For in fact, the kingdom of God is among you. ~ Luke 17:21
Tuesdays are an adventure for me. Some of us gather to watch and care for a few toddlers ranging in age from eighteen months to thirty-six months. I’m not sure who is caring for who though.
Renae pulls up in her car and steps outside onto the bare sidewalk. I can hear her son chattering excitedly from the back seat, but I can’t discern what he is saying. I say loudly, “Renae, do you have a cow or a horse in your back seat?” “Pastor Craig, it’s Ben. I’m not a cow,” and he laughs uncontrollably. Renae gets him out of his car seat, and he runs across the yard and flings himself into my arms. I raise him up while he clasps his tiny arms around my neck. “Did you think I was a cow, Pastor Craig?” “I just heard a lot of loud noise.” His smile radiates the warmth of the rising sun.
The other toddlers arrive bearing gifts as well. Vesper has a yellow leaf and a story about Opie, her dog. She will give me a hug as well and welcome me home. Arlo’s stroller is full of acorns and leaves. Sylvan, the youngest of the travelers, brings wide eyes which reflect the star of wonder.
When we get everyone “situated” which takes a while, we start our quest for the Land of Enchantment, which most of us know as Boyle Park. Our merry band makes it to the corner of our church where we set our anchor for the first time. Yellow flowers in their last days are begging to be picked. Blades of grass need to be touched. A magpie sits on a telephone wire cawing. We listen until we get directions and then we pull up our anchors and take off down the Grand Avenue River of Life. The wind favors us, so we make good time until a small tree with bright red leaves appears starboard. We anchor again.
“Pick me up,” Vesper says. I do and she plucks a bright red leaf off the tree. “This is for Mommy,” she tells me. “She will really like that, Vesper.” “Pick me up,” she says again. I do and she selects another red leaf. As I set her down, she says, “This is for Daddy.” I turn East, look at my watch, and start walking again when Vesper says, “Pick me up Pastor Craig.” So, for the third time I raise her up and she carefully scans the canopy of treasure before picking another red leaf bursting in color. I set Vesper down. “Who is that for?” I ask. “Opie,” she says in her soft angelic voice. Of course, I say to myself, “How could I forget her dog?”
Our merry band of toddlers reminds me that the only moment to be truly alive is the present moment. Rohr writes, “We cannot not be in the presence of the Divine. There is no other place to be. God is always present, but we’re not present to the Presence.”
We stop at each tributary that flows into the Grand Avenue River to make sure no other ships are crossing our path. We listen to any messages the birds have to offer us. The skies are clear and “we’re walking on sunshine.”
Every Tuesday, I marvel at the beauty that our little band of pilgrims discovers. They live in the present. “When we are mindful, touching deeply the present moment, we can see and listen deeply and the fruits are always understanding, acceptance, and love,” says Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Father Richard Rohr writes, “The spiritual journey is a constant interplay between moments of awe followed by a process of surrender to that moment. We must first allow ourselves to be captured by the goodness, truth, or beauty of something beyond and outside ourselves.”
At the corner of Main and Grand, Ben runs to a large pottery pot with water flowing from it. He must touch the water. The intrepid explorers follow suit. They take turns cupping the water and playfully dousing one another. I wonder, “Are mom and dad going to be mad if their clothes are wet?”
Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Most of the time we are lost in the past or carried away by future projects or concerns.” “We are almost always somewhere else. We are either reprocessing the past or worrying about the future,” says Rohr.
Will we do most anything to avoid living right now?
“Usually we say, ‘Wait until I finish school then I will really be alive.’ Then we say, ‘Once I get a job then I will really be alive.’ After the job, we need a car, and after the car a house. Then we need to save enough for retirement, then we will really be able to live life. It is possible we will never be truly alive in our entire life,” writes Thich Nhat Hanh.
Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is among us,” (Luke 17:21). Heaven is here so it is also there. It is now so it is then. When we are fully present, we touch the love, grace, and peace of God.
“When we’re present, we will experience the Presence,” writes Rohr.
May we let go and learn from the past while we trust the future with God, and may we live fully in the fruits of the present.
Blessings and peace,