How to Hear God’s Voice (and maybe your own)

“Come away with me by yourselves and get some rest.” Jesus, Mark Chapter 6

Pushing the patio chair into place undercover, I scan the deck for my little table. I want to sit a while and take advantage of the peace and quiet to listen.
Not read my Bible, read a book, look at my phone, just sit with my journal and pay attention to what I hear, what I see, what my heart wants to tell me.
But I need my footstool first.  My legs are too short to touch the decking and I can’t relax ‘til my feet are in place. Ah, there it is hidden under the plastic tablecloth out of the rain.
Now I’m settled. My eyes train on the birds at our feeders. I grin at their acrobatic antics, bouncing marionette-like from feeder to tree, swooping like jets coming in for a landing. I’m quite certain the only reason God created birds was to delight us and him.
Instead of writing anything, I begin to read the lines I penned over the past year; little conversations with Jesus and I show up on the page. ‘Aha’s’ are circled or highlighted, questions I pondered and the answer that came after it are underlined. There are pencil scratchings in the margin, messages from the Spirit of God right to my soul.
Someone asked the question recently, ‘What is saving your life right now?’
And here’s what I have to say–the spiritual practice of listening, stopping to hear God’s voice to me, and hear my own voice.  This is what I know:
  • When you give God time to touch you, He will.
  • When you give Him space to speak, He will.
  • When you give Him room to move, He will.


Part of my conversations with Jesus lately have been about story—mine, in particular.
Story that includes things like the day job I have and how it affects my understanding of God.
Or the love I have for books and their power to move me. And maybe others.
Or the passion I have about social issues and shining a light in dark places.
My random thoughts can run all over and it’s hard to rein them in.
At the end of the day I sat with my bedside journal–I have lined volumes in many, many places in the house. I scanned the lines I’d written, finding over and over again the truest parts of me on the page.
The line that caught my eye before I turned out the light was, “Trust your voice.” I felt the Holy Spirit say, “I have a story to tell of my goodness and love through your life alone. I have a way of encouraging others through your testimony and your story.  Stop trying to be like everyone else and write what you know, tell the world what you hear.”

I woke with that in mind, full of a confidence that God will guide my thoughts , that I’ll hear Him speak not only to me, but through me, as I continue to give Him space and time to speak.
How might you take some time or space to make room for God to speak to you this week? Trust what He says…and trust your own voice—we need you.

Linking with Modern Mrs. Darcy and 

Kelly for #Small Wonder Link up

Everything Old is New Again

There’s a Christmas song going around in my head as I start the New YearThe song is, of course, ‘Amazing Grace.’  What, that’s not a Christmas song?  But isn’t that what God’s arrival on earth as a walking-around-among-ushuman was? Is?  Amazing grace…

Extended over and over again as Jesus makes His way into our lives, moving into our world right where we are in our fallenness and humanness.

I’m banking on that daily this year as I move forward….for that is the only direction we can go—falling forward, even though (true confession) one might feel like a fraud.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but here are my thoughts: I’ve written in this space many, many times about the importance of stillness, listening and Sabbath-ing.
Not in a stop-what-you’re-doing-and-rest-for-an-entire-day-kind of Sabbath—because that’s not doable in my world. No, I mean Sabbathing on the Page—taking an hour a day or an hour a week to steal away and listen to the Holy Spirit speak and write down what you hear.

The importance of listening and stillness came home to me three Januaries ago when I read this book by LL Barkat (who coined the idea of ‘Sabbath on the Page’). I am passionate about the practice, primarily because of personal revelations that came to me and my confidence God wants to lead others in hearing from Him this way.

I’ve shared about it at a Retreat, blogged about it, and consider it in thought and practice the foundation of my small space here on the internet.

But the reality? Stealing away to listen and write, be still and hear God’s voice hasn’t happened much this past year. Hence the fraud feeling. There have been very, very few hours I could call my own.  At the end of a long day of work, running errands and involvement at church and Life in General, there’s just no time.

The longing to get away is what I miss, the excitement of hearing from God, the confidence He will speak, the intimacy afforded me with my Jesus while I just sit.

What’s changed in the last two years? Well, my husband retired; he’s home all the time. I suppose that’s a practical answer, but maybe it’s just an excuse. If I really thought an hour alone outside every day was important, I’d make a way.
So I’m penciling in writing time this year and quiet-out-on-the-deck listening time, even if it’s only once a week.

Because….God’s grace~He just says, “Come.”

So I will begin, standing at the the edge of the puddle that is my life…. Amorpohous right now, changing and moving, blown about by the wind. But as I step towards the quiet, still center, there I’ll see my reflection—find who I am, who God is, as I lean in and find the beauty mirroring back to me in the skies….

This song by Fernando Ortega really ministered to me this week:
Linking with Kelly for #SmallWonder Link Up 

How to Find a Slice of Peace

True confession: I am not a contemplative person by nature. I am an extrovert that is energized by giving life away to other people, interacting, listening, pouring out.

But I do need my down time, away-from-the-madding-crowd time.  (In my day job as an elementary school substitute, it is often a very madding crowd. Not only do I need time away from the crowd, I quite often need a nap.)

It is in these stopping and stilling times when I’m filled up by God’s presence, where I connect with the Source of all that I need, where I’m refreshed to give out again.
I’ve written about the discipline of listening and the power of taking a ‘Sabbath on the Page’ here and here

I’m passionate about the practice; it’s a message I will never tire of spreading because of the discoveries I made as I stopped to listen. 

However, finding the space and time for these mini-Sabbaths has become more and more difficult the last year or so.
I think it is the age we live in.
I think it is MY age.
I think there’s just.too.much of everything.

But when I’ve got a lot on my plate, Holy Spirit says, “step away from the table and take a walk outside.” The more I have to do in a day or a week, the more I need a time out, away. Even if it’s just to walk down the street or out in the backyard.
I heard a ‘sacred echo’ of that call when I read Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter #17,An Exercise in Disconnection. (Would you like to subscribe? Here’s the link.)

Seth’s book ‘Coming Clean’ was released last week (my review is here.You would think if you’d gone through the agonizing process of writing a book, spent hours and miles to talk about the book, then looked forward to the day it would be launched into the world, you wouldn’t take an entire week away from the world and go fishing.

But that’s exactly what he did. As he shares in his Tiny Letter, it was definitely the right decision.

Why? He met God there in the middle of the river and the sky and gained a new perspective about what really matters.
This is not a practice of ‘getting back to nature and becoming one with the earth.’
Trees and sky and rivers are not God.  But they speak of God. 
And we need to slow down to listen.

A line from my favorite book, ‘God in the Yard’ (L.L.Barkat), “Smallness permits attention” echoed in my brain.

“Yes! Yes!” I cried inside as I read Seth’s words.

I cried outside, too, weeping tears from the beauty on the page, God’s voice confirming, “This is still my message. When you’re too busy and it doesn’t make sense
take an intentional Sabbath and rest. Truly, my upside down ways are best.

So what did I do?
Turned my back on my disheveled Sunday house and the chores ahead piled up from a busy weekend, put on my boots and garden gloves, and walked outside to the deck and the yard.

I felt like I hadn’t been out there for months. I’ve admired the view and remarked about the birds, glanced at the changing colors of the trees as I glanced through the kitchen window. But I hadn’t actually had my feet on the muddy ground and saturated lawn for weeks.

It’s amazing what I found. 
Johnny jump ups in the garden, next to the blue borage.

A nasturtium that was still threatening to take over the flower bed.

A crumbling log turning to cold chocolate cinders,hiding behind the rhubarb.

 The parsley was still producing(exploding)

the chocolate cosmos still blooming.                                            

I pulled out spent plants and tossed them into the compost heap, trimmed back the licorice-colored stalks of the peonies, stacked rusted, wiry tomato frames.  True, this wasn’t a do-nothing, sit still kind of rest, but to me it was medicine for my soul. 

You don’t have to be resting to be restored–sometimes it means getting dirt under your fingers and mud on your boots.

I clipped the last few zinnias for a small bouquet, breathing in the fresh, rain-dampened air, slowly reviving my tired lungs and frazzled brain.

Making the steps back to our patio, I noticed spent flowers from an old bouquet that had missed the garbage can.

Mindful to ask God what he wanted me to hear (or see) I was immediately drawn to the flutter of fallen alstromeria petals that lay on the ground, speckling the rain-darkened concrete.

Bending down to inspect more closely, I noticed the delicate streaks on the petals, shocks of magenta against pale white. Laying them out in alternate up/down patterns, I took a stray yellow mum that had been tossed aside and placed it at 12 o’clock above the flowery row.

Green and yellow birch leaves were scattered in piles alongside the house and layered like decals on the concrete.  I picked up a few and set them around the petals in a kind of sunburst (leaf burst?) pattern, constructing a collage of flora fragments.

It wasn’t anything breathtaking, just artwork from cast off debris. 
A bit of beauty and order from disorder. 
Color on a cold and dreary November day….

I smiled and thought,
Look what I’d found.
(No, look what God enabled me to see because I was looking.)
Look what I made.
(this was fun! partnering in a bit of creating from God’s own Creation.)
Look what I gained.
A respite in the rain, with a view to life and beauty right under my nose (and my feet).

A God-made slice of peace in my own backyard that wasn’t buzzing or glowing or humming or Plugged Into Something.

A slice of peace….

If I can’t have the whole pie—a day or an hour—I’ll take the minutes I have—and pause to be refreshed in God’s presence whenever I can, however I can.  

Even if it makes no sense to do so.

Especially when it makes no sense.

How about you?

Writer’s Retreat Recap–Yes, He Abides

my friend Laura S. and I leading worship

Worship–A Pantoum
Inside, two friends bend hearts towards God
stops and starts, voices raised, a daring duo
strums and strings bring songs alive
while the Holy Spirit sings His song over you

Stops and starts, voices raised, a daring duo
carrying water for thirsty souls
while the Holy Spirit sings His song through you
deep channels, delivering life via verse and tone

Carrying water for thirsty souls
this, the joy of completing his song
channeling life via verse and voice and tone
inside, two friends bend hearts toward God.
My heart is so full I feel it will spill a torrent of words and you might all drown for the reading. 

I still can’t quite believe what God did at our little Writer’s Retreat in Leavenworth last weekend.  It was everything my friend Kimberlee and I prayed and planned for and more.
(more details on the ‘Writer’s Retreat’ tab at the top of the page.)

I have long sensed God was going to use this time as a catalyst, the beginning of a seed from His heart and mine to see women writers of faith encouraged and connected, uplifted in their communicating.

This resonated with others as well–the desire to not be well-known, but to be known well–by our Father and by each other.  The passion for God’s presence and a desire to hear His voice and be healed in the hearing.

Leading worship was a particular joy as I felt many times the power in the room, God’s light touch on my shoulder and tears on my face as He showed up.  We sounded like Heaven, I’m sure.

I shared revelations about what God did using Writing as a Spiritual Practice introducing the women to the idea of sitting with 2 or 3 questions and listening to what God might say. (prompted by my reading of ‘God in the Yard’.) The uncovering sparked many embers, lighting fires of discovery all around.

Kimberlee delighted us with playing with words and poetry as we each dove in to write a Pantoum–a poem form that is actually easy to use (look! I wrote a pantoum!) once you get the hang of it. We wrote our “Glory be to God’s” after Gerard Manley Hopkins and wished we had enough French berets for all.
Hearing the responses as women de-mystified the poetry process would have made my friend Laura Barkat swoon. 
‘Hey, look, I wrote a poem!’  Priceless.

Shhhh…..the poets are working in the Library

Our retreat site in the Cascade Mountains of Washington lent itself well to listening and looking. The Library where we met was filled with Heaven from the moment we stepped inside. The camaraderie under the apple trees, the early morning conversations on the front porch, all were strands woven together in a beautiful piece of God’s own cloth.

Fall colors were everywhere

early morning walk, Laura S.

When we shared in our Communion circle on Sunday morning, the fruit of each person’s words fed my soul:

“I’m leaving here feeling expanded.”
“The healing is real.”
“Thank you for teaching me about poetry.”
I feel refreshed, rejuvenated. Loved the reflection time.”
I learned to abide in Jesus, not in my pain.
“I love opportunities like this to be together with people who all wanted to find God in the space.”
“Writing pantoums was like Legos with words.”
“I enjoyed this, less because of the writing and more because of the people, wrestling through faith together, living through God’s calling in our life.”

As I said, my heart is full.  Here’s to Abiding.
I longed for this little Retreat to be start to more in real life encounters, particularly here in the Pacific Northwest, opportunities to eat and talk and maybe sing. Chances to share heart songs and stories amidst tea and cookies and kids.  
(Maybe there’ll be a summer picnic, who knows?)
We have a Facebook page where you can join us. 
We’re starting small and building slow, reaching out and reaching up, 
continuing to bring Him glory. 
The photos from ‘Light and Loveliness’ are Ms. Emily Allen, one of our Retreatants.
Thank you Emily!

That Still, Small Voice

One of the best things about teaching Elementary School as a substitute teacher is hanging out with second graders (my favorite grade–innocent, love their teachers, AND they can usually tie their shoes).

The other thing about Second Grade is that every February pretty much every teacher talks about penguins.  Were it not for this exposure to the subject, I would not be aware of the fact there are 17 different species of penguins in the world.  

Seventeen. Each one is a remarkable display of God’s creativity–from fin size to breeding habits to habitat.  Penguins are amazing creatures.

Because of the documentary ‘March of the Penguins’, a life cycle depiction of the Emperor Penguin of Antarctica, I learned something about the roles of the parents in raising their offspring. Mothers and fathers raise their chicks together, keeping them warm, fetching food from far out in the ocean and returning.

This food gathering process is what astonished me. In a colony of thousands upon thousands of penguins, when the mother returns with the food, she can hear her chick’s voice above all the others. 

She can distinguish its cry in a crowd of wall to wall black and white, fur-finned squawking creatures.
No matter how many other sounds of despair or distress she hears around her, she hones in on the one that is hers.
I feel like I’ve been drowning in a sea of voices lately.
Facebook threads and Twitter feeds with information and input and overload, opinions large and small on the state of the world.
Blog posts from far and wide with heartfelt sentiments spread across the page.

They’re not bad. They’re not all good. There are just too many.

I want to get back to listening for that still, small voice of Jesus, to bend in close and hear what He is saying and what He wants me to say to you.

If it’s not beautiful or encouraging or uplifting…….well, I’ll keep it to myself.

So–I’m going to pull back from posting, lessen the pressure (self-imposed) of coming up with something each week to say (because I always have something to say.)
Instead, I want to focus on whatever is true, beautiful, noble and of good report.

And it might take me awhile to figure that out.

But whatever Jesus gives me is yours.  As soon as I hear His voice.
Linking with Kelly for the Small Wonder link up