Summer seems like a good time to let our hair down, relax a bit, and play. I want to encourage you to let your spiritual practices out for some fresh air this summer as well. Today we will cover two possibilities of ways to play with prayer in the summer time. There will be more in the days to come…
- Get some bubbles. Yes, you heard correctly. Bubbles. I get them at the dollar store but I hear that you can even make your solution as well. Pinterest is the place to check for a recipe. Either way, get some bubbles and get a wand to blow them with. As you blow each bubble, imagine that each contains a prayer need. Watch it float away or pop. Trust that God has that one and move on to the next. This is a great way to get kids to play at prayer with you.
2. If your summer vacation takes you anywhere near water, there are lots of ways to play at prayer. First, simply notice how the water is always moving. Imagine placing your prayer concerns in that water and feel the current carry it away from you. You can also challenge your kids to build creatures in the sand with you instead of just building castles. Ask them to create a new animal there and talk about how amazingly creative God is!
One of my favorite things about the work that I do is learning new things alongside directees. At the beginning of the year, 2 directees both asked me to learn more about the Enneagram with them. I was honored to do so! While I am by no means any kind of expert in the field, I do love to learn new ways to map the spiritual journey and the Enneagram is a rich resource. So, I dived in.
The Enneagram is an ancient tool that Richard Rohr dates back to the desert fathers of the fourth century. The really, really basic idea is that there are 9 root sins that plague humanity. Each of the nine types, denoted by numbers, are more susceptible to one of these sins. The root sins of the Enneagram are the 7 deadly sins plus 2 more that were edited from the canonized list.
The trouble with things like the Enneagram is that the best way to learn how it really works is to apply it to yourself. I am a 9. Nines are peacemakers, mediators, and accommodators. Nines see all sides of an issue at hand and are deeply empathetic. Those are things that I really like about being a nine. But…like all strengths, there are shadows to consider. In order to be a peacemaker, nines are also procrastinators and avoiders. Nines resist being drawn into conflict and will stall in taking a stand for as long as possible plus a little while longer. They will only make a stand or take a side when the threat is dire.
Our church family is currently participating in a formal, church-wide discussion of the following question:
Based on our study of Scripture, how will women be allowed to use their gifts?
In our corner of religious tradition, women are generally not allowed to speak in public assemblies nor are they in formal leadership. We are not an ordaining tradition so ordination isn’t part of the conversation but all of the same ideas are being considered. I have been a part of this tradition for all of my life. And yet, I experienced a call to vocational ministry. These two things don’t compute for some. They are oil and water. But, they are both my story.
This conversation in our church family has been personally challenging. I find myself as a poster child for why we have to talk about this. People who fall on both sides of the issue point to me as an example. The only way I know to describe how this feels is to compare it to something else.
When you stand in the checkout line at Wal-Mart and see the racks lined with tabloids, do you find yourself unable to look away? The train wrecks of people’s lives are hard to ignore. And yet, those are real people. While many of the events “documented” might be fiction, the people are real. They have parents, they have friends and bosses. They might have spouses and children. They are real people who eat every day and sleep at night. And yet, we ogle those lives. We can’t help but look into their space with zoom lenses and judge.
For me, this conversation in our church has left me feeling like the object of a tabloid story. See, coming to grips with my own sense of calling has been 20 years of hard soul-work. I didn’t come to this conclusion lightly or easily. I fought this calling with every fiber of my being for years. Coming to terms with a calling that would certainly, someday, place me in this kind of position was and is REALLY. HARD. WORK. The soul-work was about trusting God for this very day that I could stand firm in the calling of ministry when others, whom I love, would take a stand against it. The soul-work was about naming the passion that burns in my heart for the word of God. The soul-work was about seeing myself as truly called, even as a female. I had never seen a woman do this kind of work and I wasn’t sure that God meant for women, especially me to do ministry work. The soul-work was about asking God to heal the wounds in my heart inflicted because I am female and assumed God loved me less.
But now, the tabloid version is all people see. They zoom their lens onto the part that supports their own feelings about a policy and judge.
The Enneagram has become a mirror for me to better understand my behavior in this conversation. As a nine, the limelight is excruciating for me. I don’t take sides easily and I sure don’t seek to become a lightning rod. I prefer for the world to roll on without conflict but if conflict must happen, I would just rather avoid it altogether. Instead, I find myself front and center with nowhere to hide.
There are some great nines in history. Abraham Lincoln was a nine. Ronald Reagan was also a nine. Plenty of nines have learned to embrace the shadow of avoidance in order to offer wise peace. They take their time to understand both sides of an issue in order to broker a true peace that invites both sides closer to the middle by understanding the other side. That is the work of a redeemed, transformed into the image of Christ nine!
I hope to learn to stand in front of this mirror with eyes wide open. I hope to stand firmly in the calling that is from God, and not myself. I hope to be bold and timely in this stance. I hope to tell the story of the work that God has done in me with honesty and candor. I hope to resist the urge to hide behind my nine-ness and instead embrace the opportunity to be all of myself…the self that God knows and lovingly called into being. I hope at the end of this year to stand before this mirror of the Enneagram and see that God has been at work redeeming this nine.
We have a little dog who doesn’t know that the world isn’t about play. She is part Jack Russell terrier which means that she is super hyper, all the time. If you tied her to a sled, I am pretty sure she could pull four times her body weight by shear will power. But, she only weighs 12 pounds so we don’t know how to test that theory. She barks at the electric sweeper we use on the hardwood floors. She takes a toy outside with her whenever she needs to ‘use the facilities’. We have a nightly ritual that is affectionately known as “Crazy Dog”. In this game, all of the family is upstairs and the kids are usually in their beds when the dog suddenly spins a circle and then darts down the stairs. As she races back up, you are expected to be at the top of the stairs to clap your hands once, really loudly. Then she spins again and runs back down. She peels out on the wood floors of the first floor and flies back up the stairs. This game will continue for as long as you wait at the top to clap. If you choose to stop, she will simply chase her tail at top speeds. She lives to play.
The beginning of summertime is always both glorious and difficult. After nine grueling months of homework, tests, and strict schedules, freedom can be a confounding thing. The first impulse my kids exhibit is to sit numbly in front of a TV. I only allow this to go on for about a weekend. Then, we begin the work of learning to play again. Yes, the work. It takes work to begin to remember how to play. My children resist at first.
“We have to play outside for a WHOLE hour?”
“I don’t know what to draw with sidewalk chalk!”
But slowly, surely it starts to come back to them: the beauty of time to follow their soul toward joy and beauty, the gift of learning about what you love, the freedom to move all day long.
When was the last time you, as an adult, played? When did you allow joy to lead your activity without worry for who was watching or a to-do list? When did you last run because it felt good to pump your legs? When did you draw or color for the beauty of chalk on your hands? When did you read a book you liked? God is in each of these things. When we are at play, we are nearest to our child-like selves. We lose our inhibitions and encounter the Kingdom with wide-eyed joy. Play today. Just for a minute…splash in some water sprinklers or toss around a baseball. Pick wildflowers. Chase butterflies. Play beach volleyball. Build a sandcastle. However you do it, play!
It never fails to surprise me.
I push and go and create and do and mother and clean and write and travel and go and go and go. I love every moment of all of it! My brain spins at amazing speeds welcoming new and exciting experiences and ideas and hopes and people. I eat it up.
Until I don’t.
Then, I’m tired. I’m dry. I’m cranky. I’m restless. My heart needs to stop. My introvert can no longer be ignored. My soul is famished. I want to stop.
But I don’t.
I keep pushing and going and creating and doing and mothering and well, not much cleaning, and traveling and going. But I don’t love it. My brain has been flooded with new experiences and ideas and hopes and people but there is no more room to hold it all. I can’t absorb any more.
And then I get sick.
This time, it was a stomach flu that I will spare you the horrific details on but suffice it to say, I spent 48 hours in my bed doing nothing but being sick. And I realized that I had pushed beyond what was sane to expect of myself. And all I could do was wait for health to find me again.
This cycle has repeated itself countless times in my life. The first time I remember knowing it was in high school. It was spring time of my junior year. I had taken the ACT and SAT while preparing for UIL competitions in speaking while rehearsing for Spring Show–on a broken toe–while planning prom while fretting about a GPA high enough to get a scholarship. In one weekend, I slept maybe 2 hours (over the whole 3 days). Shockingly, I came down with mono on Sunday night. For two weeks, I did nothing but be sick.
In college, I spent every Christmas and Spring Break sick, in bed, at home. I would come home from my summer job, which I loved, and be sick for at least a week.
Now, before you go all spiritual on me, I associate with the servant who was given 5 talents. God has gifted me, I acknowledge. I want to serve wholeheartedly from those gifts. I want to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But, I think that I have to earn it. I think that if I don’t do EVERY. SINGLE. THING. then I am not honoring what God has placed in me.
Its perfectionism. It drives me beyond the Rhythm of Life I have covenanted to with God. It pushes me beyond the boundaries I set for being away from my family. It keeps me awake at night. It stops the creative flow of words. It shoves me out of living life from abundance into believing that I cannot be enough.
And it never fails to catch me by surprise.
Today, the world lost a bright light. Dr. Maya Angelou passed away. She was woman of great courage, deep wisdom, and amazing vitality. Her legacy of sassy strength will be missed by many, including me. The following poem, “Touched by an Angel” by Dr. Maya Angelou, is an invitation to pray today.
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
A repost from last Memorial Day…
I am a reader. Nothing makes me happier than getting lost in a fantasy world created by a skillful author. One of my all-time favorite series is the Harry Potter saga.
I am also a book snob. No movie can ever live up to the beauty created by a book. The Harry Potter movies are no exception. I argue and grieve every change made from the written text. Except one.
In the final Harry Potter movie, a perceived villain, Severus Snape, is dying. In the book, he takes memories from his own mind and offers them to Harry in the form of silvery goo that flows from his brain at the tap of his magic wand. However, in the movie, movie makers made a rare improvement. Snape offers Harry his tears. These tears hold memories.
I LOVE the significance! Tears hold memories.
On this day, as a nation remembers, it feels important to acknowledge that our memories can be prayer. As we remember beautiful summer days with family, God is honored as the architect of such joy. As we remember those we have lost, God is with us as the lover of their souls and the comforter of ours.
A day of remembering is a day of looking for God in our past, and that is prayer. A day of celebrating the joys of summertime is a day of thanksgiving for the One of created seasons. Today, however you find yourself, whether in joy or in grief, God is there. And that is prayer.