Slowing Down to Notice

Jon Timms wraps up our series on “Creating Space for Life in the Midst of Lockdown”, sharing a new spiritual practice that he has learned and come to see as a gift during these past weeks of lockdown.

There isn’t much I like more than getting outside on an adventure. It doesn’t really matter where. I love exploring rugged coastlines, winding forest trails, epic mountain grandeur or the cafes, street food and nooks and crannies of the city. Most weekends begin with my family perusing maps or getting packed up for a day’s adventure. Thankfully we live in place that the readers of Rough Guide travel books voted ‘The Most Beautiful Country in the World’. There is a lot of choice here in Scotland.

I find that when my heart feels alive in these places I feel a deep connection to God. These are gifts that lead me into prayer and worship and cultivate intimacy with Jesus.

So what to do in lockdown?

The restrictions mean that we can’t stray too far from our front door. I begin to sweat and feel the onset of cabin fever.

But this has been something of a gift that I didn’t know to ask for. Slowing down to notice means that you’re awakened to beauty that usually flies past in a blur.

We take the kids and the dog out on a daily walk. And like most of you we take the same or similar paths most days. Ours is a little trail next to a stream dotted with trees one side and a field of crop the other. We can then either take a left and head into the woods or a right onto the salt marsh, dunes and beach.

The start of lockdown had us meandering past bare trees and fallow fields; the forest floor looking desolate from the recent logging activities. As the days and weeks pass small shoots begin to appear on the ends of branches – signs of life reappearing after winter’s deepening; the forest floor began its change from dead brown leaves to vibrant green ferns. We noticed more deer in the woods (for a party that includes 4 children under 13, to see the noise sensitive deer is quite an accomplishment), we listened for the woodpeckers and the shy but elegant flight of the heron.

In short, repeating regular patterns meant we began to notice, we were able to see the natural world around us change with the seasons, something you miss if you’re forever chasing a new experience. The small shoots become huge trees in all their fullness. The small ferns grow into their own little fern forest among the giant pines. Birdsong is louder and makes a perfect symphony with the rustling treetops and the waves of the sea.

This beautiful wander around the area near where we live leads to a greater wonder about the one who makes all this happen. Creation in flow is the Creator’s gift to us, if only we’ll take our foot off the accelerator long enough to notice. We were made for Eden, and if we’ll open our eyes, ears and hearts to the sacredness of the ordinary, perhaps we’ll glimpse echoes of a former glory, and whispers of a glory still to come.

My new spiritual practice is that of slowing down to notice. I’m taking this into other areas of life too……and as our phased return to normalcy approaches, perhaps our new rhythms could come with us.

Jon leads Discovery Church alongside his wife Emma in Dunbar, East Lothian, where they live with with their four children and Barney the dog. Jon loves wild places and open spaces, beauty, surfing, mountains, music that sings to the soul, playing his guitar, craft beer, good coffee and a roaring campfire with family and friends. He particularly loves journeying with his kids as they discover life, beauty and adventure for themselves.

Crystal Cryer originally hails from Oregon, but now claims Scotland as home. She is the National Coordinator for 24-7 Prayer Scotland. She is also a Networker for Prayer Spaces in Schools in Scotland and is part of the Discovery family in Dunbar, where she is based.