Photo by Jenny Hill / Unsplash

I’m at Vacation Bible School on a Tuesday night in central Arkansas.

I love going to VBS.  

When our girls were little, we’d take them to every possible VBS we could find. Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Church of Christ, Church of God, Catholic, Free Range, Wiccan, didn’t matter.

Just kidding about the Wiccan, although I once saw a surrogate mom who was a Wiccan.

Wait, maybe she was fictional.

Most of the VBSs were surprisingly homogenous. If I didn’t know better, I’d say they all bought their VBS material from the same place — maybe Nashville.

But that’s just a guess.

The church where I am tonight has, for the adult class, set up tents inside the building with tables of food. There are signs on each tent: Sweets, Drinks, Appetizers, Chips, and Dips. It is an efficient setup. The wall behind the podium reads “He-brews Café” with a large picture of a cup of coffee.

On the PowerPoint projector, the slide reads:

“Foolish vows and their fatal consequences.”

I start thinking about all the foolish promises I’ve made. As the list quickly grows, I realize this isn't a good idea and focus my attention back to the food.

With the notable exceptions of marrying a lovely Russian Princess, and (my wife) having two beautiful daughters, I can relate to making foolish decisions.

Buying a Yugo definitely rates on the top of the list. I got it from a car dealer in Daphne, Alabama, who obviously had no shame about selling the worse car in history in the first place. A close second is the purchase of a gray 1983 Chevrolet Tahoe S-10 pickup from a dealer in Citronelle with no air conditioning, but with black interior.

South Alabama — summer — no air conditioning.

They should have been prosecuted for cruel and inhumane treatment for selling anything without A/C.

The church is only about 20% full at the moment — but more are trickling in.

The chocolate chip cookies are excellent. I expected no less at a church potluck. I turned down a cup of coffee because I didn’t want to be up all night and instead went for the sweet tea.

And I really need to work on my reasoning skills.

A few minutes later and we’re almost at 80% capacity. Almost everyone is balancing a Styrofoam plate, napkin, and cup as the speaker begins his lesson.

I just noticed that there are coffee pots and bags of coffee beans propped up around the room. Ahh! Now the “He-brews” theme makes more sense.

I really need to work on my observation skills too.

So, the bible character for discussion is a dude named Jephthah. As I recall, old Jephthah got in a bad situation during a battle, prayed to the Lord for help, and promised that if God rescued him he would sacrifice the first thing that walked out of his house when he returned home.

Seemed reasonable. And generous (maybe). It all reminds me of making a deal with God in the movie, “The End” where Burt Reynold’s character shouts out, as he drowns, that if God would only save him, he would give God all of his money. Or something like that.

But here’s the big error message that should have been flashing in Jephthah’s mind: “what possible things can walk out of my front door?”

I am guessing that he didn’t consider that his daughter would be the “first thing” that sashayed out.

Just so you’ll be clear here: Jephthah supposedly agreed to sacrifice his daughter to God as a human sacrifice because…. wait for it…

She was the first thing (human actually) that walked out the front door of the house.

Wouldn’t he expect his family to greet him after a long absence?

I know I have been on the receiving end of a welcome home greeting many times after being away on government service.

I came home from an Army mobilization once and found this on the driveway. Our two little girls h ad written, "I miss my daddy."

But, would God even accept a human sacrifice?

I have my doubts that he actually followed through with this insane promise.

But it’s still a good lesson on making foolish decisions.

Unfortunately this dysfunctional group of people never really learned: The Israelites rebel, God disciplines; Israel repents, God delivers.

Rinse and repeat.

To be honest, there are many days that I feel just like the Israelites, stuck in a revolving door, looking for a way out of the mess I’ve created.

And suddenly, Free Range doesn't sound so bad an option.

Farm friends
Photo by Richard Burlton / Unsplash

Paul Swann is a dad, husband to an actual Russian Princess, lawyer, legal instructor, writer, and occasional guitar player. He spends his time with his aforementioned Princess Bride, Two Stunning Daughters, and two ne’er-do-well dogs. You may find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or right here: PaulSwann.Com.