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By Pastor Paul Gauche

Today’s Word: ‘Instructions” as in… Mary Oliver’s Instructions for living a life.

In early 2019 the world was diminished ever so slightly by the passing of a bright poetic light. Mary Oliver was an American poet who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Her vast work was inspired by nature, stemming from her lifelong passion for solitary walks in the wilderness. In 2007 she was declared to be the country’s best-selling poet. Krista Tippett, the creator/host of “On Being” had the rare opportunity to interview Oliver in 2015, and in a subsequent program described her as “among the most beloved writers of modern times. Amidst the harshness of life, she found redemption in the natural world and in beautiful precise language.”

It’s the beautiful and precise language of Mary Oliver that fuels me so often. This week, Mary Oliver’s “Instructions For Living a Life” has been inspiring me to live as intentionally as I am able. In her poem, “Instructions For Living a Life,” Mary writes:

“Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.”

Far be it from me to dissect or deconstruct the words of such a master. Perhaps the best we can do is allow Mary’s Oliver’s poem to be the momentum for life today.

So pay attention, be more fully aware than you usually are. See the children sledding down the hill? They laugh, they run, they are lost in the play! Pay attention!

Notice what that scene does to you. The delight of those kids on that hill stirs something in you, doesn’t it? Isn’t it astonishing how that scene takes you back years or even decades to a long ago time, in a far distant town, on a long forgotten hill where you spent countless hours during timeless days? Be astonished!

There are stories in you that you long to share. Stories of pain, joy, hurt, healing. Stories of sorrow turned to celebration that long to come to light. Mary Oliver’s poetry was created in that crucible, and yet, even today her light still shines brightly. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.


Paul Gauche is the Pastor of Life Transitions at Prince of Peace. His posts are part of his #100days50words project, where be blogs about a different word each day. You can follow his project on Instagram (@pgauche), or on his blog, Thriving Rhythms.

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