An Element of Fun



In 1964 when the movie “Mary Poppins” lit up the movie screens, we discovered there was much we could do and learn through play. Of all the songs in the movie, “A Spoonful of Sugar,” was the one that certainly got our toes tapping as she helped Jane and Michael Banks hit on a new way to clean up the playroom.


Jane and Michael were clearly stunned at the idea that a job could involve fun or that a task could become “a piece of cake.” I am sure every adult wanted to try how that might work at home to get their own children to accomplish the things that needed to be done.


childhood-fun-game-168866Even without the magic the movie created, the idea of how a task could be made into some sort of play or fun was a great one. Moms everywhere started looking at the game they could create about picking up and putting away toys at the end of every day, looking for that “element of fun.”


Depending on what era you were born or even where you were born seems to influence whether or not we enjoy learning to play. How our parents viewed play and fun was also a major influencer.


In my home there was more of a serious focus and I didn’t really learn to value fun and play. I know now that was a loss not only for its enjoyment, but also for the value of it that I don’t think many realized for a long while.


The irony was seeing how much my parents enjoyed fun and play with our children as adorable-boy-child-1006103they were growing up. All sorts of games and fun projects were always on the docket when my parents babysat our children. What a gift!


Since I still needed to learn remedial fun and play, our children got the bonus of learning it from my parents.  They now have great times playing and having fun as adults and they have passed that along to our grandchildren. From all of them I am continuing to grow in that arena and I hope they don’t grow weary of my need of their modeling as a reminder when we visit.


Why is play and fun important?


Play lets children learn creativity in the midst of imagination with a result of healthy adorable-asian-children-bed-860538brain development. Play usually is multi-sensory so physical, cognitive, and emotional domains are strengthened. Children learn important motor skills through play and also bump into its value as a tool to work through stress or crankiness. That translates into more effective problem solving and coping skills for the rest of their lives.


Andrew J. Bauman writes in Stumbling Toward Wholeness:


 “Authentic play is one of the most vulnerable activities we can participate in.”


And it isn’t just valuable for children. Adults need it too! (YES!!!) Play and fun stimulate our minds and boost our creativity and imagination. It can be a key to learning more about how to adapt, elevate problem solving, improve relational skills and connection with others.


Therapeutic play has proven to be a significant tool in a psychologist or therapist’s toolbox to bring hope and healing to children and adults who have been wounded and broken. It can give expression to unidentified feelings of fear, anxiety, loneliness, and pain.


Healthy play and therapeutic play rejuvenate us. Not so when we use play to escape from real life problems, situations, or past memories. Play used in order to escape doesn’t child-fashion-field-42229restore us and can actually exhaust us as we use more and more energy trying to run away. It takes us awhile to recognize that, however, so we can exacerbate the problem until we totally crash after adding more and more “play” to our days.


When I read Andrew J. Bauman’s book (Stumbling Toward Wholeness) a few months ago, he shared insights about play that have a direct connection to why it is so important and why God wants us to enjoy and participate in fun and play:


“Somehow we have come to think that God wants only our seriousness and devotion; but play takes courage. To live out of our playful hearts is to experience the fullness of our intimacy with God. It is in the play that we let our guards down and become most open to what he has in mind for us.”


Somehow some of us grow up with the ideas that play is folly and of no use.  We can even feel shame for the enjoyment of play. But this actually can inhibit our intimacy with God according to Bauman.


When play is not used to escape or run from what lurks inside us, it is a marvelous thing.


Healthy play opens up a myriad of good things God wants us to discover.


“When we trust God’s intimate love and care, we can let go and enjoy the abandonment of play. Are you willing to look foolish in order to enter into holy kindness? Are you able to receive kindness through play?  How do you play, and how does it change you?” 

Andrew J. Bauman


Whatever Happened to Kindness?




When I talk with my grandchildren I always discover new words that are popping up. Some are a great deal of fun, but others may leave me scratching my head. For example, one of my grandsons will often respond to something good that is being suggested as “solid.”  Another grandson is known to say something is really “bad” and that now means “good.”


It seems like just yesterday that many of us said something was “cool” at similar times. Oxford Dictionaries Online say we add about 1,000 new words per year and other words disappear or appear to shift in meaning or usage.


One word I hear far less than I once did is the word kind. I recall hearing admonitions to be kind to others not only from my parents or Sunday School teachers, but also my school teachers. I even heard it on some of the popular TV shows of the 50’s.


637f54b9995a324f70fdcf50ec3470f4--morning-thoughts-deep-thoughtsIn the turbulent 60’s the word kind seemed to begin to fade from common usage. I specifically recall it reappearing when President George H.W. Bush called for a “kinder and gentler” nation in accepting his nomination to the presidency in 1988.


As I go about daily life I am persuaded that we need more kindness than ever before. If I ask someone what kind means, he or she will often say it means being “nice.” That is somewhat of a vague description when the dictionary states plainly that it means, “being friendly, generous, and considerate.”


Proverbs 11:17 (NLT) makes a strong case for kindness:


“Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you.”


Given the state of the world, society, our neighborhoods, schools, and government that could point to why so much destruction is occurring.


I recently was reading Romans in the Message and in chapter 2 as we near the end of verse 4 Paul gives insight into the kindness of God and its use:


“God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.”


I wonder if kindness began to dim when we were deceived into believing it reflects weakness.


Andrew J. Bauman noted in Stumbling Toward Wholeness:


 “Love precedes kindness. Without love we cannot be kind.”


That suggests the core issue is love or the lack of it, love that comes from One greater 28da9450bf3699472c6ac8f1697643fb-kindness-matters-kindness-quotesthan us. Too often we love (or try to) based on a feeling. The Lord loves because He is love.


And here’s the deal. We need to start with accepting it from Him and appropriate his kindness toward us to be transformed into someone who is kind. Somehow we get that part mixed up and either let ourselves totally off the hook or hold ourselves hostage despite his offer of grace.


“Kindness to self is a lost art in Christendom, yet without it we become stuck in the early part of the restoration journey. Kindness is the grease of God to get our transformation moving. Kindness gives us the ability to press on even in the darkest of times.”

Andrew J. Bauman


Maybe we get mired down in that belief I mentioned earlier: kindness means niceness. It is not mere kindness.


Bauman says:


“Kindness is not for the faint of heart nor the chronic people pleaser.”


If we are looking for examples of kindness in scripture, we can start with the father in the parable of the prodigal son. We can also see it in the confrontation of Nathan to David when David orders Uriah the Hittite to the front lines of battle for a certain death so David won’t be exposed for sleeping with Uriah’s wife.


andrea-tummons-448834-unsplashNathan loved David. His loving confrontation is an example of kindness toward David. Why?  It led to David’s repentance. There could be no greater kindness to someone Nathan loved. There you see again that love is the source of the kindness.


If our daily life is not showing evidences of kindness, it’s time to look beyond the superficial behaviors that appear kind and look at our heart condition.


In Galatians 6:22-23 (NIV) Paul writes plainly that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit at work within us:


But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”


Whatever happened to kindness?


When our heart condition is not residing in the grace, mercy, truth, and love of the Lord, it seems unlikely we will see much evidence of kindness in our life.


And maybe that is where we need to start realizing that it starts with each one of us becoming what we say we are, so that the entire world can see the Lord’s transforming grace at work.













“A Cover is Not the Book”




How often I have heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” over the course of my lifetime. I wish I could say I have always heeded that admonition, but unfortunately that is not true. If we are talking about actual books, the color, the font, the size of the book, the quality and color of the paper impact me, and more beyond cost. But the saying is not really pointing to books so much as the importance of not making judgments based on first impressions.


I was reminded of that old saying when I recently went to see the marvelous new movie, “Mary Poppins Returns.  One of the delightful songs is entitled “A Cover is Not the Book.” If you have seen the movie, you may already be humming the jaunty tune. (If you haven’t seen it, don’t miss it.)


Tucked inside this delightful scene, the lyrics of the song bring home the point:


“He said a 

Cover is not the book
So open it up and take a look
Cause under the cover one discovers
That the king may be a crook
Chapter titles are like signs
And if you read between the lines
You’ll find your first impression was mistook
For a cover is nice
But a cover is not the book”


book-bindings-book-series-books-1560093I may have been more impacted as I recalled the time spent to determine the cover of the book I published this past July. But even with that I am aware what is inside is what is most important.


The lyrics gave me pause as I considered whether or not I have missed some books that are real treasures because of how unappealing the cover was to me.


The lyrics challenged me to consider how much I might be prone to judgment of people and things based on “the cover” even though I purpose not to. We would all like to say that “the cover” doesn’t matter, but if we give the matter much thought most of us must admit that influences us.


As I read in the Bible I see a great many evidences of it happening there, so perhaps it is endemic to humanity. Israel’s first king, Saul, comes to mind. 1 Samuel 9:2 (ESV) reads this way:


“And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.”


Everything about Saul’s “cover” appears to be very attractive, but as the story unfolds blur-books-close-up-159866and we look into his character and deeds we see there is a lot more to know.


When God rejects Saul and Samuel is sent to anoint another king, he goes to the house of Jesse to look over his sons. Many are quite handsome it appears, but they are not God’s choice. When Jesse is asked if he has no other sons, look at his initial description of “the cover” of David in 1 Samuel 16:11 (NIV):


“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”


Sounds like he is seen as “just a boy” without much credit to his skill set.


Of course when Samuel sees David, the description changes and Samuel noted David was “glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.”  Samuel is describing “the cover” again.


daria-nepriakhina-474558-unsplashFew of us can forget how Jacob got tricked into marrying Leah instead of Rachel. Leah is described as lacking any loveliness and “weak eyes.”


It’s little wonder we might struggle with the value of appearance or “the cover” of ourselves or anyone else. Everything that is visible is subject to judgment as though what is visible is an accurate representation of who we truly are.  Women spend a great deal of money and time on potions and lotions to make “the cover” as attractive as possible. We know every seen aspect of us can make a difference: how tall or short, how thin or heavy, skin tones, hair color and style, pitch of our voice, young or old, and so on.


There is more than a little chatter among women on this topic, but men are not immune. There is concern about height, musculature, weight, how much hair, young, old, deep voice or higher voice, and so on.


Maybe it is time for each of us and all of us to remember once again “a cover is not the book.”  We may miss some pretty amazing people, places, and things (as well as books) and also be guilty of judging others in ways we would never want to be judged.


“He said a

Cover is not the book
So open it up and take a look
Cause under the cover one discovers
That the king may be a crook
Chapter titles are like signs
And if you read between the lines
You’ll find your first impression was mistook
For a cover is nice
But a cover is not the book”







Challenging Unbelief




It can be easy to think we have gotten beyond unbelief when we have known the Lord for a while. Most of us have a basis for our relationship with the Lord and a sense of the tenets that form that foundation. Some of us have done enough reading in the Word to have some muscle attached to those beliefs and we would likely deny there are any issues of unbelief in our lives.


Maybe we have not examined ourselves closely enough to discover there can be remnants of it still attached.


Before disagreeing with that statement, I wonder if a passage in Genesis 18 would challenge us? Few would question the faith and faithfulness of Abraham and Sarah and yet this issue of Sarah’s barrenness reveals how unbelief influenced them and set in motion a long list of consequences.


One of the obvious ones is when Sarah offers Hagar to Abraham so an heir can be born through her with Sarah thinking that resolves things. At the outset her unbelief is evident, but since Abraham agrees it seems he was not sure God would complete his promises to him either.


caffeine-coffee-content-891674When we get to Genesis 18 the story is continuing and Sarah is caught laughing when she overhears God’s messengers to Abraham that a son would be born to this elderly couple in a year. Unbelief couldn’t be more obvious. Ouch!!


The messengers pose the question to Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”


How simple it can be to read these great Bible stories and never see the application to our own lives.


As hopes and dreams lay in a corner of our lives without coming to fruition, what goes through our mind?  That’s especially true if we thought those hopes and dreams were something God had placed in our hearts. Time goes by and years pass. We doubt ourselves; doubt the hopes and dreams, and sometimes God for his silence or refusal to act for us.


As each decade creeps up, the doubt and unbelief can grow. We stop talking or praying about those faded hopes and dreams. We can despair of hope and start to think life with its hopes and dreams has passed us by (not unlike Sarah). We decide we are happy enough, blessed enough, but in the corner of our hearts the hopes and dreams aren’t really dead.  When someone else realizes fulfillment of something similar to ours, we feel a prick of “what might have been.”


We may be tempted to review our mistakes and sins and determine we stopped God from working in our lives as a result of those things.


How often we can forget that God’s purposes of grace are not thwarted by our sins or failures. He actually specializes in working through ordinary (often weak and flawed) men and women despite all that and sometimes because of all that.


Even a casual reading of the Bible will find sins, flaws, and weakness in those we commonly refer to as “heroes of the faith.” Such things did not halt God’s purposes and plans. What causes us to think it would be different for any one of us?


Paul addresses this in 2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV) as follows:


“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”


Am I saying those hopes and dreams may still come to pass?


Yes….especially if the Lord birthed them in us.


That passage in Genesis 18:14 that asks if anything is too hard for the Lord goes on with a key element. The Lord says, “at the appointed time…”


In other words those hopes and dreams, purposes and plans (if they are from the Lord) action-adult-athlete-1369642are set in his time to bring Him the most glory and do the most to build up the Kingdom. It matters not to Him if you are 20 or 30, 40 or 50, or even 70, 80, or beyond.


Seniors are not necessarily sedentary and many are on the move in more ways than you might think. Last year, at 74, I published my first book after dreaming of writing a book since high school. In the recent release of the movie, “Mary Poppins Returns,” Dick Van Dyke (now 93) does a cameo reprise of his role from the original Mary Poppins movie from 54 years ago and does all the dance moves himself.


We can challenge our unbelief if we leave the hopes and dreams in the Lord’s trusting care for his timetable.


We also can challenge our unbelief if we keep in mind that big hopes and dreams can never be accomplished without Him so we know when it is “the appointed time” He will do “exceedingly, abundantly above all we can ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).


He loves us best and knows us better than anyone.
















From the very beginning of the beginning, the Bible points to his lush creation. In Genesis we see a fruitful tree and we see a fruitful tree again near the end of Revelation. And throughout this fascinating story, we hear God’s admonishment to be fruitful.


Fruitfulness is spoken of not just in producing children, but also in the New Testament we are commanded to be fruitful in relation to Christ-like characteristics. We are to be fruitful also in making disciples to follow this Savior and soon-coming King. The word fruitful appears three dozen times in scripture.


But what does being fruitful look like?vitor-lopes-1141087-unsplash


Does it vary in season for us?


Growing up in the Midwest United States on a farm gave me a front row seat at fruitfulness in the orchard, assorted other fruit trees, garden, and fields of my father. As a child it was so common to me that I did not even appreciate how “rich” we were around our table as a result of my father and mother’s labor. (In money we were not rich, but I did not yet know there were other ways to measure wealth.)


The apples, pears, plums, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, blueberries, and blackberries grew at various times on our 60-acre farm. There were vegetables and our own eggs, milk, and meat.


roberta-sorge-143084-unsplashSo many years later I can experience the sensory memory of my father’s smokehouse with sides of bacon and ham hanging inside or the sweet smells of cherries or peaches being canned by my mother in the kitchen.


In reading Margaret Feinberg’s new book, Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food MakersI learned about a tree that did not grow on our farm…the fig tree. Some of us may never have tasted a fresh fig and only know the taste of dried figs in various baked goodies. But discovering the individual qualities of the fig tree reminded me that my father handled each fruit tree and each thing planted in our garden according to its unique nature. Yes, there were similarities and some things were true for all of them, but one of the things I greatly loved about my father was the knowledge and respect he had for all living things he was stewarding on the farm.


That reminded me of my heavenly Father as I became an adult and understood more about growing things. You see I think it is quite apparent that God sees our uniqueness, our foibles and the gifts He has tucked inside. He stewards our growth over time knowing just what pruning needs to be done, what nutrients we need, and how we need to be tended to be fruitful and grow in his likeness. He is often referred to as a shepherd and He is that, but I also believe He is a gardener as well.


It can be easy when we have been a believer for a bit and know about fruitfulness to matthias-heil-156834-unsplashapply that old habit of comparison into our observations of others and ourselves. From Margaret’s book I learned some things about the fig tree that might rein in that habit.


“From a distance, the fig tree appears fruitless, only when we draw closer does the fruit appear.” 

Margaret Feinberg


Tucked inside this sentence I see that too often we measure fruitfulness from a distance. That is a limited view indeed and one far too common. But when we get closer not only can we observe fruitfulness in others, they can observe ours as well. Perhaps that is what makes it easier to stay on the periphery of our relationships where we can talk about such matters with ease and yet not be seen for who we are or are not.


How quickly we forget that the Lord looks at our hearts and knows us intimately. He doesn’t look at the latest “headline” about us or check Twitter. He doesn’t count how many friends we have on Facebook or if we even have an account. He doesn’t consider us unfit for use if we are “too young” or “too old.”


Listen to something the fig tree can demonstrate for us:


 “Unlike most fruit trees, figs are multi-cropping, which means they are harvested numerous times each year.”  Margaret Feinberg



Never on our farm did we have a tree that produced multiple harvests each year.


There are other lessons to be learned from the fig tree:


  • Figs ripen slowly (“so Scripture ripens with new discoveries as we study. The more one observes, the more one discovers.”)


  • It was a sycamore-fig tree that Zacchaeus had climbed into to get a glimpse of Jesus (“The Hebrew name for the sycamore-fig is shikma, a word whose root means ‘rehabilitate.’)


  • A wild fig tree can produce 10,000 figs a year, but a cultivated fig tree produce 50,000 to 75,000 figs


As I consider the fruitfulness of the fig tree, some of Margaret’s words linger in my mind, heart, and spirit:


“God isn’t waiting for one particular season in the distant future to yield fruitfulness in our lives. He’s working throughout every season and every harvesting cycle.”


“Sooner or later we’ll all be tempted to believe that our best days are behind us. We’ll measure ourselves more by what we can no longer do than by what we still can. We’ll feel washed up and washed out. But the fig tree challenges this expectation, too. One of the beauties of the fig is that, once planted, the tree will continue to produce fruit for eighty to a hundred years. That’s Christ’s vision for us: that we will continue to yield the fruit of Christlikeness and find our satisfaction in him long after gray hairs sprout and crow’s feet nestle near our eyes.”

 Margaret Feinberg


How powerful are the lessons about fruitfulness we can glean that appears over and over again from the beginning of God’s story in Genesis to the very end of the book of Revelation. 

Taste and See…