* not part of my life
* strange as a spiritual discipline
* the polar opposite of my personality
It began when Doug and I attended a conference, Shepherding the Staff, for associates in the ministry. Henry Blackaby was the main speaker. But one of the break-away sessions was with an author, Ruth Barton. Her book, Silence and Solitude, was my only purchase. Her session was powerful.
My journey of learning to listen to God has not been an easy one. It’s not natural. But it’s essential. Noise, busyness, distractions, frenzied ministry itself all cause static that blocks out the voice of God.
We type A’s love lists, doing, planning, organizing and talking. We take control, abuse power and even take pride in it. It’s the American way, the busy, bootstrap-pulling life! I hear it all the time, “I got so much done today…very productive…full day of ministry…” Spiritual success is measured this way.
Meditation--some New Age, Eastern invention, right? I was skeptical at first, thinking mysticism. Then I began to see it in Scripture.
How in the world did a man after God’s own heart, David, get so mixed up in this cult thing? Psalm 119:97 “Oh! How I love your law! I meditate on it day and night!” His writings are peppered with this practice, we no longer practice. The Old Testament speaks of prayer. We pray. And of tithing. We tithe. Of reading the Word. We read our Bibles. Of Worship. We go to church together.
God called Moses to just “be there.” I AM is there. Are we? In the moment? Still? Quiet? Like Samuel, do we ever just say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”?
Agenda. For me, that was the key to recognize my need here. In every Christian habit, I set and control the agenda. Control freak! I’d never say it out loud but by actions, my life said, God, I’ll tell You when and where we’ll meet. I’ll choose the length of time and where in the Word You may speak to me. I’ll decide how much time, money and energy I give to You. I’ll even make a list of what I pray about. MY listening is not a part of my prayer life. Our relationship is all at my planning.
Probably brokenness drives us to change more than any other motivator. A need becomes so desperate or our rope-end becomes so frayed that we MUST cease from our doing. Frazzled and needing God to even breathe our next breath, we finally limp to Him to listen.
“God whispers to us in our joys, speaks to us in our conscience, and shouts to us in our pain." C.S. Lewis
My learning to practice silence and solitude is ongoing. It’s still not easy nor natural. I have to be intentional about it. Several things help.
At first I found 20 minutes in the tanning bed to be an ideal place.
No interruptions, nothing I could do, so it became my daily listening time. God spoke. Not audibly but often through Scripture hidden in my heart. But HE decided what to bring to mind. It might not have been the wisest place so eventually I found my own back yard (away from the phone, computer, TV, even the doorbell!) In milder weather it's a convenient, quiet place for retreating.
Sometimes distinguishing His voice from my own thoughts is a challenge. Practice helps. Journaling also helps. “Thoughts disentangle themselves as they pass through the lips or fingertips.” This slows me down in the process long enough to really listen. I have a section labeled “Listening.”
While commentaries and other helps are not wrong, I find using only my Bible is a more powerful way to truly hear God speak to me personally. I can’t say it’s a daily practice yet, but I’m trying.
A PROLONGED TIME
Also I try to get away from home and everything familiar for a few days a year, for a silent retreat with Him. I'm at the beach this week on a third honeymoon with the Lord!
Such refreshing times fill and renew me. Focusing on the Lover of my Soul resets my sails to keep me on course. Hauling myself into dry dock for maintenance, recalibrates me to then sail farther and faster for real kingdom work.
Hearing sermons, teachers, getting counsel or reading what others write is good but His message of love becomes much more personal when I extend the time to just listen to Him. God and I time becomes precious. We tend to settle for “the echo of an echo of an echo”--what He’s spoken to someone else.
This is the air I breathe, Your holy presence, living in me.
This is my daily bread, Your very Word spoken in me.
And I, I’m desperate for you.
And I, I’m lost without you.
I hope you'll consider making quiet listening part of your conversational times with God. There are many books, like Silence and Solitude, to guide in this. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young is a great example of journaling, listening to God as you read Scripture.
God has fresh Bread, baked especially for me every day. For you too. Just let Abba Papa serve you. “Be still and know... God.”
In His Grip of Grace,
(Graceful Grace): http://kathyhenderson.blogspot.com/2009/10/graceful-grace-my-big-brother-bert-bb.html