Moving Forward: What Do You Notice? by Lisa Allgood, Executive Presbyter

Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?                                                                                                                                                                                                                – Matthew 6:28-30

Several years ago I was on a “safari” of a kind in Madagascar.  Most people who do safaris do them on mainland Africa – I’ve done that too – but this one was through the jungle spine of the island, looking for lemurs and cool chameleons, and then at the end snorkeling with whale sharks.

Mine is not the usual kind of travel.

Lemurs are incredibly diverse.  Endemic to Madagascar, some are strictly nocturnal and others scamper high in open forest canopy during the day.  There are 111 known lemur species, but most of them are considered endangered due to deforestation and the relatively small size of their home island as their sole range of habitat.

One of the places we went was a tiny private island off the northeast coast, in the middle of the Mananara River. It’s special because it’s an isolated home to the rarest of lemurs, the nocturnal aye-aye (I call it the Tim Burton of lemurs).  The night we hiked through, there were only 7 on the island (today there are 15).  They exist in other parts of Madagascar, but this is where you have the best chance of seeing them devour – and I do mean devour – the low hanging coconuts they favor as food. Pretty much anywhere else all you’ll see is a brown blob and a pair of glinting eyes.

As we (in hushed voices) geeked out photographing them, I casually mentioned that we’d been lucky enough to see 3 of the 7.  My Nat Geo friend, Ali, whipped around and asked “how do you know that?”  I said “the fur is different,” and reminded her that as a scientist I’m sort of trained to look for that kind of thing.  She shook her head and, after accusing the guide “Did you tell her that?” – he chuckled and replied “Nope, but she’s right” – she just laughed and shook her head.  From that point on it was my job to spot differences in practically everything we saw.

But it made me think.  I wasn’t consciously looking for differences; in fact I was focusing (pun intended) on taking the photographs with the right exposure – not easy at a distance in a very dark jungle, even with the flashlights the guides carried.  It was something I saw without looking or even having it consciously register.  But I acted on it, spoke about it, and surprised myself by knowing I knew it even when I didn’t know I knew it. 😏

And now, looking back, it makes me think again – what is it in our church lives that we have so “trained” ourselves to look for that we register it without even consciously knowing that we see it? Are we looking for the ones we want to reject, the ones who we don’t like because they don’t think/dress/speak/believe like we do?  Or are we looking for the person who needs an extra greeting, a way to be introduced and included in the gathering, a connection?  Are we looking for the person who somehow looks different – something has changed in them (whether extra joy or a note of depressed sorrow) that we can acknowledge, sit with, celebrate, mourn with?  Are we looking for those to whom we can reflect Jesus?

Moving Forward, let’s hone the subconscious ability to notice those to whom we can minister – and loving them like Jesus has asked us to.

Because sometimes you know what you know without knowing how you know it. You know? And isn’t that a gift?

Excerpt: When You Know You Know Without Knowing You Know It