Knack for Noticing Blog

Knack for Noticing


Welcome to my blog Knack for Noticing (KFN). KFN is my label for hyper-attentiveness to  what God is doing in my inner life, the lives of those around me, and the life of the wider community. This includes attentiveness to interesting stray thoughts, images, metaphors, stories, memories, and conversations.  

Many of us go through life seeing things in a surface way but not really noticing them. We need to cultivate KFN, as teachers, preachers, and as people of faith in whatever role we play in life. The KFN blog is not just for teachers and preachers, though it will provide a quirky, creative source of anecdotes and kernels of insight for your lessons and sermons. It is for anyone who wants to heighten your awareness of what God is doing in the world around you and within you each day.  I write about it in my book Novel Preaching: Tips from Top Writers on Crafting Creative Sermons (Westminster John Knox Press, 2010). I’ll share more thoughts from the book in future blog entries.

For now, it’s enough to point out that the great mystics of every religion have recommended attentiveness as a spiritual posture for living each day.

This blog will not just be a record of my attentiveness to the details of my everyday life; I hope it will become a group conversation in which many people share their daily insights.

I won’t attempt to make a coherent sermonette out of each of my blog entry. It may have a random feel to it. It may at times be silly because sometimes I am. I invite you to respond with what you’re noticing in your daily life. Your observations could be images, conversations you have or overhear, stories you read, see or experience, memories, insights from something you read, random profound thoughts the world needs for you to record before they slip away….For those of you who are preachers, they’re often the things you notice that create a pinprick  in your brain that says “That’ll preach.” Unless we record them, they slip away and are forgotten.

 I’m hoping we can create a community of attentive” God-watchers,” people with a highly developed “knack for noticing,” whose sharing of our insights benefits our own spiritual growth as well as those with whom we interact each day.

May 19, 2010 A Lesson from the Washeteria

Usually I read while walking on my treadmill. Yesterday I found myself watching the View. That’s not always a particularly fruitful experience. A few months ago I realized that I was actually listening to the View women debate health care! But, yesterday I picked up a tidbit that might teach or preach. Fred Thompson, actor turned politician was a guest, there to  promote his memoir that came out this month called Teaching a Pig to Dance, an account of his 1950’s era upbringing in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. The title comes from the old saying describing a fruitless endeavor, “It’s like teaching a pig to dance. It’s a waste of your time and it irritates the pig.” The memoir promises to be full of humorous anecdotes, kind of a “Southern Fried Lake Woebegone.”  On the show he told the story of being a young father charged by his wife with taking the dirty diapers to the local washeteria. (Translation: Laundromat)There were lots of young moms in there, and he was trying to look like he knew what he was doing. He put a big load of dirty diapers into an industrial sized machine and added enough quarters for it to run quite a while.  Only then did he realize he’s put them into a dryer, not a washing machine. And once he realized it, wasn’t sure how to rectify it without looking foolish. Sooner or later if we’ve postponed dealing with a nasty problem, the day of reckoning comes. I’m glad I wasn’t within smelling distance of the moment he opened the dryer door.

Too Busy for Celebration

In preparation for a Bible study I help lead at a halfway house for women addicts (Recovery House in Dallas), I was reading a book called Treasuring the Treasure: Exploring Spirituality by Ronald N. Beshara, STL, JCL. It’s a helpful, practical book, the fruit of Monsignor Beshara’s 30 years of ministry as a parish priest, which includes several years of hospital, prison and substance abuse counseling.  One of his insights is that many of us in 21st century America are so obsessed with doing that we have lost touch with being. Now that is not a new insight. Many of us suspect what we call our “work ethic” is actually “works righteousness.” The doing/ being comment is not going to be a game changer for us. It may have been said so often that it bores us. But Monsignor Beshara gives it a couple of knife twists that made me feel some pain.

  1. 1.       “Some of us believe that spirituality is about getting something rather than being someone. Our spiritual yearning leaves us rushing to preconceived destinations while neglecting the very journey….”p. 3
  2. 2.       We are so caught up in our “to do” lists that we moan and groan about happy events because they cut in to our doing time. Regrettably, life events become less celebrations and more obligations.” (vi)

All right, that gets KFN rolling.  Let me know what you’re noticing and we’ll get this conversation started. I look forward to hearing from you!

About Alyce McKenzie
  • Sue Gross

    Today, I realized I am impatient when my computer is running slow. I’ve preached about how we are a society of people who need immediate gratification. When the computer was running slower than normal today, I began to look for something to do between those internminable page changes. Of course there is solitaire, which is almost always at the ready to fill the time. It suddenly occurred to me that I was one of those wanting everything done faster. I guess I need to listen to myself when I preach…
    Monsignor Beshara’s comment about our “to do” lists keeping us from enjoying family and friends was an eye opening statement for me. Too often, I begin sentences with “I have to do this,” instead of looking forward to being with others and enjoying the moment.
    It has occurred to me that maybe we should take a lesson from the British and adopt a teatime. I know we have coffee breaks, but it just doesn’t seem to be the same as the teatime in Britain. They actually stop what they are doing, and socialize with their family, friends, or coworkers. When I used to work in an office with several people, coffee breaks usually were a time to convince your coworkers you were more busy or had a worse boss than anyone else at the table.
    Tea-time is a perfect opportunity to thrash out problems in a group environment. It’s a casual setting when anyone can bring up any issue for discussion. The result will be many facinating conversations. Teatime is not a waste of time as some may think, it is a time when we can share knowledge, broaden our thinking and add a little variety to life.

    • alycemck

      I relate to your comment about coffee time and tea- time. We should start a tea time movement! When I was in parish ministry full time, sometimes it seemed like conversations at clergy events were “one upmanship” about whose life was most frantically busy. I have the impression that, with the recent emphasis on self care, being an obvious workaholic may not be the badge of honor it used to be.
      I realized recently that I wish there were 2 hours more in each day, 2 more months in each summer, and an extra month between December and January to recover from Christmas and gear up for the spring semester. I’m not sure what to call it, maybe “Remember,” since it rhymes with December. By my calculations, that adds up to 4 additional months in each year that I yearn for. I want to try to stop living in a state of perpetual discontent at the limitations of time.

  • Sue Gross

    I’ve found that the best way to see how God is “asking” us to take time to notice things is to spend time with small children and or a puppy.
    I love to visit friends with small children and spend time with the children as they show me the world again. Recently a friend’s daughter wanted us to come out and see a caterpillar. Watching the caterpillar crawl across the yard, allowed me to go back in time to when I found a chrysalis. My brothers and I cut the milkweed and put the milkweed and chrysalis in a jar. We waited for the monarch butterfly to escape the cocoon and take flight.
    My puppy is a different matter, but much the same. She tends to be frightened by things she doesn’t know. Tonight it was a wood penguin sitting on the mantel in the livingroom. It has been sitting in the same place since before she came to reign at my house. She seemed to be quite upset that this penguin was looking down at her. She also has a favorite perch on the back of the sofa. She stares at me like Snoopy playing the vulture while sitting on top of his doghouse. What Peanut wants me to know is that I’m spening too much time working on the computer when I should be paying attention to her. Guess it’s time to go play with Peanut.

  • tropypeappego

    Very Interesting!
    Thank You!

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