The Cost of Paying Attention

June 7, 2016
Micki Ann Harris


What do you see?

What do you hear?



We sat cross-legged on the trampoline, together yet facing different directions. Eliana 6 years old and me 50-something. She looking toward the pond and barn, me - the ravine and woods.

We had determined to step out in nature and be more aware than usual, and these were the questions we chose to answer. So, we took some time to write down and share our observations, starting with the things we could see just by looking straight ahead, as if we were capturing an image in a snap-shot so we could share it with a friend.

Who knew there were so many shades of green. How did everything leaf-out so suddenly? Weren’t these trees quite bare just a few weeks ago? Look at the way the light twinkles atop the pond ripples.

Then, we closed our eyes for 5 minutes just to listen:

Steadily, it seemed someone was turning up the volume of the birdsong channel growing louder than we had recognized when it was merely background music. So few visible, so many present. One bird calling, another responding. Most were pleasant and lyrical, one (a pesky crow) disruptive and annoying.

And then there was the mutual giggle as a lone bullfrog made himself known, or at least as we became sonically aware that he was one of the characters in our scene.

Smells of freshly mown grass, and perfumey color-clusters blooming high up in the trees. Spring’s delectable sweetness... growing ever more fragrant simply by our awareness of it.

And, what did we feel?

Well, there was the warmth of the sun on our faces, tempered by the cool breeze. A hair blew in my mouth, an ant scurried across her foot. Inside? Peace. Contentment. The bond between us cozily tightened just by being together in each moment….just by being. Being - together.

It was an exercise in paying attention, and the only payment attention requires is the currency of being fully present in the moment. But, in our day it does indeed cost us something.

When I became a new parent, I was so hungry for wisdom and desired to learn anything I could to “do it right.” I remember reading a book on one facet of instilling a healthy sense of self-worth and esteem in your child. The prescription? Just be fully present in their world for at least a half hour a day.

The point was to put down all of the tasks, sit on the floor, look them straight in the eye and play whatever they wanted to play, read whatever they wanted to read, talk about whatever their tiny minds were thinking, and to simply be… fully engaged. Seems so simple, but it was a very difficult thing to do in reality. So many other to-do’s screaming for my attention.

It is the same thing for all relationships, really. You matter to me. Therefore, I will be fully present to you. I want to really see you, hear you... KNOW you. It’s intimacy.

I wonder how much we would grow in our own sense of worth, security and identity if we were just to allow ourselves to be fully present to God, even for just that prescribed 30 minutes a day. Just cognitive of His awareness of me — that he sees all of me, hears what is spoken and unspoken and intimately knows and loves me.

To be perceived by the glad gaze of the Father, quieted by His affirming delight, secure in His company. If we could say with the psalmist and without fear, “Search me and know me….”


How much anxiety would slough away if we were to consciously abide and rest in our awareness of Him, moment by moment… That He is here. That He is God. That He is good. That He is in control…

To hear Him say,

“Be still and know that I am God.”



Turn down the volume,

Look up from the screens,

Take your foot off the accelerator. Brake.

Be still.


Stop to pay attention to your life.

It may be very noisy once you stop to listen...There may be a lot of inner chaos and dissonance. But, there is a stillness to be found, there is a place of quiet and rest much as is found by a frantic child who is calmed and comforted in its parent’s strong and reassuring embrace. The settledness and peace found when we are enveloped in the strength of Love.  

“Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul;

like a weaned child with his mother,

like a weaned child is my soul within me [ceased from fretting].”

I am learning that prayer is not only words and feelings,

but also silence, intimacy and knowing. It is communion.

It is an exercise in paying attention.

It will indeed cost you something, but it is an investment with guaranteed returns.


Psalm 139:23, Psalm 46:10, Psalm 131:2