“Consider the lilies,” we read from the Sunday gospel. It’s a Jesus version of stop and smell the roses, wake up and smell the coffee, don’t dance faster than the song, or as they say in Paris, “prenez le temps de vivre.”

We need to stop and become deeply aware of the richness, beauty and wonder of ordinary, small things. The trouble is, we have that epiphany and a moment later we’re back to our fretting, worrying and blind dashing. It may be weeks or months before we stop again and consider those lilies. Do we really have to go that long without a glimpse of God?

David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, gave a famous TED Talk* about cultivating a sense of gratitude in our everyday lives, knowing that grateful people are unfailingly happy people.

Brother David recalled the years he lived in Africa, and then came home to Austria. He turned a faucet and fresh water poured out. Amazing! Where he lived in Africa drinkable water was hard to find. He flicked a switch and lights blazed above him. Miraculous! But after a while, of course, it wore off. So, Brother David said, “I put little stickers on the faucet, on the light switch. To make me stop.”

Years ago on our morning walks Pam and I would start by naming five things we were grateful for. That was a stop sign. My daughter once went around putting a little sticker on random bathroom mirrors in restaurants and bars. It said, “You are beautiful.” Many years ago when I was having anxiety problems my counselor gave me a tiny sticker to place on my desk phone (back in the pre-internet day when I spent endless hours on a desk phone!). It said, “Be here now.” When that wore off he gave me another. “Breathe.”

Stickers and various stop signs are just versions of spiritual practice, practical methods for keeping us focused on real, actual life—and not the fictive confections whipped up by our nervous little minds. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus is always pointing our noses not at some grand abstract principle, but at lilies and sparrows, seeds and sheep, fish nets and fig trees, pearls and prodigals, wheat and tares, bread and wine? In other words, all the real, concrete stuff of human life on earth. For it is in these that the divine life hides. To glimpse their veiled glory we must look deeply, until their innate splendor “flame[s] out,” as Gerard Manley Hopkins saw it, “like shining from shook foil.”

What we need, then, is some way to keep our crazed and distracted sight focused, every day, on the simplest manifestations of God all around us. For that we need stickers.

*Here’s that 14-minute TED Talk, viewed more than 6 million times. You’ll love Brother David!


4 Responses to Sticker/Stop
  1. Johnna Fredrickson
    October 18, 2018 | 11:12 am

    Each morning, when the alarm clock or nature wakes me up, I say the same brief prayer: “Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace.” I find that it helps me notice the beauty and grace around me – and keeps me from jumping out of bed with the mental wheels already spinning away from the reality that greets me. I may have to add the sticky notes as well – I’m thinking one on the thermostat I touch every day to heat the house…
    Thanks, David, for your thoughts! Lovely and thoughtful, as always. Peace, Johnna

    • David Anderson
      October 18, 2018 | 11:14 am

      That’s a beautiful “sticker”—thank you.

  2. Matt
    October 18, 2018 | 1:47 pm

    I read “consider the lilies of the field” in a commencement speech several years ago and didn’t realize it was biblical until Church Sunday. I cut out the passage because it was so meaningful. The passage also asked something like “How has worrying ever helped your situation?” Such a great point and really resonated with me.

  3. Michael
    October 18, 2018 | 4:15 pm

    Another great one, David. It may seem corny to put up little stickies but they do help. Here’s a sticky I read every morning. It reminds me of the value of a healthy routine, when I get bored with it. It’s from Flannery O’Connor:

    “Time is very dangerous without a rigid routine. If you do the same thing every day at the same time for same length of time, you’ll save yourself from many a sink. Routine is a condition of survival.”

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