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Pokemon Go!

Pokémon GO?!

Yesterday at the froyo place, I noticed a dozen people walking around the shopping center, transfixed on their smartphones.  They were turning left, right, pausing.  Mesmerized.  Pairs of them pointed to each others’ phones and threw up high fives.   What was going on?! Don’t people know it’s dangerous to walk and look at their phones?  It’s one of the first things I learned in self-defense class!  Reasonable people, what is the hub bub?  And is it worth your own safety and comfort?!

I was quickly assured that our own children, peers, neighbors and strangers everywhere are also wandering intently at the bidding of their phone GPS.  It’s the latest pop culture phenomenon.

Before I could indulge in self-pity at my waning ‘youthful’ outlook, my ten year old son explained it to me.  Finally, wisdom “from the mouths of babes…”

Okay, I’m going there:  Pokémon GO.  Whah?  Pokémon—short for “pocket monsters”— is a long-standing game, spanning two decades, which many people worldwide grew up playing (it must have been after I “grew up” ahem).  It has its own TV series and handbooks, too.   The idea of these “pocket monsters” began when a Japanese  inventor designed it as an extension of his childhood joys catching real insects and tadpoles. Pokémon evolved into a computer game where players go around and “catch” colorful, unique creatures in the “wild.”  The Pokémon have fantastic names (e.g. Weedle, Electabuzz, Kakuna and the infamous Pikachu) and abilities. The players—or trainers—once they catch the Pokémon, can train them to spar with other trainers’ Pokémon.

[I still can’t believe I’m writing about this! Me:  rolls up sleeves, whispers a prayer for Holy Spirit to finish this work he allegedly started.  You:  leans in with your tea, faith-ing me on!]

Today, the game has come to life, really. Pokémon GO requires “trainers” actually, physically get up and walk around wherever they are to go catch the little monsters.  If you look at a player’s phone, whatever it’s pointed at will look like your own phone’s GPS, except their screens will show Pokémon popping up on the beach, in the parking lot, on top of a Starbuck worker’s shoulder.  When their Pokémon are trained, people meet other trainers and engage in friendly battle.  It’s simultaneously an amazing way to trick kids into exercising, building community with other humans and all kinds of accidents waiting to happen!

So far, the experts are just beginning to sing the woes and benefits of this latest “augmented reality” via technology.  In the meantime, as I try to not bump into phone zombies scanning the block for little cartoon monsters, I feel a nudge to see this from another perspective:  treasure hunting.

Treasure hunting is an even older hobby traced back to pirates surveying the seven seas for unmarked islands. Ahoy, “X” marks the spot!   It goes even further back to before time as we know it began.  It’s Jesus’ main activity du jour.  God delighted to create humankind because we are the Lord’s treasure.  His Word says, “For you are a holy people [set apart] to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be a people for His own possession [that is, His very special treasure]. (Deut. 7:6) 

            We know that Jesus gave up everything to purchase us:  “The kingdom of heaven is like a [very precious] treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid again; then in his joy he goes and sells all he has and buys that field [securing the treasure for himself]. (Matt. 13:44).  By design, we are eternal treasures.

Because of who we are, Jesus wants us to see one another—friend and foe—through the same heavenly lens.  Instead of staring at our phones for direction on how to find the hidden treasures in people, we see through the mind of Christ—who is in the Father—and find the gold in every person.  Looking at the world with this perspective is our “GPS”:  Godly Positioning Satellite.   

Over the last several years, churches have been training themselves to go around their neighborhood (and world!) looking for the true treasure, God’s people to bless.  The Lord gives those who ‘play’ a word of knowledge and prophetic insight.  It could be “red sweater” for example.  The ‘hunter’ looks for someone wearing a red sweater and approaches the person, and the Holy Spirit inspires ‘clues’ on how to offer a deeper connection between this stranger and God.  Churches report truly supernatural results from these treasure hunts:  healings, salvations, not to mention new friendships and neighbors.

We don’t have to officially join a treasure hunt with a church.  We can train our eyes to *always* see people—including ourselves—this way.  Speaking for myself, I can start at home, where my best ‘frenemies’ appear (yes, our own flesh and blood can drive us bonkers!)  When I’m reading news, shopping, hanging out with family and friends, and doing ministry, I witness raw, sensitive even divisive comments.  Sometimes, I’m the one thinking and saying them. I have to check what I’m really seeing in myself and others. I have to look back at my “Godly Positioning Sattelite.”  Lord, what is this person truly saying? What am I really thinking when I said that? What is the longing behind this message?  Is there a hurt that needs healing?  How can I honor and celebrate this person where they are at, now, as God’s beloved?

            The grace that allows us to see each other as these treasures comes because God lives in us, and He is the ultimate fortune.  Our value and worth are God’s very word and substance in us, the fullness of Christ to transform us into the best we can become.  When we know God, we know who we are. 

“Good friend, take to heart what I’m telling you;
    collect my counsels and guard them with your life.
Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom;
    set your heart on a life of Understanding.
That’s right—if you make Insight your priority,
    and won’t take no for an answer,
Searching for it like a prospector panning for gold,
    like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,
Believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours;
    you’ll have come upon the Knowledge of God.”   (Prov. 2:1-5, Message)

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Happy Treasure Hunting!

~Ella deCastro Baron