Learning to Play: Rediscovering the Discipline of Recreation

  • 23 March 2018
  • Randy Wollf

women laughing while swingingWhen I first read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, I was a little shocked that play and recreation made it onto Peter Scazzero’s list of spiritual disciplines. Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how essential these activities are to our well-being. True recreation leads to the “re-creation” of our bodies, minds, and spirits, which allows us to worship God more deeply and serve Him more effectively.

Psychologists describe play as any activity that is voluntary, flexible, and enjoyable.

With four children in our family, I have read hundreds of children’s books over the years. One stands out as having some important lessons about play and recreation: The King’s Stilts by Dr. Seuss (I’ll share a condensed version, but you can hear the whole story here).

Once upon a time, a king and his people lived on a beautiful island in the middle of the ocean. The people lived happy lives and only had one concern: the tide. You see, the island was a sunken island and the high tides could easily wash away the people. Fortunately, the inhabitants had planted trees around the perimeter of the island. These trees, with their tightly interwoven roots, kept the tidal waters at bay. The only problem was that a certain type of bird loved to eat the roots that served as a protective wall around the island.

The king knew what he had to do. He personally trained an army of cats to chase away the root-eating birds. Every day, the king would wake up early to take care of his royal duties. He would then marshal his cat troops, train them, and set them loose to protect the island.

As you can imagine, the king’s work was exhausting. However, there was something that the king did at the end of every day that filled him with energy. He would go to his closet and pull out a pair of red stilts.

The king loved his red stilts. He would excitedly climb on them and run around the kingdom with a child-like abandon. After his play time, the king felt refreshed, energized, and ready for another busy day at the office.

Practicing Life-Giving Sabbath

  • 5 March 2018
  • Randy Wollf

field of flowersRivendell, an Elven realm in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, is a beautiful haven of rest – a place protected from the dangers plaguing Middle Earth. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien describes the peace that Frodo and his companions experience in Rivendell after narrowly escaping the evil forces bent on destroying them. In Rivendell, 

The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have any power over the present.

Tolkien’s description captures something of the essence of Sabbath. When we practice Sabbath, whether it’s setting aside a full day or part of a day each week, we experience rest and peace amidst the rigors of life. In his book, The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan says we experience Sabbath when we stop doing what is necessary and do that which gives life. Life’s obligations and challenges don’t go away, but practicing Sabbath gives us a break from them and affords us the space to replenish ourselves and refocus on God and His priorities.

The Bible clearly teaches the importance of observing a Sabbath day of rest. God, Himself, rested after His creation work (Genesis 2:3). Did He need to rest? No. But by resting, God set an example for His human creation—the ones He made in His image—so that we would live maximum lives in keeping with His design for us.

Walter Brueggemann, in Reverberations of Faith, said:

Sabbath provides a visible testimony that God is at the center of life—that human production and consumption take place in a world ordered, blessed, and restrained by the God of all creation.

Practicing Sabbath is an acknowledgment that God is in control and that we trust Him to look after His creation (including us) as we rest. For those of us who struggle with workaholic tendencies, taking a daylong break from what is necessary breaks us free from our compulsion to engage in excessive work activities. Sometimes, we are motivated to work excessively because we believe we have financial needs. Other times, we simply work too much because we want more of things we don’t necessarily need. In both cases, taking a day off will help us to refocus on God as the One who provides and to realign our priorities in keeping with His desires. 

4 Reasons to Practice Silence and Solitude

  • 31 January 2018
  • Randy Wollf

woman looking at oceanWe’ve all experienced the awkwardness of silence. Think about the silence we experience at a dinner party when the conversation falls flat or the confining silence of a long elevator ride in a half-full elevator.

The commands, “Be quiet” or “Shut up,” are often punitive attempts to stop words—to enforce silence in another person.

If silence has a bad rap, solitude hasn’t done much better. If you have too much solitude, you’re a loner, outsider, or maybe even an outcast. Being sent to one’s room or a lengthy period of solitary confinement are punishments meant to instill the wrongness of an action.

Silence and solitude are certainly associated with negative connotations. Yet, there must also be an upside since Jesus regularly practiced both disciplines.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus went to isolated places by himself to pray (Mark 1:35). At times, huge crowds followed Jesus. The ministry opportunities were endless. Yet, “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 5:16). Prayerful silence and solitude were a regular part of Jesus’ life. Busyness and a growing ministry did not distract Jesus from these important disciplines.

If the Son of God chose to practice silence and solitude as a necessary part of his life and ministry, it would seem wise for us to do the same. If the end goal of practicing silence and solitude is to glorify God by loving Him more deeply and serving Him more effectively, then a God-honoring silence and solitude will do at least four things:

1. Leads Us Deeper in Our Relationship with Christ

We need to slow down – to find spaces where we can hear God’s voice. “Be still and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world” (Psalm 46:10).

Judy Brown says, “What makes a fire burn is space between the logs, a breathing space.” We, too, need breathing spaces – places where we can examine our lives and allow the Holy Spirit to counsel, comfort and even convict. We need spaces where we can pray without interruptions or distractions—a daunting challenge if you’re the parent of a toddler!

Without these seasons of silence and solitude, the fire of spiritual passion within our souls begins to diminish. However, when we practice these disciplines in God-honoring ways, we stoke the fires of spiritual passion—the passion and commitment we need to truly live as vibrant and fruitful followers of Jesus.