“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God;
but only he who sees, takes off his shoes –
the rest sit around it and pluck blackberries”
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
For about three months, this was my place of taking off my shoes. This was a holy space, a space in which I did everything I could to see how much heaven is crammed into everything here. The above quote I first encountered in Ruth Haley-Barton’s book entitled Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. In it, she talks about the moment that Moses encountered God in the form of a burning bush, all the while speaking more broadly about the spiritual practice of ‘practicing the presence of God’.
As if you could do that.
As if you could actually practice something that would manifest itself in the very presence of God.
But, then, I thought, I actually really did do this for three months one summer prior to starting Seminary in 2013. I decided that this would be my daily blog of how I was seeing something significant and amazing and of God. And it really did happen. For three straight months I was noticing the burning bush of God, the way that the earth was actually smashed together with heaven pieces. I wasn’t the one plucking blackberries.
I don’t want to be a blackberry plucker, and that’s what I’ve become…thanks to Seminary?
So, this is my resurrection post (I’m going to make this my daily end of work/study Sabbath practice), and my experience of bits of heaven today: Read Psalm 85. Read it again, this time with emphasis. This morning at church, a woman I have never met but whose husband I have known for about a year was given this Psalm to read prior to the lighting of the peace candle. There was something especially honest in the way that she read the words ‘Will you be angry with us forever…Will you not revive us again that your people may rejoice in you?’ So honest, in fact, that these words ceased being Scripture and became her words, and our words.
She then read,
“Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people…”
“Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other…”
What does that even mean? I have no idea, but I know what happened in me was truly a righteousness/peace kiss, or a burning bush, because I was so stirred inside my chest that I began to cry. I couldn’t stop it. What I heard wasn’t even necessarily what is written in the Psalm – I know this because I blubbered my way through trying to explain to the congregation what lament means to me (I go to a weird church where participants actually interact during the sermon). I said, “This Psalm tells me that there is hope…” and then I choked and died, my voice continued to go up octaves, and I started crying again.
So, if I had to nail down what my burning bush/heaven-earth crush/righteousness-peace kiss was today, it is this:
God spoke inside me and showed me that there is hope that something better is around the corner.
God said this through a woman reading a Scripture about peace.
Righteousness and peace kissed in me.
So, did you see the burning bush, or did you just sit around and pluck blackberries again? For me, I’m not going back that way. I’m looking for what is happening in every day – in me, in the world, in conversations, songs, or what I am reading. And here is where you will find my notes.
Grace & Peace