Paying Attention

by guest blogger Jennifer Drummond |



This spring I decided to begin a practice of bird watching.


The spot where I sip my coffee and pray in the morning has an expansive view of the front yard, so I figured I’d start there. I bought a bird feeder and hung it, with great expectation. For a day or two nothing changed as I waited, and I watched. Since “nothing was happening” I looked at the tree where the feeder hung, and used our old Field Guide to identify it. When the squirrels came before the birds did, my mom was the one to suggest safflower seed. Following her advice quickly eliminated the “Advance of the Crazy Squirrels”. In the absence of any birds, I studied the brown yard. I could hear the birds, but couldn’t see them yet: my ears couldn’t differentiate between a tweet, a tweedle or a trill. But then suddenly, movement on the ground caught my eye. Mourning Doves! The gentle coo was immensely satisfying as what I heard confirmed what I saw.


This active kind of waiting is hard work.


The following days and weeks were a delight, as I saw and heard more of the world in the front yard. Chickadees, cardinals, nuthatches - swirls of color and sound that were once foreign became much more familiar. One afternoon I came down to find my husband with his camera and my son jumping excitedly: “We’ve discovered a new bird - the tufted titmouse!” The excitement was contagious.


I’ve discovered looking for birds is like listening to God.


It starts with a desire and an intention. Something in us longs to see and hear God. We gather the necessary materials - an open heart, some quiet spaces. We wait, we watch. We look at other things around when “nothing seems to be happening.” Nothing changes...until something does. A color, a sound, some subtle movement catches our heart. We notice and we ponder. We wait some more. We notice things that maybe aren’t as colorful as what we imagine, and we wait. It happens over time: the more attentive we are, the more we see and hear. What was once completely foreign becomes familiar. Others around us give trusted advice, so that we can remove unnecessary distractions from the journey. Observations are affirmed as we wait and watch, with all our heart and mind.


We start at our own “front doors.”


The only place to start listening for God is right where we are. As we are aware of the colors and sounds, the people and experiences right in front of us, our ability to see and hear God grows. We share our observations with others and delight together in what we notice - the joy becomes contagious. This walking with others and noticing on the journey is the purpose and joy of spiritual direction. Where are you on the journey? What are you being drawn to notice, right outside your front door?


About Jennifer Drummond:


Jennifer lives with her husband, two middle school aged children, and one sweet puppy in Asbury Grove, a Methodist Summer Camp. She loves photographing flowers and trees, listening for birds and looking for beauty all around. In addition to providing spiritual direction, she reads voraciously by the fireplace and blogs somewhat regularly at “That Got Me Thinking.” 


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