Why do people like dogs?
One reason is they pay attention to you.
Here are two ways in which we often fail to pay attention.
For months I went for long walks with a neighbor. I’ll call him ‘George’ (not his real name).
He talked almost all the time. Nothing mattered but his subject and his opinion.
Sometimes I tried to introduce another topic. It didn’t make any difference.
Now I’m friendly, but I’m not available for walks with him.
He’s never asked why.
My conclusion is that ‘George’ is so self-absorbed and self-centered, it’s as if others don’t exist.
Even though we walked side-by-side, he wasn’t “present” or attending to our relationship. ‘George’ didn’t want a friend; he wanted an audience.
Our minds are often in the past or the future, not the present.
You’re having a conversation with someone. As he or she speaks, what are you thinking? Are you listening to what is being spoken? Or, are you thinking about what you want to say? Perhaps you’re thinking of something completely unrelated to the conversation.
It’s not that your past and future are unimportant – they are; it’s that we need to be present or to attend to the other person in the “now.”
Jean-Pierre de Cassaude (1674-1751) is the author of The Sacrament of the Present Moment. In it, he illustrated “now.”
Two sheets of paper are placed edge-to-edge. One page represents your past, the other your future. The line between the sheets is “now.”
I wonder how little we attend to God in the “now”?
Two problems in our relationship with God may be:
- self-centeredness; and,
- not attending to Him in the present.
Let’s consider a remedy.
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
What does it mean?
The psalmist first draws our attention to the instability of the earth with its landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and volcanoes (verses 1-3).
Next, he comments on the instability of world politics with the aggression and collapse of nations (verses 4-7).
The two big things in our lives – the earth we live on, and the empire we live in – are unstable and temporary. Through it all, there is only One who is over both the earth and the nations; he is unchangeable and permanent (verses 8-9). He “is our fortress.”
Note that it is God Himself who is speaking: “I am God.”
What does it mean to “be still”?
“Be still” translates the Hebrew word raphah. It has this sense: “cause yourself to relax, cease from your striving, sink down and be settled.”
How do you understand “know that I am God”?
In The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence (ca. 1640-1691) writes:
We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure.
To attend to God is to begin to know Him.
To begin to know Him is to love Him.
Choose a quiet time and place. Turn off your cell phone and put a note on the door so you won’t be disturbed.
Now sit, close your eyes, and “be still” – “cause yourself to relax, cease from your striving, sink down, and be settled.” Easier said than done.
Start with two minutes to attend to God; be present to Him.
In attending to God, perhaps you begin to be more aware that “God is love,” or he is faithful, or he entirely accepts you.
Your mind will wander. Draw it back to the present moment.
‘A’ is for attending to God, and God alone, for two minutes.
See what happens when you pay attention to God.
Photo credit: Jamfogarty IMG_0455 taken October 6, 2010. Obtained from Flickr.
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