Poem #372 by Emily Dickinson
After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious like Tombs –
The stiff heart questions ‘was it He that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before?’
The Feet mechanical, go round –
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
A Wooden way
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go-
So much of what the media and American culture considers “church” feels safe and cozy to those on the inside, but it’s not really a force for good in our world.
Church should never be confused for Kingdom, though. And the Kingdome of God is like C. S. Lewis’s Aslan — good, but not always safe. It’s a wonderful, wild, unexpected, risky place.
As Howard R. Macy wrote: “The spiritual world cannot be made suburban. It is always frontier. And if we would live in it, we must accept and even rejoice that it remains untamed.”
The question is, how ready are we for the adventure?
Today I remembered some lines from Rilke:
Ah, not to be cut off,
not through the slightest partition
shut out from the law of the stars.
The inner — what is it?
if not the intensified sky,
hurled through with birds and deep
with the winds of homecoming.
I don’t know if Rilke knew he was talking about the Kingdom of Heaven, but what else could be so transcendent and immanent, so intimate and remote? What but our truest home could be expressed in language so true?
And today, I am hurled through with the winds of homecoming. I pray my life will only become less cut off.
I have been reading through my old journals, returning to glimpses of a self I started to become before I detoured into long, desolate distance.
Tonight, this beautiful gem was uncovered from 1996 — written by an old literary companion, Wendell Berry:
“Care…rests upon genuine religion. Care allows creatures to escape our explanations into their actual presence and their essential mystery. In taking care of fellow creatures, we acknowledge that they are not ours; we acknowledge that they belong to an order and a harmony of which we ourselves are parts. To answer the perpetual crisis of our presence in this abounding and dangerous world, we have only the perpetual obligation of care…
“And so we see that we must be whole ourselves, for the good solutions must come from wholeness, our affection and reverence, not from our sense of duty, much less from desperation.”
~Another Turn of the Crank
So simple a thing as care, so deep an effect.
There is no better place to begin again. If “the antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness,” today I give my whole heart to the care of the Kingdom that cannot fail.
Remember the ancient Israelites, yearning for freedom, awaiting a promised Messiah? Remember the miraculous coming of a Savior ~ A tiny child, born to an ordinary girl, in a barren stall, greeted by angels and livestock.
Do you recognize your own yearning for freedom, awaiting the return of our promised Lord? Anticipate a second arrival and an eternal kingdom ~ A rider on a white horse, like blazing fire, restoring creation, and gathering us in His arms.
But most of all, look for the Christ who came as an infant and who will come again as a King, and see that He is coming right now, right here. Look and listen and feel and know all of the ways Jesus is alive and entering the world today ~ into your heart, through your hands, always already among us.
I’ve come across this video series recently. Really quite powerful. Check out more clips at their Web site.
I don’t know exactly, but a recent encounter with Ezekiel 8 is making me wonder if our first response should be to simply listen, see, recognize. It makes me wonder if we (at least some of us) might not actually be called to be witnesses.
Ezekiel 8, in short, goes like this:
As I was sitting in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord GOD fell on me there. … He stretched out the form of a hand and caught me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven … Then He said to me, “Son of man, raise your eyes now toward the north…do you see what they are doing, the great abominations…But yet you will see still greater abominations.”
…And He said to me, “Go in and see the wicked abominations that they are committing here.” So I entered and looked, …Then He said to me, “Son of man, do you see? … For they say, ‘The LORD does not see us; the LORD has forsaken the land.'” And He said to me, “Yet you will see still greater abominations which they are committing.”
We are dealing with something that we cannot pin down, we inhabit mystery, we can’t be cocksure about anything, we cultivate our attentive and reverent expectation before every person, event, rock, and tree. Presumption recedes, attentiveness increases, expectancy hightens.