Little Listening

by Christine Sine


By Kate Kennington Steer

This month I am reading Keith Anderson’s book ‘A Spirituality of Listening: living what we hear’ and I am reminded that the world is simultaneously much bigger and much smaller than I realise. In the midst of a dense period of brain fog, migraine and depression, it has been good to be challenged to keep looking up from bed to hear the wild wind rustle of God’s Grandeur out of the window and to be confirmed that the path I have chosen, to see God in the tiniest details of my small life, is indeed a fruitful way forward. The gold thread twisting through Anderson’s book is that ‘God speaks in ordinary things often silenced because we forget to listen’ (60) and that ‘our work done in the most ordinary ways becomes extraordinary if we remember one thing: the most ordinary things are transformed by the possibility of God’s presence’ (61). His conviction is that ‘wisdom still cries out if we can learn how and where to listen’ (24).


Nearly four years ago I started writing about the intersection between contemplative spirituality and photography on a blog called shot at ten paces. The name emerged out of a conversation with the poet Gillian Wallace about my frustrations with my photography. I characterized my seeming inability to learn and retain the most basic technical knowledge, which would develop my photography skills to commercial levels, as an inability to ‘see the big picture’. All I did was take photographs of was what was in front of me at home, or of what I could see from my wheelchair, my front doorstep, or out of a car window. My photos reflected my mental and emotional state – I needed to find my God in my here and my now, because God felt a long way distant.


But the presence of rain drops held inside a net of lobelia on the edge of a hanging basket, or the colour of a pot on a windowsill, or the weeds thrusting up through the concrete path, all began to catch at my notice and I explored them in countless close ups with camera in hand. Yet it was only during this conversation with Gillian that I discerned that this way of seeing really was what I was interested in. Far from it being a limited way of seeing imposed by physical and mental illness, it was a freeing gift that I was naturally attracted to. I had been given the opportunity to see what others often overlooked, and by being open to receive images through a camera, I had the opportunity to become a co-creator with God.


Since that conversation I have become passionate about communicating, like Anderson, that ‘there is an invitation to an orientation of one’s life to a universe that is alive with presence and voice, always with “more that can be told”’ 14). So with camera in hand, (a DSLR when I am well enough to hold it, an iPhone on a more daily basis) I explore my faith conviction that God is in the small things, God is in the details. And so, to use Lucy Ellman Clark’s phrase I am on a ‘Pilgrimage of the Quotidian’. God asks me to pay attention, to be present to God’s presence, which will always be right in front of me, if I have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.5

As Keith Anderson affirms, such exploration requires a ‘posture of expectancy’ (39). I need to get curious about what God is doing, what God is saying, where God is living in whatever this day brings. My approach needs to be one of wonder, although as soon as I write that word I am reminded how far short I fall of living with such imaginative openness in most moments of my life. Yet I know that we are all beginners in this way of listening. I can begin again an intentional practice to have a conversation with God which begins with my receptivity, not my words; and rest safe in the knowledge God’s presence can pierce the blanked blockedness of an exhausted mind.


It seems no coincidence that as I read Keith Anderson’s encouragement to cultivate ways of listening for God’s presence in the ordinary tasks that face me this day, I stumbled over this:

Wisdom is

so kind and wise

that wherever you may look

you can learn something

about God.



would not

the omnipresent

teach that


St Catherine of Siena/ Daniel Ladinsky


Kate Kennington Steer is a writer and photographer with a deep abiding passion for contemplative photography and spirituality.  She writes about these things on her Shot at Ten Paces blog.  She has recently begun an offshoot project, posting a daily iPhone image as a ‘act of daily seeing’ on Facebook. Join in with gentle ambling conversations about contemplative photography by visiting  Act of Daily Seeing.

All the above images are iPhone images.


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johnthemiller June 25, 2016 - 8:33 am

Beautiful shots, Kate. Thanks for sharing these, helping me go deeper.

Kate Kennington Steer June 27, 2016 - 7:39 am

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave encouragement John, I very much appreciate it. All blessings.

Joy Lenton June 25, 2016 - 9:16 am

Dear Kate, I love how your very limitations have been turned into a way of seeing life and seeing it whole, viewing the ordinary with grace-fuelled vision and perception. it is a gift to treasure. A few months back I began taking rather mundane images to share on Instagram, tagging them as #beautyintheeveryday and also often receiving a ‘word’, poetic and otherwise which accompanies reflection on the photos as I share them.
God meets with us right where we are and reveals the wideness of Himself in the midst of our closed and confined circumstances. I’ve not been well enough to share here for a while, nor to stop, read or comment as before. But even as I am withdrawing even more to rest up for a season, I felt led to read and absorb your words and images today, and I’m so pleased I did! You’ve inspired me more than you know. I’m also intrigued to check out the book you mentioned, too. Bless you, friend. Gentle hugs and encouragement to you to keep on with the good work you are engaged in. x <3

Kate Kennington Steer June 27, 2016 - 7:48 am

Ah Joy, you are often in my prayers, and I will be holding you in spirit for your season of rest and withdrawal, that as ‘normal life’ seems to get smaller God will open your eyes and your heart even more widely and wonder-fully, and your body will find the different rhythm it craves in order to be whole. Thank you so much for taking precious time and energy to stop by at this post and then leave encouragement for me, I appreciate it so much. For reasons of overwhelm, which I know you understand, I’m not looking at Instagram at the moment, so I won’t yet check out your images and words, but that sounds such a good development of your gifts, so keep going when you have the strength, because the world can’t hear that message too many times. With all blessings to you my sister.

Bev. Wilson June 25, 2016 - 3:27 pm

Thanks so much, Kate – as always your comments are so helpful.

Kate Kennington Steer June 27, 2016 - 7:37 am

Thank you so much Bev for taking the time to leave encouragement – it means so much. Hoping you are doing ok. Prayers continue. All blessings.

Lisa de Jong June 26, 2016 - 12:55 am

Wow, this is very inspiring thank you Kate. Reminds me of the William Blake’s words ‘To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.’ What a gift you have and to notice things. Joy is in the little things and those who have eyes to see will always find joy:) Bless you

Kate Kennington Steer June 27, 2016 - 7:36 am

Thank you so much for your encouragement Lisa. Yes that Blake poem always resonates doesn’t it? Thank you for reminding me of it again today – a very good nudge! All blessings to you.

Laurie Klein, Scribe June 28, 2016 - 4:26 pm

Hard-won and marvel-worthy images and insights, Kate. As always, I learn from you. Especially like this: “conversation begins with receptivity”—such a kindly, liberating thought. Yes, Lord. Let’s begin again.

Kate Kennington Steer July 4, 2016 - 7:31 am

Thank you, as ever, Laurie, for your encouragement. You and I both know the Benedictine resonance of that phrase ‘begin again’ – so thank you for that reminder today. And please accept my apologies for being out of touch with you for so long. I will try and email soon! All blessings.

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