God speaks everywhere, but very often we are distracted, too busy or in a hurry to notice. Sometimes we see, but we do not recognize or perceive. We hear, but are not really listening. Perhaps if we were more intentional about seeing and listening, we would realize what Jesus longs for us to know, “…but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment, you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me and I’m in you.” (John 14:18-20 MSG).
He is speaking everywhere, albeit often in a still small voice. As the well-known hymn says, “This is my Father’s world. He shines in all that’s fair. In the rustling grass I hear him pass. He speaks to me everywhere.” Slowing down and paying attention helps us to tap into an invisible and greater reality that is Christ in us. This deliberate action on our part opens up space for God’s Spirit to speak and for us to experience that we are most fully alive in Christ. David Benner said, “Prayer is not about getting God to pay attention to us, rather it is about paying attention to God who is always attending to us.” There are many ways to pay attention and listen. One of my favorite is to sit or walk in nature and offer God this special time.
While on vacation last year I took the time to sit in nature. Grenada is a very verdant and beautiful island. At the center of the property where we stayed was a huge tree. Anywhere you stood on the property, you could see it. Observing it from different vantage points, I noticed some striking things. From one side its thick foliage hid its center, but from another side you could see straight to its heart where three large separate branches reached outward in an inviting stretch. At night it was beautifully lit up, so the little children vacationing with us were attracted to it and played around it. They would run towards it and promptly turn around and run away again and again. They couldn’t resist getting close, but then they ran off intimidated by its overwhelming size. A breeze off of the ocean would blow intermittently moving its branches as if the tree were enjoying the fun by clapping its gigantic limbs.
I wondered what God might be saying. I noticed that many of the characteristics of this ancient, tree were a reflection of God’s joyful, relational nature. Its three great branches stretching outward, united in an unbreakable union held by one gigantic trunk offering an invitation to any who wanted to come play and share in its joy and celebrations. I realized that the joy, beauty and peace we shared were a participation in an ancient joy, beauty and peace. At that moment, I realized that we were tapping into the invisible but very real presence of Christ who holds all things together.
As an exercise in listening and seeing, I invite you to go on a walk or sit in a garden with the sole purpose of noticing, attending and wondering. Notice what arrests your attention. Notice the sounds, the lighting, and the colors, there is no other reason for their existence but that God desired it be so! Enjoy them. Be aware of what you are feeling, and process it with him. Journal what you noticed and attended to, and consider what God might be saying to you.
Carmen Fleming is an Odyssey in Christ spiritual director and along with her participation on the retreat and seminar staff, she serves on the OIC Board as secretary.