Have you been paying attention by Stewart Perry

On Thursday morning our daughter Anika flew out to Cambodia for a 3 week trip connected with her Occupational Therapy Course at Griffith University. It will be a great experience for her in a country that she’s never been to before and while we’ll miss her desperately we are excited she’ll have an amazing adventure.

On Wednesday night, 3 of the girls from Anika’s course who were travelling with her were staying at our place so they could leave together for the airport at 5am the next day. We’d had family staying in various forms since before Christmas and Mum and Dad had just left that afternoon to go back to Bundaberg. The cleaner had been that morning and the place was all clean and tidy so going out for dinner seemed like a smart option before Anika’s uni friends expected arrival around 8:30pm.

Someone had mentioned to me before Christmas, probably in the context of hearing that Anika was going to Cambodia, that there was a Cambodian restaurant in Robina (actually the only one on the Gold Coast so it happens). So when I mentioned the possibility of trying it out to Leanne that morning, although she had no idea the restaurant existed, she thought it was a great idea and proceeded to book a table online for us.

Sure enough tucked underneath the Thai restaurant that’s become one of our favourites, right next to the 7-Eleven that we frequent regularly, just across from the Robina Pavilion that we consider to be our “local”, is a Cambodian restaurant that we’d just never noticed… and it turns out that the food was AMAZING!

We will definitely be back!

We’ve lived in our home for 8 years now and I think I heard one of the owners say the restaurant had been there for 5 years… we’d just never been aware of it’s existence. This hidden treasure of culinary delight from a cuisine we had no knowledge of because none of us had been to Cambodia either.

It makes me wonder, how much around us goes unnoticed? What are we missing because we’re either not paying attention or we haven’t been told or we don’t have enough information about? It’s so easy to go through life developing patterns and habits, favourite places and people. There is comfort in the familiar that is for sure, but what are we missing?

One of the things I love most about scripture is that, if you really make the effort to notice, if you pay attention to the small details, then you can find something new each time you read it. But there is a real danger in assuming that “I know what this story’s about” or that we “normalise” scripture and strip it of its transformative power.

In the same we should approach scripture with an expectation of something new and exciting each time, I wonder if we can approach life in the same way. Are we prepared to break our familiar patterns and leave our comfort zones to risk the chance of encountering a new experience? Could we pay a little more attention than we usually do? Could we follow a suggestion or recommendation from a friend to go a different way or experience something that they’ve found meaningful?

How richer would our lives be if we just paid a little bit more attention?

How much more impactful could our church be if we paid a little bit more attention to what was going on inside our community but also in the wide world outside the 4 walls of our church building?

As we start a new year I do pray that we might approach this year with a heightened sense of awareness, a desire to seek a fresh perspective and a commitment to pay a little bit more attention.

Happy 2023!