Monday, August 28, 2017

Rethinking Sacred Spaces

            HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE A SACRED SPACE? A quiet place to go to commune with God? Some place you can be alone to meditate?
            I thought I had a pretty good idea of what a sacred space was and how I would define it. But my recent trip to the Northwest skewed my definition.
            As I’ve talked about before on this blog, whenever I go traveling, I go with a desire for God to show up in a big way (different than when I’m at home, in familiar surroundings that I all-too-frequently become bored with and jaded to). I ask Him to show up and I, yes, expect Him to show up. Because He always does, some way.
            But on this trip He didn’t show up in the ways I expected. (That really shouldn’t have surprised me since my out-of-the-box God is known for surprises.) What it did do, though, was humble me.

   defines it as a sacred place, to be used synonymously with sacred space. It can be a place, or space, distinguished from other spaces. It might be a place where rituals are practiced or are directed toward. It has been defined by Jonathan Z. Smith—a historian of religions—as a “focusing lens.” A place where attention is focused on forms, objects, and actions revealed as holding some kind of religious meaning, because they perform a religious function.
            Originally a sacred space was defined by Friedrich Schleiermacher (theologian, philosopher and biblical scholar) and Rudolf Otto (German Lutheran theologian, philosopher, and comparative religionist) as a place linked to religious emotion—some place that elicits an affective (emotional) response. It might not, however, physically resemble a place would bring to mind a sense of the religious, say, like a cathedral would.
            In some cultures and thinking, a sacred place is not human-ordained as such, or arbitrarily selected. It is a place with unique character. It may be set apart through the selection of God or the collection of faith relics, including buried martyrs.
            Clearly, the definition of a sacred place has evolved throughout time and differs among faith groups and between cultures. It seems to change by need, perception, understanding, and spiritual maturity.
            As states: “In short, a sacred place comes into being when it is interpreted as a sacred place.” That certainly gives wide latitude to possible definitions.

            Christians are told in Scripture that our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit to dwell within. And since that is the case, it doesn’t take much more thought to realize that wherever we go, we’re carting around a sacred space with us. We can’t leave the Holy Spirit home when it’s convenient; everyplace we go we are taking the Lord.
            So when I was tempted to get frustrated by the lack of time I had communing alone with God on this past vacation, because I really wanted to enjoy some sacred space (read: quiet) time with Him, I began to look at my activities differently. I shifted my paradigm. I realized that I didn't have to seclude myself on some island, or become an island in the midst of a crowd, to experience the sacred.

            At the famous Chihuly Garden and Glass museum, I began seeing the sacred in magnificent glass designs the artist has fabricated, the colorful shapes impaled in the garden soil and displayed within the gardens. The use of his God-given talent in color and form.

            At the loud (very loud) Chinese restaurant my son and daughter-in-law delighted in taking us to, I started seeing the sacred in being together with them. The four of us talking, laughing, planning, and listening. Loving together amidst a crowded room. Enjoying the smells, designs, tastes and service of delicious, satisfying food. Having an enjoyable feast together. Glorying in our time together, our getting together after having been apart too long. (We actually nearly ate our way through Seattle, so sacred spaces were enjoyed at many restaurants, including the fabulous Salty's on Alki Beach!)


            I found sacred space in hiking up a trail to an alpine lake in the Cascades, in spite of the thick smoke from British Columbia fires being funneled into the area, obscuring the magnificent (awe-inspiring) jagged peaks from our view. Our son had so desperately wanted us to see and experience these mountains he’s grown to love so much, and beyond disappointed that we couldn’t see the mountains and cragged peaks looming near us, next to us, and in front of us for miles. The alpine flowers and meadows, which I could see, were sacred space enough for me, as was the presence of the engineer, my son, my daughter-in-law, and my adorable granddog, Nox, who outdid all of us in the hike, swim and fetch departments. (By the hike’s end, the sky cleared enough for us to feast emotionally and spiritually on some of those peaks, and I thanked God for the view!)


            I found sacred space in a dog park, where mutts, purebreds, owners and professional dog walkers of various sizes and swimming and ball-handling abilities blanketed the path and designated shoreline of Lake Washington.  And during a quiet time on a sofa, holding Nox in my lap, cooling off his hot pads. I found it in multitudes during worship service at an unfamiliar church, whose members welcomed us as cherished friends.

            I found it on a path near Deception Pass on Fidalgo Island and in a bay window seat at the Eagle’s Nest Bed and Breakfast in Langley on Whidbey Island. I found it again as I stood on our room’s private balcony after the smoke finally cleared, rain purified the air, and I sucked in my breath at my first view of glacier-clad, stratovolcano Mt. Baker looming in the distance. I found it in nibbling (actually feasting on) wild blackberries near a nature preserve.

            I located sacred space again when an evening trip to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park blessed us with un-intimidated deer that were dining in the parking lot (what they were frantically licking from the blacktop we’ll never know); and a small pack of elk nibbling berries in the Hoh Rainforest.

            And there it was again as I gazed upon the most western tip of the contiguous 48 United States and watched whales blow water from their spouts as they maneuvered around the tip of Victoria Island, Canada.

           Our timing for our first visit to Hurricane Ridge could not have been better, (the breakdown of a ferry caused a late arrival in Port Townsend), as the engineer and I, and three other lucky persons, were unexpectedly treated to star and planet gazing, courtesy of an amateur astronomer who hauls his gargantuan portable telescope up the mountain 32 times a summer to treat the attending tourists or locals. As I viewed the clear image of Saturn, its astounding rings and orbiting moons, and watched the glacier-clad peaks recede into the twilight, I couldn’t help but hear the Psalmist’s words sing in my heart and head: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” How glorious His works are, and how sacred that space was that night!
            All sacred enough to call me to return. Soon.



Where did you find sacred space in the past, and where will it emerge for you this week?

Until next week.

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Photos courtesy of Andrea, Chris and Parker Owan and Google Images

Monday, August 21, 2017

How’s Your Tongue Doing?

            I KNOW. STRANGE TITLE. But how would you answer the question—How is your tongue doing? I mean in the way of speaking and communicating. If someone were eavesdropping on your conversation with your spouse or kids, what things would she automatically learn about you and your character and your relationship with your family, specifically your spouse? How are you getting noticed?
            While I didn’t intend to do another post on marriage this month, this article from FamilyLife was so good I had to share it with you. It’s short and to the point, and it leaves you with a lot to think about when it comes to your personal relationships.

            But before I give you the link, I want to tell you a little story.

            Several months ago my husband and I were enjoying a meal with acquaintances. We laughed and talked for hours. Our conversation spanned a variety of topics, and both the husband and wife shared their lives. However, the wife did most of the “sharing,” including non-stop correcting of her husband’s recollections and story versions. And she wasn’t subtle about it, either. After a while, it got exhausting just to listen to and watch. Her husband’s body language told me he was getting uncomfortable, frustrated, and weary. Maybe even a little embarrassed. I could tell, even though she’s a wonderful, caring person, that she’s more than a little controlling, and unaware of her stressful communication “style.”
            After the event, though, the engineer said something about it. And he usually doesn’t make a point of saying things like this unless he’s really bothered by something. He pointed out how, even though the wife was “nice” in the way she said things, her words showed little respect for her husband. While her body language displayed gentleness, her constant corrections did not. My son even made a point of commenting about it, and he hadn’t even heard the entire conversation.
            I have a close family member who used to communicate like that to her husband, before he passed away. For years. It finally got to a point that this husband shut down, kept his mouth shut and avoided activities with her—and by default the rest of us—that he would have otherwise enjoyed. It was sad for all of us because we had such difficulty enjoying our time together.

Here’s the post:

            The bottom line is: Your marriage is sacred. Demonstrate for doubting strangers just how great a great marriage can be!

Until next week.

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Photos courtesy of Google Images           

Monday, August 14, 2017

On Marriage—What Is The Importance of Getting Away Together?

            WELL, IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR again. The time when the engineer and I pack our bags and get out of town, head some place else besides our own backyard. Without kids. Why do we make the effort (and, truly sometimes it is a big effort given our schedules) to get away together like that?
            Because it’s crucial to the sustenance of our marriage. Because it’s critical to going beyond having just a good marriage to enjoying a great one.
            And why do we do it this time of year? Because it’s our anniversary time (yesterday was the big 34) and it’s important for us to re-affirm our commitment to one another. Before starting this yearly ritual, our married life was more difficult, more frustrating and exhausting.
            So, once again, I have marriage on my mind. We’ve already been gone more than a week, and we’ve spent some time with our older son and daughter-in-law in the city they’re now calling home, before vacating to another location to enjoy one another. And to take a serious look at how successful we were at this marriage thing in the last year, look forward to the next one, (we’ve learned the hard way that assuming that our goal is automatically going to be our spouse’s goal is a recipe for disaster), and discuss how we can do even better at loving and respecting one another. We know we need time away, in a location conducive to really hearing one another’s heart.

            We want and crave unhurried, deep conversations. Honest ones. And this first article I’ve linked for you will discuss one of the most critical marriage activities that so often gets forgotten or ignored. In Rob Flood’s post you’ll:

1. Learn why married couples NEED to get away together. (Or is busyness ruling and dictating your married and individual lives?)

2. Lean how you can be encouraged to get away and how you can encourage your spouse in this endeavor.

3. Get great ideas for what you can talk about and what you should discuss during your getaway.


            Spend some time being introspective and then make sure you have some fun! Go sightseeing. Simply enjoy one another’s company. Sleep in and—yes—take advantage of uninterrupted intimacy time. Honestly, sometimes intimacy is the only thing on our agenda when we get away. If we can, we do tuck in other activities around it. But we usually forgo schedules that demand being some place at a particular time and rushing around to get there. Why would we want to do that on our getaway when that’s what dictates our life at home? We’re away to recharge and refresh and revel in one another and what God has done in our marriage all of these years, particularly the last one. It’s what has gotten us successfully to year number 34!!


            And if you’re just at the beginning of your marriage, or, better yet, considering marriage, you’ll want to check out this next post: “8 Decisions That Will Define Your Marriage” by Mary May Larmoyeux. They are critical questions to ask and flesh out before the “I do’s” are uttered, or you may find your marriage on the rocks and both of you in marriage counseling in short order.
            They can set the foundation and direction for your married life and help avoid some of the problem points that can arise in any marriage. Don’t go down the aisle with stars in your eyes. Go down the aisle wisely prepared, and like-minded.

            When I told my older son where we were going to celebrate our anniversary after spending time with him and our daughter-in-law, and that we wouldn’t be inviting them to join us, he laughed and said, “You wouldn’t want us there anyway!” Then it was my turn to laugh and say, “You’re right about that.”
            I was so happy because I knew my 27-year-old got it.
            And I think he got it from watching his mom and dad nurture their marriage and one another all of these years. At least I think he got it from us, because one year he even gave us an anniversary card saying all he learned about love he learned from watching us love. And he appreciated it.
            And that was the best anniversary present a husband and wife could ever receive from their child.

What are you teaching your kids about marriage that they’ll put to good use in theirs?

Until next week.

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Photos courtesy of Google Images