My son Sam noticed this fawn while on a walk in Stow Creek, New Jersey, and captured the moment with this picture. I asked him what drew his attention to the fawn since I am confident that I would have walked right past while being been preoccupied with other thoughts or in a hurry to get somewhere. Sam’s answer was that he was anticipating seeing something, and then he heard the fawn’s movements.
When it comes to spiritual conversations, we often jump right to considering what we should say, and skip the art of noticing people. In The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations, Mary Schaller and John Crilly talk about this art of noticing—seeing people around us that God is calling us to listen to and talk with.
But, let’s be honest, there are barriers that each of us raise up that prevent us from noticing our daily opportunities for spiritual conversations. First, our pace of life and focus on our own plans keeps us from seeing people—we are busy completing our agendas and living within a tightly scheduled week. Second, we can easily end up living within a Christian bubble—our relationship networks are only amongst Christians and we do not look at other spaces of our lives for conversation, such as at the store, at work, or across the street. Third, our attitude keeps us from noticing people—our posture when we see people can be chronically critical rather than open and welcoming. If we are always finding fault with the people around us, it is unlikely that we will notice them as people who might welcome a spiritual conversation.
Just as Sam had practices to notice the fawn and the beauty of things around him, I am struck by ways that we can notice the people around us, and truly celebrate who God has placed in our daily path. First, we need to pay attention. One of my favorite phrases is “qualified naivete”. This is where we have an openness and enthusiasm to ask questions and learn from and about the person that we meet—we have a posture of truly wanting to hear from the other person because we notice them as a person not a project. Second, a great practice of noticing is secret prayer. When we consistently pray for someone, we are bound to notice them all the more when we cross paths, while also being more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Third, there is true listening. When we truly notice people, we listen to them and are not simply preparing what we will say when they take a breath.
The practice of noticing is easy to overlook. But that means that we miss so much that God is inviting us to participate in.
Grace and peace,
Carl Greene, Executive Director, SDB General Conference of USA & Canada
 (Schaller and Crilly 2016, 48-52).
 (Schaller and Crilly 2016, 53).
 (Kvale and Brinkman 2007, 12).
 (Schaller and Crilly 2016, 54).