Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Noon (or When the sun is at its apex)

Wednesday 4 p.m.

1. Since last night's meditation, I have been very happy. That kind of lightness in your chest, soft smile, world-is-good happy. I really love this -- and can see why people get addicted. (Or maybe it's the fact that people make food for me?)

2. Dallas Willard's The Spirit of the Disciplines is one of the most important books I've ever read. It's not easygoing (at least not in the old issue; the reissue may be easier), because Willard is a philosopher by training and profession. The first 60% or so is theology, history, and social commentary, with a deep explanation of the Apostle Paul. Reading it is a bit like shucking oysters. And then: pearls. Why the spiritual disciplines matter, and why we cannot progress as followers of Jesus -- no, as reflections of Christ -- without them.

3. I left Christianity somewhere around middle school, when I became politically aware (I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X in 5th grade, so sometime after that). But I loved Jesus. Loved Jesus. I remember watching Jesus Christ Superstar in Rochester, NY, with my best friend from sixth grade who had moved there, and being frozen in my seat at the end. Weeping. They pretty much had to drag me out of the theater.

Sometime later, and I can't say when, I developed a big moving lump in my sternum. You know that place where your trachea meets your heart? Where breath and blood merge? For decades I've been trying to open it, to describe what's inside. It's the reason I traveled, the reason for MBZC, the reason I studied ethics (and 3rd-world women's studies; and went to divinity school), the reason for attempting communal living and voluntary simplicity, the reason for a lot of political action, the reason I kept sneaking into churches when no one was there, the reason I went ahead and was ordained even though my whole body was shaking and my not-yet husband had to act like a horse whisperer to keep me on the dais.

Over the years, I've tried to describe its contents in poetry, through my philosophy teaching, through nonfiction writings, through speeches, through living. I've tried in sermons, in small groups, in blogs. I've cried and yelled in frustration trying to describe it to my very patient husband. Soon after I started pastoring my church, I gathered a group of people from the church and tried to inscribe it instead, by trying to start another "worship service" that wasn't really a worship service that now I'd call an "emergent church", sort of. Each time, I've failed. The philosopher training (and my general leanings toward both high emotion and high abstraction) has blocked me. The lump itself is the way we are to actually daily live; its contents are kingdomvision.

4) The first time I read Brian McLaren, I felt something in that same spot -- between breath and blood. Right now I'm reading his newer (not newest) book, The Secret Message of Jesus, in preparation for leading a small group study of it in the fall. For a long time now, he's been grappling with that thing between breath and blood too. Thanks to God, McLaren, unlike Dallas Willard, and to a much lesser degree me, was trained in English, and so is having some success at describing it in concrete terms, in the language of poetry and pavement. I am envious, and very grateful.

5) Gratitude = happiness. See #1, above.

6) The post title? At noon, there is no shadow. Only light.

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