Listen by Peggy

Google the word “listen”, and you will get a LOT of sites to view concerning the art of listening. I guess I never thought of listening as an art form, just a skill that we hone with age. Unless we are born with diminished or no hearing, our ears automatically do their job and hear. We are able to hear sounds, and eventually identify and distinguish them. We must, however, be taught to listen, as a mother learns the different nuances of their baby’s cries: hungry, happy, lonely, wet, etc… The child is the same, the voice is the same, but at times sounds louder than another time, or more soulful, sometimes frantic. Mother’s learn to know the cry, and respond accordingly.

When I was very little, I would bring my mother to utter exasperation because I didn’t respond appropriately to her instructions. She told me that one time, while at the doctor’s office for my regular checkup, she mentioned to the Dr. that I was the most obstinate child she had ever encountered! She went on to tell him that often she would speak to me and I would literally just sit and ignore her. The Dr. apparently thought that a little odd, and asked her some questions, and then offered that he thought I should go to a specialist for a complete hearing evaluation, because he suspected I was hearing impaired. She said she told him that was impossible, because if a truck went down the street or an airplane flew overhead, I would hold my ears and scream and hide under the dining room table. If I could hear that, I could certainly hear her speaking to me! Even so, he insisted, and off to a hearing specialist I went.

I was very young, and have only vague memories of it all. I do remember extremely painful earaches, lying with my ears on a heating pad, and a lot of trips to the Dr. I thought that was pretty cool because his nurse’s name was also Margaret, and she taught me how to type it on her typewriter (a big deal for a 4 year old!). Mom told me I had lost 60% of the hearing in both ears, and somehow noises such as trucks and planes seemed amplified to me. I went through 3 surgeries on my ears, the last one taking my tonsils and adenoids and inserting tubes into my ears. She was unable to tell me what was really wrong with me, or even what the first 2 surgeries entailed, but she said for one solid year the doctor, and only the doctor, had to put drops in my ears. She said they were some kind of experimental medicine. (Again, I have no idea what they were or what they did). I remember being at the doctor’s office a lot, and also him coming to the house a lot. Whatever they did to me, it worked, because my hearing was greatly improved and considered “within normal limits” at the end of it all. After all of that, I was able to hear, but had to learn how to listen and respond.

I think sometimes we are losing our hearing in the instantaneous writings of this electronic age. We pay attention only to the loud and sudden noises that get our attention. Take tweeting: random thoughts bookended by a hashtag: strobe-light communication. They drive me crazy. (Sorry all of you tweeters; nothing personal). We are losing the ability of deeper communication, thus the ability to listen. One can hashtag a very limited number characters, and another can read it in 2 seconds, even responding to it. But are we asking “why” of a hashtag phrase? Of course not. The very design of this form of communication is to hurry up and get it out, hurry up and read it, with no expectations. Reading without full comprehension, hearing without listening.

I think of my life and the many wonderful and lifelong friendships I am blessed with. One thing I know: these relationships were formed over many hours of conversation, spending time together, and getting to know each other. I have a friend I met in first grade, at the age of 5. We spent a lot of time together in grammar school, and even though we both moved to other places for high school, we spent our holiday breaks and much time together over the summers. Time has gone on, and we have each raised our families, and we probably only see each other about once a year now. But as soon as we call each other, it’s like we never spent any time apart. We know how to listen to each other. Friends know how to listen and know the unspoken “why” of a call. We hear the joy, the pain, the frustration and elation in one another’s voice. We let the other one talk as long as they need to, and we listen. Friendships don’t just happen, they are cultivated over time, through spending time together and listening.

A relationship with God is cultivated the same way. We do not have to strive for salvation, we need only accept Him, but if we really want to know Him, we need to learn to listen to Him. How? Read the Bible, set aside time to spend with Him and pray. His still, small voice will become a part of who you are, and you will hear Him. As we tend to that relationship, we become doers of His word, not just hearers. We hone the art of listening to Him, and It’s like our spiritual ears are opened and we comprehend who He is, and how important we are to Him. We find out who we are, who we were designed to be.

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”     James 1:22-24

Have you taken a look at your spiritual self lately? Sum up in one sentence who you think God made you to be. Spend some time with Him, and let Him show you the multi-faceted prism of beauty He created in you!

Listen by Andrea

     If you love someone you listen to them. Not just to their words but to the look on their face, the inflection of their voice, hand gestures and body language. If you care for someone they don’t have to ask you to listen. Your desire is to be attentive. If you love someone and respect them, then you want to consider what they tell you. In time, you know the meaning of a glance, a sudden hand raised, an eyebrow or the tone in their voice. How many of us have seen our loved ones  far away and known by the way they were standing, who it was or heard a voice in a crowd and recognized a friend we were delighted to embrace. That is the way it is with our Lord. We become sensitive to His voice, His gestures, His word. Like someone whose lover has gone off to war we have read and re-read His letters. Until we can almost quote them word for word. We often feel as if we know what He’d say or do and it may be very presumptuous of us to think we know the mind of God, yet in our zeal to be close to Him, we may be very guilty of just that… presumption.

      The part about presumption is why I struggle with ‘actively’ listening to God. I feel like I may get in His way. I think I may be presuming what I want to hear. What I do know is: when we know the Lord loves us, we also recognize He is listening to us. If He loves us, His desire is to have an intimate and loving relationship with His children.

       When I first received the word to blog was ‘listen’. I went to bed that night praying about what it means to listen to God. I thought of all the ways the Lord speaks to us. He speaks through His written word. Through His prophetic voice, or those believers with a prophetic gift. He writes His word on our hearts – I have spent years considering what that means. There was one time the Lord spoke audibly to me but please don’t tell my doctor, they get very upset about this kind of thing, no kidding. That night I woke up and I heard, “love is the beauty of the Lord articulated”. Wow. Envision our triune God. We are made in His image, in order for there to be love, there must be an object of affection. That same attribute existing within the trinity, exists within each one of us. Understand then, how we love our families, friends, neighbors, even our country, how that reflects the heart of the Lord. We often take it for granted but in societies where there is little love or charity and no Jesus. Life for most is hell on earth. Yes, He who spoke the universe into existence still speaks today. How many are listening, how many will turn their heads or incline their ear to hear what the Lord has to say on a matter. We Christians may often disagree or even presume but life and the world are better for those, even the unbelievers, when we the people incline our ear to hear from our Lord. 

       To listen to the Lord is to obey, to obey His word we must know Him. We must worship Him. To worship the Lord we need a revelation of who He is. I know God is light, in Him there is no darkness. He is truth, it is impossible for God to lie and He is love. The love of God is not fickle as humans are, but steadfast. God is holy, set apart, perfect, omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent and He is worthy. There are not enough words or enough of me to express what I feel and know within me about our Lord and Savior. Every time I go to write about Him, I feel like it is a feeble attempt to encompass perfection, an impossible feat for someone so imperfect. I pray the Lord give you a revelation of Himself.

      I have to admit this upsets many people but I am not a biblical inerrantist. I figure that over the thousands of years that the scriptures have been written, there was more left out then in. How much did the Lord say to Paul while he waited and learned from Him in Arabia? How much happened between the time each book was being written? Wow, think about it. I am a thinker but mostly when it comes to the Lord, I am a listener. I keep an ear out for what the Lord has to say on everything from where I live, work, play, travel or even eat. Sometimes, it wasn’t God speaking, sometimes it was just my want I heard. After many years, I’ve learned the Lord is patient with me and He likes me happy. Face it, everyone around me likes it a lot better when I’m happy, LOL.

      It doesn’t bother me if my interpretation of scripture is unsettled, as long as my heart is right before God. In the final analysis He is not taking notes from me, He will do it His way and I will graciously submit. It doesn’t matter if Calvin was correct about what scripture says or Arminius. It doesn’t matter to me if pre-tribulation is correct or post-tribulation. Christ comes when He will and not when we say. In my opinion, most theological arguments are about who is right and not about Him as Lord. It’s about who will listen to me and not about who is listening to Christ. I heard early on in my journey with the Lord, “why do you care how men dress Me and not what it is that I desire?”. It changed my walk completely and I have been blessed mightily because of that one sentence. Actually, I should always know when it is the Lord or me because I am one of many words with little power and the Lord is one of few words with much power.

       The last time the Lord spoke, I was in a prayer meeting and asking the Lord to touch us with His presence, just a crumb Lord just a little bit of Your presence sustains us… and He said, ”the Bridegroom doesn’t give His bride crumbs”. I know the next time I feel His presence there is change coming with it… a powerful change.

God bless, andrea

Listen by Ronda

This month’s blog theme reminded me of my time as a homeschooling mom who desperately wanted to educate her children and to encourage them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  What I soon discovered was that training them to be attentive during school hours was extremely difficult because we were at home.  As a homeschooling parent it is imperative to develop a schedule that keeps you and the children on tasks because there are so many distractions.  I couldn’t imagine attempting it today with the level of technology our children are exposed in one day.   One lesson that always needed repeating was based on the difference between what I called “ selective hearing” and  “listening”.

Selective hearing is hearing what the person wants to hear.  Back then, this was my children’s common response to many of my requests especially those that were related to assignmentS and chores.  If a simple request was connected to a positive reinforcement (bribe) then the children heard and even listened. However, if a motivating factor was absent then selective hearing was the mainstay.  Constantly having to deal with this issue would lead me to “preach” about the difference between hearing and listening.  I am sure my kids thought I sounded like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoon series… “wah wah wah wah…wah wah” !!!! Hearing is a physiological ability of the ear and it’s parts, but listening involves deliberate attention to what is being heard.

As a believer, I think there are levels of hearing or listening to God.  We can all probably agree that listening is a very important part of communication.  In reference to a believer’s prayer life, I would say it is the most important part.  It is easier for most of us to share our concerns and cares with God than it is for us to hear his voice and listen for his instruction in response to our request.  I don’t think it is much different than my analogy for my children.  We mature in our relationship with God and are able to hear the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts or through others.  We all begin there.  Hearing is important.  Further growth in our intimacy with the Lord will draw us into more attentive listening.  We begin to desire to hear and understand more about the Lord; not simply answers to our prayers but a deeper sense of intimacy.  This is listening.  Our spiritual relationships are similar to our natural relationships in that we not only want to be heard by those we love but we also want to be listened to with attention. I believe God desires this of his children, just as we desire it of our own children.

So we begin by hearing from the Lord, then we mature into deeper listening to the Lord.  However, I don’t think our listening ends there, and then there is hearkening. In scripture you read times when it says, “listen” and times when it says, “hearken”.  Sometimes the Hebrew word is the same and sometimes it is not.  For me both listen and hearken include hearing with intent, purpose and attention.  However, hearken (shama in Hebrew) implies obedience as well.  To hearken is to hear, listen and obey!  This is where listening goes to the next level.  This is where we are learning to obey what we hear the Lord speaking to us.  So then the real challenge of becomes learning to be quick in our obedience.  As we mature as believers, just like children, our obedience becomes more and more important.  We can’t just get goose bumps over hearing a word from the Lord. We must grow to the place where we commune long enough to discern what it is he is asking us to do with what we hear as we listen.  This month of listening has been just that for me…what do you do when you are listening in prayer and you still have yet to discern your obedience?  Sometimes prayer can be like that…at least for me it can.  I enjoy fellowship with God and His Spirit.  I am learning that as we grow and go deeper into intimacy we are challenged to not only hear and listen but also to hearken- to obey.  Obedience is what parents want for the children. We are so blessed to have a Father full of so much mercy, patience and longsuffering that we get so many opportunities to get it right.  So even when we don’t, His unfailing love and goodness lead us to want to try again.  So I think I may have answered my own question.  When it seems difficult to discern your obedience to what your hear as you listen to the Father’s heart, as you tune into the Mind of the Spirit…in the famous words of Dory from Finding Nemo…”just keep hearing…just keep listening…just keep hearkening”…. (my paraphrase) and simply BELIEVE.