I Am Listening

This week we’re presented with the story of the call of Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1-10). Just as Samuel had to intentionally stop and listen to Yahweh, so we also have to intentionally listen to God on this crazy journey we call life.

(For the full video version, click here.)

In this story a voice spoke to Samuel three times in the middle of the night Im-listening(was this out loud or within his heart, we don’t know) and he believed it to be Eli, the old priest he served. Finally Eli caught on and realized that God was trying to talk to Samuel. Eli instructed him, “The next time you are called, simply answer, yes, Lord, I’m listening.”

Samuel was lucky. He had someone with some experience and wisdom to tell him to pay attention and listen.

Today isn’t unlike Samuel’s time… prophets, people who claimed to have heard from God, were uncommon for a time. We’d probably be hard-pressed to find many folks today who believe that God speaks to them (and I don’t trust most of those who say God does). Or, perhaps it’s just that we’re like Samuel and we don’t know what we’re hearing. Perhaps if we consider the possibility that the Divine, Source, Universe, Energy (or whatever you’d like to call that Something More), can communicate with us we’d do things a little differently.

Perhaps we’d stop more often just to listen for that still, soft voice.

Perhaps we’d see opportunities as potential paths offered by the Divine

Perhaps we’d be willing to be surprised, to end up somewhere we didn’t expect to be.

Perhaps we’d begin to expect the unexpected.

Rabbi Karen Kedar, in her book God Whispers, says, “The world of the spirit speaks to you in a hundred voices. Listen with the heartbeat of your soul.” I believe this is true. Here are some of the ways God speaks to us that we named in worship yesterday:

  • Dreams
  • Intuition
  • Other people
  • Scripture
  • Music
  • Coincidences
  • Synchronicity
  • Signs
  • Art
  • Poetry
  • Symbols

All of these involve paying attention as we walk through life. Most require that we stop for a little bit to listen, be still, reflect, meditate (I’d say prayer, but most of us think of prayer as us doing the talking and this is time for us to be quiet). I know some of you are thinking, yea, right, when do I have time to be quiet? How about turning off the radio in the car? Five minutes drinking your coffee in the morning? In the shower? Washing dishes? Shoveling snow? Mowing the lawn? Gardening? Walking? Petting the dog or cat? We have plenty of opportunities, we simply have to open to them.

Listening to God requires not only paying attention, but then following the energy, or getting in the flow. When I’m trying to determine how to preach about a certain scripture I can list three or four directions I could go, but only one of them will have an energy to it that I can follow. To try one of the other options means pulling my hair out trying to make it work.

But following the energy, or getting in the flow of the Divine is NOT a head thing… it is a feeling thing, a heart thing.

Following our intuition is pretty much the same thing. It’s a gut feeling. An impulse.

Mark Nepo, in Seven Thousand Ways to Listen, says “To intuit means to look upon, to instruct from within… As such, intuition is a deep form of listening that when trusted can return us to the common, irrepressible element at the center of all life and to the Oneness of things that surrounds us…”

Are you aware when your intuition is nudging you? Have you ever discounted it and realized later that you should have listened? Have you ever had anyone try to discredit your intuition? Women’s intuition is often disparaged by those touting logic and reason.

I believe there are small ways our intuition speaks to us every day, and we follow or don’t follow without even knowing that there might have been results or consequences to our choice. Sometimes, we follow and it was glaringly obvious that something more was moving.

Author HeatherAsh Amara tells a story about running late for an appointment when she felt the strong urge to visit her neighbor. Her rational mind said, “You need to get going, there is no reason to visit Fred.” But something deeper kept saying, “Just walk next door, see how he is doing.”  After arguing with herself for a while, she decided to follow the pull to see her neighbor and called to let her client know she’d be a little late.

Fred had been going through some really difficult circumstances: the end of his marriage, the possibilitiy of having to leave the home he loved, his young son being miles away. When she walked up he looked up from cooking dinner, surprised to see her.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I just felt the urge to come see you… how are you?” she said as she plopped down into a chair.

He sat silent for a long time. “Well,” he said, “I was actually just cooking my last meal. I have decided to end my life.”

After a half hour or more of listening to his fears and anguish and being present to him, he said, “I can’t believe you came by. You are right, I don’t want to end it all. If you hadn’t come by I would have shot myself tonight. Thanks for being my angel.”

We need to pay attention to those nudges and gut feelings and jump into the flow of the universe to see what it has in store for us.

I also believe that the universe sends us signs and symbols to help us know when we’re on the right path or to help guide our path. I’ve had many, many of these experiences, but I want to share one that I heard recently from a seminary student. She thought her life path was youth ministry, but then things changed and she just wasn’t feeling it. Every night she went to bed asking God to show her what to do next. Strangely enough the word seminary kept showing up everywhere she went. Random people discussing seminary in her hearing. She didn’t make the connection, but kept asking God each night what she should do. Every day the word showed up. It wasn’t until she was in the bathroom at a grocery store and someone else in the bathroom said seminary that she finally gave in.

We interpret the signs. They may mean nothing to anyone else. That doesn’t matter.  But the chance of us seeing them is slim unless we’re paying attention and are open to them.


First of all, God is a loving energy that wants to bring us in line with our highest good, our most authentic self, our truest, most life-giving path.  It is not hateful, it does not cause harm (though your path may include letting go of some things or relationships that are unhealthy).

But what if we make a wrong turn? What if we misread the signs or ignore our intuition? Then we just go from there. I believe God uses what we give to God and helps us move from that point. There is no point in beating ourselves up. We learn what we need to learn and move forward.

Pay attention, maybe even be like Samuel and say, “Here I am God, I’m listening.” Follow your intuition, watch for the signs, go with the energy, for the spirit has amazing and unexpected places to take each of us.

Love & Light!



Path of Transformation

Each of the four Gospels give John the Baptist the prominent role as the forerunner of Jesus. These stories or texts tend to emphasize John’s call to repent and be baptized.

Today I want to re-frame what I believe is the traditional Christian understanding of the word repent.

I believe most Christians understand repent as penance for sins. Contrition. Feeling sorry (and meaning it). Making amends. Going to confession.

(For the full video version, click here.)

So, here’s a different take on it. In Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan’s book, The First Christmas, they tell us that “the biblical meaning emphasizes change. “They explain:

“To repent is to turn to God. In the Old Testament, its meaning is shaped by the Jewish experience of exile: it means to return from exile to the place of God’s presence… To repent, to return, is to follow the way that leads out of our exile, separation, alienation, and estrangement to reconnection.

The New Testament meaning of the word… adds an additional nuance. In the New Testament, the root of the Greek word translated as “repent” means “to beyond the mind that you have,” to enter into a new mind-set, a new way of seeing. To repent means to begin seeing differently.”

When we work on these two things pieces of John the Baptist’s message – moving from separation (exile) to reconnection and going beyond the mind we have – I believe we are truly committing ourselves to a path of transformation.

RECONNECTIONtransformation sign

I invited you to take a moment for personal inventory. How is it with your soul right now? How much of the time do you feel connected to the Divine? 1%? 5%? 20%? Is your spiritual journey compartmentalized into Sunday mornings, or your walk through the woods? Do you actively engage your spiritual journey, or is church a box you check off each week and forget about after that?

I guarantee that we’ve all had times when we’ve felt more connected or less connected than others. It has to do with life situations, time, energy, desire, and conscious intention.

Lots of folks “self-exile” themselves from church because of things that happened or things that didn’t happen, or because none of it was making sense anymore, and then they decide to cut themselves off from God altogether. Or, sometimes folks just drift away from their spiritual journey and before they know it God and spirituality doesn’t have much place in their lives at all.

Wherever you are, I invite you to stay connected, connect more, or reconnect, and commit to you… commit to your spiritual path this year. Whatever that looks like for you.


Next, we need to commit to going beyond the mind we have.

We can go through life on auto-pilot moving through the minutes, hours, weeks and months of our lives without really putting much thought into our spirituality or our inner journeys. We can work, play with the kids or grandkids, play golf, play cards, make dinner, go out with friends, go shopping, take care of our parents and partners, and take care of our homes without ever thinking about our personal and/or spiritual growth.

In the book A Woman’s Journey to God, by Joan Borysenko, she talks about the Tibetan Buddhists philosophy that speaks of three kinds of mind. “The dull mind with no spiritual interest. The average mind content with dogma and blind faith. The inquiring mind that is curious and filled with doubt. ”

I love this idea. And I believe it is the inquiring mind always pulls us beyond the mind we have.

What are the things we can move beyond?

  • Beliefs
  • Preconceived notions
  • Expectations
  • Limitations
  • Behaviors
  • Reactions
  • Judgments
  • Routine
  • Habits

The inquiring mind calls us not to become too comfortable or complacent with how we think, what we do, how we react, or what experiences we open ourselves to.

Pema Chodron said, “The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.”

We can’t repent – go beyond the mind we have – without opening our hearts and minds to new thoughts, ideas and experiences. We need to challenge ourselves, be curious, ask questions, and doubt until we find a truth that feels right in our hearts. And then we keep searching to grow even more.

What tools can we use to reconnect and start seeing the world differently?

  • Hang out with people who are also interested in this, who will push you or challenge you
  • Don’t take things personally… be curious about why people believe certain things
  • Constant self-reflection
  • Have one new experience each week… even if it is a new spiritual book, or driving down a road you’ve never been on, trying a food you’ve never had.
  • Keep learning

Take the Path of Transformation… seek to reconnect to the Divine, and adopt a mind of inquiry… the journey  will take us deeper into ourselves, into God and into life.

Love & Light!


Attending the Path

The onset of a brand new year entices us to plot and plan and make New Year’s resolutions. We set our goals, map our paths, and plot the roads we want to take to accomplish our wants, wishes and requirements for 2018. Most of us have probably scheduled vacations, thought about how to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates. Many of us may have even made goals for work, exercise, diet, health, volunteering, reading, going to church, and so on.

(For the full video version, click here.)

Perhaps you’ve even made a list. For some of us it is important to cross something off a list to feel like we’ve accomplished something. I’ve been known to put something that I’ve already done on a list just so I can check it off! We are a very goal-oriented, success-driven society, after all.

Sometimes I think we may get too caught up in getting where we want to gojourney that we miss the adventure along the way. And we forget that there really isn’t a final destination. There is no place to ultimately say, “I have arrived!” Even once the magi found the baby Jesus, they had to continue on their journey home by another route, amassing more stories and having more experiences.

I wonder if we could let go a bit of being so goal-oriented or destination-oriented, could we then allow ourselves the experience of the journey itself?

Last summer I took a group to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota for a mission trip. I had the route, hotel, and timing pretty well planned to arrive at 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. Turns out we actually had a few extra hours to kill Saturday morning so we didn’t arrive too early. And, sure we could have slept in, but we were in Mitchell, South Dakota, the home of the Corn Palace! Certainly the youth who were with us needed to experience this wonder. So, we spent an amusing couple of hours exploring this phenomenon and allowing ourselves a spontaneous experience on the journey.

Life is the same way. We’re programmed to want to get from point A to point B as directly and quickly as possible. Then life happens. We have health issues, job loss, a baby, a divorce, a death, an opportunity, a move, a change in life goals. The path just isn’t straight, no matter how much we may want it to be. Working with the metaphor, there are mandatory rest stops, road construction and detours, flat tires and tourist attractions. Occasionally we get lost and lose our way. We like to convince ourselves that these things are all “bad.” But perhaps they just “are.” Perhaps they just are part of the journey; places we can find God in awe, in compassion, in hope, in others and in our own perseverance and resilience. Once we shift our mindset we can open ourselves to the Spirit who helps us to learn and grow through all these wonderful opportunities.

The path, the search, the journey is its own reward. If you want to plan and map and make lists, great. But do so a little more loosely. Build in some flexibility and spontaneity. Open to the winds of the Spirit, watch for potentials and opportunities and strive to always, whatever happens, engage the moment life has presented you with.

Many blessings on your adventures this coming year.

Love & Light!