“Listening to language, feeling stories unfold and poems arrive, being present to the page — I do not think of it as a career, I think of it as a devotion.”
Naomi Shihab Nye
Photography Copyright 1-10-2013 Martha L Shaw
What do you think? Do good fences make good neighbors? What does that cliché really mean? Like many of you, I can recall “different times” from childhood which compared to “these days” . . . and am thinking of unlocked front doors, neighborhood parties, knowing each and every neighbor by name . . .
Our neighbors were our friends and we were, as they say, there for one-another. I didn’t know many of my neighbors where I last lived, and actually got to know some of them when they saw the “for sale” sign go up and got curious.
I’m a friendly person. It seems to me, though, that we or I anyway, get so busy these days with all that we “do” and many of the people I know from church, from work, from this meeting or that have said something about not really knowing their neighbors . . . I can recall there always being someone to chat with, to play with, to lend a hand to. If my dad was doing yard work, home repair, adding an addition to the house, there was usually one or two neighbors who’d come over and help.
Mom never had to worry about where we children got our Halloween candy from. She knew all the neighbors. Several of the neighbors, my Mom included, would make homemade treats. I can recall one or two neighbors who had cans of beer on the ready for the Dads taking us kids out while Mom was home giving out treats. I don’t get many kids to my house anymore . . .
I can recall Mom sending me to school with food for my teacher . . . something from the garden or something she baked. I wonder if teachers still receive such gifts and if they fear eating them? We have a lot of those kinds of fears these days.
So, the question remaining to be answered is “do good fences make good neighbors?” I don’t know the answer, but in looking at my neighbor’s yard from my deck which was my vantage point in snapping the photo this piece began with, I’d have to say I’m glad that he left an opening in the fence to invite folks in. Life is different today in lots of ways. Some changes are good, but . . .
Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.
The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.
– Dorothea Lange –
I love the message contained in those words . . . there is such truth in them. Taken literally, I can recall many times I’ve looked at photographs and been surprised at how different things looked! I admit, if I’m in the photograph, I tend to think “oh, I wish I’d worn more makeup” or “why did I wear that blouse?” but generally I’ll see my garden in a picture and think “wow, it looks GOOD.” My livingroom, in a picture, will catch my eye anew as I see things I walk by everyday with fresh eyes. Vision . . . pictures . . . words . . .
What leaps off the screen to me as I reread the quote is the word “instrument.” What is an instrument? My church has many fine musicians. As they perform their part in leading worship I seldom fail to feel the power of the Holy Spirit lifting me up. The piano, drums, guitars, organ, violin . . . beautiful and life-giving instruments of praise. Instruments. Think about it though. What is an instrument? On its own, it’s not much. It’s simply a thing. Still and silent, it cannot encourage without a hand to pick it up and enable it or use it for a higher purpose than it can ever have left idle in the room. As followers of Christ and as a people called upon to a higher purpose for Him, we can learn much from those violins and guitars and such.
We are animate as humans and thus we can perform without a hand holding us, this is true. I’ve tried it. Speaking for myself, I know without the Lord’s constant presence in my life, I am nothing. Without the Holy Spirit leading me, protecting me, filling me, I can do nothing. I need to surrender and be an instrument through which a divine hand plays music and inspires. The music that this instrument that is me has any hope of producing comes not from the instrument herself, but through giving over myself to my love of Jesus and allowing Him to work through me.
He has a purpose for my life. He has a song for me to sing. With His love and through Him, I will sing! Sing with me, won’t you? He has a song for each one of us to sing in the divine choir that is the Body of Christ in this world. Choose to be His instrument!
‘The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.’ Habakkuk 3:18-19