The Attentive Life - Book Review


“May it be the real I who speak.  May it be the real thou that I speak to.” – C.S. Lewis

So often I feel slightly nervous about books that have titles relating to finding God’s voice and presence in all things.  I fear from their titles that when I open them up, their comfort in the ‘long dark night of the soul’ will be a pat answer that God loves me.  Often I feel the guilt of not being able let go of questions like ‘Why?’ ‘Where were you when _____, God?’  ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ (John 11:21), and just see his presence in all things around me.

Fortunately, Leighton Ford’s The Attentive Life goes much deeper than simply offering an undeniably beautifully made world to fall back on when we want to find God.  Ford points us back to where Esther points us – keeping your eyes truly focused, in the confusion of life, on the God of all grace.

Ford’s book begins by dissecting each ‘season’ of life, following a chapter pattern using the daily prayer schedule. Ford also includes short biographies at the end of each chapter that display the benefit of slowing down and being attentive.  Ford also offers practical exercises for how to slow down and be attentive to what God is doing in our lives, in the world, and in our hearts.

Working as a psychologist, and as someone who has also borne the pain of loss and grief that an ordinary human life draws in a broken world, I find that we so often get offered – and offer ourselves – endless distraction as a salve to the hurting self.  We’re told to hurry past pain – to distract ourselves when we suffer.  It’s an unwanted shadow in an alley on the way home; just hurry by and hope that it doesn’t cling to us as we reach our own door.   Think about the advice you’ve given, or been given a little while after you’ve gone through pain, or been hurt: ‘It’s time to move on,’  ‘Try not to dwell on it,’ ‘Just try to distract yourself,’ ‘It’s best to try not to think about it too much,’ ‘Time heals all wounds.’  Eventually every hurting soul with questions learns that it’s best to wallpaper over these moments.  Stick the paper of time, entertainment, friends, work, relationships, and ministry over the wounds that life inflicts, until the wounds are so papered over that we can’t see them, can’t feel them.  With these covered up,   we feel the safe and confusing apathy of a soul that can’t answer questions, or sit with statements like: “Why do people die?” “Why do relationships end?” “I’m going to die one day,” “I might end up alone.” “What is it all for?”  To stop distracting yourself, ‘keeping busy’ – would mean looking directly at them.

Ford’s The Attentive Life enters in at this point in a believer’s journey.  Isn’t it precisely these points where God, and only God, is able to meet us?  If we are on the constant run from these questions and have lost the ability to stop – because stopping means confronting hurts and fears – we are on the run from being attentive.  We find safety in the rush and the distractibility.  Inattentiveness is the cure to the pain that paying attention inflicts. 

But being attentive is the heart of love, and what God gives and asks in return, is love.   As Ford points out, when someone says “I don’t know what he sees in her!” about someone else’s partner, it is natural that we don’t.  We haven’t spent the time getting to know their heart, looking in their eyes, feeling their touch and allowing them to be close to us.  The same can be said of God.  God’s love is sustained attention on our lives, on everything about us, on our fallen, rejecting world.  God bears the endless humiliation of paying complete attention to beloved creatures who endlessly rebuff his love. 

Ford’s book is a call to believers to slow down from the distractibility of life, and in turn, to focus our full attention on God – to learn to be truly still, and know that He is God. To turn our love – meaning our sustained attention – on Him. Reject the momentary fix of running from distraction to distraction (inattention), and turn on sustained attention. This means confronting the difficult questions and delivering them to God, who can answer them, in the time that He takes.  While the world tells us to rush, God tells us to slow down.  When the world says distract yourself and close your heart off to pain, God reaches in and tells us to keep our heart open so that He can write on it. 

I am the guiltiest of this!  I expect God to fix my life, my finances, my relationships, my pain, and my confusion in the time it takes for McDonald’s to make a cheeseburger.  But Ford’s book is a timely reminder that Jesus calls us to a harder, but ultimately more fulfilling purpose – to have a ceaseless, unyielding orientation, attention, to Jesus alone.  To look to Him in the times when a distraction would do the short term job.  To know that He alone can satisfy our soul, and use our energies not to wallpaper over the hurts that a broken world inflicts on us, but instead allow ourselves to remain attentive to Him, despite the immediate cost of vulnerability to pain – to see God work in your life and in your heart.

Ford’s The Attentive Life asks the question and offers practical advice for the questions that Esther poses: Will you continue to pay attention to God and allow Him to work in your heart when you’re uncertain?  Will you offer your attention and affection to God, knowing that He is in control, and is the only answer to the deep longings?  Or will you turn away, choosing to lose yourself and Him, in a distraction?

Author: Vicki Smith
Published: 19 Feb 2014

Latest Posts:

  • Join the Team – Community Pastor (Melbourne)

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – Generations Pastor (Melbourne)

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – Women’s Ministry Director (Melbourne)

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – Training Director (Melbourne)

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – City Kids Coordinator (West)

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – City on a Hill Melbourne

    Join the Team –…

  • Join the Team – Services Director (West)

    Join the Team –…

  • Key Themes: Suffering

    Key Themes: Suffering

  • Key Themes: Poverty & Wealth

    Key Themes: Poverty…

  • Key Themes: Now & Tomorrow

    Key Themes: Now &…

  • Key Themes: Wisdom

    Key Themes: Wisdom

  • Key Themes: Faith & Works

    Key Themes: Faith…

  • Opportunity to Serve – Communications Coordinator Melbourne

    Opportunity to Serve…

  • Fasting: A Brief Introduction

    Fasting: A Brief…

  • Unlocking a New Room

    Unlocking a New Room

  • Join the Team – Many Rooms Kitchen Coordinator

    Join the Team –…

  • Opportunity to Serve – City Kids Team Leader

    Opportunity to Serve…

  • On Mission with Milene Tan

    On Mission with Milene…

  • On Mission with Kenneth Webb

    On Mission with Kenneth…

  • On Mission with Debbie Bognar

    On Mission with Debbie…

  • The Structure of Proverbs

    The Structure of…

  • City on a Hill Church Planting Fund

    City on a Hill Church…

  • His Story Our Story – Recap

    His Story Our Story…

  • 3 Tips for Reading Proverbs

    3 Tips for Reading…

  • Join the Team – Research Coordinator

    Join the Team –…

  • Why should we trust the Bible if it gets the origin of life so wrong? – Part III

    Why should we trust…

  • Why should we trust the Bible if it gets the origin of life so wrong? – Part II

    Why should we trust…

  • Why should we trust the Bible if it gets the origin of life so wrong? – Part I

    Why should we trust…

  • Tacos of Grace

    Tacos of Grace

  • City News September

    City News September

  • City News August

    City News August

  • Join the Team – Operations Director

    Join the Team –…

  • Welcome Dave Miers

    Welcome Dave Miers

  • City News July

    City News July

  • On Mission with Paul Distefano

    On Mission with Paul…

  • On Mission with Steve Murray

    On Mission with Steve…

  • On Mission with Rick Jordan

    On Mission with Rick…

  • Welcome Leighton Cantrill

    Welcome Leighton…

  • The Lost Art of Sorrow

    The Lost Art of Sorrow

  • Interview With Sam Wright, Pastor of Redemption Church

    Interview With Sam…

  • The Reality of Suffering and Evil

    The Reality of Suffering…

  • Join the Team – Accounts Coordinator

    Join the Team –…

  • The Attentive Life - Book Review

    The Attentive Life…

  • A Date with the King

    A Date with the King

  • Trusting the Grand Weaver

    Trusting the Grand…

  • City News February

    City News February

  • Songs of Summer II

    Songs of Summer II

  • City News January

    City News January

  • Generous – Quarterly Update

    Generous – Quarterly…

  • City News December

    City News December

  • Join the Team – Community Director

    Join the Team –…

  • Engage 2014

    Engage 2014

  • Planting with PlantED

    Planting with PlantED

  • Join the Team – Video Coordinator

    Join the Team –…

  • Introduction to Promises

    Introduction to Promises

  • Join the Team – XD-Ops

    Join the Team –…

  • City News November

    City News November

  • His Story Our Story – Photo Journal

    His Story Our Story…

  • Kirsty’s Story

    Kirsty’s Story

  • Pete’s Story

    Pete’s Story

  • Amy’s Story

    Amy’s Story

  • Surviving Same Sex Attraction as a Christian

    Surviving Same Sex…

  • Generous Campaign

    Generous Campaign

  • Why Bother With Predestination?

    Why Bother With Predestination?

  • City News October

    City News October

  • This Is (True) Greatness

    This Is (True) Greatness

  • The Call to Mission

    The Call to Mission

  • What About the Warnings?

    What About the Warnings?

  • The Peril of Porn

    The Peril of Porn

  • Dating For The Glory Of God

    Dating For The Glory…

  • City News September 2013

    City News September…

  • Adoption: The Gospel Made Visible

    Adoption: The Gospel…

  • You Knit Me Together

    You Knit Me Together

  • Working For God

    Working For God

  • Australia – The Results Are In

    Australia – The…

  • Thorn in the Flesh

    Thorn in the Flesh

  • Tough Questions

    Tough Questions

  • Good Grief

    Good Grief

  • An Honourable Office

    An Honourable Office

  • City News July 2013

    City News July 2013

  • Faith and Work

    Faith and Work

  • We Are Family

    We Are Family

  • WWJD: Responding To Begging

    WWJD: Responding…

  • Work. Rest. Play - Part II

    Work. Rest. Play…

  • City News - May

    City News - May

  • Salvation Happens To Us, Not By Us

    Salvation Happens…

  • Doves & Snakes

    Doves & Snakes

  • Planting & Pregnancy

    Planting & Pregnancy

  • Lest We Forget

    Lest We Forget

  • Introduction to 1 Peter

    Introduction to 1…

  • Easter 2013 – Photo Journal

    Easter 2013 – Photo…

  • More Than Gold

    More Than Gold

  • Join The Team – Music Director

    Join The Team –…

  • Jessica’s Story

    Jessica’s Story

  • Changes


  • Andy’s Story

    Andy’s Story

  • Work. Rest. Play - Part I

    Work. Rest. Play…

  • Join The Team – Biblical Living Pastor

    Join The Team –…

  • Eat, Drink & Be Merry Melbourne!

    Eat, Drink &…

  • City News – March

    City News – March