Julia Child and Celebration of Discipline

A couple of weeks ago, when Rachel and I were hunkered down in a foot of snow in Charlottesville, reveling in our weekend of solitude, one of the movies we watched was Julie and Julia.  It’s adapted from two books--Julia Child’s autobiographical My Life in France and Julie Powell’s memoir of her daily attempt to cook a different recipe from Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Child is played by Meryl Streep.  It’s probably cliché to love Meryl Streep, but I do anyway.  She’s just as amazing in this as she is in everything else.  I love what AO Scott says about her in his review of the film: "By now this actress has exhausted every superlative that exists and to suggest that she has outdone herself is only to say that she’s done it again.”

Streep captures Child’s lust for life so well.  In one scene, she springs out of bed early in the morning [I can’t recall, but I don’t think an alarm even goes off] so she can set about doing what she loves—cooking great food.

I have since wondered, “When is the last time I sprang out of bed in the morning?”  And why don’t I?  In the interest of keeping it short, I’ve decided that it has a lot to do with how I feel about what I have to do.  Did you get that?  What I have to do.  When Julia Child jumps out of bed, it’s because she’s found something that she gets to do.  Isn’t it easier to get more excited about a privilege than an obligation?  And so I’ve noticed lately that it helps to remember what a privilege it is to care for my kids and get them to school and come to work at our church.  I’m still not popping out of bed, but my attitude is a little better.

I think the same thing happens with meditation.  That’s the spiritual discipline we’ll be talking about on Wednesday night as we begin talking about Foster’s Celebration of Discipline.  The most common reaction I get from people who try meditating on scripture or on their relationship with God is, “This is hard work.”  Yup.  It’s not easy for a lot of reasons.  We’re going to talk about that on Wednesday night.  But one reason is because it’s often more of an obligation than a privilege.  It’s hard to meditate on God’s presence when it’s something I do out of obligation and there’s something else I would like to be doing.  Or, more importantly, there’s something else I feel like I should be doing.

It’s the difference between presenting a report to God and resting in the presence of God.  It’s the difference between making myself get out of bed in the morning and falling into bed at the end of the day.  Which sounds more appealing to you?

Anyway.  There’s a lot more to be said about meditation, and we’ll be talking about it tomorrow night.  But more than just talking about it, I’ll be encouraging you to practice it--maybe not during class, but sometime during the week.  If you come to class and listen to me talk about the spiritual disciplines, you’ll get something out of it.  But not nearly as much as if you actually practice them yourself.  And I know I’ll learn a lot more than I would just hearing the sound of my own voice.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll stop running around and take a moment to practice being in the presence of God.

“The Light of God surrounds me.  The Love of God enfolds me.  The Power of God protects me.  The Wisdom of God guides and directs me.  Wherever I go, God is.”

1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

--Psalm 139