Monday, January 31, 2011

The Collision of Attention

It was 3:24 p.m. today before I got my first glimpse of the mountains. It’s not that I didn’t have a chance to see them before that time, I just hadn’t been paying attention.

I was away all weekend in Edmonton at Break Forth 2011, an equipping and renewal conference. I drove home in bitter cold under clear blue skies this morning. Then I rushed off to a job interview regarding a contract position for which the title is larger than the role. It has potential but doesn’t make my heart leap for joy. I’m praying hard about that one, so I know how to respond if they decide to make me an offer.

After that, I finally settled down at home to catch up with the email that accumulated while I was away. As I leaned back to answer one, I lifted my eyes to the mountains. The railing was covered with several inches of snow so most of the view was obscured except for a short span where the snow had fallen away. Mount Glasgow rises like an Egyptian pyramid and the hazy cold blends the line between peak and sky.

When I lift my eyes, I always think of the Psalm. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.

When I woke to wind chills greater than minus 40, I wondered if I should make the drive home today. With those frigid temperatures, some vehicles simply stop operating. And, my knee was bothering me after a spill on slippery sidewalks. The pain had meant a rather restless night. So, I turned to the maker of heaven and earth for advice.

I opened the Bible and the first verse I saw said, “Do not be afraid.” I went on to read Psalm 31 and it reassured me further that I was cared for by a loving God, there was no need to worry. Still, I prepared myself for emergency: dressed in multiple layers, thermos of hot coffee, snow boots and emergency blanket at the ready, jacket on, cell phone handy in the pocket.

I realized once again during the drive that it only takes a millisecond of distraction to cause a collision. I watched a vehicle in front of me drive somewhat harmlessly into the ditch (into deep, deep snow) with no apparent cause other than driver error. I also came upon two slow moving vehicles at two places along my journey: one a snow plow, and the other a semi trailer truck with a full load pulling away from the shoulder back onto the highway. Both were obstructing my lane and due to ice fog, I did not have a long time to react. Had I been momentarily distracted, I surely would have run into one of them.

I truly believe God prompts us to pay attention. In those situations, we have a responsibility to prepare properly and drive alertly. As we pray for his protection, we also exercise good judgment and take necessary precautions. Yet human nature is sometimes distracted and this is where I believe God does intervene through promptings, conscience or angels, I do not know. I just know it supersedes my human ability.

So when I saw the mountains today, it was as if God was reminding me of his constant presence. Whether I pay attention or not, whether I look or not, he is always the silent sentinel, standing guard. Our stronghold in times of trouble. The one who keeps his flock like a shepherd. Sends his angels to keep charge over me. Or rises like a mountain to bless me with beauty, safety and peace. If that doesn’t get my attention, I don’t know what will!

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