Take a real close look at the picture posted here. The little girl on the right is my younger sister (Julie Rodgers). The little girl on the left is one of my first cousins (Becky Collier). When this picture was taken, they were two years old. Take a closer look. Julie is holding a baby. In fact, she is actively making sure the toy baby in her arms is being fed with a bottle. Becky, on the other hand, is holding a bunny. A toy, stuffed bunny. They were two.

Now consider this: forty-plus years later, Julie is the mother of 10 – TEN – children. She loves babies. I cannot remember a time I have been with Julie, over the past twenty years, when she is not busy feeding one of her children. Becky? Well she currently serves as the School Programs Manager at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium near Salt Lake City, Utah. In other words, she loves animals. I cannot remember being around her in recent decades when an animal wasn’t front and center in her heart and life.

Think about this. At age two, Julie and Becky were doing what they love. This picture reveals a major foreshadowing. Forty years later they are doing (in different expressions) what they were doing in this picture. It is absolutely fascinating to me.

Two challenges emerge in my mind as I contemplate this picture and its implications.

First – PARENTS, PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR CHILDREN!!

Watch them. Listen to them. Learn about them. Lean in to how God wired them. Help draw out for them their uniqueness and point it out. Push them to be who they are. Urge them to grow into and thrive as the human being God put on the planet to be. Put down your phone and pay attention to them. Love them by being present with them. Give them your attention and watch how God shows you how He made them. As the country opens up post-pandemic, don’t rush back into more commitments that keep you away from home. Be present and pay attention to your children.

Second – PAY ATTENTION, PERIOD.

Pay attention to the people right in front of you. We aren’t a “one size fits all” people. We are all very, very, very different. Listen. Observe. Ask. Probe. Look for what God is doing. Look for what God is saying. Be present. Pay attention. See if the Holy Spirit might use you to draw out what God is doing, saying; how He is acting, moving, leading. This cannot be rushed. It cannot be sped along. It takes time to pause and pay attention to the person right in front of you.

Yesterday I went to see a Cardiologist (long story. . . everything’s fine. . . blah, blah, blah). I was not looking forward to it. However, when I left, I had a smile on my face. For sure, one reason was because he said everything is fine. But there was a deeper reason. I felt known. He sat down. He looked me in the eye. He asked me questions. He asked follow up questions. He learned about me. He noticed things about me. We were only together for about 10-15 minutes, but I felt like he actually cared about me. I wasn’t going to be run through his “system.” He treated me as a unique individual, with unique circumstances. It was, in a bizarre but real way, rich. My point? He paid attention to me and it made a tremendous impact.

God uniquely made each and every human on the planet. We are made in His image. He intimately pays attention to each of us. Let’s eagerly model that for one another.

(Photo cred: Andy Collier – my Uncle. Becky’s dad.)