Rachel and I have adopted a certain 'division of labor' for organizing children's birthday parties. It looks like this:
Alan is in charge of the games and Rachel is in charge of the cake, presents, food... basically everything else. (Yes, I married out of my league!)
So, since northern Mozambique doesn't have a Chuck E Cheese or a Pizza Palace or any nice parks with playgrounds (sigh), a few days before the event I'll sit down with the birthday girl and figure out which party games we'll play. One activity that almost always gets chosen is some variation of 'pin the tail on the donkey.' Depending on that daughter chosen theme, the game may be something like: 'pin the tail on the pony,' 'pin the parrot on the palm tree,' 'pin the duck on the water,' etc.
When the game gets started, part of my job is to call up the kids, tie on their bandana and spin them around. This experience reminds me of something that I should probably have learned in physics class, which is this: orientation greatly determines an objects trajectory.
I'll spin the party guests around fast (the rule is: one spin for each year - 3 year olds are spun 3 times; 10 year olds get spun 10 times, etc.). And when I'm feeling particularly mischievous, I'll point them in the opposite direction - away from their intended target. Now even though they can't see (ok, maybe some of them are peeking), these kids are all pretty sharp and they know how to use the other kids' voices to orient themselves correctly.
Yesterday afternoon, we went to a birthday party at the home of missionary friends in a nearby town. At one point before the cake was served, a video camera was pointed at me and I was asked to share some advice for young Kanon on turning 13 and becoming a man. I tried to be funny... and ended up saying something lame.
But waking up this morning, I made coffee, sat down at the table and found that the best advice I could have given was staring me right in the face. So, Kanon, sorry about yesterday's lame answer... here's take two.
(Ahem) - that's the sound of me clearing my throat
I have a piece of paper with a list of things to pray about each morning. The verse at the top of the list is 1 Timothy 6:11 and 'The Voice' version of the Bible translates it like this:
"You are a man of God. Your quest is for justice, godliness, faithfulness, love, perseverance, and gentleness."
Paul is writing to a young man, Timothy, who is in over his head working with a complex young church. Timothy's got skills - he's good at what he does - and Paul is encouraging him to serve the church well and not get caught up in any fraudulent quests. No, Paul wants Timothy to remember who he is (he's a man of God) and what he's questing after (those six things).
Over the past couple years I've been experimenting with the ways that imagination can energize my prayer life (I think imagination is a resource that Christians have often neglected - but that's a post for another day!). So, when I imagine this text, I see a knight in full armor on the back of a mighty steed. The horse and rider trot up to a gigantic crossroads and they begin circling as the knight contemplates which path to take. He lifts his metal visor to get a better view, and the face that's revealed is my own.
It's me at this crossroads and today is a new day - which path will I choose?
I imagine myself examining the different destinations offered at that intersection. There are the wide, well-traveled paths. You know, those popular quests for money and sex, fame and power. And then there are the temptations that may be more appealing to people in our line of work: the quests to be a model missionary or a respected teacher, a best-selling author or a famous preacher.
But, then the knight turns his attention to a different path, a narrower one - the quest for justice, godliness, faithfulness, love, perseverance, and gentleness. In my mind, the knight lowers his visor, spurs his horse and they race down that path.
Now to some people that vision may sound silly or juvenile or chauvinistic. But, for any of its perceived shortcomings, that picture has helped sustain me. Finding a visceral image like that is important because it can harness our emotions and put them to work for us. That scene helps orient my heart towards a good trajectory. It helps me listen to the voices of the people of God who've gone before us and remember what it means to live well. As a man of God, I want that quest to define me. I want to work to see those six characteristics found in me and in the world around me.
So, Kanon, sorry again about yesterday's lame answer. I hope today's is better.
May God help both of us remember that we are men of God and our ultimate quest is for justice, godliness, faithfulness, love, perseverance, and gentleness.
Grace and Peace,