University Congregational Church
Sept. 24, 2017
The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life: Home
Ecc. 3: 13, 5:18
Home. What does this mean to you? What images does it conjure in your mind?
• The smells of home cooking?
• The sight of ones you love?
• The memory of laughter?
• The sounds of children?
• The warmth of a fire or the arms of another?
I was talking to an older person recently. She had to move to assisted living and she was grieving her home. This room with a kitchenette and a single bed did not feel like home to her. She felt alone and uprooted. She didn’t have a home. It was one of the saddest conversations I’ve had. Poor health is a terrible experience. Unhappy in a job is depressing. Kids growing up and leaving is difficult to navigate. But having no sense of home? It shakes you to the core.
As Thomas Moore writes, “The soul’s need for home has to do not only with shelter and a house, but with more subtle forms, like the feeling that you’re living in the right place, being around people who offer a sense of belonging, doing work that is truly appropriate, feeling maternally protected and enlivened by the natural world, and belonging to a nation and a world community. These larger sources of home ask for our attention and commitment, but they also have gifts for the heart, and each one of them can contribute to the enchantment of everyday existence.”
We’re continuing our journey as we are “re-enchanted” in our everyday lives. Last week we talked about the enchantment of nature and how we can find delight in water, trees, and stones. This week, I want to follow Thomas Moore as he explores what it means to be re-enchanted by home: childhood, food, and hand.
Remember back to when you held a baby – perhaps your own – for the first time. Watching that little person suckle and sleep, wiggle and wake, coo and cuddle, is enchanting itself. And then witnessing that infant grow into a person as the soul emerges gradually, and shows itself in the individuality of a new being – this unfolding of a new human is delightful and soul stirring. Thomas Moore writes, “A society with soul appreciates the beauty and tolerates the interference of children, knowing that something essential disappears from life when children are excluded. The exclusion of children adds to the soullessness of life.”
Children re-enchant us with their very beings. Their vibrancy, delight, and surprising insight into the world give our spirits a lift. In fact, Alan Wolfelt, who is a leading grief counselor, teaches that having babies and children present at all family functions – including funerals – is an important reminder of the circle of life. Children help us remember and celebrate the varied times in our lives and remind us to let down our tight grasp on adulating.
When we are caught up in the mechanics and practicality of life, a child can loosen us up and restore some enchantment to our lives. I love to watch my niece, Aubree (who is appropriately nicknamed “Mayhem”) wrestle around on the floor with her older brothers. Her intense delight and dogged determination to show them who is boss gives me great joy.
The next time adulting has you in a bad mood, take a breather and find a child – either one in the park or in your family or even videos online – and find delight in watching their spontaneity, their sheer joy, their open eyes, and laughing smile. This will bring a re-enchantment to your soul.
I get all giddy when my friend, Diane, invites us over for dinner. I know the meal will be delicious (and she won’t ask me to bring anything). But there is something even more uplifting about eating at Diane’s house: she knows how to be a hostess. Every meal includes a tablecloth, cloth napkins, candles, and often flowers. There will be an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. There will be wine. At Diane’s house, I experience the truth that “food is not just for the body, but it also feeds the soul.”
Thomas Moore says that the kitchen is one of the most soulful rooms in a house, and is often the center of family life. And it is true. It is the kitchen that holds the family together. When my children were young, I encouraged them to do their homework at the kitchen table, where I could help as needed and where they could interact with one another. The kitchen is the heart and hub of our lives. Each evening, we tried to ask the kids what the best part of their day was. This often bloomed into a great conversation about what they experienced and learned during the day.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” It was such a simple statement with incredibly profound implications. Our souls, it indicates, are living beings that have to be fed. As a pastor for 3 decades, I have to say that I have noticed the decline in our meaningful times at tables… and the increase in our food consumption. I acknowledge this for myself as well as our society. It is as if we are getting fat in body, but not in soul. The lack of care about our mealtimes is a spiritual problem.
I would suggest that we take more time in the grocery store, in the kitchen, and in the dining room. That extra time will feed the soul. It is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. Ecc. 3:13
This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot. Ecc. 5:18
Our daughter, Erin, lives in downtown Kansas City. Last year, she and some friends sponsored a refugee family from Somalia. Their sponsorship allows this refugee family to have a large garden. Each week, the family has a stand at the River Market to sell their fresh produce. Erin gets to choose 4 items from the stand as part of the arrangement. On Monday, Erin and her co-sponsor friends get together for a fresh cooked meal, made from the produce grown by their refugee family. Several weeks ago, she called to see if I had any good recipes she could use for a bunch of bok choy! It was one of the veggies featured on their stand that week. Erin and her friends are all professional women with busy schedules, but this Monday meal is always homemade and healthy. They know they are doing something sacred – sharing resources and home grown food, making the world a better place, and eating with good friends. They are feeding their souls.
In 1605 Francis Bacon noted that the Bible says “God made the world.” Bacon identified the significance that God didn’t bring the world into being by decree; rather God made it by hand.” This is not a scientific statement – it is a spiritual statement.
We know how special things are when they are handmade.
• A hand sewn piece of clothing or handmade crocheted afghan
• A carved wooden piece or a homemade piece of furniture
• A handcrafted wreath hanging on the door
• A stained glass object or a hand-painted picture
The value in these items is more than material. It is in the love of the maker.
When we receive a handmade gift, we know the artist gave of time and energy to honor us with something special. There is a sacred nostalgia in the making of things. This too, can feed our souls.
“The hand is an apparition of the soul”, says Moore, and “its work is an extension of the spirit breaking into ordinary life.”
At the State Fair last week, Eric and I went through both the domestic arts building and the fine arts building with great pleasure. From childhood, the domestic arts building has been my favorite.
Homemade cookies and other sweets
Homemade clothing articles
Knitted and crocheted pieces
And quilts – did I mention quilts?
The homemade items of varying kinds speak to me. Eric especially likes the quilts. While I lingered along the baked goods, Eric found his 3 favorite quilts to show me. There was a purple one made around dozens of deep purple Crown Royal bags. Someone drank a bunch of Crown Royal before that quilt was made, but the quilt was exquisite!
In the Fine Arts building were several older gentlemen carving faces out of wood. There were photographs, children’s art, antiques, paintings, crafts, ceramics, Lego creations, and all sorts of varied mediums. One painting that captured my eye was of an elephant, which started with a fun fabric and then the artist painted over the top of the fabric to create the elephant. It was splendid. I smiled thinking about the creative process and how the artist decided which fabric and color would be used to illustrate the creature. I could imagine the artist smiling a knowing smile as she painted color and line. No machine could have created such a delightful piece.
I hope you will take time this week to explore the enchantment of children, food, and homemade things. If your soul needs enchantment – renewal – delight – and re-generation – there is a wealth of home to inspire you!
Moore, Thomas. The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life. HarperCollins. 1996.