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Well it’s December. I know people usually say “I can’t believe the year is almost over! It’s flying by!!! It’s ALREADY December?!” Well this year I think it’s more like “How long is this year?! Why won’t it just end already!!!”

But it really is an awesome time of year. Doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges, there absolutely are. But there is just so much to be grateful for. There really is.

And for some of you, that might feel like an odd thing to say in December of 2020. But that’s exactly what I wanted to talk about. And it has everything to do with how you choose to see the world. And what you pay attention to.

Song Intro

And what I wanted to do these next 2 weeks, is maybe a bit unusual, but I’m hoping will be both fun and helpful to you, is to kind of ‘riff’ on two old Christmas songs that I really love.

Lots of old hymns and Christmas carols are rich with meaning. They really are brilliant, and beautiful.

And I’ve asked our amazing worship team to play the song that will be the inspiration for the mornings’ talk.

And this week, it’s about deliberately setting your attention on what God is doing in the world. We are obviously in a season where there’s lots of things that are wrong, but for the Christ follower, there’s always so much beauty to celebrate, if you just have the eyes to see it.

So on that note, our first song is ‘For the beauty of the earth’. And it’s all about thanking God for all the beauty that’s all around us. Here we go.


Amen. There’s so much to be thankful for.

Optometrist Story

Well this past week, I had an optometrist appointment. I hadn’t been to the eye doctor in probably a decade and my insurance covers it so I figured I would go.

And it’s actually quite fun if you’ve never done it, all their different machines that you look into and there’s different pictures and things and challenges that they have you do which allows them to see their quality of your vision and any issues you might have.

But it really is kind of amazing all these little lenses that you switch back and forth and how they change how you see the world.

And it just always makes me think of different people, how there’s so many similarities between us but there’s also huge differences when it comes to the lens through which we see the world. And it’s so important that we see the world through the right lenses.

Title: Tiny Beautiful Things

The quality of your life is determined by your ability to notice the beautiful things that are happening all around you.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2)

The word ‘devote’ means to commit to something.

And this verse says 3 things we’re supposed to commit to – Prayer (communicating with God), being watchful, and being thankful.

And so we’re supposed to commit ourselves (which means to make an intentional commitment) to these 3 things.

I want to focus in particular this morning, on that second one. Being WATCHFUL. It’s not a phrase you hear a lot in churches, being watchful.

If I were to paraphrase this for a 2020 audience, I would say it like this: “Pay Attention”

Talk about : Seeing the things that if we’re not intentional, we won’t see. Seeing not just what’s on the surface, but looking deeper at your life and the world.

To actually notice what God is doing.

People who are completely secular, ALL they see if the natural, surface level world.

But followers of Jesus are called to see more than that.

A theme we see over and over in the Bible is that God is always active.

In John chapter 5, we see religious folks taking issue with Jesus for working on the sabbath. And look at what Jesus says in response:

In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:17)

I would say it like this: God is always everywhere, and he’s always active. Always at work bringing about good. Always at work fighting evil.

We still have free-will, and there’s a lot of things that happen in a broken world, but God IS always at work fighting evil.

There has never been a nano-second of your life where God was not there.

Think back in your life to the time when you felt the most alone, the most lost. You weren’t alone.

Even in moments of incredible pain and loss, God is there bringing healing, and restoration, and peace.

God is always on the side of good and he’s always against evil.

So to be watchful means to become aware of the fact that God is around you.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Is that incredible? Everything that’s good, anything that’s beautiful, if you follow it back to it’s source, it will lead you back to God.

If you train yourself to see the world that way, the world will become to you a much more wonderful place.

But most people (even Christians), don’t do this.

If we’re not intentional about it, what happens is we zone out.

And we stop noticing what God is doing, and if you don’t realize what God is doing, you of course can’t be thankful to him for it.

Marriages – Stop paying attention

This happens all the time in marriages.

Of course collectively, Christians are referred to in the Bible as ‘the bride of Christ’.

But think about a marriage when it first starts. It’s absolutely engrossing. The love you have for your husband or wife is absolutely overpowering.

Thankfully that wears off, and you can become a functioning adult again.

But man, when we first started dating, I wouldn’t zone out!! Are you kidding me?! I’m totally engrossed by everything she says and does. I just don’t want our time together to end.

But now, 2 decades later. It can be a little more challenging to pay attention. You all know I’m right.

Acting like I heard what Jordan just said

I’m gonna tell you something that happens to me occasionally, and if you’ve been married for any period of time and you say you never do this, you’re a dirty dirty liar.

Well sometimes I’m just sitting there, minding my own business, maybe flipping through my phone half conscious, and then I look up and Jordan says “Well, do you agree?” Darn it! I wasn’t paying attention! So I say “Uhhhh…. Yes.” And she says “You didn’t hear a word I said did you?” “No. Sorry, I zoned out!” – It’s so easy to do!

And it’s a totally innocent mistake, but it’s not ok if that’s kinda becomes your life.

You come home from a long day of work and your wife says ‘Well? What do you think?’ Oh no!!!!! – And so you say “Did you change your hair?” “New dress?” “Are those new glasses?” And she says “I rearranged the furniture.” Darn it!

Or even worse the question: “Do you know what today is?” “Uhhhh… Valentines day?” “Our anniversary??!”

We stop paying attention. We stop being watchful.

That’s how it works with God too.

Where, if we’re not intentional, we start seeing the world in basically a secular way. That’s to say, we perceive the world exactly like everybody else.

Law of Entropy

Perhaps some of you have heard of the law of entropy – “Everything tends towards disorder” – The basic idea is that order naturally turns to disorder, not the other way around.

For example. Let’s say you get 10 coins, and put them on a log in the woods. And you meticulously line them up all in a row. And then you leave and come back in 30 days. Without anyone’s deliberate intervention, the coins will almost certain be less ordered than they were when you set them up.

Let’s get a little simpler: Cleaning the house. Let’s say you meticulously clean your house then you leave your teenage children in the house for 7 days. The house is not going to become more clean.

Thirds example is your own body. Once you become full grown, if you don’t fight against it, gets weaker and weaker.

When you hit 40, you start to lose between 0.5 and 2% of your muscle every year.

Can you stop that? Of course. With exercise.

When you hit 24, you start losing about 7000 brain cells a day.

Your brain starts to slow down at 24.

Can you grow more? Yes you can. Being healthy, and THINKING

Your body and your brain are both ‘use it or lose it’.

Your ability to pay attention to God is the same way. You have to train yourself to notice the good. To notice the beautiful. To notice to ‘praiseworthy’. And don’t just do it on your deathbed. Do it now.

Play : “Our Town”

Who in here has ever seen or read the play : “Our Town” ??

It’s by a man named Thornton Wilder. Written in 1938.

It was a huge success on broadway. And it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

And they still do it in high-schools and stuff.

It’s all about death.

There’s this girl named Emily, she dies at 26 giving birth. And in the play, the dead to go this graveyard type place, where she gets to exist alongside the other spirits of people of the town who have died.

Emily learns that if she chooses, she’s able to go back to earth to relive 1 day of her life.

The rest of the spirits urge her to not do it. – They say it’s too painful, and you’ll regret it.

But she goes anyway, and she chooses to go back to relive her 12th birthday, 14 years earlier.

And immediately she noticed how the living don’t really live. – They don’t appreciate their life. They don’t look at each other. They’re just too busy with their own concerns. And this is before cell phones.

So she’s watching her 12th birthday like a movie playing. And her mom is cooking 12 year old Emily breakfast and she’s just talking on and on to herself and 12 year old Emily is trying to get her attention but she can’t. The mom is just too busy.

At one point Emily says this:

Mama, I’m here. I’m grown up. I love you all, everything. – I cant look at everything hard enough.
Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me.
Mama, fourteen years have gone by. I’m dead. You’re a grandmother, Mama.
But, just for a moment now we’re all together.

Mama, just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s look at one another.
I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another.
I didn’t realize. All that was going on in life and we never noticed.

Take me back – up the hill – to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Goodbye, Goodbye, world. Goodbye, Grover’s Corners. Mama and Papa. Goodbye to clocks ticking. And Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths, and sleeping and waking up.

Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.
Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute.

The point of the play is this: Pay attention! Don’t zone out and miss life.

To wake up to the beauty of every moment.

Grab on to your life. Because you never know how much of this you have left.

I’m still not even sure if I do this. I mean my baby Grace is 3 years old and the time is flying by. And I don’t even know if I’m doing a good job of it, but I’m just trying to be present for it. I don’t want to be at my daughters high-school graduation and realize that I missed her childhood. A time I get once.

Talked – great friend (Erica) I talked to a friend of mine awhile ago about this season of her life that’s coming to a close. And we were talking about how seasons in life come really fast, but they end faster. And you rarely know when it’s your last time to do something.

My wife and I have been together for going on 2 decades. Pretty amazing.

We started dating when Jordan was 17 years old. And there’s so much life that happens in 20 years, so many seasons and I just think that we can be so blind and consumed that seasons blow past us and we can miss so much of it.

The solution is to PAY ATTENTION.

Sometimes I get these little glimpses of Jordan, my amazing wife and I’m just shocked by the beauty of it.

Are there things that bug me about Jordan? TOTALLY. Are there things that bug Jordan about me? TOTALLY. But those are the things that you have to NOT notice.

But find the beauty in your life and cling onto it like dear life.

The quality of your life is determined by your ability to notice the beautiful things that are happening all around you.

Applies – almost everything:

And this applies to almost everything:

Married People

Don’t take your spouse for granted. Notice the beauty there. They know almost everything about you and they still love you and they still want to live with you. That’s AMAZING. The small little nice things they do.

Make TIME for them. Communicate that you appreciate them.

Kids (Parenting)

Oh my God, don’t get me started.

It goes SO FAST.

Grace – “Isgusting

Have you guys seen that movie with the emotions, what’s that called? “Inside Out”. Remember one of the emotions was ‘Disgust’. Well my daughter has discovered disgust. So now whenever she sees something she doesn’t like she says “That’s isgusting” – So when she sees a spider, or dog poop, or dad without his shirt on, “That’s isgusting.” She’s gonna learn how to say disgusting any day now, but I’m not gonna miss this beautiful gift of my daughter mispronouncing a word because I’m too distracted by my phone. Or I’m too bothered by the governor or something. I’m not gonna do it.


These moments you to spend with people who don’t HAVE to love you but they CHOOSE to love you.

Just these moments of being silly, and laughing, and being completely stupid together, that’s totally beautiful.

Just all of life.

Did you know that something can happen in life and half the people will find it beautiful and the other half of people will just find it irritating? “Example please.” – Rain.

There’s so much beauty in ordinary things.

So this week, I just started making a list of things that popped into my head that were Tiny Beautiful Things, that were a gift from God that people can sometimes miss. Now these might not all apply to you, but I guarantee that a lot of them will.

I’d like to read you my list, is that ok?

  • Chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven
  • A spouse that, for some reason, puts up with you and even loves you.
  • A job that you actually enjoy most of the time that pays the bills.
  • The bit of alone time you get while your kids are napping.
  • The deep belly laugh of a child. (Video)
  • Hearing the rain on your roof
  • The ability to read
  • The right to vote.
  • Technology that keeps you connected to family anywhere in the world.
  • Firefighters and emergency responders.
  • My body that, all things considered, works pretty good.
  • Friends who don’t HAVE to love you, but CHOOSE to.

Yes there’s pain, and loss, and Covid, and quarantine, and setbacks, and disappointments, that’s obviously true. But there’s a lot of beauty too, if we have eyes to see it.

Everything that is good comes from God.

If it’s beautiful, he made it.
If it’s good, he made it.

  • God is the beautiful in all beauty
  • God is the goodness in all that’s good
  • God is the life in all that’s living
  • God is the joy in all that’s joyful

If that becomes how you process the world, then you’re not gonna be so reactive to everything happening in the world. “Did you hear what President Trump did?!” Or “Did you hear what the Governor said?!” – Man, pay attention. Look at all the beauty that God has given you.

Good during Covid / Mr Rogers

So look, during Covid. There’s lots of bad. People dying is the worst of course. And there’s also huge amounts of fear, and isolation, and suffering, and negative impact of businesses, and churches, and organizations. Look that’s totally true. And I don’t want to minimize that. But you know what? There’s also good happening. A HUGE amount of good.

I don’t have time, but I thought about going through some stories of people who are amazing things. Incredible bravery, incredible kindness. Going out of their way to help perfect strangers. And that’s stuff is a beautiful gift from God. And it’s worth noticing.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” (Mr. Rogers)

Amazed – Something beautiful can lead people to God

And I’ve been amazed how often something beautiful in the world can lead people to God. Many someone’s never had any interest in God, but then the get sick and their Christian neighbor goes above and beyond in caring for them, and now all of a sudden, they’re feeling compelled by God.

Wise Men

That’s what happens to the wise men. Remember them? They follow the star and it leads them to Jesus.

Because they’re paying attention to the beauty of the stars, that leads THEM to Jesus.

We know: They were from the east – foreigners. These were not people who were waiting for a Jewish messiah. They don’t even believe in all that. They’re not sitting there with their bibles open doing word studies.

Weren’t looking for Jesus. But they we paying attention to the beauty of the stars. And it was that beauty that ended up leading them to Jesus.


Think about what happens to the shepherds. They literally walk out into a field, and they encounter not just the beauty of God that you see, they encounter the beauty of God that you hear. They HEAR angels singing in the fields. And that beauty leads them to Jesus.

Question: What in your life, right now, is a beautiful gift from God?

Maybe: WHO


Which leads us to Jesus

Which leads us perfectly into Jesus. I mean, if you want to talk about the most beautiful gift that has ever been given, it’s Jesus who steps down from his place in heaven, is brutally killed, and is raised from the dead so that he could have relationship with us and give us the free give of eternal life. Everything else ought to pale in comparison to the beautiful gift that we have been given in Jesus. And now because of him, we get to live a life of peace, and joy, and love. Not just now, but in the life to come. Let’s pray.