Friday, April 12, 2013

a dream

I registered a new non-profit on March 11 called PlayFull. PlayFull is dedicated to helping people and organizations practice holistic playfulness in their…

I’m happy to say I’m not in this alone. I’m joined by board members Doreen Olson and Roland Kuhl. 

Doreen leads the Christian formation department of the Evangelical Covenant Church. I met her at our new home church in 2011. She invited Heather and me to work with her on the Christian formation team there and it has been a delight knowing her.  Doreen and her husband Mark have been a continual source of encouragement and support for Heather, me and the kids. They bless our socks off.

Roland is pastor of a Mennonite church here in the Chicagoland area and he serves as an adjunct professor at Northern Seminary. He has a keen intellect and a warm, approachable personality. Like me, he likes to think of God as a dancer. I met him through my work with Forge Chicago (some other great peeps!).

Next week, I’m looking forward to meeting with both Doreen and Roland to pick their brains about an idea I’m working on called PlayFull Faith. More on that later…

For now, I suppose I’m writing this because I have to put something down on paper or I’ll burst! I have so many ideas swirling around my head and heart that I find I cannot focus any one of them into something dense and potent. For now, let me try to catch at least one thought for some minutes and then set it free, hoping it will return some time later.

I dream that PlayFull will, over time, articulate a theology of play—that we will paint a portrait of God as singing and dancing, writing poems and composing new songs. That the story of God will come alive for people in fresh ways—that many will be surprised by hope and joy.

Some months ago I described PlayFull to a friend. When I got to the part about God being playful, she said, “Sign me up! I’ve never heard of a God like that—but I think that he really must be, you know.”

Too often Christians describe God in severe, moralistic terms. This is a problem because we instinctively know that, if there is a God—and if this God created all things—this picture of the killjoy God must be a distorted image we’ve made. What kind of killjoy creates countless birds, gurgling springs, sunshine and galaxies we will never reach? That’s right: killjoys don’t create things like that. So, if there is a God—and it’s true he created such a wonderfully brilliant world—our lives are intended to be enjoyed not merely endured. When we suffer, we feel something is wrong. When fear dominates, we know, “This is not the way life should be!”

And our inkling is right. That’s because each of us is marked with something dignified and noble—I refer to this mark as “imaging God.” Christians often refer to it as “the image of God” but I prefer to think of this God-mark as a gerund—continuously active. For, if God is who he says he is, then the image of God in us cannot be merely static. God’s very name is a verb, so our imaging him must also be fluid, always in process.

This act of “imaging” is something we participate in; it’s a playful, improvisational process—like dancing with a partner.  This is why I hope PlayFull will be much more than words on a page or cyphers in cyberspace—static in the spheres. That’s why I dream that through our work in PlayFull, people will experience what it means “to image God.” They will join him in the dance he’s already performing. They will put harmony to the melody he sings. They will add a breathtaking line to the poem he started.

I dream that many, many people will experience God and life and relationships not as Its but as Thous, not as objects to be mastered and controlled but as beings to be revered and enjoyed.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey, because there’s much more to come. In fact, I plan on proclaiming this message until I lay dead in the grave—and beyond as we play in the presence of our Maker.

Stay tuned and let me know if you'd like to join me on this journey somehow. I promise it'll be anything but boring.

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