VBS, Buckwheat, Postcards, Quaker Dwarfs, and the Gospel of John

Hey Family!

VBS starts on Monday – the greatest week at Valley Church all year. I saw Sonja Tillman in the classroom across the hall from my office working on T-shirts earlier today. When she left I sneaked in and held up one to my chest. Ah, to be a kid again! I loved VBS when I was young.

See the happy, smiling wolf? I know that I’m not a hot-tempered wolf today because Jesus got a hold of me (more than that, Jesus got into me) through Vacation Bible School at First Presbyterian Church of Milpitas around 1980. Jesus gave me a new nature (“we ourselves were once…passing our days in malice…but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us…by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…” – Titus 3:3-5). Wolfishness still comes out in me with some regularity, and I have to repent and apologize — just ask my family. But the “new dog” is getting stronger as he gets food and encouragement from the Bible, worship and God’s people (or pack).

Let’s keep Sonja, her team and all the kids in our prayers. They’ve had some challenges because of COVID which keeps messing things up. But as Louise Winsor said in staff prayer meeting yesterday, “we’re trusting that this will be the greatest VBS for all time.”

Notice the theme: Sonrise National Park VBS. I love the national parks. We just got back from a road trip and we visited Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho and Glacier National Park in Montana among other beautiful places.

Anyway, Craters of the Moon was a thrill. It’s a land of lava rock, caves and gusty winds. Here we are at the top of a cinder cone. Man was it windy and chilly – you can see Anna’s hair blowing sideways as she takes a picture. Ethan is helping Becky up; she and Caroline were huddling at the base of the rock because of the cold. We didn’t have to worry about Rachael getting lost on the black lava flows because of her bright yellow sweatshirt.

Notice that not much grows there. But there is one special plant that does quite well. Now, backing up for purposes of this story, let me say this: I love postcards, both sending them and receiving them. If you go somewhere this summer, please send me a postcard. I collect them. Rachael and I always check out the postcards in the Visitor Centers of the places we go. The rest of our family smirks at us for our quaint little hobby, but we say, “let them laugh! — they won’t have a growing stack of postcards to enjoy as time goes on. Who will be laughing then, when Instagram is a footnote in technology history?” Here’s a shot of Rachael mailing a postcard in Bend, Oregon.

But I digress. At Craters of the Moon there was a rack of 10 cent postcards, ones they probably couldn’t sell. I have to admit, they weren’t too impressive to look at.

But, eager for a bargain (inflation is on the rise), I picked up one the cheapies. It had a picture of dwarf buckwheat which grows in the park. Honestly, buckwheat is quite plain; it won’t win any beauty contests like say, the Wood Rose which you can see in the background of the picture below.

Maybe that’s why the park service was offering the buckwheat postcards so cheap; they were practically giving them away. However, after reading the information on the back of the postcard, buckwheat became my new favorite plant.

I learned that that the buckwheat only grows four inches tall. It’s tiny. But its fibrous roots are impressive; they spread out two feet in each direction, a system to anchor it against the wind and to absorb moisture. You see where I’m going with this — that unseen, underground part makes them hearty and resilient in harsh conditions. I was instantly and forever a buckwheat fan. I bought the postcard – for myself. I mailed it to my home address but it never arrived. That’s OK, I have the memory.

Speaking of small but strong, I just read about Benjamin and Sarah Lay, two Quakers who stood only four-feet tall. Here’s one of the few pictures I could find. I couldn’t locate one with Sarah, which is sad, because she and “fearless Benjamin” were quite a team.

They were “buckwheat believers” – deeply rooted in Christ. Like I said, they were dwarfs; they were also dynamic and courageous. They opposed slavery. In the eighteenth century, slavery – like hunger and war – was considered a brutal but unchangeable part of life. But their Christian faith led them to stand up to slave-owners in Barbados until they were kicked out in 1720. After Sarah died in 1735, Benjamin doubled down on his abolition efforts until finally the assembly of Philadelphia Friends voted to discipline any Quaker who bought or sold a fellow human being. As he lay on his death bed, Benjamin said, “I can now die in peace.”

Christians don’t accept the status quo when people are hurting and down. I hope you can join Jamie Allen, Mike Chen, Cynthia Wlaschin and me at Grace Village on Saturday, July 23 as we continue to refurbish an apartment with CityTeam. We’ll be doing some sheetrock repair. Check out this webpage for more information or to sign up. We also need someone to bring sandwiches for the hungry team.

By the way, I know this blog is getting long, but I have to share a Cynthia story. Last Friday night she and Robert had to pick up Tristan at Hume because he (like a number of our students) got sick despite a fun and spiritually eventful week. They got home at 4:00 AM. But STILL Cynthia texted me around midday on Saturday to see if she could “drop by and share lemonade and pull some nails or something.” Did you catch that? She was going to come work at Grace Village after staying up until 4:00 AM. That’s grit. That’s commitment. That’s our sister.

We’re back in the Gospel of John this week in our “Believe” series. We’ll study “The Golden Text,” John 3:16 and the five verses that follow. Verses 17-21 aren’t nearly so familiar; they tend to get screened out by the glory of the world’s most famous verse. They’re also somewhat dense and require some unpacking. We’ll do that together with the help of a cool diagram that Christina Allen designed for us.

OK, that’s good for now. It’s pancakes-for-dinner-night in the Seitz home, so I gotta run.

Love in Christ,