Tag Archives: Listening

Meditation and the Secret Life of Bees


Let me share with you a delightful extract from Sue Monk Kidd’s book, The Secret Life of Bees

“If the heat goes over 1040 in South Carolina, you have to go to bed.  It’s practically the law.  Some people might see it as shiftless behaviour, but really, when we’re lying down from the heat, we’re giving our minds time to browse around for new ideas, wondering at the true aim of life, and generally letting things pop into our heads that need to.  In the sixth grade there was a boy in my class who had a steel plate in his skull and was always complaining how test answers could never get through to him.  Our teacher would say, ‘Give me a break.’

“In a way, though, the boy was right.  Every human being on the face of the earth has a steel plate in his head, but if you lie down now and then and get still as you can, it will slide open like elevator doors, letting in all the secret thoughts that have been standing around so patiently, pushing the button for a ride to the top.  The real troubles in life happen when those hidden doors stay closed for too long.  But that’s just my opinion.”

How sad that our lives have become so crowded and busy; we chase frantically after the “next thing”; we strive for efficiency, effectiveness, relevance, or whatever it is we think we are missing—or our boss thinks we are missing, or our spouse thinks we are missing.  We don’t have time to stop and listen, to let in “all the secret thoughts that have been standing around so patiently”. 

Don’t wait for 1040 (400 C) to strike.  Make space in the busy schedule; take a deep breath; open those “elevator doors”, and start listening today.

(Extract from The Secret Life of Bees, Headline Publishing Group (London) 2008, pp 211f)

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Filed under Books & Movies, Meditation & Prayer

A Prayer about Prayer


Lord you listen to our ramblings,
You listen to our cries for help,
You listen to our angry ranting
And our tear-filled grief.

We bring you our troubles and disasters,
And the tragedies that play out in the world around us.
We tell you about the inconsequential, the mundane and the insignificant.
Sometimes we react with the greatest intensity to less important things
And appear indifferent to the catastrophes around us.

You listen to it all, our chattering and our silence,
Our passion and our calmness.
As a father listens to his children
So you love to share in our stories
And enter into our lives.

But how you long to speak a word of love;
How you long for a quiet moment,
When the babble and the tears and the anger subside;
A quiet space for your still small voice to penetrate;
For the Father to touch his children’s lives.

We are alert to the world’s nuances and rhythms,
Quick to react in every way imaginable.
Teach us to know the rhythms of your heart, Lord,
Your still small voice, and your passion for justice and healing.
Teach us to temper our chattering with stillness,
And to listen for the breathing of your Spirit.

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Filed under Meditation & Prayer

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.

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Filed under Meditation & Prayer, Poetry

Three sausages and a funeral


I attended the funeral of a dear family friend yesterday.  By the way, I thought long and hard about the title to this post. I decided that Eunice would enjoy it.  Her sense of fun and mischievousness was one of her traits we all appreciated.

Polenta, Sausages & Basil Tomato Sauce

Eunice was part of our family circle for some 45 years from the time her husband-to-be brought her to his friends (my parents) for dinner to see what they thought of his choice. They approved and, as they say, the rest is their-story. He had already been approved by brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts, and most of the nursing staff of the local hospital where Eunice was a nursing sister.

This was her husband’s second marriage and he had two children, a girl of ten and a boy of eight years. The son spoke at his Mum’s funeral. He said they weren’t sure what to call her at first but that she had earned the title of Mum many times over. He went on to say that when his Dad told them he was going to marry again his first thought was, “What will happen with the sausages?”

He explained.

“Sausages came in packs of eight. When Dad cooked them I got three, Dad got three, and my sister got two. Now, unless Dad were to open a second packet (and that wasn’t going to happen) the status quo was about to change.”

He never told us how they worked it out.

It struck me how little we know about what goes on in another person’s mind, and particularly in a child’s mind. We assume we know, we anticipate the likely thoughts the expected reactions and try to prepare for them. We listen and we make assumptions about what we see and hear. But so often it’s the little things, the completely unexpected things, things we could never have anticipated, that are the sticking points.

How we need to be open and to listen to each other, especially to the children and the vulnerable. We simply do not know what’s going on in another person’s mind and heart. Someone said that it’s not your first question that’s important; it’s the second or third that begins to get to the heart of the matter. Listen carefully, ask questions, and ask again. Give the person you want to engage with plenty of opportunities to express his or her thoughts in a variety of ways. And when it’s all come out, expect there to be more.

A friend blogged about her impending move across the States. Their youngest (three) was very sad.

“This is our house. We don’t need another one,” he said.
She writes:

“Poor kid…. His concepts of home, family, and all things familiar and lovely are probably inseparable from this house. Again, we tried to allay his fears, but—bless his little heart—we didn’t know the horrors he was braving until he asked, ‘Could we bring the guitar?’
He thought we were leaving behind everything near and dear for the utterly unknown.”

(You can read her full story here.)

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Filed under Community, Odds & Ends