Learning to Pay Attention

22 Sep

It’s not that God is hiding. In fact, He usually puts Himself and His gifts to us right out there in plain view. It’s that we often don’t really pay attention.

Finding beauty, as it is described in the writing of Ann Voskamp that inspired the name of this blog — and my life’s mission (read it here), is “Never anything purchased with paper or change … only that which can be bought with attention.

This is the foundation of the journey we embark upon together. Whether you are a member of the Abundant Life Small Group at Manna Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina or a friend of a member who wants a piece of what we’re doing together or a ragamuffin who has stumbled upon this blog, God is inviting YOU to see him in a new way.

It’s kind of like those crazy Magic Eye posters that were so popular in the 90s that on the surface look like nothing at all. But when your eyes relax, and you look long enough, a 3D image appears. And once you see it, it’s nearly impossible to see the “nothing” ever again.

What does this look like when it comes to Gratitude? How can we give the things we experience and encounter all the time our full attention?

Try this. Picture yourself at the beach — any beach real or imagined — and then engage your senses. What can you see? What can you hear? What can you feel? What can you smell? What can you taste? (Note: This is easier with your eyes closed, so you may want to pause here for a few minutes and get into the scene.)

Now. Write it down. Write it ALL down. EVERYTHING you saw. EVERYTHING you heard. EVERYTHING you felt. EVERYTHING you smelled. EVERYTHING you tasted.

Too many times our Gratitude List begins and ends with an entry like this: “I am thankful for a Day at the Beach.” OR … “I praise you God for the beauty of the ocean.”

But with 5 ladies in 5 minutes, we got THIS….

  • Surf breaking on the rocks
  • Bonfires with embers floating to the sky
  • The space where the sky & water meet
  • A full moon
  • The entire Milky Way
  • Crabs running along the sand
  • Layers of all shades of blue
  • Clouds
  • Surf over the sand
  • A pier
  • White sands
  • Rock cliffs
  • A long stretch of golden sand
  • Moss on rocks
  • Painted toe nails
  • Time to be alone
  • Shells
  • Stars
  • Sailboats
  • The sound of crashing waves
  • A seagull’s call
  • Boat horns
  • A crackling fire
  • Laughter
  • The feel of sand in my toes
  • A cool breeze
  • Sun-kissed skin
  • My hair blowing in the wind
  • The smell of salty air
  • Coconut oil
  • The smell of the fire
  • Banana sandwiches
  • The salty taste on my tongue
  • Cold ginger ale
  • Beach houses
  • Tears
  • Stillness & Quiet
  • The rhythm of the waves
  • A feeling of peace
  • Noticing my own breath

Then, after a moment of silent watching, one friend calls out “I see dolphins!”

Now THAT’S a Gratitude List! And that’s paying attention to what God has ALREADY put in your life.

Ok, I’ll admit, it’s an easier exercise on the beach than in the grocery store, or your office, or in traffic, or at a 3rd Grade orchestra concert. OR maybe it’s not… once you learn to pay attention.

Share your list (from your beach visualization or ANYplace else) in the comments below!


4 responses to “Learning to Pay Attention

  1. Maria

    September 23, 2011 at 2:29 am

    Beth, I loved this list. Seeing in on this post I am still as amazed as last night when you showed us. The little things we notice when we take the time to really see. Hugs,

  2. Lillian

    September 22, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Thank you Beth for taking time for us. Blessings.

    • Just Beth

      September 22, 2011 at 9:51 pm

      It’s truly, truly my pleasure!


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