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The Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel The Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel

The Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel is senior pastor of First Congregational UCC in Dubuque, IA. She is a speaker and author of several books including "'Spiritual But Not Religious' Is Not Enough."

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Lillian Daniel: Awkward Playground Memories

March 05, 2014

"Let each of you look not only to [your] own interests, but also to the interests of others." -Philippians 2:4 

I have a childhood memory of watching other children play during recess on the school playground. I longed to join them, but didn't know if I would be accepted. I didn't know the rules of their games. 

As a journalist's kid, I moved from country to country every couple of years. I wasn't just changing schools but changing cultures, sometimes changing continents. There were always different games on the playground. 

As earnestly as I watched from the outside, I knew that watching wouldn't teach me how to play. Standing outside the circle was safer, but experience had taught me that the only way to learn to play the game was to jump in and play the game. When my desire for connection triumphed over my fear, I would jump into the tornado of chaotic play. 

I remember the feeling of being swept into the circle, assigned to a team, told what the game plan was. It felt glorious and well worth the risk. 

But not all my playground memories are happy ones. Sometimes I wasn't welcome. I didn't always have fun. I got the rules wrong. I made a fool of myself. I was more afraid to jump in the next time.

I think a lot of grownups have these same associations with church. So the next time you are in worship, remember the awkwardness of the playground. Look for the person on the outside looking in. Invite someone into the game and explain how to play.

Or go ahead and jump in yourself. You can't learn to play just by watching. 

Dear God, bless those looking in from the outside, with a sense of welcome. Dear God, bless those on the inside looking out, with the same thing. Amen.

Taken with permission from UCC StillSpeaking Devotionals. Visit

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