I have started taking my quiet time in the dining room, snuggled up with Bonnie in the high-backed chair I moved down here from our bedroom when I re-made this space. It took a couple months to finish the project, but now that it’s complete, it makes me happy to sit here, enjoying the work of my hands through my eyes. I like the way the morning light spills through the bay window; I watch the moments pass as the sun lifts into the sky, honeying the wood floor beneath my feet. This morning, it is raining and the light is veiled, though diffuse, as if spread too thin across the lens of the sky. It’s a dappled, gray kind of light, but beautiful nonetheless.
I’ve been reading the book of Joshua, among other things, sitting with those familiar words, listening afresh.
“Consecrate yourselves,” Joshua tells the Israelites in chapter three. “For tomorrow the Lord will do great things among you.” I looked the word “consecrate” up in my concordance, eager for instruction as what to do to invite God to “do great things” in my life. The KJV uses the word “sanctify” and it means just what you think it might: “make clean, holy, set apart…”
I found this disappointing, for I am anything but clean. Anything but pure. And though I know I was bought at a great price, that I am covered by the righteousness of my Savior, sometimes I still find it hard to believe that Grace sees only Christ in me. My heart can be so full of ugliness. Still.
But this is what the stones are for, no? The twelve stones the Lord told the Israelites to bring from the bed of the Jordan River and set up on the shore as a reminder. A reminder of his power, a reminder of his faithfulness, a reminder that there is no barrier too great that he will not remove it for his beloveds. And the place where they set up the stones was called Gilgal. At this place, Joshua circumcised the men and the Lord said, “I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” Gilgal sounds like the Hebrew word for roll, my Bible tells me.
So not only were the stones left as a reminder, the men carried a reminder on their bodies—a personal, intimate reminder that they belonged to God.
I am thinking about these reminders and the stones I set up in my own life, the circumcision of my heart and how best to be aware of it in the passing moments of the day.
This morning I also read the chapter on Imagery in Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook. She says this, “The poet must not only write the poem but must scrutinize the world intensely, or anyway that part of the world he or she has taken for subject. If the poem is thin, it is likely so not because the poet does not know enough words, but because he or she has not stood long enough among the flowers—has not seen them in any fresh, exciting, and valid way.”
After reading these words I sit for a long time and listen to the rain mumble against the window. Could it be this is the way to carry my circumcised heart close? Scrutinize intensely … stand long among the flowers … consecrate yourself …
And pick up stones along the way to set up in remembrance.
how did they carry those stones?
did they roll them on their sides, lift
them on the shoulders?
were they big? heavy? smooth and round?
roll, roll, roll away
the reproach. when life
is thin, stand long among
the flowers, stand long in the rain.
glitter flecked branches
reflect your face, skin alight
and shining. watch a drop of light
fall to the rain-soaked earth.
there are a million ways to move a stone.