For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Do You Notice?

We recently hosted a couple of good friends here for two weeks. I had no idea that the Lord was going to use them to teach me something profound: the importance of noticing things. It started after I picked them up at the airport in Frankfurt. We were driving through the countryside and he kept remarking about the farms that we passed. He mentioned how well-worked the soil was. He pointed out the sprouting potatoes and marvelled at the vineyards. "Amazing!" was his most popular phrase. I remembered that he had been raised on a farm and figured that he had an appreciation for the farm life and saw things that I didn't notice.

But it didn't stop there.

  • He studied the handrail heading up to our apartment and whistled. I thought, "He's the best carpenter I know. Maybe he sees something in that old wooden handrail that I don't see." 
  • The Cathedral took his breath away. That's common enough, but he studied the nooks and crannies of things. He marvelled at the effort it would take to build such a thing without power tools. "Amazing!"
  • Petite France was a maze of visual delights. He delighted in the construction methods and the cobblestones streets. But he also noticed the bird singing from a rooftop and grinned at the child eating an ice cream cone. "Amazing!"
  • Paris was an unending source of wonder. The Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Seine were all astonishing to him. So were the buds on the apple tree we would have hurried past if he had not stopped to point them out. "These are amazing!"
  • The Gardens of Versailles took his breath away. They are truly overwhelming. It is hard to imagine someone not being at least a little bit awed by them. He certainly was. But he also noticed the gravel and would often stop to pick up a stone that would elicit a whistle of approval. "Even the stones are beautiful. Absolutely amazing!"
From morning until night he pointed out things that brought delight to his soul. It could be the color of ice cream, the wood grain of the floor, or a bee on a flower. He noticed things that others missed or simply took for granted. 

It wasn't just physical objects. It was people, too. He would quickly engage with people, whether at a restaurant, a subway train, or in a park. He wanted to know everything about them. They didn't seem to mind, even though initially they were startled by his inquisitiveness. 

After attending a service at TICOS he talked about the people that he had met and what a thrill it was for him to encounter believers from around the world. After our life group he exclaimed "What a great group of people! Amazing!"

One might be tempted to think that my friend had lived an unscarred life, but it isn't the case. In fact in recent years they have experienced the death of family members, including a perfectly healthy son who died while out for a run. He and his wife have walked through the valley of the shadow of death and its pain still weighs heavily upon them at times. It would be easy for him to allow those losses to infect his whole soul. And he is aware of the pain of grief, but while he has been walking through the valley he notices the bark of the trees, the taste of carrots, and the crispness of the air. These things come from the hand of God and he gives God thanks for them. His faith in God runs deep.

When we give thanks for the smallest of things we are reminded of the presence and provision of God. The "grey misties" of life are slowly transformed into brilliant color. The fog begins to lift and we are filled with the knowledge of God's closeness and care. 

This is why we are told to rejoice over 150 times in the Bible and why the word "thanks" is mentioned over 160 times. But how do we begin to rejoice or give thanks if we do not notice things? Doesn't observation come before exclamation? 

Lord, you have created the world and all that is in it. It bears the marks of your hand and is a sign of your provision. Open my eyes notice what you have done. May I delight in the smallest of gifts that you send my way. I want to open my senses to notice the things around me. Cause me to be filled with wonder at the things you have brought into my life. Help me to delight in You, the giver of every good gift. I ask this in the name of your greatest gift, Jesus, Amen.

1 comment:

  1. I love It! Since moving to Oregon, Lydia and I cannot stop saying how amazing Mt.Hood is and the boys and Oregon natives keep asking what the big deal is. We respond, "It is a MOUNTAIN!!"