Most of the time I feel like the least of the writers in our writing group, the Inkspot’s of GUMC, not that I expect to be great from being the least, as Jesus was saying in the scripture of Luke. Rather, I feel like the least qualified to be writing in a room filled with such wonderful authors.
This past week we took turns reading from our recent writings and everyone seemed to be absolutely wonderful, save for mine.
Thomas read from two book reviews he is doing as part of his PhD studies. Both of the books he was required to read, “Pastoral Theology” and “Open Secrets,” he had the good fortune of having the authors as professors while attending Duke Divinity College. I was impressed to hear as he read aloud at the depth of knowledge he had acquired over time both from not only constantly reading and studying the Word of God, but also from his literary skills as a writer. More than once I had to take notes from what I heard. We learned of the pressures of the daily grind of pastoral work which was exemplified by the statement when he labored over being human when he was supposed to appear as he put it, “Cloaked in a mystery of divinity.” We also learned of Wesley’s Quadrilateral philosophy of scripture, tradition, experience and reason. Wesley believed scripture was the most important but as Thomas pointed out, today we are finding people more inclined to use experience as their base instead of scripture. In all, it was very enlightening and educational.
Next, Sherry Thornburg read from a story she had written about living in Todd, NC. I believe she called it, “The House Across the Creek.” It was quite a heart-warming story, which took you back in time. At first hearing the name of the story I was taken to Cross Creek Florida, but then that is another story.
Sherry told the story of how she grew up in a four room house in Todd next to Elk Creek. As she read her story, I closed my eyes and could see myself growing up alongside her there in Todd. She talked of how they played house, play acted and even performed on the foot log that spanned Elk creek from their home side to the general store side of the creek. The bridge was their stage and the creek was their audience. A large buckeye tree anchored one side of the foot bridge with a log chain, which kept it from washing away when the creek would get up. Sitting there listening to her read her story I was taken back in time growing up in New Harmony, Indiana at my grandma Tron’s house. There, we too played in the yard and around the farm in similar fashion. We never had a beautiful rushing stream flowing by our front porch as did Sherry, but we had lush green pastures rolling by instead, against the backdrop of the hills that made up the vast forest that bordered the Wabash river which ran past our little town of New Harmony.
Although we were worlds apart in distance, we shared the similar experience of a Spartan existence in our rural lives, cherishing the fond memories of a time gone by when life moved at a different pace, one we too often fail to recognize in our hurriedly rushing lives today.
As she closed, the words she spoke from the pages she had written brought forth emotions, the heart strings that make us who we are. The stories within when spoken often become stronger than we had imagined without forming the words through our lips to be spoken. Once their sounds escape and come back to us through our own ears, we sometimes are overwhelmed with the magnification of feelings previously thought insignificant.
After Sherry read it was Laverne’s turn. He never ceases to impress us with stories from his past, all bringing forth similar recollections as did Sherry’s story; taking us all back in time. However, unlike usual, Laverne had written a poem. It wasn’t limerick in nature, rather, more of a prose, but the story it told was so rich with imagery it couldn’t help but touch your heart.
Laverne talked about past loves and a large Sycamore tree under which he had spent many hours as a youth. Being small in size, he often had prayed for God to either make him large or to give him courage. The latter, he found, was eventually how he was blessed. Over time, sitting under his Sycamore tree there in the middle of the pasture, he had carved the names of many a girlfriend while spending hours looking up at the heavens wondering how his life would someday turn out. Recently when recovering from heart surgery, he was lying in the hospital bed and reflecting back on his life and somewhat bothered about how it might all end. He realized he was becoming agitated, so he tried to find a way to calm himself. His Sycamore tree came to mind and the shade of the great labyrinth of limb and leaf began to shelter him once more. In his mind he was once more seeing the great trunk of the tree, the carved names, the beauty of the place he knew so well, comforting him and relaxing him to the point he realized he had nothing to worry about; it was all in God’s hands. I can imagine sitting under Laverne’s tree, which is no longer there, looking out at the fields spreading away from you, reaching to the tree-lined horizon. There is a certain calming affect one can take away from such a place; a refuge, a place to reflect and gather oneself before marching boldly off into the future. Yes, God gave Laverne courage, but it was not the only gift the good Lord had bestowed upon my dear friend; humility of spirit and love of life are some of his greater gifts.
Cindy went next, reading from a story she had written about the birth of her recent grandson. She called her story, “It’s alright I’ve got this”. She shared with us a touching story of a young woman expecting her third child and deciding to have a “water birth”. The eventuality of the story that struck me most was how as parents we sometimes have to let go and allow our children to be themselves, as was the case in this story. Her daughter was evidently determined to have the birth her way, but in the end, it was as God had intended, and yet in a way she was still able to be proud of; a home birth. In the end, mother and daughter came to a deeper understanding and respect for one another, each finding a strength from the other formed by the bond of unconditional love.
After Cindy, then her daughter Savannah shared with us her ideas for an upcoming novel she would like to write. I won’t share those thoughts at this time for sake of her privacy of subject matter, but suffice it to say, we have a wide spectrum of age in our talented group, one which might help us continue long into the future. To hear Savannah talk it was refreshing to hear the youth of our time alive and excited to create stories. We have much to be thankful for.
Finally, after I had read, the leader of our writer’s group, Sims Poindexter, took her turn. She read from emails she had sent out over Christmas. Sims had spent several days in the hospital, some of which was humorous, but sitting there listen to her tell her story, it was obvious to me, we are very blessed to still have her with us after all she had been through. The feeling of thankfulness was soon rewarded with a revealing story she shared in her final email. It was one she wrote after returning home after her hospital stay, and after all the family had left to return to their own homes following their Christmas visit. She told of simply looking around the room and the moving stories behind each little nuance or reminder left behind by those who would have no idea they had left their impression, albeit from a rock left on the piano, to an overturned ornament under the tree. She had seen or could tell the story behind every essence of actuality which had transpired. Her love for all was revealed in her appreciation for them, even down to the touch of inanimate object remaining long after they were gone.
Each story, each prose I heard that evening was so thought provoking, that in a matter of two hours, we got up to leave feeling as if we had just arrived. Personally, I felt left behind after all I had heard. My story seemed to pale in comparison, at least in my own mind. What I was able to take away was a feeling of being blessed to be in the company of people willing to openly share and support one another in something that is, in most instances, from the heart.
Yes, I feel I am the least with regard to my writing when compared to the others, but I feel most grateful in the reward of being blessed by such wonderful acquaintances and friends, such that it makes my appreciation far beyond the least; for this I am greatly blessed.
“and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.”
– Luke 9:48