Desiring the Kingdom

Late last summer I was introduced to James K. A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom. It wasn’t until spring of this year that I started actually reading the book. His ideas resonate with me; they speak directly to my heart. Which is exactly his intention. In the book, Smith makes the case that all things speak to our hearts, and most of what we do is done out of what our heart desires. While we think that we are rational beings controlled by our heads Smith argues that our gut, or intention, or desire, -this sort of subconscious bent- is what ultimately governs the paths we walk.

I think Smith is on to something. My stomach is hungry for it.

How can I motivate this kind of a desire for the Kingdom of God in the hearts of my students. It seems that so many Anabaptist youth today are distracted. They are drawn to things that connect less with God and more with the frivolity of this world. Along the way they pick up insecurities, carelessness, arrogance, and a host of issues that could plague them all their lives.

The world speaks a heart language. Schools and churches too often focus on the mind. They worry about what a person can do with his lips or his cerebrum and forget that it is with our hands and our hearts that the Kingdom comes to earth.

We think we use words to educate. How can we engage the heart? Christian educators are failing if their students don’t develop into builders of the Kingdom of God. All the learning in the world would hardly make the world a better place unless that knowledge is first drawn from the source of knowledge Himself. And then in that drawing out of knowledge, all find themselves drawn back to the Holy Father again. How can we build that attraction back again from all the emptiness and pride, back again to the kingdom of God with such a draw that it becomes a subconscious bent, a yearning that reaches into the heart of our youth and becomes the passion of every artery?

Among other things, Smith writes of using liturgies and stories to train the heart. This gave me an idea for my school devotions this year. I’d like to share a recounting of the story of God in a way that would draw children to become Kingdom builders. I’d like to shape a story where the Kingdom is glorious, where what is noble shines with nobility, and what is smoke dies in darkness.

I will attempt to share this in school devotions this year. And as the project progresses, I will post it in installments here under the heading “Olde Time”. (I don’t know that that will be the final title, but it works for now)

I welcome your comments. I enter at grade one. Do you have perspectives that would balance this project and increase its effectiveness? I would be very happy to hear from you in the comments below.


I can never understand why a student doesn’t enjoy studying. I suppose the fault must lie with the student’s immaturity or the teacher’s boringness. I remember how much I dreaded waking every morning to milk the cows when I was young. The menial was meaningless to me then.

But what causes me to really scratch my head (or rub my baldness) is chemistry. Why don’t more students love it? Math students should love the orderliness of it. The cook and the cow milker use it every day. Isn’t it cool these days to eat more proteins and fewer carbohydrates? Why then the apathy?

So I lecture and I diagram and I digress in chemistry. I talk about our stomachs and the students wonder why you can’t drink hydrochloric acid if that is what is in your stomach anyway. We pass around the small vial of HCl and practice wafting instead of sniffing. This knowledge I pass down from Lester Showalter and my time in his ninth grade chemistry class. Some students sniff and get burnt.

Another student notices the small skull and crossbones on the label. He pulls out his pencil and adds, “if swallowed, buy a coffin.”

I hope they are enjoying it a little bit.

This past week we made hydrogen.

I stopped along the main street in town and entered a tiny auto parts store. “Acid pentru baterie?” They pointed me down the street to the next shop where I bought some diluted H2SO4 in a bottle labeled “electrolit.”

Zinc was more difficult to resource. Asphalt shingles do not exist in Romania, so zinc strips don’t either. I researched the metal roofing screws that I had left over from my house, and discovered they indeed were coated with zinc.

In an ideal demonstration my sulfuric acid would have been concentrated, and my zinc would have been in beautiful chunks. But we made do with what we had, and what we had made hydrogen.

No pictures of the effect a match had on this little balloon. But it did make a handy pop.

Johnny was a chemist. Johnny is no more. For what Johnny thought was H2O, was H2SO4!

Collaborative creativity

What do teachers do with their summers?

They hang out with fellow friends and hobbyists, bouncing ideas from brain to brain, finding their own worlds enlarged and rounded.

Claudia and I are on the staff of the Curator. We are a collection of poets and artist who are trying to promote the arts among Anabaptists. The Curator publishes a poem a week, hosted a Literature Camp the beginning of August, and recently developed a hardcopy booklet of poems called Leaf Magazine.

So this past summer included meetings in which we discussed things like the font and layout of Leaf Magazine. We Curator staff met in a little café called The Rabbit and the Dragonfly that finds its space under a building in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and fills that space delightfully with themes from Tolkien and Lewis.

Here we nibbled chili cheese fries,
drank Ent-sized birch beer,
and discussed whether or not to use a stylus for the letter “a” in “Leaf”.

Then on July 23 we welcomed a daughter, Josephine!

And in August the three of us traveled to Literature Camp. This weekend included poetry workshops, sessions like this one on embodied worship in which the speaker addresses culture and theology, and also a session in which I explain why I am a poet.

So this past summer was possibly the busiest of my life so far. My beautiful daughter was born. I was a full time electrician who worked nights and weekends remodeling a house, ordered school books during morning break, and did my best to squeeze in space for family and friends.

I blogged much less than I had hoped.

We arrived back in Romania on Tuesday.

Journey over.

School starts Monday. Join me again this year as the blog reawakens.