sharing her story. 

She had left her home country eighteen years earlier and had only been home once, last sumer. Tears streamed down her face and her voice caught as she shared with the children what it was like to come to a new country and leave behind those she loved and a country and home she loved. She had chosen to do so because she knew it would mean a new opportunity for her family. It was difficult. As her eyes filled with tears, a young kindergartener in the first-row impulsively stood up, approached Isabella, and said, "Do you need a hug?" That was a God sighting for sure! God's love spilled out of this young child as she embraced a stranger whose heart was aching for what she had sacrificed in order to come to our Country.

Today's Bible story is about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and wandering through the desert. The Israelites soon became discontent and longed for what they knew as home. They grumbled that they had no fresh water. God provided them with fresh water. They grumbled that they did not have enough to eat. God heard their grumbling, and provided Manna, as in the picture above. Each morning the ground would be white and they would gather in baskets what they needed to survive just that day. Each evening, God would send quail so they would also have meat. Yet, some tried to hoard extra food, only to find it filled with maggots and rotting the next morning. At each turn, instead of seeing with gratitude that God was working, the people focused on what they didn't have. Or, thought that they knew better than God.

We too fail to see God working in and around us every day. Often our hearts forget to be grateful and instead settle into a selfish complaining about what we perceive as a hardship. That especially happens when life changes in ways we weren't expecting or wanting. Today's Bible point is "when life changes...God is good." We can look to God when life changes and watch for ways God is guiding us, loving us, and providing for us. We look for reminders of God's strength, presence, and love. What's your latest God sighting? Take a moment and thank God for his provision.

Posted by Janet Hill at Wednesday, July 10, 2019
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When Life Is Scary, God is God!

Today's Bible Memory Buddy is Hopper, a hoopoe bird. Hooper's head feathers stick straight up and out, reminiscent of our hair standing on end when we're scared. Children will learn today that God is with us, even when we are scared. Hooper helps drive that point home in a way children can remember.

My husband is one of those people who think when a storm warning comes on the TV it's time to go outside and look around. But I've always been frightened of storms. I recall a childhood experience with a tornado warning. In this particular instance, my parents were watching the forecast upstairs, but they sent my brother and me to the basement to hide under the stairwell until the warning passed. I was in tears I was so scared. My brother, Patrick, tried to comfort me. I suggested to him that I might be more comforted if he'd retrieve my favorite doll, Kimberly Kay, from my bed. Being a brave, albeit younger brother, he marched upstairs and grabbed my doll and swiftly returned to our shelter. By that time, I had thought of another stuffed animal that might bring me comfort. Patrick diligently trotted back upstairs to retrieve whatever had come to mind that might comfort me. This happened over and over again until the stairway was full of stuffed treasures and my parents finally noticed Pat going in and out of the basement! By that time, the storm warning had passed and everyone returned to their proper place. All the while my parents were chuckling ar my childish attempt to ease my fears.

Today's memory verse comes from perhaps the most famous passage in the Bible about God's presence in our times of fear. It is Psalm 23:4, "Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me." This Psalm has grown to have a deeper meaning to me as I have faced some of the darkest valleys of my life so far. I have learned to draw on the metaphors of comfort and trust God to walk beside me. He has prepared so many tables for me by putting just the right person in my path to share a word of comfort or even a stranger to offer a prayer at a time of great fear. There is so much power in learning to trust God in fearful times. There is no promise that we won't have fears or even that our fears won't be real. But there is the promise that the loving shepherd won't abandon the flock and has even prepared to walk with us, protect us, and lead us to place of rest.

I have a friend (whom I will call Jane to protect the privacy of the individuals in this story) who has been hired to stay with an elderly woman while she is in the hospital. The woman is not expected to live more than a week or two. One evening when Jane arrived to care for this lady, she was experiencing a lot of fear. She was afraid to go to sleep for fear she would not wake up again. She was afraid that she might be alone when she died. Jane did her best to comfort her. In their conversation, the two women discovered that they had both grown up in preacher's homes. The two women shared childhood memories of life lessons they had learned in homes of faithful church attendance and parents who taught them to trust God. The elderly woman had not gone to church in a number of years and had fallen away from trusting the Good Shepherd in times of stress. After a few minutes of silence, the elderly woman asked Jane if she would pray with her. So Jane took the woman's hand, bowed her head, and waited for her to pray. After a few minutes, the woman said in tears, "Jane, I think it would be best if you prayed." So Jane prayed for her, for the family members who were also worried and fearful. She thanked God for the provision made by training the doctors and nurses who were administering the tender end of life care. Then Jane suggested that they might listen to some instrumental hymns she had on her phone. The patient laughed and sang loudly as she recognized first one hymn after another from long-ago experiences. As Jane prepared to leave, at the end of her shift, the woman took her hand again. She said, "Jane, you have no idea how much comfort and peace you have brought me tonight." 

God prepared the table in the presence of the enemy that evening. It was not a coincidence that Jane was hired to care for this woman. God placed them together because of their common background. Jane listened to the Holy Spirit and provided the hands, feet, and voice for Jesus' love to provide the peace and comfort that was needed.

We can depend on God to be with us when we are afraid. Your children can too. Help reinforce this VBS lesson, by looking for times to share your own fears with them and how you trust God to provide peace and encouragement. Remind them to pray when they are afraid. Use Hooper to help reinforce this lesson. Ask about the Bible story and how the Israelites trusted God in a time of great fear. Remember that when Life is scary, God IS good.

Posted by Janet Hill at Tuesday, July 9, 2019
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