On meeting God at The Table

 

Where do you go to meet with God. Thoughts from the Table. Liturgy of Life Reading group, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

 

On slow mornings I sip my tea, sit at the breakfast table and listen to the dreams of a four year old. As we finish our toast  I pull out a book of Bible stories, we read and then say our morning prayers.  Today we came to a story about Moses going up Mt. Sinai to meet with God.

God’s presence descends on the mountain, consumed with smoke and crashing thunder. The people are trembling with fear.  Moses and 70 elders ascend to worship and offer a sacrifice.  Then something even more amazing happens.  They see God,

“and they saw the God of Israel.  There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.”

And then these guys, surrounded by all this greatness, seeing God with their own eyes, the earth around them quaking, they sit down and share a meal.

 

“. . . they beheld God, and ate and drank.” (Exodus 24)

 

Not far back we were reading about Abraham and three visitors who come as angels representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   Abraham recognizes them as the Lord and before they say a word he has his wife baking bread and his servant slaughtering a calf.  They sit down and eat.

 

Is it possible that something as ordinary as eating could be crucial to our spirituality?

 

Food is central to so many stories of the Bible. Sin comes into the world when Eve eats the apple, God’s first gift after the fall is the flesh of animals for food, worship for centuries is primarily through the slaughtering and offering of animals which are then eaten, dietary restrictions are a central part of the practice of Judaism, God declares His grace for His people through the Passover feast, He demonstrates his faithfulness by feeding them with manna, Christ’s first miracle is turning water into wine, and His final time with the disciples before his crucifixion is a feast called The Last Supper.  In His death and resurrection we see the redemption of eating as we partake of His body and blood in the Eucharistic feast.

 

Yet food in our culture has been reduced to fuel, something to quiet our grumbling bellies and get us through our next task.  Its’ preferred form is a to-go box or better yet liquefied into a smoothie or squeeze pouch.  We understand it by its’ most basic nutritional elements, carbs, protein and fat, devoid of any value in its wholeness.  The traditions around preparation and consumption of food have nearly vanished from our society.

 

I don’t have any genius revelations here, only the observation, that if our Christian traditions or history mean anything to us then we may want to revisit food and I don’t just mean taking another glance at the doughnut table during coffee hour.  As Christians we believe that all of the world exists as a communication of God and that in offering what we receive back to God we are drawn deeper into Him.

In the preparation and consumption of our meals we partake of God and His gifts to us.  Of course this is still true if we are microwaving a frozen pizza.  It’s not that any one food or style of eating is necessarily holier than the other. But our pace of life and even our willingness to eat food in isolation or that isn’t carefully prepared, nutritious or even tasty, is affecting our physical health and is perhaps limiting our experience of God’s grace.

What does it look like to submit our food choices and our eating habits to God’s authority? How would we cook or eat differently if Christ was physically dining with us? (Because of course He is. He dwells in you and in me).

In a world that is overheating, with red faced politicians spewing hateful messages, with bombed cities and homeless refugees, with our own mind boggling schedules it may feel insignificant to spend an hour drinking a cup of tea or preparing a loaf of bread. But in the swirling haze, in the trembling and quaking, in our deepest fears, sitting down at the table and eating together may be the very place to begin to meet with our God.

 

 

This post was inspired by my current read, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.by Barbara Kingsolver as part of the Liturgy of Life Reading Group series. We would love for you to join us.

 

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

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Family Music Night
An Introduction to
Living Sacramentally

Family Music Night, Liturgy of Life

I am not musical.  If you don’t believe me, read this, and re-live with me the devastation of being cut from choir at the young age of 10 (seriously, 10 in a public elementary school, it still seems unkind, I can’t imagine I was that bad, anyway how was I ever going to learn?).  I survived it but I steered clear of music as much as I could.

Fast forward 15 years  I found myself married to a professional singer-song writer (obviously I wasn’t as good at steering clear of music as I had thought).  Music slowly began seeping its way into my life. I began singing along in church (though likely out of tune, I still can’t tell what is in tune and what isn’t), I would even clap my hands (though always off beat) and as I did some of my fears of making music began to fade.

Skip ahead 5 years to the birth of our daughter.  We realized quickly that music soothed her and I wanted music to be part of her life.  At least I wanted her to feel comfortable  in the world of music that had felt foreign to me.  I knew that the best thing I could do toward that end was to give her a mom who enjoyed music with her.

So in a timid voice I began singing lullabies at bedtime, silly songs at snack time and then old Girl Scout camp songs on long car rides (We have little Bunny FuFu mastered). We began listening to my old CD collection, (most of which I had gathered in high school and college) and bought a few musical sound tracks at the Good Will.

 .    .    .

Now I couldn’t tell this story without sharing a book with you.   The Trapp Family Singers, is the book that inspired The Sound of Music.   Written by Maria Von Trapp herself,  it  tells the story of their family and their career in music (it is one of the most wholesome, light-hearted books I have read, though she goes into perhaps a bit too much detail on the Catholic mass for the average reader, for someone who writes on liturgical traditions I found it interesting and highly recommend it).

Though Maria doesn’t write any advice directly to her readers I walked away with a message,

“Keep music in your home, it doesn’t matter if it isn’t great, the music and the home will  both be improved by having the other there.”

.    .    .

Right now in the Liturgy of Life Reading Group. We are reading, The Hidden Art of Homemaking.  In it Shaeffer encourages us to be creative in our every day lives.  She reminds us that having music in our homes allows us (a family, or any grouping of friends or roommates or whoever) to create, produce and enjoy something together.  And while it sounds simple these are some of the deepest longings of our souls.

So with all that said, may I recommend to you an idea . . .

Family Music Night . . .  inspired by The Von Trapp Family Singers, played out in all sorts of imperfection every week by the Jarretts.

On Saturday night (given we aren’t out of town) we do music as a family.  Zenie looks forward to it all week. Michael plays guitar, which is a bonus, but you could do the same just by putting on a CD (or whatever gadget people are using to play music these days, I can’t keep up) and Zenie passes out her instruments. We sing a few songs (and maybe sometimes do a crazy dance).

Most often the whole thing lasts about 20 minutes until Zenie’s bed time.  Some of her favorites are Hobo’s Lullaby by Woody Guthrie, and Mexican Home by John Prine, we mix in a couple of Michael’s originals and usually end on a hymn.  On those nights she goes to bed with her eyes sparkling with excitement knowing she was just part of something special.

Family Music Night, Liturgy of Life

On nights when we have dinner guests we have everyone to join in (so if you come over on a Saturday make sure to bring your guitar or violin or whatever), which turns an average Saturday night into a fantastic house concert.

As we create, and produce and enjoy music  together we also enjoy God and His creativity, His production and His Goodness and enjoy seeing Him at work in each one of us.

And that is what it means to live sacramentally.

Give it a try or let me know some other ways you incorporate music into your family life.

 

This post is part of a series of reflections on The Hidden Art of Homemaking which we are reading in our reading group. We would love to have you join our group or contact us for more info.

Thanks for being here.

Swim Lessons,
Gratitude and
How Our IPhones
Interfere With Both

Gratitude and sacramental living liturgy of life

It’s the last day of swim lessons and I am sitting in a pavilion watching from a distance. All the kids are lined up on the cement taking turns jumping in. The first girl wears a green bikini,  she stands at the edge and slowly steps in, barely leaving a ripple on the water. The next boy does a running cannonball. And then it is Zenie’s turn, she hesitates, stops and insists on wearing her sandals (they aren’t water shoes but she convinces the teacher that she must put them on before she can jump in), then grabbing hold of the lifeguard’s hand she takes a leap. And I swear I can feel the splash all the way  where I’m sitting.

My face is wet but it’s not the pool water, I’m crying, and it is for no good reason except that I’m grateful to be  watching my daughter. It hasn’t been a long day, and there is no recent tragedy or illness to prompt this sentimentality. It’s just that I’m here and I’m a mom and I have a beautiful daughter. My heart is full.

I recently started limiting my time on digital media. I’m still full on with my computer (I said limit not eliminate)  but I’ve cut back on using  internet, facebook, and email on my phone, basically restricting it to the jobs that only a phone can do, mainly  calls and texts (okay and the map and a few other random things but still).  And so on this particular morning I was looking up at the world.

And I had the thought that perhaps the real danger of our age isn’t coming in court decisions or senate rulings.  That maybe it is as St. Ignatius warned us 500 years ago; ingratitude is the deadliest of all sins.

In our modern world we have all become little gods of the worlds we create through our social profiles and then manipulate with our technology.    My Yiayia was visiting recently, “Things have changed,” she said, ” You go out and no one looks at you, everyone’s faces are down.” And why not look down? Inside our phones we have control, our friends are there to boost our egos, they can’t hurt us, they can’t get that close.

As we live ever more in our carefully constructed technology bubbles it becomes easier to ignore the purpose for which we exist. That God gave us the whole world as a gift and we are here to experience Him through every part of it.  We forget that all of life is sacrament and we stop saying “thank you.”

At that last swim lesson I glimpsed what it is to be fully alive.  I Realized again that life is found in experiencing the good and that the good is a person, it is God who loves me. There is nothing better.

 

I’ll leave you with a song from my friend Kelly Mcrae.

“I am not such a fool,

a fool to miss,

a full cup when it’s raised to my lips.”

 

 

I got a bit distracted this week. The thoughts from this posting are prompted from a book I am reading, For The Life of The World. It is dense but probably the best book I’ve ever read on the Christian Life.

But we still have one more week in The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris.

We would love to hear from you or have you read and ponder along with us, consider joining our reading group. Thanks for being here.

Parenting by Example,
My Bad Attitude and
St. Benedict

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Today was one of those days where I was pleased with myself just for staying upright and not  bursting into tears at any given moment. It wasn’t that anything terrible happened, (it doesn’t take much to get me near breakdown) just a poor night of sleep combined with a preschooler who needed to nap but wouldn’t plus the angst of knowing we need to move but not knowing where to go or what we will do for work.  Then I get to St. Benedict (this is our last week covering him in our reading group) and I finish off the section about the abbot and all that is expected of him.

He must be chaste, temperate and merciful . . .  he must hate faults but love the brothers . . . Excitable, anxious, extreme, obstinate, jealous or over- suspicious he must not be ( I am all of these seriously, especially extreme and anxious) , . . . He must show forethought and consideration . . . he should be discerning and moderate (forethought and moderation are just about the last traits that anyone would ever use to describe me) . . . He must keep this rule in every particular . . .

And reading all this made me feel worse because I had been planning on writing a post about the abbot and how his role parallels that of a parent.   I was clearly not measuring up Benedict’s standards.

In many ways the monastery does function like a family and the abbot is the father. He is  responsible for teaching, loving and disciplining his monks just as a parent is for their children.

He must point out to them all that is good and holy more by example than by words. . . he must vary with circumstances, threatening and coaxing by turns, stern as a taskmaster, devoted and tender only as a father can be . . . He must so accommodate and adapt himself to each one’s character and intelligence . . .

His role sounds so similar to mine that reading all that is expected of him overwhelms me. The last thing I want right now is for someone to remind me of how hard parenting is while at the same time dangling perfection in front of my face.

After a frantic search for the milk which I had accidentally put in the cabinet and the Zip-lock bags which I had put in the fridge (I am not exaggerating here) I decided I needed to get out of the house and get some air. Trying to usher my daughter into the car I stood there grumpy, pleading with her to hurry up and to pay attention as she dawdled. It occurred to me, as much as I wished all my coaxing was teaching her to move faster and to take on a sense of urgency whenever I asked her to, all I was actually teaching her was to imitate my bad attitude. My example said, look at me, I’m trying to bear the weight of the world on my shoulders and I’m failing, and instead of this bringing me to my knees before Jesus I am standing alone and it is crushing me. And I am taking out my frustration on you, my three year old little girl. I’m being careless in my work and neglecting what is important to me all because things aren’t going my way and I can’t control them.

 

Benedict also says of the abbot,

He must always know what a difficult and demanding burden he has undertaken . . . Above all, he must not show too great a concern for the fleeting and temporal things of this world, neglecting or treating lightly the welfare of those entrusted to him. Rather he should keep in mind that he has undertaken the care of souls for whom he must give account . . .  He is to distrust his own frailty . . .

Benedict’s rule is about humility. It is about living in a way that requires you to face your own weakness and failure everyday and to recognize that Jesus is the only hope.

. . . and while helping others to amend by his warnings, he achieves the amendment of his own faults.

Through parenting his monks the abbot himself matures. This gives me hope that even for me, wisdom and discernment will come, and that maybe as I get older, my failures will get smaller.  Tonight I know I can’t be the perfect parent I would like to be and I can’t raise the perfect child.  But I can show my daughter what to do with her imperfections. I can demonstrate humility in my failures and show her what it looks like to fall at the feet of Jesus. I can take that milk out of the cabinet and pour a glass with gratefulness knowing that as much as I love my daughter and am here for her my Jesus is here for me.