Everybody knows that Winnie-the-Pooh is a genius. A small sampling from the bear with the little brain:

“Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering” (Pooh’s Little Instrution Book)

“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient.  It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear” (Pooh’s Little Instruction Book)

Along with many more where those came from.  I went to high school with a girl who, our Junior year, carried a Pooh Bear around with her, drew Pooh bear’s on her paper and generally spoke Pooh.  I always liked her.  Especially since I knew then what I know now: Pooh is a genuis. What I did not know then, and what she probably did not know either, is that Chuck E. Cheeses is a genuis too. Only in a different sort of way.

The girls and I went to the energy packed mini circus, with the big, gray mouse who moves and sings on stage the other day.  Strangely, I’ve always kind of liked the place, but I’ve never been able to identify why. Until yesterday.  When we walked in, I saw all the dizzying lights of all the different games, heard the inevitable noise through which it is difficult to hear the person next to you and plunged in. The girls and I rode the rides, played the games, ordered the yummy pizza, and went to the stage to see Chucky up close and personal. Then, I looked up toward the ceiling, at the tunnels.

Expecting them to say no, I asked if the girls wanted to go up to the tunnels. Alight is afraid of tunnel slides and so almost never wants to do this, as she thinks that she will have to slide down the slide to get back to  the floor. Much to my surprise, however, I got a thumbs-up…if I came along too. So up we all went.  When we got to the top and were crawling through the tunnel maze, I realized, high above the floor, away from the activity below, that the tunnels acted as a perfect hiding spot.  It was a place to get away from the noise.

From within the tunnel, I could look out of the windows and see the people, the  Photo Car Ride, the merry go round, the stage, the horse ride and the bigger kid area, too.  But the noise was muted now. And it wasn’t as bright in the tunnel either.  A refuge.  A hide-out.  Winnie the Pooh said:

“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest, waiting for others to come to you; you have to go to them sometimes” (Pooh’s Little Instruction Book)

If I stayed up in the tunnel for too long, it would become scary. To lots of kids, getting down from the tunnel is a daunting, scary prospect, no matter how enticing or fun the slide may seem from the safety of the ground. The refuge could be a dangerous place.

In fact..

This is true with most things in life: most of the places we seek as safe spots could become dangerous.  Defense mechanisms can save our lives but, if used inappropriately, can also hinder joy.  Nearly any place can act as a shelter from the toughest storm—but can also become the place of our nightmares. Relationships we thought were indestructible, and in which we find comfort and solace, can crumble.  Even nature, as wonderful and soothing as it is, can also kill.  At the top of the building, in the little yellow car that has a working pedal, I started thinking about our safe spots.  I kept trying to think of one that’s infallible.

I couldn’t think of one.

Eventually, we left the tunnel’s refuge, braved our way back into the midst of the ski ball, the basketball, the loud merry-go-round and the throng of people.  Chuck E. Cheese defines energy, even when there isn’t anyone else in the place but you.  Like the world, Chuck E. Cheese often seems overwhelming:  I distinctly recall being very nervous about taking Breathe there, for a very long time.  The lights, the sounds, everything about the atmosphere makes you feel alive — and yet, overwhelmed, as well.

The feeling of being overwhelmed, of having my heart catch in my throat, of looking one way, then the other, not sure of which exciting thing to try next, assailed me as my feet touched the floor.  This happens, too, everytime I leave the haven, the security, of my home. It happens whenever I put aside a good book I’m reading or when I stop writing (however momentarily that may be), it happens whenever I leave a game that the girls and I are playing to go do some grown-up chore, like cooking breakfast, or letting the bug man in. Whenever I leave the safety of these things, I inevitably feel overwhelmed. This sense of being overwhelmed happens only a thousand times a day.

Life does that to me.

By its very definition, a haven is a place we can go to when we feel tired, hurt or in need of comfort or reassurance. A haven is, then, not the ordinary, but the extraordinary.  If we were in a haven permanently, then, at some point, it would cease being a haven.  We cherish such activities, such places, because they make us feel refreshed, peaceful, calm and content.  It is good that we have these havens.  Still, there is only one haven that we can utilize without fear of it ever becoming detrimental to our psyches: only one that will never cease to offer comfort and guidance.

On Easter Sunday, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  Upon completing that sentence, lots of things to come my mind, including the torment He must have found upon the cross, but the foremost one is prayer.  Scripture dictates that we pray “without ceasing,” Daniel prayed three times daily, even when doing so meant death. Why?

Prayer is the ultimate haven.

When I was young, someone told me that whenever I pray, it’s as if a phone rings beside God, and He always answers.  That analogy worked for me;  I got it.  God always hears our prayers.

I have been through some especially trying things.  I have told people I deeply loved excruciating secrets, secrets that were so painful I didn’t even know how to say them, without the use of the written word.  I cried:  I was obviously in need. And I went ignored. Likewise, I have had joyous things happen to me, things that I needed to share with another person. I told others about it. I have poured my heart and soul into notes and articles and blogs that are too long to ever get any responses.  Some of my best days have gone unnoticed on anyone’s radar except mine (behind which may lie the addictiveness of Facebook and Twitter: we are able to publicize emotions which, in days pre-Internet [which I CAN remember], often got ignored).

Ignored—-except when in prayer.

Praying not only allows us to talk to our greatest friend, but also comforts us and reminds us we are not alone.  It allows us a time to be with only the One who is listening. It allows us to be contemplative and reflective without the fear of being seen as overly analytical. It allows us the opportunity to be joyful, without fear of being seen as a braggart. It allows us the opportunity to be sorrowful and to mourn and cry with the assurance that we are heard by someone who loves us.  Prayer is the deepest part of ourselves searching to find someone who can know us —- and still want to be part of our lives.

Remembering that the person we’re praying to is God and all that His Son did for us makes the haven that much more precious.  The excellent thing is that prayer is powerful; so powerful that it only takes a few moments to pierce our hearts, to give us strength when we know we don’t have any, to give us room to breathe in a world that feels like one big Chuck E. Cheeses.  Whenever I’m caught in the midst of a busy day, I often feel myself longing for one of my safe havens—a pen, primarily, or a window to sit in, or the back porch swing, or a book to read, or a new creative game to play, something.  My heart is prone to chaos.

But Easter Sunday is fast approaching—–an excellent reminder that I am never alone, and that the most beneficial, the greatest, haven is always within my reach. All I have to do to leave Chuck E Cheeses is bow my head and speak to the one who is awaiting my call.