Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Take up a Stone



Poet Mary Oliver wrote, “Instructions for living a life: pay attention, be astonished, tell about it.”
 
That’s good advice for living a writing life. It’s a writer’s job to step back from the moment and ponder what might be happening, what might be important, what might be worthy of being recorded. The job comes with responsibility.
When I recently had the privilege of sitting in on the rehearsals of my play, A Pattern in Blue, the director gave me this advice: “Be sure you sit where you can see and observe the audience. Look around to see how they react.”
I did observe and was glad he had given me that advice. My heart soared as I watched that riveted audience lean forward to catch every word. I was glad I was paying attention to them as they paid attention to the performance. The experience was a gift from God’s hand, one I will never forget.
I’ve had many moments like that in my life – watching others watch life as it happened. I remember watching my two year old nephew’s eyes widen with wonder when I turned his head so he could see an iris that had just bloomed. I remember seeing the light in my mother-in-law’s eyes when her son showed up unexpectedly with a bouquet of flowers. I remember learning what the word cherish meant as I watched a man who thought he’d never have children shower his daughter with affection. I have written about all of those moments, moments in time when I paid attention, was astonished and went on to tell about it. Those moments too were gifts from the hand of God.
Like all gifts, those God gives us through our talent and skill as writers are not meant only as a blessing to us. They are meant to be signposts pointing to Jesus. As the Hebrew people entered the promised land, a moment in time that was recorded for us in Joshua chapter 4, God instructed the people to take stones from the river and construct a memorial, not just to mark the moment, but to turn the heads and hearts of present and future generations toward Him.
We writers of faith are, in a sense, the bearers of such stones of remembrance. We are to build words into stories like stones piled up into altars and memorials. It is up to us to write words that point to the beauty in our world, words that turn heads so they will look and see the true character of God, words that cry out for mercy and justice.
And as we place these stones carefully and deliberately we too are blessed because they aren’t just stones, they aren’t just words. They are holy instruments of God.
“Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder... to serve as a sign among you ... these stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:2-7).
Sounds like good advice for living a writing life. It’s a writer’s job to observe, to step back from the moment and ponder what might be happening, what might be important, what might be worthy of being recorded. The job comes with a responsibility.

When I recently had the privilege of sitting in on the rehearsals of my play, A Pattern in Blue, the director gave me a little advice. “Be sure you sit in a spot where you can see and observe the audience. Look around you to see how they are reacting.”

I did observe and I was so very glad he had given me that advice. My heart soared as I watched that riveted audience lean forward to catch every word. I was very glad I was paying attention to them as they paid attention to the performance. The experience was a gift from God’s hand, one I will never forget.

I’ve had many moments like that in my life – watching others watch life as it happened. I remember watching my two year old nephew’s eyes widen with wonder when I turned his head so he could see an iris that had just bloomed. I remember seeing the light in my mother-in-law’s eyes when her son showed up unexpectedly with a bouquet of flowers in his hand. I remember learning what the word cherish meant as I watched a man who thought he’d never have a child shower his daughter with affection. I have written about all of those moments, moments in time when I paid attention, was astonished and went on to tell about it. Those moments too were gifts from the hand of God.

Like all gifts, those God gives us through our talent and skill as writers is not meant just as a blessing to us. They are meant to be signposts pointing to Jesus. As the Hebrew people entered the promised land, a moment in time that was recorded for us in Joshua chapter 4, God instructed the people to take stones from the river and construct a memorial, not just to mark the moment, but to turn the heads and hearts of present and future generations toward Him in all his goodness, power and glory.

We writers of faith, are, in a sense, the bearers of such stones of remembrance. We are to build words into stories like stones piled up into altars and memorials. It is up to us to write the words that point to the beauty in our world, words that turn heads so they will look and see the true character of God, words that cry out for mercy and justice when what lies before us is corrupt and unjust.

And as we place these stones carefully and deliberately we too are blessed because they aren’t just stones, they aren’t just words. They are holy instruments of God.

“Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder... to serve as a sign among you ... these stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:2-7). 

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