We're celebrating next week what sometimes becomes a frenzy of eating, so it's time for a meditation on food that begins, as does much of life, with a memory of bats and balls.
Once, 29 years ago, I played second base on a Baptist church team that recognized the power of softball evangelism. Astoundingly, my participation increased team speed, since other players had the traditional mark of a softball power hitter, a big gut.
Two games from that season stick in my memory. The first, early in the season, followed my dinner consumption of a huge mound of mashed potatoes. Alas, in softball -- as in life -- your sin will find you out: The first batter hit a hard grounder right at me. I bent down for it like a slow elevator stopping on every floor. The ball went right through the wickets.
The other memorable game was the season-ending battle against the church's traditional rival, the local beer distributor. Potato guts vanquished beer bellies in a contest that had real passion. And that leads me toward a radical proposal to end the recent civil war that has split many churches and led to numerous potluck snubs.
Yes, beer distributors may see America as stuck in a "great taste" vs. "less filling" culture war. Constitutional theorists, meanwhile, debate originalist vs. loose constructionist Supreme Court understandings. But many ordinary folks know the real issue of the day is low fat vs. low carb.
To this point, only the Jack Sprat compromise has prevented uncivil war at the dining room table. Sprat, you'll recall, was the disciplined dieter who could eat no fat, with his determined wife eating no lean. Between the two of them, they licked the platter clean. But a better way beckons.
Let's put together three bits of data. First, during rushed breakfasts or lunches (we'll leave out Thanksgiving dinners, where conversation flows), we sometimes shovel food into our mouths as if anything not eaten in a minute will disappear. Second, vive la France, which can use some praise: The French are dumb concerning riots and foreign policy, but wise when it comes to eating -- and one secret of their often-slim success is eating slowly. Third, a key line in the prayer Christ taught is, "Give us this day our daily bread."
What if we used meals as times for adoration of God, who gives us our daily bread? Instead of being distracted by ephemera, we could chew slowly and thank God for each bite, and for all the other tender mercies in our lives. We could lose inches around the waist, while making our hearts two sizes larger.