My mama said she heard voices.
Had heard voices all the years since the dark and the unwanted shadows moving across the walls, across her and the innocence.
Strange, me, her daughter, uttering prayers to hear and after her trying to shut out the voices all her running life.
A friend sends me words, says she’s been sitting outside just listening to things… bees droning over flowers…. the wind in the trees… birds up high. She’s setting her brain in a quiet place away from the link and click and whirl of the world wide web that catches everything trying to soar, and she’s just letting her “brain rewire itself to something slower, more contemplative.”
She wonders if a contemplative life suffers if we have a cyberspace life? She writes the words and I read them again and again, trying to read His answer. Is it possible for the inner ear to hear when the outer ear’s pressed up to the internet?
I can hear the running of water at the other end of the house. Someone’s stirring a cup of something. A chair scrapes across the floor and a child laughs. I try to listen for the Voice in these things.
I need to take meals to the men harvesting in the field.
I stop at the grocery for fresh fruit, for peaches at 99 cents a pound. The lady at the next stand, she’s picking out red cherries. “These look like black cherries to me, not red.” She’s muttering. I’m checking the firmness of peaches. She looks over at me.
“I like them hardly red. A bit sour.” I smile, nod. And she looks down at Shalom leaning close.
“But look at you! Aren’t you just sweet? So beautiful! Beautiful!” Shalom hugs my leg tight. I am struck by that. Being told by a stranger that you are beautiful. I can’t imagine.
When Shalom and I near the checkout, I ask her, “What does it feel like to hear that, Shalom?” I can’t imagine. Sometimes there is the Farmer’s whisper at the edge of an ear and sleep.
Shalom shrugs, “She just liked my curls.”
It’s at checkout #4 that I think I hear. I am trying to hear today. It’s only the way the interior reverberates with the quietness. There are so many voices but this is His: “I never tell you that you are beautiful?”
The red cherry lady draws her cart behind ours. I lay peaches out on the conveyor. A red-haired man sweeps by, arms full of watermelon and he nods to the red cherry lady, “Hey! Good to see you, Grace.” I look up. Her name is Grace?
The stranger who names us beautiful is Grace.
Yes, Lord, I think you have told me about Your beautiful love for the sin ugly —- only a few thousand, countless times. Am I listening?
I bag bananas. Shalom smiles at Grace. I think again of the prophet Jeremiah, telling the people to listen to the Lord, to repent and listen or the wounded wrath of God would fall upon them — listen for their life. I think of this while carrying peaches out.
Listen for your life — by listening to your life. Listen for your life — by listening to your life.
I am trying. Grace is laughing with Shalom — yes, I hear this, and I feel whole… peace.
They’ll be waiting for me in the wheat fields.
I drive and I think this: That it’s an unearthly wonder that we can pray, walk into the throne room of the universe and speak to very God. It’s even more startling that the cosmic King comes into the common and actually speaks intimately to the commoners.
The whole of creation is an amphitheater, the voices of the created and the Creator ringing off everything that is.
Then there was that brave woman who tells me about her life, “I’m listening, I’m listening. But what if No One is speaking?”
I think of my nieces who couldn’t hear. How they had tubes inserted, a myringotomy. To allow air into the middle ear, drain the ear of muffling fluid. To keep the air pressure inside the ear equal to that outside the eardrum. To allow the eardrum to vibrate with sounds again.
Is that what we do when we can’t hear? A tube of waiting still. A straw of silence. A channel of Scripture. Create an air pocket around the soul — a space that just waits, and maybe without answers.
So that the invisible world tunes to the visible world and the heart vibrates with Him and I wonder if this is how we hear that Some One is speaking?
But what is He really saying when a man who sat at our table and told us of his 29 years of ministry and we all praised God, leaves his wife and his children and his Way and finds solace in massage parlors?
What is He saying when our next door Mennonite neighbour can’t find her two-year old boy at 9 o’clock in the morning and she looks and the other five children look out in the barn and down in the basement and her farming husband looks out in the shed and at 9:30 they find his body crumpled lifeless under equipment? What is He saying when a mother has to kneel down and pick up her dead child in her arms?
My throat hurts. I grip the steering wheel tighter. Maybe the answer is in the finger pried open?
Maybe it’s only the linguists who accept mystery and question marks and believe all the cryptic letters mean love, they are the only ones who decipher the messages of God.
I drive to the wheat fields behind a ‘59 baby blue Chrysler with a license plate that reads “Dble Kick.” I wonder what me being in this place in the universe to read this message means?
I can see the reflection of the driver in his mirror, his black shades. His hair’s in a ponytail under a black leather hat. He waves his tattooed arm hard and I think he’s brushing me back and I press the brakes down. It’s flies. He’s only brushing away flies from his dashboard.
Sometimes what we hear isn’t what’s being said.
I sit at the end of the field watching the combine. Watching the heads bow low before the knife. I watch the humility of wheat.
Shalom runs with Kai up to the top of the old shed, up into the abandoned chicken coop.
Their heads pop out the end through the door’s long gone window. They’ve found a perch.
“We can see the whole field from up here!” Kai’s grinning. Shalom waves down to Opa Voskamp.
He calls, “Hello!”
She waves. “I can hear you!”
She leans out the window.
I watch the Farmer and his father bend over the wheat running from wagons.
I’m listening and He always speaks in the alphabet of Scripture:
“He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed…
Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”
Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.“
At the end of a wheat field, I think how the parable of the sower is framed by two urgent instructions:
That in the parable of the sower, “both the verbs listen and hear are in the imperative mode.
They are no invitations or declarations.
They are commands and no other parable in this Gospel is framed at both ends with an order to listen.”
The wagons are filling. The kernels run, this river of life…
We listen to Christ when we come to salvation, but for a life to yield anything, it needs to keep listening to Him, listening. Word listening. World listening.
I can hear the the Farmer and his father talking.
When I lay on Shalom’s bed that night, the wheat of 2010 all gathered into bins, I pray.
I thank God for peaches and clear skies over the harvest and a Farmer and a Father and children working together.
I thank Him for men who provide for families and for kids who wave from windows and for Grace who says we’re beautiful.
I thank Him for wheat bowed down and I thank Him that it is only humility that brings us low enough to really hear what’s pulsing under the world.
I thank Him for my Mama who came to the field too, just as the combine came down for the last swaths, came to this her land that we only loan, and I thank Him for what she said.
That the voices from the past are being silenced with the God-grace of now. Amen. I whisper Amen to that.
Amen, says Shalom.
She and I lay close together in the dark, our arms around each other, Him all around us. I stroke back her curls, lay there thinking that sometimes I don’t know what I am doing with my days, my messy life — what I am doing here. And then the Voice: Stay here. Hear.
She lays her head down on my chest.
“I can hear your heart.”
The world’s a window and I lean out.
I can hear His.
“Like the Hebrew alphabet, the alphabet of grace has no vowels, and in that sense his words to us are always veiled, subtle, cryptic, so that it is left to us to delve their meaning, to fill in the vowels, for ourselves by means of all the faith and imagination we can muster. God speaks to us in such a way…
Out of the shadowy street comes a cry for help. We must learn to listen to the cock-crows and hammering and tick-tock of our lives for the holy and elusive word that is spoken to us out of their depths. ”
Every Wednesday, we Walk with Him, posting a spiritual practice that draws us nearer to His heart.To read the entire series of spiritual practices
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