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My theology may be suspect, but I struggle thinking of Jesus, walking around the Holy Land all prim and pious wearing a clean white robe, just talking about the Kingdom, with His twelve closest friends. True, He was 100% God. But let's face it, He was also a 30 year old guy. It is not hard for me to believe He climbed trees, horsed around and told jokes. Probably a few foot races and some swims in the Sea of Galilee, too. Like any other guy, I think Jesus played.
In the creation story, it seems like God modeled the idea of play and rest, when He worked 6 days and took a day off. God never needed the Sabbath, He made it for us. Sure we are to set aside time to be with Him, but I maintain we can, also, honor and feel Him in our playtime.
Sometimes church can be all about preaching, praying and learning about Jesus and His Dad. All good things. At the refuge we believe in throwing parties, hanging out together and playing with one another. Two of our favorite times each year, and the most attended events, are the camping trip and trunk or treat. Playing and laughing are good for our souls.
This last week, we played, again, with our second annul dance party. Dancing has never been my thing, but I am trying to stretch myself, risk a little, take some chances, throw caution to the wind, and let go of the fear and the shame that has been holding me back for most of my life. And I had a blast!
Brene Brown, in her Daring Greatly book and The Power of Vulnerability CD series, states: "People who live wholehearted lives (living and loving with their whole hearts) have two traits. They rest and they play. In a culture of scarcity, like we live in, where a premium is placed on work and exhaustion is considered a status symbol, rest and play are not valued. In fact, they are suspect at best and in many cases considered a reason for shame. Research has found the opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression."
"The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. I came that you may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance -- to the full, 'til it overflows." Jn 10:10
LIVING WHOLEHEARTEDLY IS LIVING ABUNDANTLY
Stuart Brown, who headed a group formed to find out what caused violent prisioners to commit the crimes they did, noticed a pattern in these criminals lives. His data showed lack of or restricted playtime, in their lives. Browns criteria for what constitutes play is quite simple.
1. Time spent without a purpose
2. Something we don't want to end (we lose track of time)
3. Where we lose our hypersensitive sense of self consciousness
A mistake we make is equating competition with play. The two are not the same. Contests and play can be the same, as in a friendly game of tennis or golf. But there is a distinction between contest and competition. In a contest the stronger player will restrain him or herself, in order for the play to continue. Competition is about dominance and winning.
Some ways to play are: reading, swimming, golfing, hiking, biking, playing music, singing, tennis, walking, skiing, movies, photography, art,dancing, working out, yoga and coffee/dinner conversations with special friends. Things that are play to me might be torture to you. And vice versa. I would like to know how you play or what you would like to learn to play. Remember Grandma Moses didn't start painting until she was in her eighties,so it is never to late to learn how to play. We all have to get old, but we never need to act old.
For most of my life I have been play deprived. For almost 20 years I worked 6 days a week. I bought into the myth that play was laziness. That I could play after I finish XYZ on my to-do list. The reality is the to do list NEVER will be finished. There is an old saying that says: When a person is on their death bed, no one every says they regret not working more.
What is stopping you from resting? From playing? From living wholeheartedly? The kingdom of heaven is at hand. What are we waiting for???
When I think about living out the Kingdom of God here and now, I first think of big acts of giving or speaking out or investing in people. Those are all important and beautiful but can also be intimidating. Selling-everything-and-following-Jesus kinds of things. And then I keep coming back to something that seems so small. It almost seems like it’s not even worth mentioning. And yet, it seems really important to me right now.
When my kids were little, I stopped asking them to be “nice.” Instead, I asked them to be “kind.” I don’t know why it seems different to me. I think the word kind seems more intentional. A doing word. Nice to me sounds like being polite or not offending. On the other hand, love is the motivator for kindness. It’s that whole “love your neighbor as yourself” thing.
It also seems to be missing from our world. Stand behind someone who got the wrong change from a cashier, watch a political exchange on Facebook, get stuck in traffic...not much kindness.
I was recently out to dinner with a friend, a rare treat. When the waiter came to our table, he asked us how we were doing. Typical question and my usual response, “fine.” And in my head, “please go away and don’t bother us.” But, my friend sincerely asked him how his night was going. I was so struck by this because it was something so simple, and yet I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t do it. Simple kindness. The waiter didn’t seem to know how to handle it. He looked a little shocked that she had asked. Kindness is shocking because it’s pretty rare. I know I can get so caught up focusing on my own problems that I don’t even see the people around me. I’m nice instead of kind.
Kindness to me recognizes the beauty of someone else. It extends grace. It loves. It’s desire is to encourage. It can change someone’s day. It can change my day.
I love this quote from the Dalai Lama,“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
Christ Healing the Man With the Withered Hand (Creative Commons)-- by Karl
-- by Karl
We have centered our Sunday night conversations at The Refuge on the Kingdom of God. It is much more than an invitation to live in the clouds at the end of time; it is an invitation to live now like there is always a tomorrow. Jesus presents it as a no lose investment and the fountain of youth in one package: so why is it not the constant conversation of everyone?
G.K. Chesterton’s famous quote gives a clue: "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried."
What is so hard, so off-putting about the invitation? Certainly Jesus asks us to consider a life that is not motivated by money or status, and that is not my most natural instinct, but I think the bigger turn-off is deeper yet, it is grace. Embarrassing grace.
Brennan Manning was the troubadour of our time whose only song was Grace. He died in a state of wet brain, a condition brought on by constant relapses into alcoholism. Yet, from the cloudy mind of drink, we read about the great stumbling block:
My life is a witness to vulgar grace -- a grace that amazes as it offends. A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wage as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party, no ifs, ands or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying thief's request -- "Please, remember me" -- and assures him, "You bet!"...This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It's not cheap. It's free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try and find something or someone that it cannot cover. Grace is enough...
-- All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir
Grace by definition requires a needy person. A broken person. Jesus had no time for the healthy, together, “cool”. He was mostly interested in people who, after trying everything else, find Him to be their last resort.
I wish I did not need grace, it embarrasses me, makes me small, but I am left with no options. And it turns out that makes me one of the luckiest people on earth.
At the end of the adolescent group that I co-facilitate in an intensive outpatient program at work, we always play some kind of song that is inspirational in some way. Since I print out and carefully screen the lyrics for appropriate themes, I have been more keenly aware of what is actually being said, instead of just listening to a catchy chorus. So when the song, "Hold on to what you believe" from Mumford and Sons came through Pandora the other day, it caught my rapt attention. …."But hold on to what you believe in the light When the darkness has robbed you of all your sight"……
Due to experiences that happened to me years ago, there are parts of my brain that sometimes just don't work the way I want them. Usually it is somehow connected to shame, and it is like a short circuit happens. It is like someone turned off all of the light.
And then I panic.
My deep fear is being completely abandoned, and when I lose sight of hope, the fear becomes my inner reality. So dark that it takes my breath away.
In the ongoing work of healing, my experience is that there are ebbs and flows of intensity. There are times in the process that are dark- full of facing fears and trying new ways that are presently unknown. Light comes, with new insights, and some blind spots uncovered. But soul searching and coming out of denial and facing one's lifetime addictions- that is not always full of light in the midst. Change is an appealing word …when quotes about it are written in cute fonts, and accompanied by a beautiful sunset or a colorful butterfly. Really participating in the process is a whole different story.
In the dark, I fear my future. I worry that I will mess up every aspect of my life. In the dark, despair feels so real, so terrifying. In the dark I wonder if God forgets about me, because I am so codependent that I don't want to bother him with most of my pain.
In the light, however, I can buy in to the promise of Jeremiah 29:11- "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." In the light I can believe that maybe, that means me too.
In the dark I feel, that by definition, I am an orphan, and that term says so much about me.
Within the darkness I wonder if I am one wrong move away from being ditched.
In the light I hold to the security of a created family. In the light, I have gratitude for the incredible refuge family who have taken me in, and continue to love me well.
In the dark, I wonder about God, and if he is even paying attention to me, in the midst of billions of others.
In the light I know that there are times that I literally would not have survived without the presence of God. In the light I am confident that my tears are kept in a bottle, and that I am wanted and cherished.
Yeah, it is clear how crucial it is, in restoring sanity, to spend more time in the hope, and less and less time in despair. When the darkness robs me, I am continually learning and trying new ways to hang in there, grow in security, and hold fast onto the light.
"Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue."
-- Eugene O’Neill
I heard a message recently about Gods grace and mercy. And how sometimes we do things we shouldn’t do but that Gods grace and mercy are always there for us. But sometimes there are also consequences for our actions.
I’ve been shown beautiful grace by some friends through the years. One time I did something that I thought I was cleverly hiding. One day a friend sat down with me and said…’you know I saw you when you did that’. That’s all she had to say…I knew what she was talking about…I was guilty. The tears just rolled and rolled. I had too much shame and fear about it to tell anybody so when she gave me the opportunity for confession, I was so grateful. It was a time that I really understood what God’s grace felt like. This friend was so tender, loving and accepting. I was so blessed by her honesty…her Godly grace.
God sees everything we do and surprisingly others do too. And hopefully they wait for the right time to say something to us. Or they say nothing which is sad really because it could help so much in healing and recovery.
Oh Dear Jesus, Father God please help us to think before we act (act out). Please let us hear your Holy Spirit’s guidance in our hearts, help us to seek your Word for an answer. Help us to call someone when we need. Help us to seek safe ways to comfort our longing souls. Be with us in the consequences to guide us to a truthful life.
This week at The Refuge we began a series of conversations about the Kingdom of Heaven -- what does it look like, how do we live it, right here and right now?
At the beginning of the service, we had a baby dedication. It was lovely, as they always are. The pastors asked the parents, and then the congregation, if we would love, protect, pray for, and help take care of this child. We all answered: "We will." Most of us meant it. Some of us even smiled.
Then they called the children up. The kids RAN to the front, and tried to hold and kiss the baby. They had to be told to step back a bit. When the pastor asked them questions like, "What if he comes to church and he does something bad? Will you still love him?" they nodded and jumped up and down to say "YES!"
Then we sang "Jesus Loves Me," and several of the children danced. I don't know about you, but I can't dance to "Jesus Loves Me." Not that I've tried.
The scripture we read together (after the children went to their own gathering) was Luke 18:16 -- Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."
We're supposed to be like little children. That's what we're growing up to be!
I've been looking around lately for examples of Kingdom living. They're not hard to find, actually...and they don't seem to be hard to BE, once you take the leap. And now, I'm realizing, they're a lot like children.
One of my favorites is Bob Goff. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter, and I highly recommend it. This guy. Where to start?
He's a successful lawyer who manages to commute from his home in San Diego to his office in Seattle and be home for dinner with a family he adores. But he once told me he'd sold his car and bought a skateboard "to keep me dependent."
He invites people to meet him at his "office" on Tom Sawyer Island in Disneyland...and they pay the 60 bucks to get into Disneyland and do it. These people include heads of state.
And how did he meet those heads of state? He and his kids, longing for peace in the world, wrote letters to the leaders of every nation in the world, inviting them to 1) tell them what they hoped for, 2) come over to their house for a sleepover and 3) if they didn't want to come to their house, let them come to their country and videotape their hopes to share with others.
Several of those leaders took them up on it. Now Bob is Hon. Consul for Uganda to the United States. He casually flies around the world, sometimes prosecuting a witch doctor who mutilates children, then visiting the witch doctor in prison to make sure he knows God forgives him. You really should read the story. I found it HERE, but Google it and you'll find it all over the place. People are talking, because this stuff is amazing...but it's also really simple. As Bob would say, "Love does stuff."
"Love God. Love people. Do stuff." That's another Bob quote.
Also: "Evidence of Jesus." That's what Bob says when something amazing happens. I happened to be with him when he found out his book, Love Does, had become a New York Times bestseller. I was at a conference where he spoke, sitting nearby. He was dumbstruck. He actually stuttered, and his face was EXACTLY like that of a delighted child. "I don't even know what this means," he finally managed to get out. "Evidence of Jesus!" I shouted over. He didn't hear me, but his wife beamed her agreement.
We don't have to stop at admiring a story like Bob's (and believe me, this isn't even a tiny fraction of his story). I'm trying to live it. Let's all do it. Let's love God, love people, and do stuff.
A little more inspiration: One year when Bob's kids were bored on New Year's Day, they decided to have a little parade and let their neighbors watch. But Bob said, "No. No one watches. Let's get them all to be IN the parade!"
So every year on January 1, their whole neighborhood takes part in the parade. Here's a video of one of those parades, the year the little boy Bob rescued from the witch doctor was the grand marshall.