by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM July 18, 2021
This far into summer, play is on my mind. My weeks are full of guided and directed retreats, presentations, and spiritual direction. But August is coming, and in August it’s been my custom to limit my ministry commitments and give myself over to restorative play in its various shapes and sizes. I’m fully aware that the freedom to do this is a privilege denied to many. I’m also aware that wholeness and well-being demand that I find ways to integrate renewal and restoration into my life.
How many of us have ever imagined God at play? Can we picture the Holy One delighting in creating this world we’ve been given, in all the creatures that are winged and finned and four-legged and two-legged and no-legged? I often taste a perfectly ripe strawberry, savor a spectacular sunset, dip my toes into the ocean, and say to God, “Wow! What a great idea this was. I hope you had fun making it!” I confess I draw the line at mosquitoes (What was God thinking?) and some slithering neighbors, but I know they have a place in the economy of creation, so I praise God for them as well.
Joyce Rupp echoes my question of God at play by asking, “Can we image a God who sings a happy song over us, a God who dances with shouts of joy? Could our God be the one who laughs and enjoys life? Scripture tells us that God’s playground is creation and the people who dwell in it. God enjoys this beauty, sees that it is good, and takes great delight in all that is.”
Hopefully, many of us experienced an early childhood where play was central, where we could daydream and make up games and stories, where we felt no limits on our creativity. Perhaps now we need to spend a bit of time returning to a child’s frame of reference and watch the little ones for whom the world and all its newness and freshness are experienced through touch and taste and sight and smell, as Terri Mifek wrote of her granddaughter in Living Faith:
“Our two-year-old granddaughter is absolutely captivated by the flowers in our backyard. She doesn’t just look at them; she leans in and twists her neck so she can study their underside. We joke that maybe she will grow up to be a botanist or perhaps a contemplative…Watching her makes me realize how important it is to maintain that childlike attitude toward the mystery we call God.”
“The mystery we call God” can be discovered in daydreaming, in star gazing, in imagining, in sitting with creation, in doing nothing at all. Perhaps these summer days hold an invitation for all of us to pause, lean in, and gaze in awe. Perhaps we’re being led to a deepened awareness that opportunities to encounter the Holy One’s unrestrained joy might be right around the corner. God at play, God dancing, God doing a jig in the embrace of a friend, the comfort of community, the midnight sky, the stillness of prayer, the lines of a cherished poem. All we have to do is show up, be present, and pay attention. Who knows when a God ready to play might be just as near to us as our very own selves?
This summer, may we find space or may we make space on our calendars. May we show up. And may we play!
Sit in stillness with the Holy One. If possible, sit or walk in a place surrounded by Nature, or listen to beautiful music.
Simply let your mind wander wherever it desires. When your time of play ends, offer a prayer of thanks for the gift of this leisure.
Featured Image: Senjuti Kundu, Unsplash
This will be my last blog until September. As is my custom, I take time during the month of August for offering one guided retreat, my own personal retreat, writing, and some time to be renewed and restored. I look forward to being in touch with you again in September and I’m grateful for your following of Mining the Now.
Please hold in your prayer the following events:
July 23-24: Annual Assembly of my Congregation, the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Scranton, PA)
July 31: I’ll be the keynote speaker and will facilitate process for the 175th anniversary celebration of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Immaculata, PA). This was originally planned for 2020 but was re-scheduled because of the pandemic. It will be my great joy to join with my IHM Sisters both in person and virtually for this celebration.
August 14-20: Guided retreat for the Sisters of St. Joseph (Brentwood) in Hampton Bays, NY.
August 26-September 2: Please remember all who would have been part of a guided retreat I was scheduled to lead at St. Mary by-the-Sea, Cape May Point, NJ. Sadly, St. Mary’s has now closed. We hold in tenderness and gratitude the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia who, for so many years, offered this place of beauty and peace to many of us.
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