How to Hear God’s Voice (& maybe your own)

Site of ‘Dwell’ Retreat–Grunewald Guild, Leavenworth WA–Textiles Room

The weekend of October 16-18, 2016, was a Heaven-come-to-earth occasion at ‘Dwell’, an intimate (5 of us) Writer’s Retreat co-led with my friend Kimberlee Ireton. We ‘Glory Writers’ camped in Psalm 37 for the weekend, particularly verses 3-7, and meditated on all those verbs–‘Trust’ ‘Delight’ ‘Commit’ ‘Rest’ and the tough-to-do ‘Fret not.’

“Dwell” means to stay where you are so you can hear what you need. Here’s what I heard when I returned home.

Pushing the patio chair into place undercover, I scan the deck for my little table. I want to sit a while and take advantage of the peace and quiet to listen. Not read my Bible, read a book, look at my phone, just sit with my journal and pay attention to what I hear, what I see, what my heart wants to tell me.

 But I need my footstool first.  My legs are too short to touch the decking and I can’t relax ‘til my feet are in place. Ah, there it is hidden under the plastic tablecloth out of the rain.

Now I’m settled. My eyes train on the birds at our feeders. I grin at their acrobatic antics, bouncing marionette-like from feeder to tree, swooping like jets coming in for a landing. I’m quite certain the only reason God created birds was to delight us and him.

Instead of writing anything, I begin to read the lines I penned over the past year; little conversations with Jesus and I show up on the page. ‘Aha’s’ are circled or highlighted, questions I pondered and the answer that came after it are underlined. There are pencil scratchings in the margin, messages from the Spirit of God right to my soul.
Someone asked the question recently, “What is saving your life right now?”
And here’s what I have to say–the spiritual practice of listening, stopping to hear God’s voice to me, and hear my own voice.  This is what I know:

    • When you give God room to speak (see ‘Dwell’ above) He will
    • When God gives you ‘food’ to eat, He might use it to feed others
    • But it will be in your voice and your view from where you stand

Part of my conversations with Jesus lately have been about story—mine, in particular.  My random thoughts run all over and it’s hard to rein them in.

What’s Eating You? No, Really.

My neck is killing me.  (The lavender-laced, rice-filled warming thingy helps a bit. )

My massage therapist says my neck muscles are so strained from being in this position they have ridges in them.

Ridges? That cannot be good.

Protocol dictates I come see her once a week for the next six weeks.  I’m grateful for insurance (exclamation point) and I will definitely look forward to the relaxation time, but what about the in-between times?

Without the soothing music and comfortable table and the healing touch of therapy?

I’m left wondering–why am I so stressed?

What is causing this perpetual stretching forward that ignites my muscles into overdrive?
I think it’s the fretting.  The worry about things I cannot control.

There is much that could cause concern living in this fallen world.

Supreme Court decisions declaring blatantly that wrong is right.
National organizations standing by rulings that are anti-God.
Turmoil in Egypt, acquittal verdicts that incite protests, the list goes on.
The fretting and worry have extended to the blogosphere on issues secular and sacred. Opinions have been many–volatile voices and views have been volleyed all over;
righteous anger abounds and many people are torn to take sides.
Closer to home, there is my own flesh warring against my spirit (and my spouse)and we’ve had 40 years of practice. We should know better.

This stresses me out and makes me fret.  Causes me to wonder if I’ll ever change.
Is God really in charge?  Really?

The other morning I turned back to Psalm 37.

King David declares 3 times in the first 8 verses “do not fret”. 

I looked up the definition of ‘fret’ in Merriam Webster’s online dictionary. 

The words brought a discomfiting and illuminating discovery.

“‘fret’—a) to eat or gnaw into, corrode. Also, fray, to make by wearing away a substance, (‘the stream fretted a channel’), b) to cause to suffer emotional strain, vex, 
c) to affect something as if by gnawing or biting, to grate.”

King David spoke about our penchant for fretting in Psalm 37:
“1  Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
                                                                                        (No, this sad state of affairs will not last forever)
2  for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away
                                                                                         (THAT’S what you should be doing instead of fretting
                                                                                          :Trust, Dwell, take Delight:)
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
 4Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart
                                                                                             (:And this, too, instead of focusing on all                                                                    that’s wrong and bad:) 
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun 
7 do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes. 
                                        (:And again:)
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”

Evil is ‘live’ spelled backwards. 

Evil is me taking things into my own small, limited hands and thinking I have the power to do something about changing people.

And I want to live.

The only person or thing I have control over is me….and I can choose to yield that control to the all powerful God who is Sovereign and able to accomplish His purposes in this world in spite of me.  

Even when it looks impossible.

I can choose to trust, delight, commit, dwell and rest.  Choose to digest the truth instead.  I can release my worrying, fretting, my anger to God’s capable hands for Him to do his will and his work.

Instead of letting worries and concerns eat me alive I can choose to feast on God’s living word, eat my daily bread, a portion that will feed me, nourish me and sustain me 

Until that final feast when we eat at the banqueting table with Him, I will choose to trust, delight, commit, dwell and rest. 

A Very Special Announcement

Homemade ‘button’….bear with me?

Thru the Word, Thru the Week–2TW squared

One of the surest ways to guarantee a healthy diet of Daily Bread–the Word of God–is to commit to a study of it to share with others.

I’ve had a little dream (okay, a Big Dream) about teaching God’s Word to women so I’m jumping on in!  Earlier this year a phrase popped into my head about just that–it’s on the little ‘button’ above–so here we go…..

Once a week on Wednesdays I’d like you to pull up a chair, or a pillow or cushion and rest with a bit of ‘bread’. Think of it as sitting around the living room talking about God’s Word together.
For eight weeks I’ll share with you what I’ve been feasting on, offering my two cents and letting you digest the rest at your leisure.

The Scripture we’ll look at is Psalm 37–a Psalm full of action words–a place I’ve been ‘camping’ all year long (as my friend Judy says.)
The one word God gave me for last year was ‘Dwell’–it’s all over the place in Psalm 37.  Now that I’ve lived with it for a year it’s time to look back and ponder–how well did I do at resting in God’s word?

Each of our weekly ‘walks’ (which is why I chose the pathway photo above) will be reviewing 5 or 6 verses at a time, asking questions, defining words, and shining the light on these words to live by. I’ll include my email address at the end if you’d like to ask a question or make a comment.  I so look forward to it~~

Every Wednesday–‘2TWsquared’
I hope you’ll join me~!

(If I can figure out all the technical details, each week I’ll post the study on my Home Page and link it to the Bible Study tab on my Pages….so they’ll all reside there when we’re finished.)
Linking for the first time with Holley Gerth who’s encouraging big God-dreams and
 Ms. Emily Wierenga for Imperfect Prose Thursdays–whose prompt this week is ‘create.’
More inspiring posts in both places–promise!

On Birthdays & Being the Big Sister

I was so looking forward to 5 days with my sisters and close friends for my birthday, celebrating my big 6-0 in an extraordinary way.

I reserved a place at the beach in Southern California, my birthplace.  My head was filled with imagining the familiar sights and sounds, the walks on the beach, the fun ahead. I had pretty high expectations.

There would be conversations laden with 40-plus years of history and ‘oh, you had to be there’ laughter.  The usual hallmarks of times with people who’ve known you forever.

But there was one subject in particular I was nervous about. 
Could I bring it up? Would anyone else?
What should I say?  What should I DO?
I’m the Big Sister after all. Supposed to be in charge.  Supposed to be The Christian.

The day before my trip I shared my hopes and some of the self-talk with a dear sister-friend.  I knew God had something big in store….what would it be, I wondered out loud.
“Here’s what I think you need to remember,” she said.
God is going to do God-things,
not old things,
not Jody things–
something entirely new that won’t be like anything in the past.
Step back. Don’t operate in the familiar, safe ways of before.
WAIT on Him–He’ll show you what to say and do.”

The next 24 hours I pondered this–Wait, Rest, Dwell….

Funny (not) how this dovetailed with what God had been speaking to me all year long–
Abiding in Him, living in Him and moving when He says to move.

But it’s scary–I was hesitant with all this letting go. It’s so easy and comfortable to revert to my old self, carry the day, dominate the conversation.
This time would have to be different.
“Wait on me every day,” He said.
 “Each morning I will have something to say. Trust me.  I’ll tell you what I’m doing that day.”

I discovered being still and waiting is an active process.
Even though God says, “Stand still and see the the salvation of the LORD.” (Exodus 14:13)
it takes effort.

Why?  because, as the pastor said on Sunday, it takes a lot of work to stop–especially when we’re going so fast.

So—what can I DO while I’m waiting?
Psalm 37 is full of action/being words:

v.  3  ‘Trust’
v. 4  ‘Delight’
v. 5  ‘Commit’
v. 7 ‘Be still’ (literally, ‘Hold thee still’.)
Here’s why this takes work–because if I’m going to trust, I have to let go (that’s a verb) of what I’m holding onto….how can God fill me up if my hands are hanging onto other things?

These you can DO with your heart, soul and mind.

v. 34 says,
“Wait for the LORD and keep his way.
(‘keep’–there’s a doing word–hold fast, be still)
He will exalt you to inherit the land.”

We will inherit the land, the kingdom He has promised us.  Not physical territory, but spiritual territory, a land of freedom, a place that is ours where we can grow.

There is kingdom property that is ours for the taking, IF we Dwell in Him,
IF we wait on Him. In other words, if we submit to Him and do things the God way, not our way.

There was a family member for whom I was praying. There have been years of seeking God to see her receive the promises of freedom and joy that God had purchased for her–the God-promised land filled with His presence.

It would NOT be the land where there would be No More Very Hard Times,
but the Land where He would be there to help in those Very Hard Times….

Here’s how all this waiting practice worked out for me as the days unfolded:
I had the fruit of a completely new frame of mind
Every single morning without fail,
in the middle of a no-sleep-at-night vacation,
days of intense emotions and
over the moon laughter and joy,
my Father consistently spoke as I waited on Him.

I found myself stepping back, getting out of the way,
letting Him speak to me so clearly:
one morning–‘speak the truth in love’
the next–‘identify the enemies’
and the next–‘just get out of the way’

I read from Oswald Chambers while on vacation (August 9th):

“Never let your common sense become so prominent and forceful
that it pushes the Son of God to one side.
Common sense is a gift that God gave to our human nature—
but common sense is not the gift of His Son.
Supernatural sense is the gift of His Son,
and we should never put our common sense on the throne.
Our ordinary abilities will never worship God
unless they are transformed by the indwelling Son of God.
We must make sure that our human flesh is kept in perfect submission to Him,
allowing Him to work through it moment by moment.
Are we living at such a level of human dependence upon Jesus Christ
that His life is being exhibited moment by moment in us?”

Oh, I so wanted to overtalk and offer solutions.  Lean on my humor, be the big sister. 

But moment by moment I was walking in dependence upon Him. Did I forget from time to time and put my foot in my mouth? You bet.
Did I embarrass myself and say too much?  Yep.
Did I hear Him say, “Shhhhhhh…..listen, wait”?  YES. I. DID.

When I got out of the way and let God do God-things there was a release we experienced at the end of those 3 days was uncontained, God-ordained, overflowing joy.

Remarkable, daily interventions where I saw His hand going before us, planning our moments, orchestrating down to the details:

  • a happenstance conversation with a clerk at a Thrift Store that touched a deep place in a very closed heart.
  • The just-so-happens-I-grew-up-here-too banter with the lady by the pool. 
  • The place I chose to stay over 10 months ago that was a refreshing, soul-nourishing place….touching our spirits to say, “I so love you.  See how you can trust me.”
All good things take time.

There were God moments from beginning to end, resulting in life-changing decisions.
Huge mountains scaled.
Enemies confronted and dealt with.
Choices for a new future.
Brokenness and prayers, tears and healing….

more than I could have ever imagined,
more than I could have ever asked.

So very much worth waiting for.

Thank you, Father, for your grace to teach us old ones new ‘tricks’, to continue to bring those lessons into our lives.  Here’s to more waiting on you, Lord.