watching, reading, and writing stories

Why you should go to the Library this Summer

It’s officially summer now and I have a bit more free time on my hands so I’ve been going to the library more regularly. I don’t know why, but for a good portion of my life I didn’t take advantage of our public library system here in Texas. But now that I’ve started, I can’t imagine not having it. So if you’re hitting those summer dog days and needing something to do, check out your local library.

Here are my three reasons why you should check it out.

1. Books! Whether it’s rereading one of your favorites or getting into a new series or even getting audio books for those long road trips, you can’t beat the library’s policy of three weeks rental for free. This summer I started reading the Guardians of Ga’hoole Series. I saw the movie years ago and always thought the series sounded interesting, but I finally got around to it with the help of my local library. And I’m currently starting John Flanagan’s Brotherband Series. I loved his Ranger’s Apprentice series and this one is starting off just as exciting.

2. Movies! Did you know you can rent movies at the library? They even have some Blu-ray movies! No download time, no fees, no quick return to the Redbox. You pick your movie for free and can keep it for 3 weeks! There’s no other place that can compete with that. I’ve been finding quite a few movies I’ve always meant to watch and never have. And since Blockbuster is out of business and Netflix has limited options, this seems like the best way to finally watch those old films. They even have newer releases. Although it might be a bit of a wait, so if you really want to see something, you might want to still use Redbox or another movie watching option. And you should always check the DVD’s before you check out, some have smudges and scratches and I’ve had trouble with a few. But for the most part, this is an excellent way to get some summer entertainment.

3. Programs! Now I don’t really get involved with these, I’d rather just get my books and movies and be gone. But libraries always have cool things going on, like Summer Reading Challenges where you can earn a free book, or events for kids and parents. So if you need some free entertainment, check it out.

And lastly, since I’m talking about libraries, I want to give a quick announcement. As many of you know, I have published 2 youth adventure books in my Finding Home Series: The Orphan’s Journey and The Lost Brother. This week La Vernia Public Library will be getting a copy of each of these books for people to check out. I hope whoever lives near La Vernia enjoys the addition to the library and gets a chance to check out the books.

Well that’s it for now, enjoy the summer and take advantage of your local library.

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Jesus Changes Things

Now that summer is getting closer, I’ve been thinking about how it’s going to look different than past summers. For the past thirteen years (since 2003) I have taken part in our church’s summer outreach called Great Adventure. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you’ve seen some posts about it in the past. Looking back, it really has had a huge impact on me personally. The first year I attended a Backyard Bible Club as one of the oldest children. (I was going into 7th grade). It’s similar to a Vacation Bible School except that the high school and middle school students from our church would go into different neighborhoods to run a club for a little over an hour. Adults helped drive the students and host the clubs but the students did the teaching.

The next year when I was going into 8th grade I joined one of the student teams and helped teach grade school kids who came to the clubs. It was a huge growing experience for me. I learned how to talk in front of a crowd, connect with kids, share the gospel with different illustrations, and be a part of a team. The next year I was stretched even more. I was going into high school and old enough to be a captain or leader of one of the student teams. It was intimidating, but I felt like God really wanted me to say yes, so I did. I went to several training camps for the first time (I should have gone to one of them the year before, but was on a vacation during it). That summer I learned so much about relying on God, trusting Him, and stepping out in obedience. I got to see kids come to Christ and see my own growth in sharing the gospel and doing what was uncomfortable.

After that year, I was hooked. I wanted to do Great Adventure every year. It had changed me, made me more confident in what God could do if I trusted Him and obeyed. It was exciting to see Him answer prayers, give us energy and work in the lives of the children we were teaching.

Although I wanted to be a part of it, I didn’t exactly want to be a leader again. I thought I’d done my time and now that there were more high schoolers in our youth group, I could let someone else be the captain. But God had other ideas. I ended up being a captain every summer after that up until I graduated from high school and went to college.

You know how when something really works for you, you think it should work the same for others? Like you don’t want it to change? It’s easy to make a good thing into a tradition. I totally do the same thing with restaurants. I keep going back to the ones I’ve been to before and am more hesitant to try new places. But anyway, for the next four years I always returned home for the summer and helped however I could with Great Adventure. It usually meant going to the training camps, taking pictures at the clubs, organizing supplies, and just helping others with what I had learned.

I started seeing changes though. When I had done Bible Clubs, we had gone to two clubs in the morning and 2 in the evening. At one point we even had clubs Monday through Friday and then a huge carnival called Summerfest on Saturday or Sunday. It was a pretty huge commitment and it took a lot of hard work.

But as the years passed, things changed. We ended up switching to only evening clubs, stopping on Thursday, and instead of a huge party at the church, we had individual block parties at each club. We also started writing our own curriculum instead of using other church’s scripts. And we changed the name to Summer Bible Clubs instead of Backyard Bible Clubs. Some of the changes I liked, others were hard to accept. But each year it seemed like God wanted to do things a bit differently. Those “good old days” I’d had in my high school years weren’t the same. But somehow it was still good. I guess God has a better plan than me.

After college I was able to intern at the church and help write the curriculum for several years. I brought all of my experience from the past but tried to be open to doing things differently. We added new games, changed how we shared the gospel with personal testimonies, and just tried new things to make it more friendly to unchurched families.

So that brings us to today and now the latest change has come. Instead of doing Bible clubs for one week, we’re going to connect to neighbors at parks throughout a whole month, and have groups within our church plan their own outreach activities. And instead of teaching students how to run a club, we’re going to teach them how to share the gospel with their friends and to view their schools as their mission field.

It’s kind of hard for me to let go of Bible clubs. I learned so much from them and they were a huge part of my life for the past thirteen years. But as I’ve seen Jesus change our plans every summer and still be faithful to do even greater things, I will trust Him in this. Because I do not worship a curriculum, a tradition, or my own preferences. I worship Jesus Christ. His ways are always best. He is always making things new and changing us from the inside, so I can’t expect Him to do things the same way forever. His purpose is unchanging. His goal is fixed. But His methods can be quite surprising and unconventional. So wherever He leads our church, I know it’s best, because He is always right.

Anyway, I hope you learned something from my ramblings about change and learn to trust Jesus in what He’s changing in your life too.

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Making Disciples

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This summer God has been teaching me a lot about making disciples. I’ve heard the term for most of my life, and knew it was important. But it always seemed hard to define, or do. How does one make disciples? Well every summer I’m part of my church’s Great Adventure. I’ve written about it before on my blog. And this year we really tried to emphasize making disciples.

You see discipleship is a lot harder than sharing a gospel message and pressuring someone to make a decision about it, or praying a prayer for salvation with someone and then giving them a slap on the back and moving on to the next person. Discipleship takes time. It’s building a relationship with a person, whether they have never heard of Jesus, are brand new believers, or have been going to church their whole lives. Discipleship is investing in someone’s life, showing them what’s important to you, letting them ask questions, talking about what they care about, and always pointing them back to God. There isn’t a strict manual about how to do it, but it always involves relationship.

So, I have a cool story I want to share about discipleship. I returned from college 3 years ago and after plugging back into my home church, I was asked to join the Middle School Ministry Team. I enthusiastically agreed. I was so encouraged by my own youth leaders when I was a teen, that I wanted to pass that on to the next generation. As I started, a new wave of brand new 6th graders started with me. I tried to connect with every grade, but it was cool to get 3 solid years of connecting with and encouraging, and teaching these same kids.

This summer I joined a team teaching Bible Clubs composed of mostly middle school students. One in particular had just finished 8th grade. Now I’ve been through the routine of Bible Clubs since 2003. I’ve shared Gospel Presentations, played games, connected with kids and even had the opportunity to pray with someone who believed the gospel for the first time. My favorite moment from this year’s Great Adventure starts when two young girls said, “Yes, I want to follow Jesus.”

One girl wanted to go off with the high school girl in our group, but the other didn’t know who to go pray with. There was a moment of awkward silence.

Then I smiled and pointed to the student who had been in Middle School with me for the past three years. “How about you go with him?”

The girl nodded and they went off to pray.

Later I got to hear the former middle schooler’s excited celebration. He claimed it was his favorite Great Adventure and he knew it was God who had done it. He was so happy.

And I was happy too, it felt like I had passed on the torch. Like I was saying, “I’ve done this a long time, but now it’s your turn. I trust you and know you’re ready.” It was such a joy to see a person I had invested in for 3 years celebrating God’s work and getting to enjoy something I had experienced before.

So, I think that’s a little glimpse of what discipleship is like. I hope you enjoyed the story.

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Great Adventure Week

So this week is my church’s Great Adventure. Since I was in Jr High, this has been a part of my summer plans. So I thought I’d share a taste of what it can be like. This is a short story I wrote about my experiences at the Bible clubs one summer and the lessons I learned. I hope you enjoy!

July 2010 167

Backyard Bible Clubs

It was a hot July morning, the kind of morning that starts out hot and just continues to get worse. The only relief is the sweet air conditioning of a building. I stared at the barren landscape before me. This was my first club as a captain, and it didn’t look pretty. A field of dead grass lay before me, with a small playground in the distance. We were in a park, a park with very little shade. A few scraggly looking trees stood off to our left. Some people were hanging out in the shade there.

“Alright, you ready?” our driver asked as he hopped out of the car.

No one answered him. We had prayed before leaving the church that morning, we had prayed before leaving the car, but I still felt like praying some more, begging God to help me not mess up. I grabbed the bag of supplies from the trunk and headed for the shade.

Our enthusiastic driver bounded over to the play scape to hang out with the kids. He was one of those guys that had graduated and wasn’t on a team anymore, but had run the clubs in the past.

I watched him run and wished that I felt as excited as him, but all I felt was nerves. It seemed like all the pressure was on me; I was the captain after all. But I took a deep breath and checked with my teammates verifying that everyone knew what their roles were for the day.

Soon we had a little game of bounce the beach ball to each other going, and more kids started to arrive. We had to take water breaks between each game because of the heat, but it seemed like the kids were having fun.

I caught Sammy’s eye, “Can you keep the game going?”

She nodded.

I ran to the bag of supplies and pulled out my Bible and the curriculum. I glanced over my story for the hundredth time and prayed again for calm nerves.

Then the kids began to gather on an old blanket.

“Who’s ready for story time?” Jake said excitedly.

The kids yelled back at him, some said “Me!” and others said “No, more games!” But eventually all were corralled onto the blanket.

“Hey boys and girls!” I said as my many times of practice kicked in. “Welcome to Backyard Bible Clubs! My name’s Lydia, and this is Jake, he’s going to hold some pictures for me. And that’s Sammy on the blanket. Today I’m going to tell you a story from God’s Word, the Bible.” I held up the Bible. “See?”

The kids nodded along and listened fairly well as I guided them through the story of Mary.

As I came to the end of the story, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. This wasn’t so hard after all. Most of the kids actually liked the story and listened, not like the teens at camp who had made snarky comments. “Alright kids,” I finished, “Now it’s time for another game!”

* * * * *

The rest of the club went fairly smoothly, we had a few times of uncertainty, and Jake forgot a part during his gospel presentation, but for the most part, it went better than I had feared it would. As we packed up the car to head to the next club I waved at the kids, “Don’t forget to wear your cowboy outfits tomorrow for Tumbleweed Tuesday!”

The later clubs all seemed to get easier and easier. Our team began to flow, we all knew what came next, where to go, what to do, and we started to learn how to keep the kids’ attention better and better. By the evening, I felt like a pro, but I also felt exhausted. We had gotten up at seven in the morning and we didn’t get back to the church till at least nine o’clock.

And it wasn’t over, the next day we had to do it all again. Four clubs, four stories, four gospel presentations, tons of games, and crazy kids all day long. The only break we got was in the middle of the afternoon, in the heat of the day. We would come back to the church office, and relax, or practice the next day’s routine if we thought we weren’t ready. But often times, we would just take a nap, because after all those screaming kids, we needed some shut eye.
One of the best parts about the week was Wednesday. Not only did it mark the middle of the week, so we were given hope of rest and the week being completed, but it was also Water Day. So instead of suffering in the summer heat, we were able to cool off with buckets, splash balls, hoses, and water guns. Usually the club would conclude in an all-out war with every kid and leader trying to get someone else wet. It was great.

In all the commotion of the week; seeing prayers get answered for different teams, keeping up with what day was what, and just trying to remember sixty kids’ names, it was hard for me to remember that I had a birthday coming up. It was on a Friday this year, the day of Summerfest, our end of the week carnival. When my Mom pulled up to the elementary school parking lot, where our church met, we could see booths set up everywhere. It almost felt like a big party just for me. We had hotdogs, cake, and candy, played games with kids from our clubs and even had a live band playing music.

I signed up for the dunking booth so kids that knew me from clubs could have fun dunking me in the water. It was a little scary to sit on the edge of a plastic seat that you knew could go out from under you at any second. But it was also fun to get a good view of all the families walking around, and the water was refreshing when you did fall in.
All in all, that summer taught me some valuable lessons. I leaned not to be so quiet, and that even someone like me could be a leader. I also learned to pray more, as I saw God answer prayers for specific kids to be saved and for my own calmness during a club. I also learned to rely on my teammates and let them use their own gifts and talents. So that was my summer… my Great Adventure.

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The Ranger’s Apprentice

The Ruins of Gorlan

So now that it’s summer, I’ve gotten to spend some time reading a new young adult fiction series. Since these are the types of books I like writing, it’s always good to keep reading them too… plus it’s really fun. This summer I’ve started reading the Ranger’s Apprentice series. There are 12 books in all, and I’m about halfway through, still reading book 7 currently.

I’ve now fallen for all the characters and each new book has me engrossed in the adventures and bantering of characters throughout the story. The one thing that has confused, or bugged me about this series, is when the author ends a book. Several of the books end without a real climax, and the next book must be read in order to finish the founding plot. This has happened in several of the books, where it seems like it would have made more sense to make one longer book than two shorter books that straddle the same overarching story. I still love the books, but I think John Flanagan could have made some wiser choices about when to end his books.

Otherwise I love the books! I especially love the relationship between Halt and Will. Their bond grows steadily throughout the series and starts to look more and more like a father son relationship, than a teacher student one. Which is all the more heart throbbing when we know that Will is an orphan and has never had a real father, and Halt has never been married and so has never had children.

I might write another blog post about this series in the future, but for now, if you happen to be in the lazy days of summer and need something to read, this is a good series to get into. I highly recommend it. It has action, adventure, good characters, funny moments, intrigue and a little dash of romance too.

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