Fear Not: God is With Us!

This year, our church’s Vacation Bible School was a three day event. Those three days were split into five different sections with a different theme, or Bible point. Each time that session’s Bible point was spoken, the helpers and kids had to shout back, “Fear not!”

43447178_d437f859a4The first section was on Thursday afternoon, from 3 to 8 PM. The Bible point was, “God is with us!”

Fear not!

This year I was a leader of five kids. For some reason, the children’s pastor decided that it would be best to have mixed age groups. That meant that the leaders would have children from various age groups. However, the groups were small, which probably helped out the leaders when it came to dealing with cliques and that type of thing. Two of my kids were in the 6th grade. One was a 3rd grader, one was a 1st grader, and another was a 2nd grader. It happened that I had four kids (all girls) for the first two days, and then the fifth kid, a boy, came on the last day.

[insert some insecurity about my skillz as a crew leader. Skillz? I have no skillz. HALP! Gets all worried about my skillz and what shall I do if they’re naughty?]

As it so happened, I was late coming to the church. Bah. The streets were filled with cars, and the lights were all red. We had a near miss with a car that had just stopped in the middle of the street with its nose sticking out. Some horn honking ensued. But I got there. Alive.

Anyway, as a crew leader, I got a nifty plastic bag that held pencils and pens and some booklets for the Bible lesson. Plus a guide for the leader that held a schedule I DID NOT USE for the first day. Yes, I walked around with the wrong schedule for the first session and my kids were none the wiser. (Don’t tell my kids if you go to my church and are reading this.) The nifty plastic bag was meant to carry any stuff that the kids accumulated along the way. These “stuff” became plastic fireflies with no eyes and only one wing each, squished snacks, and tangled whistly toys.

Speaking of fireflies...

Speaking of fireflies...

Don’t forget the nice dark purple shirts that we crew leaders got as part of the deal. The kids wore yellow, we wore purple to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the pack. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to help me… various station leaders (*ahem* Jevon) still looked around wildly and picked random tall people out of my group and asked them, “Are you the crew leader?” Purple shirt, *coff coff* I really liked the purple shirts even though they sure smelled funny at the end of three days.

The first stop of the day was “Sing and Play Swamp Stomp.” Notice the use of alliteration. It’s exactly what it is. The sanctuary was decked out in a nice styrofoam house (wish I had pictures. I don’t) and some really really awesome trees and a dock and a cardboard boat and a happy green blow up croc. You know, the kind that you throw into the pool and cling on when you’re drowning. The kids were entertained by an interesting character named “Skeeter.” He was supposed to be the wild man of the swamp or something of the sort, but I found him disturbing. I mean, he talks exactly like this guy who used to stalk me…

I’m just really glad that Skeeter/Henry didn’t come up to me and ask, “Do you like to sing to Jesus?” Brrrrr.

Gratuitous swamp shot. Click photo to get to photographer's photostream.

Gratuitous swamp shot. Click photo to get to photographer's photostream.

That would have been too much. Ask me why.

The kids didn’t warm up to the hand motions at first, and honestly, neither did I. It took about a day before we all stopped feeling awkward and actually started learning the hand motions, instead of hiding behind the pews.

Worship leader asked us to introduce each other. The two 6th graders we’ll call J and E. The third grader we’ll call Y. The second grader? C. I knew all of them already. Here I’ll say that C was the kid I was worried about, as she’s rather spoiled and knows how to pull people’s strings. *wince* It’s her fault for having such beautiful eyelashes.

The worship leader introduced us to our Bible buddy, which was some animal. It was Flash the firefly. It had a purple butt and eyelashes. She/he reminded us that God is always with us! So for the rest of that session, whenever the words “God is with us” was spoken, the kids and their crew leaders responded with a resounding “Fear not!”

Then we were supposed to choose jobs for the kids. Pick your choice. You have “Materials Manager” (bag carrier), “Prayer Partner,” “Gator Guide” (I’m not really sure what this is) “Schedule Supervisor” (person who keeps track of where we’re supposed to go, and when) and the person who’s supposed to thank the station leaders (station leaders are the people not in charge of a group but rather a specific station, like the crafts station, the snack station, the Bible story station, etc.) at the end of each stop. I don’t remember who I chose for what, but I do remember that C wanted kept changing her mind. I ended up with some sort of compromise.

swamp shot by same photographer

swamp shot by same photographer

Next stop: the gym for some games. The games involved an “icebreaker” game that was actually kind of fun. Each kid was given a skittle, and they were asked to flash their skittles, pretending that those skittles were fireflies. Then they were supposed to find another person with the same skittle and sit down with that person and introduce themselves and the usual “what’s your favorite animal?” My “firefly” melted against my hand in a very nice way. We were inseparable. Truly.

I would have eaten it too, if I hadn’t dropped it.

After each game, the game leader would hand out pieces of paper with questions that the crew leaders were supposed to ask their kids. The questions were pretty good… they weren’t too deep that the kids would stare blankly with question marks all over their faces. They were easy enough so that the youngest kids could answer them. Plus they didn’t take too long to answer so we could move on to the next game.

I liked that my kids showed eagerness in answering the questions. No putting people on the spot, and no awkward silences. No “You answer. No, you answer. Oh please, go ahead. No, really, I mean it.”

This is him.

This is him.

Next stop? I think it was the “Dockside Drive-in.” The place where the station leader shows a video about Chadder Chipmunk (who was voiced by a girl despite him being male) and then talks about the lessons that Chadder had learned along with his friend Fraider (who is acted by a real guy). Each segment is probably about 10 minutes long. In this one, Chadder wants to write for the school newspaper. Decides to go to the bayou to find a picture of the rumored Monster Croc. Meets a fraidy-cat called Fraider who suddenly finds himself signed up as guide to find the Monster Croc. Problem is that he is scared of everything…

Chadder then tells him that “God is with us” so we don’t need to be afraid! Then Chadder drops M&Ms on the ground so they won’t get lost (smart idea, that). Unfortunately Fraider eats them. (Figures.) Segment ends with them hopelessly lost.

Honestly, Chadder Chipmunk is a cheesy film. But the kids loved it. They really did. They couldn’t wait to see the next segment! Strangely, I found myself wanting to find out, too.

Proof that cheesiness does not mean something’s bad.

Then a move on to the Bible Bayou. Here Jevon and his wife told a Bible story in various creative ways (you rock, guys!); in fact, I’d give them plenty of points for creativeness. Good job with the fake British accent there, Jevon. The lesson here this time was about Moses and the burning bush, complete with special effects. Fascinating bush, with the orange paper and burning sounds!

Mmmm... fireflies skittles

Mmmm... skittles

Afterwards, Jevon told us that no, the tape recording playing God’s voice was not in fact God. He asked, “Was there a time you were afraid and God reassured you of His presence?”

One of the sixth graders, a precocious kid, piped up. “I had a surgery some time ago, and they cut into the wrong part.”

Oohs and aahs from some of the younger kids.

“I was in pain for five weeks! And one day I prayed to God, and it didn’t hurt anymore!”

Jevon spoke. “Well, that’s great, Justin! You can see how God took care of you! Is there anyone else who would like to share?”

“Actually, the surgery was done over here.” Kid pointed to his… well, you know.

Everyone giggled. Especially the small children. Jevon cringed.

Oblivious (or not), the kid went on with his story. “And it was because some part refused to come down–”

Jevon stopped him at that point. I don’t blame him.

Craft time next. The station leader asked us what Bible story we’d learned about. One of the younger kids eagerly answered, “There was a kid who had surgery in a very BAD part. In fact, it was in his PRIVATES.”

“My goodness…”

Another swamp photo that I like.

Another swamp photo that I like.

I don’t think that was what she expected to hear…

We made fireflies out of tiny plastic bottles and foam wings. They were supposed to be keychains, to be taken home at the end of VBS. The crew leaders were supposed to put all crafts in the provided plastic bag. Unfortunately, a few hours later, the fireflies had no eyes, and the kids frantically stuck their heads into the bags in an effort to find the eyes. They were unsuccessful. “GAHHHH WHERE ARE THE EYES? THE EYES?” C even told me that I had to give her my firefly’s eyes because she was younger than me.

Either way, we all ended up with very blind fireflies.

I’m pretty sure we went to the snack shack next. We made “burning bush in a bowl,” which involved taking a couple of tortilla chips, putting them into a clear plastic cup, and topping those with a few leaves of lettuce, some flakes of cheese, and a cherry tomato. It was easy and quite fun to make and eat. I am glad that my kids aren’t too picky. I made Y eat my cherry tomato (I’m allergic to tomatoes) and she was quite happy to do so.

202923252_e2f251ee41On the whole, I had an exciting afternoon. The kids were awesome. I felt highly impressed with their good behavior, and they made me feel as if I wasn’t such a bad crew leader after all. I might not have been the best crew leader, but they definitely made leading easier for me.

What’s a crew leader supposed to do? I’m supposed to be myself, and be there for the kids, even though I might be feeling less than up to par. And do a LOT of praying. Because prayer is incredibly important.

Those kids were my God-sightings. They gave me hope.*

It’s not as scary as one would think. I was called to do it. Just buck up and go ahead. You don’t have to be perfect, or have years and years of training. You don’t have to have been a Christian forever, either.

As I said, I was called to do it. That means that I was given the means to do it.

Don’t be afraid.

*More about God sightings in the next post

Summer Storm

Disturbed from sleep

By a crack of thunder

As if someone drew his whip

Across the roof of the house

The quietly sleeping people

Roused, racing around the house

Closing all the windows and

Screen doors left open.

Action from the unexpected

This is summer.

At best.

No one knows when they hit.

Except perhaps…

The One cracking the whip.

Then go back to sleep

As before when it ends

And wake to a sunlit morning.


Lots of thunderstorms these days. Thunderstorm after thunderstorm after thunderstorm. One morning not too long ago we had a loud one. Since we leave our windows open because of the heat, my parents had to run around closing them. I woke up and then went back to sleep. When I woke up again the storm was gone. The sun had reappeared.

Such is the way of these summer storms.

Storm rolls in by Bitterroot.

Picture credits: Bitterroot

The Quest for a Guitar

I just found out that Garage Band has free guitar lessons!

It’s always been a dream of mine to learn to play acoustic guitar, and play it well. Well enough so that I could jump in and play in the praise band at my church. Well enough so that I’d be able to play Brooke Fraser and sing at the same time. Well enough so that I wouldn’t look foolish hesitating while switching chords.

Like this song, which would sound so good on guitar.

You can just hear the strumming of the guitar along with the synthesizer. *swoons* But anyway.

I took an introduction to guitar workshop four (or was it five? It was so long ago.) years ago at camp. The teacher was good. I don’t remember her name. She brought several extra guitars for the people who didn’t bring their own. At that time, I didn’t have my own, so I took advantage of the provided guitar. Besides, free stuff is always good.


This is the D chord I've learned how to play. I know there are some variations out there, but I like this one.

She taught us a few basic chords, like G, C, D, and A. She taught us fingering. (WHOA! It’s so different from piano! I made confused faces all the time.) She taught us how to strum correctly, and how to hold a guitar pick. Key: don’t clench it like it’s a rope and you’re about to fall into a bottomless ravine. What’s even better: she gave us the guitar picks to keep. I think I still have mine somewhere. It was black and looked as if it was made of shell.

When all that was learned to some level of ability, she played a few worship songs along with us.

I had a lot of trouble keeping up. I knew the chords, but changing them displayed some difficulty. Actually, no. I stopped for five minutes to change chords. Plus I made loud twangy muted sounds because my fingers kept on pressing all the other strings.

Besides the fact that my hands were small. I could barely reach the chords. Owie.

Since I didn’t have a guitar, I ended up not practicing when I got home. Guitars are expensive pieces of wood and metal (that do sound mighty fine), and it would have been too much for my parents to afford. I sort of forgot about my interest. (I think I’ve wanted to play every single instrument at every point in my life. My parents are used to it.) I remember being enthusiastic about it for a week after I got home, and then letting it drift away.

Besides, I told myself that my hands were rather small. It wasn’t that much fun making loud twangy while muted sounds from pressing all the strings at once.

522509224_762fcde05dBut still, guitars lingered in the back of my mind. One of my parents’ friends from church was an amateur songwriter. She didn’t have a lot of money, so her husband told her she’d have to buy a tiny guitar. She bought one that was like a toy. It didn’t even tune well. After a while, she bought a slightly better model that was also slightly bigger. For my parents’ fellowship picnics, she’d bring her guitar and play a song she had composed.

The problem? Her guitar was never tuned. Never. I don’t know if she knew that guitars had to be tuned (she had learned her chords all by herself. Everything by herself). Or if she just didn’t know how to tune it with one of those tuners. Whatever the reason, the guitar was always out of tune. Hard to play chords on an out of tune guitar. So I just satisfied myself with random strumming.

I didn’t think that I’d be able to reach the chords on a normal sized guitar, though it was no problem on her tiny guitar.

Then I learned this song, in the process realizing that it would be so much easier to play on a guitar than a piano.

Then one Sunday not too long ago, I found out that my fingers had grown. They’d become more flexible as a result of five more years of piano playing, and my more recent scale training. If any of you know about playing piano, you’ll know that it requires flexibility to reach notes. (Playing arpeggios and chords help a lot with finger flexibility, in case you didn’t know.) It took five years after the intro to guitar workshop, but my fingers grew enough to be able to reach the chords on a guitar.

Add to that the discovery that Garage Band, which comes installed with all Macs, comes with free downloadable guitar lessons. I watched the first couple just for the heck of it and to remind me how to hold a pick, and the lessons are clear and very well explained. Oh, did I mention that it was free? Free stuff is cool.

2777552407_404cd5b83bHappiness ensued. I envisioned myself playing Brooke Fraser and playing guitar along with it! Maybe I could even do Switchfoot! And Hannah Montana! (Just kidding about Hannah Montana, by the way.)

In all seriousness, as a music major who likes to sing, guitar is a perfect choice to learn. It’s not too hard to learn. My hero Brooke Fraser knows acoustic guitar and piano. And plays both extremely well.

Now to get a guitar. How? I searched on Amazon. Everything was extremely expensive. Even the cheapest beat up 80 dollar guitar in “poor condition” was far beyond my means. Besides, I wanted to get something good. That brought me to the next option. No, not steal. Borrow.

Fortunately a nice guy in my church offered to let me borrow his guitar for the rest of the summer. So for a brief time, I will at least be able to practice. When I go to college in the fall, maybe I can find a job or something so I can save up for a guitar.

I told my dad I was going to borrow a friend’s guitar.

What are you going to do with it??

I don’t know, use it as a clubbing bat. Or to plant flowers. Whichever.

By the way, I want a black guitar.


Always Give Credit Where It’s Due

During high school, I took a course for college credit at the local community college. This course was in writing/composition.

The professor was old, Jewish, bald, and had a pronounced muffin top.

He was wonderful.

1607445795_86de0db0f8That was one of my favorite classes at that college, ever. Besides Psychology. I can credit him as the person who got me to really tighten up my writing. He also introduced me to the art of making outlines, as well as teaching me how to argue tightly and correctly.

Another thing I remember about him is that he hated plagiarism. Really hated it. He hated it so much that he would rather have someone turn in their own written work that had horrible grammar, punctuation, and style than turn in a beautifully written composition that was so obviously not theirs.

Of course, as an English professor, he’d faced many cases where the student had plagiarized. Every semester, he’d see at least one person who foolishly thought they could get away with it and turned in work that was not their own. He told us that he could tell when some poor fellow had plagiarized because the work they handed in would be so unlike their usual work. He’d google the keywords, and sure enough, he’d find the original document out there on the web! “If you can find it on the web, I can find it too.”

Then he confronted the poor fellow, and the result, sometimes, was much tears and “Don’t expel me, professor! The devil made me do it!”

Don’t be stupid, and don’t do something that you’ll get caught at in the first place.

695486764_1a237b0789So before we attempted to write any composition, he would lay down the rules for us. From the book he wrote for the class, plagiarism results when you do not give credit to others for their words or ideas. It’s unacceptable, period. At the community college I attended, penalties ranged from failing the paper to being expelled from that school. It was that serious. Even in cases of accidental plagiarism, it’s a serious offense, he says. (Regarding accidental cases, one of my friends used too many quotes in one of his papers. Quotes are ok, but he totally went overboard in the teacher’s eyes, and the teacher gave him a failing grade.)

Here are a few of his rules from his book, paraphrased.

  • Do not copy the words of someone else and pass them off as your own work.
  • When you do use the words of someone else, credit them to the writer. Use quotation structures with direct quotes, colons, etc.
  • Credit the source when you paraphrase.
  • Reference info that is not common knowledge.
  • You don’t have to reference common knowledge. (i.e., smoking is common in USA)
  • Reference any charts, tables, illustrations, or diagrams.

Failure to do so could result in punitive action, or an “F” for the whole course.

This professor kindly said that we would receive correction, guidance, and would be given a chance to rewrite if our work was not up to par. There wasn’t any reason to fear a bad grade and use the work of others as a result. To his credit, he lived up to his words. His corrections were always clear, and understandable. I still remember him as one of the most helpful professors that I had. He even offered to do one-on-one time if anyone needed such.


Plus he ended the course earlier because I had finished all my work.

He concluded by saying that if he ever suspected any of us of plagiarism, he would hunt us down.

So why am I writing this?

One of my blogger acquaintances has declared July 17th to be anti-plagiarism day. This is her blog post about the fact.

Basically, she recently encountered a nasty case of plagiarism. A writer she had close dealings with went too far in his search for inspiration, to the point where he plagiarized. He even won a cash prize for a story that was plagiarized! Sadly, he insisted that he had done nothing wrong. The writer speculates that perhaps he wasn’t even aware of how deeply he hurt his friends and his own reputation.

He didn’t mean malice. He just didn’t think that what he had done was stealing. Maybe he still doesn’t know what’s acceptable or unacceptable when looking for inspiration.


The blogger then says,

I’m declaring Friday 17 July Anti-Plagiarism Day. On that day I’m going to blog about plagiarism, and I’d like you to do the same: on your own blogs, on message boards, on Facebook or Twitter: anywhere where writers congregate.

I was horrified when I read her account. On a thread on Absolute Write forums, she added that this person had collaborated with ANOTHER writer to write a book, and now that book cannot be published because people believe that his contributions are not his. It’s horrible when someone gets work for something that he didn’t do. It’s even worse that other people got hurt because of what he had done.

So today, I encourage you to think about this issue. And please, if you are a blogger, write a blog post about this.

Always give credit where it’s due.

Picture credits: quiroso, -Gep-, untitled 13, and Melody.

So I’ve been away…

I’ve been away for a couple of days doing Vacation Bible School with the kids at my church, which is why I haven’t been blogging regularly. I’m sorry about that. I had no internet connection as I was at a friend’s house for most of the time when I wasn’t at VBS. And right now, despite the fact that I’ve been very much blessed by the whole crazy experience, I’m very tired. I didn’t get enough sleep. Sleepovers will do that to you.

Plus chasing after five active individuals is quite… strenuous, to say the least.

Plus I ate a lot of unhealthy stuff. Gah. Stomach feels funny.

But I shall blog about it. Never fear! Five posts coming up all about it! Stay tuned!

I have to get some rest first.

Meanwhile, below is the logo for this year’s VBS. Pretty cool, huh? That crocodile is really something.

Note to self: Check out Jars of Clay.