WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Inviting Our True Attention

By Karen G. Johnston

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”
—attributed to the Buddha

I call the tall bush on my back patio “Burning Bush” because in autumn its leaves are a fiery red. All winter long I overlooked three uninhabited nests inside of it. For months and months I could have perceived—but didn’t—what was in plain sight.

I was delighted to finally see them today, but not surprised. In the summer, I enjoy watching birds fly into and out of the leafy-branchy mass, catching glimpses of them hopping from ground to woody perch and back again.

I’m curious—and a bit embarrassed—that I hadn’t noticed the nests until now, springtime, when the branches are about to burst forth with green.

I called my partner over to point out the carefully crafted twigs, each a purposeful home, one with a bright green strip of discarded plastic cording as decoration. He, too, is delighted. He, too, had not noticed them.

What else is there in this world that my hustling and bustling have barred me from sensing and seeing? What else has my oblivion—self-induced or socially-constructed—hindered me from perceiving?

My guess is that it is not only delights, such as these nests but violence, too, that’s within perception’s range, if only I gave it my true attention. Acts of exclusion, discrimination, and the impacts of systemic oppression are all there, right before me. I don’t always perceive them—I have been taught to not see them—but they are there, nevertheless.

What else have I missed as I move through this world? How might I wipe the dust clouding my vision and be available to reality as it is?

Spirit of Life and Love, may my senses be attuned to that which is Just, or is in need of Justice; to that which is Compassion or is in need of Compassion. May I perceive not only my reality, but the reality of those I love and those whose company I cherish.

About the Author

Karen G. Johnston

Rev. Karen G. Johnston (she/her/hers) is the Senior Minister at First Unitarian Universalist Society Burlington in Vermont. Before becoming a minister, she spent 20+ years as a clinical social worker....


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Against a pond whose surface is entirely covered with small green leaves, a green frog hides in plain sight.

Do you only see leaves.... or is there something else?

Audio Version of "Inviting Our True Attention"

Listen to Karen read her reflection here.