Crisscross Double Dutch
"I don't play very well."
How frequently I hear this lament in the Listening Groups. Not only does this seem to be a common lament for contemporary Christians, it is also a problem with which I deeply identify. I either never learned to play, or, through the decades of ministry, I have forgotten how!
So, much of this year (since Hungry Souls conducted workshops on Lucia Capacchione's Recovery of Your Inner Child: The Highly Acclaimed Method for Liberating Your Inner Self), I've been working at learning how to play. (Notice the conundrum in that sentence--it's bad when you have to work at having fun!) I am learning that it is important for me to have days in which there are NOT lists of things that MUST-BE-DONE.
David Elkind, the child-development specialist, writes in The Power of Play that, developmentally, it is crucial for us to learn to integrate work, play and love--the three essential eras of development. He writes:
It is important at the outset to correct a common misunderstanding about work and play. Work is often associated with pain, and play with pleasure. … Play when divorced from work can be painful. Consider a teacher who has innovative ideas about how to make the subject matter interesting and exciting for his students. If that teacher cannot implement his ideas, thanks to a test-driven curriculum, he will be frustrated and unhappy. Contrariwise, a worker whose ideas are welcomed and rewarded by her employer is going to feel happy at work. Brought together, play and work are pleasurable; it is only their separation that is painful. And play, in the absence of love and work, is simply entertainment.
Consequently, before plunging into the days, I am attempting to pause and think about how I can make the work before me delightful. In my prayer journal, I frequently write, "Help me to remember that I am joyfully collaborating with You to co-create a delightful and richly productive day." This seems to have to be a cooperative effort between my finite and all-too-serious humanity and God's infinite and joyful divinity.
When I feel that old dread (of too much to do), or that mounting stress (of not enough help or time) begin to rise, I stop and ask myself, "How can I make the tasks ahead of me fun?" Mostly, it is a matter of entering fully into the activity--of lingering to make sure the Christmas table is really beautiful, of anticipating the guests coming into my home, of creating "magic" (as someone said to me recently) in the days and in the events, of allowing myself to feel how lovely, how beautiful, how enchanting each moment of each day can possibly be.
This past fall, Pathway Ministries offered a participatory, meditative retreat using Millennium Park in Chicago as its "spiritual" environment. Each participant was given an iPod on which various kinds of music were recorded. The park was divided into six stations, and we were turned loose with a printed journal containing Scripture and questions to use at each site. The goal was to spend 20 minutes at each place.
The Cloud Gate sculpture (aka "The Bean") was our first stop. Here we listened to "Orange Sky" by Alexi Murdoch and pondered Donald Miller's thought, "The very scary thing about religion, to me, is that people actually believe God is who they think He is."
One of the great risks of this kind of venture is that the planners have no control over what else might be happening in such a public space, and in that lays the possible enchantment. Sure enough, the second station by the Millennium Park was where the American Double Dutch League had been assigned to demonstrate their routines for competition. Various teams (the West End Double-Duty Rope-Twisters from the YMCA in Cincinnati, for instance—who I was informed had starred in the movie Jump) were performing multiple, amazing turns and foot-stomping rhythms to the exactions of the turning dual ropes.
An attractive (fit and trim) middle-aged woman jumped into the ropes. She was amazing, moving as fast as the turning lines hit the pavement. I started to laugh. When she was done, I heard a friend say to her, "You were really good."
"Well," the middle-aged rope-jumper answered, "I was raised in the city. We were poor, but we had jump ropes." Obviously. And, as is my tendency, I began to take notes. I would certainly want to write about this. Edging closer to the adult organizers, I asked them about the competition routines, hurriedly recording their answers in the margins of my Pathways journal.
The next thing I knew, however, my adult daughter was dragging me by the hand. "You need to get into the experience, not just stand on the outside all the time," she said, pushing me toward a double dutch team. And then I (a person who has not jumped two inches off the ground in the last decades) was navigating my own set of swooshing ropes. "Just jump," shouted an adult leader. "Trust the turners to get the ropes under your feet." I began to sense that my Lord wanted to make a point. Play is as much a matter of trusting as anything else we do in our lives.
Now, interestingly enough, the music for this station on my iPod was, "You Have Redeemed My Soul" and "Mighty Is the Power of the Cross." The organizers of this meditative experience could not have planned on the Double Dutch League, but, as I sat with the Scripture from Isaiah 30:15 ("This is what the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'In repentance and rest is your salvation;/ In quietness and trust is your strength'")—I heard that sure inner voice saying to me, "The Cross is not only to save you from your sins, it is also to free you to play."
I heard this again in the next station, The Crown Fountain, where I listened to "The Happy Song." And when my daughter and I discovered that The Lurie Garden (Station Five) was closed for the season as well as the BP Bridge that spans the Outer Drive to the Beach, but could see that mounted policemen and women were guarding the streets because the Columbus Day Parade was forming, we decided just to go with the flow. We listened to Allison Krause's Down to the River to Pray—a street is a river of sorts—and Van Morrison's In the Garden, all the while shouting and waving to Richard Daley and his wife Maggie. "Yo! Mayor Daley! Maggie Daley! Over here!" (They gladly waved and smiled back, the crowds being a little thin at the Millennium Park end of the parade route.) We clapped to the beat of the marching honor guards; we marched in step along the sidewalk. Tra-LUMP-la-la. La-la-la-la. Tra-LUMP-la-la. La-la-la-la.
"And you went into a trance (tra-LUMP)
Play. I'm not very good at play—but I'm learning. Dr. Elkind again: "Further, when play, love, and work are all involved, learning and development are the most effective. Play is not a luxury but rather a crucial dynamic of healthy physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development at all age levels."
Christmas is mostly for those who know how to play. Don't let the demands of this season derail you from "joyfully collaborating with the Creator to co-create a delightful and richly productive season."
Dear Heavenly Father,
Soulish Food Schedule & Other Reminders
Have a wonderful holiday season! This will be the last Soulish Food for this year. Sally Craft and I are going to take a break (some time for play!). The next Soulish Food will come early in January 2008.
Don't forget the writer's mentoring opportunity. And sign up for the Three-Day Retreat of Silence. Check out the Stratford Tour in July 2008 and the France Pilgrimage in October/November 2008 on the Hungry Souls travel website (www.Hungry-Souls.com). The New Year's Schedule of mentoring events will be posted on the Hungry Souls ministry website (www.HungrySouls.org) at the end of this month.
Three-Day Retreat of Silence
St. Mary's Monastery, Rock Island, Illinois; February 11 - 14, 2008.
We have six women who have registered for this retreat; that means there is room for six moreÑeven I can do this math! If you would like to reserve one of those remaining places, $50 will do that. (Make your check out to Hungry Souls and mail it to Box 30, Wheaton, IL 60189.) The total fee for 3 nights and meals is $250. We need to have full payment by January 30, 2008.
We can caravan together from various places in the Chicago area. If some of you would like to fly in to Chicago, we will be happy to make airport runs, pick you up and house you in our homes (if you have to stay overnight).
This is a-not-to-be-missed opportunity. We observe three daily offices (services of prayer) with the community that lives here and has given their lives to the work of prayer and praise. Last year's group lobbied for a five-day retreat of silence!
For more information, contact me at .
Stratford Shakespeare Festival
July 7 - 12, 2008
The cost for six plays, 5 nights housing in delightful B&Bs, chats with the actors, picnic along the Avon, lunch with the Mainses, delightful mind-challenging conversations each morning over breakfast is $1100 per person per shared room (it is $300 extra for a single room). A $500 deposit will reserve your place. We must have all reservations by May 2008 and full payments by June 1, 2008.
Respond to David Mains ( ) as soon as you know your plans; that will help us greatly. We have 4 B&Bs reserved and almost filled and will have to reserve another if our count goes higher. Bravo for the Bard!
Writer's Mentoring Program
I am eager to mentor would-be writers (or newish writers) how to be true in themselves and in their creative work.
So, if there are those on the Soulish Food list who really, really want to learn how to write well, I have several HUGE projects I can't put together without help. If you will come alongside me and assist with these projects, my promise is:
• To teach you how to write in the best way possible, by writing.
I will need a commitment of ONE YEAR from January 2008 to January 2009, along with the ability to attend a once-a-month team training meeting. There will be no fee for this, and you will be working for me, assisting me with my projects. However, I promise that if I feel you have potential as a professional writer and you want to walk further in this arduous "80% process," (see Soulish Food 6-38: "See Places That No Longer Exist") I will be happy to mentor as far as I am able. Contact me at . Eight people from all over have already responded. We will work with e-mails and conference calls.
The Soulish Food e-mails are being posted each week on the Hungry Souls Web site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to register on the Web site to receive the weekly newsletter. You might want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to www.HungrySouls.org.
When I feel that old dread
(of too much to do), or that mounting stress (of not enough help or time) begin to rise, I stop and ask myself, "How can I make the tasks ahead of me fun?"
Recovery of Your Inner Child: The Highly Acclaimed Method for Liberating Your Inner Self
By Lucia Capacchione
highly acclaimed method for reparenting the Inner Child and liberating
the true self. Journaling and art for healing from abuse, and for
finding the playful, creative, spiritual child within.
The Power of Play:
By David Elkind, Ph.D.
In this fascinating look at the importance of letting kids be kids, David Elkind argues that "play is being silenced." According to Elkind, a child psychologist and author of All Grown Up and No Place to Go, important, unstructured play is too often replaced in modern times by organized activities, academics or passive leisure activities such as watching television and playing video games. … With clarity and insight, Elkind calls for society to bring back long recesses, encourage imagination and let children develop their minds at a natural pace (from the "starred" review in Publishers Weekly for the hardcover edition).