September 8, 2020
Pay Attention. Be Astonished. Tell Someone.
Mary Oliver

By Rev. Beverly Markham
“O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.”
Psalm 104:24
Rev. Samuel Wells was Dean of the Chapel at Duke University for a part of the time that I was in seminary there. I recently read this article that he wrote about his current church, St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London. This devotion is shamelessly based on his article. You should read it. He’s an excellent writer:

Rev. Wells writes, “Don’t tell anyone but beautiful things are happening, too many to recount.” Is that what you’re thinking while you’re watching the latest installment of local or national news? Political ads from both parties show the worst images they can find of our beloved cities. Fires burn across California. Threatening and scary anonymous conspiracy theories collect supporters in the darkness of the internet. Once again because of our present pain, people try to convince us that the end times are upon us (really, this time is it, they say). Can you believe anyone would approach all of this by saying “Don’t tell anyone, but beautiful things are happening, too many to recount?”

If we pay attention to the world, the resounding answer is, YES. Beautiful things are happening, too many to recount! Zoom – yes, the very thing none of us wants more of – has connected us to people who are distant in ways we could not have imagined in January of this year. There is more beautiful church music than EVER showing up on the healthy side of the internet. More people are involved in the work of racial healing in our country than ever before. And, the natural world’s slow turn to autumn is full of beauty and the promises of cool restoration that lead into the seasons of Advent and Christmas.

There’s an old phrase… Keep your eyes on Jesus! The promise was that if you do that, you will stay in line and keep your heart in a place of thanksgiving, peace, joy, and forgiveness. Keeping your eyes on Jesus can also mean to pay attention to the beauty in God’s world. Mary Oliver says to pay attention is “to fall down into the grass, to kneel down in the grass, to be idle and blessed.”
Beautiful things are happening, too many to recount. Remember that promise in this election season when candidates sell fear in order to win votes. Remember the beautiful things when this virus ruins your plans once more. Remember that even now, God is creating beautiful visions for your pleasure every morning.
God of goodness, we give you thanks for the beautiful things that are happening right now. Make us astonished witnesses to these gifts and open our mouths to share these gifts of beauty with others who need to know that beautiful things are happening right now, too many to recount. Amen.
Alpharetta Presbyterian Church
180 Academy Street, Alpharetta, GA 30009