Posts Tagged ‘notice

17
Jun
21

In Praise of Slow

Normally, I am a pretty fast guy.

Mmmmmm!!

I walk fast.

I drive fast (much to Joan’s great displeasure).

I eat fast and drink fast.

I cook fast, I wash the dishes fast, and I make my bed fast.

I even read fast.

I was always the guy who had too much to do and not enough time in which to do it. Somehow, even though I have been retired now for almost two years, I still carry on in the same way.

Since May 4 of this year, however, all of that has changed DRAMATICALLY.

The issues I have been having with the pain in my lower back have forced me to follow the wise guidance of Simon and Garfunkel when they sing, “Slow down, you move too fast. You’ve got to make the morning last!” 

They are right about that part. But I’m not sure I am on board with the song’s chorus: “ALL IS GROOVY!”

Every day, somewhere around 10:00 a.m. when the muscle relaxers and pain meds finally kick in, I venture out for a little walk in the neighborhood. But I have to walk REALLY slowly. You would be forgiven for chuckling as you watch me out there… taking my mincing, shuffling, “little old man” steps. 

Then it is back home for a 20-minute session with the ice pack.

In many ways, this enforced slowdown is very aggravating. I mean, we are finally coming out of the dark tunnel of the COVID-19 pandemic when things are opening back up, and here I am, sidelined by this ridiculous, relentless PAIN!!

But you know what? I am slowly discovering that there are some hidden gifts that come when I take life at a slower pace. 

  • I see more of my surroundings
  • I have longer conversations with my neighbors
  • I feel zero guilt about sitting down and cracking open a book in the middle of the day
  • I note and appreciate the different hues of each hour of the day
  • This new pace of mine allows me to turn the tables and give Joan the opportunity to be MY caretaker for a while.
  • But most importantly, I find that I am much more likely to use these slow, unscheduled moments to pause and connect with God… in prayer or quiet reflection.

Looking in at the life of the man who drew the BC/AD dividing line through human history, we find that HE had a finely tuned appreciation for life in the slow lane, too. The Bible records at least 21 separate instances like this one in Luke’s gospel where we read: “Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12, NRSV). 

Jesus sounds ardently anti-hustle-bustle in this passage from the Sermon on the Mount when he says, “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matthew 6:27, NRSV).

Despite these manifold spirit-nurturing benefits, I absolutely will NOT accept the premise that God sent me this back pain as a hard-to-miss lesson about slowing down and smelling the roses. 

On the contrary, this dilemma is all about the accumulated effects of genetics, years of bad posture and overdoing, mixed in with a touch of Ol’ Uncle Arthur. 

God is the one who stands with me in my pain and whispers, “I know this thing with your back sucks right now, but I AM and ALWAYS HAVE BEEN in the redemption business. Tune in and I will help you make a sweet pitcher of lemonade out of this lemon you’ve been handed.”

And you know what? God is there with you too, whispering the same thing. 

All we need to do is slow down and LISTEN!

Abundant blessings;

14
Jun
21

New Glasses

He noticed!” said Joan with a hint of surprise in her voice.

Yes he did…,” I replied, adding, “…That’s because Elijah is a Professional Noticer of Things.”

Elijah, operating the sound board for our church’s outdoor worship service yesterday, noticed that I had a new pair of glasses and commented on them. In fact, he was very complimentary of my style choice.

His comment was noteworthy because in the nearly six weeks since I acquired these new glasses, the number of people who have noticed their newness and commented on them is a very small number indeed. 

Elijah noticed my new glasses, I reasoned, because Elijah is an artist. I believe it is the artist’s job to notice stuff… to attune their exquisite antennae to every shape, size, and nuance in their world… to penetrate below the surface of their quotidian environment and see that which is unseen by most… and then use their chosen medium to help the rest of us see it, too.

But then, after making my clever quip, I stopped and pondered a moment: is that kind of “noticing” strictly the province of artists? Are they the only ones tasked with that special “seeing”? Does it require an innate, inborn set of skills to perceive novelty, beauty, diversity, and wonder in our world?

Or is that something any of us can/should be able to do?

If you have a chance to spend even five minutes in the presence of a small child – say three or fewer years of age – you will soon discover that for them, EVERYTHING about the world is amazing, incredible, and totally AWESOME! In their eyes, there are remarkable new discoveries to be found around every corner! 

They think the world is a veritable smorgasbord of wonder and delight on which to feast their inquiring little eyes.

Then, at the opposite end of the spectrum, are those of us who have been around the sun a few times… the folks who can come to feel – if we’re not careful – as if we’ve “seen it all.” On occasion it seems to us that all the sheen and luster has worn off our bright, shiny world. 

“Been there, done that, got the T-shirt” threatens to become our mantra. Our eyes can glaze over, our perspectives can become jaded, and we can say, “AMEN! Ain’t it the truth!” when we hear The Teacher saying, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NRSV).

We trumpet the virtue of our world-weariness and think of ourselves as, “savvy… sophisticated… urbane… refined… aware.” 

Everything we see is SO gauche and jejune and we simply can’t be bothered.

How sad!

How dull!

And when you come right down to it, how utterly ungodly.

Loving God means knowing and loving God’s creation. And central to loving God’s creation is recognizing that God is in the business of Continuous Renewal. The prophet Isaiah talks about this when he speaks on God’s behalf and tells the Israelites, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19, NRSV). 

When we allow our hearts to be transformed by the in-breaking power of the Holy Spirit, WE also become new… blessed with the capability to see newness all around us. Paul understood this transformation perfectly. He described it when he wrote, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NRSV).

So, is it possible to be mature, experienced, and wonder-filled all at the same time? 

I’d say, “Absolutely!” 

All it takes is a new pair of glasses.

Abundant blessings;

26
Sep
19

Pedaling the Life Bike

BikingThe chain came off my bike the other day.

I was out riding with my friend and tried to shift to another, lower gear when “KA-CHUNK, KA-CHUNK, GRRR,” it all went kerplooey.

It was not a big deal to fix. We hopped off, threaded the dangling chain back over the correct sprockets and before you know it, we were off and riding again.

Besides giving me a moment to pause and catch my breath, I discovered another gift issuing forth from that momentary malfunction; it gave me a wonderful and useful METAPHOR!

Since fully and officially retiring on July 1, I realize that I have been struggling to find another gear for my life. My bicycle has 10 different gears. Different environments and situations call for different gear settings. The experienced cyclist toggles back and forth between them as needed.

In contrast, my “life bike” – up until now – seems to have only two gears: either “Flat Out, Pedal-to-the-Metal” or “Full Stop.” Nothing in between.

Now, with retirement (and this new shoulder injury), I am faced with the real need to find a new and different gear ratio.

Joan will testify that I do not do “nice and easy” very well. In fact, she told me that several times on our walk this morning with the dogs.

But seriously, what would be wrong with expanding my repertoire a little and learning a slower, more relaxed pace? First gear for the steep inclines, third or fourth when it levels out a little, and then maybe a deliberate, reflective, peacefully-taking-in-the-surroundings kind of pace for other times?

Hmmmm. Might be worth giving it a try.

26
Feb
18

S is for Significance

two-sparrows(This post is the third in a series. Recently, my mentor/counselor/friend suggested I create an acrostic from the letters of my name as a way of claiming my God-given identity.)

JOAN: (my spouse of 18 years and winner of the Nobel Prize for Longsuffering and Patience) “What’s wrong, honey?” she turned toward me and asked… a concerned look creasing her brow.

ME: (yet again, playing dumb… a part I have mastered through many years of diligent practice). “Nothing. Why do you ask?”

JOAN: “That sigh you just made. It sounds like something is bothering you.”

ME: (wracking my brain to recreate each detail of the past five minutes… recalling that, yes indeed I DID sigh audibly just a moment ago, and yes indeed, there IS something troubling me… all the while wondering how she does that…) “Well, I guess I am a little worried about the meeting coming up at church tomorrow. I’m afraid things might get a little messy and I’m not sure how I’m going to handle it when they do.”

… all of this then followed by a probing and thoughtful conversation about the issues in play, my personal dilemma, challenges facing the church, and possible solutions.

It really was a great conversation… one that ultimately helped me through a very difficult passage. It also further solidified the truth of the thesis that I married way UP when I married this lady.

It was also a conversation that might never have happened at all… absent Joan’s ability to see the SIGNIFICANCE of something as small and barely audible as my involuntary exhalation of breath.

All of which causes me to wonder: how do we draw the line between significant and insignificant in the world around us? And what do we mean by the word SIGNIFICANCE anyway? The New Oxford American Dictionary offers this definition: “The quality of being worthy of attention; importance…”

Based on that definition I have to ask: Where might I find the standard used to measure the “importance” or “worthiness of attention” of anything? Is it purely a subjective yardstick or is there some universal standard? Case in point: a complete stranger, hearing the same sigh Joan heard, might not have attached any significance to it at all.

In today’s wonderful world of social media, we say that a topic is “trending” when it catches the attention of some critical mass of people in the Twitter-verse. Then and only then is that topic considered SIGNIFICANT and worthy of our collective attention.

But then what does that metric say about ME? Or YOU? Can either of us be considered significant if we lack vast armies of Twitter followers or Facebook Fans?

Maybe that explains why we hear about so many young people with a burning ambition to “be famous”. Maybe it is their way of saying, “I want to know that I actually MATTER in the world.”

I am part of a faith tradition that tells me my life is highly significant… even lacking 50,000 Twitter followers or my own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Addressing the topic of personal significance, Jesus once famously comforted a group of people – each of whom had far fewer than 100 Facebook friends – by saying, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31, NRSV).

This, my friends, is TRUTH, in all caps.

You matter. More than you can possibly know. God said so.

This divine reminder of the worth of ALL persons is one part of the reason I chose to make the word SIGNIFICANCE part of my name acrostic.

I also chose this word as a way of reminding myself to keep my eyes and ears peeled for the hidden significance in the world around me. I want to know what that glance meant, or how that rock came to be exactly THERE, or how this street got its name, or how many hours it took to build this chair.

Including the word SIGNIFICANCE also carries (for me) an inherent moral obligation to guard against dismissing any person (or their viewpoint) as “insignificant” or unworthy.

I am sure this is all part of the burden and blessing of being an artist; their heightened state of alertness to meaning and significance and nuance is great fodder for their work. But I’m sure it also makes it hard to just “turn off” for a bit and enjoy a little therapeutic mindlessness.

So yes… I am significant. I celebrate that.

You are significant. I acknowledge and appreciate that.

The world around us is both significant and magnificent and a mystery waiting to be explored.

I love that!

20
Jun
17

LOVE NOTICES

Happy older driversBut Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.”

Luke 8:46, NRSV

Have you ever noticed? Jesus notices stuff.

For sure he notices the things that are right there… big as life… smack dab in front of his face… like 99.8% of the rest of us.

But he notices other things, too… things that escape the notice of 99.8% of the rest of us.

Jesus notices people. He notices words. He notices attitudes. He notices the movement of the Spirit as it blows through the world.

And you know what else? He notices YOU! And he knows the joy his noticing brings.

I thought about this the other day when I experienced first-hand the joy of being noticed.

My wife and I were traveling home from a thoroughly delightful afternoon with family. It was the late afternoon hour when the sun was just beginning to set. The temperature was perfect and the air was clear, so the windows of the car were open as we drove. There was some good, bouncy music playing on the radio and we had a pair of satisfied smiles on our faces. (And yes… that is a picture of us there at the top of this post.)

Usually – especially when I am driving – this is not the case. Most of the time when I am the driver of the car and my wife is the passenger, she is nervous and on-edge. Let’s just say she and I have two different driving styles… and for some inexplicable reason my preferred style seems to make her jittery.

HOWEVER… on this day I was really trying to be conservative and cautious as we drove along those familiar streets… braking WELL in advance of the changing stop light… slowing down to allow the gentleman to my left to come on over into this lane of traffic, etc.

I thought to myself, “I wonder if she will notice how sensibly I am driving. And if she does notice it, I wonder if she will SAY anything.”

For a brief moment I considered speaking up… bringing my reformed, prudent driving approach to her attention, just in case she hadn’t really noticed it on her own.

But then, in the very next instant, she DID notice! And she DID say something! And it was genuinely POSITIVE and AFFIRMING… something like, “Honey, you sure are doing a wonderful job behind the wheel there.”

I’m not going to lie… it was AWESOME! A real rush of validation and joy. It also gave me a real incentive to drive the same way the next time we are together.

As I reflected on my experience further, I realized Jesus had the same skill… the skill of noticing the unnoticed… and then COMMENTING on what he had noticed.

The stories of his noticing are legion; Jesus notices the little children the other people are trying to shoo away; he notices that power has gone out of him when the bleeding woman touches the hem of his robe; he notices the man who has been sitting by the pool of Bethsaida for 38 years, waiting to be healed; he notices the blind man by the side of the road; he notices the hypocrisy of the Pharisees; he notices the generosity of the widow bringing her small, insignificant coin to the Temple.

And so many more…

I guess you could say Jesus shows us that loving is noticing.

But as you watch him at work, it seems that the reverse is also true: Jesus also demonstrates his love in the act of NOT noticing.

He intentionally doesn’t notice the hideous condition of the leper’s skin as he reaches out and touches him; he doesn’t notice the lack of education or insight of the fishermen he calls to follow him as disciples; he doesn’t notice the second-class status of the women he chooses to include as partners in his ministry; he doesn’t notice the high social status of the religious officials who seek to discredit him; he doesn’t notice the sins of the woman caught in adultery.

I guess you could also say Jesus shows us that loving is not noticing.

It all makes me wonder: what am I noticing today? What am I NOT noticing?

And maybe more importantly: how are both my noticing and not noticing serving to demonstrate love?

So that’s what is on my heart today…

Thanks for noticing!

 

Abundant blessings;




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