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Play revives the soul!

Monday July 14, 2014

This blog has the dual purpose of humbly sharing my play journey and to invite you to take a look at your personal play journey as well. RATE is inspired from a Renewed Approach To Enrichment, (RATE). Our mission statement is : Rent-A-Theme Entertainment provides enrichment that inspires creativity, cultivates collaboration, while strengthening the mind and body all through the joy of play.  The mission statement is more than words but a movement and passion. I am dedicated to sharing the many life enriching benefits of play.  Our goal is to help people achieve personal success by finding, amplifying, and utilizing their gifts. RATE provides an array of meticulously-designed theme kits with these goals in mind. On my journey in developing a concept that would allow people to reap the benefits of play, I made I huge discovery.

I have always known from very early that play revived the soul.  Then, after learning the importance of play from many child development classes, books, workshops, and seminars, I became completely intrigued by it.  I witness the amazing results of learning through play as a mom and enrichment director for Cherry Creek Schools! I was fascinated with how play could re-energize the weary. It could console those who were sad; it could relieve those who were stressed; it even inspires innovation, determination, creativity, imagination and the list can go on!  The impact of play is truly powerful!

As a result, early in my children’s lives I allowed them to learn through play.  I encouraged and supported their play with resources, equipment, toys, and imagination in whatever the direction that “play” took us. When my son announced at the age of four, he was going to be a chef; I brought him a pretend kitchen, found lots of fun recipe books, and we cooked regularly. When he changed his career goals at eight, to a marine biologist; I painted an ocean on his wall, brought him fish, and a chemistry set. My commitment to play was serious. He changed his goals many times but in each play pattern it was getting him closer to his purpose. A doctor!  Who knew? He just finished his rotations at the University Of Colorado School Of Medicine as a third year student.

 My daughter is still playing her way to her purpose. She is attending Cornell University and is playing with computer languages and numbers and enjoys school and the opportunities to learn! But before college she boldly announced at the age of five, she would be a school teacher. As a seriously dedicated mother of “play”, I brought her a chalkboard, lots of stackable chairs for her class, and we created a classroom and library! Armed with more imagination than money we made things, we found things, and we just pretended we had things!

So, of course it was natural for me to incorporate play into my programs as an enrichment director.  Play is a remarkable catalyst to pointing people to their purpose. I encouraged and motivated children to excel by using something that came innate to them, “play”. I incorporated themes to cover an array of different interest. Each theme motivated each child differently; however the results of success were always the same.

 Experiencing such an overall success, I also added play into the ministry of helping feed the homeless. I am responsible for setting and decorating the tables. Something I sometimes took too lightly. Since, I feel play is my ministry; I just recently decided to go all out and add “play” to the tables.  I put colorful mini mind puzzles on brightly decorated tables along with mini bibles. Not knowing what to expect, I observed something absolutely amazing.

 First, the pastor of the church, who hadn’t gotten more than a couple hours of sleep that night walked in slowly. His lack of sleep showed as he solemnly walked to the tables and sat down.  He rested his head back against the wall and rested his eyes with really, really long blinks. But out of his blinks he saw one on the puzzle sitting on the table. He picked it up and began to try to solve it.  He shook it one way then another way. He made his face twist from side to side almost in an effort to help manipulate the ball to where he wanted it to go. He smiled with each small accomplishment. He was playing. One ball then another and when he had gotten all the balls in place he beamed. In fact, I think I heard a giggle. He set it down with the most pleasant look I had seen from him that entire morning. Even though his eyes were still red and his body language still screamed exhaustion; he looked peaceful.  He looked down the table and discovered there was another puzzle.  Then suddenly, his attention was drawn to the homeless people coming down the stairs to be fed. He bowed his head as he greets them but didn’t stand up as he did most days. As soon as, the small group of homeless people had settled in at a table we served them drinks.  The pastor’s focus went almost immediately back to the unsolved puzzle he had noticed down the table from him.  I brought in five different puzzles; he did all five.

The group of homeless people, who looked and smelled beaten down from life, had just been served drinks.  Some in the group are tall and lean. Some are short and heavy and most of them are men. The first group of homeless people that enter are mostly regulars. They walk about fifteen blocks just to get to the church. They are serious and generally don’t talk much. Their hands are dirty, their clothes stained, and their hair, like you would imagine it being from living on the street. Some reek of alcohol, some of weed, some just from the lack of a place to wash up.   And as usual their faces are weary.  They are here to eat.

 One of our regulars from the group looks down and notices one of the puzzles. He picks it up and starts to play. He smiles; he makes high pitched squeals, and then encourages the others to try. They all now have puzzles. They begin to play! They smile and their tighten faces and bodies relax. They giggle and some start to playfully jeer the others. Some are quiet and intent but yet still seem at easy. Their food is ready and we place in front of them.  Their home-cooked, southern style, hot from the kitchen, cooked with love meal was placed on the colorful table, but … they continue to PLAY. Almost surprised by his own actions one mentions to the others that their food is getting cold. They laughed but yet continued to play. One by one they solved their puzzles which allowed them to eat their food.

Now, our homeless people are always grateful, almost always appreciative and very polite. They never steal from us and always ask if they can take things set on the tables intended for them to take. Whether it is food or little gifts like bibles, they always ask first.  Well to my astonishment when each group left they took my puzzles. They did not ask and their hands were empty, therefore, leaving me to assume that they snuck them into their pockets or backpacks.

They did however leave me with many questions. The whole purpose of them being here was to get a hot home-cooked meal.  Meals for them don’t come every day and one like this one is only twice a month and only if they can endure the long walk.  I was more than curious as to why they continued to play.  I wanted to know why they took my puzzles. And why did the pastor spend his resting time playing with puzzles? What compelled them to play?

Food is essential for life; is play? But the biggest question I had was, “What does God think about play.”

I so deeply wanted to know what God thought I started to research the subject. I searched the bible, asked a few people, and checked the internet. But really didn’t find an answer.  I the book Play and concluded; yes, “play” is essential. But the question,” What does God think?” plagued me even more. I begin to secretly become worried that God didn’t approve of play, especially not for adults. So, therefore how could it be essential?  

How I was raised as a child and possibly these scriptures somehow influenced my beliefs that God didn’t like play.

King James Bible Cambridge ed.

1 Corinthians 13:11                                                                                                                         When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

1 Corinthians 10:7                                                                                                                                     Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

Ephesians 5:4                                                                                                                                    Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks

I always associated “play” for adults with lazy and we know God doesn’t like lazy. Words like stop playing around and work were words that I never wanted directed to me. I am a hard worker and think that everyone should be.

Mathew 25:26                                                                                                                                        His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

Proverb 15:19                                                                                                                                     The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.

Hebrew 6:12                                                                                                                                              That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

And many more scriptures with the same tone are found through- out the bible.

Just as the concern of God’s disapproval was becoming very troublesome I was finishing up the book of Play. I was reading the last chapter and God revealed a truly profound revelation to me. It was my personal discovery about play.

In my spirit God said - Play is not play but it is practice. I was looking for the wrong word. What does God think about practice?

 Play or practice is the innate seed that God has planted within all of us to accomplish our purpose.  Through play we are practicing life and gathering the skills needed to succeed in our own life journey. God gave us the gift of joy in practicing “play” that drives us to it passionately! 

Equipped with this information things became as clear as:

The pastor was practicing handling the twist and turns in life situations that would require him to look at things differently to solve them. Situation he would surly encounter in his line on work. God was keeping his skills sharp.

A football game and all the preparation that goes into it is practice. A college athlete who enjoys football is merely practicing the skills God wants to develop within him.  Teaching him perseverance, follow the rules, be on-time, and work hard, skills God wants his child to acquire for his life purpose.

My son learned at an early age to serve people with the career goal of a chef. He learned mixing -up different chemical with the purpose of saving a life, made him happy with a career goal as a marine biologist. And his “play” led him ultimately to his life purpose of serving people with compassion and medicine.

I have heard it described as a play profile. I might describe it more as a practice profile for life’s guide to your purpose. The purpose God has assigned to each of us will be revealed in each detailed accomplishment of play.

The questions is does God like practice? The answer is yes!

International Standard Version (©2012)

1 John 3:7
Little children, don't let anyone deceive you. The person who practices righteousness is righteous, just as the Messiah is righteous.

Practice on my friend and thank you so much for allowing me to share my play journey with you.

Be Blessed,

 Tonya Milligan