Exodus 3:1-15

When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him… (v. 4).

In “Sometimes,” poet Mary Oliver offers this wisdom:

Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention. 
Be astonished.
Tell about it. 

Her poem gives us a rhythm for our days rather than a timetable. Exactly how long should we spend paying attention if we want to be astonished? We often prefer a schedule to a wise guide. Maybe that’s because we have a deadline for the “tell about it” step and we need something to say. So we skip to that third sentence and get to work. 

But what makes Oliver’s instructions so wise is their order. Words born out of astonishment have the power to move us. 

The story of Moses and the burning bush has a wonderful sentence that Oliver would likely appreciate. When God notices Moses turning aside to see, God calls to him. In her poem, “Praying,” Oliver writes: 

It doesn’t have to be / the blue iris, it could be / weeds in a vacant lot, or a few / small stones; just / pay attention, then patch / a few words together and don’t try / to make them elaborate, this isn’t / a contest but the doorway / into thanks, and a silence in which / another voice may speak.

Paying attention is a prelude to being astonished and receiving the message we need.


Spend enough time paying attention today to notice something astonishing.


God, too often we pass by the gifts you abundantly offer without noticing them or you. Nudge us to draw closer, look, listen, and tell about it. Amen.

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