The hurried whispers of leaves rustling in the wind.
The beam of gentle morning sunlight cascading in through the window, shining a spotlight on the dance of otherwise invisible dust particles in the air.
The white daisies blooming in the crack of the cement sidewalk.
The tiny gray feather next to the yellow beer-bottle cap, surrounded by a collection of fuchsia flower petals, all huddling together on the green grass.
The Lego mini-figure seemingly left on watch on the edge of the windowsill.
Certain moments capture my attention as I go about my ordinary life. They happen when I’m out walking our golden retriever or standing at the kitchen sink scrubbing dirty dishes—when I’m living a bit on autopilot and focused on the tasks and responsibilities set before me.
Calls to Notice
These moments often feel like a snag in the stitching of time. These interruptions and calls to notice invite pause, and slow time. There isn’t anything seemingly “special” or “extraordinary” about them—in fact, most would be categorized as pretty unremarkably ordinary. But these moments act as a little jolt trying to awaken me. When listened to, they seem to lift the veil between the seen and unseen things of this world, often revealing the deeper hidden things.
Something has caught me—or rather, perhaps more accurately, Someone has called to me. In these moments, it’s as though the Lord gently takes me by the shoulder, whispers in my ear, and calls to me. Noticing becomes like grabbing ahold of a thread and following it with contemplative curiosity to find where it leads—or rather to Whom it leads.
According to theologian Thomas Merton, as quoted in Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, “The Christian life, and especially the contemplative life, is a continual discovery of Christ in new and unexpected places.” (Claiborne, Shane, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro. Common Prayer Pocket Edition: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Zondervan, 2010.) For me, the unexpected places and pauses become the knocks on the door, inviting me into contemplation, curiosity, and divine connection.
This summer I watched both seasons of the hit television series The Bear, which tells the story of a young chef who returns home to Chicago to run his family sandwich shop after his family experiences a tragic death. In Season 2, Episode 7 “Forks,” a character says this about his deceased father:
“I learned the most about him when I was packing up his house. All his belongings, like, his whole life. And I found this stash of pocket notebooks that he must have taken with him when he was on tour. And full of all these details, like the palm trees he’d seen or escargot he’d tried. Or this time the ocean looked purple. And, um, the way he wrote everything, it was like a reminder, like a… don’t forget this moment or don’t forget this interesting, strange detail. Hundreds of these entries.” (“Forks,” The Bear, created by Christopher Storer, season 2, episode 7, FX Productions, 2023.)
This idea of “interesting, strange details” has stuck with me. Many of the moments that capture my attention and invite me into contemplation could be described as such. At first glance, these details might seem random, mundane, and void of meaning. Yet, when I pause to recognize what has captured my attention and to listen, a piece of trash like a bottle cap next to a feather and some petals might take on new meaning with deeper significance. What might have been considered dull and meaningless begins to crystalize and can become transformative, forming us spiritually even.
Because isn’t our spiritual journey much like the description provided by this character in The Bear? When we go through life curiously exploring all the spaces God has given us to wander, and we pay attention to the details left for us to notice and find, we can experience the “continual discovery of Christ in new and unexpected places” that Merton mentions.
More often than not, when I pay attention to what details cause me to pause, I find a divine connection. Sometimes, it reveals a spiritual metaphor. Other times, the Spirit fills my mind with the Word. Many times, in these moments, I experience a comforting reassurance of the Lord’s presence or a reminder of his goodness. Sometimes, the detail is so strange or unique in delighting me that it seems to suggest, “I was thinking of you today and thought you might enjoy this.”
Whether these details or moments feel like manna sustaining us, or more like a trail of breadcrumbs leading us, when paid attention to, they call our wandering hearts and minds to Christ, strengthening and forming our faith.
I frequently take these moments to my notebook or journal—especially when they turn into something that feels like a “rhema moment” (a moment in which God communicates personally and intimately with us). In these moments, it’s as though I hear the Lord whispering something similar to that quote from The Bear above, “Don’t forget this. Remember this. Remember me.” Like with little Ebenezer stones, I put the strange details into words. I write to contemplate, connect, remember, and find my faith formed and forged through these curious, innocuous things.
The interesting, strange details that cause us to pause and invite us to wonder, can lead us into contemplation and communion with God.
Have you noticed any “interesting, strange details” lately? Can you recall a recent small moment that felt like a snag in your timeline or a tug on your shirt that invited you to pause and pay attention? Have you considered what God might be revealing to you about himself through these moments?