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.

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.

There was one little Baptist church way out in the sticks east of Vilonia that we visited. Everyone just stared at us. They obviously had never had visitors, which made me wonder why they advertised in the newspaper in the first place.

But they had good cookies. That’s what I really look for in a VBS.

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.”

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

With the notable exception of marrying a lovely Russian Princess, 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 new gray (black interior) Chevrolet S-10 from a dealer in Citronelle with no air conditioning.

Let that sink in for a sec… South Alabama in the summer and no AC.

I still think the dealership should have been prosecuted for cruel and inhumane treatment for selling anything without A/C.

These two decisions would rank high on almost anyone’s list.

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

The chocolate chip cookies are excellent as are the rest of the dishes. 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.

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.

The guy in front of me reaches over to his plate of shrimp, which is sitting in an empty metal folding chair to his left and dips one of the crustaceans into some kind of red sauce. The professor steps to the podium.

I knew the guest speaker in graduate school in Nashville back in the 1990s. Which seems a really long time ago now. I say that I knew him because, well he’s pretty famous now. He went on from Nashville to do Ph.D. work somewhere. So, he’s a smart guy.

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

I really need to work on my observation skills too.

As I recall, old Jephthah got into a bind, prayed to the Lord for help, and promised God 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. His making a deal with God seems a little like Burt Reynolds in the movie, “The End” where Reynold’s character tells 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 are the possibilities of things that 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.

But, would God even accept a human sacrifice?

I have my doubts that he actually followed through with this insane promise. But, hey, what do I know about ancient and near eastern religion and culture?

Regardless, it’s a serious lesson on making foolish and destructive decisions.

I remember years ago, trying to use the logic of Jephthah when I tried to get out of a contract that I had signed. The Air Force officer listen to me politely, but a contract is a contract, so no luck.

The book of Judges is just sad. And dysfunctional.

And this dysfunctional family of God never really learned: The Israelites rebel, God disciplines; Israel repents, God delivers.

Rinse and repeat.

Sometimes I feel a lot like the Israelites.

I think I will have that cup of coffee now.

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