The Game of Life–How Are You Playing?

Stand firm and you will win life.

                                                   Luke 21:19

I was never an athlete. I think it takes physical strength laced with aggression (or assertiveness), of which I have neither. I’m more solo in my activities, competing with myself rather than others, even while my mother and daughter were extremely competitive and both captains of their basketball teams. I often said my daughter would compete with a stop sign if that were the only thing around.(She now claims, post-two daughters, that her energy is focused on stopping toppling toddlers and various other STOP activities moms compete with.) In her life and my mom’s though, it proved to be one of their strongest assets.

Obviously that competitive moxie skipped right over me. I did play basketball once when I was in the sixth-grade for a one-time girls game.

“All you have to do,” the PE instructor coached, “is stand there, catch the ball, turn your body, but don’t move your feet, and pass the ball without letting it bounce over the half-court line to Vicki.”

That’s all?

(Side note: You can check your b-ball history timeline for the ancient guidelines of girls’ half-court b-ball games.)

Yes, Vicki was the only one of this Fab Five who knew how to dribble. She was blessed with athleticism and the desire to practice while the rest of us girls lived perspiration-free, hopscotching at best. For that one glorious game in which Vicki won, I was only chosen that day because I was tall. FYI: Tall does not equal athletic.

A Second Chance to be a Player of Sports

My next basketball game was over twenty years later. My daughter still rolls her eyes and sighs when we talk about it. She had to witness my playing in a faculty-against-student showdown. The organizers were obviously desperate and/or believing the false adage “If she’s tall, she can play.”

I simply stayed true to myself. By the end of the first quarter, I had all the high school girls heeding my on-the-court etiquette demands. They no longer waved rudely in front of my face or pulled cheap tricks by stealing my ball. They learned to say “Sorry, Mrs. Ann” and “Excuse me, please.” In that particular scenario, it worked for me, that is, my demanding a more polite society.

I can, however, play a mean game of cards:

At my grandparents, we constantly played card games and board games. Gin rummy and Chinese checkers proved to be favorites as my mild-mannered grandfather never ever let up and never ever let me win for a false heightening of my confidence. I was taught  the rules of the games, to abide by them while also using my “good mind” to strengthen in winning strategies.

Games of Old

Games of Ye Old

And it was with my grandparents teaching me fair games that I felt the great urgency to invest in our grandchildrens’ tutelage. So it was when Elizabeth turned 3+ , the required age to teach the lengthy list of rules to Candyland: A Sweet Little Game for Sweet Little Folks!

Granted, the toughest part was communicating the initial “playing by the rules.” At three years old, one is sure to cry when stuck in Molasses Swamp. And just when her Gingerbread Man is almost to King Kandy’s Castle, Elizabeth draws the card to trudge back to Grandma Nutt’s house. Hmm, my own eyes widened as I realized this game was not only an encourager of bad eating habits, but it also was a tad gender unfriendly. (Grandma Nutt, really?)

Just when Monopoly’s updating the iron, why can’t a few Ginger Women or GB Children cross country past Sedentary ByGolly Jolly to Admirable Traits Village, enthusiastically noshing broccoli spears and carrot sticks?

And speaking of teaching an outdated game

I blindly stumbled into this next one. Within a game pack of eight different card games, I pulled out the Old Maid deck of cards. Granted, it had been almost a half century since my last game, but the rules were simple, and I figured Elizabeth might catch on easily. That she did. In the midst of the game when Elizabeth drew the “Old Maid” card, she wailed, “No! I don’t want the Old Maid card.”

She was adamant unto the point of tears, and at first, I thought it was kind of funny. Then I questioned, How is it she thinks the Old Maid is such a bad thing? It’s not like she’s ever heard that expression before. 

Upon further investigation, I realized all the other cards were the perfect Disney princesses: Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Ariel, Aurora, Jasmine. The Old Maid card was Ursula, the wicked green sea monster from The Little Mermaid.

I couldn’t believe it.

We’re not only failing to teach the rules of the game, we’re also teaching some wrong games 

In other words: We not only need to play by the rules fairly, we must make sure we’re playing the right game, the real game, one that is true. Sometimes we miss that when we learned something early in life and we carry it lifelong as truth because that’s all we know.

In this case, marketing was swaying us–even a three-year old. How confined would our lives be if our only given choices were to be Cinderella/Prince Charming or Ursula/Fiery Dragon?  I know to refute those biases, now. We recognize that being an unmarried woman is not a curse or a game-loser. The single adult women I know are strong, vibrant and fulfilled in their various roles. So why are we still playing these games?

Once we’re playing the right game, are we playing as honestly as we can, even if it means not winning?

Nevertheless in my struggle to teach E. the concept of playing by the rules, it’s interesting how she already possessed the understanding that winning is the goal.

  • And with it comes mastery of playing fair or not at all.
  • Along with not being jealous when others succeed.
  • Learning that a winning spirit isn’t all about “me” or the promotion of “me”
  • But one that includes “us”
  • And then we can conceive  the bigger picture of investing in a team, a country, a cause and mission bigger than us.
Biltmore Bowling Alley-Seriously, who has a bowling alley in their house?

Biltmore-Seriously, who has a bowling alley in their house?

We live in a day when Big Winners like Lance Armstrong or Bernie Madoff should have been losers. They played in such a way that made them larger than life winners for a while, at least, stepping over heaps of those who couldn’t compete at their pace. Once the truth was told, no one won.

So why is it that some still cheat and/or sway the rules in their favor?

Edison's Playroom

Edison’s Playroom–great idea, huh!

For all the scriptures that refer to our motives being pure, besides Psalm 66, one other stays relevant in my mind.

In Judges 4, Deborah, a prophetess, had given specific instructions to Barak, but Barak disputed the instruction with his wanting to do it his way.

“Very well,” Deborah said, “I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours.”

Because of the way you are going about this . . . 

Shouldn’t we stay cognizant of the way we go about anything and everything during any part of our day?

If we are bending the rules in our favor, especially if it’s unfair to others unaware . . . If we are putting others down so we’ll be raised above them by using deceptive means . . . how can the honor ever be ours? How can we win, truly win?

Let’s face it: too often we don’t trust truth, as in honest gains.

If we don’t trust truth, then we don’t trust God to take us through to a winning game, the real winning game. Isn’t that why deception seeps in, changing the pursuant’s rules, thinking, “I must finagle to assure my win”?

For not one game in life can rely completely on one’s skill,

as in one’s inherited genius or

that which comes from disciplined practice.

For too often, winning sometimes seems to occur because of the cards dealt to us,

or our knowing the right people who can get us in

or particular barriers fall on others’ paths,

but not ours, giving us an advantage

or, in reality–how we respond to the cards dealt and the genius and the discipline.

It’s our standing firm in trust that God does overcome when we’re our most overwhelmed.

Several months ago, while attending a benefit dinner for our local homeless shelter, Jacob’s House, I sat with a roomful of volunteers, supporters and city leaders watching a filmed segment about the shelter’s mission.

One mother shared, “My family and I are homeless because of a string of misfortunes: loss of jobs, house, car. And it’s not like we were out doing drugs, drinking, or not attending to our children.”

All eyes in the room were affixed on hers, each probably thinking what I was thinking, “I could just as well be her.”

Yet, in that room, in that mission Jacob’s House, the real game of life was being played. For those who seemed to be losing because of the cards dealt to them were being offered new opportunities.

Remember the board game called Life, where our plastic cars only seemed to be in peril? If we had a fender bender and we had no insurance, we simply doled out some paper bills given at the game’s start. Yet, never once because of a spin of the wheel were we actually losing a pink or blue peg to cancer, divorce or any number of significant game-changers.That’s when those winning strategies taught by my grandparents at the card table never took on a real-life relevance–the worst case scenario being my grandfather knocking my croquet ball into the neighbor’s yard.

Yet, to trust in God eliminates one’s “luck” in the roll of the die or in coincidences. He’s a power system unseen but always in action. It’s in believing in God’s set of rules and trusting without a shadow of a doubt that God never fails. He’s never lost at anything. Some only think He has.

If we choose to play fairly, share with others,

we are promised to be winners,

a winner of true character.

And in spite of who’s watching and who’s not,

we can stand firm in faith, hope and love and win this game called life.

My friend Pam shared the following rules to life:

Work like you don’t  need the money.
Love like you’ve never  been hurt.
Dance like nobody’s  watching.
Sing like nobody’s  listening.
Live like it’s Heaven on  Earth.

“All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart. To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Proverbs 21: 2-3

“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” Psalm 66:18-20

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57
“For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (AMP) says

 I have fought the good (worthy, honorable, and noble) fight, I have finished the race, I have kept (firmly held) the faith. [As to what remains] henceforth there is laid up for me the [victor’s] crown of righteousness [for being right with God and doing right], which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me and recompense me on that [great] day—and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved and yearned for and welcomed His appearing (His return).

This Heavy Hurts shares how to conquer the mind battle.


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