September 24, 2017

Finding Holy Ground: Taste

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve started looking for Holy Ground in the most basic of places-our 5 senses. We looked at the world around us to find Holy Ground with our sight. We listened to the sounds of God in the world to discover the same Holy Ground through our ears. Today, we consider how we might find Holy Ground in our tasting.

Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” How do we taste the goodness of the Lord? Certainly, there are many ways. Today we are contemplating the Holy Ground found in the actual sense of taste.

Scientifically, there are 5 basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (or savory). We detect these via the bumps on our tongue that are called papillae. These aren’t the actual taste buds, though (I always thought they were). Each of the papillae has hundreds of taste buds AND each of the taste buds has 50-100 taste receptor cells! Isn’t that amazing? There are also taste buds on the roof, sides and back of the mouth and even in your throat! The various types of taste developed to help our bodies identify good vs. bad foods. For instance, sweet signals something good for giving you energy; while bitter tells your body ‘this could be poison’.

It’s not just the molecules in the food that creates taste, though. Our senses of smell and even touch (or the way food feels in the mouth) contribute to how it tastes. And chefs will tell you that the sense of sight is involved too. A lovely presentation is tastier than a monotone or scrambled together plate.

How can we ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’? Take time to savor your favorite food, without the distraction of TV or reading or other multi-tasking. Let your tongue and other senses really taste the ice cream or corn on the cob or steak. What tastes do you detect? Often there is more than one taste in an item. Isn’t it amazing that God developed our sense of taste so that we could enjoy all sorts of foods in all sorts of ways? We can remember God is good as we taste the food God provides. 

We can ‘taste’ and find Holy Ground in our lives, too. There are times in life that could be considered sweet or sour or even bitter. Also, there are things in our life that add salt and savor to living. Jot down one time in your life that could be categorized as like one of the tastes. Maybe your graduation was a sweet time, or perhaps it was sour because you didn’t make the top 10 in your class. Was there some vacation that still brings memories that are so good that you want to continue to savor them? Probably there is a sad time in your life that still leaves an almost tangible bitter taste in your mouth.

Yet through it all, God’s love is present. The Psalm says, “blessed is the one who takes refuge (or trusts) in him.” The New Living Translation exclaims, “Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” We taste the love of God in our sense of taste, but even more in the blessings and joys of God’s love through all the ‘tastes’ of our lives

September 17, 2017

Finding Holy Ground: Hearing

Last week we looked for Holy Ground in really seeing things. Were you able to take a few minutes to sit and really look at a leaf or your hand? Were you surprised? When I studied my own hand, I was awed by the lines and veins. I was astonished to consider all the various things that hand had done. There were the mundane things like cleaning and cooking, but also the loving caresses and the hands held in prayer.

This week, let’s consider another of the 5 senses. Take time to hear the sound of Holy Ground. Have you ever wondered if Moses heard anything while at the burning bush? Was there crackling and popping like in most fires, or was it intense silence? Did Moses hear wind blowing and the sheep he left behind? What can we hear when we listen for God present on Holy Ground?

Not all of us are blessed with hearing. In the Gospel of Mark, we learn how Jesus healed a man who was deaf and mute. Some people brought to Him a man who was deaf and hardly able to speak, and they begged Jesus to place His hand on him. So Jesus took him aside privately, away from the crowd, and put His fingers into the man’s ears. Then He spit and touched the man’s tongue. And looking up to heaven, He sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”) And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. (Mark 7: 32-34)

Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears, which is typically something we do when we don’t want to hear. Yet Jesus’ touch opens the man’s hearing and gives him speech. Hearing and speaking go with each other. Those who are deaf from birth have a hard time learning to talk because they have never heard the sounds. If you go deaf later in life, you retain the memory of sound.
Science tells us that sound is created by waves moving through the air. Most of us cannot feel those waves, except with our eardrums. Sometimes you can get a sense of feeling them if you are at a loud concert or next to a car with the music playing really loud. Then you CAN actually feel the sound.

This year on America’s Got Talent, there is a young singer who became deaf later in life and is able to sing again by feeling the musical vibrations. Then her muscle memory could create the sounds that she can no longer actually hear. She is hearing through feeling and is sensing the Holy Ground through her entire body. We might in fact envy her that ability because very often we don’t listen to what’s around us.

Sit outside in the early morning or late evening to just listen to the sounds. Some are natural and soothing like birds calling or the breeze through the trees. Others may be more jarring like the neighbor’s dog barking or sirens in the distance. Close your eyes and let the sounds wash over you. Feel the Holy Ground swelling and ebbing in the noises you hear. Is that baby in the distance crying for joy or anger? Perhaps the dog is barking because it is lonely, or because the neighborhood tomcat just walked across the street. Do you wonder what the birds might be saying to each other as they twitter and coo? What is God saying to you in the wind and other sounds?

You might imagine the sounds of things you don’t really hear-like the tea in your cup. Is the steam giggling as it evaporates into the air? Does the tea bag sigh with delight sinking into the spa of hot water to steep? Or do seeds underground moan like a woman in labor as they split open to let the seedling out? And does that seedling grunt while working up through the soil?
What do you hear God saying to you in the sounds you hear? Is God saying ‘take off your shoes for this is Holy Ground?’ To what does God need to open your ears?