The kingdom; the city

As I move from my early twenties (that time of life when it is all life, all possibility) into my mid-twenties (that time of life when possibilities dry up and you are squeezed and funneled more and more into a point), I find the promise of the kingdom, of true citizenship, taking on a sudden poignancy.

I belong here less and less. I was not made to be judged by my production or my achievements. I was not made to be judged by my resume or how I carry myself physically. I was made to be, and to do only in the garden. There, I wouldn’t be seen through a lens of distrust; I would be seen as God’s child, a worker whose worthiness would never have been questioned. This is why I weep for us, for Eden.

To one who is homeless in spirit and at heart (if not yet physically, though doubtless that will come too), the promise of a kingdom in Luke 12:32 and of a city prepared for us in Hebrews 11:16 is the missing piece. This is not your average city, with its good neighborhoods and bad, its emphasis on commercialism and increasing the tax base. This city is true polis. This city glows.

And we don’t have to be afraid, because he has chosen to give it to us.

The universe is set up on give and take. You can’t live in a city, in a house, without it starting to live in you. Our relationship with God is even more consummate. In Ephesians 2:19 we inhabit. In 2:22, we are his temple; we are inhabited.

God gives us city, polis, the life of community in total. And, in total idiotic flipping-things-on-their-heads (always a sign of the strange logic of Christ), we, we broken disgusting sinners, become city, polis, the life of community in total, for God.

He put all things in subjection under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.

(Ephesians 1:22, 23)

A First Corinthians Thirteen for Creativity

People think creativity is all about freedom. In reality it’s slavery. They think it’s about showing off your talents and your tools. It’s actually about discovering how inadequate you are and how uninteresting your tools are. They think it’s about the meat of what you say. It’s actually about what you leave unsaid. They think it’s about earth. It’s really about ether.

Musicians focus on sounds, but the silences, especially those sounding simultaneous with their sounds, are more important. Writers think their work is about the words that make it into the final draft, but it’s really not even about everything that was cut out, but everything that was never said.

The reason is that silence and the unsaid are the prime engagers of our spirits. We don’t like to be preached at; we like to be thought-provoked. Jackson Pollock and noise music are perhaps the closest art has ever come to the infinite, but even these fall short of it—Pollock has white spaces between his splatters (and all colors add up to black anyway, which isn’t infinite) and even the noisiest piece of noise can’t contain all possible frequencies (and even if it could, these total would be beyond the range of our hearing).

Likewise God. Rather than flatten us with preaching-at, with all frequencies, with infinity, he leaves it almost all unsaid. He just gives glimpses that self-construct in our minds into constructs of the beyond. He leaves us with these yearnings, these illogical experiences, half-remembered visions and fragments of what were waking dreams, in hopes perhaps that we will heart-see the implications. We may mind-see them, but this is less likely.

His universe, like all good art, points beyond—but only points; doesn’t preach. The beyond? The beyond is him. Stop pushing him away and let him whisper; let him in.

The day of birds

She is plump, bright-eyed, bob-headed, brown-feathered. She is hungry. She is hunting rice. Rice doesn’t come easy; she has to wait. She has to compete with the faster ones and the sneakier ones, the ones whose feathers stay tight to their bodies ready for flight. But her feathers are fluffed. She is at home, safe, doing her thing.

But it isn’t for her. He comes up, cheeping and fluttering his stub-wings, the beak that is still yellow-edged open, begging. He is old enough to feed himself but doesn’t know it. He chirps, flutters, chirps; but there is no rice.

Then Danae throws some. Fearless mother sparrow runs in, stuffs, stuffs, stuffs (the rice is soft and mashes around the edges of her beak) and turns lift-headed and stabs fast and downward into the cheeping beak, and the cheeping beak is silenced; it is fed.

She does not feed herself. She gathers and gathers and gives it all to her chick, her little almost-bird. I have heard that Chipotle’s food is loaded with sodium, and I can only hope that these sparrows, whose whole economy depends on thrown rice, will survive on it. It’s the only thing they know how to eat.


Under the high round ancient arch of the bridge, they are swooping. They are flit-flitting, turning, swooping. They are hungry. They are hunting the hapless insects who hover over the rushing water. Flight for them is not so much a response, a means of locomotion, as it is the groundwork of life itself. It is perching, resting, that is difficult for them. Flying takes less energy than clinging to stone. So they fly; and instead of landing, they turn around and do it again.

They must have spectacular stereo vision. They cut their angular jubilation to something like ninety degrees six inches from obstacles. Anything can be an obstacle: water, bridge stone, each other, my face. They must be chasing the chance-inspired world-lines of their prey. There’s no other explanation for this glorious, needless dodging.

They do not know fear like the tight-feathered sparrows did. They cannot be caught; they cannot fly into anything; the river is teeming with bugs; and they can feed till dark. Their aerobatics are unparalleled by manmade flying machines, and they are not more than six inches long. They are swallows, tree and rough-winged; and the air under the bridge is theirs.


Both birds have found or been given a way to feed themselves. We get hung up on thinking the distinction matters, as if our development, our careers and our putting-food-on-the-tables, will play out to the towering and shadowy score of natural selection—as if one false move, one dropped class or one botched interview, will derail the gene train of which we, the freshest generation, have uncomfortably become the locomotive. But a sparrow can’t start eating like a swallow, and a swallow needn’t fear becoming a sparrow. God has given each of us exactly the abilities he wanted us to have, and no amount of education, competition, attempts at upward mobility or complacency therein will change our innate and God-known purposes. Some of us are sparrows, some swallows; and both are desperately noble, desperately needed in this, the end of time.