Greetings Open Bible family, friends and loved ones,
As I waited for the kids to begin to show up for our aftercare program this morning, I reflected on the kids that we are asked to care for. Today is a non-school day and the kids will be spending most of the day with us in the Super Star classroom. The very first ones to be dropped off were a brother and sister who have been in our program since the older sister was brought into our preschool program several years before. She is currently a third grader and he a first grader.
After they finished their breakfast mom packed for them, the younger sibling grabbed one of the gator skin balls that we have for them to play with outside. Because it is very soft (for old school memories – like a nerf ball with a tougher outside skin on it) we will play with it indoors when there aren’t too many kids where things can get too out of control.
We played catch, then monkey-in-the-middle and then a little keep away. It was a blast, and I was breathless when we were all done. As more kids filtered in, we ended up putting the ball away so they could focus on more subdued activities. As I wandered the room, I reflected on when I first started serving as the opening Super Star teacher most every morning. I remember how the kids would come and get signed in and just hang out until I would walk them over for their school day at Lietz Elementary.
One young boy in particular would always be the first to be dropped off and he would be really hard to connect with. He would be really sullen and distant and really didn’t want to engage until a few of his friends showed up closer to the time we would leave for school. Then one morning, I grabbed one of the gator balls and threw it at him. He just stood there and stared at me and let the ball bounce off his chest. I picked it up again, tossed it to him only to have him continue to stare at me and let the ball bounce off him as before. This continued until he started rolling on the floor laughing hysterically and ended with him playing with me until some of the other kids started showing up.
Now when he comes in, he will go immediately to where the balls are and we will have a robust game of dodge ball. I find it funny that as the other kids are showing up he will take the ball and put it away almost as if he doesn’t want them to play because this is “our” thing to do in the morning. Now, as a result of our short time of playing with the ball, his whole demeanor is different when he gets dropped off before school. All because of a ball.
I remember myself as a kid, I lived to play ball. It didn’t matter it’s size or density, if it was a ball, I wanted to play with it. I grew up with my life revolving around a ball. Whether it was football season, basketball season or baseball season, I wanted to play. Soccer wasn’t a big thing where I grew up but if it was then I would have played soccer (the closest thing to soccer I came to play was kick ball). It didn’t matter how cold or hot it was, or how dry or wet it came to be or even if there was snow on the ground, if there was an opportunity for me to play with a ball then I would play.
It is amazing how one thing like that can elicit such a committed response and steadfast desire to entertain oneself with one small insignificant item; a ball. In fact, I even have a dog that when it comes to entertainment is absolutely oblivious to engaging in any activity until I bring out the tennis ball. Once he sees the ball, he is transposed to his younger self (he is ten and feeling his age) and with a wag of his tail, will run for hours chasing and bring back to me his tennis ball so I can throw it again and again and again.
Whenever I pause to reflect on my faith, there is one thing that brings me to a place where I am filled with joy and excited to be called a Child of God. That one thing is to know that God loves me. I know this sound like a cliché, but it is true. Growing up religious and going to church begrudgingly, the idea of God and Jesus was a good thought but an empty concept. I hated going to church but desperately wanted to believe that God could love a screw-up like me. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I realized the thing that filled me with hope and joy was just the simple idea to know and eventually believe, “God loved me!”
It was almost like the ball that we play with before school and the ball that ignites the younger version of my 10-year-old mixed lab or even the ball of choice that would get me out of the house to play either on my own or with some of the neighborhood kids, God’s love. I love the book of Romans and how Paul is constantly reminding us of His love. Romans 5:8 states, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And John the Apostle wrote in 1 John 3:16a, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us…” Just as we engage in the power of how a ball can transform our mood, the power of knowing that God loves us so much to pay the ultimate price for our salvation fills me with a sense of humble gratitude and eternal gratefulness knowing how deeply I am loved.
Take a moment, today, to reflect on how God’s love has transformed your life. Think about when you were at your lowest, God came to tell you, “You are deeply loved!” Again, before we even loved Him, He loved us and demonstrated that love with the ultimate act of surrender by dying on the cross for our sin. Why? Simply because He loved us. Let someone know today how much you are loved by Him and see where the conversation could go. Someone may need to hear how much God loves them. Maybe, like the kids who now look forward to coming to our Super Star program in the morning before school, their mood may suddenly perk up. Give it a try!!
With a “bounce” in my step,
Pastor Duane