Savor. Stop. Pay Attention.

As I write this, I’m sitting on a balcony at the lodge of Mount Magazine, a state park in the Ozark National Forest in western Arkansas. I’m on a retreat with some fellow young clergy in Arkansas. We’re gathered to rest and reflect on a two-year program that is ending its current cohort of pastors.

Where I sit, it is quiet but for the chatter of a few fellow lodge guests and birds hovering nearby, their chirps telling of spring. The breeze is blissful.  I’m looking out at a vast landscape, of green forest interrupted by pastures and lakes, green mountains in the distance.

This post is not really about food, but more about smallness and the role that nature plays in reminding us to look outside of ourselves. Moments ago, I found myself doing some internal fretting about all of the things I meant to do during my free time but decided to take a longer nap and just sit.

I don’t know if it is for you, but this is a familiar pattern of mine. I often set so many intentions for myself during a given period of time, even when a voice in the back of my mind or my body is telling me that the number of goals I’ve set are not realistic for the moment, or when I can sense my body inviting me to take advantage of a moment to just be. Rest. Be. So then what happens? I set aside nearly all the things on my list in favor of rest, but then feel guilt and shame for not attending to them. There must be a healthy balance in between. After waking from my nap and moving to the balcony to write, I found myself pleasantly shaken out of my head and guilt by the mountain’s stillness; by the energy of birds around me.

I think food can play a similar role: inviting us to slow down. Observe. Taste the complexity of flavors. The Easter season in the Christian calendar also comes to mind. When I read the Gospel texts that tell of Jesus’ resurrection, I sense a deep quietness about them, different from the triumphant brass that we hear in churches on Easter morning: the women brought spices to the tomb early in the morning. The discovery of Jesus’ body gone but a gentle reassurance that he is risen; that they are not to fear. There’s a mystery there, evoking all the senses—it is a mystery that proclaims something magnificent has happened, but in a thoughtful, deliberate way.

I’m also pretty sure God didn’t command us to be busy. If I claim God as savior, then that means I am not. Yes, there is much work to be done in our world, and much of it is urgent. But it is the work of the Spirit, of God, of the Sacred, moving through me: with deliberation, thoughtfulness, attention.

The birds around me are busy, but I think they are much more present to their tasks of securing food and shelter than I am in much of my day-to-day activities. They aren’t passive, but they aren’t frenzied, either. Like the lessons taught when we take time to savor a good meal with good company, the creation around me reminds me to pay attention and be present, not just to my work, but to the larger work and activity happening all around me.

Here’s to finding moments of savor over this next week.

With a grateful heart,