Setting your thoughts on things above, as Paul exhorts us to do in Collosians 3:1-2, is not to ignore what is around us or to treat life as a waiting room for eternity, holding to the idea that that is where real life begins. Rather, we look not around life or above life but through life to a greater reality, to the eternal in the temporal.
Years ago I read a book by Edith Schaeffer entitled The Life of Prayer. While I have lost the book and most of my memory of it, I do remember her saying something so elementary but so imprinted on my memory: She recalled riding on a bus, with all the people around her --- all the noises of people chattering, bus engine groaning, honks honking, babies crying --- and yet praying through the sounds and sights of reality. Essentially, she carved out a space of solitude in her own mind, there in the midst of a messy reality that threatened her concentration, carrying it all to God in prayer.
When we pray as Edith Schaeffer did on that bus, we can carve out a space in the midst of the swirl of life and take up the life around us in our prayers. The babies crying become prayers for weary mothers, for new lives where the Gospel is ingested and lived. The chatter of strangers becomes prayers for redeemed relationships, honest work, encouraging words, and for hope to replace the despair that some labor under. Even the grinding of the bus gears becomes prayers for an end to the groaning of creation for redemption, for the making new of places where we live, for clean air and water and air, for livable, beautiful cities, for food for the hungry, for an end to the cries of the unborn --- for all things to be made new.
In this way, in taking up the life around us, carrying it to God, we participate in what Christ is doing every moment of every day, sitting at the right hand of God, reminding Him of his covenant love, of His promise he cannot not keep, telling Him that this is the world He loves, these are the people He made, and that He who has already done justice at the Cross must now extend mercy and hear His people as they pray because He is love.
I'm setting my thoughts on what's above by looking at what's right in front of me: a man sleeping in an airport lounge chair, weary and homebound; the forest life clear across the airfield; the children playing on the floor at their mother's feet; the flight crew on the tarmac; the sun warming my back by the window; the loudspeaker announcements of delays and gate changes; the smell of Maui tacos and Starbucks coffee. Outside lies magic, says John Stilgoe, and he's right, because in it we see God's glory and through it we pray. It's a sometimes messy reality around me, a cacophony of sight and sound, and I'm praying right through it. And I'm not closing my eyes.
[The "40 Days On the Edge" posts have been my ruminations in light of Stephen Smallman's devotional entitled "Forty Days On the Mountain," read in conjunction with Harvard Landscape History Professor John Stilgore's "Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places." Both books may be ordered by clicking on them where they are listed in the sidebar under "Current Reading." I've completed this 40 day exercise, but I'll have some concluding thoughts on the journey in a couple days --- but tomorrow I rest (no media Sunday)]