Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Rainforest Adventure

Back again and no rant this week. This week I want to extol the joys and virtues of Vacation Bible School (VBS). I'm not entirely certain who benefits more from this time-worn tradition: kids or leaders. At my congregation we are in the midst of a Rainforest Adventure that is taking us to visit some of Jesus' parables in ways appropriate to the 3-year-old newbie through the jaded 5th-grader. It's so interesting to see what really resonates with them. Today, I'm afraid the visiting snakes will probably get more headlines than Jesus but I know that, in spite of the snakes, we are planting seeds deep in the hearts of these kids.

Some time back I was at a conference that required, for some forgotten reason, late nights and early mornings driving back and forth to Seguin, TX (home of Texas Lutheran University). We were tasked with recording our spiritual development time line. After baptism, the first thing on my time line was a song I learned at VBS. My parents told me I sang it in my sleep for a week after it was over. "Oh who can make a flower, I'm sure I can't can you?" As I worked on my time line (in the car) I realized that the spiritual a-ha moments of my life had a soundtrack and that learning songs was an important part of my faith development. The list included children's songs like "Jesus Loves Me" and "Raindrops" and continued through "Faith of Our Fathers", the first song where I got to sing the alto part, all the way back in 4th grade. James Taylor's "Fire & Rain" along with an entire musical called "Tell It Like It Is" plus a plethora of sacred and secular social justice songs marked my high school years.

As I grew in faith (and musical skill and exposure) I found that God could speak, not only through hymns, but also through the lyrics of popular music and even through purely instrumental music. God sings, from pipe organs, hand flutes, orchestras, ceremonial drums and lone violins. With the birth of my children I rediscovered "Jesus Loves Me" and a host of other children's songs and experienced simple faith from an adult perspective. The downward slide of Je-e-e-sus in a country church rendition of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" at my grandmother's funeral reminded me of where remembered parts of my faith journey started - at that very first VBS.

My mother wove powerful faith statements into the fabric of my life by humming as she worked through her day. Her mother taught me a Christmas Carol in Norwegian. My father told me, in the last year of his life, that he had always imagined it would be scripture that carried him through the most difficult days but he was surprised to find that it was snatches of song that comforted him. Words learned half a century before now rang with truth to comfort him. I am blessed to have a musical legacy of faith.

Life continues and new music discovered on Sunday mornings has moved me forward. Over the past 10 years, through the committed global approach to God of my friend Carol, I have learned to see God through the eyes of many cultures. From the Central American communion song "Let us go now to the banquet, to the feast of the universe" to the amazing rhythms of African tribal worship - God is made manifest as I internalize song.

For today, though you may be really sick and tired of listening to VBS music as you drive around town, know that your child's faith is being formed and you are fulfilling your baptismal promises. And to you, my contemporaries, who are already engaged in, or approaching, grandparent-hood, think over your own story. Sing your songs to any child who will listen and sing along; for we also make promises every time a child is baptized.

Music may be like the rain forest; never quiet, seeping into our pores, wet enough to change our souls and our hearts. A magnificent forest, filled with power and majesty and tiny, and delightful, surprises; grace notes, I guess.

Go out and get soaked in the rainforest!

Pitter-patter, pitter-patter, hear the little raindrops,
Splash, Splash, Splash, Splash, hear the big raindrops.
God is sending showers for the flowers and the grass,
God is sending showers, Pitter-patter SPLASH!

1 comment:

Beth Schrader said...

Lovely, lovely, Julie. Your writing is lyrical.

I often find my mind singing songs from Sunday's service during the following week and giving me new meanings. Music touches a special part of our brains.