The Practice of Paying Attention


This is a guest post by Rev. John Bryant.

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This summer I am reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s excellent An Altar in the World with the Duke Field Education student working at Wesley Chapel. I love Taylor’s books because she crafts words and phrases in a way that always captures my imagination. An Altar in the World explores spiritual themes through simple practices. This week one of the chapters we read was on paying attention.

I like to think I am pretty good at paying attention, but I know the buzz of smartphones and social media leads me to be more distracted than I would like and probably more than I even realize. So I did my best to slow down and really digest her words, rather than scanning quickly through the chapter and moving on to the next thing.

I was reading outside on the porch and heard a buzzing sound off to my left. Assuming it was a Cicada Killer wasp or bumblebee checking out some flowers, I looked over just to make sure it was not getting too curious about me. To my surprise I saw a hummingbird hovering right off the edge of the porch. It stayed for a brief moment, then flew on.

4603495186_189549c3e1_zWhat a gift! I can’t remember the last time I saw a hummingbird not at a feeder. And to have it so close was an extra blessing.

I still can’t shake the irony of my gift also being a lesson. Had I not slowed down and paid attention, had I assumed I knew what was happening and not looked, I would have missed the gift.

Where have you paid attention and received a blessing this week?

JohnJohn Bryant is a participant in Group 2 of Spirited Life. He is the pastor at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church in Misenheimer, NC.  His blog can be found here:

Click for Rev. Bryant’s post, Pray without Ceasing.

Image by flickr user gainesp2003 via CC.

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