Monday, September 3, 2012

Playground Lesson 1: Ritchie's Rules for Foursquare

Foursquare court
A favorite playground game when I was a kid was foursquare. Two-square was also an option, but foursquare was much more fun. At Adams Elementary School, for at least the last several years I was there, Mr. Ritchie was the principal as well as one of the sixth grade teachers. 
Mr. Ritchie would sometimes join the kids on the playground for a game of foursquare. He had a certain set of rules for the game, and they became the standard for us whenever we played.They were referred to simply as "Ritchie's Rules".
A group of kids would gather for the game, and someone would announce that we were playing by “Ritchie’s Rules”. As soon as that was agreed upon, there was no more need for explanation. Everyone knew what was involved in “Ritchie’s Rules”. Everyone started with the same understanding of how the game was played.
Most parents know that children feel much more secure when they know the “rules” that apply for their lives. This is allowed. This isn’t. There is a boundary here that you must not cross. This is how we talk to each other. This is how we treat each other.
As adults, we also function much better when we know what is expected. I’m not talking about a legalistic set of do’s and don’ts. I’m talking about a general understanding of how we will treat others … how we will interact with them, even when things are difficult.
Jesus gave us some guidance on this. He took the long list of do’s and don’ts that people of His day were expected to obey and summarized them in two great commandments.
“ ’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’  This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:38-40 NASB)
I discussed these two commandments in an earlier post, but they are worth mentioning again.  Let’s call them “Jesus’ Rules”. This is not a long list. There is not a lot to remember. That does not mean, though, that they are easy to obey.
Is it easy to love God with ALL our heart, soul, and mind? Not when there are so many things competing for our attention … for our love. If we are going to play by Jesus’ Rules, this commandment is more important than any other.
This means that our love for God comes first. 
  • We give priority to Him. 
  • We intentionally take time to be with Him. 
  • The things He challenges us to do takes precedence over anything else that we might want to do. 
  • What God wants takes precedence over what our loved ones want. 
That is not easy at all, but we can trust Him to lead us in the right way. When we love God above all, that “rule” directs everything else.
The second commandment is also not easy. We are to love others as we love ourselves. If we were “playing by our own rules”, we might arrange everything so that it all turns out in our favor. We would try to work things out so that our lives are more comfortable, easier, and not inconvenienced by the knotty problems of others.
If we choose to live by Jesus’ Rules, we will consider how we can extend love to others, and care for them as Jesus cared for us. We will remember that we sometimes have problems, too, and need someone to help, advise, or even just listen as we cry.
At Adams Elementary School, Ritchie’s Rules governed how we played foursquare. When we all played by the same rules, the game was usually played without confusion.
When we play by Jesus’ Rules, our lives will be much more clear. Relationships will grow strong and healthy. Clarity, not confusion, will be the normal way of life. This is not saying that playing by Jesus’ Rules will make life easy … but Jesus’ Rules will make life much more simple.
So … whose rules are you playing by?

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