I Need More Play In My Life

Wednesday mornings are my writing days. This is the day that I try to bang out a blog post from start to finish. I didn’t do that this Wednesday. What did I do instead? I researched and filled out my NCAA Tournament brackets.

Is there value in play as a spiritual practice or is that just a 21st Century American Christian way of rationalizing their addiction to entertainment and superficiality?

My life has been full of heavy thoughts and difficult situations of late. So many mornings and times throughout the day, I have things churning and churning in my mind. Plans I am trying to make and situations I am attempting to solve. I have been praying and reciting scripture but I recognized that I sometimes need to give my mind a break and just play.

man dunking the ball

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Surprisingly, when you are in a difficult time, this can be easier said than done. Dallas Willard describes play as “creation of values that are not necessary.” I remember playing nightly with our kids. We created all sorts of value that wasn’t necessary and it was great. Still, in my grumpier moments and with a sense of scarcity, I would demand that our play time be limited to 10 minutes. I, apparently, am not very open to play.

Still, you may be wondering, what does this really have to do with my life with God? Play helps practice abandonment to God. Watch a kid and it is apparent that they are wired for play, it is in their very nature to play. They do not let the worries and cares of the world crush out their sense of play. Nothing is too heavy to diminish play. Willard says that, “Creation was play for God, and so when we play, we experience that same sense of creation.”

One of the appeals for me of studying spiritual formation is the chance for discipline in my life, even control. But in my control, I lose that sense of abandonment to God that play provides. So, yesterday, I put aside my troubles, I laid down my prayer list and my devotional materials and played something that I have enjoyed most of my life. I created something that was not necessary but it is valuable to me.

What is God wanting you to create or play or listen to or read that isn’t going to impress spiritual gurus but might actually draw you closer to the God, who like you, plays.

 

 

You Don’t Have To Wait For Eternal Life

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have eternal life right now. We don’t have to wait for eternal life later. Don’t believe me?

John’s gospel says, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

If I know God then I have a clearer sense of what he is doing in the world and in my own life and I get to participate in that activity. That is eternal life – participation in God’s kingdom and doing what God wants done.

clear light bulb planter on gray rock

Photo by Singkham on Pexels.com

If we only think of eternal life as what happens the moment we die then we twist this life into a mere holding room or worse – a form of Christian nihilism where nothing real means anything because we are promised something else after we die.

No one in the early church belittled our life now the way that many modern Christians do in thinking and discussing eternal life. Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loves me and gave his life for me.” Could he have used the word life or live anymore in that verse?

What is the life you now live? Is it an eternal one in God’s kingdom, where what God wants done is done? Or is it barely living because you are just pursuing your own agenda and doing what you want done and counting on the promise of eternal life to do its thing when the time comes.

Start living your eternal life now. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is at hand, it is here. Our life with Christ is an interactive, yoke sharing, abundant existence far beyond a common life. Why do we settle for some narrow, limited version of eternal life when Christ’s promises express something greater, more fulfilling, and full of his presence?

When you put on your new life in Christ, you put on an eternal life that starts now. It will take its full form at another time but, in Christ, it starts to develop and exists and reward now.

The Story of the Three TVs

I have wanted to tell this story for years but have hesitated because I was afraid that it would reflect badly on me and make me appear superficial and immature. I was afraid that others would think that the gospel could be reduced to just God granting wishes and providing prosperity. I think those versions of the Gospel are dangerous and have done great harm. Still, this story did happen to us and I did learn great lessons from it and maybe you will too.

I wanted a HD TV and I had started to stop in at Best Buy on a weekly basis to look at and price small HD televisions. I started to try to justify the expense and figure out how to fit it into our budget.

At the same time, I was reading Richard Foster’s book Freedom of Simplicity. In the book, Foster discusses the hold that material things can have on us and how practicing frugality develops our trust in God. Foster has some very practical ways to approach these material wants that we have. One suggestion is if you think you need to purchase something to wait 24 hours and see if that desire or need is still present. This way, you shake off the impulse buys and bring a more measured response to your purchases. Another suggestion is to actually ask God for the item and wait to see if he will provide it for you.

Even though I wanted to sweep in and buy that TV, I decided to take Foster’s suggestion and ask God for it. If he provides then great, if not, I have my answer on whether we should have the TV or not. I did force God’s hand a bit when I asked for a TV for Christmas that year. This is where the story starts to get crazy.

That year, my side of the family decided to have a White Elephant exchange. Through faulty game management on my part, I failed to obtain the giant item in the corner and ended up with a hat or something while my 19-year-old nephew walked away with a large HD TV. I was so irritated. This is what I had been asking for and my parents put it in a White Elephant exchange? And my nephew gets it? OK God. You don’t have to provide a TV for me but do you have to rub it in my face? But, after I calmed down, I took the hint from God and resigned myself to quit obsessing over it and move on.

Even though I wasn’t pleased with the results, I felt like I had approached my wants with a level of maturity and some faithfulness and learned that God does want to be included on the day-to-day workings of our lives and has something to say about our use of money and our attachment to material things. Though, I wasn’t going to get a new TV, I had learned an important lesson and felt closer to God in the process. I was glad that I hadn’t jumped the gun and, instead, had tried to let God be in charge for once. But then March came and everything changed.

First, my Mom, who does great interior decorating, came to work on our bedroom. The entire room got an overhaul and the sad, small, boxy CRT TV we had sitting on a dresser was not going to work with the new decor. My mom decided to buy us a new small HD TV for our room. Wow, this just happened. I didn’t ask for it but I had finally gotten the TV. We were now enjoying our TV and I learned that God provides in ways we wouldn’t expect.

But then, a few days later while I am at work, my wife calls me and ask, “Did you order a TV?” I told her no and asked why? She said that there was a TV that had just been delivered to our house. We thought it was a mistake and I tried to check to see if this was something that was delivered to the wrong house and whether I needed to return it. My efforts were not fruitful and the customer service guy just said, “Well, it looks like you have yourself a new TV.” Someone had anonymously ordered a TV for us and had it delivered. I just laughed at the comedy of this;  that in the matter of days, we had gotten two TVs as gifts. God was having fun with this one but he wasn’t done.

The following Sunday, I was walking our dog while one of our daughters was riding her bike. I got to a corner house and I see two big screen TVs laying by the curb (in our community you lay out stuff by the curb for garbage collection or for anyone that wants it). I tell my daughter to stay with the TVs while I went and got my car to haul these TVs back to our house. I got both of them home but I didn’t know if they worked or not. I plugged them both in and sure enough one did not work but the nicer one, a Sony Bravia HD 46”, worked great. Though my wife wasn’t pleased with me bringing home other people’s garbage, I convinced her to let me bring it in to our living room. We now had a big screen TV that the whole family could enjoy and I just found it on the side of the road! Every week, I think about how God gifted us with not one, not two, but three TVs in a matter of days.

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The TV found on the curb in our neighborhood

The ways these things showed up were absurd and were hard to believe but yet I knew what was going on. God was teaching me that he not only wants to provide what we desperately need but sometimes he wants to provide what we don’t need simply because he is loving and joyful and likes to show his power in creative and even humorous ways. I learned, when it comes to material things, I don’t have to rush out in haste to make a purchase. Most of the time, that is not the right course of action. I also learned to include God in all of my decisions, big or small, and to give God space to work. Sometimes he might convict us of our materialism and greed but other times, he might just provide three TVs in 7 days.