The birds and I flit about in this gray dawn inspecting windfall treasures, breathing the dense perfume of damp earth and spectacular blossoms. The trees wait in silence for whatever happens next and now so do I. This day is one that God has made; he has a plan, and I will stay alert to it. If winds blow and whip me, may treasures fall about for those in need. Meanwhile I’ll drink deeply of the love soaking in and pray that my aroma is a blessing.
One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, captured a key element of how to live a meaningful life with her famous three phrases: “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”. It is so easy to just keep on keeping on without noticing the wonders around us.
The women I join for morning walks in our Detroit neighborhood were just talking about this the other day. I pointed out a young man that we all recognize and called out a greeting to him as he moved quickly down the sidewalk on the other side of the street; he is out there every morning, his limp and strong stride setting him apart. My friend Kitty looked up, startled, and said, “I need to pay attention. I didn’t notice him!” From then on we made a point of commenting on whatever we were noticing – blossoming trees, new fences, daffodils. It is spring, and even in a gray dawn with cold wind whipping by, there is beauty.
I wrote the poem above, “The Alert Wait,” when I was back in my “sacred grove” beside my home in Ferkessédougou. The seasons were changing, dry season gradually giving way to the rains. We had had a rain that night and the ground was drenched; the wind had ripped new blossoms off the frangipani trees and their aroma was gently blending with the strong smell of wet dirt. I walked around then sat in silence, absorbing it all, grateful for the moment of peace and contemplation.
What was going to happen that day? I’m sure you’ve wondered that many times too, as you rise and look out the window. What is God planning for me to do? How does God want me to be his servant today? Will there be another dilemma? Am I going to be frazzled, or will there be peace?
What I was hearing then, and what I hear now when I remember to put myself on alert, is that he does have a plan and I just need to be listening, paying attention. My friend Kitty’s remark about doing that made all the difference on what we gleaned that day on our walk. It reminded me that I want every day to be like that. I want to notice what is happening around me, and see my Father’s fingerprints. I want his work in me to flow out to others, impacting them in the way he desires. It is a daily learning curve.
This poem is included in the collection that I just had published, When He Whispers: Learning to Listen on the Journey (https://www.westbowpress.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/824658-when-he-whispers and also on Amazon). You can join me in learning to wait alertly, paying attention to evidence of Abba’s handiwork and his personal messages!