I got a Kindle for Christmas. No, I'm not an especially avid reader. But I used to be. When I was a kid I read all the time, before my reading time was filled up with books I wasn't exactly interested in, but was required to read to high school English teachers...and then college text books...and then diapers and bottles and laundry and, well, you get the idea...
Some of my family members have Kindles, and they looked pretty nice. And most of the books are cheaper in the Kindle version. And many of them are text-to-speech enabled. And Bret has been working nights recently, and I've been having a hard time going to sleep when he's gone, and have found myself longing for something to read at night. And then he surprised me with one for Christmas!
So anyway, one of the books I've been reading is The Secret Message of Jesus, by Brian McLaren. Not really my type of reading - I much prefer some good ol' fiction. But it's one that Bret's been after me to read...so I've been trudging away...
And then finally today, I hit the part of the book I'd been waiting for. The part that made it all worth it, where I finally figured out what all the fuss was about:
"I think that the best glimpses of the kingdom of God come to us unexpectedly in everyday life - and the sermons we hear (or books we read) help us keep our eyes open so that when those moments come, we don't sleepwalk through them. Buechner himself describes one such experience - in Orlando, Florida, of all places, at a tourist attraction called Sea World:
'It was a gorgeous day when we were there, with bright Florida sunlight reflected in the shimmering water and a cloudless blue sky over our heads. The bleachers where we sat were packed. The way the show began was that at a given signal they released into the tank five or six killer whales, as we call them (it would be interesting to know what they call use), and no creatures under heaven could have looked less killer-like as they went racing around and around in circles. What with the dazzle of sky and sun, the beautiful young people on the platform, the soft southern air, and the crowds all around us watching the performance with a delight matched only by what seemed the delight of the performing whales, it was as if the whole creation - men and women and beasts and sun and water and earth and sky and, for all I know, God himself - was caught up in one great, jubilant dance of unimaginable beauty. And then, right in the midst of it, I was astonished to find that my eyes were filled with tears.'
Beuchner then turned to his wife and daughter and told them of this rush of emotions, and they replied that they had felt the same thing. What was it that day on the bleachers of Sea World that touched them, teared them up? He explains:
'We shed tears because we had a caught a glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom, and it had almost broken our hearts. For a few minutes we had seen Eden and been a part of the great dance that goes on at the heart of creation. We shed tears because we were given a glimpse of the way life was created to be and is not...joy is home, and I believe the tears that came to our eyes were more than anything else homesick tears.'
...These moment of seeing - these glimpses of insight into the kingdom - can't be conjured or created. They can only be received. And similarly, the kingdom itself - what "the world wants to be and is preparing to be" - can't be achieved but only received:
'Humanly speaking, if we have any chance to survive, I suspect that it is men and women who act out of that deep impulse [which is best described with words like tolerance, compassion, sanity, hope, justice] who are our chance. By no means will they themselves bring about the Kingdom of God. It is God alone who brings about his Kingdom... We cannot make the Kingdom of God happen, but we can put out leaves as it draws near. We can be kind to each other. We can be kind to ourselves. We can drive back the darkness a little. We can make green places within ourselves and among ourselves where God can make his Kingdom happen.'"
For a long time now, Bret has insisted that I have somewhat of a gift of prophecy, for seeing these glimpses of the Kingdom in ordinary places and ways - and then being able to share that with others in a meaningful way. While I would never take it quite that far...after several months of not blogging, and several months before that of merely recording events and not digging for the deeper meaning of the events of the day as I write...I have come to realize that blogging - my personal way of taking part in the act of sitting down and reflecting on and thinking critically about the events of the day, of looking and listening for glimpses of the Kingdom in the ordinary - is a spiritual discipline of sorts for me. And during those months, I have been keenly aware of a growing spiritual void within me, that - though I have tried several different ways - has been unquenchable.
While I know it doesn't happen everyday, when I am reflecting and writing regularly, there are days that I hit upon something deeply meaningful that will set me coasting for weeks, or that one of you will tell me how much something I wrote meant to you. There is not a huge number of folks out there who care enough to read what I write...and even less who are impacted by it...but there are a few out there, you've told me so.
Sooo...to make a long story short, I've come to realize that this blog, this place that I record my thoughts as I watch my kids grow up, is a spiritual discipline, a place for me to exercise my own unique spiritual gift. And I am healthier when I participate in this exercise, as are the significant others in my life. Though I realize that truly getting back into this like I was several years and jobs ago, I am committing to trying and making this my "green place" - and to not stressing over the other "important" things I "should" be doing with my time...
**And as I woke up Saturday morning, after staying up late Friday night to write this, the prayer that was repeated over and over in my devotional was: "Awake, O sleeper, rise from the dead: and Christ will shine on you." I'm going to take that as personal encouragement from the Spirit - this is a good thing for me to be doing; I should be doing it and considering it not only a vital part of my spiritual life, but a ministry of sorts, as well.