It was a lovely April day. The temperature was mild, and the sun was shining. Every lawn was lush and green. The trees were budding forth with leaves and flowers, and I thought to myself what a beautiful day! I was walking our dog, Josie, through the neighborhood, listening to a novel on my iPod when it reached its conclusion. Never wanting to waste time, I stopped momentarily to start the next downloaded novel.
As Josie and I continued on our walk, I soon realized that I wasn’t even listening to the new book. I stopped again, turned off the iPod and thought I’ll just enjoy some quiet time. Being that my mind runs like a hamster on a wheel, never stopping, I began thinking. Thinking always leads me to wondering, which in turn takes me to God.
As I open the flue, that channel way that seems to connect me to God, I begin to pour out my thoughts. I have learned over the years to listen and try to be patient as I wait for God’s response. As my thoughts settle, my mind becomes quiet. I begin thinking about Bosco, our big white lab mix who had passed away just a month earlier. I asked God, as I often do when a parishioner passes away, how is Bosco doing? Is he OK?
All of a sudden, Bosco’s big smiling face appears in my mind. I look down at Josie and know we all miss him terribly. At that point, Josie pulls me toward a tree and I stop and notice for the first time in my life how striking and unique the bark of a tree is. I lean in and blurt out, “Wow, Lord that is amazing. Look at how intricate the bark is on that tree. And look the tree next to it has a completely different texture. Did you make every tree unique like this?”
There is silence. Complete silence. I look down and begin noticing leaves on all the vegetation around me in this intentional “green space” we have entered. This is my favorite part of the walk, but I’ve never really taken the time to look closely. I’ve grumbled about litter, but all along I’ve been missing the beauty on this little wooded path. How have I missed this? What is wrong with me? The words pop instantly into my mind, “breakneck speed.” “Deb, you are living at breakneck speed.”
I share this story with you because summer is upon us. I (we) have been living life, checking all those tasks off and completing all those projects, and in the same while, missing out on so much, maintaining relationships, enjoying God’s creation, and just plain noticing the little things.
The psalmist writes these words, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). I want to invite each of you to join me in slowing down. Become more observant. Soak in the world around you. Notice the little things. Listen more intently in your conversations with others. Live with a grateful heart. Practice being still with God.
Rev. Deb Patterson is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Delaware.