Being asked to write a blog post isn’t as easy as you think it may be. I’ve not written in a long time, so when asked, I forced myself to say yes. Then of course comes the question of what to write about. There are so many things I could comment on, but it’s probably better I don’t. I tend to have a dry and sarcastic sense of humor and that can cause problems, especially in print. Let’s face it, people are funny, and some of the situations we get ourselves into…oh my! But I’ll refrain from observing the lunacy of humanity.
It’s fall. I know what you are thinking—not another blog post about fall. Well I’m sorry to say that it is, and it isn’t. I have been out in the glorious weather we’ve been blessed to have. I went hiking in the Shenandoah and have tried to go on walks with the dog. Yes, the colors are spectacular. But it was when I was driving that it happened (of course it was when I was driving. If you know anything about me or my blogs, they are frequently the result of thinking and driving. This can be as dangerous as texting and driving, but we don’t want to get on that subject).
I was on the GW Parkway. The colors of this particular group of trees and shrubs in front of me were literally arresting. Now orange, or something thereabout, is my favorite color. This was orange, orange/red, red, red/orange, yellow—you get the picture. Sugar maples, sumacs, a yellow oak. Seriously a Hallmark card shot. It made me feel so good; I could just feel the upsurge of joy.
As I was driving, I got to think about what made it so joyful. The colors to be sure and colors do move me, but maybe it’s that Thanksgiving is around the corner and it’s the anticipation of being with family. Maybe it’s the hunkering down in the chill of November and anticipating snow days (yes I like snow). Maybe it is the anticipation of eating all those casseroles, stews and other traditional autumn foods (I’ll admit food is a big part of whatever I do, but with food comes the guilt of high-carb, high-caloric consumption, and we don’t want to get into that subject either). I just wondered how something could be so beautiful. I was captive. What colors would I mix to replicate them if I could? Arresting is the only word I can think of to describe the feeling. In an instant, I felt so connected to God and his creation. The marvel of it all. I was in the moment; I was not thinking about what was next, or time for that matter. Now this was a quick timeframe, like a minute, and it was all happening in my head as I’m whizzing along the GW Parkway. But the joy was a lasting sensation.
I thought about the early church as I’m taking “History of Christianity” in seminary. The early church was so focused on the return or reunion with Jesus that what became a driving force to this day was the eventual promise of heaven. Prior to this shift, the church was living in the kingdom that had arrived. Granted there is that portion that has yet to come. The time when Jesus returns and God reconciles the world. But we can have a whole life of kingdom now. At the minimum, those fleeting moments that remind us where we are in relation to it.
So what does that have to do with the colors of fall? Everything. Those colors reminded me we have been invited to both experience and help spread the kingdom. Not later, but now. This isn’t a schedule issue. I pass in and through the kingdom every day, all day. I just don’t recognize it. The picture that goes with this blog is a famous one painted by William Holman Hunt in 1853. Many thought Hunt made a mistake as there was no door handle. Hunt explained that this door only opened from the inside. And that is the kingdom. In order to enter the kingdom, you have to open the door. Those moments happen in the ‘here and now’. The kingdom is, and will be with, or without us. The trick is to live open to Jesus all day, every day.
Living mindfully in this day and age is extremely difficult. The competition for brain space is astronomical and for our kids? Well, that’s a whole other subject. The kingdom promises to be more than random moments of clarity. It’s in the face of the person next to you in line, the car in front of you, the kid who just said they wished they lived down the street. You get the picture. Today it was in the leaves, and it made me realize I just had to recognize it. I had the promise of The Almighty, the mystery of the joy that only he can give. I can do all things while in this kingdom through him who gives me the strength, courage and wisdom to do so!
Jesus describes the kingdom using so many comparisons. It’s a hard thing to describe. I’m grateful for those moments that wrap around me so quickly. Those that remind me of where and whose I am. Joy is something I’ve chased for a long time. I looked in many dark places. Who knew it was a Dorothy and the ruby slippers moment? As cliché as it sounds, it was, and is right here all the time. The kingdom comes through the gift of the Holy Spirit, through us. The world demands our attention to act and do as if business will fill the void. How fantastic is it that in order to see the world in a whole new light, all I have to do is open that door in my spirit? Today it was the leaves, and who knows what it will be tomorrow? It can be elusive but that is because I get distracted. It is like looking for your sunglasses when they are on your head, your car keys when they are in your pocket or the worst – telling someone you’ve lost your cell phone while you are on it! I know I will only participate in it if I’m paying attention right here and now.