Thursday, June 21, 2012


I'm getting too old for this. Sweaty little people are screaming and singing and laughing and crying and learning and fighting and growing. It's beautiful, yes. But it's exhausting.

Zion is one of six - yes SIX - tiny congregations in urban Minneapolis that come together in hosting this summer day camp experience. It's a lot of work for everyone involved, but it's worth it. More than 40 kids have come together and relished being part of something bigger than their little Sunday school class or one little church. And being all together makes it all worthwhile.

Sure, we could farm them out to programs produced by larger congregations. We could hire Bible camp staff to come in and run it. But we don't because we're about something particular and unique.

Progressive and inclusive language is incredibly important with this group. They have GLBT parents and friends and pastors. We need leaders who know not to tie a red bandana around the arm of a little girl who lives in North Minneapolis...and so instead we buy bandanas that don't look like bandanas, lest they get misinterpreted in a nearby neighborhood. Our teachers know that a few of these kids live in shelters or have been homeless or don't know their parents. We are prepared for all kinds of kids - including those with major allergies, social challenges, and physical limitations.

This week is about water and baptism. We've already engaged the stories of Noah, Jonah, and Jesus walking on water with art, science, and games. We've heard each story several times and several different ways. They are washed all day - the songs, the prayers, the pool at the YMCA all wash them with words of deep love and acceptance. It's good to see them catching on.

Today was an especially important story. Today Jesus met the woman at the well. They were different for a lot of reasons. They shouldn't have been talking to each other or become friends. But they did. So I called up a little boy I'd grown to love. He's rowdy and naughty, but he has a fabulous smile and crawls into my lap when he's tired. We stood side by side and I told everyone that he's my new friend. We met this week and, even though there are lots of ways we're different, we've become friends.

Can you guys name some of the ways Anthony* and I are different from each other? He has short hair and your hair is long. He's brown and you're tan. You're tall and he's short. You're old and he's five! You're wearing glasses and he's not. You're a teacher and he's a camper. You're wearing sandals and he's wearing shoes. He's a boy and you're a girl.

All true. There are lots of differences.

Can you guys name some of the things we have in common? You're both smiling. You're both humans. You both went swimming. You're both at day camp. God loves both of you the same -

Yes! Lordy, yes. If we stop right there and don't learn anything else this week, yes. God loves Anthony* and me the same. And not in a watered down you-each-get-one-pretzel-so-there-are-enough-to-go-around kind of way. God loves us both a lot. Enough to pour Living Water into our midst. Enough to drench us with Jesus.

And so I was changed for the rest of the day. I had new patience for kids dripping with tie-dye hands and messy macaroni and cheese eaters and Chris* when he dripped GoGurt all over his shoes. All.Over. I had new compassion for the pace with which our youngest kids get dried and clothed after swimming. (It's like trying to get feral cats dressed, people. I don't know how the Octomom does it.)

And in the midst of the chaos I received their love. I listened to them sing new songs on the bus and make one birthday girl feel like a queen. An eight year-old broke up a fight with humor and grace. New friends gave each other hugs and I heard countless Thank Yous. And with every Splash in the pool and sink and bowl, they were getting it.

So on second thought, I'm not getting too old for this. That's impossible. The water is for everyone and it pulls us together in sneaky, subtle ways even though we're different. The water makes Anthony* brave in standing next to me while we become friends and become miracles together.


val said...


Bible school.

Meta, miracles happen there.

My oldest friend from childhood, I know I've told you this, said the most meaningful spiritual experience of her life was VBS when she came with me that week...

To a boring old VBS in New Hope?

I remember little beyond sweaty kids and some craft projects involving wood burning, which seemed like a bad mistake.

Anyway, you are in the middle of lifetime moments of faith and trust.

I love that you use them well.

love you so, Val

Kathryn said...

Oh Meta -
How you help me get excited to do the same VBS with our kids at the end of July...
Lots of love to you,
Your little Presby