David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the tag “Joy of a child”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 9: Joy of a Child (3 of 3)

Children teach us flexibility, patience, and the ability to employ imagination on the fly.  One afternoon Mary and I watched Hannah put on a ballet demonstration in the middle of the living room floor.  She showed us the plié and the grand plié, followed by various numbered ballet positions.  Watching this precocious five-year-old’s little body flowing with her own internal rhythm and joy brought tears to my eyes.  She got hung up on ballet position #3, but instead of letting frustration stop her, she pursed her lips and said “I’ll just make it up.”  So she started with #1, flowed into #2, made up #3, and moved directly into #4.  I couldn’t speak for the longest time, even to tell her how proud I was of her.  Mary found her voice before I did and praised Hannah for her beautiful demonstration.  All I could do was nod in agreement.

Like I’ve said before, kids are like cats–they have one foot on earth and another in heaven (but with cats, the other two feet are in hell).  I’m convinced Hannah feels the pulse of heaven continuously, and she lives, moves, and has her being in a joyfulness that definitely defies circumstances (like her sometimes grumpy daddy and her sometimes impatient mommy).  When it comes to joy, Hannah is the teacher and we world-weary adults are the students–to watch her play house with her stuffed animals, to participate in an entire gymnastics competition outlined in chalk on the back porch, to try to outdo each other with made-up stories and improvised songs while in the car, to watch her entertain herself for hours with nothing but 300 pounds of sand in a weathered sandbox, a handful of old seashells, and a faded plastic shovel–that is a continual lesson on what it means to live out God’s Kingdom here on earth.

If only we beat-down adults could take it to heart and live the same way, wouldn’t life be so much more fun?  So filled with joy?  So much less serious and more heaven-like?  Joy in playing, in making up stories, in camping out in the back yard after gorging ourselves on s’mores.  Joy is in drawing and sculpting Play Dough creatures and building forts out of bar stools and blankets.  Joy convinced me I need to let go of fear and follow God’s calling to write–I’m in the sweet-spot of my experience, and Hannah is a catalyst for creativity, goofiness, and just plain having fun.   “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger,” King David wrote in Psalm 8:2 (NIV).  What a better way to slap the devil silly than to belly laugh with a kid?

Jesus Himself said the Kingdom of God belongs to the children, or those who become child-like, not in immaturity and ignorance, but in wonder, trust, faith, and love.  In His day, children were widely considered to be second-class citizens in many cultures, so placing a child amongst Jesus and His disciples could be construed as offensive.  No wonder the disciples rebuked the people when they brought their kids to Him.  But Jesus was in the business of being offensive, peeling away layers of legalism to expose the underlying truth to free His children–all of His children–from the oppression of religiosity and the destructiveness of sin.  Allowing little children to be brought to Him illustrated God’s unconditional love regardless of age, affluence, or social status.  It also provided Jesus a teaching moment to instruct the disciples and those listening in the eternal benefits of embracing playfulness, spontaneity, trust in the Father’s providence, imagination, creativity, and joy.

These are the keys to heaven, both here on earth and in our legacy beyond.  Art Linkletter died in 2010 at age 97.  He made a career out of imagination and with interacting with children.  I’m convinced he knew the secret to joy.  “I’ve been around long enough to develop some insights,” he told the Orlando Sentinel in 2007, “Don’t retire, become a ‘seniorpreneur,’ keep a positive outlook, and maintain your sense of humor.”  Amen, brother Art.  Amen!

 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 9: Joy of a Child (2 of 3)

When Hannah was about two, a paper wad and a cardboard box could hold her attention for hours.  For her it wasn’t the gift that mattered, but the box it came in and the paper it was wrapped with.  Mary and I prayed she’d never outgrow her fascination with paper products, as they were much cheaper than Barbie dolls and so much easier to obtain; who’d have thought a toilet paper tube, a ball of yarn, and a glue stick could be so fascinating and versatile?  Alas, her taste in toys has matured as she’s gotten older, but the joy in watching her toss out the toy and play with the wrapping paper and the box opened our eyes to the capacity of a child to find mystery in even the simplest things.  We could all learn a lesson in this truth, as God has set before us a world of paper wads and cardboard boxes called “life,” and if we look at it through the eyes of a child, His infinite mystery can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.  Life, in all its wonder, can provide unlimited joy to those who seek the Lord with childlike faith and the capacity to take every situation and turn it into a double-sided puzzle.

“Jesus is essentially a happy man,” John Eldredge wrote in his book Beautiful Outlaw (page 51). “He loves life.  How could the joy of the Lord be our strength if the Lord is seldom joyful?”  And how can we be the light for others if we cover up our own light with gloominess, complaining, and just plain seriousness?  “We are the people of God,” said Amy Hossler, a member of New River Fellowship, reflecting the theme of Psalm 126:2.  “And if people don’t see joy in us,” she continued, “are they going to want what we have?”

When Hannah was three we spent a week at Disneyworld in Orlando.  Each day we visited a different theme park, from Epcot Center to Animal Kingdom to Hollywood Studios, and each day Mary helped Hannah gather autographs from the various Disney characters we spotted.  But one character in particular eluded us: Mary Poppins, Mary’s hands-down favorite.  On the last day of the trip, we took the ferry boat across the lagoon to Magic Kingdom and set out to explore Cinderella’s castle, ride the Dumbo Flying Elephant ride (I barely fit), and watch the parades.

As the morning grew hot we found our way to the merry-go-round where my wife finally spied her hero.  Mary Poppins stood alone in front of the carousel, wearing a white Victorian dress with red bodice, and topped with a white silk hat tied around her chin. She carried her signature umbrella.  Mary squealed like a little girl, abandoned Hannah and I, and ran to Mary Poppins with arms outstretched, clutching the autograph book and the pen.  In that moment my wife shed 20 years and reaffirmed to me her continued capacity for wonder and enjoyment.  I couldn’t get a word in edge-wise for fifteen minutes after she said goodbye to the magical nanny!  What a joy!

Joy is in freedom, and playfulness is the offspring of freedom.  And if freedom begets playfulness, playfulness begets invention.  Mary admits she doesn’t know how to play (yet).  She generally hands activities like drawing, making up ridiculous songs, and telling stories over to me.  She has a hard time playing a game Hannah created on the fly because she has little patience for the invented rules, lack of rules, or fluidity of rules.  Me?  This is one area I’m happy with just going with the flow.  I play by Hannah’s made-up rules even if they make no sense whatsoever.

For instance, one day Hannah asked if I’d play a game with her, and when I agreed, she proceeded to open the bottom drawer of our entertainment unit and pull out a pack of cards, five dice, and three bean-bag juggling balls.  Hannah then laid out three cards face down between us.  Next, she threw one of the bean-bag balls onto the line of cards, flipped over the card the ball had landed on, then rolled the five dice until a combination of one, two, or three of them added up to the number represented by the card.  When it did, she picked up the card from the floor and set it beside her; this was a card she’d won.  Then it was my turn . . . .  Surprisingly the rules remained intact as we continued to draw cards, throw balls, and toss dice, and when Mary called us for dinner the smiles on our faces proved both of us had won the game.

(continued)

 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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