By Philip Ruge-Jones
What we notice makes a difference in our lives. Naming what we notice deepens that difference. And if what we name matters, we become more likely to notice it the next time around.
Pam was going through a hard time. Yet she vowed to look for blessings in the midst of the mess. She noticed the kind word spoken to her by Ralph who said to her, “I’ve been thinking about you and praying for you. I know this is a hard time.” Then Pam named the gift in that encounter, “Boy, does your telling me that you pray for me make a difference. Thank you.” Pam then finds herself noticing more subtle ways others walk with her through the hard stuff.
Noticing. Naming. New noticing.
This is true of seeing God’s presence in our lives. What if you noticed the best moment of a day, the one that felt very special, and found a way to name the way God is present in that one moment of the day? Try this experiment at least once this week.
Choose a moment that stands out to you and ask what God was/is doing in that moment. Perhaps you could name just one of the many things God did in that moment: God was _____________. Here is a short and very incomplete list of things God does. You could borrow one of these words or offer another idea of your own and finish the sentence naming what you have noticed.
saying healing rescuing delighting in
holding reorienting creating listening
helping supporting forgiving loving
demanding hoping crying laughing
challenging changing ignoring bringing together
renewing approaching inviting withdrawing
embracing loving gathering enlightening
asking defending guiding bringing good news
guiding caring for hoping for strengthening
opening naming freeing upholding
raising revealing releasing innovating
redeeming saving affirming denying
closing offering remembering reminding
providing smiting preserving ending
prevailing insisting persisting connecting
celebrating nudging tweaking restoring
Naming God’s activity sounds daunting. I better see how this can actually work in practice.
I am missing the presence of children in my life and run into a child I adore who gives me a hug. This gives me joy.
Of the many, many ways, God was in that moment I name one: God was affirming me in that child’s hug.
I did it! I am pleased. I hope you are not surprised to find that pastors also need to intentionally notice what God is doing. We do or we will miss God’s presence.
I suppose there were lots of other things that could be said about God’s presence in that hug. You maybe would have named what you noticed differently. Great.
If we talked together, we might see God’s presence even more clearly and complexly. But noticing and naming even a single way that God is present makes me more likely to see God showing up the next time.
I invite you to go back to the story of the kind exchange in the midst of hard times. What is one thing that you might say God was doing there?
Having practiced that try it once this week as you reflect on some one special thing that happens to you.
About the Author
Dr. Philip Ruge-Jones serves as pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Prior to that, he served for eighteen years as a professor of theology at Texas Lutheran University. When he is not ministering with the good people of Grace Lutheran, he travels the country to tell biblical stories and speak about God’s love.
This post was first published on the Grace Lutheran Church Pastor’s Blog on Feb. 1, 2019. Republished with permission of the author.