Tuesday, April 03, 2012

In Christ's Name We Play

I spent last weekend at a retreat for middle schoolers called Youth Quake where I had a theological breakthrough.

It was almost midnight Saturday and we were gathered around a campfire and everybody was tired. We had been going full-speed all day long. We had started with energizers then progressed to about 12 hours’ worth of hiking, running, hopping jjiggling, giggling, scooting, skipping, singing, and laughing not to mention bible study--except bible study for this group was a movie clip. We spent a lot of time making up skits then ending this perfect day with S’mores around a campfire. My kind of day.

So it was understandable when the last prayer of the day ended with a slight slip of the tongue: “In Christ’s name we play.”

This has to be, hands down, the best explanation of why we have youth retreats. If you locked up a room full of theologians and religious leaders for a month and had them cook up one phrase that described youth ministry they couldn’t have come up with a better way to say it.

In Christ’s name we play.

Our theme was finding your identity and the keynote was a friend whose ordination I attended less than a month ago, Lisa Juica. At most adult religious retreats you get a hefty dose of the great writers like Thomas Merton or Brian McLauren or even the more contemporary Shane Claiborne. As 6th, 7th and 8th graders we watched video clips of Kung Fu Panda to illustrate the journey we take to discover our true identity, who God designed you to be.


I’ve been taking kids on weekend trips almost every year since I started with a Girl Scout troop in 1977. And it never fails—just as I lay my head on the pillow, usually a touch after midnight, one kid will come to me with some health issue. It’s almost always homesickness from being in a new place without their parents. I have roomed with the camp nurse a time or two and she could predict the complaints according to the day: first day is always stomachaches from excitement and the last day is always sore throats from talking and laughing so much. The last couple of times, though, it’s been asthma which I know nothing about and that alone is enough to kind of scare me. But I figured out that enough young people have the same problem that resources aren’t far if we know where to look. God provides.

Right on schedule, Saturday night after the smoky campfire I took a little hike to the main lodge with one of my young friends having asthma problems. l knew there would be someone in camp with an inhaler and all we had to do was find them. We were looking for the retreat director and the high school kids who were staffing the weekend. And we found them all together in one room- all sugared up and alert. “Does anyone have an asthma inhaler?” was all I had to ask. In less than 60 seconds we found ourselves in the hands of Daniel who had been through the same thing himself a time or two. Daniel knew exactly what to do and my seventh grader and I went back to our cabin with everything we needed: a brand new inhaler and Daniel's room number.

But here’s the beauty of the situation: Walking a back to our cabin , the sky was clear and moon was waxing toward the fullness of Passover. You could hear the frogs calling from the pond. The urgency of getting medicine was gone. So we stopped on the dam and just listened to the night. My young friend counted seven different positions around the lake where we heard the frogs. Then we were able to pick out a different call from another frog and the night seemed full of frogs that were invisible in the daylight. The air was moist and cool. We could smell the freshly cut grass. This wasn’t on the weekend’s schedule. We couldn’t have scheduled it if we wanted. But God was speaking.

In Christ’s name we play.

As usual my favorite part of the weekend was the energizers. I have written on the Theology of Energizer before. As my body ages and the end of my energizer days looms on the distant horizon I cherish these dances more and more. Throwing your body around in celebration, bouncing and flinging your arms, we move in joy as the spirit leads us where it wills.



I had a touch of breast cancer about a year ago. It was the easy kind--the right kind to get if you have to get cancer, barely a blip on the radar screen. But it was enough to make me grateful for times like this when I can dance alongside my granddaughter in celebration of life. Enough to help me understand grace and the gift of time and health. It’s moments like this when I find myself thinking how different my life could have been.

Assured of God’s grace and in Christs’ name, we play.



In Christ’s name we play.

Amen.







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