Friday, June 21, 2013

No Greater Joy

Our sweet church has hosted our second annual Vacation Bible School this week.  It has been an incredible week of fun, games, and learning about this great God who gives us everything we need to stand strong for Him!  I have been part of a team of three ladies who lead the "Epic Bible Adventures," portraying the stories of King David, Queen Esther, and Nehemiah so far.  I have loved watching the kids totally forget who I am and buy the idea that I am Esther, receiving hugs from sweet ones who just want to meet Nehemiah, and getting the thrill of realizing some of them are hearing these stories for the very first time.  What a privilege!

Last night we were telling the story of Jesus.  All of it.  Even, and especially, the hard parts.  My three youngest have been there, listening and soaking in Truth, and yesterday I had this feeling...

Let me back up.

Remember Christmas Eve when my sweet Drew gave his life to the Lord?  Well, when she saw the celebration and excitement everyone had for him, Mari decided she wanted to do the same.  But we knew this wasn't "it."  We knew that her heart's motive was for attention and not for Jesus, so we explained that this is something she can't do to copy someone else.  We told her that God would let her know when it was time, that it needed to be a decision she makes because He is leading her.

I began to pray for her, asking Him to draw her to Himself and help her see her need for Him.

Fast forward to yesterday.  As we prepared the story room for the children, we created a "tomb" in one of the closets.  It looked eerily realistic:

We had a large cross and a real crown of thorns.  We stressed the suffering of Christ, how much He loves us and how He took our punishment...the innocent dying for the that we could be reconciled to our Father.  We led the children to the tomb and pulled off the sheet which sent five white balloons soaring to the ceiling amids the gasps of the kids.  Then we flipped on the lights and celebrated, singing and dancing to "Soon and very soon, we are going to see the KING!"

I watched Mari take it all in, praying for this to be the night.  I asked Him to help her see, to help her get it.

We wrote the names on paper hands and each child placed their hand on the cross.  Then, during the finale, our youth pastor clearly explained the simple, beautiful gospel to the children.  As the story of our feeble attempts at doing things our way, and how that always fails, was told a young man came down the aisle...bent under the weight of the cross.  
The cross covered in their handprints.

The kids were so quiet.

Each group of children was led to the foot of the cross until they all sat under it.  I watched Mari.  She kept looking up at it, her eyes huge and her face so troubled.  

I prayed.

Then they were led back to their groups where they could discuss what they had just heard with their leaders.  I walked over and sat near her group because I wanted to hear, I did not want to miss what I felt was about to happen.

Mari was talking to miss Heather, asking a lot of questions.  Heather told her that she could go home and talk with her Mommy and Daddy about these things, then looked at me with a smile.

"I think she is close."

My heart pounded.

I gathered my kids and began walking back to the story room to set it up for the next day.  Gracie, my 8 year old, met me in the back after hugging her leader goodbye for the evening.  She walked straight up to me and said "Mom, I think Mari is close."

I did a double take.  "Close to what?" I asked.

"Close to becoming a Christian.  I can see it in her face."

I was speechless.  Lord, what are you doing?  

After we had the story room ready, we got in the car.  The kids were unusually quiet.  I broke the silence.

"What did you think about tonight?"

Mari spoke first.  "I just keep thinking about that crown of thorns and..." she trailed off.

"And what?"


Drew spoke, "Mama, she's crying."

"Why are you crying, honey?"  

She began to sob uncontrollably.  I pulled into a parking lot, got out of the car, and sat in the back with them so we could talk.  "Tell me what you are thinking."

"I just keep thinking He won't come down off that cross."  Sobs.  Precious, beautiful sobs.

I talked with her about why...why He didn't come down.  "Do you realize he could have gotten off that cross if he wanted to?"  She shook her head, not understanding.  "Jesus could have climbed down and stopped the whole thing, but He didn't.  He hung there until he died.  Do you know why?"

Deep breath.  Tears streamed down her cheeks.  "Because He loved me."

Yes!  "Yes, honey He loves you!  He loves you so much and He knew that if He didn't die and pay for your sins that you would never be able to go to Heaven.  So what do we do with that?"

"We obey."

"Nope.  That's not it.  Jesus wants to be your best friend.  He wants to be in charge.  How do we put Him back in charge?"

"We ask Him into our heart?"

"Yes!  That's right!"

She thought for a moment.  "Maybe I can do that when we get home to Daddy."

"Sure, you certainly can."

Then she looked at me.  Her eyes were urgent.  "Can I do it right now?"

"Yes, you can do it right now."

So at that moment, in the parking lot of Culvers, Gracie, Drew and I held hands and sweet Mari gave her life to Jesus.  Gracie and Drew wept tears of joy.  I was a mess.  Mari looked at me afterwards and I smiled through my tears.

"Do you know what you just did?  YOU just became a Christian!  YOU are a new creation!  The Holy Spirit just came into your heart and He is going to help you obey God.  Now you are not just my daughter, you are my SISTER!  You will get to go to Heaven and we will all be together forever!"

She giggled.  Drew burst into tears.  I asked him why he was crying and he wailed,
"Mari's a NEW CREATION...waaaaaaaaahhhh!" 

Gracie looked at her little sister with the sweetest of smiles.  
"I am so proud of you.  When we get to Heaven I am going to ask if we can be roommates!"

My cup, truly, runneth over.

I have no greater joy than to know that my children, all of my children, are walking in truth.  

All of my babies are forever safe.  Thank you, Jesus.

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