Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I’ve had butterflies in my tummy. You know, those little waves of nervousness that you get when you are anticipating something. The Art of Faith is Saturday, and, yes, I still get nervous when I speak. This time around, not only am I presenting, I am hosting the event along with Brent Bill. Thus, the butterflies.
Today, at lunch, for some reason they were especially fluttery. I made a turkey sandwich but could only a little bit. I’m the type that when I’m anxious, I can’t eat. So, I gave up after a few bites.
Food and butterflies don’t mix well. That’s because our whole body has to cooperate when we eat. When our stomach is churning, it knots up and we lose our appetite. Without an appetite, we are no longer interested in eating, even if it tastes good.
I wonder how anxiety affects our spiritual appetite. While it seems that stress might drive us toward God, some times I notice the opposite. The thought of slowing down, attending to our spiritual lives makes us more anxious. All the stress and anxiety keep us distracted from noticing the longing in our souls.
Sometimes we have to deal with the anxiety, before we can attend to our spiritual needs. Why not try a few of these exercises and see if they help you shoo the butterflies away:
1. When you notice you are anxious or something upsets you, stop what you are doing and begin to pay attention to your breathing, slowing it down until you can control your breaths.
2. As you slow your breathing, begin to relax your body, starting with your feet and moving upward until you reach your face and head.
3. With each inhale and exhale, say a simple prayer, like “I can do all things (inhale), through Christ who strengthens me (exhale).”
4. Continue until the butterflies have flown away. Then rest in God and bring to him whatever is own your mind.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
This morning, I woke up with a mild headache and just didn’t feel quite right. So, I did my usual—opened a packet of Emergen-C, poured it into a glass with water, stirred and downed it. I’m now on my third packet of the day. This slightly sweet, fizzy potion is the focus of my writing on my sixteenth day of tasting.
There isn’t really anything remarkable about the taste. The one I have is raspberry flavored. I don’t drink it because of its exquisite taste. I drink it because of what it does—what it has inside that helps boost my immune system and fight off potential viral intruders. Perhaps some of its effect is more psychosomatic. I imagine I feel better when I take it.
We eat some things more for their benefit to our body than because of their delight to our palate. And there is a parallel with our spiritual lives. We participate in certain disciplines, not always because of their tantalizing excitement, but because we know they bring about numerous unseen benefits.
Take prayer, for instance. I don't know how it works. I don't always see that it does. Yet, I pray. I pray because I believe that a lot more happens than is always obvious. I pray, not because of how it tastes, but because of the impact it has on my heart and others. Even if I can’t point to any obvious answer to prayer, I am calmed and centered through turning to God in prayer. Like my friend Emergen-C, I believe in prayer. So, I keep downing it.
Monday, September 28, 2009
We seem to accept with little protest that some of the foods we ingest are not really what they say they are. They’re fake. Seafood salad isn’t really made from ocean creatures. Seitan, a vegetarian meat substitute isn’t really chicken, it just (sort of) tastes like chicken. And what about the last item in the ingredients of 90 % of the foods we eat called, “artificial flavors.” What is that?
I want to write tonight about something that has nothing to do with what I tasted today. It has to do with what I read this morning and “tasted” the rest of the day as I mulled it over. I am reading, The Deeper Journey, by M. Robert Mulholland Jr. It’s not a book for those with acrophobia—a fear of heights. Mulholland writes from the ether's, at times. But his subtitle, The Spirituality of Discovering Your True Self, defines one of my main passions in life and something I find critical to my spiritual journey.
Just like fake food, we all have a false self or selves. From a young age, we learn to navigate life, avoid pain, and get what we want by cultivating a false way of being in order to achieve our desired outcome. For instance, I learned to avoid being bullied and humiliated by my dad by withdrawing and not sharing myself or my true thoughts. I constructed a “good little girl” false self in order to escape trouble. That false self served me well for a time. BUT, it has also imprisoned me and made it profoundly difficult to become a passionate, expressive and confident woman—the woman God created me to be.
As a Christian, I think perhaps the greatest deterrent to becoming our true selves in Christ is our cultivation of a well-sculpted religious false self. Much of what we call transformation is really the development of the “good little Christian” false self who follows the rules and believes what it should. Instead of becoming authentic, whole and spirited people, we are more like imitation crab, chicken substitute or artificial flavors.
And isn’t that what those who aren’t Christ followers most often criticize us for? We are shallow--our spirituality comprised of a superficial layer of religious false self that has no depth of heart or genuineness. Yet, I am struck with Paul’s description of who God created us to be--our true selves in Christ. Paul says to, “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception [our false self]. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy [our true self].” (Ephesians 4:22, 23)
Just as I prefer real food over fake, I am on a journey of learning to prefer my true self over the false selves I have hidden behind most of my life. How about you? Would you be interested in joining me on this journey?
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Too much of a good thing. That’s how I would frame my experience of taste today. I feel full from eating too many sweets over the weekend. Apple pie yesterday. Birthday cake today. And ice cream tonight. Of course, no one forced me to eat all those desserts. Now, as I come to the close of my day, I feel bloated and ready for a fast from sugar.
In what way does my sugar-high relate to my spiritual life? Is it ever possible to experience “too much of a good thing” in my experience as a Christian? Do I ever feel “bloated” spiritually, like I need to fast?
You know when I feel that the most? About 2/3 of the way through most sermons. At about that point, I begin to feel waterlogged by the excessive amount of words. I notice, even during a really great message, that I start to lose interest, or feel overwhelmed or irritated by the abundance of words. I want the person to stop so that I can think and let what’s been said trickle down. That’s when I experience, “too much of a good thing.”
My soul longs for space, stillness and solitude. I wish for more thoughtful, reflective time in worship. I crave less words and time to ingest what I have been given. Often, though, I feel guilty admitting that I have had too much. So, I just keep coming back for more.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
It’s not fall until I make an apple pie. Funny, though, it’s probably the only apple pie I will make the whole year. Not because I don’t like it. I just think it’s a whole lot of trouble. Skinning and paring apples is hard work. And making pie dough—well, I just can’t seem to master that art.
Despite the hindrances, today I made two yummy apple pies from scratch. We had David’s parents and his grandmother over for lunch, along with Brandt, Laura and baby Eli. For the first time, Eli met his great, great grandmother--five generations! (Grandma is 92, lives alone, cooks and cleans for herself, and makes amazing pies of all varieties.)
When I think of apple pie, I think of fall, David’s grandma and my own grandma. When I was a little girl, I would go over to my grandmother’s house quite often. She was a fabulous cook. From her kitchen, wafts of cinnamon, apples and butter would migrate through the house to the front room where I would play. And every time grandma baked apple pies, she would have leftover crust that she would roll out, spread with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake for me. It was my very own special pie.
Not only did I taste apple pie today, I tasted a little nostalgia. As the sweet, cinnamony apples and buttery, flaky crust melted in my mouth, I connected with powerful and wonderful recollections of my grandmother. It's impossible for me to eat apple pie and not think of her. And when I do, I remember how very much I loved her.
Perhaps that is why Jesus asked us, whenever we eat bread or drink wine, to remember him. He understood the power that food has to form indelible memories--ones that create continuity and give weight to our lives. Tomorrow morning, many of us will receive communion. But how many of us will be thoughtful about it? Will we really stop and think about Jesus and how very much we love him? Will we "do this in remembrance of him"?
Here are a few suggestions to help you taste communion:
- Before you take communion, think back over your life with Christ and thank him for two or three really great memories from your life with him.
- When you receive the elements, don't be in a hurry. Slowly taste each one and let it "sit" in your mouth for several seconds before you swallow. Then tell him how much you love him.
- As you take communion, be aware of the community around and remember the church around the world--all receiving the bread and cup in Jesus' name. Imagine yourself as part of the gathering of the universal church.
Friday, September 25, 2009
What comes to your mind when you think of comfort food? Tonight, we had salmon, asparagus, the rest of the yummy melon from day 10 and a plain, ordinary, uncomplicated baked potato. It was the best part of the meal for me and the most memorable taste of my day.
What is it about bland, starchy food that takes so good? I am sure there is a scientific explanation. But I don’t need one to know that my baked potato tasted like comfort wrapped in a brown bag and filled with chunky, buttery goodness.
It’s amazing how food can bring comfort—like hot soup when you feel chilled inside and out. Or ice cream when you feel sad. Or a baked potato when you are really tired. The types of food that bring back the color in our cheeks may vary, but the impact is very much the same. We feel better!
As I ate my baked potato and thought about comfort food, I wondered about the ways that God comforts me. How do I experience or taste his comfort? When do I turn to him for comfort?
With out a doubt, prayer—quiet, contemplative prayer—is how I find God’s comfort most. When I am upset or agitated, I often seek solace in a favorite spot in my house or garden where I can be alone with God. I have a way of talking to God during those times. It’s slow and very focused with a keen sense that I am speaking directly to him. I ask him a lot of questions and I listen. I process what I am feeling. Sometimes I receive an impression that comes as his answer. He consoles me as though he has taken me by the hand and helped me find my way back home.
Comfort food and the comfort of God are two of life’s loveliest pleasures. The next time you eat your favorite food of comfort, let the taste remind you of the God of all comfort who longs to comfort you. (II Corinthians 1:3, 4)
Thursday, September 24, 2009
A number of people, knowing about my 30 Days of Tasting, have encouraged me to see the movie, Julie & Julia. Well, today, I put on my big girl pants and went to see it by myself! David was at Schmooza Palooza downtown. (A networking event with a great title—don’t you think?) So, on impulse, I jumped in the car, headed over to the Keystone Arts Cinema and had the most delightful time watching a movie that I absolutely adored. I think I smiled my way through the whole thing!
Here are ten reasons why:
- It made me think of my husband. David, like Julia Child’s husband, is my biggest encourager, the one who always believes in me and ecstatically celebrates me when I succeed. I still remember the day while in the kitchen preparing lunch (of course!), my laptop open on the kitchen table, an email came from an editor at Abingdon Press with the subject line, “Congratulations.” (It’s still in my inbox.) David saw it, said, “Beth, come here!” We read it together, an email telling me that Abingdon wanted to publish my first book. We both squealed and literally danced around the kitchen!
- It made me want to cook. I love to cook. And, if I may say so, I think I am a pretty great cook. Cooking is a creative outlet and something I love to do for my family and friends.
- It made me love life. Julie Child loved life. She was an effervescent spirit who enjoyed every moment, bringing a light-heartedness and joy to whatever and whomever she met.
- It made me appreciate the gift of food. Isn’t it marvelous that, unlike most of the animal kingdom, we have a bounty of beautiful foods to choose from and a palate to distinguish subtle nuances in taste?
- It made me realize that food goes best with family and friends. What a blessing to share a meal with people you love. There is something so wholesome about gathering around a table and enjoying rich food with rich conversation.
- It made me see how savoring food awakens me to my passions. Julie Child had a way of throwing herself into tasting her food. That zeal transferred in the way she lived out her passionate love for her husband, family and friends. It also helped her discover her passion for cooking and teaching.
- It made me want to slow down and not be so driven. I have been reading through Ecclesiastes—a very interesting book in the Bible. One of the themes of Solomon’s (the author) is the notion of finding meaningful work to do but not becoming driven by it. This movie reminded me of Solomon’s wisdom.
- It made me glad for simple meals. (I couldn't cook that way all the time. I would weigh 200 lbs!) When I came home after the movie and after kissing my husband, I opened a bottle of wine, warmed some pita and spread some hummus. That works for me.
- It made me remember why I love butter! I learned that from my mother! I DO love butter. You will always find real butter in the Booram refrigerator. And when I butter my toast, I BUTTER my toast.
- It made me glad to be a woman. Both characters, Julie and Julie, brought their feminine mystique into the art of cooking and the art of living. I celebrate with them what it means to be a woman, coming into her own and offering herself and her gifts to the world.
If you haven’t seen the movie by now, I hope you will. It has left a grateful taste in my mouth—grateful to be alive, to have someone to love and for the gifts of God’s bounty.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
This morning, David and I sat down to a breakfast of poached eggs and melon. Our minds were occupied with thoughts of the day, our conversation light. Then all of sudden, David said, “Are you tasting this?” His instantaneous prompt made me realize that I wasn’t. Not really. I was eating my breakfast without any sense that I was eating my breakfast.
We both slowed down, paid attention to what we were tasting, especially the melon. (Do you call it cantaloupe? Or musk melon?) In my area, we have these amazing melons called Vincennes melons. They come from the Southern part of the state, are enormous, and have a ridiculously sweet, delicious flavor. (If you like melon!)
So, I slowed down and really tasted the melon. It’s a bit of an unusual flavor, really. Very sweet, yet earthy, musky. It’s almost as thought you can taste the moist soil from which it grew. The texture is unique, too. Kind of fibrous and stringy, but full of mouth watering zest.
Once again, I saw how slowing down and paying attention to my senses helps me enter the present moment, the only place where I can experience God. The only moment that really exists. The past is past. The future is yet to be. I have this moment of time, this breath of life, to live and be and abide in Christ.
Tasting breakfast helped me do that. It became a spiritual experience because it led me into a fuller awareness of God, the One from whom every good and perfect gift—including Vincennes melons—comes.
Are you tasting your breakfast? Why not slow down, take a bite, truly taste it and live fully attentive to that experience. See what happens when you do. Bon appetite!
P.S. Don't forget to register for The Art of Faith: Awakening Your Senses to the Wonder of God on October 3 in Indianapolis. After Saturday, the 26th, the cost increases. Space is limited. We have folks coming from Iowa, Tennessee, Illinois and Kentucky!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
True confessions. I fell prey to the golden arches today. And believe it or not, that is the most memorable taste of the day! I succumbed to number 6 on the menu—a double cheeseburger and fries. I didn’t even try to eat somewhat healthy. If I was going to fall, I was going to fall big. (No, I didn’t super size! I have some scruples.)
Here’s what happened. I spent three hours cleaning a rental property that my brothers and I own together. We had to evict the occupants and are fixing it up so that we can find (hopefully!) some decent renters. My brothers had done all the painting and fix up, so it was my turn to apply some elbow grease to cleaning it. Okay. I don’t really like cleaning someone else’s dirt. I wasn’t totally depressed. But it was hard scrubbing down cabinets, a bathtub and toilet and washing yellow nicotine off the windows.
So, when I left, I was hungry. The nearest intersection to the rental had two options, a Taco Bell and a McDonald's. I chose the later. I even looked forward to it! The anticipation of a greasy cheeseburger felt somehow like a “reward” for doing a job I really didn’t enjoy doing.
On the way home, I thought about my impulse to seek pleasure in something that had immediate gratification after having done something that was unpleasant. I understand that it’s natural to try to find some kind of release after hard work. So, I’m not so hung up on my choice of such a dubious reward.
But as I was driving home, I began a thoughtful conversation with God about the whole thing. By this time, I was feeling very full and a twinge guilty, accompanied with a sudden urge to exercise. It occurred to me that many people spend a lot of their days doing work they hate. Their lives are filled with drudgery, pain and hopelessness. No wonder people look to alcohol, food addictions and sex to counter the depressing ambiance of their lives.
It made me wonder how I would do if I were them.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Tonight, I made ground turkey gyros to take to Brandt and Laura (our son and daughter-in-law) as a peace offering so that I could see our brand new grandbaby—Elias David. As I was preparing the meal, I made the traditional sour cream and yogurt sauce. The moment I opened the jar of dill and sprinkled in a generous amount, I was reminded of how much I love that spice! I love the aroma and the taste of dill.
Dill was my most memorable taste of the day. It reminds me of how bland food would be without spices. Dill, along with coriander, garlic and Cavendar’s Greek seasoning (if you’ve never tried it, it’s amazing!) were the spices I added to the meat and sauce. Without them, both would have been incredibly tasteless.
What is it that adds flavor to my spiritual life and relationship with God? My immediate response is those moments when God shows up in everyday life. Something happens and I know it isn’t just a coincidence. (David and I have been talking about coincidences lately. He’s reading a novel by that name.) One of the most amazing coincidences/God-moments is when I think or pray for someone and the next moment they call or I run into them. That very thing happened last week.
I was having lunch with Brent Bill, finishing our plans for The Art of Faith. On my way, I thought of my friend, Laurie, who died just three weeks ago. I thought of her daughter, Liz, and said to myself, “I want to call Liz and invite her lunch next week.” An hour later, sitting outdoors at this restaurant with Brent, I looked up and here came Liz. Of all the places she could be, and times she could be there, she showed up at the same place where I was, moments after I had thought of her. That’s one of the ways God spices up my life. How about for you?
Sunday, September 20, 2009
“What sounds good for dinner?” All day long, I have been asking myself that question. We are having our house church over tonight and I am making the main course. I knew I wanted to make soup of some kind, but my mind has been undulating over what kind of soup.
When I asked myself, “What sounds good?” I wasn’t really looking for an answer of an auditory nature. I was asking what sounds like it will taste good. I was calling on my memory of food and my preferences for food and asking them to speak to me.
It’s an art to listen to your appetite and be able to answer definitively the question of what sounds good. (I’ve decided on tomato basil soup, in case you are wondering.) Reflecting on Day 7 of tasting, what stands out most is the way that my mind and palate worked together to decide what I would prepare.
Here’s the connection with our spirituality: The Christian life is a nurturing faith. Jesus used bread and wine to speak of the way he would nourish us every time we come together in his name. He is the bread of life. He is the living water that becomes within us a fresh infilling of joy and zest for life. Far too often, however, we get in a rut when it comes to nourishing our own spirits.
What if we approached spiritual nurture by asking, “What sounds good?” What if we trusted our own hearts to tell us what nutrients we need to heal and become more whole? Instead of going through the motions of our daily spiritual routines, asking the question, “what sounds good” has the potential to break us out of deadening patterns and lead us toward a real companionship with Christ.
We might hear, “take a walk,” or “take a nap.” We might realize that cleaning out the garage or shooting hoops is the very thing that will bring us closer to Jesus. In recent years, I have learned to trust my heart, that deep place where I abide in Christ, to lead me and show me what I really need.
Tomorrow, as you think about how to pursue a relationship with Christ, why not ask yourself, “what sounds good?” and let your spiritual palate speak to you about what you really need and desire.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
A bride eating barbequed ribs—now that’s not somethin’ you see everyday! But it’s somethin’ we saw today. We went to a wedding and reception of one of our kid’s friends. At the reception, before our table was called to the buffet line, I thought I detected the smell of smokey, savory barbeque sauce. Sure enough, as we went through the line, at the end of it were piles of greasy, hard-to-eat-without-making-a-mess ribs.
They definitely are what stand out to me from today, the sixth day in my tasting exercise. I don’t know the last time that I had ribs. I don’t believe that I have ever even made them. I don’t eat ribs largely because they are fattening and you get them all over yourself when you eat them. However, tonight at the reception, they were the hit on my dinner plate!
Evidently, the wedding photographer saw the bride, Becky, eating her ribs with her fingers, shot a picture and said, “That’s the first bride I have ever seen eating ribs.” But it’s SO Becky. It suites her tastes and her personality. She is a robust, fun-loving, always smiling (and singing) young woman who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty—even eating ribs in her wedding dress.
I find that refreshing. I am often too careful to get my hands (and face!) dirty. I opt for safer choices on the menu so that I don’t have to contend with whether I got all the sauce off my face or the meat out from between my teeth.
As I reflect on the sense of taste and how it relates to my spiritual life, this image of an uninhibited bride eating ribs to her heart’s content really sticks with me. It makes me want to throw off my cautious way of living and dig in with all of my being and learn to feast! I picture Jesus being able to do that. Maybe that’s where the rumor got started that he was a glutton and drunkard. Not only did he turn water into to wine at that wedding, he must have eaten ribs!
Friday, September 18, 2009
I have been thirsty all day long. I bet a hundred times today I’ve had the subconscious thought, “I’m thirsty.” My tongue has felt dry. The roof of my mouth, as well. Last night, after the wine tasting, I went to bed thirsty—alcohol does that to you. I had leg cramps in the night and woke up thirsty.
Today, I left for two appointments and forgot to take along water. The first thing I did at lunch was gulp down a big glass of water. Even after lunch, as I did some errands, I noticed my persistent thirst. Finally, I got home, and immediately filled a tall glass with ice cold water. I can't seem to quench my thirst.
As I think back over day 5 of my tasting experiment, it is my relentless thirst that has my interest piqued. I am amazed at how actively my body lets me know that I am thirsty and need water. The dry mouth, dry eyes, leg cramps and subconscious thoughts of thirst all heighten my attention to the fact that I am parched.
As essential to my life as water is my thirst and need for God. Do I just as easily recognize the signs? Why not, each time I feel thirst and take a drink, express to God that I thirst for him. As I become aware of physical thirst, why not let it be a prompt to drink deeply of God in that moment.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Tonight, as part of my 30 Days of Tasting, David and I went to a wine tasting at a wonderful local restaurant, Zest. We sampled wines from France, Portugal, South Africa and Argentina. The most memorable was a wine from Rhone, France whose bouquet swelled with ancient, earthy aromas that took time to appreciate. I think it's called an “acquired taste.”
What really struck me about the whole experience has less to do with tasting and wine and more to do with the people we met. Doug, Jeannie, Jenny and Mary Kaye—complete strangers when the night began—gathered around the same standing table as we sampled wine and shared our responses.
The conversation was casual yet remarkable, in a way. Here we were, perfectly unfamiliar with one another and yet because of our shared experience of tasting, we crossed normal social barriers and extended ourselves in cordial conversation with one another. (Doug commented that one of the things he enjoys most about his hobby of wine tasting is the interesting people he meets along the way.)
The wine tasting provided far more than the experience of exceptional wine and food. It set a table for strangers to gather and taste the pleasure of a shared meal. I am thoughtful tonight about the social dimension of tasting--how it brought me together with others. I sampled wines from around the world with people from all across town.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
As I think back over my day and reflect on all that I have tasted, the most indelible flavor (although the cabbage rolls at dinner were pretty amazing) was one I enjoyed this morning as I sat down in my comfy office chair where I pray and read. Within moments of starting to focus, I reflexively ran my tongue over my teeth and immediately noticed the invigorating flavor of toothpaste. I had just brushed away both morning breath and morning coffee.
The taste was so crisp, minty and cool—a welcomed sensation after the earthy bitterness of coffee had turned stale in my mouth. I love the feeling of fresh breath and a fresh palate. It’s like starting all over again with a clean slate. All the previous flavors have been washed away as my taste buds stand at attention, coiffed and ready for their next assignment.
Isn’t a new beginning, a fresh start each day often what we long for and need? The opportunity to put past failures and missed opportunities aside. A chance to “try it again.” If only it was as simple to come by as picking up our toothbrush, squeezing on some Colgate (my favorite) and scrubbing away. Then again, maybe it is. Imagine that’s what God offers us each day? Jeremiah did. He said that God’s “mercies begin afresh each morning.” (Lamentations 3:23)
Perhaps the simple act of brushing my teeth can help me remember that. As I wash my mouth of all the bad tastes left over from the night, and the clean flavor of toothpaste replaces them, I will remind myself that God offers a fresh supply of forgiveness and mercy to me at every dawn. I think I might even remember that tonight when I brush before I go to bed.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
“So, I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?” (Ecclesiastes 2:24, 25)
I read these verses this morning and thought about them on and off during Day 2 of my 30 Days of Tasting. It struck me that something as ordinary and routine as a meal really is a profound, inestimable blessing.
Today I ate three square ones—a veritable combination of grains, fruits, vegetables and meat. Where did they come from? Solomon, the writer of these verses, envisioned them delivered to me on a silver platter from the very hand of God.
This perspective certainly elevates the value of a meal from a commonplace, insignificant event to a sacred experience. What would happen if I had the imagination of Solomon and tasted every morsel as coming from the hand of God?
- I would slow down and savor my food and drink.
- I would be genuinely thankful for my daily bread when I pray and give thanks.
- I would be content and find satisfaction in the simple pleasure of a meal.
- I would truly enjoy the taste of food rather than eat pragmatically without noticing.
- I would consider my table a sacred altar around which I gather and share meals with others.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Within minutes of finishing dinner—a quick salad of leftover barbecued chicken, veggies and greens—I became aware of a conscious craving for a piece of dark chocolate. From where did this subtle, yet insistent desire come? Was it the common habit of something sweet after a meal? Or the sharp flavor of intense, pungent chocolate that my mind and palate find so appealing?
Whatever the case, I went to the upper cabinet to the left of my stove where I keep my “stash.” Typically, you will find a stack of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate bars, the top one opened, the wrapper folded part way back. I have a habit of breaking off three small squares in a row and taking, what David and I call, our “vitamin.” (“Do you want your vitamin now?” we say to one another after lunch and/or dinner.)
My craving appears to come either from conditioning or from a flavor for which my palate truly has a penchant. Either way, this hankering is persuasive!
Reflecting, I wonder:
- What role does conditioning have in creating spiritual hunger?
- Do we train ourselves to yearn for God?
- Is that the value of a rule of life (regular spiritual disciplines) or the daily office (a daily regimen of prayers from the Book of Common Prayers)?
- How can I create rhythms in my day that instill a craving for God?
Sunday, September 6, 2009
I sat and listened to Greg, the kids, and others tell of the impact Laurie had on their lives. The cache of stories carried familiar themes—Laurie’s ability to love unconditionally, to speak boldly of God’s love to strangers as well as friends and to live authentically and transparently from her own weakness and brokenness.
Laurie had a huge heart of love to give away because the love of her Father was real to her. She had struggled with a chemical imbalance that began during her young adult years. At times, her battle was severe and debilitating. But Laurie learned to press into Jesus. And as she did, she let him love her in her weakness, fear and desperation.
A few days ago, while on a walk, I prayed something I don’t think I have ever prayed before. I asked God, like Elisha asked Elijah, to give me a double share of Laurie’s spirit—a spirit of grace, generosity, authenticity, vulnerability, boldness, gratefulness, fun and adventure. If imitation is the highest form of compliment, then that is my tribute to Laurie. I want to be like her as a wife, mother, friend and lover of those who feel most unlovely.
I still can’t believe that she is gone from here. When I saw her body, though, it was obvious. Her spirit no longer inhabited the beautiful gown she once adorned. She has been set free. I still feel her. I even talk to her and I sense that she talks to me. I just can’t see her, go to her, call her and hear her voice and that makes me really sad. But I feel her in my heart and pray that her spirit will rest on me so that I might be more like her.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
When my kids were little, in an effort to teach them the impact of their hurtful words, we would have them taste vinegar when they said something unkind to one of their siblings. After all, it seemed a better option than washing their mouths out with soap, a common practice during my childhood! The whole idea was to provide them with a physical sensation that matched the emotional hurt caused by their verbal jab. (Now that our kids are grown, they rib us mercilessly over the “tasting-vinegar-for-sour-words” discipline. Yes, they are all in counseling!)
The experience of tasting our words, however, is not only a punitive consequence imposed by a parent. It can be an experience called lexical-gustatory synethesia, an involuntary condition where a person hears a word and immediately experiences a taste. For example, when some people hear a word like “war” or “murder” or “rape,” it elicits a bitter, putrid taste in their mouths. They literally “taste” their words.
Even several authors of Scripture use "tasting" as a sensory metaphor to experience the savor of God. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”(Psalm 34:8), David wrote. “How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey.” (Psalm 119:103), the psalmist declares. To taste the sweetness of God and his word is an invitation to experience God, to allow the flavor of his goodness to fill your mouth and nourish your soul.
This morning, I experimented with this idea of tasting the goodness of God. I was drawn to a name of God, El-roi, the God who sees me. Hagar named God, El-roi, after she ran away from Sarah and was found by the angel of the Lord in the desert. (Genesis 16:13) As I spoke the name (silently) over and over, paid attention to each syllable and pronounced it deliberately with my tongue, I found my heart begin to worship. From deep within, I became aware that I needed to know that God sees me. For several minutes, I repeated El-roi, savoring its meaning.
If you would like to experience “tasting and seeing that the Lord is good,” here are a few suggestions:
- Select any name for God. (Elohim, El-roi, Yahweh, Lord, Jehovah Jireh, El Shaddai, Good Shepherd, Jesus, etc.) Choose one that you are drawn to whether you understand why or not. Try it out, say it a few times. Make sure it is the best one for you at this time.
- In prayer, begin to mull it over, repeating it slowly, either silently or aloud, whichever is most comfortable.
- Say the name with each breath you take until you have developed a comfortable cadence.
- Slow down and taste each syllable. Allow the name to lift and open your heart in order to taste the goodness of God.
- Continue to repeat the name, especially when your mind drifts. Enjoy being in God’s presence, responding to his goodness, being nourished by his love.