Paying Attention

Paying attention

Standing in the kitchen prepping dinner I hear Charlotte’s voice, “Summer school begins May 31…” I peek my head into the dining room and watch Charlotte hold the school calendar in her hands reading the words before her. As a 1st grader she’s able to see things now that she couldn’t before. She’s paying attention in a whole new way. Last year she memorized sight words and started learning the sounds of letters. Today, she’s putting the sounds and letters together. Whether it’s road signs, restaurant menus, books, shirts, newspapers, magazines, cereal boxes, or food labels, Charlotte delights in reading the words herself. Her world is opening up right before her eyes.

What I love is that she has been surrounded by words her whole life, but now they are meeting her in new and marvelous ways. While reading books her pointer finger moves from word to word. She laughs, “This is so easy.” I can’t help but think that this is just the beginning  for her. This will encourage her to pay more attention to the world around her. To really see and read the things in front of her – a friend in distress, an injustice, a community need. I pray Charlotte will pay attention to the voices which are usually silenced. I pray that during times of unrest (or heaven forbid more war) she’ll pay attention to the cries for peace and see the resounding chorus of hope and connection between all people; every new word an offering of all that’s possible.

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Over the last five weeks our church hosted 17 art prints from The Saint John’s Bible. This exhibition is devoted to a single work of art: an illuminated and handwritten Bible commissioned by Saint John’s University and Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. This contemporary Bible is at once old and new: a masterpiece of the ancient crafts of calligraphy and illumination that could only be made by artists of today. It is truly a work of art and a work of theology as it invites us to experience God’s Word in ways beyond reading or hearing, but seeing through stunning visual art.

I’ve been hearing and reading the Bible for much of my life – Sunday worship, Sunday school, college campus ministry, religion courses, seminary – but I am still always seeing and learning something new from God’s word. And during these past few weeks with The Saint John’s Bible, I’ve been able to pay attention to the stories with fresh eyes:

Jesus in jeans as the sower, a menorah as Jesus’ family tree, a double helix incorporated into Jesus’ lineage, pieces of the illuminations breaking the boundary of the art

These illuminations sparked my imagination. When I’ve been unable to pray or felt the weight of hopelessness, these prints have drawn me back into God’s good creation. They’ve invited me to see the world in front of me with new eyes. Mary Oliver wrote, “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” May this act of paying attention be our work.

What has caught your attention these days?

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is a mother, wrier, and pastor living in Central Missouri with her family. You can read more at her website: Kimberlyknowlezeller.com. If you’d like to read more from Kim, you can sign up for her monthly newsletter, Walk and Talk here. As a gift to her readers and subscribers who sign up, she has a free downloadable resource: Walk and Talk with God: Reflection, Scripture references, and a how-to for your own contemplative walk.

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