WHEN I WAS A KID….
When I was a kid, Elliot, Darren, sometimes Nelson, but never his older brother Dwayne, would play War. Broom sticks, bats–the real wooden kind, and sometimes army helmets you could purchase at Skaggs Drug Store, were the uniform. Coming from a Naval Aviator home, I was a little out of my destiny being a soldier, but it was okay. That time would come. God is very much a playful God.
We were always fighting the ‘Natzees’ even though we were in the middle of the Vietnam War. I guess because we couldn’t spell Vietnam and the Natzees were just easier to fight. They were truly bad.
Someone had to be one of those guys when we played and when we all agreed to take even turns, it was okay to be one. It was just a dressed-up game of Tag anyway. Sometimes at night in the summer, we would play flashlight tag. But it was always at night and every house on the street was the battlefield.
The neighbors’ yards were used for golf practice
Mostly. we used Elliot’s front yard a lot along with Old Man Thompson and his wife’s house. He was the guy in the afternoon who would come out and practice his chip shots, hitting the ball from Elliot’s front yard to the Spinster Sister’s house on the other side of his house, usually in the afternoon about happy hour time before there was such a thing as happy hour. The sisters had a lot of cats and their niece lived with them. Decades later the last sister passed away and when they sold the house and the new owner started to remodel it, there were dead cats in the attic.
A lot of them.
I don’t think we play much anymore. I struggle with play. Like really playing. God is a playful god. Heck, I’m not a spring chicken-whatever that is. Nope, you can’t count X-Boxes or Slaughter Quest or anything you have to stay inside and plugged in to play. I think we might have lost it, somewhere, even before Covid. We need it back. We’re too busy with things which seems to fill our time in place of play. We call that ‘play’ but it’s not. We need that stuff from the past—back with us today.
I was thinking this thought when I had to run an errand for my daughter. The dogs love to ride in the truck—once they get in. No easy feat. But I remembered when I was still a dad with kids at home, we would be driving and Rascal Flats’ ‘Life is a Highway‘ would come on and I would no longer be driving a car with passengers. I was flying a fighter—a naval aviator I was—and every car in front of me deserved to be machine gunned—every one of them. Maybe on a Christian site like this the discussion about ‘machine gunning’ cars is not good. Then think of it as a metaphor.
“Hey, Dad. What are you doing?”
The kids, still not familiar of the proper way to spell and pronounce Natzees would ask ‘hey Dad, what are you doing?” There would be a sliver of fear in their voices experiencing their role as a drafted flight crew member and their position in the back seat—helpless and depending on the aviator to get them safely wherever they were going. They would say it again, dragging me out of my trance. “Quiet, I’m flying a plane” as I lawfully used my turn signal to change lanes on the freeway to line up on another plane/car/bus/truck.
GOD LOVES IT WHEN WE PLAY
We—all of us, need to fly more missions. God loves it when we play. I am not a theologian, but I think Dad would think pretending to be a fighter pilot is just a form of Tag. I imagine my Lord, Jesus, would play some form of soccer when he was walking and talking. “Hey, James, where is that sheep’s bladder we used yesterday?” He loves tag, soccer, anything where I can get out and be free and playful, and knowing full well my joints will hurt tomorrow. You run in your yard and hide in your version of Old Man Thompson’s hedge. Maybe instead of Rascal Flats- because you’ve gotten older, you listen to the William Tell Overture from the movie The Lone Ranger. I guess it would depend on the mission length. You choose.
We need to go find our father’s old flying helmet, the summer one, not the fur lined winter one, strap it down as best you can with your size 10 and 7/8ths head. Then don the goggles completely pretending the missing lens was a near miss from a Messerschmitt 109-gun round. Your turret gunner, the furry one with the drool issue finds her position between the cockpit seats. Behind her, the navigator/radio man, the calmest one of the enlisted crew, sits patiently awaiting orders and monitoring radio traffic from his seat.
You don’t have a turret gunner who drools? How about one with nine lives? It doesn’t have to be a car. It can be a bike. You can even fly solo. It’s here when God shows up and wants you to enjoy the world around you. A world He has given, just you, at that very moment.
We need to then fly that plane like we owned it.
FLY IT LIKE WE OWN IT
Today, strap it down, squawk 1200 and push the throttle to the wall. Oh, and tell the radio man “Turn it up Sgt Bob, turn it way up.” It’s okay. It’s a crew thing. But you, you are the pilot in command. Gun those cars with your best machine gun sound. Then, smile back at your crew from the rear view-your best aviator Ace face on.
Enjoy your flight.