Stay in the Moment

One night in a hotel while on business travel, I was flipping through the channels and came across the ending of the movie “Walter Mitty”.  It was the scene where Sean Penn’s character opts not to take the rare photo of a snow leopard that he calls the ‘ghost cat’, a photo he has been seeking most his life.  The logic was that there is something incomplete, almost irreverent about taking a photograph when it cannot capture the beauty and power of an instant. Sometimes the moment, the memory of the moment, is enough and he wants to stay in that moment.

While on a hike last summer, I glimpsed at a beautiful scene as the trail wound around the lake with the sun peeking over the ridge on the other side.  When I hike I am usually on a mission to ‘accomplish the hike’. However, this scene broke that focus and I stood for a moment taking in the beauty. I thought about snapping a picture with my phone’s camera but realized what I was seeing would not be truly captured in the photo.  So instead I lingered awhile longer and let the moment connect with me.  My mind’s image of that scene, even months later, is crisp and enduring.

Do we protect those “ghost cat” moments; those moments best experienced in their purity and untainted by status updates, tweets, or Instagram’s? How much more beautiful, how much more powerful would it be, if we are simply able to bask in those moments. Some sacred moments cannot, maybe should not, be captured. They exist for us to embrace them, to adventure into them.

What do we lose when we lose the holiness of a moment? We miss the enjoyment from so many small things happening all around us. A long hug, a walk in the woods, a sunset or the full moon rising among so many stars in the night sky. Staying in the moment allows us to see more than just what is on the surface; it allows us to see the beauty within. Staying in the moment can prevent many poor choices by looking deeper at the situation. It gives us the ability to see options and far-reaching impacts.

I believe people go through life on autopilot, often at warp speed. They are not present in their thoughts at any particular moment. Slow down and you naturally connect better with what is happening inside of you and outside you in the moment. What is happening right now becomes more vivid and not hidden behind thoughts racing in your mind about what’s next.

At our wedding reception many years ago, Vicki and I were given advice that we have passed on every chance we get.  We were advised by a friend that during the reception to take a moment, stand off to the side and witness the reception from an external viewpoint. That act gave us the opportunity to see the joy of our reception in detail and embrace the holiness of the moment.

As I was hiking this weekend and mulling over the content for this blog, my mind recalled a 1974 song by Mac Davis titled “Stop and Smell the Roses.” Being a Top 10 hit on the radio as I was growing up with its catchy tune and lyrics stuck a chord with me such that 44 years later I recollected them – out of the blue. The lyrics advise everyone to make sure that they take some time to “stop and smell the roses along the way”.

Hey Mister, where you going in such a hurry
Don’t you think it’s time you realized
There’s a whole lot more to life than work and worry
All the sweetest things in life are free
And they’re right before your eyes

Before you went to work this morning in the city
Well, did you spent some time with your family
Did you kiss your wife and tell her that she’s pretty
Did you take your children to your breast and love ’em tenderly

Well, did you ever take a walk through the forest
Stop and dream a while among the trees
Well, you can look up through the leaves right straight to heaven
And you can almost hear the voice of God in each any every breeze

Well, you’ve got to stop and smell the roses
You’ve got to count your many blessings everyday
You’re gonna find your way to heaven is a rough and rocky road
If you don’t stop and smell the roses along the way

People like to define moments in faith with big leaps, movements or stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Maybe for some of us it is as simple as staying in the moment right where we are. You typically don’t hear people say, “Hunker down and see what God has in store for you.” However, God has begun a great work in us, right where we were; we just don’t recognize it. One of my Dad’s favorite scriptures was Psalms 118:24, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.” Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” You can’t do these things ‘always’ if you are not doing them with presence in the moment.

Our worries, fears, and anxieties about “what’s next” can paralyze us into focusing on what is going to happen tomorrow that we miss everything God wants to teach us today. From Matthew 6:34, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” Thomas Carlyle said, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

We don’t have to worry about the next opponent; God is already there. We don’t have to stress about the next big project or sale at work; God is already there. We just need to be joyful, pray, and be thankful today, exactly where God has us – in this moment.

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