Monday, May 25, 2015

Liturgies, Heritage and Meditation

"When there are thoughts, it is distraction; 
when there are no thoughts, it is meditation."
 Ramana Maharshi

The beach is my meditation. 

I sit. 

I listen. 

I watch. 

I feel the sun. 

I feel the wind. 

I feel the
sand. I hear the waves. I hear the laughter. I watch the horizon. I watch the children. I can't seem to think one thought.  I try. Any thought would be distraction. And no thought even comes to distract. If I read, it is frivolity. No thinking required. Pure superficiality.

The beach is my meditation.  

When I lived on the California coast, I jogged at the beach, I walked on beach; kept my chair and towel in my car to sit and read for a hour or two to unwind from my day.  Drove to the beach in the predawn light to meditate on God's word and fellowship with Him. Many parties were held at the beach. Many glasses of wine savored watching the sunset over the ocean.  Many romantic walks, fingers entwined. Many tears shed processing life while the sun melted behind the Channel islands. Many boat trips meditating on the rise and fall of the waves.

Surfers call it their religion.
They feel one with the ocean. 

It is their meditation.

We suffer in our culture from information overload.  Always receiving new and unsolicited information.  (Like this blog.)  Everything we want to know is at our fingertips.  When do we let our minds sleep while keeping our eyes open?  When do we meditate?  When do we feel nothing but our breath moving our bellies in and out?

The liturgies of life are found in it's daily, monthly, seasonally, yearly, generational movement; in and out, over and around, up and down.  The sun rises and sets, the cold turns to warm and back to cold again.  The ocean pushes onto the shore and pulls out again.  We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, events.  We worship once a week.  Daily eat three squares, sleep, wake.  These liturgies keep us sane, productive, in our places, submitting to God's providence and faithfulness. 

 No one can escape God's faithfulness.  
He causes the sun to rise and set on the faithful and the faithless.  
He is over all, through all and in all.  

" For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, 
have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. "
Roman 1:20

My beach liturgy began as a baby.  Going to the beach was part of my childhood.  From my pre-memories of stuffing cigarette butts into my mouth as a 12-month old to my first experience riding a wave into shore merely body surfing, the beach has been my recreational liturgy.  I can remember the exhilaration as a child of standing on the shore with the water moving the sand out from under my feet and sinking my heels deeper than sea level.

My great-grandparents' heritage began on Catalina Island where my great-great grandfather ran the first fleet of glass-bottom boats: row boats that took paying customers out to witness sea life through a window into the ocean.  We spent many summers there.  Sitting on the sand.  Swimming.  Paddleboarding. Hiking. Meditating.

Watching my own children jumping waves, riding them into shore, sitting in meditation as the water moves the sand out from under them until their legs and behind are buried under the current, fills me with contentment knowing this is a heritage I am passing on to them as my parents did to me, and their parents to them and their parents them. 

My children don't articulate it, but they know God's power, God's faithfulness, God's creativity, God's joy simply by experiencing the liturgy of the ocean's and shore's rites.  They don't articulate it, but they are walking through the scientific process as they dig, build, sit on the boogie board, sway with the waves.  My children don't articulate it, but they are meditating too.  Nothing filling their minds but the sand on their toes, shovel in their hands, spray on their faces.

The beach is my meditation.  

My liturgy.  My heritage.  
God is on His throne.  
All is well.  


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Stages of Faith

A Classical look at Faith through the Trivium

I got to thinking this morning about the Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric of our faith.  And while none of life is separated perfectly into neatly packaged seasons, I thought about these sweet years of training up our children from infancy to adulthood as phases of our faith. 

The Grammar stage are the years our brains aren't fully developed to think logically.  From birth to about 10-12, we love the facts and order and routine.  We parrot and memorize well. These years of our children's lives are filled with tiny chiseling events that strip us of our much of our control, causing us to cling to Christ in the minutia and for practical help. We begin with giving birth and then sleep deprivation and then all the small moment to moment events in a mommy-of-young-children's life that cause her to not even be able to finish a thought or sit down for an entire day.  These are exhausting years physically and emotionally causing us mommies to cry out for strength, patience and wisdom moment by moment.

We then begin raising the argumentative, questioning, Dialectic kids (Jr. Highers) who force us into a new phase of clinging to Christ—a deeper measure of trust and letting go of control as He reveals Himself to our analytical children. These years are characterized by kids whose brains begin firing on all cylinders, but it's too much for them to handle.  So we are faced with "Whyyyah?" attitudes. 
They are trying to make sense of all they already know and piece it together.  We are in constant battle of the wills to train their speech, facial expressions, eyes (to not roll), tone of voice, etc., etc., etc.....Our need for Christ is now for wisdom and strength to not send them to military school.  In all seriousness, we are clinging for wisdom in training their hearts to love their God with all their hearts, minds, and strength.

And then Rhetoric beings (high school and beyond) that stand before us and leave our homes begin making decisions for their lives without our direct help.  Their decisions affect good and bad.  And all that they choose and that happens to them affect us as well.  And now we are in complete trust mode in the Lord.  Anything and everything can happen to them and we will encounter hardship as we watch our children figure out adulthood with the Lord or just witness trials they endure.  There are many many events that can, will, or do happen that affect them, us and our entire family.  These can be joyful or tragic and yet, God has shown us through his faithfulness throughout the previous phases that He is reliable, that He is in control, that He loves us and our children more than we do and that "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."  Phil. 1:6

How gracious of God to prepare us for this Rhetoric phase in our children’s lives by starting our journey with small, constant grammar events, leading to larger measures of faith-stretching trust and then completely entrusting our hearts and our children’s hearts where we have no control.  We are fully living rhetorically faithful lives, trusting, enjoying and fellowshiping with Him.  He is about the business of causing us to persevere to the end.  And He will do it!  Soli Deo Gloria!

 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, 
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,
 and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”  Heb. 12:1

Monday, February 23, 2015


This year marks our 10th year in Orlando, Florida!
One seminary degree, two houses and three children later, we are still here.  I don't think I've ever been in one place this long.  You would think that would be a reason to break out a library wine and celebrate.  But I truly love change.  I long for change.  I miss the freedom to come and go as I please.  I miss immersing myself in other cultures and ecosystems.  And honestly, I miss home.

Being in one place for a decade makes me feel...well...stuck. 

My family moved around a lot when a kid.  So, consequently I am really good at meets-and-greets.  I am good at maintaining many acquaintances, and I think at this season in my life there are many women I would enjoy the opportunity to have deep relationships with, but time for any of us does not afford much socializing.  I've realized that if you move away from "the friends of your youth," only time provides longevity among friends and, as a mom of three, time is limited.

The deep affect all this moving around had on me was completely lost on me until I recently uncovered my biggest obstacle as a result going to four different high schools.  The teen season is that fundamental season for establishing an identity separate from one's parents.  But I never had a place to land for a long enough time to establish who I was in relation to others.  What I learned, instead of who I WAS on the inside and how I related to the world, was what I was good at DOING.  Every high school and church I went to cast me as the soloist, the lead actress, the "special;"  the leader in youth group, choir, drama team, children's choir director, etc.

This sounds great except that as an adult, I became afraid to fail as a performer.  It's all I knew about myself.  The stakes were too high and I lost the freedom to succeed or fail.  When I did perform, I held back.  When I thought I'd fail, I didn't even show up to try.  Saying "no" to an opportunity, receiving criticism, or falling flat had the same result:  DEATH.  "No" was equated with "death."  I carried so much weight from a handful of past "failures" and decisions to turn down dream opportunities. My favorite acting coach used to say, "Jump off the cliff!  Have contempt for the results!"  The results were all I had, the cliff was too high. 

I found my 
in my success (or failure) as a performer.  

This disillusionment became a real life horror in the last decade while getting my husband through seminary, losing my singing voice, being pregnant and nursing for the better part of the decade and then home educating those offspring.  I lost the best performing years, career years, network, and the resources to pursue it all easily after that season ended.   No wonder I thought I was nobody, that I thought I didn't fit in anywhere and wasn't good at anything. I felt like no one knew the "true" me.  I was using the wrong measuring stick.

Once I realized that I was measuring myself against how successful I was in only ONE facet of my existence, I was so relieved!  At first, after this discovery, I thought, then who am I?  Am I just relegated to motherhood, to being a godly wife?  While it's a worthy calling, it felt short-sighted as an entire identity.  It felt unfair.

Then the epiphany:  the Lord reassured me that I am HIS.  My identity?  I am one in trillions of individuals He has created for His glory - one of trillions that He has actually inserted a piece of Himself into.  I am not divine, but rather a unique creation from His divine hand, designed to mirror a unique facet about Himself that no one else can because He put it only in me.

I can tell you, with great relief and joy, that the stakes of needing to be onstage or directing a production lowered after this realization to the extent that saying "no" was a walk in the park.  I didn't need to DO anything except BE that unique individual God created me to be.  It sounds so cliche, but, for me, it was freeing.  Whatever season I'm in, wife, motherhood, vocal pedagog, performer, educator, conductor....all the seasons in one day....what matters is my faithfulness to what He has given my creative hand to output at that moment in time.  It's not ONE facet that defines me.  It's journeying with Christ.  "My beloved is mine, and I am his," Song of Songs 2:16.  He is my beloved; I belong to Him and am created by Him to walk with Him, to co-create with Him, and to glorify Him by enjoying Him forever.

I am no longer instantly jealous of an individual doing what I'd like to be doing.  Consequently, I still feel the loss when I see a friend's Broadway tour or hear of a colleague accepting a position of prestige in the vocal pedagogy field.  The difference is I FEEL THE LOSS, grieve it, but I do not reside in resentment or jealously.  I can truly be happy for that person and maintain my confidence in my God-given giftings that HE will see fit to bring to light at the times He so desires.

I recently jumped off the cliff:  I was able to perform a full-length two-person stage production which I actually don't remember much about.  I jumped off the cliff and rode the wave, completely immersed in my character that even my closest friend commented that she didn't recognize me.  It's fun to play and finally, FINALLY, to have contempt for the results. S.D.G.

Psalm 139:13-16 (The Message)

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.