River Thoughts

11 03 2010

I had this great post all worked out in my head about the book I read while sitting on the riverbank and the things I realized as I was doing it, but then the next day Colby had his bloody nose episode. Naturally, I had to write about that. As the days have gone (sped) by, there hasn’t been much downtime for me to get back to the things I learned the other day.

(This, as you will soon understand, is kind of ironic.)

Camille Fronk Olson is the author of Mary, Martha, and Me, subtitled Seeking the One Thing that is Needful. I’m really not much of a non-fiction reader. I readily admit that I had this book for three months (one month original checkout, and two renewals) and had hardly cracked it. When I saw it was time and past to get the book back to the library, I took it with me down to the river.

(As an aside: have you heard Alison Krauss sing “Down to the River to Pray” on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack? I really like it, and MoTab has a version of the same song on this cd. But I digress.)

One of the problems with non-fiction is it takes me so long to read. There’s none of the plowing-through-to-get-to-the-end-of-the-story business. Non-fiction, by its very nature, is made for pondering. So while Mary, Martha, and Me is a slim volume, it took me longer than I would have expected to read.

I can’t do the book justice in a review because I didn’t take those kinds of notes as I was reading it. What I do want to share with you is the idea of balance that the author sets forth. I have always read that story of Mary and Martha as being quite two-dimensional: Mary chose the right, and Martha chose the wrong. As I read this book and thought about it more, however, I realized a few things.

One: Christ never said Mary chose the better part. The Bible says, “One thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part” (Luke 10:42). Sister Olson (can I call her Sister Olson?) pointed out that ‘better’ is a comparative word . . . and it isn’t found in this passage.

Two: “Seeking the one thing that is needful” can involve both the way Mary does things, and the way Martha does things.

Three: God has a specific plan for me–just me and no one else. He knows me well enough to know what is best. I just have to ask and listen to discover what that is.

There was an example that struck me particularly, and what I ended up drawing while I sat and pondered. In talking about Mary and Martha, Sister Olson cited the parable of the olive tree found in the Book of Mormon. The branches were taking over the roots, or the roots were taking over the branches–and the result was a diseased, unhealthy plant. Only when the two–roots and branches–were balanced did it flourish.

She compared the branches to service, to meals given and favors granted. She compared the roots to scholarship, to thinking and pondering about the scriptures.

In my mind, I started thinking of the two things as doing and being.

If we are so busy doingdoingdoing that we have no time to simply be, the frantic pace will make us topple over.

If we are so busy thinkingthinkingthinking, we lose touch with other people and the sweet blessings from serving are lost as well.

I drew three threes, one with tiny roots and overarching branches, one with a stumpy top and a huge root system, and one where both were pretty much equal. There’s a symmetry in a good, healthy tree–and not just in the pleasing way the branches seem to know right where to sprout to keep it balanced. The roots mirror the branches. Trees need both the roots and the branches: the roots to obtain water and nutrients from the soil, and the branches to absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide and turn it into food. (I love trees. I loved them even before I moved to Washington.)

We also need both: we need the doing part of life, where we lift, encourage, and support one another.

We need the being part of life, where we find the quiet places inside us and listen to what they’re saying.

Sister Olson points out that there is no one right way to go about it, but there is One thing that is needful. When we stay focused on that One thing, everything else balances out.


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7 responses

11 03 2010
Tami

Thank you! I might have to read that book. It’s a perfect illustration of what I need to work on.
And you couldn’t live in a better place when you love trees!

11 03 2010
Wendy

Tami–It’s available from the library. (cough, cough). At least, it WILL be, as soon as I return it.

11 03 2010
moniquel319

I LOVE this book but it’s been years since I read it. Must re-read. I also LOVE Allison Krausse. I have a lot of her stuff and that particular cd is in my van right now! Glad the book helped you too!

11 03 2010
Kathleen

so true.

Oh, and I laughed out loud at the (I love trees. I loved them even before I moved to Washington.) You are so cute!

12 03 2010
anitanap

Is it wrong of me to not feel guilty about turning library books in late? Probably. I just love going the extra mile to help ye old library stay in business.

I’m going to ponder the roots/branches bit some more. What a wonderful thought. Thanks for a wonderful, uplifting, timely post. 🙂
I’m also going to try to not miss the trees too badly. Sigh. I love it here, and I’m lucky to be in a neighborhood where we do have quite a few that wouldn’t look dwarfed and stubby if they were transplanted into your neighborhood…
but…
Yeah.

14 03 2010
Marybeth

Thank you for your insights–very well said. I want to read the book–I’ll have to see if the library has it.

15 03 2010
mandy

I can’t believe your library’s liberal renewal policies. We get a 3 week check out with only one renewal (and only if no one else wants the book). It makes for some quick reading at times and a strict reading order (trying to guess which books will probably be on hold for someone else and thereby must be read first)anticipating the upcoming return date.

I love your doing and being balance. Tricky but important. Thanks for the reminder!

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