Monday, September 12, 2011

On Being Attentive -- One Thing, Part 2

As I said in an earlier post, I often notice that I've driven the 22 miles (though according to Mapquest it's really only 20.59 miles) to work without being fully present to the sights and sites around me. And, in so doing, I miss living large chunks of my in the present -- the only place where I can truly live. Or experience God.

It's not that when I think of things past or solve problems future that I cannot encounter God in them. I can. But I don't really experience God in them. I remember God working in the past and pray for God to be with me in the future, but the only place I can really experience God's presence is in the present.

While I live in the country, I work in the heart of the city. I often find it easy to be attentive to the present and the possibility of God-surprises whilst walking in the prairie. But once I jump in the car and turn the ignition and make my way to the city, I lose track of attention. I slip into auto-driver mode. In doing so, I discount the possibility of an encounter with God in a place where I spend at least 1/3 of my life. So I need to learn to be attentive to both those places -- country and city -- for possible God-sightings.

Today I decided to practice attentiveness on my way to town. And, like my experiment yesterday of paying attention to single things, I decided that would do so on my way to work. I would not try to take in the civic panorama in its vastness. Instead, I would look for "ones".

It started easily enough. Traveling on the highway, glanced in my rear view mirror. A car was closing on me fast. I mean really fast. Blue and red lights flashed. It was a state policeman on a run. I prayed for him, that he would be safe in his hurry. Then I noticed a pillar of smoke in the westbound lanes. As I approached, I saw that it was a car on fire. One car. Blazing tires and engine and body; belching smoke. The state policeman had pulled a quick U-turn and was heading to the car. The fire department had just arrived and by the time I passed the scene, the car was not to be seen -- it was hidden amid the belching smoke and billowing steam from the water being poured on the car. And so I prayed God's blessing on the driver of that car -- a blessing for her or his safety and comfort.

As I rounded the bend in the highway that leads into the city, I beheld our midwestern skyline. Surely nothing nearly as spectacular as New York or Chicago's, but still with buildings reaching for the sky. The tallest one caught my attention. I can't tell you its current name. It's a bank building (at least I think it still is). And I remembered that yesterday was the tenth anniversary of 9/11 when terrorists decided to crash airplanes into tall buildings. I saw the building from the west, the south, the east, and the north as I made my way to my office. And I prayed for it and the people who would work in that singular structure. I prayed that they would experience life-giving moments inside that conglomeration of concrete, steel, and glass -- that their day there would be more than drudgery, but that it would have moments of joy.

Then, as I walked from the parking lot to my office, I passed a bench on the walkway that passes by my windows. One, stretched out, was an old pair of khaki pants. Forlorn. Tattered. Left by who? And why? And so I prayed for their owner, for whatever needs he had. For a sense of God's presence for him.

As I walked on, I thought of how often I would have passed those 45 minutes completely oblivious to the opportunity to pray and experience God. And I prayed, and continue to pray, for an attentive spirit.

Even as it comes one thing at time.

-- Brent

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