Practicing the Art of Paying Attention

Practicing the Art of Paying Attention

On the last day of 2017, my twenty-something girlfriend leaned toward me. “Do you have your one word for 2018?”

I gulped. “Not yet.”

“Well,”–Kara’s brown eyes still glimmered with anticipation–“when you do, I want to hear about it.”

“Uh. Sure,” I sputtered. “We’ll get together.”

In the freshness of 2017, Kara and I had huddled at the island in my kitchen eating chicken salad. Our conversation centered around the concept of prayerfully considering one word or phrase that sums up a spiritual practice or posture for intentional focus.

I’d shared my 2017 word and related Bible verses, and talked about the applications stirring in my heart. Next, Kara asked about a focus word for her. When one word raced into her mind, the excitement nearly toppled the kitchen stool supporting her.

That was then.

Not yet, my answer for 2018, stood out as a stark understatement. The idea of one year ending and a new one starting the next day hadn’t sunk in. Until Kara posed her question.

December 31st marked the absence of any real reflection on 2017 or goal setting for 2018.

Later in the day, seated in the passenger seat, I quieted my heart and breathed a prayer, “Lord, do You have a word for me to consider when I step into 2018 tomorrow? An area in which You’d like to see growth?”

One area? I expected the narrowing process to take some time. But before my hubby parked the car in our garage, a single word rose to the rim of my consciousness, as if whispered into my spirit by the Father.


I researched various nuances of the word attentive.

Being alert. Observant. Paying close attention. Undistracted.

That all shakes out to having a focal point and remaining focused.

My friend Rachel understands the value of choosing a focal point. As a photographer, she carefully adjusts her camera lens to capture a core image for each photo. Will she capture the scarred trunk of the maple as the center of attention? The green garnishing on the branches? Or will the focal point go to the caterpillar lunching on a leaf?

The lens setting Rachel chooses can cause all but the focal image to fade into the background. The background images still exist, but aren’t commanding all the attention and draining energy from the main focus.

Attentive may not be the word you chose for 2018, if choosing a word is even one of your spiritual practices, but paying attention to our focal point is essential if we wish to live life as Jesus followers.

Attentive may not be your focus word for 2018, but paying attention to our focal point is essential for all intentional Jesus followers. Click To Tweet

We all choose a focal point for our lives. We all place someone or something at the center. Even if we do so as a default. Without intention.

After considering the dictionary descriptions, my next step was to see what the Scripture had to say about paying close attention.

Three benefits to being attentive to God’s Word and His ways stood out to me.

Three benefits to being attentive to God's Word and His ways stood out to me. Click To Tweet

Paying close attention to what God says guards against drifting.

We must pay the most careful attention,
therefore, to what we have heard,
so that we do not drift away.
Hebrews 2:1, NIV

I experienced a visual last summer while kayaking with my then thirteen year old grandson. When my arms and shoulders grew tired of paddling, I withdrew the paddle from the lake and laid it across the kayak in front of me. Within three minutes, he was many yards ahead of me. Partly because Ryan was paddling. Also because I’d begun to drift backward.

What happens when we’re not intentional about our spiritual direction and paying close attention? We drift.

We move forward or go backward. There’s no standing still in life’s  swift and swirling current.

The prophet Jeremiah said that because the Israelites did not listen or pay attention, they followed the stubborn inclinations of  their evil hearts. They went backward, not forward. (Jeremiah 7:24)

Being attentive positions hearts to listen.

“’Pay attention, Job, and listen to me;
be silent, and I will speak.‘”
Jeremiah 33:31, NIV

Hmm. I’ll improve in the area of paying attention when I become more intentional about silencing myself and listening for His leading.

Paying close attention to what God says brings peace.

Listen to how the prophet Isaiah recorded it.

This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to my commands,
your peace would have been like a river,
your well-being like the waves of the sea.‘”
Isaiah 48:17-18, NIV

Peace that backs down fear. Peace that satisfies. Peace that passes all understanding. If we’re paying attention to God’s Word and the counsel of the Holy Spirit, you and I can breathe in that kind of peace.

What or who is it that is capturing your attention, distracting you today?

Lord God, make me more aware of Your constant presence. Help me pay attention to the working of Your hand and heart.   Woo me with Your Word. Tune my heart to hear Your voice and to sing Your praise. Fix my eyes on Jesus, my Good Shepherd. For Your glory. Thank you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I’d love to hear from you . . .

  • What practices help you observe God’s ways and remain attentive to His leading?
  • If you chose a focus or growth word or phrase for 2018, will you share it with us?
What practices help you observe God's ways and remain attentive to His leading? Click To Tweet


NOTE: For more time to work on my next book, I am cutting back on the frequency of my blog posts. Look for them on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month, beginning on Monday, February 5th.


You might also like to read:

A Cheat Sheet for Defeating Distractions

12 Bible Verses to Live By in 2018

Victim of Grace: An Amazing Truth Every Woman Should Know

Comments 5

  1. My word for 2018 is “savor”. I need to take time to enjoy all the little blessings of each day. This will keep me more in the moment. It will help me to breathe and slow my pace just a wee bit. Getting ready to write about this for my next writer’s group meeting!

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  2. “What happens when we’re not intentional about our spiritual direction and paying close attention? We drift.”. This part of the post caught my attention the most and and made me think about my life. Thanks and MH and may God bless you always

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