I think I’m going to start using this blog as more of a journal, especially about things related to faith and the beyond the surface moments of life that I notice. It is pretty stream of consciousness, and for myself first and foremost, so please don’t expect it to be excellent writing.
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
-Wendell Berry, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”
“You are made of the dust of this earth,
and you are made of the happiness of heaven,
and you are flesh and you are spirit,
and you are two worlds longing for the home of forever and him.”
- Ann Voskamp
I believe one of our deepest longings is for peace and rest – for shalom. There’s a lot wrapped up in that – connection, belonging, safety, complete transparency, trust, compassion, and freedom.
One of my many lofty goals when I’m at my best is to help give space for people to experience moments of shalom. I think we constantly battle as human beings accepting who we are, believing we can do better, yet knowing that we are generally doing the best we can at any given moment. This leads to feelings of inadequacy, shame, and anxiety, and therefore unrest within the deepest parts of ourself.
Part of the irony of trying to experience shalom in our lives is that we are constantly struggling, hustling, and trying to earn shalom in our lives. But that’s not how we encounter shalom.
We all long for shalom, but we tend to look for it in the wrong places.
Grace and shalom are found in God. They are embodied in Jesus. They are swirling through this this world as the Spirit of God. They are found in the fingerprint’s of our God on his creation. For some reason we tend to think we have to pursue shalom, when really we only have to receive it. Similar to grace, we often make the hard moments of life harder on ourselves by thinking we need to earn shalom through hard work, or by being doing enough “good” things.
I believe that one of the greatest privileges that we have as image-bearers of God is that we are deemed ambassadors of his kingdom. We get to reflect and bring God’s infinite love, grace, and shalom to others. We are most likely to experience shalom as we we give space for others to experience it.
When we bring shalom into the chaos of this world and into the lives of one another, we are living into our unique role in this world as human beings. No other species has the ability to overcome the way of nature with the way of grace like we do.
In my experience, shalom breaks into our lives when we give space for others to experience peace and rest by being welcoming, honest, compassionate, empathetic, and good listeners. When we pay attention to the lives of those around us — their emotions, their words, the emotions behind their words, their composure, their schedules — in the midst of our violent, narcissistic, and consumer-driven world, we give them the space to recognize they are loved. I believe as we love others as God loves us – with a love that seeks us out and tells us we are valuable and worthy – we are participants with the Holy Spirit in God’s relentless pursuit of his furious love for all people.
This is what we are invited into. We get to tell, through our words, our actions, and our attention, the good news of God’s love to others, letting others experience the freedom and rest that is found in the shalom of the Kingdom of God.
I took a step outside this morning to take my son Micah to the bus and took in a nice long breath of the cool November air. Instantly, I felt God’s surrounding peace and presence in my lungs and body. It was the simple nourishment I needed in that moment.
The last few days I’ve been trying to go over the beatitudes every morning in my mind. I do this to remind myself of what the Kingdom of God looks and feels like. For me to be able to recognize the overlap moments I need to be thoroughly familiar with what the Kingdom of God’s tells are in this world.
I have been particularly focused on the beatitude
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
I have been trying to pay better attention to the conversations, situations, and predicaments I have found myself in recently and trying to see where God might be at work. But I believe for me to truly understand and see God working, my heart has to be filtered of its impurities. They get in the way of letting me see the fuller picture of what may be going on. Of course God’s grace is constantly at work in and through and around me, but when I stop to pay attention after intentionally assessing my heart the veil often gets pulled back a bit and I can see God at work.
There is depth in every moment.
I keep thinking of various ways to describe the complexity of our existence. The fact that we are born into a world of struggle, sin, and shame but created for a world of connection, love, and grace. The kingdom of man, and the kingdom of God. The way of nature, and the way of grace.
Some in the circles I have been a part of have described our present reality with our future hope as “the already and the not yet.” But I haven’t found that concept to really describe the reality that I encounter.
I think to talk about the reality of God’s kingdom and/or presence of God as the “already, not yet” takes away from the mystery and paradox of the reality of our existence — that we have been born into a world of darkness, yet created for a world of light.
God’s presence in his creation was here before we were even around. Even before the earth had been fully formed, God’s Spirit hovered over the waters of the earth. We became participants with God in his creation as soon as Ruach Elohim entered in through the nostrils of Adam. Then, two thousand years ago, the New Adam came and participated as one of us, born as his own creation.
It’s not even that we are between two kingdoms. The kingdom of God has already fully broken in. The kingdom is here. The complexity isn’t that we live in between two kingdoms, it’s that we live in two kingdoms. We’re invited to recognize this, live in it’s confusing yet peace-giving reality, and then bring that peace to others.
The creation we see in Genesis 1 is called good. When man and woman are created, they are called very good. Yet that is not the world that I was born into. But it is the world that I was created for. Creation is God’s temple. It is where He calls us, inviting us to come be with him. To find rest, in Him.
There is boundless wisdom in the Lord’s prayer, but Jesus tells us to pray for “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
There are moments when this prayer is answered. The moments when we can fully see and participate in both worlds simultaneously.
I call it the overlap. The moments where what we were created for overlaps with our present reality. Moments where we find cracks in the world of greed, violence, and depravity so that the light is able to shine through.
The overlap is when we recognize the breaking in of the kingdom of heaven into our present existence. It is when we recognize our meaning and purpose as humans. We are image bearers of God, little representatives of creation’s Maker, told to bring order to the chaos around us. To overcome evil with good. To live peaceably with one another. To tend to the earth and participate with the master sower. To populate the earth and participate with the master sewer, who stitches together every unique individual made in His image. To have faith in the midst of polarized certainty and unresolved ambivalence.
The moments where we empty ourselves of our self-serving desires.
The moments where we look to the world around us with compassion and mourning.
The moments where we recognize our purpose and worth, and live in that freedom.
The moments where our hunger and thirst to do right overcomes our own appetites.
The moments where our instinct is that of forgiveness rather than vengeance.
The moments where we pay attention to the Spirit’s grand symphony that surrounds us.
The moments where bring peace and rest to those living in chaos and unrest.
The moments where we do not fear those who can merely destroy the body, but of only the one who can destroy both body and soul.
These are moments of the overlap – where we live as we are intended to, ambassadors recognizing God’s kingdom in this world. Moments where we realize that the Spirit of God has called us to participate with him in the way of grace even in the midst of the the way of nature.
To experience the presence of God, all we have to do is breath. Ruach Elohim fills his creation with his presence and peace, so that no matter where we go in this world we can take a deep breath, and there be in his kingdom and his presence in us.