This article first appeared in the Spring 2017 Fellowship Focus for friends of The Upper Room.
Whitney Simpson’s left side was numb and tingly when she awoke the morning of her thirty-first birthday.
With her husband and two-year old son still sleeping, she hobbled to the kitchen, her left foot dragging the floor.
“I felt as if a ton of bricks was pushing down on my left side,” she says.
Whitney’s birthday was full of surprises: a stroke, the ER, questions, tests, scans . . . and a strange sense of peace in the midst of it all.
“During my MRI, I unexpectedly experienced the gift of God’s peace. I began repeating four words over and over: “Jesus, give me peace.” In that moment, they were the only words I could think of, and they kept me calm. . . .I simply repeated in my head with each breath, “Jesus, give me peace.”. . . I had no idea that day where the words came from.”*
Later, thumbing through her old copy of Companions in Christ (Upper Room Books, 2006), Whitney stopped on an ear-marked page introducing “breath prayer.”
“I saw a giant asterisk and my own handwritten prayer, asking God to give me peace. Four years before I needed God’s gift of peace in an intimate and desperate way, God planted this prayer in my heart.”*
As she shares in Holy Listening with Breath, Body, and the Spirit (Upper Room Books, 2016), Whitney discovered anew how to listen to her body and the still small voice of the Spirit. Her story reminds us to pause and listen.
The practice of “holy listening” is central to The Upper Room. Our ministries invite people to listen to God, self, and others in deep ways. And, as staff, we are called to listen: listen as the Spirit plants prayers in our hearts, calls us to action, encourages us to pause, and directs our work. Jesus, give us ears to listen.
As you will read in the pages of the Spring 2017 Fellowship Focus newsletter, a listening heart leads to new possibilities, to transformative experiences, and engagement.
• Church leaders in Rwanda are listening for ways to minister to people facing terminal illness.
• Our international ministries team is listening and building new relationships in Asia.
• Staff are listening to congregations who give space for middle schoolers to encounter God and community.
• And, we are listening to you, our prayer partners and donors.
Your faithful prayers and gifts convey a message that The Upper Room offers something significant to the Church, to the world, to you. In 2016, donors gave a record $781,392.97 to grow and sustain our ministries, and we are grateful. Your support encourages us and helps us invite people into a life of meaningful spiritual practice. Thank you.
Together, may we listen well. The still small voice is calling us—with each breath—to new life, to deeper awareness of God’s loving presence. Jesus, give us ears to listen.
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