From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
As I mentioned in my last post, my lifelong identity as a Christian by necessity informs my worldview, and I think a good foundation for any other “life thoughts” on which I might blog might be a reflection on how I have come to understand Christianity and the “Christian Life” at this point in my journey. Notice I say “at this point”. I make no claim on having “arrived” at anything other than to say I have been elsewhere and now am here. I’ve come to be cautious (for many reasons – keep reading this blog! :p) of ever feeling like, “Whew, I’m glad I’ve finally ARRIVED at adulthood/marriage/parenthood/career destination/salvation/sanctification!” I recently re-read some papers from my English 101-102 courses at Michigan State University. We 18-19 year olds thought we had ARRIVED, and the pretense of our writing betrays our woeful naiveté. Our professor even collected and “published” (Thanks, Bruce Maylath and Kinko’s) our “best” work to keep as a memento. It’s embarrassing. It’s also a key indicator: In our first year out in the “real world”, we thought we had so much figured out. Nope. It’s a cradle to grave expedition, and I’ve learned to KEEP LEARNING. Here is some of what I’ve learned so far.
To the title of this entry, then. The “Kingdom” is a topic that gets a lot of time and attention from Jesus (119 instances in the gospels – thanks, ESV Online Bible!), and it’s from my current understanding of “The Kingdom” that I want to trace my steps through my “Christian Life” thus far.
As is probably most often the case, my earliest recollections of spiritual formation were from church attendance. My dad was the pastor of the first church I remember, the United Methodist Church of Munising, Michigan. I have fond memories of that church: Sitting on the pedals of the organ after service and then receiving kisses from the organist, affectionately known to me as “Piggy” for her snorting, nuzzling kisses under my chin; helping to ring the church bell for services and being lifted off the ground by the weight of the swinging bell above; eating paste in Sunday School… you know, good stuff. Probably not heavy-duty spiritual formation stuff to a pre-schooler, but I can say I remember them as good people trying to do good things and take care of one another along the way.
During my first year in Kindergarten, my parents divorced, we moved to Gaylord, and my “journey” really began. We started out at the Methodist Church. My mom was raised Methodist, and it was all she had ever known, so it made sense to go there. My memories there are few. I remember being shy and frightened at not knowing anyone after being “the pastor’s kid” for the first few years of my life. At any rate, we didn’t stay there long. I never really knew why we left. My mother told me recently she felt unwelcome there as the divorced wife of a UMC pastor. For me, though, it’s really neither here nor there, because it was the NEXT church we attended with mom that probably started laying the first bricks of my spiritual foundation.
We began attending the Church of the Nazarene, most likely because that was the church that housed the day-care my brother and I attended (you can fact-check me, mom). It was there that I have my earliest memories of Bible stories, Bible songs, Bible quizzing, and expected worship service attendance on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday evenings (my current church has considerably fewer attendance expectations, but that’s not why I love it. More on that later). I also have vague memories of people giving “testimonies” and doing “devotions”. It was all very earnest and all-consuming. It also gave me my first taste of “The Kingdom” – Wesleyan holiness style.
To be continued…