Archives For Listening

The Beach

July 9, 2015 — Leave a comment

woman-570883_1280A beach is a relaxing place of meditation. Close your eyes and your ears open to hear God. Breath through your nose and you taste the goodness of God. The music of waves crashing upon the shore applauds His control. The wind sings a creative song. Your heart longs to be in tune with God more so than nature. It is possible; He has made it so.

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There will be times that God causes you to notice people, and at other times He will simply lead someone right to you directly. I have had both of these happen in my life, almost on a daily basis.

Once, I was in a local store in California shopping with my family. My son Noah had to use the restroom. After we finished, we were on our way back to meet my wife and daughter, when I noticed a woman visibly upset. God touched my spirit and caused me to stop. I asked her, “What’s troubling you?” “Nothing,” she replied. I then said, “Are you sure?”

She responded by letting me know I would not want to hear it. I assured her, I would not have stopped if I didn’t want to hear it. She smiled and began to pour her heart out. She spoke to me for about five minutes about all that was going wrong for her. Her troubles were pressing in on her, and she felt alone and helpless. She was frustrated, angry and bitter about life.

I listened to every word she said, and I never broke eye contact. My son watching was just an added bonus because I knew he would ask me later why we stopped for a total stranger, and I would have the opportunity to pour into him compassion ministry. When the lady was finished speaking, I said, “You know, I bet the rest of your day is going to be just fine.”

She laughed and said, “I think you’re right. Thanks for taking the time to listen.” “You’re welcome,” I said and my son and I departed. I know it sounded effortless and not much like a miracle, but for her it meant everything. It was the miracle she needed for the day.

Wright, Steve (2012-03-18). The Descent To Compassion (pp. 48-49).  . Kindle Edition.

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The future speaks to me when I hear the sound of the ocean. I’m taking a few days to myself at the beach to collect my thoughts, soothe my soul and restore my focus. Life has a way of placing weights upon your soul that only a voice from the future can unburden. Somehow, the wind and the waves unite as one. If you listen with an eternal attention and awareness, you can hear the promise of God to one-day make all things new again.

Yesterday, as I was sitting on the beach, I closed my eyes and just listened. I could hear the sound of the wind and the waves. They danced as one, yet you could hear their uniqueness. The waves seem to be much heavier and solid sounding than the wind with its whirling and flowing pace.  Yet, together, the wind and the waves sing a song of a future that is sure.

The water moves in harmony toward the shoreline in constant complexity. A complexity that speaks to me that God is always involved in His creation and also my life. He never stops changing the shore of my life or your life. Each time the water retreats back into the ocean, it leaves a new layer of mystery to explore behind.

The vastness of the ocean overwhelms us, but it doesn’t overwhelm God. Each drop of water is accounted for as much as He knows the exact number of hairs on your head. Each drop of water counts and each drop matters to the whole of things. I matter! You matter! Mother Teresa once said, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

The future speaks to me when I hear the sound of the ocean. To my soul it whispers, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

“I Know”

March 5, 2013 — 2 Comments

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Yesterday I spent some time walking and praying on the land I lease for hunting. I love hunting for various reasons, but mostly I love it because it gives me time alone with God in the woods.

I love how the sun comes up in the morning, and the animals begin to move. It truly is breathtaking to watch nature dance the dance of God right in front of you. The same is true in the evenings when the sun is going down. God’s creation goes to bed in an order, and it’s astounding.

I’ve heard God speak many times and in many different ways in the woods. There are many I could share, but today I’ll just share this one moment. I was having a exceedingly awful week. I was feeling isolated and like no one knew what was going on in my life. I was at the end of my hope for things to work out.

I’m sure you have been there before also. Maybe you are there now? Maybe you feel like no one knows what you are going through? It’s a dark and lonely place to be.

I was sitting in my hunting stand, and the sun began to rise. It was cold in the woods. As the sun was coming up steam lifted from the forest floor under the warmth of the suns rays. Everything was still, and the silence was deafening. I was enjoying the moment, but I was sad inside my heart.

I felt unknown and alone. Then it happened! A bird perched on a limb right in front of my face. It was only inches away. My camouflage was hiding me well. The bird was tilting its head from side to side looking me in the eyes. I was amazed at the whole thing. God is so good!

It was then I heard the Lord speak to my soul, “I know.” That’s all it took! All would be okay. If God knows about every bird, then He surely knows about me and He most assuredly knows about you also.

Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.

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Getting away has always been hard for me. I feel like the weight of many peoples lives lean upon my faithfulness. They count on me to give them comfort, hope, purpose, and a weekly word from God. I try to get away a few times a year, but I can’t ever seem to get away.

My wife knows how hard it is for me. She tells me all the time when we are on vacation or an anniversary getaway, to let go of ministry for a few days. I do understand what she is saying, but in my heart I hear, “If you let go of your ministry thoughts you are letting go of God’s call on you life. You are letting go of your responsibility and call to help people.”

While on our latest getaway, (our 24th anniversary) I tried my best to disconnect. Amy asked me more than a few times to stop thinking of ministry and doing ministry. I smiled each time and said, “No problem, I will.” Thirty-seconds later while she was talking, I’m thinking of some family that needs my attention. I’m trying to listen to her and hear my own thoughts and plans that will help them through a difficult time.

I’m not particularly good at faking my wife out. She knows me too well, and yet she somehow still loves me. I don’t get it! I’m one lucky man for sure. Anyway, it doesn’t take long for my wife to see I’m lost in thought and not actually in the moment with her. It’s kind of like when the T.V. is on, and she is trying to communicate with me and I have part of my attention on the T.V. and part of my attention on her. It just doesn’t work for either one of us. At least in a T.V. situation she can and does just turn it off or hit the mute button to capture my attention.

I’m convinced my wife knows me better than I know myself. I’m certain God knows me better than myself, and I’m pretty sure He speaks through her often if I would just listen. Our latest getaway has certainly helped me. She told me many times to unplug and sadly it took me to the last day, but I think I’m beginning to understand a absolute truth. It’s a truth I know, but often I don’t apply properly. That true is, God doesn’t need me to do His work; He has called and chosen me to do His work.

The “need” part is where I get messed up. I often live my life like God needs me, and I put undue pressure on my life and family. Instead, I need to wake up the “CHOSEN ME” part. According to research 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations. I’m convinced much of the cause is because pastors, and yes, even spouses can’t let go when God has called them to rest.

I once read, “Pastor burnout is a weapon the enemy uses with great efficiency. It is surprising in its simplicity but brutal in its impact. Burnout begins by encouraging us to do what we do best – minister to people.” I’ve learned this last time away, sometimes I’m the people, and God wants to minster to my family and me.

Can You Hear Me Now?

January 29, 2013 — 1 Comment

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Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

Elijah described it as a still, small voice (I Kings 19:12).

One of the most personal gifts of the creator is the promise we (His children) can hear his voice. God has called you to an intimate relationship with Him that includes being able to hear Him speak into your life.

We are the height of His creation, and because of that we can and should be able to hear His voice and recognize it as Him. Demons hear God’s voice and they obey. Nature hears His voice and obeys. We too can hear His voice and obey. Hearing His voice is part of the eternal life package.

Let me give you a few thoughts to put in place in your life that will help you to hear the voice of God more consistently.

1. Being familiar with His written word begets being familiar with His voice

The more you read the Word of God, the better you will become at recognizing the voice of God when He speaks to your heart. As you daily read His word, ask God to teach you to hear His voice. I promise it’s a prayer He will answer.

2. Don’t disregard every thought that runs through your head as your own.

God often places a thought that is highlighted more vibrate than a normal passing thought. For me, this seems to happen as I’m driving. I almost never turn on the radio. I use my commute time to listen to my thoughts, and many times, God drops His thoughts into the water of my thoughts. A ripple takes places, and I know it’s Him speaking.

3. During my prayer time I sing worship songs and then stop for silent time.

When I praise Him through worship songs, I can feel my soul being cleansed. I feel God drawing me closer to Him.  Worship opens the ears of my heart to Hear Him more clearly.

God bless you as you listen for Him to speak.

Guilt And The Lap Of God

January 17, 2013 — 2 Comments

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Have you ever had trouble staying awake during your prayer time? Many years ago I had a season in my life where I fell asleep more often than I would like to acknowledge. At first, it didn’t bother me much. I just excused it because I had been working a little more than usual.

However, guilt quickly set in, and it made me feel horrible.  Each time I fell  asleep it just increased the guilt. I was beginning to  feel shame, and I had thoughts of God being seriously disappointed in me. It’s distressing enough, I thought, to fall asleep during prayer but to feel like God was disappointed in me was worse.

No matter how hard I tried to stay awake during this period of my life, I would doze off. No one else knew but me, and of course God, but I was feeling like a spiritual failure. I was feeling like God was mad at me. I was trying hard to stay awake but getting nowhere. I heard the voice of guilt more than the voice of God.

Then it happened! One day I came home from work early, and my daughter who was about four at the time came running up to me and said, “Daddy, can you read me this book in your chair?” I smiled and said, “Of course I will.”

We settled into my favorite chair, and I lifted her up and into my lap. She turned her head slightly back and up and made eye contact with me, accompanied by a smile. I was feeling pretty good. I was having a perfect Father and Daughter moment.

As I was reading, she would look up and back at me asking questions and making comments. I was completely pleased with the moment. We were simply spending time together, and it felt incredible.

As I continued to read, her conversation and questions fell silent. She was getting tired. It wasn’t long until she fell asleep in my arms. I closed the book and just enjoyed the time we were having together. I was thankful she wanted to spend time with me at all.

Then it happened! God spoke and healed my guilt about falling asleep on Him. I could hear Him whisper to my heart. “Are you mad at her for falling asleep?” My heart whisper back to God was, “No Lord, I love just being with her.” His response back was, “I feel the same way about you.”

It was on that day God took my guilt away. His love for me was not based on effort and discipline, even though they are beneficial. His love for me is unconditional, and He is pleased even when I fall asleep in His lap with His arms wrapped around me.

Who Will You Affirm Today?

January 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

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Everyone needs affirmation. Whom will you affirm today? I’m not talking about just giving someone a passing acknowledgement. I’m speaking of giving a compliment, an affirmation that is life giving.

As Christ followers,  we have been placed in the harvest field of life surrounded by humanity and their felt needs. We are called to build others up, where the world and possibly their own idea of themselves have torn them down.

Take time today to notice someone whom you know has not been noticed in awhile. Make a comment that places value in their life. For example, if you work with them share how effective they are to the workplace. Deposit confidence into their life. When you do that, you uplift their worth.

You just never know who might be close to giving up. Your words of hope could be the precise thing that keeps them going. As Christ followers,  we should be looking for ways to take away the feelings of insignificance that others might be secretly carrying deep inside.

As you face the world around you daily, walk in the power and passion of Acts 20:35, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”  We are called to do more for the world than it does for us. We can accomplish that by thinking of others before ourselves.

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You were called to be more than just aware of God’s presence in your life. You were called to be awakened to the presence of God in your life.

There was a time in my life when I was just aware of God. I was religious. I attended the church. I knew the praise songs by heart. I liked the preacher. I liked the people I went to church with. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. I was good at checking the God box in order to feel like my life had balance.

What I really needed was a relationship that was fully awake to God speaking into my life. I had just enough religion to smell Christian. I was aware of God but not awakened to God.

Allow me to Illustrate it for you.

There are times I’ll be watching T.V. and my wife begins to talk with me. I can hear her talking…I’m aware of her presence, but I’m not awakened to her. The T.V. has my full attention, and I can just kind of hear her in the background. It’s not until I mute the T.V, turn and look her in the eyes that she has my full attention. When I mute the T.V., I move from awareness to an awakening.

The bible tells us; we are able to hear God’s voice and we will not follow another. We can only hear Him and follow Him, when we mute the other voices that are competing for our attention.

When you mute the other voices, you move from awareness to an awakening. If you find yourself just being aware of God in your life…then hit the mute button. You would be amazed at how fast you wake up.

You are fired!

Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I hope I get criticized today.” None of us pursues criticism, but criticism has a way of finding each of us.  We each love positive feedback that lifts us up and encourages us. However, along with positive feedback, there is a place for criticism in our lives.

As a pastor, I get my share of uplifting feedback, and I’m grateful when it happens. It’s nice to know you are loved, cared for and that something you have said or written has touched someone’s life in a positive way. Nevertheless, criticism finds it way to my doorstep also. I don’t have  a criticism shield that protects me from hard words, but I do have a way of navigating strong and sometime hash words.

1. Fast answers mostly make it worse

When I first hear or receive criticism, I tend to get defensive. I can feel hurt and anger start to gain a foothold on my heart. Therefore, I don’t answer the criticism fast. I take time to hear it again, read it again, and think through it. I want to first find any truth in the criticism that I can grow from. You can’t find the truth in criticism fast. You must find it slow.

2. I write what my flesh would like to say

I have fun with this one. I defuse my anger and hurt by GOING OFF in writing. I write strong in your face stuff. I respond like I’m in a war. I keep writing until I begin to laugh with just how silly my words of defense are. Once I’m done with writing, I delete it or throw it away.

3. I try and give the other person grace and pray

Often we only see criticism as all about us. However, that is just not the case. The other person might be condemning me because they are just hurt and needed to deflect their angry and pain toward another person. Therefore, I read the criticism again and look for pain that might be in their life. Then I pray for them. It’s hard to stay mad at someone you pray for.

4. I respond until its time not to respond anymore

If I respond I ask them question of clarification. I ask them question that help me to see their side. I can’t fully turn a situation around unless I really have a handle on what they are truly trying to say. If they answer back in a calm and mature manner, then I keep the conversation going. If they take it to a more ugly level…I stop responding and move on with my life.