A couple nights ago I was excited to introduce our campers to one of my favorite spiritual practices: prayer journaling. I told them that they could talk to God through writing about their days, feelings, things they needed, and concerns about loved ones. In fact, they could write about anything, knowing that it is a sacred and respectful place between themselves and God. They selected a colorful piece of paper, wrapped it around white pages, and stapled the sheets together. Then they decorated the outsides of their books with their names and designs, and spent a little time talking to God.
When we all gathered together after the activity, I asked the campers to share what they had written. Some wrote words of gratitude, others told God about what they had done that day at camp, one boy voiced a complaint, and some wrote about their new friendships. Then Simeon shot up his long gangly arm and asked, “How do we know what God says back?”
This posed a very valid question, when you talk to someone normally they have something to say in response! I reflected that it is important to also listen to God and asked some of the ways they heard God speak. They quickly answered that they heard God through nature, other people, having their requests answered, or feeling better after they prayed.
Simeon looked a little perplexed, as if all this talking was fine but distracting from the obvious solution. “So why don’t we listen right now?” he asked pragmatically. We agreed that this was a good idea, so we closed our eyes, quieted ourselves, and listened.
It was a particularly windy night in Wading River. We sat in stillness—a roomful of 7 to12 year olds, counselors, and staff—with the howling wind sweeping against the chapel and stirring up the trees outside. After a few minutes I asked what everyone had heard.
Zoe, one of our youngest and returning campers, said God thanked her for what she had written in her journal. Two boys said they asked God something personal and God answered them “no” through hearing the wind outside. Sophia said God told her God was capable of doing everything she had written in her book.
As each person shared I was reminded of a valuable truth. God is always with us and speaking to us whether it is in the ferocious hurricane winds, pages of our journal, or in a still small voice. Sometimes it just takes asking, “Why not listen right now?” to recognize God in the present moment.
As we approach the half way mark in our time at camp, may we find ways to listen—right now—and discover the many things God has to say. And may we be surprised, directed, and delighted by what we hear.