Breathe of Life

 creature has recently descended into me and lays heavy on my lungs and is constricting my throat. It is not serious, but it reminded me, once again as I struggle to breath and swallow, of a piece I’d written several years ago. 
Breathe of life
The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis  2:7
Do I hear an Amen?! Probably not. OK, let me back up.

What has made me a living being?  (Not who has made me living, what has brought life?Just as Aslan walked through the courtyard of the White Witch breathing on the creatures she had turned to stone, the breath of life has made me, has made you, a living human being. Without breath we are without life. Simple, poetic, necessary. And, oh so easily, over looked by me, and I’m guessing you.

Mere days before returning to China I got a cold that settled in my lungs, making breathing painful. No longer could days pass innocently by without thought of breathing. Breath became uncomforably conscious. With the recent history of SARS and H1N1, the Chinese do not look favorably on those who travel with illness, scowling and projecting the unspoken, though very loud question, “Why have you chosen to risk our lives by being near us?” I did not cough often, yet each cough on the plane brought looks as if I carried the breath of death instead of life.

Cold, dry, polluted Beijing air did not bring quick—or actually much—healing, leaving me to hope in the healing powers of warm, moist, cleaner Thailand air.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Breathe in, breathe out. Cough. Choke. Pain.

Breath of life is not a given. Just ask Tabitha, the disciple from Joppa who was always doing good and helping the poor until she became sick and died. When Peter commanded her to get up, a miracle occurred. The breath of life returned, and arise she did!

Breathe in, breathe out.

The first night in Thailand I woke myself twice, gasping and coughing for air. The next night, I dreamed so vividly of being on a sinking ship. The ship had only women in Victorian dresses and as we prepared to drown, we were told to take off our dresses and watch them sink first. Yes, yes, I know. This is a dream that is ripe for the over analyzing. But don’t. For the second night in a row I awoke to the paralyzing sensation of not being able to breathe.

I am alive because the LORD God breathed life in my body. I am alive because the Son of God has given life where I was dead in my sins. I am alive because the Spirit of God is bearing new fruit in my character.

Breathe in, breathe out. I barely notice you, breath of life, until something is wrong in body or soul. And though this acute awareness will (sadly) pass as something else captures my thoughts and attention, today as I breathe it is with this mantra whispered:

Breath of life. 

Breath of life.

Breath of life.

Thank you giver of life. Thank you for breathing life in its messy fullness into me.

Serious Play: An Invitation to Life and Work as Worship

Before I jump into the post, please know that when I refer to work, I do not only mean paying jobs, but any role that keeps you occupied throughout the day.


I love my job. I even have a sticker declaring that very fact stuck to my laptop, just below the arrow keys. Not that I need a reminder. I really do love what I do.

I found the sticker in a tiny basement bookstore in Taiwan, a few years ago, while I was a preschool teacher in Taipei. Here’s an important thing to know about me: I am not a preschool teacher. But I had returned to Taipei to do research on theology of work, and getting that particular job was a great place to do my research, especially in light of the fact that teaching four-year-olds was not necessarily something I felt passionate about.

So, when I first bought the sticker, it really was to remind me that I needed to focus on that which I did love about my job: being in a position where I was able to unlock the world of reading and writing to a bunch of little ones, and to touch their lives through the way I interacted with them. That, I found very rewarding.

I won’t bore you with the details, but I had resigned from being a missionary in the boonies of Kenya for several reasons, one of which was to try and understand the challenges the majority of Christians face in the workplace. One visitor to Kenya (let’s call her Annie) once told me, “What you do [as a missionary] is meaningful, Adéle. What I do just pays the bills and helps me come on trips like these.”

I wanted desperately to help people like Annie understand that work didn’t simply have to be endured, and that all of us are called to serve God regardless of our job titles. I figured, though, that I couldn’t challenge others to embrace all of life and work as worship had I not recently worked in a “secular” environment. And so I left the village and moved back to Taipei (where I had worked at a media ministry for several years before), and ended up teaching preschoolers at a prestigious international school. The career shift was an eye-opener, to say the least. A year later, I took a similar assignment, this time in a Muslim context, in Jakarta.

Along the way, I learned about the concept of serious play from a former professor of mine, and once I tossed my preschool teacher hat, I ended up interviewing almost 30 people from various walks and seasons of life and from several countries who LOVED life and work, and called them serious players. I also found some people who didn’t love their jobs, and called them reluctant workers.

A serious player, I concluded, is someone who is able to say at the end of the week, “I enjoy life. I like what I do—at work and in life—a good eighty percent of the time? But life’s not only good for me, I get to make a difference in my community.”

Serious play is a lifestyle based upon the assumption that the majority of an individual’s time—both in the workplace and in life—is not only spent doing what you are naturally gifted to do (using your skills or aptitude) but also doing what you love to do (your passion or burden) so that work is enjoyable and thus becomes play. And if what you do has significance (it has purpose or is meaningful), it is considered serious.

You can also look at this as working with your mind and your strength, with your heart and with your soul.

When you’re able to do this, work becomes worship,
and you are able to say “I love my job,”
because you’re doing what God
had uniquely created and positioned you to do.

What’s more, you are able to use the talents God had given you in such a way that opens a door for you to “enter into the Master’s joy” (Mt. 25:21). What’s not to love about that?

Serious players, I had found, tend to have the following characteristics.

  1. They are energized and have an energizing effect on their environment.
  2. They are psychologically self-employed.
  3. Serious players have what they need—and perhaps a little more.
  4. They have high self-esteem.
  5. Serious players are able to, and choose to, swim upstream or go against the tide.
  6. They live in the reality of positive, self-fulfilling prophesies so that good things keep happening to them.
  7. They do not allow one area to completely drain them but instead, by living integrated lives, allow different areas to synergize each other.
  8. They are willing to take calculated risks.
  9. They are successful in various fields.
  10. For serious players, work is a natural, enjoyable expression of self.
  11. They take time to invest in relationships.

So, how about you: Are you a serious player? What is it that you love about what you do?
If you’re a reluctant worker, what changes would you need to make in order
for you to become a serious player and thus enter into the Master’s joy?


Adéle’s doctoral dissertation was devoted to the study of serious play, for which she interviewed serious players such as Kurt Warner, Mako Fujimaro and F.W. de Klerk  as well as stay-at-home moms, struggling small-business owners, and successful business people—all serious players. Adéle has written a book on serious play and her goal is to get it published in the not-too-distant future.

Adele Booysen, challenging college students in Asia with Compassion International

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