Monday, June 21, 2010

Playing in God Town

Flickr photo by Express Monorail, creative commons
"All aboard for Skeleton Town!"
My granny's porch swing was a train, and as we chugged along, pumping our legs, the farm, the creek, and the hills became cities full of ghosts and skeletons, werewolves and vampire bats, evil cowboys and mad scientists.
We were brave, of course, so we made plenty of stops. Patricia, the oldest, would pull the brake with her long legs, and Steve and I would dismount for a quick stroll into town (off the porch and around the tree.)
It never went well.
Wouldn't you know it? A witch or a ghost or a family of skeletons was always hiding, waiting to chase us around the pump house, until we'd come screaming back. We'd catch the train just as it was leaving the station, pumping our legs and hollering about the bad guys/skeletons/bats we saw, what their scary faces looked like, and what they'd said they'd do to us if they caught us with their bony fingers.

The second I saw the photo above, I was back on that swing in Kentucky. It's the picture of what summer meant to me as a kid: a time to play pretend, to sprinkle salt on my watermelon and spit out the seeds, to run yelling out of Skeleton Town, and to play Marco Polo in the pool until I was a human prune.
The photo also made me think of the scripture we read at church yesterday.

Zechariah had a message from God to His people, and boy, did they need it.
Fresh out of their captivity in Babylon, they'd straggled back to Jerusalem, to rebuild the town and the temple and try somehow to pull their community back together. Could they do it, as worn out as they were? There were so few of them. Would their efforts ever amount to anything?

God whispered His message in Zechariah's ear.
Oh, how He's been longing to return. Don't they know how He loves them and misses them? He's on the way, so they'd better get ready. Jerusalem is going to be Faithful City again. God Town, perhaps, if you're sitting on my porch swing.

What does God Town look like?
Zechariah paints the picture,

"...Once again old men and women will walk Jerusalem’s streets with their canes and will sit together in the city squares. 5 And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls at play.
Zechariah 8:4-5

So God Town's where children play, and old folks sit and enjoy the atmosphere.
Maybe it looks something like this.

Flickr photo by smile its shan, creative commons
Seems like a great place to be, and I bet there's more going on than just hoola hooping.
12 "For I am planting seeds of peace and prosperity among you."
...The traditional fasts and times of mourning you have kept... are now ended. They will become festivals of joy and celebration for the people of Judah. So love truth and peace.

How nice that sounds. But does it have anything to say to us, here in 2010?
What do you think?

For me, it reminds me that I need to stop living as if I'm still waiting for God to arrive. Christ has come and offers me a full life, a life in which I can't fully participate if I'm too busy trying to make the world happy.
What I hear (probably because Becky Ramsey needs to hear it) is that the degree to which I let myself play might be a good measure of how easily I find God's peace. Not that I should throw my work out the window and sit around chanting Einie beanie, Bob Saleenie. But when I'm filling my head completely with lists of things to accomplish, I have no space to hear God's voice.

Maybe a neighbor kid can tutor me.
Aren't kids experts at play? I think it's partly because the world has not corrupted them yet with timetables and responsibilities, forcing them to quit expressing their natural selves. And maybe it's also because they're fresh from the hands of their maker, the Prince of Play. Play is what Eden was all about, right? At least at first it was.

So you want a seat on my porch swing? We can scooch over. There's plenty of room.

Did you play this weekend? Do you think there's a connection between peace and play? Between God and play?

Have a great Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky


Laura said...

Oh, we speak the same language! Since school's been out and my mind is allowed TIME to contemplate, ponder, wander, I've enjoyed play in my mind and heart. I've ever so much more convinced that creativity is all too often crowded out by the "tyranny of the urgent" in my life.

Thanks for this reminder. (KY? Me, too!)

Alise said...

It's funny, I've never been very good at play. I don't think it's that I'm too cool for it or anything like that (heavens knows cool is NOT a word I would use to describe myself!), but it's just not something that comes naturally to me. For me, play and performance get mixed up very easily.

That being the case, I love to surround myself with people who play. My husband and two best friends are expert players and they are generally able to coax the "play" out of me. And while I've never really thought of it in terms of peacefulness, I would say that accurately describes my frame of mind when I have people who help me play.

Sarah Bost Askins said...

I wish I played more. I spend much of the time thinking, musing rather than just having simple fun. I am a fairly intense person. We spent this past week camping-just playing in the pool, campsite, etc. I have to remind myself how refreshing play is.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Laura, the tyranny of the urgent is always trying to wreck my life. I need to put on earphones whenever it starts talking!

Alise, I didn't go into detail--maybe I should have--but I'm exactly the same way. I think that's why this scripture spoke to me so loudly! I used to be great at play as a child, but now I have to force myself into it, even as I clutch at my to do list! Thank God my husband and friends are like yours, ready to play.

Sarah, those kind of trips away from the internet, away from the washing machine, are great for reminding me of the same thing. I need play, whether it sounds attractive to me or not. Once I'm in it, I always enjoy it. It's just prying me away from things I feel I should do, but eat up my peace.

Leah Skaggs said...

Tony Campolo - "They have all these religious tee shirts these days. I want to make a new one that says, "MY GOD IS A PARTY DEITY." He is a God who loves celebration; He is a God who tries to bring celebration to life. To all of us who are down, beaten, tired and sad, He says, 'Come with me. We're going to have a party.'"

Cathy said...

I play for a living - I really do! Play for children IS their work. Perhaps we should learn this from them!

I hear so much of the busy-ness of people's lives as though if they were NOT busy, something was wrong. How many of us actually respond to the "What did you do today?" or "what are your plans today?" by saying, I am going to have a peaceful quiet day - listen to the still small voice that God offers as a gift to us, if we only listen.

Beki - TheRustedChain said...

This is beautiful.

One of our family rules it to laugh often. Just play and have fun!

CC said...

God is certainly the God of play!!! We actually had a sermon about that recently :)

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Our pastor JUST talked about the need for recreation--in his "10 commandments" series when he preached about keeping the Sabbath. God wants us to play a little. That's the joy of being a mom, the kids remind me how to!

Laura said...

Oh, yes I do, Rebecca! God knows how to play. Big Time. This post made me grin from ear to ear.

Happy summer to you.

sherri said...

"Aren't kids experts at play? I think it's partly because the world has not corrupted them yet with timetables and responsibilities, forcing them to quit expressing their natural selves. And maybe it's also because they're fresh from the hands of their maker, the Prince of Play. Play is what Eden was all about, right? At least at first it was."

You. flat. nailed it.

Heidi Mann said...

I was awakened to the concept of God as a "Party Deity" when I was doing some field-practice during seminary. I was serving in a Puerto Rican congregation in Chicago. The first time we celebrated Communion, I saw that they REALLY "celebrate" it! In sharp contrast to the somber, serious way we "celebrated" Communion in my Upper Midwest United States, Norwegian-ancestry, Lutheran church, these Latinos (who were also Lutheran, by the way) did it up like a PARTY!! They sang, they danced, they shook tambourines! It was incredible!

Since Jesus didn't *stay* on the cross but rose back to life in a royal TRUMPING of the powers of evil, I am absolutely certain God would like to see us take ourselves a bit less seriously, and just lighten up, and PLAY! How better to demonstrate our confidence that GOD is taking care of us than to let loose our anxieties and relax?!! (Ah, but it's easier said than done!)

lotusgirl said...

I LOVE the new look! Did I tell you that my book club is going to be reading French by Heart this fall? I suggested and they voted it in. Cool, huh?

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Love these thoughts!
"Our God is a Party God!" That's perfect!
Heidi, that's one of the biggest lessons I learned from a mission trip to Belize. Those church folks know how to celebrate God's goodness!

Lois, that's so kind of you! Thanks! I hope your book club enjoys it!

Bradley J. Moore said...

Great advice - I think we all tend to feel like we're waiting for something to happen, and hold back on accepting the fact that everything is here, and now. I like this thought that although we have that longing for "home" or 'the kingdom' or whatever it is, that we are fully capable of making it happen with what's right in front of us. Maybe we just want it all to be too perfect, like a censored memory of something we never really had.

lynnmosher said...

Oh, Becky, I loved your post! I'm a first-time reader (from KY). I just happened to see your tweet on Twitter about your post.

I so agree. Playtime is lost on adults. I love it when my 8 year-old granddaughter comes. We laugh till the tears trickle down our cheeks! We have so much fun together.

Thank you for this insight. Your writing is beautiful! I shall return! May the Lord bless you!

lynnmosher said...

Oh, rats! I went to sign up for your emails but you don't have an email subscription! {sniff-sniff}

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Lynn, ask and ye shall receive! :)

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Rebecca, I would love to join you on your porch swing. And I love to play! I'm fairly convinced that the reason I have five children is so that I could keep playing (and sort of have an excuse, so I don't look crazy). Yes, I do think there's a connection between peace and play. When I am in that play of playing, which sometimes simply means creative space, I do feel more at peace. Playing in nature in particular is euphoric. It's God's playground. I love the image you project here of what it will be like someday in the eternal playground. :) Meantime, let's play while we can here on earth too!

Roxane B. Salonen said...

P.S. The blog post I wrote for Monday (later last night) had a similar feeling as yours did today. :) It's also about summer, and peace, and a little bit of playing, too. :)

Amy Sullivan said...

This is a perfect post for the summer! It took me back and made me pause and think about my special forts and times long ago. I know God is a God of play...I just need to make an effort to live that way!

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

Play is a gift of God. And when we play, I feel close, close, close to Him.

Thank you for this post!

In our play,
these "wonders never cease."

roundballrev said...

Thanks for reminding me of long-lost favorite porch swings in PA and NC. "Playing in God Town"! I love it.

Rebecca Ramsey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca Ramsey said...

Whoopsie, that was me. Let's try again.
Roundballrev, I wonder what might have inspired me to write this post? Any ideas?

roundballrev said...

One good turn of inspiration deserves another. For a long time, I have had the most boring blog page on the Web. Since visiting wonders never cease, I have given it a complete makeover! When you have time, check out and be sure to see the "Favorites"! It was sheer PLAY to do, and it looks a lot better to boot. Thanks!