You see, over a decade ago when Chuck and I first got married, Grandma bought us a beautiful African stone game called Mancala. Upon receiving her gift, my hubby and I thanked Grandma for thinking of us and included it with the many different board games we both brought into our new marriage. However, as the years passed, we never seemed to find the time to play Grandma's Mancala game.
For years, I would notice the box sitting in our family room game cabinet. Sometimes, I would take the game out of it's box and admire the workmanship of it's beautiful base and smooth stones, but never would I actually stop and learn how to play the game. At times, I even considered re-gifting it so that someone else could enjoy Mancala. Fortunately, I could never bring myself to do that... mainly because I knew my Grandmother always bought gifts with great purpose and gave much thought to those that would be receiving her offering. I also knew that back in the day, when my Grandfather was still alive, he and my Grandmother would enjoy playing games together, as a couple, just about every singe day of their marriage. Long before the days of video games and what-not, Grandma and Grandpa always had a new game to recommend. Whether a board game, card game or domino game, our family would take note to learn whatever they endorsed... because the game would always prove to be the most FUN!
Over this past holiday, Chuck and I had to go into the office and wait for an important package to be delivered for one of our key customer accounts. Mind you, it was a day that our entire office was originally supposed to be on holiday. In fact, the business was technically closed between Christmas and the New Year. So of course, neither one of us wanted to return into work. We'd rather be home playing, relaxing. But, since Chuck runs the office, we had to go in and take care of the matter. To make us drag our heels all the more, it turned out to be a day when our area received a few inches of snow. We knew the ETA of our oversees shipment would surely be delayed as our delivery driver would be battling slippery road conditions. With the understanding that we would be sitting there for some time, Chuck and I decided to make it a game/movie day - just the two of us goofing off in the office. My hubby setup a projector to his laptop that would play movies on a white board screen in our conference room. It was clever and fun to grab a few board games, some popcorn for munching, and enjoy a "secret" play day together as we "holed up" at work. As you have probably surmised, one of the games we grabbed was Grandma's Mancala game.
Determined to finally learn it, we sat down and played a few practice rounds while referring back to it's instructions. After a few wins on either side, Chuck and I realized how much we absolutely loved playing the game together. Since that day, Mancala has been given a predominant place of status in the center of our dining table. Chuck and I go to great lengths to find time to creatively fit in a game between cooking times, phone calls, etc. We have downloaded a Mancala application to both our phones so we can also play whenever we are waiting on hold, in line at the bank, passing halftime of a football game, etc. etc. etc. We love Mancala!
Thank you, Grandma!
Yesterday, I was reading the words of Jesus in Luke 18 during my devotions. I paused when I got to verse 17 because it reminded me of this whole Mancala story.
I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. (Luke 18:17)
Now, I know you are wondering, how on earth does that relate to the Mancala story, Victoria? Well, I got to thinking about Jesus words and how a little child receives a gift they truly want. How they rip off the wrapping paper with gusto and start singing and dancing around the room in delight when they realize it is really theirs. How they jump in head first to know everything there is to know about the gift and center all their time around enjoying it. I thought about this, and then I thought about how Chuck and I first received Grandma's gift of Mancala. How we acknowledged it, said thank you for it, but never really got into it. How we allowed it to sit on the shelf and collect dust rather than spend time enjoying it.
Ladies, please think about Jesus words again, "Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." This is a very specific way that Christ expects us to receive His gift and follow His way. Like a little child - with enthusiasm, gusto and commitment. As I picture the many children on earth who ripped open a Christmas present this past holiday... who sang and danced around their homes with delight over what they had received... who called all their friends to brag about the great gift they could call their own... I wonder, how do we receive the kingdom of God? How do we receive His word, His truth, His promise? Do we jump in head first and center all our time learning it, living it, enjoying it, sharing the news of it? Or do we simply acknowledge the gift... thank Him for the gift... then quietly place His life-giving offering on the shelf to collect dust?
Only until we actually open it up, rejoice, and make it the central part of our lives... and only until we share our enthusiasm and delight, acknowledging the gift to all others we meet, will we truly be like a little child receiving the kingdom of God. I mean, come on... this is Jesus gift to all mankind that promises eternity in His complete goodness!!! Only until we dust off our Bibles and dive into His word with full-on gusto, consuming every section and enjoying His way of life as our own, will we enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.
Jesus bought us the gift of life with great purpose and gave much thought to those that would be receiving His offering. Let's not thoughtlessly acknowledge Him only to sit Him up on a spiritually dead shelf. Instead, let's receive His Precious Name in our hearts. Let's rejoice in Him being our own. Let's learn every aspect of His eternal words and follow His way of life to the letter. Let's receive His merciful, glorious gift... like little children.
This is the day that our Lord has made... TODAY! Let's remember to receive His gracious, perfect gift TODAY. Let's rejoice in it and be glad TODAY. Let's share it with everyone we meet TODAY. Let's use it, know it, and make it the central part of our life... like a little child - with enthusiasm, gusto and commitment... and let's do so TODAY!
Thank you, Jesus!
I am grateful to my dear Grandmother for this unexpected reminder! I'm sure when she purchased Mancala, she never imagined it becoming a means to bring me closer to my King. Nor would she have ever thought that this simple game would be used by God as a tool to share the Savior with thousands online. How great is our Lord, ladies? How magnificent is His timing?
Today, I am smiling as I picture Grandma rejoicing, singing, dancing in heaven this very moment as I type. I cannot wait to one day share alongside her the greatest gift of all... the physical presence of our Redeemer! The blessing of knowing face-to-face our Almighty King!
Thank you, Jesus, for this hope. Thank you sooo much, precious, precious Lord! Blessed be Your name forever!