Keeping God before our Eyes

Benedict

Rhythms

We accomplish so many tasks during the day without thinking about them: getting up, brushing our teeth, getting kids ready for school, having seemingly meaningless conversations at work, trying to make it through the day so that we can get home. And then once we get home what should we make for dinner? And once we finally get kids to bed or watch our favorite show we snuggle into our own sheets and maybe for a brief moment this thought pops into our head: “what just happened today?” Our rhythms often betray our own survival mentality which lacks coherence or purpose. It is this question (What just happened?) which reminds us of the importance of taking a spiritual inventory of the moments of our days.

Sunday Sermon

Rev. Liz just preached a sermon today (August 13– see here) as part of the series on the Apostles’ Creed which focused on the phrase “…He will come to judge the living and the dead…” and in her sermon there is a helpful reminder that we need to live our days with the reminder that God is Holy. Yes, God in His mercy has paid for the sins of His people, and yet it is also true that time itself is a stewardship from God to be used to show His glory and love to the world. Each day invites us to turn from our past sins and to see Christ in the people we meet and moments we are given. However, many of us struggle to create healthy rhythms of life which redeem our daily moments and relationships that God puts in our path.

Small Group

In the Fall, there will be a Thursday evening small group for those interested in reexamining how they live the daily rhythms of their lives. It’s like the old hymn says “…take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise.” We’ll will look at how this can be done. This small group will be a foundational piece of who we will become as Incarnation Anglican Church (the future Restoration church plant in south Arlington) and as such this small group will be hosted and led in south Arlington so that we discover how we can daily love Jesus more in our work, families, and in our neighborhoods in south Arlington. We would love for you have the opportunity to invest in south Arlington through this small group by signing up here once the registrations open up. Again, we will meet Thursdays from 7:30-9pm. You might be wondering more about what we will study….

Rule of St. Benedict

Unreflective survival is not a new difficulty in the history of God’s Church, so one of the ways that earlier saints have responded to this problem is by creating a rule for communal life. Maybe you are afraid that using the word “rule” sounds legalistic. However, a “rule of life” is not the same thing as setting up a bunch of arbitrary rules to measure someone’s spiritual prowess. A rule of life is a bit more flexible and has a well thought through goal. One such rule of life was created by St. Benedict of Nursia (480-547 CE) and can be read in English translation here. No other prayer rule has had more impact on English spirituality (which includes its influence on the Book of Common Prayer itself). St. Benedict desired that people be daily turned towards repentance and a love of God (even though his audience were monks in a monastery and under an abbot). He writes about roles, relationships, desires, prayer, eating, sleeping, conversation, and other aspects of community life in order to bring them together into a cohesive life of holiness in which someone turns to God in the daily relationships they have and moments they experience. He says in his prologue (v. 44), “…While there is yet time, while we are still in the flesh and are able to fulfill all these things by the light which is given us–we must run and perform now what will profit us for all eternity.” This brings us back to Rev. Liz’s sermon in which we are called to contemplate the ways in which God judges his peoples’ deeds. The rule written by St. Benedict has now been tested and found helpful by the Church for almost 1500 years and I believe it still helps us today to frame the ways in which we keep a healthy fear of God before our eyes daily. We are not cloistered monks living under an abbot, but many of us are neighbors and in small groups together and as such we are called to work together for the same goal.

Want to know more about St. Benedict before you sign up? Here’s a cool video:

 -Authored by Morgan Reed+

He has taken my little, and given me much

#RestoBolivia2 – Team reflections #1

Tu fe ha salvado; ve te en paz.

RestorationMission 2These are the words of Jesus as he blesses the woman who washed his feet with her tears. A simple sentence:

“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

These are the words of Jesus that have been on repeat (in Spanish and in English) since Sunday morning, after Laurel and Desiree shared testimonies and teaching with members of La Trinidad, the church here in Cochabamba. Words that carry blessing and hope.

I wasn’t ready for this trip. We’d put months of preparation in to it – some of us had literally been talking about this trip since we left Cochabamba last July. Plans were set – we knew who would be speaking – we knew who would be leading kids time – hours of prayer and encouragement and listening and learning were put into this trip. And still my heart was not quite ready. I was tired, struggling with some familiar voices of shame and the question of “has it been enough?”

Late Friday night I sent around an update for our prayer partners. I was exhausted after a full day of travel and little sleep, and in all honesty struggling to find words. But last night my words were re-read to me, and I realized that the prayer I’d written for our friends at La Trinidad was in many ways a prayer for myself: “that they will be able to enter into the next few days with ready hearts.”

Now, on the other side of the retreat, I am grateful for the ways God took my little and reminded me that he is enough. Our plans were used and changed and shared in ways that we didn’t always understand, but they did not return empty. So many of us were privileged to see many at La Trinidad share their stories in new and vulnerable ways. There was weeping and rejoicing, celebration and struggle.

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We also discovered that the Hanke family knows a thing or two about llamas

As we reflected on the story of the woman weeping at Jesus’ feet, I shared with our small group that as I imagined myself in her place, there was an overwhelming sense that the need for healing was greater than the weight of shame that could leave her (me) isolated and alone – that risking the judgment of the people watching was worth the relief that would come from Jesus’ grace.

 

This is my benediction: Your faith has saved you; go in peace

~Eva-Elizabeth

RILA and Matthew 25

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The Restoration Immigration Legal Aid (RILA) team is excited to announce that RILA has received a $25,000 matching grant from the Matthew 25 Initiative. This initiative started with a vision from Archbishop Foley Beach and his desire to use a generous grant from an anonymous donor to help churches reach the poor and needy in their communities.

These granted funds will enable RILA to hire a part-time Program Manager to expand and solidify the work already being done. It will also provide a small stipend to RILA’s Intake Coordinator.

Currently, RILA is serving over 50 immigrant families, most of whom are seeking asylum. This is hard work, requiring patience, perseverance, and dedication.  In each case, the RILA team invests time to build relationships with our clients and their families, many of whom have stories of trauma that led to their being here in the United States. In fact, many immigrant families that RILA represents fled their home countries within days or weeks of having their lives – or their children’s lives – threatened. In some cases, they had already been harmed and were  forced to leave to avoid being harmed further.

A handful of RILA clients are children who journeyed to the United States alone, fleeing imminent violence in their neighborhoods.  The RILA team is committed to walking alongside immigrant families and advocating on their behalf.  Though the stories we hear are heartbreaking, RILA has begun to see some successes.  However, we also believe we are successful as we listen well to our client’s stories and show compassion, in the name and way of Jesus.

We are SO thankful for the large and diverse group of volunteers at Restoration that enable this work to be done. We are continually humbled and inspired by our volunteers’ hard work and willing hearts.  Working together as the church to accomplish the enormous task of running a neighborhood immigration legal aid clinic is such a joy for all of us.  From praying to note taking to providing hospitality and translation, each RILA case is surely a team effort, demonstrating the body of Christ serving Restoration’s neighbors in need.

Support RILA here to help us meet our match!

If you are interested in learning more about RILA or getting involved, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are specifically looking for volunteers with fundraising experience, as the Matthew 25 initiative grant is a matching one. But translators, attorneys, researchers and general clinic volunteers are always welcome! Our holistic vision is to join God in the renewal of all things and to witness the transformative power of loving and serving our neighbors through giving immigration legal aid to the immigrant families in our neighborhoods. We’d love to have you join us on this journey!

You can learn more about the clinic here.

With thanks from the RILA team.

 

AFAC fun!

20170709_215356Summer fun….and with a good cause!  Come join us this Sunday to pick up fresh produce from the Columbia Pike Farmer’s Market and then sort it and bag it to give at the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).  Great opportunity to meet people, get a free bright green t-shirt, and check out some fruit and veggies. 12:15pm- 3:30pm.

http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0e4ea5ac23a2f94-afac2

 

Incarnation … curious?

19225076_10155001833148600_7716981644433032854_nHopefully it is no secret to you by now that Restoration Anglican Church has begun the process of planting a new community in south Arlington! Incarnation Anglican (this new church plant) will be spending quality time together over the summer playing and praying. We’d love for you to join us for some of the events that are happening over the next several months.

We want you to know what things will be happening, so here are a few ways to stay informed:

Google Calendar

Below you will find our calendar embedded (this will eventually be embedded on our website). You can subscribe below to our calendar:

Google Group

We regularly send out info about events and ways that you can be praying for Incarnation Anglican. If you would like to receive these emails let us know here.

Facebook and Website

Like us on Facebook. We will be using Facebook to post pics and discuss informal get togethers. We have not fully designed our website, but stay tuned, it’s coming….

~Morgan, Liz and Amy

Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments.

Be Still and Know: Wednesday 04/19/2017, 7.30pm

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We don’t like being still. We do not like doing what could be interpreted as nothing or inactive. We don’t like being silent. We want to take action, save the world, speak up for ourselves. We don’t like practicing silence. We want to fill the void, and our mind quickly rushes through to-do lists and other things we forgot to remember. It is difficult for us to allow 15-30 seconds of silence during prayer time at church for the time of confession before we say the corporate confession. Silence, being still and being silent is just awkward and seems like a waste of time and space, especially when there are so many other more meaningful things we could be doing or doing more efficiently. And yet, we are told in scripture to be still.

Psalm 46:10 is the reference for the recognizable “Be still and know that I am God.” The context of Psalm 46 is anything but still and silent and peaceful. Instead the earth gives way, waters rage, mountains move. There is great turmoil here! And yet God is in the midst of the disquiet; “a refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). God it there and he is there in a powerful a way.  The focus of this Psalm is not on us, the reader, but on the power of the Lord. Only a few actions are given to describe our stance in this tumultuous scene: we are to not fear, behold the works of the Lord, to recognize his presence with us, to be still and know he is God. But, on the whole, these are not “active” words in the way we normally think of action; they are words of waiting and trust, words that are reflective and dependent on the power and action of another.  Our action is to pause, to watch, to listen, to be in the Lord’s presence and see what action the Lord is doing and what action he might call us to take with him.

Does this Psalm sound familiar? Do you hear the psalm whispering in Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4: 35-41)? The disciples are on the boat and the waters are raging, their world seemingly collapsing. The voice of the Lord cries out once again “BE STILL” and speaks to their fear (“Why are you so afraid?”).  The interaction leaves the disciples with a question to recognize God’s presence with them (“Who then is this…?”) and behold his works (“… that even the wind and the sea obey him?”).  And the passage encourages them forward to know him and have faith.

Do you hear the Psalm whispering in your own life? Our lives are neither still nor silent and we don’t want to to be silent about it. Sometimes our lives feel like they are in a state of crisis, sometimes we are seeking to discern a certain topic and questioning, and sometimes things are going OK.  Wherever you may be, there is an invitation to pray and simply be in the Lord’s presence, to discern what the Lord may be speaking to you, and to give an intentional space for him to speak.   images

Come practice being still and knowing he is God with us. On Wednesday, April 19 from 7:30 -9 p.m. Restoration will be open for a time of silent, contemplative prayer. Bring your questions, bring your weary not-so-silent heart, bring yourself. We practice silence because we want to be in his presence.  We practice silence because we need to know more of who he is and what he would speak to us.  We practice silence because we recognise that we are dependent on his action.

Come, and see what the Lord might speak to you.

~Lauren and the Prayer team

Quiet Time Redefined: a midweek Eucharist homily

imagesA little over two years ago I was slowly emerging out of survival mode.  I had my first child the previous year and life beyond diapers and nursing was starting to appear again.  While at the playground one morning, one of my dear friends bravely asked me the challenging question that had been plaguing me in my own consciousness for months postpartum:

What do you do for your quiet time?

Quiet time, that phrase I grew up with in my conservative, evangelical Christian home that stood for the time you set aside to spend with God through bible reading and prayer, to practice being in God’s presence.  I was honest with her and told her that “right now nothing much I’m just trying to survive motherhood, little sleep and working part time.” I asked her what she did. She told me about an app on her phone and we moved on in our conversation.  But I still felt the condemnation and weight of shame over not having a better status report.

If she had asked me pre-kid I would have had a glowing response but now all I had was “nothing much” and a healthy dose of guilt regarding my lack of quiet time.  I knew it was important and something that I should do as a “good” Christian, and that in fact by not doing it I was robbing myself of opportunities for God to minister to my weary heart.  Especially in the midst of such an important transition in my life- motherhood- and the new responsibilities that it entails.

I don’t think this shame over a lack of quiet time is limited to the experience of being a mother.  I’ve experienced this feeling before especially at other points of transition: when I started college, started into the working world, got married, climbed up the success ladder at work.  We are- as Erica put it beautifully several weeks ago- “in the midst” of many situations, seasons and demands on our time and energy.  How can we maintain a relationship with God when we are “in the midst” of so much with seemingly no time and a burden of shame from not living up to a Christian ideal?

After the conversation with my friend, I started attending a bible study and was challenged by a statement from the leader. She very honestly and candidly told our group of moms:

You are more in control of your time than you think you are.

I was incredulous. Doesn’t she realize how hard it is to do what I do and that I have no time? I’m lucky if I can get away by myself just to get a shower most days!   But then my heart softened and I realized her point. Yes my life is very full and sporadic at the moment. But I do still have a modicum of control.  I do still have time, even if it is very little, to give to something.  

I am encouraged afresh by the parable of the woman with the mite (Mark 12:41-44), or as it is in the ESV, the two small copper coins. Usually when I’ve heard this passage discussed it has to do with tithing but I think it can also be understood beyond monetary devotion to describe the offering of ourselves. The woman gave two mites which we are told were worth essentially nothing in that culture. We are also told that she is a poor widow, again, something that was worth essentially nothing in that culture.  And yet Jesus praises this picture of sacrifice and worship because this seemingly insignificant amount that she gave was all that she had to live on, all that she had to give for her seemingly insignificant life to exist.  And it was not worth nothing to her; it was costly and significant to her (2 Samuel 24:18:25).

The Lord knows how much time I have in my day. How I chose to squander it in escapism on my phone or by submerging myself in my part time job.  How I relish it with a nice shower or quality time with my husband and kids. How I choose to sleep rather than do the dishes not out of slothfulness but out of necessity. And He knows that when I choose to give him my seemingly insignificant block of fifteen minutes of undivided attention that maybe all I have to give that day. And it is costly to me.  And he loves it and rejoices in it.  The Lord sees the heart; my intentional gift matters, not because of the quantity or size of it, but because I am freely giving this costly gift and He wants to be with me.

The point I am trying to express is not the need to make time in and of itself, creating another legalistic check list for shame.  The point of carving out this time is to be with Jesus; talking to him, listening to him, just being with him.   Quiet time and devotions are terms that carry a lot of guilt and shame baggage because it has become a place of legalism in the Christian community.   Kristen Terry beautifully liberated many of us during the women’s retreat by encouraging us to consider changing the way we talk about spending time with God. She told us, simply and plainly, in the moments we spend with the Lord to:

Just allow God to love you

That’s all quiet time is supposed to be about anyway, not our achievement or failure of completing another check off our list.

May we not forget the intent of quiet time in the first place and confuse the execution of this discipline as the means of grace.  Quiet times are a tool to connect us with our loving God who wants to hear from you and speak to you.  I believe the Lord would look us in the face, look me in the face and simply say:

I just want to be with you, whatever that looks like right now, and love on you.

God knows our crazy lives. He knows how much time we actually do or do not have. He loves you and wants to be with you. Come to Him free from shame with whatever offering of time you may have to give and allow Him to love you in it.

~ Lauren L.

Need some time and space to spend some time with the Lord? Join us on Wednesday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. for a time of silent, contemplative prayer.  Bring a Bible, journal, blanket/jacket and an expectant heart.  

 

Give Us this Bread Always: a midweek Eucharist reflection

Every Wednesday lunchtime this year we have been gathering in the sanctuary to celebrate the Eucharist. There are just two more – today and next Wednesday (04/12/2017), so if you haven’t been to one yet do think about coming! 12.15pm – 12.50pm in the Sanctuary. Meanwhile, here is Amy’s homily from last week ….

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John 6:25-35

Today’s gospel reading is a conversation between Jesus and a crowd beside a lake. But to really enter into all that is happening here, we actually need to first back up a little bit to get some context.

If we rewind to the day before, we learn that Jesus started out right where he is now – on the other side of the Sea in Capernaum. We learn from Matthew’s gospel that while in Capernaum yesterday, he received the horrible news that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist. Imagine how Jesus must have felt – lonely in his work of proclaiming the kingdom. Vulnerable to the whims of a violent ruler. And just really, really sad. And so Jesus decides he’s got to get out of here and find some solitude with God. He decides to cross the Sea of Galilee with his disciples, to go up a mountain that Matthew calls a “desolate place” – a landscape that matches his own emotional state.

So he does. He crosses the sea, he climbs the mountain, and he sits down rest in his Father’s presence. But as soon as he does, he looks down. And there below him are swarms of people, following him up, because they have heard that this man has the power to heal.

And of course Jesus knows that the people rapidly approaching them are hungry and that his disciples have no money to feed them and are getting nervous. And so he takes the bread and fish offered by a little boy and blesses it and breaks it and distributes it to every last person – thousands of them – and they sit in this desolate place and feast together. And the people are so amazed and satisfied that they want to make him king right then and there – but remember what Herod’s been up to? Clearly, that’s a bad idea. And so Jesus retreats even further up the mountain for a few moments of solitude.

That night, his disciples set out their boats to head back across the Sea of Galilee. (And oh, by the way, Jesus also walks out to them on the water in the midst of a storm. But that’s a story for another day.)

The next morning, Jesus and his disciples wake up on one side of the lake, back in Capernaum, while that crowd of thousands wakes up on the other. And they quickly realize that Jesus isn’t there, and neither is his boat. And they put two and two together and jump in their boats and row across the lake to find him. And that’s where our story picks up.

This context is important, because we need to know what kind of people are asking Jesus questions in today’s passage. These are people who have climbed a mountain and crossed the sea just to be with Jesus. And these are people who have already feasted on his miraculous provision of bread. Everything about these people’s actions suggests that they are hungry in their souls. But for what?

Well, leave it to Jesus to find out, and not in a terribly gentle way. He chastises them for following him. He’s suspicious. He says, “I know what you’re after. You just want some more of that free bread. Well free bread’s never going to satisfy you. You’re wasting your effort working for something that’s just going to leave you empty.” But they don’t just shrug their shoulders and disperse. They persist. They press in. They show that maybe they’re not just looking for a free lunch after all. They say, “Okay, Jesus; if we’re working for the wrong thing, then tell us what to work for instead. What is the work of God and how can we do it?”

And then Jesus tells them that the work of God isn’t really work at all: it’s believing. It’s trusting him with our hunger. What is the work of God? It’s showing up hungry, and believing he alone can feed us.

But the crowd doesn’t really get it yet. They press in again. They ask: “Okay. But if that’s our ‘work’, then who’s going to, you know, actually do the work? What’s your work, Jesus? How are you going to prove to us that you’re really working for us? That we can trust you with our hunger? Are you going to give us manna, like Moses did?”

And Jesus patiently corrects them. He reminds them that it was never Moses who gave their ancestors manna, it was God himself. He reminds them that for 40 years God fed their ancestors every day, while they didn’t plant or water or harvest, while their only work was to show up hungry every morning and receive from the hand of God. And Jesus goes on to tell them that this bread of heaven, this manna, is in their midst again. It’s him!

And then the crowd says one of my favorite sentences in the bible: “Give us this bread always.” We actually prayed this recently in the collect on the 4th Sunday in Lent: “Evermore give us this bread.” It’s a request that feels so demanding, so desperate, so hungry; it feels like something a child would say.

Remember that these are people who have already eaten miracle bread from his hands. And these are people who have climbed a mountain and crossed a sea because they are hungry and hope Jesus can feed them. So when Jesus tells them he is the bread of life, they know what it’s like to be hungry, and to they know how good it feels to be fed. They can say to one another, “Remember those barley loaves that we ate together yesterday? When we were hungry and penniless and so desperate for healing that we climbed a mountain to be with a stranger? Remember that mysterious bread that was more than enough, that tasted so good when we needed it most?”

Jesus is like that bread. Except that Jesus will satisfy them not just for an afternoon, but forever.

And just like this crowd, we are also people who have already feasted on this miraculous bread. The bread of life has already come down from heaven, blessed by God in the person of Jesus. It has already been broken on the cross and given to us to feed our deepest hunger and give us life forever. We have already feasted on God’s provision for us in the desolate place of our own sin and brokenness.

And so what is the work of God for us today? It’s showing up hungry. It’s trusting this bread with our deepest hunger. It’s saying no to all the empty filler calories that tempt us – stuff like financial security and control and affirmation – that temporarily takes the edge off our appetite but ultimately leaves us empty. Instead, we can show up hungry and receive this bread of life: blessed, broken, and given for us, again and again, forever.

“Give us this bread always.”

Father, thank you that you are our bread of life. You are barley loaves in a desolate place, and you are manna in the wilderness. Show us where we have been numbing our hunger with food that does not satisfy. Help us to show up hungry and to feast on your life-giving provision. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Father, we pray for our world, that your wisdom would guide all our leaders, and that your Spirit would move powerfully to bring peace and healing in places of poverty, conflict, disaster, and pain. We pray particularly for refugees fleeing Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, and other places of great suffering – people who are quite literally hungry in desolate places and wandering in the desert. Strengthen and uphold and protect them on their journey. Generously provide for their hunger and thirst. Settle them in places of safety and abundance. And stir our hearts to see and care and pray and act on their behalf. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

~Amy Rowe

Pausing to pray in lent

Week by week we have been hearing some wonderful reflections during our Lenten services. Here Eric reflects on the discipline of prayer.imgres

The older I get– the more I find myself a creature of habit. I wake up, I work, I spend time with my family, and I go to sleep. Each year passes more swiftly than the last. My body ages more quickly than my spirit matures. All too often it feels like I am on autopilot, going through my days with reaction not intention.

In the same way, the older I get– the more “past” and the more “future” I carry with me. The “past” has many names: memory, home, regret, missed, forgotten, I did, I didn’t, did I? Didn’t I?. The “future’s” names I know almost as well: wish, dream, danger, promise, anxiety, fear, should, I will, I won’t, I must, I must not, maybe. Unexpectedly, the past and the future have become my friends. I know them, I’ve nourished them, I’ve courted them. And these constant companions crowd out my present.

Each day, I am faced with choices about how to live, how to love, how to parent, how to work, how to succeed, how to fail, how to forgive, how to be forgiven. In those many moments, I am tempted to let my habits, or my perspectives of the past and the future speak for me. They whisper in my ear, “let us decide for you, we’ll take good care of you.” During those moments, I may think that I’m in my living room with my kids, or at a meeting with my boss, or unable to sleep in the dead of night…

I may think I am, but I’m not.

I’m actually standing in a garden with a man, and a woman, and a snake, and a tree. The sky is a cloudless blue, and the sun is radiant, the fruit is there before me, and it looks just about perfect and The Father’s voice moves the leaves of that Sacred Tree like a breeze, and He says to me, simply, “Will you trust me?”

One of the great joys of having kids is praying together. Before nap-time, we pray the At Noon Daily Devotional for Families and Individuals from the Book of Common Prayer. The Devotional’s reading from Isaiah articulates best the freedom God gives me in prayer:

O God, you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are fixed on you; for in returning and rest we shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be our strength.

Prayer makes me pause. Prayer gives that moment for God to nudge me to come to myself.

When I am a man who prays, I have clarity. In prayer, God pulls me from yesterday and tomorrow into the present. In prayer, God frees me from the easy to choose the good. I can say no to the fruit, and trust that the food The Father provides thereafter will not only nourish and satisfy but will give the real life for which I hope.

~Eric Lessels

Women Unscripted: Ways to play

Mature_Children_ImageTwo weeks ago, Resto women gathered in the fellowship hall to eat junk food, laugh hysterically, and discuss the topic of play. Why? This was the latest in our series of Women Unscripted events, which have been working through the book of Ephesians all year to explore the theme “Growing Up in Christ” (Eph 4.15). As we’ve walked through this series – through our monthly Women Unscripted events and our February retreat – we’ve discovered that growing up in Christ means, paradoxically, becoming little children. As we mature, we learn to trust more and more in our true identity as God’s securely loved children. We are not orphans, left alone to make life work in a broken world. No, we are God’s children: safe, loved, supported, nurtured.

So throughout the spring, we’ll be looking at what it means to be God’s children. Our retreat speaker, Kristen Terry, identified for us four things that children do: They play. They rest. They work. And they celebrate.  These four traits will guide our Women Unscripted events throughout the spring, and correspond with the remaining passages of Ephesians.

And that’s why several weeks ago we explored the seemingly strange topic of play. We discarded our adult sensibilities for one night to snack on gummy bears, Doritos, and cookies. We heard from three wonderful panelists (including our first teenager!) who embodied a mature playfulness and helped us to think and laugh deeply. Through their stories, they invited us to shed pretense, to embrace delight, and to invest “structured unstructured time” into friendships that are safe and intimate and joy-filled.

We also studied Ephesians 5.1-20 together, noticing the kind of exuberant freedom God invites us to as we delight in our identity as “children of light.” At first glance, the passage feels like a long list of “don’t”s: don’t get drunk. Don’t covet. Don’t indulge sexual immorality. But amidst those, we catch little glimpses of a kind of bright, exuberant lightness and freedom.  We see that we are beloved children; we are a fragrant offering; we are to walk in love and light; we are to wake up and shake off our dull sleepiness; we are to bask in Christ’s light shining on us; and we are to sing – a lot! together! – from the heart. All of these images give us clues to how simple, free, and holy our play can feel as securely loved children.

Once this picture of play emerges, we see all those “don’t”s for what they truly are, a sort of sham play that masks as freedom, but actually just temporarily numbs, distracts, or soothes us as we attempt to make life work on our own, apart from the care and provision of our Father.

And so we discussed at our tables ways that we play, or wished we could play. We shared our favorite places, books, and habits. We laughed a lot! And now we’ve compiled the content of those discussions into a “Ways to Play” document, for any among us who need some ideas. Notice that nearly all of these involve movement, senses, and being outdoors. Why not grab a friend or a bag of gummy bears and head outside for a playdate with God this month?

Ways to Play:

Playing with kids and their toys

Baking

Sprinting (rather than walking) between destinations, the way kids run to the water fountain

Watching sports

Dipping toes in the water

Being read to aloud

Walking in the sunshine

Drinking coffee by the window

Riding roller coasters

Swings

Rocking chairs

Hiking the Billy Goat trail

Walking in grass

Coloring

Water games

Playgrounds

Toes in the sand

Exchanging a genuine smile with a stranger

Caroling

Paddleboarding

Books: Madeleine L’Engle, Brothers Karamazov

Gardening

Running

Barre

Yoga

Playing music

Dropping leaves/petals into water

Throwing/skipping rocks in water

Walking through Lubber Run Park

Concerts at Wolf Trap

Visiting local gardens

Painting

Throwing a ball with a dog

Laughing with dear friends

Hula hooping

Jumping across rocks in a creek

Picnicking

Fresh air

Dancing in the kitchen

Drinking coffee/wine with a friend

Knitting

Sewing

Travel

Digging in dirt

Walking in the woods

Writing letters

Quiet

Dressing up

Sitting in the sun

Looking for little signs of God’s love in ordinary things/places; e.g. heart-shaped things

Spending time with horses

Getting away from DC

Grilling

Bike rides

Games with family/friends

Coming up:

Women Unscripted Tuesdays, 7.30pm in the Fellowship Hall:

April 25: Mature children work

May 16: Mature children rest

June 20: Mature children celebrate!

Do come – and bring a friend…

~ Amy Rowe

(and Liz Gray)

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