By Betty Slade | PREVIEW columnist
I thought to myself, “Well, good luck. It’s going to be a stretch.” I hesitated, but introduced my Sweet Al to a book of poetry by the great poet Judith Shaw. She wrote “Listen to the Green,” poems rich in spirit and truth.
I had a great idea using these heart-felt poems as a companion piece to study the scriptures. For 30 years, each morning Al and I spend an hour or so talking about and reading the scriptures. I explain deep truths as Al flips through Trapper and Gun Dog magazines.
Over the years, our children have said their daddy was trapped and couldn’t escape from my determination to teach him the Bible. I didn’t pay them any mind. I still don’t. I let them know he’s acquired a taste for heavenly things and we enjoy seeking God together.
In this book, “Listen to the Green,” I turned to the forward and read, “There is a difference between a great poem like Paradise Lost and a cookbook. In the cookbook, you learn something new. Instead of knowledge, from a great poem like Milton’s, you gain growth that will bring you into sympathy with the infinite.” One with God.
As I read, Al looked at me and said, “This is over my head.”
“I’m talking to your heart, not your head,” I said. “Al, here’s another way of looking at this concept. Reading a great poem is like walking into the kitchen on a snowy day and smelling the aroma of herbal seasonings marinating in the soup on the stove. We catch a whiff of the aroma and can’t wait to taste the soup. The aroma is not tangible until we taste it. We enjoy how it feels in our heart. God takes pleasure with us and he smiles in delight when we seek him. We are enjoying the sweetness of his presence.”
The author continues to write, “Darwin, in his old age, lamented that his mind had become a sort of sausage machine for grinding factual observation into scientific systems. If he was able to live his life over again, he would frequently read poetry and listen to music, because of ‘the loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, injurious to the intellect, and to the moral character.’”
I venture to say he’s lamenting even more. The real issue of life is of the heart. God looks on the heart of a man.
Al waned. I piqued his interest again. “It’s like when you come home with a hunting story without the deer. You want to relive the experience without the evidence.
“You’re waiting for a deer to walk by. It doesn’t see you. It walks up to you. It’s so close you smell the musk and you tell me it smells like ammonia. Did you shoot the deer? No. But that’s not the story. It’s the experience.”
I grabbed Al’s attention, but he wanted to finish his own story. “Let me tell you. I could feel sweat beads running down my forehead. My heart was beating so fast, it was about to explode. I’m sweating in my shoes, my finger is twitching, I freeze. I can’t seem to get the gun to my shoulder. I lock eyes with the buck. Neither one of us moves.
“I can’t explain it. When I finally lifted my rifle, he had already meandered down the hill. I didn’t get the deer, but I remember the odor and the look in his eyes.”
“Al, that’s exactly how I feel in the presence of God. He’s as close as my breath. He lingers, my heart flutters and is about to explode. I close my eyes. I press His Word to my heart. Neither of us speak. Then I open my eyes and the moment has passed. Did I see God? No. But when I looked at you, I see the sweetness of God on your face and I know God had passed by.”
This is what the poet is saying. She searched for words strong enough to explain her feelings and how her heart felt. Her mind tried to intellectually express her thoughts through words. She writes the essence of her heart.
Paul explains to the Corinthians, “God always makes his grace visible in Christ. Through our yielded lives he spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere we go. We have become the unmistakable aroma of the victory of the Anointed. We are one with God—a perfume of life to those being saved and the odor of death to those who are perishing.” — II Corinthians 3:14-15 (TPT).
This is what happens when we write an article, hear a song or read poetry. Our words have the fragrance of Jesus on them. Like the poet says, she’s speaking to our heart and it brings us into “sympathy with the infinite.” It deepens our faith in God as we line up with him and his words.
Al responded, “All I know, I love Jesus. What’s for breakfast?”
“Oh me. Cinnamon squares.” Well, there’s always tomorrow morning, I’m going to read another poem to Al.
Final brushstroke: When I run into Mr. G, Tony or Linda, they say, “I can hardly wait to read your next article. Your articles are like you’ve been looking in my mailbox. I can’t explain it.”
I know it’s probably not what I’ve written or how I wrote it, but they are smelling the fragrance of the knowledge of God in Jesus. It’s the unmistakable aroma of the victory of the anointed. To them, these articles are life to life. The readers have acquired a certain taste for heavenly things.
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