Holy Week always takes me back to the limestone Catholic church where I grew up. Even now, stepping toward Good Friday and Easter, I can smell the incense, hear the clanging of altar bells and visualize the brass sculptures depicting the Stations of the Cross.
The sensations that speak to me of Holy Week and Easter were instilled as a little girl, sitting in the wooden front row pew near a statue of Mary, mother of Jesus. Before I was old enough for communion and confirmation, I sat with my parents to the back of the church. But, once I was allowed to choose, I picked a front row seat.
Kneeling at the feet of Mary, I could see behind the altar where the priest moved back and forth with the Eucharist and wine, preparing for communion. I got a glimpse into the little room to the side of the altar, where the priest’s vestments hung and where the altar boys entered and exited for Mass.
A front-row seat for the celebration of Mass meant I could worship alone. I couldn’t see anyone behind me and I tried to ignore anyone brave enough to sit next to me. This was my time with Jesus.
I still choose a front-row seat just about every time I get the chance, or at least one near the front so that my line of sight is not blocked and I’m not distracted by others. In the Protestant church I attend today, I’ll slide around in the pew until I can get a clear view of the worship team and the pastor, and for an hour or so, I’ll try to ignore the presence of others and just sit with Jesus. When I go to writing conferences or attend large meetings, I almost always want to be near the front, not missing a thing.
God wired me that way, I think, because He also designed me to be a “scribe”. Writing stories, essays and poems has always been my way of processing life, so I’ll do what I can to get close to the action.
This little poem by Mary Oliver perfectly defines the 3 Reasons I’ll Take A Front Row Seat.
- To pay attention. A spot on the front row helps keep my focus on the matter at hand. I am easily distracted, but if I’m face-to-face with whatever is going on around me, it has my full attention. I’m here for a reason — at this meeting, in this place of worship and on this earth. I don’t want to miss it.
- To be astonished. I value the Internet for the access it provides to worlds I would otherwise never know. I can learn about life in South Africa through my friend’s social media posts and her blog. I can find out how to master a new knitting pattern or learn about topics in the news from podcasts, emails and websites. But, pure astonishment is only conjured close up, when we’re involved and engaged in the action, the instruction, the conversation — when we take a front-row seat.
- To tell about it. When I’m on the front row, as I was in that small-town church of my youth, all my senses are engaged and an image forms. As a scribe, I have a need to share that image, that experience with others who weren’t there. I may take notes or begin forming thoughts even before leaving the front row. Most likely, I’ll tell someone about it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about stories lately. Our personal “slice of life” stories form and inform, inspire and expire, teach and testify. These stories have value, both for the teller and the receiver. As a new subscriber to this blog, you’ll receive a copy of my E-book “Tell Your Story: A Tool for Capturing and Telling Life Stories. You can read more about it here.
I’d like to point you to a friend’s “slice of life” story about doing art with her mother. This friend has chosen a front-row seat and is receiving an unexpected blessing, one she’s happy to share with all of us. Enjoy.
“If you are following my blog, by now you know I’ve fallen in love with this simple painting class I facilitate at my mother’s assisted living home. I didn’t want to do it. I did it for her. But the joke is on me because I’m crazy about this class — and these women.” Read more…