Listening with Intention

A cathedral bell tower

Adapting our daily rhythms to hear where the Spirit is leading.



For centuries, church bells have signaled an audible sense of time. Bells create a presence of time—not something easily lost, but marked by reminders that set a rhythm to the day. As society moves towards digital individuality, we lose the sense of pacing in a communal sound as we arrange our days in color-coded meetings rather than by a cacophony of bells. In the litany of personal smart alarms and customized alerts, our individuality means we are learning to listen to the rhythms of God in a different way.

Each of us follows a rhythm; some of us enjoy constant movement and sound while others enjoy slow, drawn-out notes. Some choose to collaborate in symphony and others prefer the beauty of solitude. We have our patterns—things we do with regularity and habits that mark our time. In those moments, our Creator continues to speak with us, even if we struggle to hear. Perhaps we can choose to refocus on listening with intention to the ringing of God’s words.

We often expect God to come with words like emergency notifications on our phones, yet biblical examples rarely come in the wind, earthquake, or fire. After weathering these three phenomena in 1 Kings 19:12, Elijah waits for God and “after the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” Caught up and accustomed to our daily rhythms, we may expect God to schedule a meeting with us, or else boldly break through the clutter of lives. But as Elijah comes to find, sometimes it takes slowing to hear the soft and gentle whispers of the Spirit, like church bells ringing in the distance.

Jesus frequently sought out quiet and solitude. He stopped on busy days to seek out God’s voice. The day Jesus fed five thousand, “after he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:23) Jesus knew that to sustain the work he was called to, listening was required. Observing his example of listening, we may find benefits in stopping and listening for God through Scripture and prayer in intentional wilderness time.

Mary was also intentional about capturing moments she heard God speaking. After the birth of Jesus, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). She didn’t let the moment pass, she lingered and treasured. Mary was open to hearing God and had discernment for the importance of moments even when their full significance was not easy to grasp. There is also steadiness in the way Mary allows time with God to remain private. She chose a quietness that measured her way of life by seeking wise counsel from her cousin Elizabeth. In seasons when individuality seems like a burden, Mary’s story is evidence that we can have community and support in what we hear from God and that we will continue to find sacredness and reverence in what we hear.

Our Creator is a consistent presence in our lives, a steady reverberation to guide us. God speaks to us not only through the mighty storms and upheavals we face but also in the quiet and steady moments. Although we may not find ourselves called into motion by a bell tower, we still have our own rhythms ingrained in time and sound. May we slow in the midst of our patterns, listening thoughtfully to God. May we learn to ponder the whispers.



Words: Sabrina Dawson

Photography: Ralph Kayden, Markus Winkler, Robin Nguyen, and Augustine Wong

A cathedral bell tower
Close up on a brown brick wall
Close up of a tarnished bell
White and brown concrete wall

Adapting our daily rhythms to hear where the Spirit is leading.



For centuries, church bells have signaled an audible sense of time. Bells create a presence of time—not something easily lost, but marked by reminders that set a rhythm to the day. As society moves towards digital individuality, we lose the sense of pacing in a communal sound as we arrange our days in color-coded meetings rather than by a cacophony of bells. In the litany of personal smart alarms and customized alerts, our individuality means we are learning to listen to the rhythms of God in a different way.

Each of us follows a rhythm; some of us enjoy constant movement and sound while others enjoy slow, drawn-out notes. Some choose to collaborate in symphony and others prefer the beauty of solitude. We have our patterns—things we do with regularity and habits that mark our time. In those moments, our Creator continues to speak with us, even if we struggle to hear. Perhaps we can choose to refocus on listening with intention to the ringing of God’s words.

We often expect God to come with words like emergency notifications on our phones, yet biblical examples rarely come in the wind, earthquake, or fire. After weathering these three phenomena in 1 Kings 19:12, Elijah waits for God and “after the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” Caught up and accustomed to our daily rhythms, we may expect God to schedule a meeting with us, or else boldly break through the clutter of lives. But as Elijah comes to find, sometimes it takes slowing to hear the soft and gentle whispers of the Spirit, like church bells ringing in the distance.

Jesus frequently sought out quiet and solitude. He stopped on busy days to seek out God’s voice. The day Jesus fed five thousand, “after he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:23) Jesus knew that to sustain the work he was called to, listening was required. Observing his example of listening, we may find benefits in stopping and listening for God through Scripture and prayer in intentional wilderness time.

Mary was also intentional about capturing moments she heard God speaking. After the birth of Jesus, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). She didn’t let the moment pass, she lingered and treasured. Mary was open to hearing God and had discernment for the importance of moments even when their full significance was not easy to grasp. There is also steadiness in the way Mary allows time with God to remain private. She chose a quietness that measured her way of life by seeking wise counsel from her cousin Elizabeth. In seasons when individuality seems like a burden, Mary’s story is evidence that we can have community and support in what we hear from God and that we will continue to find sacredness and reverence in what we hear.

Our Creator is a consistent presence in our lives, a steady reverberation to guide us. God speaks to us not only through the mighty storms and upheavals we face but also in the quiet and steady moments. Although we may not find ourselves called into motion by a bell tower, we still have our own rhythms ingrained in time and sound. May we slow in the midst of our patterns, listening thoughtfully to God. May we learn to ponder the whispers.



Words: Sabrina Dawson

Photography: Ralph Kayden, Markus Winkler, Robin Nguyen, and Augustine Wong

Close up on a tarnished bell
White and brown concrete wall

Additional readings

Finding God in Mystery and Wonder

How mystery and wonder invites us to seek God in newer and deeper ways.

On Relinquishing Control, A Prayer for Anxiety

Reflective thoughts and study of Philippians 4:6-7 on how God is in control in the midst of anxiety.

Creativity as Devotional Practice

A reflection on how we can approach the creative process as a devotional practice.

Adaobi Ugoagu Is On A Mission

We talk with fashion blogger/model Adaobi Ugoagu about the intersection of fashion, art and justice.


Additional readings

Finding God in Mystery and Wonder

How mystery and wonder invites us to seek God in newer and deeper ways.

On Relinquishing Control, A Prayer for Anxiety

Reflective thoughts and study of Philippians 4:6-7 on how God is in control in the midst of anxiety.

Creativity as Devotional Practice

A reflection on how we can approach the creative process as a devotional practice.

Adaobi Ugoagu Is On A Mission


We talk with fashion blogger/model Adaobi Ugoagu about the intersection of fashion, art and justice.