Thursday, February 20, 2014

Kingdom Encounters

I haven't delved much into my faith on this blog, but here is one thing I believe.  I believe that the kingdom of God is not just something that awaits a person after they die.  I believe that the kingdom of God is a place you can dwell on Earth.  I'm not an expert on world religions, but I have a strong sense that this is not a belief unique to Christianity.  (And it's not a belief you always here associated with Christianity.)

In my mind, it's like you can go through your life (or each day) with your sunglasses on or off.  It is a complete perspective shift; a whole new realm.  I believe that we are all beautiful creations of a heavenly father and we can choose to reside in that knowledge, see others as equally beautiful creatures, and experience peace, hope, joy, forgiveness, gentleness, and love.  Or we can live simply "in the world" and judge, fear, worry, and be weighed down by countless other emotions.

The sunglasses analogy is perfect in my mind because it's not just how different your outlook can be, it's also a good fit for how easy it is to go between these two "worlds."  This is my struggle.

Our Sunday School class is reading James Bryan Smith's The Good and Beautiful Community and in this book he writes about the opportunity in our daily "kingdom encounters."  There is no need to go out looking for great opportunities to serve; chances to serve, love, and uplift exist all around us in our daily interactions.

How beautifully did I experience this on my recent travel home from Wyoming.

The Story

Me, Jack (4), Cora (20 months) - please note the lack of other adult figures
Jackson Hole, WY airport, Denver airport, New Orleans airport and airspace in between

Kingdom Encounters:

#1: The nicest ticket agent I've ever encountered takes a look at my itinerary, notes my tight 30 minute connection, and tells me to come see her at the gate so she can reseat us at the front of the plane.  She also lets my mom come through security with us. Time: 3:45 p.m.

#2: Smiling Jackson Hole Airport TSA agents pay Jack 50 cents for helping stack the bins

#3: My mother - I already know she is an angel, but she reproves this fact consistently.  We quickly learn that our airplane is not yet in route.  My mom entertains Jack and Cora while I wait in line to figure out our plan.

#4: My friendly ticket agent patiently explains our options and backs us up on two different routes, depending on if we do indeed fly to Denver that night.  At 8:00 p.m. (THANK YOU MOM for hanging with us!) we board our plane and head to Denver, knowing we will spend the night there and already having ourselves booked on the 11am New Orleans flight the next day.  We are seated in row 4 so we can quickly get to the customer service line.

Thankfully, I had this little guy helping me
#5: I get off the plane at 9:30 p.m. with two children who haven't slept at all.  I know we must go straight to the customer service counter to get our hotel voucher.  We are flying United.  I see a man with a Sky West lanyard walking so I ask him where the nearest United desk is.  He asks our situation.  I explain that we've missed our connection and need a hotel voucher.  He tells me where the nearest counter is but says "there's a long line."  He looks at us (Cora in Ergo, me holding Jack's hand) and says "why don't you come with me over to this gate and I'll help you there."  He spends 10 minutes confirming our flights and printing us hotel and meal vouchers.  Cora cries the whole time.  I make sure to look him right in the eye (which makes me tear up) and thank him for taking the time to help us.  We then walk to baggage claim passing two United customer service counters.  There are four people working at each and hundreds of people standing in line...

#6: On the ride to the airport, Cora falls asleep in my lap and Jack falls asleep beside me.  This leaves me with two sleeping children and two backpacks when we arrive at the hotel.  A couple offers help and carries our backpacks and holds Jack's hand.

#7: After lots of kind remarks and nice looks from older women (BECAUSE ANOTHER MOTHER KNOWS!!) we get to the front of the check-in line.  The Doubletree clerk gives us extra cookies.  I give one to Jack and a second later I'm being handed the cookie back and he is sobbing.  Did it burn him??  No..."I miss Grammy!" he sobs.

By the morning, Cora and Jack are finding the hotel quite fun
#8: Back at the Denver airport the next morning, we are rerouted to the short family TSA line and then rerouted again out of that line to an empty TSA agent (I guess we looked especially fragile.)  We don't have to take our laptop out or shoes off and Jack earns himself a TSA badge sticker.

#9: Our on-time New Orleans flight has us seated next to lovely Jodie, mother of two girls.  She plays with Cora, talks to Jack, and was another lovely seatmate.

#10: At 3:00 p.m. we are back in New Orleans, have our bag, and are in the taxi line.  (Jacob is in a meeting.)  The sweetest looking woman is our taxi driver.  She is friendly and kind and during the ride both Jack and Cora receive new books which she pulls from the glove compartment box.

24 hours after we arrived at the airport, we are HOME.  Every one of the people I mentioned above chose to show kindness, take time, be joyful and they very much blessed us by choosing to operate by standards of a world better than this one.

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