Tools for Noticing

In 2012, on a Tuesday evening, 23 year-old Chen Jung-yu walks into an internet café in New Taipei City, Taiwan. It’s about 10pm. He is a frequent customer at the café, spending long hours playing World of Warcraft.  He likes the corner seat in the first row, sitting in his familiar sofa chair, and starts playing. Today, he pays for 23 hours of gaming.  But he only gets 10 hours in. Why? You see, after around 10 hours of straight gaming, Chen’s head droops slightly, and he dies.  

The initial police investigation found that he might have died of a cardiac arrest triggered by low temperatures. Add to this the cigarette-smoke-filled café, cramped quarters detrimental to circulation, not taking care of basic needs, and thus Taiwan sees these kinds of deaths far too often.

I think the worst part of this story is this. No one noticed Chen’s death or motionless body for over 10 hours. The article says: “about 10 other players were in the café, but said they only knew something had happened after the police started cordoning off the area for forensic sweeps, but to the police officers’ surprise, most either stayed in front of their computer and kept on gaming or took little interest.”   

Gamers continued as if nothing even happen, shrugging their shoulders or not even aware at all. What a sad story! Disturbing, really. The gamers in the internet café did not notice matters of life and death, too absorbed in their own world. 

Our church is going through an outreach series called God-Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally. This week, we looked at the theme of noticing.  There is so much happening around us and inside of us, and we’re often missing out. Here are the cliff notes of my sermon this last week.      

I. Intentionality of Noticing: What am I Looking for? 

1) Things that AREN’T RIGHT 

-Pain, Difficult Situations

“ When [Jesus] he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” -Matthew 9:36 

Jesus saw individuals in pain AND societies in pain. 

-Facial Expressions 

Doug Pollock tells a powerful story in the God Space book (P. 39-40) about someone noticing lunch-lady Dottie. Dottie has a cold and looks concerned, and so someone asks her about it. Come to find out, Dottie has cancer and is terrified. The person brings her a book, gives her words of encouragement, and ends up raising $1000 through her church to help Dottie with medical bills. Whoever this person is, they noticed REALLY well and cared enough to follow up.  

-Someone’s Absence

-People’s Space (Overgrown weeds, a messy desk, a chaotic car)

-The Three “Nots: 

Andy Stanley identifies the three “nots” that we should have on our radar to notice people in conversation. 

Things are NOT going well- : “my job, my marriage, my parenting, my health is NOT going well.”

I was NOT prepared for this: “This graduation, this bill, my daughter’s new boyfriend, this death in the family, I just was NOT prepared for it.” 

I’m NOT from here. “I’m new to the area.” What a great opportunity here to notice, and maybe share some hope. 

We should notice anything that’s not right, paying close attention to people and problems around us.

But next, we should notice

2) Things that ARE Right.

In Acts 14, Paul sees something really good in someone. “8 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.” -Acts 14:8-10

I’m not exactly sure what this looks like (don’t think “faith healers” on tv), but whatever is happening here, it’s obvious that Paul is tuned in enough to the Holy Spirit and to this man that he notices something profound, something that’s not always easy to see.  The man is ready to receive from God.

When we see good things in people’s lives, Christian or not, things like hard work, self-sacrifice and good service, incredible creativity, we should call it out and commend it! 

For example, after a contentious meeting, you might say something to a coworker: “Hey, the way you diffused the tension in that meeting was amazing.” And you might feel like adding: “As a Christian, peacemaking is so important to me, and I believe to God as well, and I really admired how you did that.”  

Finally, we should notice: 

3) Things that COULD BE RIGHT

There are lots of things that are good, but misguided, misdirected, overvalued. The Christian word for this is idolatry. Taking good things and making them god things. 

“ While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. . . 22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.” Acts 17:16, 22-23

In Athens, Paul notices the things that Athenians worship, the things they love and value and cherish as a culture. And on the one hand, this bothers him. But on the other hand, he points out Athenian, and even seems to commend them for their devotion. But, then he tries to redirect their passion and devotion towards the true Creator.   

One of the best ways to do this is to notice and ask people about their tattoos. There’s also an interesting story and deep significance to what people put on themselves.  

II. Impediments of Noticing- What’s Holding Us Up?

1) Hurry

If you’re doing 70 MPH, it’s hard to read “yard sale” or “lost cat” signs. When we rush from place to place, meeting to meeting, practice to practice, there’s probably a lot I’m going to miss. I won’t notice well.

2) Distraction

Have you ever noticed how much more you notice when you’re in the passenger’s seat, instead of the driver’s seat? You see a lot more, vegetation, trees, animals, businesses, signs. The distraction of focusing on the road (which is a good thing to do) prevents seeing other things.

Our phone and headphones have to be the greatest distractions we face. These are massive impediments to noticing our neighbors. By definition an iphone and ear buds help us TUNE OUT things around us. Sometimes this is good when we’re trying to get stuff done, but it’s not so good when we’re trying to notice like Jesus.  

3) Inconvenience, Self-absorption 

A lot of this simply comes down to valuing me, myself, my time, my energy, my projects, my kingdom, over God’s kingdom. In some ways, noticing = love. And not noticing = sin/selfishness.      

III. Increase of Noticing- How Do I Notice More This Week?

-A Prayer to Pray every morning:  “Lord Jesus, as I interact with others today, help me to see them as you do.”

-A Plan to Implement: When possible, putting away distractions, putting some space in the schedule. Maybe add in another 15 minutes to get some place to place.

-A Place to People-Watch: Where is noticing & God Space most likely to happen? But still be prepared to be surprised (1 Peter 3:15)

-A Practice to Practice: Practice noticing more! And not just people, but notice nature; notice scripture. Practice paying attention to details, writing down questions, and moving a little more slowly through life.

What are some ways you’ve noticed more recently?