Vacation Bible Old School

ImageLast night I came pretty dang close to time traveling. All that was missing was either the Doctor and the TARDIS, or Doc Brown and his DeLorean. It was so surreal, I had to write about it.

See, I took my kids to Vacation Bible School at my grandmother’s church, Rosebud Baptist, over on Knight Circle. It’s a great church of a couple hundred people, led by their inexhaustible pastor, Dr. Lloyd Stancil. My grandmother has called it home for the last twelve years, and while we’ve visited with her from time to time, last night was the first occasion my kids have had to really get involved. This week, Rosebud is hosting Kingdom Chronicles VBS nightly from 6:30-9:00, all visitors welcome. And if last night is any indication, it’s going to be awesome.

My kids loved it. The theme is knights and dragons, and the message is being able to stand strong against the evil things in the world. One of the men in the church built a styrofoam castle slap in the middle of the church’s Fellowship Hall, an elaborate piece of construction that not only has detailed brick walls and parapets, but an inner court big enough for fifty kids to sit down and learn a lesson. There are other great details all over the place, too, including a woman dressed in full Medieval period costume.

But what my kids came home talking about was the fact that the games were led by Pastor Lloyd, and included throwing water balloons at him. That was all they wanted to talk about: the pastor was willing to get messy like the rest of the kids.

What I came away with was a strong sense of nostalgia, of going back to my own childhood, when I attended church in a little red-brick building, and laughed my way through VBS on lovely summer nights. Listening to my kids giggle and scream with delight, I could taste the Kool-Aid from my long ago years; hear the soft voice of Miss Essie as she delivered her Chalk Talk bible stories; feel the stickiness of the glue as we tried to get our popsicle stick birdhouses put together.

Last night I sat on the front porch of Rosebud Baptist Church and felt like the veil between this world and the next had dropped. Suddenly, I was surrounded by ghosts who had made my childhood special; I was immersed in memories that made me glad my children were getting just a taste of what I knew.

See, my kids have never known a small church. Ella’s only seven, Jon’s four, and they’ve only ever gone to church with over 400 people. The VBS’s they’ve been too usually run around 200 kids, with 70-plus workers. And while they’ve always loved VBS, they’ve never had the kind of intimacy they experienced last night. As Ella said, “I liked the fact that the groups were small. It made it fun.”

There’s something about moments like last night that defy description. The weather was perfect, the kids were laughing, the adults were happy and relaxed. My grandmother was all smiles because her great-grandkids were running around her church, loving every minute, and for just a moment she got to go back in time a little bit too.

The only thing missing was Pop, my grandfather, who passed away in 2011 after a long illness. He loved Rosebud Church, and they loved him. Several people referenced him last night when they spoke to me, telling me just how beloved he was among those folks, how much he would’ve loved watching the kids and VBS. It was a bittersweet note, but one full of truth. Pop would’ve loved every minute, maybe even joined Pastor Lloyd in some water balloon mischief.

But later, as I sat on the porch listening, remembering, feeling transported to another place, I felt something else. That Pop was with me, near me, watching and laughing with the rest of the kids. I felt it so strongly, I almost reached out for his hand. It wasn’t there, of course, but such was the power of last night, when the past and present collided in a way that made connection between the two palpable.

It was a magical evening.

Hopefully, I can recapture it tonight. Ella and Jon have already gotten dressed for VBS and have been asking me when it’ll be time to go. I know MawMaw is looking forward to it as well. Heck, I’m looking forward to a little Vacation Bible Old School myself.

If you’ve got nothing going on, why don’t you join us?

Father and Son


Three generations of Brooks men (with a Brooks female). We continue this legacy now with my dad, me, and my son, Jon.

This has been a hectic week: it’s the annual Vacation Bible School for my church, which means I have been parading around for about 200 kids, leading them in silly songs and dances and offering my public humiliation as an incentive for them to give towards a worthy cause. The VBS curriculum calls my position, “Worship Rally Leader.” I prefer to think of myself as “Big Stupid Man.”

(Sidebar: chances are I’ll have some great pictures to post tomorrow of said public humiliation, which in this case would be the kids getting to dump chocolate syrup on me and then throw flour in my face.)

However, my role also means that I’ve gotten to work with my father every day so far this week. My dad is the sound engineer for the entire week, so that means he’s responsible for pushing play on the DVD or moving the PowerPoint slides along while I’m speaking. It also means that he has my very life in his hands, because I’m completely reliant on the sound/projection system for making Worship Rally fun and engaging. Fortunately, my dad is really good at that stuff.

So for me, it’s been a treat. Granted, we’ve been separated by the walls of a soundbooth, so it’s not like we’ve been arm in arm singing Kumbaya around the campfire. But it’s been nice to know that my dad has been my partner.

It’s also been amazing, as a son, to give direction to my father and watch him humbly take it. Now, if you know my dad, you have no reason to expect otherwise; he is one of the most gracious and humble men you could ever hope to meet, the kind of guy that would rather serve than star (which is why he gravitated towards the sound booth).

But I also know that it can’t be easy when the kid you raised starts telling you what to do and when to do it. I mean, the man literally wiped my bottom until I learned to do it myself – so it has to be a little weird for me to suddenly become the expert on something. Yet he simply listens intently, smiles, and says, “Not a problem. I’ll handle it.”

If you’ve ever worked with another human being, you know how precious those words can be.

Which makes it all the more gratifying to hear them from my father because he, of all people, would be justified in copping an attitude with me. He could reference any number of embarrassing anecdotes from my childhood, or pull some other time-tested parental card on me, but he doesn’t. He just works with me, making me look good, making the few minutes a day we’re partners work seamlessly.

And like any good production guy, nobody thanks him. Nobody comes up to him and says, “Great job of balancing that split track!” or “Mr. Rickey, I love the way you play DVDs.”

I get all the glory, but all the credit belongs to him.

Which makes me all the more thankful, as we approach this Father’s Day weekend, that I have him in my life. That I can work with him, talk to him, give him orders, ask him for advice, or just wordlessly stand in the sound booth with him. Even when we don’t say anything, a lot is still spoken between us.

Which is how I know that this weekend will be tough for him. Not only are he and my mom volunteering to keep my kids so Rachel and I can celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary, but this will also be his first Father’s Day without his dad. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know that my dad’s dad, my grandfather, Harold Brooks, passed away last year on August 29th. So the past nine months have been difficult because it’s brought all of the firsts after his death – Thanksgiving and Christmas were rough; so was Pop’s birthday in April.

So this weekend will be challenging.

I’ll most likely never see him shed a tear. At most, he’ll probably mention something about Pop in passing, or when he thinks nobody’s really listening. My dad is not one for working his grief out in public. I respect that.

But since I am, I just want him to know that I love him. That I am grateful to have him in my life, and in the lives of my children. I am grateful that when my kids hear the word “Poppy” they light up as if you’d just told them Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were break dancing in the kitchen.

Most of all, I am grateful that a long-standing family tradition of a son loving his father and grandkids loving their grandfather, will continue unabated this Sunday.

It is our legacy.

It is our gift.