Stop, Look, and Listen

Henry James was a literary giant of a hundred years ago.  He once told young writers, “Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost.”  In other words, pay attention to life as it carries you along.  One author whom Martha and I heard on an Alaskan cruise calls himself a Noticer.  Andy Andrews even wrote a book by that title. He also is urging us not  pass by without  seeing what’s happening around us.  If we’re in a hurry, we’ll miss the things that life is all about.  Another of my mentors, Frederick Beuchner, starts a daily devotional book with this message, “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is…Touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it…for all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

So I’ve tried to follow these signposts by gazing through my office window and seeing the lush summer leaves waving againt the steel sky.  And I’ve witnessed the muffled sorrow on a friend’s face as he told me that his wife’s cancer had returned.  I’ve paused to study the magnificent wood of our furniture.  Oak and cherry, grown and nurtured in God’s great forests…and then lovingly shaped by Amish skill and sweat.  And, oh yes, I relished the boyish charm of my 87 year old World War II buddy as he described a fishing trip that he and other vets had enjoyed the day before.  “We all caught our limit by 11:00!” he almost shouted in the hushed sanctity of our Baptist church.

And finally, as I was driving down the freeway in rush-hour traffic, I actually found myself admiring the flow and  rhythm and, yes, the beauty of the cars and trucks sharing the highway with me.  I’ve heard others narrate this stunning epiphany (that is barely believable), but it actually happened to me on that hazy late summer morning.

Let’s remember to thank God for what we so often take for granted or sleepwalk past.


  1. From this English major from 50 years ago, you quote the best with Henry James. His use of intelligent characters and differing perspectives, including false narrators, made him a pioneer novelist. James’ historical perspective: Wealthy Americans traveling to the old, perhaps decaying, centers of European aristocracy and trying to blend the old with the new in the days before WWI. His work has been translated into many fine movies, especially the Merchant Ivory masterpieces of the past 30 years. This insures that James will continue to be an influence. Shakespeare needs to be presented in modern dress to capture contemporary audiences–Think “West Side Story”. Henry James does not. Nice touch, Russ.

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