The Attentive Life

ATTENTIVENESS: Stepping Into Attentiveness by Leighton Ford

July 13, 2018

From The Attentive Life Is attentiveness a gift to use? an art to practice? a work to perform?  It seems to include some of all three.  But it is certainly a call of God, and it is the call and practice that I myself hope to awaken to, more and more, in the writing of this book. Agnes Cunningham, a writer and teacher, discovered as a thirteen-year-old in her first year of high school that she had an unusual ability to listen.  One of her classmates had given a report about which Agnes was assigned to write an essay.  Later her English teacher summoned her to explain how she had been able to give an almost word-for-word version of what her classmate said.  Had she copied it from her paper? “I just listened to what she was saying,” [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Can We Learn To Be Attentive? by Leighton Ford

June 29, 2018

From The Attentive Life Some people seem to be born with a special “attentiveness quotient.”  Great athletes are gifted in this way.  Ted Williams, perhaps the greatest baseball hitter of all time, was immensely endowed with athletic vision.  He allowed that hitting a baseball is the single most difficult thing to do in sports.  Yet at the height of his career with the Boston Red Sox, his eyesight was so legendary that it was claimed he could see the seams on a ninety-mile-an-hour fastball!  Some physicists who have studied batting pooh-pooh this, saying it is impossible.  Yet one sportswriter said that trying to get a fastball past Ted Williams was “like trying to get a sunbeam past a rooster.” Take another fabled figure, [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Paying Attention—The Qualities Of Attentiveness by Leighton Ford

June 22, 2018

From The Attentive Life Poets, writers, artists, naturalists all help us to understand what it means to “attend” and teach us that we can think of attentiveness in many ways. Being fully present in the moment.  “Simple attention to the present.  In these moments of attention to the present, each moment stands alone and becomes a visitation, a presence in its own right.” Looking long enough.  “If one looks long enough at almost anything, looks with absolute attention at a flower, a stone, the bark of a tree, grass, snow, a cloud, something like revelation takes place.  Something is ‘given,’ and perhaps that something is always a reality outside the self.” Looking freshly at what is familiar.  Harvard naturalist [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Paying Attention—Welcoming God’s Attention, Or Not by Leighton Ford

June 15, 2018

From The Attentive Life There are people whose attentions we resent because they are very annoying.  And it may be that sometimes we resent God’s attentions not so much out of a reasoned denial of his existence as from a deep instinctive refusal to conform to what we perceive as some kind of celestial busybody who tries to run everyone else’s affairs. Simon Tugwell is a British scholar who has a deep understanding of how our imaginative “cramps” – our pictures of God – affect our belief, or lack of it.  He remembers from his childhood an old Book of Common Prayer with a picture of Guy Fawkes trying to sneak a bomb into the Houses of Parliament.  At the top of the picture was an enormous eye watching him.  Here was an image [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Paying Attention—What Would It Be Like If God Did Not Pay Attention? by Leighton Ford

June 8, 2018

From The Attentive Life What if he did withdraw it from us?  G. K. Chesterton suggested that the sun rises over and over again because God is enjoying it so much!  Suppose his mind wandered and he forgot what time it was, and sunrise and sunset did not happen? What if God simply got bored with the banality of our evil and overlooked seedtime and harvest?  Or if he got distracted with the other billions of planets and forgot when it was our time to be born?  Or to die? One night when David the shepherd king could not sleep, with the weight of his nation on his shoulders and his soul, he lay awake remembering the long nights out in the fields when he was a boy watching to protect the flocks from wolves.  Perhaps that night he composed [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Paying Attention—The Mindfulness Of God by Leighton Ford

June 1, 2018

From The Attentive Life This God creates, playfully, purposefully – out of nothing – space and stars, sun and moon, light and darkness, dandelions and donkeys, whales and kingfishers, and a handsome couple.  And then he doesn’t get bored: he sees everything he has made and takes delight in it.  And instead of standing at a distance, he comes to visit his creatures in a garden in the cool of the evening. But things don’t go happily ever after.  Still, when Adam and Eve are not mindful of him and the good boundaries he has set, he doesn’t walk away and wash his hands.  He walks in the spoiled garden and calls, “Where are you?” – still paying attention. Later he does wash the whole world he made with a flood.  But even [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Paying Attention—The God Who Attends To Us by Leighton Ford

May 25, 2018

From The Attentive Life The story of the Bible is not merely the story of a deity who launched the cosmos and then turned his attention elsewhere.  Quite the contrary: it reveals a God who is mindful, who keeps paying attention, whose mind does not wander!  He is a Father who watches with careful attention. This is the very nature of God, and a truth that touches the deepest longings of our lives. Bilquis Sheikh, a Muslim woman, was brought to faith in Christ by coming to know God as a loving Father.  She describes the moment after a long search when this truth seized her imagination: “A breakthrough of hope flooded me.  Suppose God were like a father?  If my Earthly father would put aside everything to listen to me, why wouldn’t [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: The God Who Pays Attention by Leighton Ford

May 13, 2018

From The Attentive Life Friends (and some not-so-friendly persons) are always emailing stuff that I didn’t ask for and usually don’t want.  Most often I just hit delete.  But one forwarded message insisted I pull it up.  In astonishment I watched “The Power of Ten,” a series of images showing our galaxy from the most distant reaches to one of the tiniest particles of our Earth. Beginning with images of the Milky Way ten million light-years from the Earth, it moved through space in successive leaps through our solar system to the orbits of the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, to our Earth and the Western Hemisphere, down to the southeastern United States and to Tallahassee, Florida.  At Tallahassee it zoomed in to [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Paying Attention—Paying Attention To The Other by Leighton Ford

May 4, 2018

From The Attentive Life Attentiveness means respecting, attending to, waiting on, looking at, and listening to the other – the persons and things that we encounter – for what they are in themselves, not what we can make of them.  We are called to pay attention to the Other – our Creator God – to know and worship him. Paradoxically, attentiveness may be just the opposite of “fixing our attention.”  Instead it involves a letting go of our usual need to control, an opening of ourselves to what we are being told or shown. Our instinct is to hold on. Elia Kazan said of the poet Sylvia Plath that “the world for Sylvia Plath only existed for her to write about.”  Plath paid attention to her work and her words, but the [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Paying Attention—Pay Attention by Leighton Ford

April 27, 2018

From The Attentive Life From the time we were children we were told to “pay attention,” as if this were the simplest thing in the world.  But in fact attentiveness is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp and one of the hardest disciplines to learn.  For we are very distractible people in a very distracting world. God wants us to be attentive people, as he is an attentive God.  Many of the words of God in the Bible call his people to “look,” “see,” “listen,” “give heed.”  Jesus (as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson in The Message) said in his Sermon on the Mount, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now,” (Matthew 6:34).  The influential French writer Simone Weil believed that attention is [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Paying Attention—An Invitation To Practice The Hours by Leighton Ford

April 20, 2018

From The Attentive Life Observing the hours can be a helpful practice for us in learning to pay attention to God throughout our days.  Further, the hours can also be an illuminating way to reflect on the seasons or passages of our lives.  I invite you to explore with me as we pay attention to how God has been and is at work in each of the “hours” we have lived. Our word hour goes back to the Greek word, hora, which, David Steindl-Rast points out, originally meant more than a unit of time. It was “not a numerical measure,” he writes, “but a soul measure.”  Isn’t it true that we usually think of the seasons of the year less in terms of the dates they begin and end than in terms of their effect on us: the cold of winter, the [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Paying Attention—The Hours Of Our Lives (The Benedictine Hours) by Leighton Ford

April 13, 2018

From The Attentive Life Matins, lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers, compline – that your hours will pierce me with arrows and sounds of praise. (Luci Shaw) Time is not our enemy, nor is it a hostile place from which we must flee. It is a meeting place, a point of rendezvous with God. (Dorothy Bass, Receiving the Day) Seven times a day do I praise you. (Psalm 119:164) Long centuries ago a young poet recorded praise to God that rose up in his heart seven times a day.  We can surmise that he was young, because the very long psalm he wrote (the longest of all the psalms) records the longing of a young man to keep his way pure by paying attention to the words of God. Could it be that this young poet, like David the shepherd boy, was an [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: An Introduction —Short Flights And Quick Returns by Leighton Ford

April 7, 2018

From The Attentive Life I am sitting on a bench at Lost Lagoon, on the edge of the hundreds and hundreds of acres of trees and trails that make up the vast Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada.  Behind me are the tall buildings of the city.  Surrounding the park on three sides are the waters of English Bay and Burrard Inlet.  In the background, clouds hover over the mountains that slope down to frame Vancouver – my favorite city in the world, at least to visit. For much of the past decade and a half I have been coming here for a summertime pilgrimage.  I call it a pilgrimage not because Vancouver is such a holy place but because I can get away from my usual routines and hopefully resharpen my attentiveness and imagination. It is a lazy [...]