Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Poustinia: A walk in the desert

Poustinia is the Russian word for "desert". The Finan Reading of the Celtic Daily Prayer says this today:

"To go into poustinia means to listen to God. It means entering into kenosis - the emptying of oneself. This emptying of oneself, even as Christ emptied Himself for us, is really a climbing of this awesome mountain right to the very top where God abides in His warm silence. It also means to know 'how terrible it is to fall into the hands of the living God' . . . and yet how delightful, how joyful, and how attractive! So attractive, in fact, the soul cannot resist."

I am convinced more than ever that the American evangelical church has no idea what poustinia is and its role in the true and authentic rennovation of a follower's heart. Silence, solitude, quiet, desert . . . not terms I learned growing up in church. What I learned was program, do more, try harder, don't ask questions, don't think those thoughts . . . etc. The answer to our spiritual hungers and longings may not be in the dynamic and the extraordinary. The older I get, the more I realize that the power and beauty of the Kingdom of God is found in the ordinary and in the Now. In America, we "strive" for everything, including our next spiritual fix. The answer as I understand it, is not in striving, but in sitting, getting quiet and connecting with the stream of the Spirit that is all around me already. The spiritual connection to this Christmas season will not be found in the perfect execution of gift exchanging, but rather in the company of warm friends and in the quietness of a reflection of that night in Bethlehem.

Al Martin can give testimony to this, but I'll never forget the night I got lost in Bethlehem with 3 other friends. We went out wandering at about midnight during our study over in Palestine and Israel, about 7 years ago. It was real dark I remember, and we got lost wandering the streets of Bethlehem. The road we were on kept narrowing and each of us was getting a bit anxious about being lost in a foreign land, particularly an Arab one while the U.S. was presently bombing Iraq under President Clinton. That road eventually led us to Manger square by chance. It was about 1:00 a.m., the air was cool, the streets were black and off in the distance past the church of the Nativity the only lights we could see were flickers of fire in the fields. There were shepherds that night, around their fires, keeping watch over their flocks about a mile from the site of Christ's birth. We were absolutely stunned by the realization that this is what it looked like some 2000 years ago. The Incarnation of Jesus happened at this place and because of it, our lives will never be the same. We sat and reflected, mostly in awe. Our fears had turned to hope, joy and peace.

Go take a walk in the poustinia/desert today and connect with the reality of the Hope of a Kingdom Come.


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