Taking Time to Notice
by Carolyn Sowinski
July 28, 2014

The phrase “taking time to notice” caught my attention in the monthly message written by ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton (The Lutheran, August 2014 issue). While she wrote about noticing signs of life in congregations, my brain took off in a different direction.

It has been several weeks since my last blog post. I have been keeping my eyes and ears open for an idea, but I have been either uninspired, in a spiritual desert, too busy for reflection, or didn’t have my blinders off to see the possibilities–until now.

What do you notice, when you take the time? Here are some possibilities.

I notice needs, wants, challenges, and the haves vs the have nots. Living in the DC area it is impossible not to feel and see politics wrapped in every need, cause, or decision facing our community, our country, or our world. And sometimes compassion for others gets lost in the political discourse, conversation, argument or television soundbite.

What do we do about
1. the children fleeing other countries hoping for a better life in the US.
2. wars, conflicts, destruction, and horrific, senseless deaths.
3. homelessness and poverty–we all see or try not to see the beggars at our intersections
4. abuse and shame
5. unemployment or underemployment
This overwhelming list of needs goes on.

Sometimes is it easy to see the problems and forget to balance our lives with the beautiful. What beautiful things do we notice in our communities? Here are some possibilities:

1. Our landscape– the flowers in the spring; the Crepe Myrtles in summer; the colorful leaves in the fall; fresh snow in the winter. The warm sun and changing moon. Crops in the fields; shared harvests.

2. Our music and art–in all its variety of sound, sight, and touch.

3. Our lives and how we feel. When we walk, exercise, meditate with yoga, do we feel the benefits of our activity?

4. Our congregations addressing the spiritual and sometimes physical needs of their members and community. Congregation have ministries which reach outside their walls: Outreach groups, Social Justice, Social Ministry, food donations, Stephen ministers. We care for our neighbors in a variety of ways. God’s Work, Our Hands

5. Our Gifts of Hope agencies address these needs, ministering to an individual/family’s emotional and physical needs, This past week two of our GOH agencies were in the news. First, the work of N Street Village was highlighted in a Petula Dvorak column in the Washington Post. She used NSV as a model of how our community cares for the homeless–in stark contrast the the District’s failures at its main homeless shelter: DC General. Second, NPR/WAMU had a story about Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area programs which place refugee children in foster care. Our agencies offer care, compassion and support as they address a myriad of needs in our community.

6. The Holy Spirit in action. When a task that lies before me seems too difficult, too time consuming, or I am just not sure the direction to take, answers appear and I remember to say thank you –to the person and to God. I thank God because I have no other explanation than the person who can help is placed in front of me–all I need to do is ask or start talking about my need. Here is one story:

This past spring I began planning for our second annual GOH Benefit Concert, but I had not decided who I would ask to be the guest musician, nor the genre of music. Last fall’s concert was a pipe organ recital. This year’s possibilities seemed endless. I chose not to act too quickly, trusting that God would lead me in the correct direction.

To make a long story short, my path crossed with a fellow singer in Choral Arts Society of Washington–outside of rehearsals. At the moment I saw Lizabeth Flood, I knew that she would be perfect for the concert. But was she interested. Before I asked her I prepared my ‘spiel’–all my reasons why I thought she would be a wonderful musician for the concert. When we spoke, she said yes, even before I could give her my ‘spiel’. I trust that this collaboration of Gifts of Hope and the piano and vocal styles of Lizabeth Flood are meant to be. And I also know that God, via the Holy Spirit, guided our paths so that they crossed on a Sunday afternoon in May.