The Spiritual Discipline of Play

I enjoy reading books on spiritual disciplines. From Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, to Barbara Brown Taylor; learning more about spiritual practices is at the heart of living the faith. I like to think of myself as a disciplined person in practicing my faith. One of the spiritual disciplines that has captured my interest is ordering the day in prayer, as found in monastic spirituality. The Benedictine and Trappist monks, to name but a few of the communities, order their day not by time, but by prayer.

Along with prayer, reading and meditating on Scripture, service, and listening, these are spiritual practices that I have tried to develop and embrace in my life. When my wife and I attended “baby preparation classes” last fall, when asked what we loved about each other, my wife shared, “My discipline.” A part of me was probably hoping for looks, but I would take discipline.

People are disciplined in certain things whether they know it or not. Some are rigorous in keeping their schedule, spending time with family, or work. Others are disciplined in certain hobbies or practices. I have a friend who is disciplined in  physical activity. He rides his bike, runs, and is active all the time. I’m impressed with his discipline to physical activity and healthy living. safe_image.jpg

A part of this discipline of activity for my friend, Rev. Billy Nickrand of Castleton United Methodist Church, is having fun, enjoying games, or simply pushing his kids on the swing. This weekend Billy rode his bike 150 miles in the 24 hour event called “24 Hours of Booty” to raise money for cancer research. I decided to join him for the opening, so we rode our bikes together to the starting area. We had some time to kill, so without even thinking Billy grabbed a Frisbee and we began.

The Billy Nickrand cheering section!

I had planned on a quiet evening nestled up in a good book, probably about spiritual disciplines, but my friend’s presence invited me to learn the spiritual discipline and practice of play. Simply tossing the Frisbee around, including others who were walking by, and poking fun at my lack of skill in getting the Frisbee to him, became a spiritual practice. It might not seem like much, but enjoying the simple and fun things in life can become holy. We enjoyed the outdoors, including other people, and we were putting our bodies into activity, bodies that are “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6: 19).
Sometimes it’s important to have some “holy play” and enjoy physical activity. We need to find the time for silence, prayer, and reflecting on Scripture, but we should also find the time for physical activity as a spiritual discipline.

I’m thankful for my friend, Billy, for showing me the gift of “holy play.”


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