I guess I‘m a tad word-nerdy. I really get into new words, sometimes making them up myself to fit a given situation (it’s possible you’ve noticed). And I was very recently introduced to new-to-me word, ‘attentional.’ It’s actually in the dictionary (I had to look it up, confident that it was an edgy cool invention of the author, only to be disappointed that it was already in there). It describes the behavior of one who gives him/herself to paying attention. The writing from which my word came was distinguishing ‘attentional’ from ‘intentional’ (which was viewed as exerting effort to achieve one’s goals), where ‘attentional’ is giving attention to external commands/orders/instructions as one in the military or in school or at home. As followers of Jesus, the writer encourages first being attentional, celebrating our days with keen awareness of what Jesus is up to, what Jesus is saying, what the Holy Spirit is prompting us into (to achieve success in this, a little ‘attention’ is needed in the time between opening eyes while still in bed and charging headlong into stuff scribbled in on the calendar).

In other reading, the author confesses to waking each morning, having his heart preset to drag him straight to his desires, his worries, his fears. He realized he didn’t worry on purpose, but, to his chagrin, that it was out of all the heart training he’d been absorbing up til then in his life. Paying attention to Jesus, or living his in-Christ life attentionally, felt like an invitation to be ‘learning to live freely and lightly,’ (as Eugene Peterson puts it in Matthew 11:30). 

All this has me asking myself the question: Am I intentional or attentional? Are each of my days lived in Jesus’ footsteps or in my own? Is the plan for the waking hours of each day governed by an agenda, a calendar, a personal litany of wants and desires, or are they spent arm-in-arm with Jesus, drinking in his loving gaze on me, completely at peace in the knowledge that he’s always inviting me into the very best, always inviting me to greater trust, clearer listening, higher hopes, laden banquet tables (even in the presence of my enemies)? Am I more attuned to traffic noise, ticking clocks, deadlines, soul-wilting headlines, or babbling brooks, birdsong, gentle breezes rustling in the trees? Am I the stray lamb continually looking over my shoulder to see if the wolf is chasing me or am I the sheep at rest, safely guarded by the Shepherd, listening to the wooing of the Lover of my Soul? Seems like a no-brainer which is to be preferred. How about you? Can you smell the roses? Just asking.  PD

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