Bird watching and paying attention to God

Bird watchers see birds everywhere. And not just birds in general, but they see the various species in a way that the untrained eye doesn’t notice. Becoming attuned to such detail is a skill developed over hours and hours of diligent observation and study.

In Praxis, we’ve been focusing on learning to pay attention, learning to see the world around us with all its intricacies, absurdities, and wonder. During our tour of Seattle I asked Tim Soerens, co-founder of Parish Collective, if there is something in terms of faith and life he wished he had known earlier in life (yes, typical teacher question, I know :-). He shared about a friend who is a bird watcher, and then connected it with faith. For all our attempts to serve God faithfully we can forget to attune ourselves - to pay attention - to what’s happening around us. And like bird watching, this takes time and practice. Too often we dream big for God in the world, when what we really need are the eyes to see God’s dream for the world around us.

Property in process at Emerald City Bible Fellowship
Tim took us to the Rainier neighborhood of Seattle, telling the story of Emerald City Bible Fellowship. Today they are an inspiring example of faithful presence in a community, partnering to build an affordable housing complex, running a health club in one Seattle most overweight neighborhoods, and utilizing space to foster creativity and the arts in local youth. But the story really began over 20 years ago, where for years they persisted in their life together as a church. Their current achievements are no result of a flashy community development project or hyped-up vision, but the sustained discernment of people seeking the good of their neighborhood. The church has patiently sought to discern God’s dream for the community, seeking ways to be a part of that dream. Tangible results haven’t always been clear. Obstacles have been clear. All this to say, paying attention to God’s dream takes time. Paying attention takes patience. But ask this church and they’d say paying attention is an essential practice. 

A bird watcher can’t see a bird without knowing birds. A church can’t serve a neighborhood without knowing a neighborhood. We can’t see God without paying attention to God’s dream for the world.


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