Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

I’ll be up front, I have a hard time with “the Ascension” same as I do “the Resurrection”, simply again because, John’s the only one that talks about it in any great detail. Luke just sort of scratches at it; Matthew and Mark are mum. I can’t possibly know what it means, really. But what I do know is Jesus’ posse was left alone (AGAIN) and that had to be a very scary prospect for them. I always think of Dorothy leaving Oz. The scarecrow and the tin man and the lion loved her, wanted her to be “home” but did not want to be without her. The disciples had to be feeling that way, for sure! “NOW what do we do?”

But no matter what the truth about the historical details, again...the details don’t matter. It's about the wholeness of the story, and the story is about moving forward in the face of imminent loss—about looking inward into emptiness and back out again with purpose. For the disciples, it had to be a lot like seeing the empty tomb again. They saw a promise but no distinct or clear future.

This is hard to explain but I’m going to try. All day today, I have felt “antsy.” Not distressed or upset, just incredibly “itchy.” I found myself feeling very expressive in my singing and responding at church today. For some reason, the readings (Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68; 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11) seemed “made for me” in terms of the “tests” I’ve been faced with, the fortitude with which I've had to press forward and my never-ending obsession to be bound and determined to do battle with myself. I remember thinking in the middle of being at the lectern, “Wow, I just feel really expressive today—these verses are just sort of bursting out of me—I wonder if anyone is seeing this, or is it just me?” (Well, I do know the vicar noticed. Wallace said to me later, "Wow, I was sitting there thinking, 'You're really feeling this stuff.'")

As the sermon unfolded today, I had this distinct sense of feeling like “Today, I can’t just HEAR the sermon, I have to BE the sermon. Gotta go outside and enjoy the day.” Then my friend Roger (of my friends "Roger'n'Nancy") said something to me after church that was one of the nicest things anyone’s told me for a while (in an odd sort of way). He said, “You just really look...well...like you today. Like as much you as you are.” And Nancy (the other half of "Roger'n'Nancy") is going, “Well, DUH!” Then Roger says, “Yeah, but it’s just more you today than you've been lately,” and laughs.

Well, and that got me to thinking. Is this part of our own “ascension?” When we are as much of “us” as we are capable of being on a given day? When we feel our own “fit” to the deepest parts of ourselves are we “fitting” in God’s world in a way that “ascends” us to a different place?

Good questions, huh?

So, I planned on my usual "post-church activity"--a trip about 35 miles up the road to Memphis, MO to the Sunday afternoon consignment auction. This is one of my favorite weekend activities. It can be anything from garage sale crap to treasured antiques. The thrill is finding the "pony in the middle of the pile of crap"--some treasured goodie in a box of detritus. My other favorite thing is when something pops up I've been meaning to buy and I can get it for 1/4 the price. I love the rat-a-tat-tat cadence of country auctioneers. I like the fast action of the bidding. It appeals to me on multiple levels. So off to the consignment auction I went.

I sort of realized early on that innately that I’d enjoy the drive. I make this drive almost every week, taking the "back way" to shave off a few miles, winding around the country blacktops in the middle of the rolling hills of NE Missouri, the hayfields, the cow pastures, the corn and milo fields. Sometimes I notice the trip and sometimes my mind is preoccupied. But Roger’s comment about me being more “me” than usual sort of kept my mind open to see and enjoy.

I realized during my time on the road that the fields and pastures and little strips of woods seemed more expansive to me today. The grass was that wonderful spring emerald color from the overabundance of rain. Plenty of little calves were out and about. I realized that the rolling hills and prairies are, to me, as fascinating as the ocean must be for folks who live on the coast. The wind is ALWAYS blowing in NE Missouri, and in the summer, the trees, the hayfields, move like waves. The shadows cut across the pastures and make strange shapes. When tourists think of Missouri, they think of "the Ozarks." Most people don't realize that the "flatlands" in the northern part of the state have their own beauty. It's just not a "touristy kind of beauty." It's a beauty that you have to let marinate and soak in before you can see it, and really, it's hard to see if you didn't grow up in it.

There wasn’t much at the auction that I wanted to hang around and wait on to buy, so I decided to swing by and just hang out at one of my favorite "secret quiet places"-- “The Soldier in the Field”--for a while. "The Soldier in the Field", a hidden local curiosity, is a monument that was put out in the middle of nowhere by the parents of a young man, their only child, who died of pneumonia 43 days into his enlistment in WWI. They were devastated, and the monument reflects their devastation and heartache by the tone of what is inscribed on the monument.

The phrase that sticks out on the monument for me is, “We gave all the child we had, and it broke our hearts. What did you give?” It’s a phrase that takes on real meaning when you think about the turmoil in today’s world. It is a place where I can sit silently and stare into my own emptiness by channeling on the emptiness that comes up from the ground in this place. I stayed about a half hour, just looking out at the pasture from "the soldier's" viewpoint.

But the trick of this as part of my own “ascension” is that I have to come out of these places of emptiness with PURPOSE. Not a plan, per se; not a clear vision of what is supposed to happen, but with a sense of purpose, a sense of trust that God reveals the details, and a sense of awareness to be open to seeing them. I sat there a while, and I realized that part of “me” that is the deepest and truest part of me is the part that connects to God’s creation. The reason rural northeast Missouri is “home” to me is simply because I am most intimately connected with the visual images and “feel” of the geography here. I am 5th generation northeast Missourian, and my family cemetery plot looks over a similar field. I see the tiniest details in nature because my rootedness to God’s creation frees me in a unique way.

When I am walking outdoors with friends, they are always astounded at the ease and playfulness that I notice things, or what I just stop and watch. I realized today that these moments are my "ascension." Part of letting others see the light of God in us is developing a boldness in letting the truest and purest parts of us be out front more often. Being one with nature is my highest and truest meditative state, and I can do it on a hot day, a cold day, a perfect day, a not so perfect day. To be "that person" in other venues is the challenge. The more I can get in touch with that, the better a person I can be, and the more I can feel the warmth of the light of God.

Oh, and if you'd like to see "The Soldier in the Field," here he is, as well as the view from his viewpoint...

6 comments:

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Thanks for a wonderful description of a day lived in the light of resurrection. It's given me heart!

Kenny, hang in there. Most of your parishioners, even if they are getting something out of it, aren't going to divulge it. My vicar gets off lucky b/c as part of my own discipline, I "formally" process out my own thoughts in writing each week on "what the sermon means to me." He has the luxury of knowing one person listened (even if I am full of beans and doesn't quite get it!)

Kirk, I do believe that you had your own little ascension today, a brief release from the constraints of this time and this dimension, maybe a taste of the fullness of the kingdom. Thanks be to God.

Wow, Kirke! You were having an "ascension moment" at the same time I was writing about it.

Great minds, and all that.

Even so, wow!

Yeah, spooky, isn't it, E.? Sometimes I think we feel the vibes of things we don't even know we're connected with until we view it through the "retrospectoscope".

My friend Sue and I freak each other out all the time. We will be talking about some spiritual topic, and two days later it shows up in Forward Day by Day or in the Sunday sermon and we look at each other and hum the Twilight Zone theme.

I have a theory about it all. I'm going to post it here, so come back and look.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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