Too Busy to Listen

Listening is such hard work; waiting for the future to happen is so difficult. I struggle to get to retreats and quiet days. I’m too busy; there’s too much to get through; I want to read, to write, to learn, to do. But always, when I eventually do stop to listen, usually on a retreat or a quiet day, I am reminded (again) of how much I need to listen. The growth I strive for, the ability to serve, to preach, to be whatever God is calling me to be, will not come about by being pasted on to my life. It won’t come from reading more (although the seeds may be there); it won’t come from “wandering to and fro upon the earth”. It comes (for me at least) from within. It comes from listening.

I was privileged to spend a morning last weekend with Jim and Heather Johnston and about 30 or so friends at Beth Shalam, celebrating Jim and Heather’s ministry there over the past 20 years. The time has come for them to retire.  Many of those who were there had been to multiple retreats and quiet days over the years. Most had been through Jim’s Life Revision course (an eight-day retreat followed by two three-day retreats). All had been blessed beyond measure by the healing and nurturing that has been the mark of this home.

I have attended a couple of retreats at Beth Shalam. We are fortunate to be in the same city, just down the road, but I haven’t enjoyed the privilege as much as I could have. Then during last year (2010) I went through the Life Revision course. It was a transforming experience for me and, among other things, I began to write.

On this final, celebratory, retreat Heather pointed out that one can only harvest what has been sown; we bring out what is within us, what has grown there. I want my growth and my becoming to happen now, or at least by tomorrow morning. Perhaps one more book will do it….

Heather quoted from John O’Donohue’s meditation, “For One Who is Exhausted”. One line was particularly poignant for me: “The tide you never valued has gone out”.  Heather expanded on it saying that we often move too fast (in “the fast lane of nothingness”) and we get ahead of ourselves.

These thoughts distilled themselves into the following meditation during a quiet moment in the beauty of their wonderful garden.

O God of the mighty oak and the tiniest flower,
Of the soaring eagle and the wandering ant;
God of a future beyond my knowledge and beyond my reach,
Hold me to the present, its pain and delight.

I long to be an eagle, a significant oak,
But that longing consumes me and leaves me unfilled.
I am lost and ungrounded in a future that arrived too soon.
For the plant does not grow if the seed is not nurtured;
The harvest is barren and without any substance.

Lord, keep me from the fast lane of nothingness,
Hold me to the present, deep in the soil of your grace.
For it is here that the future takes root.


Filed under Meditation & Prayer, Poetry

11 responses to “Too Busy to Listen

  1. Sarah Andrew

    Hi Ian.
    My name is Sarah Andrew and we (my mom and dad) bought Beth Shalam from Jim and Heather. We attend Trinity Church, Hilton, and are currently running Beth Shalam as a Self Catering venue. We love it here and are truly thankful that God blessed us with this beautiful home.


    • Ian

      Wow, that’s very exciting to hear. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a message. How did you find me?


      • Sarah

        I looked up ‘Beth Shalam’ and read this beautiful site ‘Wondering Preacher’. I thought I’d just let you know that this home is still greatly appreciated and say ‘thank you’ for creating this lovely site. <('')
        ( )
        ~ ~
        Keep well and enjoy the hols!!


    • Thabi

      Greetings beloved
      I am so excited to finally know what’s happening regarding Beth Shalam. Once visited the place while it was still owned by Heather and Jim. would you be so kind as to give me your contact details Sarah I would love to come to the place again.
      My name is Thabi am pastoring a church in Ixopo

      God bless you


  2. Thank you for the reminder to “be still and know that He is God”. Stillness is not one of my best attributes right now, and that’s when I hear Him the best.


  3. Crystal

    I was at a day retreat yesterday. The speaker used the metaphor of a bulb and the different seasons it goes through. The resting, growing, listening period happens under the ground. It can be cold and dark even and feel like nothing is happening. You may wonder why the previous season that seemed so fruitful has waned. But you always cycle back around and the next “bloom” time is different that the last because you have grown, matured, and changed.

    Her point was to encourage us to be sensitive and accept the season we are in. Embrace it…and don’t see it as an insult. God is up to something.

    I am thankful for the ministry of this couple…that it got you about the business of writing. 🙂


  4. I hope it goes well. Thanks for the visit.


  5. What a lovely meditation!

    I am attending my first contemplative retreat ever, in March this year. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a little while but with work and kids, I always found it difficult to make the time. So I’m really looking forward to it!


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