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Posted Friday, October 5, 2012, at 4:45 PM

They were sitting on the floor with the toy between them. Sweet, innocent laughter erupted from the baby as the music played. As she reached for the bright colored box, the lid sprang open and the toy figure inside popped up. Her eyes grew huge as she squealed her delight. Taking the toy into her chubby hands she looked the toy over and over; turning it every direction. When she found the lid and pushed it down, the puppet disappeared. As she banged

the toy against the floor, the box remained firmly closed.

Her mother reached over and gently wound the crank on the box. The music started again and the child's eyes watched carefully as the toy performed its trick time and time again. She could play with the Jack-in-a-box for hours; never tiring; always filled with wonder.

As she grew, she was able to wind the toy for herself. She never tired of the simple joy of the Jack-in-a-box. The anticipation of the box popping open was in itself a thrill. Never knowing when the lid would open was part of the delight of the toy--knowing it would pop open, but not knowing when.

Over the years she played with the toy less and less, until it was put away. While preparing for the birth of her own child, she found the Jack-in-a-box again. Pulling it out, she carefully wound the crank and watched with eyes sparkling with delight as the toy played its music and eventually the lid popped open revealing the puppet within. With love and tenderness, she cleaned the toy and placed it on the shelf of the room as she prepared it for her soon to

be born child.

When the baby was old enough, she took the Jack-in-a-box from the shelf, holding it, gently turned the crank and watched as her child giggled in delight when the puppet popped up. The shared joy of mother and child is timeless. The roles change, but the love and trust remain.

Often, we tend to look at God like a Jack-in-a-box.We have a need, or decide it is time to "play" with God for a while, so we reach for the toy, wind it up and wait for it to entertain us. As a child our understanding of God is simple, basic, and often waiting for God surprise us with good things. As we mature, God is not as easily explained or kept in the "box."

Our understanding of God changes, matures, grows. Sometimes we get stuck and expect God to fit into our box. God, however, leads us to understand that our box is too restrictive for the love of God. The love of God is a

living, breathing, thing which we cannot, nor should not try to contain in our own preconceived notions. Learning more of God each day is in its simplest form as simple as the joy of a child winding up and watching a Jack-in-a-box--it always brings a smile, a surprise, and simple pleasure into our lives.

God, when we try to box you into our preconceived notions, remind us of your simple, consistent love. May we find the profound depth of your love in your simple acceptance of us, your children--your creation. You are our provision. Help us to open ourselves to the simplicity of your love. Thank you God, for the simple pleasure we have in being your children and the joy of life with you. So be it. Amen.

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From My Heart to Yours
Rayla Stewart Hogue
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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.
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