The Dancing Puritan

Friday, June 27, 2014

Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully

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Do you struggle, amidst the burdens and challenges of your life, to see beauty and to speak beautifully? John Piper's sixth offering in The Swans are not Silent series will help you. In this book Piper looks at the poetic effort of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C.S. Lewis.  Piper writes: “This is a book about the interrelationship between seeing beauty and saying it beautifully—and the impact that the effort has on our lives” (p. 12).

Put this book on your summer reading list, you will not be disappointed.

This post is not a book review. I can cut through the chase by telling you that it is fantastic (as are all of the books in this series). I simply want you to think about Piper's book title and and ask yourself the question: "How can I see beauty more clearly and speak more beautifully?"

Here are a few suggestions to get you started. 

Read good books from various genres. The authors that Piper chose are very different in background, personality, and writing style. Herbert communicates the beauty that he sees, via poetry. Whitfield was a preacher vivid in his descriptions and in his presentation. Lewis helps his readers to see pictures. He writes: "All my seven Narnian books, and my three science fiction books, began with seeing pictures in my head. At first they were not a story, just pictures."

Take a Second Look.
So many images pass before our eyes each day. Most of them are just a blur. Train yourself to focus in on some of the good images. Take a second look at your child at play, your wife at work, your cat sleeping lazily under a tree, and the the way your boss arranges his desk. What do you see? Can you find a story and a vocabulary to communicate the beauty around you?

Pause before Speaking/Writing.
Think of older writers who had to dip their quill in an ink-well numerous times over the course of writing a single letter. That kind of writing required pauses between sentences (or individual words in some cases). Tony Reinke, describing C.S. Lewis using a dip pen, writes,"The dip pen created the quiet space Lewis needed to speak and edit and sharpen and shape his next four or five words"( Jack's Typewriter). When speaking to someone, take a breath, look them in the eye, think for a second, and then speak. Such a practice can help you to "sharpen and shape" your next words.

I teach and write a fair amount on the subject of marriage. I find a lot of help in the Old Testament book, Song of Solomon. I am journaling my way again through that wonderful, descriptive, and language-expanding book. My present practice is to write at the top of each day's page, "Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully." I take a few verses and look for the beauty and how the various characters in the Song express things beautifully. Regardless of whether you follow my plan, journaling can help you to think more clearly and communicate more beautifully. For example, sometimes all that I need to say to my wife is, "You look stunning." At other times it is better to say, "Oh, most beautiful among women." Song of Solomon helps me to think in more creative ways.

Piper gives the theological foundation for seeing and expressing beauty. He wonderfully illustrates the theology of beauty by considering George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C.S. Lewis.

I always enjoy hearing from you. Let me know what you think.