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April 01, 2015
Tune My Heart
Is It Blessed?
by Marian Stoddard

Marian Stoddard is traveling this week. This column first appeared July 11, 2012.

"Stones in your stomach!"

What? Startled, the sibling who was reaching for the food before being served pulled back his hand with a jerk.

My father gave us his best mock glare. "If you eat the food before it's blessed, it will turn to stones in your stomach!"

"Mom, will it really turn to stones in my stomach? Won't I die?"

"No dear, but your father's right. You need to wait for the blessing."

Properly blessed, the food was passed around to all of us. We were careful to demonstrate patience under scrutiny for this moment, even if there was no guarantee for tomorrow. Dinner was a time when everything else was laid aside, and we all gathered. The only reason you didn't come to the table was that you were too sick. We had actual conversation, and the television was never allowed.

"Stones in your stomach" became one of our standard family lines. It was likely to be uttered by any of us catching another jumping the gun on dinner, or by my dad as a reminder to impatient children. It has been continued to another generation as a joking constraint declared to my own children, and likely some of my brothers' or sisters' households as well. For all I know, my grandchildren will hear it at times.

Thus are family traditions born, for good or ill. We never want to waste a good line!

There is a reason to ask a blessing on the food when we gather for a meal. Actually, there are several. It is one of the things that help to form a pattern of prayer in our lives, and a pattern of gratitude. We need to acknowledge the hand of our Father in Heaven in providing all we have, and his care.

We may say much the same phrases, but that's all right, the injunction against "vain repetition" in our prayers notwithstanding. How many ways are there to thank the Lord that we have food to eat and ask him to bless it? If we are striving for novelty, that's a distraction from our purpose, which is to pause in our busy-ness and acknowledge our Heavenly Father.

What matters is that we are sincere in our moment of acknowledgement, and that we do stop and remember.

It is part of the pattern we establish in our ordinary, daily lives: not to take what we have for granted; not to take our Father's care and presence for granted. We bring all things to him, even the ordinary ones. It gives us the opportunity for a moment of peace to touch us, and don't we all need that?

Conscientious as we were while raising our children, sometimes we might be tempted to let it slide now that we are alone. My husband slipped into the habit -- I guess was losing the habit he should have had -- of not bothering to ask a blessing alone when he sat down to eat. Too many times he was grabbing a sandwich on the fly, anyway, so when he did sit down for a minute, alone, he would just start eating.

If I came home for lunch while he was in the process of eating his, I would ask if it was blessed. When he said no, I forgot, I would stop both of us and ask a blessing. Or he would say no, go ahead, and pause. But it was happening too often for me to feel sure that he was ever bothering to do it if I wasn't there, so one day in these circumstances, no, I didn't bless it, what burst out of my mouth was, "What kind of a high priest are you?"

Abashed, he replied, "Not a very good one, I guess. Sorry, please say the blessing for both of us."

Last Sunday, we had driven to church separately because he had an early morning meeting. We have a deal in those circumstances that we check in with each other before one of us leaves the building, and we did, but then I was delayed in leaving because there were a couple of people I needed to talk to.

He did not wait for me to arrive before he rustled up lunch. I think boys never grow up in some things, and food is always an instant quest once he walks in the door. (In fairness, he is diabetic and sometimes needs to eat quickly, especially since he keeps forgetting to take a snack with him.)

So I walked in to find him at the table with tomato soup and a sandwich, and I asked the question, "Did you say the blessing?"

"Yes, I did," came his answer with a firm grin. "Because I knew you would ask."

At least I'm good for something.

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