I don't normally glean lessons from my food, in case you were wondering. Most days, I am so intent on the word puzzle I do during breakfast, I hardly even notice what I’m eating. Honestly, it’s usually more of a procedure than a meal.
But today, in mid-scoop, a thought pops into my head: Are you even tasting what you’re chewing?
I stop. Ponder. No, I think, I’m really not.
So, after I shovel in this spoonful, I concentrate. On the flavors. On the textures. On how the tartness of the strawberries counterbalance the slightly sweet grains and raisins. And as I slow down to think through what I taste, I find a deeper thankfulness.
That’s when it dawns on me: description aids gratitude.
For instance, I could look at this sky and say, “Beautiful! Thanks, God!” My reaction is sincere, but brief. As I start to verbally sketch it, however, I celebrate the parade of shapes and tones, how the distant clouds, lit by the sun, form a stripe of contrast against the dark earth. Look at all the layers! Connecting this to praise, it becomes what I might call articulated worship: a slow, descriptive acknowledgement of God’s gifts around me.
This is why it’s important for Christians to read fiction and poetry. It gives us a language to aid our thankfulness.
Samuel John Stone was a pastor and writer. We know him for penning the great hymn, The Church’s One Foundation. (Melody by Charles Wesley's grandson!) The song appears in his book, Lyra Fidelium: Twelve Hymns on the Twelve Articles of the Apostles Creed. (One Foundation expounds on “the holy catholic church.”) In the intro to the book, he writes,
“…there can be little doubt but that the poetical form is more likely to be effectual in securing an abiding place in the general mind, and also in exercising an influence upon heart and life.”
This is not to say that wordiness is next to godliness. Simple gratitude can be as sincere as the descriptive kind. But Stone’s right: poetry and description stick in the mind and work on our heart.
Later in the day, while on a walk with Alison, I notice this flowering bush. I say, “How pretty!” But, then I stop. And I begin to mentally note what I see: the delicate, frilled edges. The yellow stains, surrounded by black spots that look like an artist’s stippling or a sprinkling of poppy seeds.
It makes me deeply thankful to the Creator for the flower. And for the words to articulate it.
None else we praise! In every form,
In peace of calm and power of storm,
In simple flower and mystic star,
In all around and all afar,
In Grandeur, Beauty, Truth, but Thee
None else we hear, None else we see.
Samuel John Stone, Lyra Fidelium
(for “Creator of heaven and earth”)
Reader: What literature or poetry has helped you to notice and describe?