Lord, Teach Us ...
By Amanda Hudson
Close to 20 years ago, my nephew was busy making plans for the amusement park he was going to build.
He had picked out the land out on the edge of Rockford for it, and was happily mapping out the roller coaster spot and where the carousel would go, and so on. Roads in and out. Restaurants and ticket booths.
I became rather alarmed because he was so insistent on all the details, and I found myself noting that he shouldn’t count on the land being available when he’d be old enough to purchase it. And so on.
As I yammered my concerns, he turned to me very solemnly, looked me in the eye and firmly noted, “Aunt Mandi, I’m pretending!”
My stammered apology included an expression of sorrow that I had forgotten how to play. All these years later, it is still an inner void for me.
In the Bible Jesus tells his apostles that they are to become like children in order to enter the kingdom of God. I’m sure He was not asking for the whiney, self-centeredness of childishness. He was asking them to redevelop a child’s wonder and joy and playfulness, and even the free abandonment toward beauty and light — the kind that has youngsters rushing into a field to pick wildflowers without fretting about how ticks live in fields. And ticks might give us Lyme disease. And ...
So what is a fretfull adult to do to regain that kind of outlook?
At the risk of making such a quest into a self-improvement project, those of us who are weighed down by worries and pessimism might have to ponder what steps we might take to re-learn how to play. 
Childlike play probably doesn’t include complicated card games or the vast majority of videogames or anything involving competition. It might include coloring and puzzles — but not if those cause stress in the adult who makes coloring within the lines and finding the right puzzle piece into work.
Hiking for exercise is different than a stroll along a path to enjoy God’s creations. Making up a song on the fly about your pet or garden or that puffy cloud in the sky could work. Sitting with your pet or a quiet friend and enjoying a view could perhaps lessen habits of frenetic activity and help us toward the possibility of childlike play.
“I remember how rainbows had addressed me as a child, how light and color made their language heard,” says Carmelite poet Jessica Powers. “Though I was not yet judge or analyst, something secure was given, kept; I held, as with my grandmother’s warm bursts of Gaelic, sweet words that had no meaning but were there.” (“Siesta in Color” from The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers)
Her poem “This May Explain” notes that “The door to God, the door to any grace is very little, very ordinary.” In the poem “Return,” Powers tells herself, “I must come home again to simple things: robins and buttercups and bumblebees, laugh with the elves and try again to find a leprechaun behind the hawthorn trees.”
The “simple” part of childlike play and approach to life might be what trips us up when we attempt to play. It’s so easy to forget the majestic simplicity of God and instead make a bumblebee a complicated flight machine. 
A wonderful relative of mine embodied another potential glitch — when a neighbor commented on the beautiful day they were experiencing, her reply was “It’s supposed to rain tomorrow.” I suspect we all can relate to that approach at times.
Still, Jesus never gives his disciples instructions that are impossible to achieve. We can, with practice, work at setting aside time when we will deliberately, gently, be alert to the beauty of nature, the hilariousness of whatever odd joke or critter or musical tune tickles us, and the uplifting pleasure of an ice cream cone or bowl of strawberries.
Accepting the gift of rejoicing in God’s magnificence as can be glimpsed even in our fallen world can help us develop that heart of a child so valued by Jesus.
“Lord, teach us to pray,” asked the disciples at one point.
May we also be willing to ask Jesus, “Lord, teach us to play.”