When our children were young, we owned bicycles equipped with child seats. Riding the bicycle with one of our boys in a child’s seat was a fun way for us to spend time together. I got some exercise while one of the boys enjoyed the changes of scenery.   We also talked as we rode through the neighborhoods.

One Saturday, when John was three years old, he wasn’t happy about riding the bike.

“What’s the matter, John?” I asked.

“You won’t let me do nothing,” he said.

I wasn’t so concerned about his poor grammar as I was what I’d done to stymie his spirit.

I began to think about our Saturday together. John had pulled out the water hose because he wanted to play in the water. Instead of putting on some short pants and having fun in the water with him, I made him put it away.

He had gotten several of my tools from my toolbox. Instead of showing him what they were and what they were used for, I made him put them away.

He had gotten an apple from the kitchen. Instead of letting him carry it around and eat it wherever he wanted, I told him he had to eat it inside or put it away.

As we rode along, it occurred to me how many times John had heard the word “don’t” that morning.

As a young father, I found saying “don’t” was easy. I knew it was my job to set limits. Where I was struggling was helping my children explore life’s possibilities.My beautiful picture

God doesn’t struggle with that.  We think God is always saying “don’t,” when God’s actually trying to show us that His world is filled with possibilities.

In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were the religious people who specialized in telling people about what they couldn’t do in the name of the Jewish faith.

One of their favorite words was “don’t.” They didn’t like Jesus because he ran by a lot of their don’ts and showed people a God of possibilities.

Too often the Christian faith is identified with “don’ts” rather than possibilities.

Everyone knows our lives must have guidelines, just like the highway has lines and road signs, but that’s so our driving freedom is enhanced, not limited. If we spent all our time focusing on those lines, we’d miss the joy of what happens between those lines, choosing from a limitless number of possibilities made for our riding pleasure.

As our children grew older we gave them more room to explore and discover joy.  What’s wrong with getting wet with the water hose? We have some great video of John chasing us with the water hose. Washing the car usually turned into a bath for us all. What’s wrong with going barefooted or lying on the ground at night and looking at the stars? Ryan and I watched an awesome meteor shower at 3:00 A.M. in the backyard of his friend Jacob’s house.  What’s wrong with putting a tent up in the middle of the living room or spending the night in the tree house?

I put up a poster in my boys’ room that read, “Wonder is the beginning of knowledge,” to remind us of the possibilities of God’s world and how they can lead to joy.

Did I stop saying, “Don’t”? I think you know the answer to that question. However, what I started doing more often was looking for possibilities, for spaces in our lives where we could allow springs of joy to bubble up because we were discovering new possibilities together.

DSC_4594My children are grown now.  I still say “Don’t” to them at times. That’s the conservative father in me. However, they are my teachers, too. It’s the joyous, unbridled possibilities that an adventure with them might bring that make our times together exciting, joyful, if not sometimes a little anxious.

As we move into 2015, what possibilities will God bring our way? Perhaps better asked, what possibilities of God will we explore? The stars are available for anyone who looks up and wonders.  You can experience going barefooted just by taking off your shoes and walking through the yard. You can dance in the rain any time it rains. But have you ever, or how long has it been?

Will 2015 be another year of don’ts?  Will you explore the possibilities God has to offer you?  If you do, explore them with joy and then find someone to share what God has shown you.  Your joy will be contagious.