Learning to Listen in 3 Easy Steps

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I wrote this a few years back for the Internet Cafe, but my son reminded me of it last night. We got a good chuckle, so I thought I’d share it again with you here in its entirety. 

I’m a doer. You will usually find me folding laundry, loading the dishwasher, reorganizing the canned goods, or making sure my closet is color coded in order of the rainbow. I tell you this so you’ll know that sitting on the couch and ordering around the children isn’t the norm.

But that’s exactly what I was doing this particular day. I was sitting in our overstuffed chair, diet Coke by my side, with my feet perched just so when I realized my toes were cold. “Colin,” I called my son from upstairs. “Will you run to my room and grab me a pair of socks and toss them down?” Run, grab, toss. Simple instructions. Any eight-year-old could have done it.

A few minutes passed when I heard my son run the length of the hall and bound down the stairs. He got close enough to my chair and tossed. What landed in my lap, friends, was not socks. It wasn’t even anything in which I could wrap my feet to warm my tootsies.

My son tossed me a pair of panties. Panties! In what scenario would I be sitting in my overstuffed chair and decide I needed a new pair of under drawers? What was he thinking?

“Colin,” I started slowly, “What did I ask you to do?”

“Ummmm….” He started, having no clue.

Sometimes, I’m the same way with God. I know He is speaking, but I have no clue what He has asked me to do. Just so I don’t show up at the children’s shelter with sixty-four pair of Fruit-of-the-Loom, I need to be familiar with hearing Him speak.

How can we hear God?

1. Put yourself in front of Him.

We can do this by going to His Word and spending time in prayer. Enter His throne room. Look into His face.

If you want to hear from God, go to Him. Don’t call out for Him to speak and then expect Him to meet you in the aisles at Target. (Although, He can certainly find you wherever you are if He wants to get your attention bad enough.)

2. Reduce distractions.

Turn off the TV. Walk away from the computer. Leave your cell phone in another room and find a quiet place where you can talk openly to Him. Don’t do it in the shower – you’ll forget whether or not you’ve shampooed your hair. Just find time to be with your Heavenly Father while doing nothing else.

3. Be still and listen.

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10 NIV) Don’t spend so much time talking you forget to listen. God will show up. He will whisper to your soul in a way that only He can. But if you are too busy giving Him a run-down of your day and your problems, you might not hear Him.

God desires a relationship with us, one that goes both ways. He will speak if we are prepared to listen. Be sure you are ready. If you listen half-heartedly, you might be embarrassed when you show up in the den with panties.

*photo credit

Carol

Who is God?

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Have you ever watched a dog show? Or even perhaps seen a hunter with his four-legged partner? I’m always in amazement of how the dogs are taught to heel and fetch, drop and stay with simple commands. If you’ve ever owned a dog, you understand the absolute wonder of this accomplishment.

I used to have a dog – a yellow lab. Labradors are known for their intelligence and are often used for hunting dogs. We tried teaching our dog to shake and speak on command. No luck. And as much as our sweet Comet loved running after whatever we threw in the yard – balls, Frisbees, sticks, toys – she would never return them. Instead, she’d run to a corner to chew on her prize for a while.

The problem wasn’t with our dog; it was with us.

Dogs who can obey on command are wonderful, but the real amazement should go to the trainers – those who can somehow turn obstinate into obedient.

We can all agree that dog trainers are awe-inspiring. Think about how that animal instructor stands in one spot and looks almost effortless as he calls a command or whistles. Now imagine if your doctor had that same trait. When you walk in his office with a sore throat, he doesn’t move from his chair and says, “It’s better.” You swallow and realize he is correct.

Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Or how about someone who could blink and cause the flowers to bloom or whose sigh could change the seasons.

There is someone who can do all of that.

God.

The further removed we are from the time when Jesus walked the earth, the more we convince ourselves the things of the Bible are fairy tales, and God is mundane. We throw His name around without reverence. See shoes you absolutely love? “Oh my God, I love those shoes!” or “Oh God, you scared me!”

May the Creator of the universe forgive us for tossing his name into our conversations like salt on fries. He is more than a condiment.

He is. That’s it. He simply is.

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Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.” Exodus 3:13-15 NIV

In reading Matthew 8 about Jesus healing people, I almost glazed over the Almighty. I’ve been a Christian a long time. I’ve heard about, read about, watched puppet shows, made popsicle stick renditions of, and sang songs complete with hand motions of the miracles of Christ and the greatness of God.

But today, God stopped me. He slowed me down as I read, asking me to re-read the words.

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. Matthew 8:14-16 NIV

Jesus touched Peter’s mother-in-law and healed her. She felt well enough to immediately get up and cook Jesus and Peter some supper. Earlier that day, Jesus had been in the temple when a demon-possessed man came up to him. The Son of God cast out the demon from the man with a simple command – as simple as the dog trainer’s “fetch” or “leave it.” Jesus said, “Leave him” and the demon did. Word traveled fast, because after supper that night at Peter’s, all kinds of people needing healing started showing up.

And “with a word” Jesus healed all the sick. Do you truly comprehend the magnitude of that? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, because his father, God, created the entire universe with words.

Friends, it’s about time we stopped throwing God around like seasoning and recognized Him for the omnipotent, omnipresent, almighty GOD He is. He is the Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end.

It’s time we showed a little reverence to the true King of Kings. Can I get an Amen?

*photo credit

Carol

Why Are You Reading This Post?

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Have you ever thought about the power of the question “why?” No wonder toddlers liberally shake it over every possible situation they encounter.

Why can Grandmother take out her teeth?
Why does that man ride in a wheelchair?
Why can’t I have cookies for breakfast?
Why does our grass turn brown in the winter?
Why do birds fly?
Why is that boy’s hair long like a girl?

Often we wish for a mute button when they throw out comments in public places like, “Why are your legs shaking when you are squatting over that potty?”

But they have it right. The keys to understanding the world around us are the answers to the question why.

The right answer to why can repair a marriage, release a prisoner, soothe hurt feelings and save a life.

So many people walk around with chips on their shoulders and their defense walls up, because they don’t take the time to learn the answers to that all-important question. Because understanding that shoots straight to the heart of the matter.

Let’s talk about a situation I’m sure you’ve all experienced. You are walking in the mall/grocery store/church, and you see an acquaintance in the distance. You guys are Facebook friends. You know her dad just had surgery, and her son left for college. You know she accidentally wore her slippers out shopping last week. You know her. You are walking towards each other, but you keep your eyes down to avoid that awkward waving from a long distance away that continues a little too long as you wait to get closer.

You are waiting for just the right moment to look up and make eye contact. You’ll ask how her son is doing and laugh about the slippers. When you get within chatting distance, you raise your eyes towards her, but she looks straight ahead and walks right by you.

Ever happened to you?

And then you wonder why you are “friends” on Facebook if you don’t even speak in real life.

Here is where that question comes into play. Why?

You can be mad and act accordingly towards this friend, or you can consider why she walked right past you.

It could be:
-your friend was so worried you wouldn’t recognize her, she looked straight the entire time to avoid the rejection of not being known. She never saw you make eye contact.
-your friend just received some bad news about a family member. She was lost in thought.
-your friend is bad with names and remembered your face but not your name and was embarrassed.

Are you starting to see where I’m going? Knowing the “why” changes everything. For the teacher, knowing why a student is acting out helps her to understand how to best meet his or her needs. For the spouse, knowing why your mate is in a bad mood may help you to be more forgiving and not take things so personal. For the parent, knowing why your child is pitching a fit will help you to diffuse the situation.

“Why” is the motivation behind behavior – and that motivation is directly connected to the heart. It’s how God sees the world. I often pray that God would help me to see things the way He does. Guess what He revealed? He is always considering the “why” of the matter.

“Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 HCSB

You see, that one little question is what will save this world.

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Why?
Why did God send His only Son to die on the cross?

Why? Because He loves you and me that much.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.“ John 3:16 NIV

Want to live a happier life? Want to get along more with people? Want to have a better marriage? Want to have eternal life?

Start asking the important question. Just one.

Why?

Carol

Mud Walking or Avoiding God’s Call

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Have you ever tried to run in a pool or walk through thick mud? It’s like you’re in slow motion. No matter how much effort you put into it, you can’t speed up the process. There have been times in both my personal life and my ministry where I’ve felt like a pool runner or a mud walker.

You know the feeling. You work and work and work to make things happen but everything you do is a dead end or needs to be redone or never gets completed. And it leaves you feeling exhausted and discouraged.

Today, I was reading a passage in Haggai (yes, Haggai) that really spoke to this situation. Let me fill you in on the back-story of this passage.

The Israelites had been in captivity many years but had finally returned to their homeland. During their capture and exile, the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. This was Solomon’s beautiful temple – the one covered in gold and jewels. When the people returned, they started to rebuild the temple but experienced some opposition from the foreigners living with them in the land so they stopped and just started doing life.

God wanted to know why they had built themselves fine houses, while His house was in ruins.

“And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses.” Haggai 1:9 NLT

Let me give you the life application part of this story: Ever worked to make your home or family life great by either cleaning, organizing, decorating, buying new fun toys, etc. while your spiritual life or God’s calling on your life is abandoned?

Let me be clear. I’m not saying you should abandon your family for a calling on your life. That is not from God. Your family is a ministry, as well. But. I am saying God comes first! Time spent with Him and cleaning your heart should not take second place to all the “stuff” with which we become consumed. Clean your heart before your house. Sometimes we tend to busy ourselves with things that aren’t really important because we are too afraid to face what God has really asked us to do.

When God blows away all the stuff you are working on, that’s a giant hint to re-evaluate what it is you are doing. In this story, Haggai gave the people the message from God to rebuild the temple.

The Bible says, “When they heard the words of the prophet Haggai, whom the Lord their God had sent, the people feared the Lord.” (v. 12) In other words, they praised or revered God.

Haggai then gave them this message: “I am with you, says the Lord.” (v. 13)
And this is my favorite part.

“So the Lord sparked the enthusiasm of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the enthusiasm of Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the enthusiasm of the whole remnant of God’s people. They began to work on the house of their God, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” (v. 14)

I love the words “sparked the enthusiasm.” God got them excited about what He called them to do. Do you remember how He sparked the enthusiasm? Through His message – God’s Word.

What is your calling from God? Are you spinning your wheels trying to do everything else? Perhaps you feel like God is blowing away all you’ve done. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because you aren’t doing what He called you to do.

Go to His Word and let it spark enthusiasm in you today. It has certainly sparked some in me and challenged me to take a closer look at my life. In what areas do I feel frustration? Are those the ones where I’m not being faithful to my calling?

Can I pray with you today?

Lord, thank you for your Word. Thank you for speaking to us through it. God, may your words spark enthusiasm in each of us for the task you’ve set before us. Renew in each of us what it is you’ve called us to do, so we don’t feel like we are walking in mud. Use each of us to bring you glory. Amen.

*photo credit

Carol

Hope When You Want to Give Up

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Lately, I’ve had some kind of pinched nerve in my back. It hurts! Any movement of my arms or twisting from my waist send pains through my body that make me light headed.

When I lie down, the pain is worse. If I’ve been lying down and try to get up, I must force myself to keep moving because everything in me wants to freeze in my spot. I’ve found I do better during the day when I’m active. Sounds counterintuitive but it’s true.

Movement makes it better.

I’ve been spending my time alone with God reading in Jeremiah. I’m going to be honest and tell you, sometimes reading it leaves me exhausted. Throughout the book, God has Jeremiah telling the kingdom of Judah over and over again to repent. Instead, they threaten Jeremiah and ignore his warnings. In this section of the Bible, some of the Israelites have already been led away from Jerusalem to Babylon.

They have been taken as captives from the land God promised them. God’s chosen people. In captivity.

But while they’re in Babylon, God asked Jeremiah to write and send them a letter. And there is such hope in the letter for all of us. Here is what it says:

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem:

“Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away!

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:4-7 NLT

This passage surprised me, and it made me smile. God didn’t tell the people to go into captivity and withdraw. He didn’t tell them to lock their doors and close the windows on life. He encouraged them to live!

He wanted them to set up houses, plant gardens, marry and have kids. I love the New Living Translation’s wording of verse 6. “Multiply! Do not dwindle away!” He even tells them to pray for Babylon. Pray for the people who took them from their homes and took them into exile.

Why?

Why would God want them to live full lives? Be healthy and raise more children?

The answer is a few verses away:

This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen.

If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” Jeremiah 29:10-14 NLT

God had a plan. A plan to prosper His people. A plan to bring them home again.

While I’m tempted to stop all movement when my back hurts, the best thing for me is to keep moving – keep doing those everyday things to live my life. Keep playing dress up. Keep doing the dishes. Keep kissing boo-boos. Keep cooking dinner.

Perhaps you feel captive to a situation in your life. You, too, may be in a place of pain – a place you never thought you’d be. God’s words for the Israelites are still true for you today. Keep living! Don’t dwindle away, because He has a plan for your future. A plan to prosper you. A plan to bring you home.

Can I pray for you today?

God, I know there are some people reading these words who are dealing with some very serious situations in their lives. There are those wondering how they are going to make ends meet. Some marriages are hanging by threads. Others are dealing with very scary health conditions. Would you place your hand on each of them today, Lord, and let them know you are with them? God you never promised to keep us from the bad stuff, but you did promise to be there with us when we walked through it. Thank you.

Lord, I pray you breathe hope into each of the people who read these words. Let them know they are chosen and favored. Give them strength to not only endure their current situation but to flourish. I ask this in the name of your precious Son Jesus. Amen.

 

*photo credit

Carol