West Virginia Morning: The Song of Gilgal


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.


  1. Lynn D. Morrissey says

    Whenever I see “West Virginia” in your writing, I start singing that lovely John Denver tune.=] And whenever I read your writing, it, itself, sings. There is no greater compliment I could give to you, Laura, than to call you a wordsinger! Thank you for this lyrical, insightful reminder that there is more than one way (correction: a million ways) to move a stone. I see my Bride Year as a time of consecration and purification as well. Oh, what God could do with those whose hearts are consecrated to Him. And you demonstate how art, itself, can be sacred, holy, and consecrated. So, so lovely. Your words *are* art.

    • says

      If I am a word-singer then you are the author of symphonies! Thank you a million times, Lynn, for the kind ways you encourage. I love that you have named this your Bride Year. How utterly wonderful! Is there anything more exciting? Anything more worth waiting for? I’m excited to see how the year unfolds. Waiting with bated breath here beside you.

  2. says

    Your words are so inspiring, Laura. I’m thinking of another stone, one that was rolled away, and I’m so thankful that we serve a risen Lord. I’m reading your beautiful words from beside a hospital bed today. My 85 yr old dad confused and disorientated. We’re all waiting on test results to find out why. Your words point me back to the One Who knows. The One Who will lead us through the hard decisions coming all too soon. Thank you, God bless you for sharing your words.

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