Rite of passage parenting: Holy smoke
A thought crossed my mind the other day. It was a slow, lonely journey. But as I’ve shared with you before, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I don’t know if your church was like mine, but while I was growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, our Vacation Bible Schools lasted two weeks.
Vacation Bible School (VBS) always made a big difference in the life of our church. Many of the children we saw come to know the Lord encountered Him during this protracted event, the closest a child could come to a seminary education. Day in and day out, we memorized verses and learned about the various books and sections of the Bible. VBS always included a time when the children were herded into the auditorium so the pastor could give a simple evangelistic plea. It seemed like every child in the community attended. The Methodists came to the Baptist VBS and the Baptists attended the Methodist one. Everybody came to VBS.
Besides offering daily Bible study, VBS included arts and crafts time. I don’t know how Baptists survived before the invention of elbow macaroni. Maybe we depended on its Old Testament forerunner, manna.
Yes, our arts and crafts sessions always seemed to involve macaroni. VBS always included one day when we threaded macaroni on a piece of string to make a necklace. But, my necklaces never made it home. To this day, I like to eat raw elbow macaroni. On another day of VBS, we pasted macaroni on the outline of a sheep. In the midst of every two-week VBS, we tackled one big project that took several days to complete. Almost without fail, it was a cigar box covered with elbow macaroni and spray-painted gold—the perfect jewelry box for every mom. I know that statement contains some irony, but I’m not sure where.
As summer approached, our church always held a cigar box drive. Since we never seemed to have enough, an appeal would go out for more. Soon, men and women dressed in their Sunday best showed up at church, Bible in one hand and cigar box in the other.
My church may have been the only one with a cigar box ministry, but I’ve heard rumors of at least a few others. I’m not sure which is worse: encouraging men to smoke more cigars so their children can have arts and crafts supplies, or giving small children smoke-soaked cigar boxes to play with in church. Neither one seems quite right. Then again, I don’t understand many of the things that go on in church.
The last Friday night of VBS, our church held Parents’ Night. The idea was that parents could come to marvel at what their children learned and visit their rooms to see their art projects (minus one macaroni necklace). There, with the pride of all great craftsmen, we children presented our jewelry boxes to our mothers. I don’t know how many of these boxes I’ve made, but there has to be some poor man out there wheezing his lungs out from making sure I had my VBS supplies. I must confess that not only did we make golden macaroni cigar/jewelry boxes, but also plaster of Paris ash trays.
In those days, smoking was socially acceptable, but my tall, lanky grandfather discouraged me from taking up the habit. One day, he brought me to the bank and asked the president if he could take me into the vault. There, my grandfather stacked up 1,000 $1 bills. To a young boy, it looked like a king’s ransom. Granddad then told me if I could make it to my 16th birthday without a cigarette touching my lips, that $1,000 would be mine. In those days, $1,000 was a lot of money. If I smoked, I would lose it all. But on Oct. 7, 1967, I received my $1,000.
I praise God for a grandfather who intentionally orchestrated conversations and activities that taught me values. Money was one of his main topics. One year, he gave me a hog and used it to teach me what it cost to raise an animal. Feed, vaccinations, transportation—all came out of the sale price. My grandfather then taught me that tithing came before any of these expenses.
I was blessed to have a grandfather who was intentional. I may have smelled like a pig—or even a cigar—but in my heart were the things of God.
I hope to see you at our first Baptist Messenger Family Reunion on Fri., March 30, 7 p.m., at Oklahoma City, Putnam City, 11401 N. Rockwell Ave. You don’t have to bring me a cigar box . . . but please let me know if your church collected them, too.
Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827).