Tag Archives: Playground

It’s Not About Me

When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mustered Judah and Benjamin—a hundred and eighty thousand able young men—to go to war against Israel and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam.
2 Chronicles 11:1 (NIV)

As a follower of Jesus, I am aware that God is at work in my life and in the lives of those around me. “You are not your own,” Paul wrote to the Jesus followers in Corinth, “Therefore honor God.” The practical application of this is that I think about the life decisions Wendy and I make. I not only concern myself with what we want, but also with what we sense God doing in our lives and the lives of others.

I found it fascinating this morning that King Rehoboam of Judah, having experienced the humility of having ten of the tribes of Israel rebel against him, immediately musters is fighting men for war. This is such a classic male reaction. This is the stuff of boys on a playground. “You wanna fight about it?” 

In describing Rehoboam’s reaction, the Chronicler is careful to also share with us Rehoboam’s motivation. Rehoboam wanted to regain the kingdom for whom? God? The legacy of his father and grandfather? Nope. Rehoboam wanted to regain the kingdom for himself.

What a contrast Rehoboam is to his grandfather David who, having been anointed King as a boy, refused to claim the throne for himself. David waited for God to arrange the circumstances and make it happen. David was all about honoring what God was doing and waiting for God to raise him up. Rehoboam was all about acting out of his momentary rage and humiliation to get what he himself wanted.

Do I want to be a Rehoboam, or do I want to be a David?

That’s the question I find myself asking in the quiet this morning. Of course, I choose the latter. I want what God wants for my life and the lives of my loved ones. It means that it’s not all about me and what I want, and that’s exactly what Jesus taught, to love others as I love myself and to treat others as I would want to be treated.

Warriors to Writers

American troops in an LCVP landing craft appro...
American troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach 6 June 1944. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sons of Ulam were brave warriors who could handle the bow. They had many sons and grandsons—150 in all. 1 Chronicles 8:40 (NIV)

I remember well the conversations between boys on the playground of Woodlawn Elementary School. There is something God instilled in boys that we begin to measure one another by physical strength and prowess at a young age. When comparisons on the playground ended in some kind of dead heat, the arguing escalated to comparing fathers, grandfathers, and ancestors for bragging rights. Those bragging rights often rested on military service, especially those whose male ancestors fought in a war.

I admit that, at the time, I always feared this escalation of generational military comparison. My friend, Scott, had an actual saber from one of his forebears who served in the Civil War. That was the ultimate trump card. As far as I knew, there wasn’t too much of the warrior spirit to brag about on either side of the family. My uncle was a navy man in the Korean war, but being a cook on a landing craft wasn’t about to go over big with the boys on the playground. My maternal grandfather served in the Civil Defense during WWII, but having a helmet and billy club to defend Des Moines from the Imperial Forces of Japan wasn’t exactly the stuff of playground legend either. I still remember that billy club. It was made from a sawn off pool cue, but that didn’t compare to a Civil War saber.

As I’ve been reading through the genealogies of the tribes of Israel the past week, I’ve noticed that “mighty warriors” get called out quite often by the Chronicler. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. And, I get it. A few weeks ago our country celebrated Memorial Day followed by an apt commemoration of D-Day. We honored the warriors, both men and women, who put themselves on the front lines to defend our country, our culture, our freedom, and our values from those who have sought to take that away.

Around 450 B.C. when the scribe was first penning the genealogies of the book of Chronicles, I believe things were far more precarious than anything we know in America today. City states and villages were under constant threat of raids and attacks. The Chronicles were written after both Israel and Judah had suffered destruction and exile at the hands of Assyria and Babylon. “Mighty Warriors” who could defend a village, town, or tribe were honored because they were an every day insurance policy against being raided, pillaged, tortured and killed.

Everyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about the arts, but it is not lost on me that the freedom and affluence which affords me the luxury of being able to explore every medium of art was made possible by the blood sacrifice of warriors. I have always heard versions of the quote, “I was a soldier, so my son can be a farmer, so his son can be a poet.” I did a little digging to find the source of that quote and found it predicated on a letter our American founder, John Adams, wrote to his wife, Abigail:

I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy.  My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce, and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry, and Porcelaine.
Letter to Abigail Adams, May 12, 1780

Today, I’m thankful for the warriors, leaders, farmers, teachers, and businesspeople who paved the way for writers, poets, musicians, artists, actors, and playwrights to work in peace and freedom.

Talkin’ Smack

Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, 42 sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy. “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods. “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled.

David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel!
1 Samuel 17:41-46 (NLT)

Every boy who’s ever waged battle on the neighborhood playground knows the ancient art of intimidation. It has to be as old as Cain and Abel and I wouldn’t be surprised if Cain and his brother didn’t exchange a few words before Cain did the dastardly deed. Watch any sporting event and you will see the competitors constantly jawing at one another and exchanging trash talk on the court, the field, or the pitch.

I found it interesting this morning to realize that even David and Goliath talked a little smack. David let his words fly in defense of God before he let his stone fly. What a sight it must have been for the armies watching on as this shepherd boy refused to be intimidated by the nine foot giant warrior and talked right back.

Today, I’m thinking about the ways the world, our enemy, and others may try to intimidate us. Jesus said that we shouldn’t be surprised when people try to intimidate, speak evil and persecute those who follow. The song by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers is flitting through my mind this morning:

No, I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of Hell
but, I won’t back down.

Life in a Parka with the Hood Cinched Shut

SONY DSC
source: andy_emcee via Flickr

 

Chapter-a-Day Genesis 28

 

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” Genesis 28:16 (NLT)

 

When I was a kid, the Parka coat became all the winter fashion rage. The Parka’s extra large hood with fake fur lining not only covered your head, but the drawstring would cinch the hood shut until you only had a small peep hole to look through. The parka was effective at blocking the wind from your face on a blustery Iowa winter day, but became a detriment when the kids on the playground started throwing snowballs. Your vision was so terribly restricted that you were completely unaware that a snowball was hurtling toward your head with the speed of a major league fastball. In fact, given the Parka hood’s additional restriction of your hearing you probably hadn’t noticed that a snowball fight had broken out at all.

 

In the past couple of weeks we’ve been reading about God’s continual presence and interjection in the lives of Abraham and his descendants. I find it fascinating that in today’s chapter Jacob suddenly had an epiphany and was aware of God’s presence in a dream. The truth of the matter is, if he’d been more aware, he might have recognized God’s continual presence and work in he and his family.

 

How much in life do we miss simply because we bind ourselves up in a spiritual Parka with the hood cinched shut? How much of our life is spent with the eyes of our heart so insulated by self-centered concerns that we cannot see the obvious presence and work of God all around us?

 

Today, I want to be fully present and aware of God’s presence and purposes which are at work all around me.

 

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 21

Playground rules.

"These are the laws that you are to place before them:" Exodus 21:1 (MSG)

Do you remember the law of the playground? When I think back on it, the playground was a vicious place. There might have been an adult or two standing by the school door casually making sure no one died, but once you got out by the jungle him it was a whole new world. It was survival of the fittest, baby. The older, bigger and meaner you were the more clout you carried and the more scared followers you had in your herd. It was mob mentality to the core. The weak and defenseless were easy targets while the herd moved in unison behind the playground leaders out of self-defense.

Now, expand those rules and mentality to a regional level. Expand it to a national level.

We can scarce imagine a world without laws. Life without a well-defined set of civic rules, prescribed authority, and clearly laid out legal system is almost beyond our comprehension. But, for Moses and the millions of Israelites wandering through the desert behind him, there is no formal set of rules. The law of the playground is at work in the daily lives of a nation of people who have suddenly become nomads. The chaos between the lines of the chapters passed down to us must have been mind-boggling.

It's easy as modern readers to scratch our heads at these chapters of rules and laws, but I'm trying to wrap my brain around what this must have meant for them. As I read through the chapters yesterday and today, I think about the weight of responsibility on Moses to help God define a set of laws and a legal system for an entire nation of people who find themselves homeless wanderers.

It's pretty impressive to think that the legal system we take for granted traces its' roots all the way back to these very chapters of Exodus and to these people wandering in the desert 10,000 years ago.

creative commons photo courtesy of flickr and funkybug

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 140

The law of the playground. I prayed, "God, you're my God! Listen, God! Mercy! Psalm 140:6 (MSG)

I remember, as a kid, playing a game called "Mercy." It was your typical alpha male, king of the mountain, game of physical domination and abject humiliation. I'm sure it was created by some bully named Zeke who thought it up after he'd already given wedgies to every kid on the playground. Basically, two people face each other and put their hands together as if they were giving each other high fives. However, they lace their fingers together so that their hands are now clasping. Then they try to bend the other person's hands back until one of them is on their knees in submission and cries, "Mercy!"

How easily we come to equate "mercy" with defeat and humiliation. How quickly mercy becomes a cry to be avoided as we hang desperately to our pride and rugged self-sufficiency. As a child on the playground I learned that asking for "mercy" was a repugnant admission of defeat.

But, God is no school ground bully. If life were a mere playground game, God would have sent Jesus to be King of the Mountain. From his throne, Jesus would tyrannically force people in submission to his will. Instead, God sent Jesus to suffer humiliation and death on our behalf. The way of salvation became, not a meritous reward we earn in the dominating power of our own goodness, but an undeserved gift to any who are willing to pick up their own cross, follow Jesus and cry to God: "Mercy!"

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and mangee