When I let one part of my life overshadow another, I lose my balance. Too often I focus only on one aspect of my life and I neglect another. When I do that, it’s easy to forget to pray — it’s even easier to forget to play.
I believe Jesus wants us to be complete. Complete in God, complete in spirit, complete in trust, complete in faith, complete in forgiveness, and complete in our humanity. I believe Jesus wants us to balance service and work with play.
To accomplish this, we must be complete in our love. Not just any love. But the love we feel when we are right with God.
Love comes to us, I think, when we appreciate the gifts we are given. Otherwise we remain blind to it, although it is all around. Not just the material gifts, for they are not of God and can be taken away. But rather the moments where our selves merge into oneness with God – with Jesus – and with those around us.
Perhaps we find our best gifts in life’s everyday moments: A prayer, a kindness, laughter, a shared moment, or a spontaneous smile. It doesn’t have to be a big display to have divine meaning. Just from the heart, which itself is from God.
My favorite “thank you’s” includes those where we lift our face to the sun to bathe in its warmth — or welcome the caress of a soft evening breeze. Sometimes they include the swipe of our wet tongue against parched desert lips, or our tears for someone beloved who no longer is near — tears that lead us to remember as if they’ve never left.
Sometimes our gratitude is meant to be shared with others. Sometimes it’s intended to be contemplated alone. As I’ve grown older, I’m sometimes the only one remaining of family or friends to cast an afternoon shadow in the dark colors before dusk. That I was chosen to survive some dearest to me is a bittersweet gift of its own. That I still carry their memories is among the seeds of gratitude I have sown.
Perhaps we find our most sincere thanksgiving in humility and awe: In God’s promise of sunrise to announce every day; the shadow of God in undulating fields of wheat before harvest’s end; the smell of redwood among the giant sequoias in ancient stands; the sound of waves breaking against the wooden hulls of fishing boats gathering people, not fish; the beauty of worn hands after a lifetime of manual labor; the swollen belly of a woman about to give birth; the ice crystal dances of winter’s first snow; or, the heat-lightning thunder of dry summer storms.
The gifts that God have given us are as limitless as stars and as varied as wild flowers. The ways we can thank Him are crafted in our hearts; it is important that they are heard.
For me, appreciation for God’s gifts is best expressed during the celebration of life that accompanies a prayer or a playful moment. A connecting glance when Jesus smiles with us, laughs alongside us, and shares in a moment of human joy — especially when someone who was lost to Him becomes someone who is found.
I believe that faith and trust in God underlie the playfulness of any spirit that can remain childlike before Jesus. It requires the light-heartedness of a heart that knows it will never be orphaned before God. A heart that can anticipate the warm embrace of a Father who opens His heart and Kingdom to all prodigal sons and daughters…. and the warm embrace of their brothers and sisters who welcome them home.
“Look, dear son,’ his father said to him, ‘you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours. But it is right to celebrate. For he is your brother; and he was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!” (Luke 15:31-32)
Photo: “Amazon Play,” by Jazzdat