The Capacity to Listen

CS October Blog 2017 by Ginny May Schiros

The capacity to listen–that is what Centering Space gives to me at any given time. Whether it comes in the form of a reading shared by one of the leaders, a comment made by a fellow pilgrim in the prayer circle, or in a joke shared around the table afterwards: I always leave Centering Space with an insight that I would not have otherwise been gifted with had I not shown up.

Just the other day, I experienced this after a morning of volunteering with the Audubon Society. Once a week, I gather at 5 am with other “bird nerds” in Downtown Cleveland to rescue injured and dead birds that have collided with the brightly lit buildings. Hoping to convince property owners to turn off their outdoor lights at night during migration, we solemnly catalogue the fatalities and rejoice over the ones that are injured but may be rehabilitated. It is an endeavor that fills me with ambivalence and awe. Against all odds, the small birds are heroic in their efforts to make their way south in the night.  They only come to rest as darkness turns to day.  The morning sun rises to greet us in glorious displays of light and color against the blue sky and clouds.  As beautiful as it is, we know that the tall buildings create canyons of light with confusing mirrored windows that tease the delicate birds all along their way. All too often they crash into windows, thinking it is the sky. A struggle of epic proportions goes on all over the world during migration, but it is played out on a small, imperceptible scale—at least to most anyone else.  We watch the drama, wanting to help, as we root for the warblers, ovenbirds, and thrushes who are bravely winging their way to warmer climes with the cold at their backs.

With these somber thoughts in my heart, I came to Centering Space. Preoccupied, I sat and wondered, where is the God who looks after the sparrow? How can we humans be so thoughtless in our pursuit of progress, our dominion over all things, that we could destroy the innocents of God’s creation? Why are we left to figure this all out on our own?

Then part of a poem was read in our prayer circle, just the last, perfect stanza of “Turnstiles and Crooked Miles” by Linea Good:

God of infinite flight
Time in the warmth of your wing
Fly with this spinning green earth
Sweep us through your valleys, the rice fields, the alleys
Fill us with your song that we sing.

Suddenly, the answers were there for me and my fellows on the wing: we are not left to trudge this heavy road alone. We have each other. We have faith. We have an eternal Love calling us through our valleys and even into the alleys.  The God of creation cares for the birds as much as for us. We are here to be stewards of this incredible creation and to bring life and healing to all that we touch. No matter how hard the struggle or how dark it may appear, the “God of infinite flight” is with us all the way.

I am left with the awesome truth that had I not gone to prayer, I never would have heard that perfectly timed poem to remind me of the Love that fills the world even in the darkness. Like a gift, the poem was given to my hurting but open heart.  Jewels of wisdom like this can’t be planned, but one can be ready and listening for words of life, especially at a place like Centering Space.




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