Listening


I changed the ringtone on my phone last week. Ever since, I’ve missed virtually every call. The new ringtone is super-cool. It’s the honking of a flock of geese.

But here’s the thing. When I’m inside, it goes off and I think, “What’s that now?” And by the time I realize what it is, it’s too late to pick it up. When I’m outside, it goes off and I look around for the geese.

And I’ve been thinking about listening for the voice of God.

Sometimes, when we compartmentalize our lives too much and think about God on Sundays, but pretty much go our own way the rest of the week, we miss the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit. It is out of context and we have a “what’s that now?” type reaction if we even hear it at all.

On the other hand, if you will permit me to stretch the analogy a bit, inside the church, the honking of our own voices, schedules, strivings and agendas can oftentimes drown out the voice of God or, even worse, be mistaken for the voice of God.

What do you think? How do you quiet yourself so that you don’t miss or drown out what God has to say to you?

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Around these parts it’s been raining almost non-stop for over 24 hours now.  And it’s made me think about tears.  I’ve shed a lot of tears over the past year.  Now, I’m a cryer by nature, but even for me it’s been excessive . . . and it’s getting worse.

But here’s the interesting thing.  Until very recently, my tears were tears of sorrow, of sadness, of shame, of frustration, envy, resentment, discontent; they were tears caused by pain, stress, anxiety and extreme weariness.

But, something’s been happening.  I’ve been talking to God.  And at 11:00 on a Friday morning on July 27, God began a conversation with me . . . which was really a continuation of a conversation we began in February . . . which was probably a continuation of a conversation begun on a Sunday in the 2nd grade . . . which may well have been a continuation of a conversation begun at birth or in all likelihood at conception or perhaps even begun in the mystery before time . . .

At any rate, this paragraph of the conversation, in and out of which other people flowed to be used by God to speak, encourage and challenge began on that Friday morning and continued off and on (mostly on) into the following Monday evening, reaching its peak at 8:45 p.m, at which time, though I was only beginning to be aware of it, my tears were altered radically.

It began that Sunday, in the middle of the conversation, when a scripture verse read responsively in the service caused me to weep, not in pain or regret but awed by the beauty of the truth it represented, the love that inspired it.

And now I am noticing my tears of sorrow mingle with tears of joy.  I’m weeping in gratitude for the love shown to me.  My tears of frustration and resentment are being replaced by tears of faith and hope.  Each time I read God’s word or steal an hour, a few minutes, a moment to pray is an occasion for tears – tears of gratitude for the slaking of my thirst in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

I’m finding as I go to my friend Jesus and tell Him about everything that makes me sad – there is less to be sad about.  As I take my fears to my Daddy – I find there is less to be afraid of.  As I talk to Him about my frustration and anxiety, the Holy Spirit floods my soul with peace.  As I surrender control, I find true freedom. 

I’m finding joy in the companionship of the One who knows me fully yet loves me completely.  I have hope that as I place my trust in Him, He will give my heart what to desire.

The more I know Him, the more I want to know Him.  He must increase, I must decrease.  That’s the only true path to peace, joy and love.  That’s the only way to find healing for our hurts; the only way to know lasting joy in the midst of suffering. 

It’s the only way to experience and be part of bringing His kingdom on earth.

Which kind of tears are you crying?

restless today
anxiety
panic
mental whirling

so many threads
so many tasks

I know

to get through
settle down to it
stitch by stitch
tick by tick
tock by tock

but

can’t settle
can’t sit
what if . . . what if

then

the Spirit Himself
testifies
You are My child

if

any all or none
get done
You are My child

so
my times are in your hands

to it
stitch by stitch
tick by tick
tock by tock

one step forward
and listen . . .

by anna lenardson

Romans 8:15, 16 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Trust me with your heart
He said
Give me a sign of your goodness*
faithless
I said

O, so good
so exactly what I needed to know
exactly defeating insidious lies

Trust, a new level
what’s around the bend?
Guard my life
I whisper
Grant your strength to your servant*

I don’t understand
and yet, I will trust
If I never understand
yet I will trust

by anna lenardson

*from Psalm 86

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.  Prov 3:5,6

Proverbs
4:23
Above all else, guard your heart,
       for it is the wellspring of life
.

I was reading my usual list of suspects today, and came across the above verse in two different blogs.  It reminded me of something that I have been talking to God about lately.  My friend and spiritual advisor suggested asking God to show me in what area I needed to trust Him more and then start talking to Him about it.

When I asked, He placed this thought in my head, “You need to trust Me with your heart”, meaning that I need to trust God to supply completely the love that my heart needs, freeing me to love others without condition, without expectation; freeing me to do the hard things, say the hard things without fearing disapproval, rejection or withdrawal of love; freeing me to love with abandon.

So I’ve been thinking about what guarding your heart does not mean.  It doesn’t mean don’t love people because you might get hurt.  It doesn’t mean be so careful about what you say that you compromise the truth.  It doesn’t mean carefully and neurotically calculating everything you say and do in order to give the least offense, in order to please the most people.

Sometimes, when you really love someone, you may need to offend them; you may be called on to displease them for the sake of truth, for the sake of conscience, for the sake of conviction. 

How can you do this unless you’ve first trusted God with your heart?

The other day I was running late, in New Haven, IN . . . Land of Trains.  As I crossed town I breathed a quick prayer that I wouldn’t get stopped by one.  Because I’ve been thinking and reading about prayer, I immediately stopped and thought about that communication.  No “hello”.  No “It’s good to be here with you.”  Just right to “what can you do for me.  I’ve gotten myself into another undisciplined jam – would you get me out please?” – at least I said please. 

God is not a vending machine.

And I started thinking about my girls.  When I say “yes” to a request or give them something they want, they frequently say to me, “You’re the best mom ever!”  And while I like it when they give this conditional accolade, it doesn’t compare to the times they snuggle up to me on the couch for no reason at all and say, “I love you, Mommy, you’re the best.”

And I’ve been thinking about the way I interact with my Daddy.  Earlier this year, He provided for a financial need in a miraculous way and I literally fell on the floor and thanked Him and worshiped Him.  But . . . wasn’t that a little like my girls . . . wasn’t I saying, “Thank you Daddy, you’re the best Dad ever!”?

I guess in a way it’s ok if I pray like a child, because I am the girl and He’s the Dad.  But what I really want is to have conversations with my Daddy.  I want to tell Him how it is with me.  And I want to hear what He has to say to me.  I don’t want interactions, I want conversations.  I want Him to know how much I love being with Him and how grateful I am to be His daughter, not just because of the blessings He’s given me, but because of Him that He’s given me.

While I was writing this, girl #2 handed me a card she made for me – a heart on the front – the message inside, “I love you because you are the best.”

I’m not, but He is.

I cried out to God:
How can I hope for anything when it feels like all my hopes are dashed and trampled . . . like nobody cares . . . like You don’t care?

And He said to me:
Do not be afraid
Stay the course
I am with you
My delight is in you
I rejoice over you
I’ve forgiven all your sins
As high as the heavens are above the earth
     so great is My love for you
From everlasting to everlasting My love is with you 

So:
I wait for the Lord
In His word I put my hope
With the Lord is unfailing love
With Him is redemption

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