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Stopping To Notice

Three things are too wonderful for me;
 four I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
 the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
 and the way of a man with a maiden.

Proverbs 30:18-19

“What did you notice today?” That is a question that theologian Douglas Burton-Christie likes to ask his young daughter at the end of her day. Not the usual parent’s “What did you do?” but “What did you notice?” Burton-Christie says that in asking his daughter that question he finds himself “noticing a lot more.”

In today’s Scripture the wise man of Proverbs notices a lot. His inspired words come at the end of the Book of Proverbs’ long ode to wisdom as he tells of noticing the wonders in everyday life. He relates noticing things “too wonderful for me.” And what are they: an eagle in the sky, a snake gliding across a rock, a ship sailing the high seas, and the love of a man and woman.

The wise man’s Hebrew word pele’, translated “wonderful”, is used elsewhere in the Old Testament for the Lord Himself and for His works. The root of pele’ carries the idea of the supernatural; a marvelous work stirring awe and amazement. Pele’ is never used in the trivial sense of how we often say something is “wonderful”. Pele’ is only used of God and of what God does as astonishing, breathtaking, and a miracle (See Genesis 18:14; Exodus 15:11; Psalm 77:11; Lamentations 1:9; Daniel 12:6). But do we, like the wise man of Proverbs, stop to notice, to pay attention?

Writer and Christian apologist G. K. Chesterton noticed: “The world will never starve for want of wonders, but for want of wonder.” Like Burton-Christie and his daughter, we would do well to notice God’s daily wonders, to look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is astonishing! Breathtaking!  We daily pray for grace to open our eyes to see what angels see and are moved to worship: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of the LORD’S glory.” Philosopher and historian Thomas Carlyle was surely right: “Wonder is the basis of worship.” When we begin to notice, to pay attention, we, like the angels are moved to worship.

Noticing the wonder of God and His works is often called “contemplative living.” The word “contemplative” comes from a root word signifying “a place set aside for observation” (might we say, “a place set aside for noticing”!). See the root word “temple” right in the middle of the word “conTEMPLative: contemplative living moves us to notice and to worship God everywhere present to us.  We, like Jacob in the Book of Genesis, awaken from sleep to notice: “Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!” (Genesis 28:16). The world is, like Gerard Manley Hopkins said, “Charged with the glory of God.”

Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning would move us today to notice God and His wonders in lines from her poem “Aurora Lee”:

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, 
And every common bush afire with God, 
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

What did you notice today?

A fellow traveler,

P. S. For a spiritual discipline that you might find helpful for “noticing” God in your daily life, go to the Water from Rock website and listen to the eight minute SELAH podcast for January 9, “The Daily God Hunt.”

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