Attentiveness and the Fruit of the Spirit

What a Justin Bieber Music Video Taught Me About Paying Attention

I cried over a Justin Bieber music video. 2020 really is wild.

Watch to the end, when the distraught couple are invited in the “direction of a warm meal.”

Hopefully you made it to the end! It might be understandable if you didn’t…human attention span is decreasing. It doesn’t take a study to recognize our modern dilemma of constant bombardment of information, technology, social media, etc.

The illustration of attentiveness in this video struck me as a beautiful antidote to the noise. I was caught up in the plight of the young couple – burdened by job loss and family abandonment – when a kind soul, who surely is juggling his own trials, notices the homeless pair and invites them to his home. The kind, selfless, non-judgmental hospitality portrayed is beautiful!

I was touched and challenged by this song and video – if I slow down, and pay attention, what might I notice around me?

Every human has a story, with unique wounds and wisdom. If we listen, we can both love and learn.

Every human needs love. We were created by love and for love-in relationship and community.

Every human has a story, with unique wounds and wisdom. If we listen, we can both love and learn.

Ultimately, attentiveness displays kindness, goodness, gentleness…does this ring a bell?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, ESV)

These characteristics exude Christ and attract the human heart, opening the door to God’s love – the love we all most desperately need. If there is anything we need next month, I’d say it’s definitely attentiveness with the fruit of the Spirit!

As we continue through a very hard year, and a divisive season as we head into October, I want to challenge myself to pay attention – to notice the humans around me (including when it’s me!) who are hurting and in need of love. Will you join me?

Here are a few specific ideas for practicing and forming a spirit of attentiveness:

  1. Text a friend going through a trial to check-in, and let them know you’ll follow up next week (or invite them to coffee!).
  2. Go for a walk around your neighborhood and leave the phone at home.
  3. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 method to reduce anxiety. It will keep you grounded and cultivate your ability to notice your surroundings.
  4. Meditate on the fruit of the spirit (or another meaningful Scripture passage).
  5. Spend some time in nature and notice the little things to practice attentiveness.

Blessings on October. I’d love to know your thoughts on the video, or other practices for paying attention in the comments!


Change in the Air

Pulled on my fall flannel, for the first time this year;

And jeans, snug and comforting.

After a quick drive, and a few steps, I’ve been transported.

Sounds of a chorus of buzzing bugs set my pace.

Deep breaths of fresh air filled my lungs, providing a new rhythm;

Calming my anxious mind and relaxing my body.

Soft and slow ripples in the water flowed towards me, a welcome to rest.

The lushness of summer’s greens has been infiltrated with reds and yellows.

Signals that time is moving to a new season.

Like the foliage before me, life finds a way of providing signs.

Am I walking slowly enough to pay attention?

To hear what’s in the whisper of the wind?

Am I seeking intimacy with my Creator to notice his nudgings?

With the aroma of change in the air,

The sun sets on another day.

A chance to reflect. To confess, to worship, to pray.

To welcome a posture of openness to God’s direction.

To be led by Him, looking for his signals; be they red, green, or yellow.

Every hard lesson after hard lesson, I find;

His way, especially in the waiting, is best.

Psalm 73

23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
    you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.


In Death Valley, You Are Never Alone

Three Things to Remember in Hard Times

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 23: 4, NKJV

Death Valley, CA, August 2019

Last year for Labor Day, I headed west. It felt good to take a few days off work, pack up my hiking gear, and hop on a plane (that world seems so different and long ago!).

One of the national parks I visited was Death Valley. I was interested in visiting it for a number of reasons, including my hope of experiencing it as a spiritual pilgrimage.

Being that it was the end of August, and pushing 115 degrees, it wasn’t going to be a long visit, but I wanted to see the main sights. It was incredible with an “other-worldly” feel to it.

Artists’ Palette Drive

Unfortunately, what I hoped to be a peaceful and reflective experience, turned into a scary one by the end of the trip. Thanks to an unidentified critter that stung me, I got to experience the body’s fight/flight response in full blown action! By the end of it, I was fine, but in the moment it was quite frightening; it truly felt like I was living through a “death valley” moment in Death Valley.

Badwater Basin, lowest point in North America, 282 feet below sea level

I survived my literal Death Valley adventure, but I didn’t know more “valley of the shadow of death” experiences would be coming in 2020. No one knew the Covid pandemic was coming and that we would collectively be living through a valley season.

Over this past year, I’ve been reflecting on three important things to remember during hard times:

  1. Don’t go through Death Valley Alone

In hindsight, I should not have gone to Death Valley National Park alone; I let my independent spirit get the best of me. The same goes for any valley experience – we can’t do it alone. Even the fact that I couldn’t get cell service when I needed it in Death Valley, painfully highlighted how it can be downright dangerous when we can’t be connected!

Whether it’s an immediate traumatic experience, or long-lasting suffering – we need one another. The beauty of God’s design for humans reflects this need. He created us to exist in families; we are literally dependent when we come into the world. And he created the church, as one body with many members. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Cor. 12:26, ESV)

We were made as humans to need one another.

2. Be Prepared for Death Valley

I may have made the miscalculation of going alone, but at least I was prepared. I researched to know what I was getting into; I hydrated and had lots of water, I wore lots of suntan lotion and a hat, I had energy bars and gatorade, a first aid kit, a paper map, a flashlight, and I always made sure I had a least a half tank of gas. Those were wise things to do to be prepared.

Similarly, when going through a real-life valley experience, we need to be equipped. Prayer, Worship, Scripture, the Church – these are our lifeblood in times of suffering. And they prepare us for whatever suffering may come. By studying the Word we become immersed in God’s truth so that it becomes an anchor when we are wandering a wilderness.

Prayer, Worship, Scripture, the Church – these are our lifeblood in times of suffering.

3. Trust that God is with you in Death Valley

No matter what we are going through, or will go through, God has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us. As Moses preached to Joshua and the Israelites after they’ve been wandering for so long and are prepared to enter the Promised Land: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV)

No matter what we are going through, or will go through, God has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us.

During my frightening experience, with no humans around and no cell service, all I could do was remain grounded in knowing the presence of God was with me. Looking back, I am amazed at how he gave me the peace I needed (and how he designed the human body to respond in a crisis!).

A hot, sweaty, tired smile right before I got stung!

Life can throw us some very challenging experiences. How marvelous that the Creator of the Universe is with us every step of the way, longing to help and comfort us. We may have those times where we feel completely on our own and helpless, but we can trust that we are never truly alone.

Dante’s Peak, overlooking Badwater Basin in Death Valley

If life feels like a desert, be encouraged. Find family, friends, and the fellowship of believers to connect and carry you. Equip yourself with prayer and Scripture. Meditate and take comfort in the truth that God goes before you and behind you – he is with you as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”
Isaiah 58:11 ESV

All photos taken and owned by me, Bethany Peck.


Back to Normal or Not?

Spring brings reminders that life continually moves along.

And while COVID is still a threat, society is s l o w l y beginning to reopen and move along.

There is much “talk” [sadly, often in the form of angry shouting matches on social media] of getting “back to normal.” When we mean mitigating the virus, and recovering from the disastrous economic and social consequences of the near-shutdown of society for two months, this is a noble and necessary goal.

In reality, this crisis has revealed a great deal of challenges that have been lurking beneath the surface—or have just been ignored in plain sight—for a long time.

—> From Time Magazine: COVID-19 Is Making America’s Loneliness Epidemic Even Worse

This has me thinking about a lot of things on both a personal, community, and public policy level. Of course, a balance for the practical and the idealistic is important! I’ve needed this reminder for myself – it’s okay to wish for the simple things in life pre-quarantine and at the same time desire social and economic change and justice. Both are valid!

Since coffee shops are where I do a lot of my work, and I love the simple pleasure of a latte, getting back to my favorite places is definitely at the top of the list for me!


Here are some of my reflections, hopes, and prayers for this strange season of life >>>

There are rumblings…things are changing
People are grumbling…society rearranging
I don’t want to get “back to normal”
What is normal?
What do we really want?

What have we learned?
What have I learned?
Will we waste the suffering
Or let it change us—change me?
Allow some good to come of the trials?

Will we let the busy life
Be the band aid to our pain underneath?
Or
Will we tend to the wounds
This time has revealed?

Will we tend to the wounds this time has revealed?

For me,
I say goodbye to stress
I want life without the hustle
I say yes to work with purpose
To life with boundaries and blessings

I want connection without the screen
I want community without the discord
I want purpose without the performance
I want a future, released of my grip of expectations,

Filled with God’s presence and plan

I want a future, released of my grip of expectations, filled with God’s presence and plan

Perhaps these desires—my own and to fill the holes in society—
Are a yearning for something more
A longing for a better life
The life we will one day live in glory
When all is made right

So let the longings flicker
May this trial fan the flame of change
I choose a new normal
I will walk—God willing—towards wholeness and health
For my soul—For my neighbors—For my world

I will walk—God willing—towards wholeness and health

I’m praying for all my friends, readers, neighbors, and well, all of us, in this together!