Transitional Thoughts

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention. Be astonished.

Tell about it.

-Mary Oliver

Dear Friends:

As I write this, the news of poet Mary Oliver’s death is less than twenty-four hours old.  Oliver, a daughter of Ohio, attended OSU and taught at Case-Western. She wrote about the natural world with intimacy and tenderness and was able to communicate our connection to that world in powerful ways.

As I was reading some of her words last night, I came across her Instructions for living a life.  It hit me that those were instructions not just for living a life in general, but about living a Christian life in particular.  

We are in the liturgical season of Ephiphany-a season of light, miracles, and revelation.  It is a season where God coming to earth through the very ordinary, every day lives of humanity is manifested in one life so that God’s love could be revealed to all the earth.  

Pay attention- Oliver’s poetry was about paying attention to the exquisite detail of every moment of every day.  Reveling in the beauty and grace of it all is humanity’s task. As Christians, we are called to pay attention to what is happening around us, to what is occurring not just in our neighborhoods but in the world.  And it isn’t just about noticing and responding to the big issues of the day, but rather taking the time to see God working in the smallest and mundane issues of our lives. It is noticing the sunlight reflecting on a bluebird’s wings or feeling the purr of your cat who has decided that you make the best pillow.  It is looking into the night sky standing next to someone you love and realizing that in all the cosmos you were blessed to find each other. It is singing in the choir and having the power of the author’s words and composer’s music hit you with a deep truth that could not be experienced in any other way. When we pay attention to what God is doing in our lives, we see miracle upon miracle, grace upon grace.

Be astonished-I don’t know how we cannot be astonished when we pay attention to God’s creation and actions in the world. To live attentively is to live in amazement.  Walter Bruggemann, a noted Old Testament scholar, has written that God’s other name is Surprise. I love that! I also believe it to be true. Surprise is around every corner, every moment is pregnant with it when we open our eyes and our hearts to God.

Tell about it-When our experience and astonishment is shared, we share ourselves and God at a deep level.  Our wonder and joy in the world is communicated. This is true evangelism. We need to be better about sharing our astonishment and our joy with others.  We need to paint the world for others who do not know the beautiful hues, the amazing threads of connection, the incredible love of God that suffuses all of life.  

Pay attention.  Be astonished. Tell about it.  Share what you have found and believe that your sharing can change a life, can change the world.

Your sister in Christ,


Robin Whittington