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Posts tagged ‘laughter’

A-Mazing Daze of Play

 

 

Play: to engage in sport or recreation: FROLIC

 

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Walk past any playground and you will see a choice to be made.

An empty bench says, “Sit here. Observe.” An empty playground says, “Come here. Enjoy.”

The choosers are easily distinguished on such grounds: onlookers and partakers. Onlookers usually consist of adults: parents, grandparents, and babysitters. They watch, sigh, shout warnings, soothe ouchies. Partakers usually consist of children: tall, short, small, big, but always wildly active children, in full swing, joining in the frolic. They wiggle, scoot, sing songs, laughing as they go. On rare occasion, an adult or two crosses the line from onlooker to partaker.

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Even before the final spring snow, across the way, the farm-turned-botanic-garden-country-version began creating a playscape for autumn adventure. John Deere green and yellow tractors plow spring white snow, upturning chocolate-dark soil. Upturned soil, furrowed into precise rows, produces tiny lime green seedlings. Abundant summer storms, purpled and silver-streaked, join mile-high sunny days to lengthen seedlings into stalks, knee-high, waist-high then over-my-head-high green sentinels. By September, teeth-chattering nights and apple-crisp days dry the green to golden brown. Tasseled corn stalks rustle in gentle autumn’s breezes.

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Through bare spring into lush green summer then into golden fall, from our back deck we sit and observe as the bare dirt becomes a corn maze. Old farm trucks and new tractors, from this distance, remind me of sandbox days. My then-three-littles imagined new worlds there among mounds of sand. With the help of Matchbox cars, Brio trains, sticks that became railroad ties, pitchers of water for creating mudslides, and Fisher-Price figures, stories sprung to life among mingled stones and leaves.

Through our old black bird-watching binoculars, I see farm workers haul in wooden poles and wires, creating small haddocks for pony rides. White tents pop up, covering picnic tables. Bales of hay are stacked like blocks here and there for ambience and crowd control. Trailers unload draft horses, ready to pull hayride flatbeds around the ponds and fields. Out on the roadway, just south of a major Denver interstate perimeter highway, green and gold signs announce Corn Maze dates: Come. Enjoy.

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At sunrise, and again at sunset, my husband and I observe the vast brown fields as they change. Behind the newly painted red barn and its sidekick brick silo, a once calm hillside buzzes and sparkles with canary yellow school buses, dust-covered minivans, and family-sized SUVs. Empty paths winding through the forest of old cottonwoods are now thick with children intent on making their way to the start of the corn maze. At night, glow sticks shimmer silver, pink, neon green. We hear laughter wafting across the open space between our back deck and the distant farm.

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One Sunday afternoon we can stand it no longer. We leave our comfortable observer post to become partakers. We join the throngs, paying our way into the playscape of corn. Red-faced children run full force, panting parents trot to catch up yelling, “Hold up.” Overhead Canada geese soar from field to pond, moving a bit further south, reminding us that snow is soon to change the landscape again.

 

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Though our deck view is a tiny bit elevated above the farm in the valley, it’s not high enough to see what shape the maze is. You’d need a helicopter to gain such perspective. But, as we enter the corn maze, a printed map captures the farmers’ creation: a giant butterfly…fore and hind wings, abdomen, antenna, swirled among soil and seed into a bushel of choices to be made.

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Here in the middle of the corn maze, choices crop up fast. Right, left, or straight? Follow the crowd? Follow my instincts? Follow my husband? Even with a map, we quickly realize that there are no markers, no directional signs to help one orient. Which way is north on this map? Which way is west? Even with a design on the map, we are so far down in the corn maze that we can’t gain any perspective. Are we at the outermost loop of the butterfly wings? Are we walking an inner wing that will send us back around to the start? Are we at the dead end of the antenna?

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Ahead of us in the maze, a couple argues over which path to take. Their children don’t wait to see what they decide. Half their kids run one direction while half take off in the other direction. I like the left path; my husband likes the right path. This time, I choose to follow him. The sun’s intensity warms us as the shadows begin to fall. Two ducks fly by overhead. We walk and walk and walk some more. We’ve been going in circles as it turns out. He laughs and shrugs as we hit a dead end. We are dazed in the maze, unsure of which way to go now. Laughter accompanies most of the maze-dazed folks. Joy is always a good companion to have along for the journey.

Children zoom back past us, shouting at their parents to hurry up. Bewildered faces, a family we’d seen going in circles like us, confront us as we come upon another junction with fork after fork that probably leads to loop. “Do you know the way?” the youngest of their brood asks as he points at a forbidden shortcut through the forest of corn. Just a few feet away, we clearly see another path but we can’t get there from here. The temptation is to cut through…yet signs warn us of the dire consequences of shortcuts….and I’m reminded of a few shortcuts that tempt me beyond the corn maze.

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A late afternoon breeze rustles huskily in the dried corn. An ear of half-eaten corn, a squirrel’s afternoon snack, sits abandoned under the shadows of stalks. Next to it, an abandoned plastic cup, still full of lemonade. The path, strewn with trash, reminds us that civilization is just steps away from this corn crop puzzle. Bright yellow police tape cordons off the shortcut. A rabbit scurries through the tall rows, right under the tape. He takes any shortcut he desires. He can’t read the signs. We are frustrated that the rabbit can find a way through when we cannot.

On we wander. I go one way, my husband another. We find each other again at another dead end. We laugh and sigh at the same time.  The beauty is literally all around us. Blue skies above, dark soil beneath, golden brown stalks of corn lining our path, merriment among children of all ages stuck in the wonder of a maze.

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High above the field, a man oversees the entire maze from his perch in the metal cherry picker. At another fork in the maze, I look up, hoping for guidance. I catch his eye and he nods, a subtle reassurance that we are choosing well. When he nods, he seems like my best ally. Yet, at other times, he won’t even make eye contact and I feel caught in an endless knot of wrong turns. Frustration amid laughter and beauty.

Eventually, after an hour of dead ends, right turns, rabbits and kids hopping across the paths, wrong forks, loops upon loops within loops, my husband and I emerge at the exit, not even sure how we got here. We are, however, most certain we couldn’t easily find our way back through the maze again.

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About sunset, we sit again on our deck, observing the corn maze in the distance.

Having partaken of the maze itself, the entire scene looks different.

We’ve engaged playfully among stalks and loops, under a blue October sky. Deep in the maze, we know firsthand about the sound of corn husks in the breeze, dead ends on dusty paths, tempting shortcuts, disorientation from no landmarks or perspective, a sometimes present-sometimes silent overseer, and the pull of the crowd mentality versus going it alone or with just a few others. We also know the frolic of finding our way among corn stalks, which we so long only observed at a distant.

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Play: to engage in sport or recreation: FROLIC

 

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Walk past any playground and you will see a choice to be made.

An empty bench says, “Sit here. Observe.” An empty playground says, “Come. Enjoy.”

What choice will you make?
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playdates with God

The Why of today’s blog: Today’s blog comes in response to my reading of Laura Boggess’ new book, Playdates with God. Her book  encourages us to engage with God differently through playdates with God. Reading her book prompted me to move from an observer to a partaker in the joy of play.

The corn maze is but one of the adventures I’ve had lately with God. What about you? Have you ever had a playdate with God?

Book Giveaway Alert: Not sure how play and God go together? Well, I’ve got a copy of Laura’s book to give away so you can read more about it. Just leave a comment below by Wednesday, October 29 answering this question:

Where might you move from observing to entering in more fully?
Laura’s book can be ordered from Amazon, Barnes & Noble , ChristianBooks.com, and Hearts and Minds.

 

1610078_10152145633998672_1391727738_nLaura Boggess, author of Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World,  lives in West Virginia with her husband and two sons.  She is a content editor for TheHighCalling.org and blogs at lauraboggess.com. Connect with Laura on Facebook and Twitter.

Sample two recent blogs of Laura’s: one about how God can save a marriage at Ann Voskamp’s A Holy Experience and another about how life with Christ is part of an upside down kingdom as evidenced by the recent experiences of Dr. Kent Brantly and ebola at TheHighCalling.org

 

Saints Among Us

cross in brick at christ church

 

“I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true,

who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew…”

 

When you hear the word “saint,” what comes to mind? For me, quite often the concept of a saint is that of someone so high, holy and revered, someone so perfect that they seem somehow above the rest of us, someone, in other words, quite unlike me.

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However, when Lesbia Lesley Scott wrote I Sing a Song of the Saints of God, her intention was simple: to ensure that her children knew that saints live here and now among us, not just then and there in some distant lofty past. Her lyrics speak of folks from all walks of life:  a doctor, a queen, a shepherdess, a priest, a martyr, herself; found in the common places we might each inhabit: schools, streets, seasides; doing ordinary things in ordinary places such as in shops or at tea. They are saints, not because they are so perfect but because they have responded in love to the Lover of their souls.

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The Old and New Testaments mention saints at least sixty-nine times.  In the Old Testament, saints were ordinary folks who belonged to our extraordinary God, His covenant people. In the New Testament, the word saint refers to those who are set apart as Christ’s own forever by the presence of the Spirit within them.

 

In case that feels a little too high and mighty, Frederick Buechner reminds us that “the feet of the saints are as much of clay as everybody else’s,” which we surely see when we read the antics of these rabble-rousers, or if we just look in the mirror. He does, however go on to distinguish these saints in one more way: “…saints are essentially life-givers. To be with them is to become more alive.”

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On this All Saints Day, I am again reminded how I am such a blessed woman, for I live among saints who invite me to life.

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I live among folks who dive heart-deep into Jesus, leaping up into healing and freedom as crisp and wild and brave as Isaiah 61 shouts. I pray among splendorous intercessors who dance and bow with their eyes full of glory, bringing heaven to earth in their heartful declarations.

 

I write among playful women whose words offer the raw and the radiant.  I create among winsome poets and artists who glow and ache then offer those moments forth to be pondered.

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I minister among canyon-carved spiritual directors, ones stilled and quieted enough to watch for the second sight Jesus touches to blinded eyes. I watch and wait among those engraved by waiting’s long shadows.

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I laugh and cry and dream and hope and pray, pray, pray among beloved children grown and delightful grandchildren growing, with a husband as rambunctious as any rugby player and as big-hearted as the horizon is vast.

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I become more alive because of those who invite me into their stretching, suffering, sanctifying places where they walk in tears and laughter with the One who is our heart’s desire. I stay more alive because of those who walk with me in the shadows and the sunshine of my heart’s landscape, reminding me that my holy passion of intimacy with Jesus is the One Thing that really matters.

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“In his holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a pocket handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints,” Buechner states.

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My pockets are full of handkerchiefs He’s dropped along my life this All Saints Day.

 

How about yours?

 

 

Resources:

Another post I wrote about saints:  http://lanearnold.co/saints-abound

 

http://www.amazon.com/I-Sing-Song-Saints-God/dp/0819215619

http://www.hymnary.org/media/fetch/139944 : I Sing a Song of the Saints of God

Buechner, Frederick. Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993. Page 102

http://www.amazon.com/Wishful-Thinking-A-Seekers-ABC/dp/0060611391/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383313990&sr=8-1&keywords=wishful+thinking

 

© Lane M. Arnold, 2013

 

 

In Purple Haze of Morning

 

 

Plum perfect: as in

The royal sunrise tickled me awake

With lavender laughter.

I slid down the bannister

In my favorite periwinkle PJs,

Inhaled the lilacs,

Then toasted the day

with blueberries,

as tart and bright as an amethyst,

intoxicated with violet hues.

 

Lane M. Arnold

© 2013

Celebration as a Spiritual Discipline

Albert Einstein said, “You can live as if nothing is a miracle or you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Isn’t that the essence of celebration?

 

If we are attentive, in upbeat places of the heart, we can see the miracle of what God is up to in the moment at hand. We can see the miracle in the mundane, in the messiness, there in the mix of the ups and downs that each day brings. Yet, isn’t it true that when we think of miracles, we expect an accompaniment of fireworks and trumpets?

 

The reality is there are a thousand simple, quiet miracles each day, which we easily miss if we aren’t watching for them: small noticing of big miracles, big noticings of small miracles.  The way my body moves. Dew on the grass. The hilarious, encouraging phone call. The jaunty serenade of laughter. Magenta sunsets.

 

Celebration is a way of enjoying the everyday miracles alongside the over-the-top ones. It’s another way of thinking about the status of the proverbial glass: Is it half full or half empty? If that glass is half full, then that’s cause for celebration. Conversely, we often think that if it’s half empty, that’s legitimate cause to be rather Eeyore-ish.

 

However, in living among the spiritual disciplines, we learn a spiritual discipline requires, hmm, discipline. In his classic book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster states that the disciplines of the spiritual life invite us to move from the surface of life to its interior depths. Movement involves change, doesn’t it?

 

In one sense, celebration doesn’t seem like it really needs to be a discipline. Celebration appears as if it would always be easy, that is, until it’s not.

 

On difficult days it’s hard to find anything that seems celebration-worthy. A disaster occurs. Sometimes these things are huge like getting fired or the terminally bad news the doctor declares. It’s the investment that goes belly up and the relationship that falls flat on its face.

 

 

At other times, the hardness isn’t one giant avalanche. It’s a continually smattering of snowballs hard as ice that pelt time after time all through the day ‘til you’re battered and bruised. It’s the car battery going dead then the water heater flooding the basement then pounding your thumb instead of the nail. It’s the check that doesn’t come. The neighbor who knocks over our trashcan and leaves the scene of the mess. It’s the daily waiting for what should have been that still isn’t quite yet.

 

It’s on days when hardness seeks to harden our hearts that entering into celebration as a spiritual discipline can form us into fluid and flexible and festive people. With the spade of spiritual disciplines, we dig diligently and determinedly deep, to practice what we don’t feel like practicing. We savor the mystery and wonder of God even among the misfortunes that pummel our days.

 

Celebration happens in two ways. The easy way as we rejoice and delight because of what’s happening: a raise, a sunrise, a flower still blooming after the first snow. The disciplined way of celebration occurs as we rejoice and delight in spite of what’s happening. It’s finding the sparkle in the darkness: a simple pleasure among a plethora of pains.

 

Whichever way we come at it, celebration moves our hearts from the things on the surface to the deeper heart of Jesus.

 

How’s your celebration quota? What miracle, small or large, will you celebrate today?

 

 

Lane M. Arnold

© 2013. All rights reserved.

What would you grab in a fire?

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear. Walking early with a friend, we inhaled Colorado’s beauty as the sun rose, glowed on western ridges, and illuminated Pikes Peak.  Usually snow-capped in June, how bare it looked now due to winter’s snow drought. Another outlandishly hot, dry day loomed here in Colorado Springs. We walked among a tinderbox. Trees and bushes, shriveled and brittle, drooped beside wildflowers, wilted and weary-looking, all wavering in the early morning heat. We gulped water as we wandered. Parched landscape looked longingly at us, wishing for rain. At walk’s end, we returned to our own welcoming air-conditioned abodes.

After lunch, my husband, headed out for a haircut. Moments later he called, wondering if I too could see the angry black plume of smoke billowing off to the west. From our back deck, I saw it and shivered, despite rising temperatures. Fires, part of living in the arid high desert out west, are never a welcome sight.

Within the hour, our local television station reported a wildfire in Waldo Canyon. Just up Ute Valley Pass, an easy twenty-minute drive west of town from us, this popular hiking trail lingers along a ridge, after gaining quick altitude above the city. Firefighters hiked up as hikers scurried down as the fire increased.

Gathered here at an overlook above Garden of the Gods’ famous Kissing Camels rock formation, an erratic and aggressive fire grabs our attention with its aggressive regime. Like the square dancers’ do-si-do, winds swirl on remote ridges. We gasp with other gawkers, as flames flare, darting nearer and nearer the subdivision closest to Waldo Canyon. As we gaze mesmerized, the fire grows exponentially, spreading south and west, then sprints suddenly northwest. On one hand, I count the ridges between the fire and our home. Suddenly, I don’t want to be among the gawkers. Our eyes meet. We nod to one another, hop in the car, as my husband steers us home.

The television in the den billows information as dark and scary as those fiery plumes.  Meteorologists warn of wind, temperature and lack of humidity conditions. US Forest agents talk terrain from topographical maps. Fire department personnel pose possible plans of attack. Officials talk of evacuations.

Suddenly this is not a fire drill. This is not some question posed to get people thinking about their values. It’s a little too real. I feel as if I’ve had a gallon of caffeine, and I’m not a caffeine person. I’m revved up and a bouncing off the walls a bit. Evacuate? As in, leave because a fire is coming, and maybe come back to nothing? Really? Evacuate?

My mind runs as fast as a wildfire. What’ll I pack if we have to evacuate? What’s important to have with me as the fire potentially threatens to hop ridges, careen across canyons, and whirl on the winds?

I look across the room into those sparkling blue eyes of my husband and my son’s thoughtful brown ones. Here are my two greatest tangible values in this home. I can walk away with these two and I will have lost nothing of great value. It’s that simple. My beloveds, here and afar, are my greatest tangible value beyond God Himself.

The newscaster interrupts my thoughts. “Gather 72 hours worth of belongings to live off of, and be sure to take whatever you want to save.” I may come home to only ashes.  That fuels my thoughts further. A task is good to have when your mind is swirling.

I stash my favorite shirt, comfortable shoes, faded hiking shorts/pants, and toiletries into a canvas bag. My old black daypack, once carried on a Waldo Canyon hike, is gadget central: camera, computers, iPhone, and all companioning cords.  Memories, vital information, and writing projects reside there.  Looking through five boxes of photos, I choose one containing snapshots of my children growing up and some of my recent wedding day to this old/new sweetheart of mine. In my study, my hands linger over the worn leather Bible, its margins thick with faith responses to Jesus’ love notes. I toss it and a blank journal into a bag. That’s it. I’m done. If nothing else survives, I’ll be contented.

I circle back to the den, where the latest news shouts. Voluntary and mandatory evacuations creep closer and closer to our neighborhood. We scan the boundaries of the screen’s map. Where’s the squiggly line of our street? Are we pre-, voluntary, or mandatory evacuation? We decide we are none of the above, yet are just a few smoky miles north of one mandatory boundary. We could be ordered out next. That feels weighty and full of waiting.

“Be sure to gather important papers,” one newscaster says. I’ve not even considered that in my scavenging. “If there’s time,” he urges, “take pictures of each room in the house. That may make the insurance dealings somewhat manageable if all goes aflame.” Another task is good for my still swirling heart. My husband and son agree.

Time is one thing we seem to have. My iPhone in hand, I set off systematically, basement to top floor. Snapping photos, I notice so much stuff that matters so little at times like this.

What leap out are memories. My heart that’s been pounding full force grows calm, full of prayerful gratitude as I go. Smiles, laughter, even tears come. A snapshot on my desk of my three little ones, singing to me in their yellow slickers one long-ago rainy Georgia afternoon. Photographs my daughter gave me one Christmas from the travels we did together in Australia. The wooden cross in the kitchen from a women I’d mentored. A silly line drawing on the bookshelf, created thirty years ago, which one son found and recently framed for Mother’s Day. A woodcut and poem another son wrapped up for my birthday. The place my husband and I gather and pray each morning for our children and grandchildren. . A tiny angel ornament from a friend who’d been in Haiti. A watercolor from a prayer partner. The collage of childhood photos from my children’s life that greets me each morning upon my dresser. A bookcase full of journals, notes from almost sixty years worth of living. The photo of my husband and I at our high school prom and another one of our wedding in 2008. Love notes from our courtship. A few of these join the stash of things I’ll take with me.

If the fire leaps our way, today, tonight, tomorrow, no doubt I’ll miss some of this stuff that won’t fit into bags or boxes. But most of it has no hold on me. I finish taking photos of the last room then wander slowly back down to the den. My husband and son grin at my calmness. I smile back.

What will I take if my house is on fire or, in this case, in the line of a fire?  The ones here who are the fires of joy to my heart.

 

What about you? What would you grab if the fires come your way?

 

© Lane M. Arnold

June 23, 2012