July 29, 2005
Building a Better Giraffe
Depending on your perspective, I'm either really good or really bad with kids. I can get them riled up like nobody's business--get em jumping and screaming and dancing and singing--but I can't get them to stop. I'm the crazy uncle, not the disciplinarian dad.
Usually I'm cool with that. I like to goof off, and goofiness loves company. But every once in a while I like to get serious. This week, for example, I was the master of ceremonies for our church's vacation Bible school: Serengeti Trek (where kids are wild about God!). I've had five straight days of kids screaming at me, climbing on me, dancing with me and running past me. Good times.
The first night I got a bit carried away and tried to pick up a delicately assembled cardboard giraffe. It promptly fell apart, causing no end of trauma to my screaming minions. I made a joke of it and moved on. Good times.
Every subsequent night I destroyed the same giraffe, again and again, like some torturous ritual. You'd think that Presbyterians hate giraffes for all the carnage I practiced. But the kids got appropriately desensitized, and their concern for the giraffe turned into sick, twisted laughter. Good times.
The theme of our last night was "Work for God," and I decided that I could illustrate what it meant to participate in God's redemptive work by repairing the giraffe. Because God loves me, and because God has made right what I made wrong, I can now work with God to continue to fix what's been broken. I can restore the giraffe to life and health. We can fix broken relationships and help our friends and loved ones to give their troubles to God and be healed. Brilliant, right?
So I shared my little metaphor in front of a crowd of fidgety kids, casting a vision of working for God while fixing the giraffe right in front of them. By the time I finished, they were looking directly at a better giraffe, and I led them in prayer. Good times.
As soon as I finished my benediction and sent everybody off for donuts, a kid ran up to me and shouted, "Time to kill the giraffe again!"
I've built a better giraffe and created a congregation of giraffe killers. God help us all.
It's official! I'll be serving as chaplain of the Wizard World: Chicago comic book convention from August 4 through August 8. Should be fun; I'll be giving a homily and everything. God help us all.