Paying Attention

20120725-172518.jpgThis is the view outside my window right now: a gently sloping, pinestraw-covered pathway through a beautiful northern forest of evergreen and hardwood trees. Occasionally a chipmunk, a hummingbird or even a deer makes a cameo appearance. Visitors to this summer retreat often enjoy walking through uninhabited acres of woods and orchards. Not me.

While I derive great peace and pleasure from the view, a walk of any sort can only be called toil. I have an artificial leg which does not get along well with slopes and pinestraw. I am a great swimmer, but walking is uncomfortable at best. All this natural beauty fades to gray when I walk through it. My mind is either coping with some present perambulatory problem or scanning like a soldier on high alert for the next literal bump in the road.

I think I do the same thing in more important ways. Sitting here on vacation, looking out a window at ‘real life,’ as it were, I can see my world as a lovely landscape of adventures and heroes relieved by hidden moments of blessed tranquility and glad community. How is it, though, that all this relational beauty fades to gray when I walk through it? Perhaps it is because I am too preoccupied with present problems and fears of the future to appreciate the glory all around me.

So today and every day I want to be more intentional about cataloging the grace in my friends who serve, the courage of sufferers who persevere, the sad beauty of mourning and the Christ-like gentleness of patient caregivers. I want to notice surprising answers to prayer, little gifts of joy, and the intricacies of love. I don’t want to lose all of this because I’m toiling uphill on shifting ground. The Fall made life hard, but it didn’t make it gray. I want to learn to pay attention.

When you stop and pay attention, what is it that you notice?