Life Lessons from the Game of Dodge Ball
September 10, 2012
When Spirit gave me the title to this sermon, I must admit I was a bit surprised. "Life Lessons from the Game of dodge ball" ... dodge ball? Really? The last time I played that game was probably in elementary school and it was never one of my favorite games. In fact, I found it kind of frightening--having a ball - a big, hard, stinging ball - tossed at me from a classmate. Yikes!
Most everyone knows what the game of dodge ball is. I know there are leagues now, and that it was popularized in a movie a few years back. And to my recollection, dodge ball is a game where a bunch of kids run around chasing after a ball. When you get possession of the ball you throw it at another player in an attempt to hit them. If you do hit them, they are out. If they catch the ball, then the thrower is out.
So I'm thinking, God, what is it here that you are showing me? And then the metaphor occurred to me. Instead of life being like a box of chocolates, life is like a game of dodge ball. Sometimes we get hit by life, sometimes we catch life, and sometimes we dodge life.
Just think about it...sometimes we feel "on" - ready to embrace and scoop up any and every ' ball' that life lobbies our way. We feel ready and centered with great spiritual clarity while we "catch the ball" ...at these times the game of life seems loving and in sync with our higher purpose and vibration. And for me, that is a wonderful, fun free feeling! Can you remember times when you “caught the ball”?
Well, I'm not going to address what happens in the catch-the-ball-times-of-life. We inherently have a deep knowing about that blessed place and space. We yearn for it and do spiritual prayer and practice to be in that present moment of Spirit. Catching implies a spiritual readiness and presence. Seems to me that this is why we are here - both in this physical space of community and also in the non-physical space of personal evolution. Not to get anyone else "out," but rather to be in the space of sweet 'catching',the space of fully embracing all of life. Standing squarely and rooted, ever poised and arms open to vibrant, awake life. Ahhhhhh.
I am also not going to address the issues involved when we "dodge" life. In the game of dodge ball we do just that--we dodge or move away from the ball so that we don't get hit. We manuever and manipulate space and time to avoid the sting of the ball and elimination from the game. How do we dodge life? What does this look like in daily life? In dodging life, we allow fear to take us out of spiritual engagement in the present moment. We dodge it by being spiritually asleep. We dodge life by being apathetic, by continually telling our story without moving forward, by blaming, shaming, and defaming ourselves and others. When we dodge life we dodge the chance to learn, to grow, to expand, and to heal.
So, leaving the more expanded lessons of catching and dodging for another day, we take a closer look at what happens when we get hit by that darn ball. What happens when life in all its yucky, mucky, real self lands on our doorstep, in our hearts, in our pockets, at our workplace, in our relationships, in our families? And what if, just what if, one of those big ol' balls were to come as a 20,000 pound tree falling on your home during Hurricane Irene?...
Oh, wait, life did do that!! Last August 2011, when the hurricane came through our area, I had heard all the weather warnings. My partner Romie and I went to the grocery store to stock up on basic supplies. We decided to huddle in the basement while the storm passed. The two of us and our three dogs cuddled up on the guest futon and at 11:30 pm we texted our loved ones to let them know we were comfy, cozy and safe. About two hours later, at 1:30 am, we heard a thud. Our eyes flew open, brows furrowed, we were instantly awake.
Not so much from the sound--which was relatively minor--but from our mutual and sudden recognition that the storm had just showed up, in a real way. Hmmm, what was that noise anyway? Ever brave Romie, flashlight in hand, ventured upstairs to investigate. Soon I heard, "Hon, you're not going to like this." She calmly beckoned and up I went. Upon entering the bedroom I saw a huge tree branch sticking through what had been a window. Shards of glass were all over the bed where we usually slept. The window frame was twisted and parts of it layed crumpled onto the dog beds. The rain was pouring in and the wind was howling. As I surveyed the mess, Romie went to follow the insistent sound coming from just beyond the bedroom. Looking there, into the bathroom, we saw a flood of water coming through the ceiling and into the tub through a long cracked line of floor to ceiling tiles. OK ...we thought, a huge branch fell off the tree and hit the roof. It seemed contained, controlled and fixable. We called the fire department and by 3am they had put a tarp across the window and told us it was OK to stay through the night.
Come morning, electricity long gone, we ventured outside to take a look in the backyard. BOING!!! Our eyes popped out of our heads like the old cartoon characters. Every opening - door, window, house facade was draped with branches, leaves, twigs- even a long ago used bird nest that once perched towering above was eye level.
It wasn't just a branch of the tree, but the whole 10 ton tree had fallen directly on our home!!
Well, in the dodge ball game of life this was one GIANT ball, one that had made a direct "hit"... literally and figuratively. And one of the first things we realized was that the humans and animals were safe, and while the damage was extensive, the house did not break in two from the tree. And, according to the many engineers and structural experts who assessed our home, it should have. Romie likes to say that there was an angel who had her pinky finger on the side of the tree keeping it from splitting the house in half. So, with this story in mind I want to offer you three steps on how to navigate when the dodge ball of life comes hitting you upside the head!
Step One: Count Your Blessings
There were so many scenarios of what could have happened that night that would have made the event so much worse. The entire house could have been felled, crushing us beneath the rubble. Humans or dogs could have been injured or worse. I could have been there alone. A fire or gas explosion could have occurred. We counted our blessings. We were safe. We had insurance "like a good neighbor"! We were together. Very few of our possessions were destroyed.
We've all heard phrases such as, "It could have been so much worse.” "At least you have your health." "She walked away from the accident with only a scratch." "He has a cancer, but at least it's treatable." Yes, count those blessings. When we count blessings we affirm to the universe that yes, we are grateful for how God has watched over us and protected us. When we count our blessings we raise our vibration from that of fear to that of love. When we count our blessings we exercise our faith muscles and make our spiritual selves stronger and more resilient. My guess is that everyone, say in the past week, has made some sort of statement--an affirmation--of how God has showed up in our life in an unexpected yet amazing way. 'Cause that is just what God does. And we are grateful and thankful. And always, as we give thanks, we gotta give praise to the one who has brought us this far!
Step Two: Recognize that in the game of life, the balls will come!
It is part of our human contract that balls will be tossed at us. Recognizing this reduces our feeling as the victim, as powerless, as being persecuted or abandoned by God. There is a grace that comes from knowing that we have a choice about how to perceive the balls....how to react or respond to them.
To deny their existence, or to believe that we can live a full life without the benefit of the experiences that shove, push, and pummel us into faith and expansion is a denial of our inner spiritual strength and resiliency. Granted some balls will present as air filled, tiny ping pong size invitations. Some like nerf balls, that appear gigantic but pose not real threat, and then there are the heavy iron wrecking ball ones that hold the potential to sink us with one blow.
The dodge ball will hit us at some point. That is a given in our humanness. And with it comes challenges, invitations, opportunities, success, joys, delights, sorrow, wonder... And the brightly shining essence of God as God lives within and through us.
Release the expectation of perfection, stand with Spirit, awake, vibrant in the human choice to live our divine self even-and especially -when these balls strike.
Step Three: Remember we are spiritual beings having a human experience!
I will admit that this one is a bit more challenging for me. I breathe, I bleed, I feel pain. All that is true, and I remember that my essence, our essence, is energy and that we are One with Spirit. Any separation we feel is illusion. It is truly man-made. During the days, weeks, and months that followed the tree, we now affectionately call our home the Tree House, I felt sadness, frustration, anger, disbelief, annoyance, and despair. And during those dark times, I would repeat a simple phrase to myself: God, let there be more of you and less of me. God, more of you and less of me. To live as spiritual beings is to live in the here and now. To be present and mindful, aware and awake. No more dodging. No more catching just to avoid the depth of true spiritual living. No more snooze buttons! Rise and shine and remember who we really are. Surrender the hard stuff to God and then get out of God's way.
Romie and I set the intention that all would work out with the insurance company and the contractor, and the workmen, and the city for our highest good. I blessed them and their work. Romie and I would take turns having meltdowns, and we also took turns in spiritual strength and choice. We witnessed and supported each other. And as I did so, with myself, with her and with all others who were involved with the rebuilding of our home, I connected with their spiritual selves. More of you God and less of me.
And, we are still not back in our home YET.(note: since this sermon we HAVE moved back home) First we were to be back in April, then end of May, now, it is the end of June. Currently we are living at a hotel with Romie’s daughter and our three dogs. And, all is perfect in God’s plan. Bring on the balls. Bring on the growth. Bring on the healing.
So again, while in the game of life dodge ball, remember:
1. Count your blessings.
2. Recognize, with love, that the balls will come!
3. And remember, we are spiritual beings having a human experience--complete with free will and choice.
In closing, I'd like to share a story with you...
Catherine Marshall in her book "Touching the Heart of God" tells the story of her friend Marge who had an experience aboard a plane bound for Cleveland. As she settled into her seat, Marge noticed a strange phenomenon. On one side of the airplane a sunset suffused the entire sky with glorious color. But out of the window next to her seat, all Marge could see was a dark and threatening sky, with no sign of the sunset.
As the plane's engines began to roar, a gentle Voice spoke within her. "You have noticed the windows," the Voice murmured beneath the roar and thrust of the takeoff. "Your life, too, will contain some happy, beautiful times, but also some dark shadows. Here's a lesson I want to teach you to save you much heartache and allow you to "abide in Me" with continual peace and joy. You see, it doesn't matter which window you look through; this plane is still going to Cleveland. So it is in your life. You have a choice. You can dwell on the gloomy picture. Or you can focus on the bright things and leave the dark, ominous situations to Me. I alone can handle them anyway. And the final destination is not influenced by what you see or feel along the way. Learn this, act on it, and you will be released, able to experience the "peace that passes understanding."
So as you engage and live fully awake in the game of life, complete with its dodge balls, I wish you peace and choice, growth and love as the balls come your way!
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