the voices

This morning, I’ve had the gift of some alone time on the back porch as the world wakes up into Saturday. It did not take long for the birds to find the fresh food at the feeder and begin the lovely dance of taking turns on the perches for their first meal of the day.

It has been a busy week, and I have been waiting for this moment to enjoy some time to just be before beginning my day. I will know I’ve journeyed to heaven when there is a chair, a bird feeder, and fresh air waiting for me 24/7.

This morning I had planned to sit and spend some time in centering prayer so I grabbed my comfy sweater, pulled a chair into the sunshine, and closed my eyes.

My friend and I have been talking for sometime about where God is leading us. We have both struggled with our own journeys with Church and miss the soulfire of being engaged in meaningful ministry. I had hoped to use my prayer time to listen to what the Spirit might be saying about our most recent conversation.

When I start settling into prayer, I usually begin by focusing on something sensory that will get me out of my head. Today, it was the birdsong surrounding me. Birds whistled and chattered, clicked and chirped. Crows and jays, titmice and cardinals, wrens and nuthatch. So many voices, however, that they became distractions. I found myself trying to whittle down which bird I would listen to, and in the process, became more distracted than I’d been in the first place.

I returned to my breath, and that’s when I heard it.

I am here.

I am here.

From my heart center came the voice I’d been seeking.

I am here.

It is easy for us in the day-to-day to become distracted by all the voices around us. With technology, we have greater access to information input than any other generation. And whether these voices are filling our heads with positive, neutral or negative feedback, it is still drawing us away from the opportunity to connect with ourselves, our breath, and the Spirit.

As a result, we lose our Center, the thing that roots us and assures us of what is true and right and good about ourselves, about our place in this world.

And so as I continued on with my prayer time, I was reminded that perhaps what I’m seeking right now is a sacred space or time apart to practice, not to lead, not to manage. Just to practice. To center in prayer. To listen to the Voice. To feel the Spirit move.

That doesn’t take a building or a budget, a meeting or a plan.

Simply put, it just means showing up with a desire or longing for reconnection, letting the Spirit do the work that was meant just for you.

lessons learned: at the heart of it

When my sister and I were little, our mother would surprise us by serving an artichoke with our dinner. We found it magical to peel away the layers, scraping them with our teeth and savoring the small bit of goodness at the end of each leaf. But the prize came at the end when we arrived at the heart, and found the tender delicacy waiting to be relished.

No scraping of leaves, no work to be done. Simply taking bite by small bite to savor the goodness of the artichoke.

This past weekend, I found my head filled with layers of static. I’d been coming and going in every direction and clearly, needed to be more intentional about centering myself.

I began my prayer routine by curling up into child’s pose and trying to release the thoughts racing through my brain. Sadly, I could never seem to get there.

I tried turning over and settling into my breath. The static in my head was almost palpable. I couldn’t wade through all the checklists and events and notifications to get at the heart of it–my connection with God.

I remembered an exercise I learned in my spiritual guidance program at Shalem–the facilitator had us focus on our minds then quickly release and focus on our hearts. Something about “thinking” with my heart typically moves me away from the chatter of the monkey mind and into connection with my spirit.

As I tried to release, the image of an artichoke came to me. I remembered my childhood and peeling away leaves one by one. That memory transitioned into practice, and I began peeling away layer by layer each of the items that was distracting me from the Creator.

You see, even in those things that become our day-to-day, we get a small taste of God but our focus typically becomes the checklists, events, and notifications. We aren’t really getting at the heart of our relationship with God in the busyness of go, go, going.

As I continued to peel off each distraction one by one, layer by layer, I could feel the static dissipate. I could feel my breath deepen. I could feel my heart center.

It has been awhile since I’ve bought an artichoke, steamed it, then savored it. I am thinking I might have just come across a lovely, and delicious, new prayer practice.

Photo by Heather Schrock on Unsplash