Friday, April 23, 2010

Hearing God's Voice- My Story

I have been reading the comments on the previous post and want to thank those that have shared.  I appreciate your sharing!  If you haven't read that post, you might want to read it first.

I told you that I would share with you part of my story and experience learning to listen and hear from the Lord.  Before I get into the details I want to restate what I mentioned in the last post.  I believe that each person is unique and has their own relationship with the Lord.  We are individuals and our God is creative and limitless.  Just as I speak to each of the people in my life differently, it's likely that the way He speaks to me is different (be that by a lot or a little) than the way in which He speaks to, or will speak to you.  It's more that I thought it would be good to have examples for a frame of reference.  Sharing our experience can help others to grow in their relationship with God, just like sharing an experience from your marriage or parenting could help someone in a different family, with different relationships, take something away that would be beneficial to their situation.  My experiences do not dictate what theirs will look like, but might give inspiration or a starting direction.  It might be that the only effect is to remind eachother of how exciting it can be to really live on God's path and to hear from Him.  Because, really, how awesome is it that we even have that privilege?  GOD wants to talk with me?  It's easy to forget how crazy that really is!

Where to start?  The Bible.  That's my opinion of course, but I am pretty sure that most of us would agree on that point.  God gave us written words.  Words that we cannot mistake for someone other than God.  Words that are truth and alive.  I've heard a few times, "I just wish that God would talk to me in a big loud voice so that I KNOW that it's Him and not my own thoughts!" ...or something similar.  Well, we don't have to question anything in God's word.  We know how to read.  We know what the words on the page say, and He told us that they are truth.  If we believe Him, then we believe scripture.

Forever and ever, no matter how far I grow in my relationship with the Lord, no matter how confident I become in hearing His voice, I KNOW that if something in scripture doesn't match up- the scripture is the truth and what I heard is not from God.  The Bible is always there to be used as a confirmation.  I know that all things should go through the filter of scripture and that's why it is so important for me to have a regular time reading and studying it.  I love how God uses His word and has shown me that it is alive.  Let me share deeper on that.

When I began seeking a different kind of relationship with Him, I was looking for a specific change.  I wanted it to be truth when I said that I follow Jesus.  When I say that I am following my friend to find a location that I have never been to, that person is leading.  I'm not making the decisions, I'm just going where I'm told (or in this case shown) to go.  I felt like my life should be like that with God.  I still feel like it should be way more like that by the way, but I have to remind myself all the time that I am in progress.  I lack grace for myself and want to throw me away when I'm not perfect.  (Good thing God doesn't feel that way and He saves me from myself.)  So, anyway, I was asking God to show me how to do that.  How am I supposed to follow You like that?  How can I say that I give You my whole life and then still dictate where and how I go?  I feel like I am trying to ask You for advice on what to do with the situations that I brought myself to (be they positive or difficult), instead of being led to every circumstance that I find myself in.

The logical place to start was by reading my Bible regularly and praying.  Before I started to hear His voice outside of scripture, I started to hear Him there.  I learned more of what He was like and I had a spot to go everyday.  Most of the time, my reading is just where I left off the day before.  Often that includes a couple of different areas, but it's not a jump around thing.  It's a "set" place where I go.  The AWESOME thing about this is that it gives me such confidence is God and how truly amazing He is.  Time after time, the words that I read fit perfectly with something that I needed to hear or that gives instruction.  And it can't be chance when it's the same area I've been reading for so long.  How stinking beautiful is it that He KNOWS where I am going to be reading in three weeks and He KNOWS what I am going to be wondering or questioning or going through, and He KNOWS what I will need to hear...and then His Spirit makes it jump right off the page to fill the questions in my heart and mind?!?  Seriously.  If a man could do that, you can bet that people all over would know about it.  Word would spread quickly.  How HUGE is God, how AWESOME that He can do things like that!

As time passed a bit in my reading, I was guided to change some things in my life.  We were not doing things that were particularly bad, just had some things that were cluttering our lives with things that were not beneficial.  I want my life to be about God, not about having God in it.  We decided as a family to let go of our television.  It was something that took up lots of time and we didn't even like most of the shows we watched.  We felt like there were plenty of things there that didn't look pleasing to God, and we weren't huge TV addicts.  There were books that got let go of, movies that went bye bye, and computer time was cut.  This wasn't a choice of legalistic things, it was just what we felt like God was asking our family to let go of.  There were some other things too, but I can't remember all of the changes we made at that time.

The result- quiet.  Our home was more peaceful.  We had more time on our hands.  When we started this change, we weren't sure what we would fill that time with.  Now Handsome and I have commented to each other how we don't know how we could waste all that time on something we didn't even really like doing that much.  Clutter was removed from our lives that was making it harder to hear from the Lord.  It was like we had been in a forest near a stream and couldn't hear the water flowing because of a logging project going on right next to us.  When the loggers left, the peaceful sound of the stream was clear and it was easier to hear it flowing over the rocks.  Instead of straining to hear it, the stream actually became quite loud.

I began a journal during my quiet time with the Lord.  This was probably when the biggest change took place, though if I hadn't started with the ground work, I doubt the journal would have made that much difference.  My journal helps in a few ways.  First, God doesn't always answer questions right away.  Sometimes He will answer a few days later, or even a week or more.  Going back and looking at the answers to questions that I have written is a good way to remember God's faithfulness.  Second, it helps me to remember and keep track of things.  Verses that stand out to me get written down and often I don't know why they stood out until later on down the road.  He often speaks to me in words.  Sometimes, I ask a question and then get an answer right away.  Sometimes, when I'm just sitting there listening to Him, He will say something...I write it down.  Then, I can see if it is confirmed with scripture because I have the words right there.  The specifics of the words are often very important and the things that are said have great meaning based on the specific wording used.  It's important to me that I have this written down so that I can look back at the exact words.  Third, it keeps me focused.  Somehow, when I am writing things down during our time together it keeps me focused.  I'm less likely to get distracted when journaling.

I want to stop here and remind you that this is ONLY and account of how things have happened for me.  This isn't the way everyone's time with God will look like and it's not a way that would work for everyone.  It's just how things have developed for me.  Some people might even have issues with something that I did or do.  I just want to remind you of these things and say that whether it was a good or bad method, I did learn and grow a lot through this time and process.  God takes a willing heart and leads it to closeness with Him.  It's about the true desire of the heart to know God and find His will, not about specific steps taken to make that progress.

When I started my journal, it would often look the same.  I started with the date, followed by any questions that I had for the Lord.  Then I would tell Him that I was open to whatever He had to say to me.  I knew that if it was time for any of the questions to receive answer, He would speak to those things.  If not, I wasn't going to complain at all.  I just wanted to hear from Him, to know what He wanted to say to me.  I would also write thanks and praise, and I know that very frequently I would tell Him that I just wanted Him to teach me to love Him more.  That I knew that my ability to love Him was something that only He could provide my incapable human heart.  This time does not often include prayer requests, though I write them from time to time or talk to Him about particular ones that are heavy on my heart.  I feel that prayers of asking are something that I like to keep more separate.  I want this time to be about developing a relationship and dialogue, not asking Him for things.  If something is heavy on my heart, it would most likely be shared anyway.  My tears and fears will be spoken.

I write those things down so they are not pressing on my mind in worry that I will forget something.  I lay it all out from the start and then just sit and listen.  I wait to see what He will say to me.  Quite often, His words start with things that are not listed.  It could be things from a day or two ago that haven't been answered yet, or it could be something that doesn't have anything to do with thoughts I had been thinking at all.  I'll give you an example.

...The spider
You fear the spider when it's harmless and even helpful because you fear just a few of it's kind.  Most are busy about their work, doing just what they were created to do.

I seek control rather than living in faith and trust.  When most things (bee, spider, etc.) will not come near harming me.  I seek to kill all of them because they give me feelings of lack of control...and fear of pain.

Give up more control...

This was just a short part of an entry.  I was sitting and a spider caught my eye.  God said "The spider".  That's all He said at first and then when I wrote the words "the spider" down, the rest just came flowing out.  Thus began a great work that God has been doing in my heart by way of fear (which has been a HUGE setback in my life) and control.  There is still a LOT of work to be done here, but even if other people don't see it, I know that much has changed in this area for me over the last year.  Control and fear were things that I knew were issues for me, but I chose to look away from them.

After I write down any words I've heard and have time just being quiet before the Lord, often just experiencing Him and His presence, then I spend time reading God's word.  Most often, things that were spoken that I didn't already know were an issue that wasn't in line with God would be confirmed in scripture that day (because things like fear and control didn't need confirmation each time, I know those aren't of God because of daily reading...they're easily recognized as something God wouldn't want to be part of my life).  Often this will be words that are part of the reading, or concepts.  There are specifics that stand out to confirm what God just said.  Sometimes it comes in a few days time.  Especially in the early times, it was counted as my head unless God gave confirmation.  I tried to look for an example to show you, but none of the ones I found were things I could share here because I just feel they are too personal for the great web.  I do want to stress that I feel that confirmation is very important, especially while in the early stages of learning to discern His voice.

The more I have that time of listening and getting confirmation, first through scripture and then later through the fulfilling of things He said, confidence grows.  I am always aware that I can be wrong, or that I may not have understood clearly what God meant with what He said (hence the specific words in the journal).  While that can discourage me for a little while, I also know that it's just part of the process.  I'm not perfect and I never will be.  Being wrong sometimes keeps humility in the picture and holds back pride, so I even find it good for me.  What brings humility never feels good, but the effect of humility is always great.  God draws close to the humble.  Wrong = uncomfortable dose of humility = God draws closer and I can know Him better.  It's worth the cost.

I may share more with you at another time, but I feel this is enough for right now.

Please know that I have just shared quite a bit of detail about something that is very deep and private for me.  These are details that haven't been shared with very many people and it's letting you see inside a very personal part of my life.  I am open to any voices of differing opinion and/or guidance, I just ask that you state any things of that nature in a kind way.  Realize that this is my relationship with my Lord and any criticism is not of my theology or religion, but of my interactions with Him personally.  It's very different than making a sharp comment about a person's stance on something like the trinity, or their choice of denomination.  Please keep that in mind with the tone of any comments.

I also hope to continue hearing from more of you about your personal experiences here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How Do We Know God's Voice

Recently my precious little Curly has been learning about hearing God's voice.  There are many verses that talk about following Him and His sheep knowing His voice and such.  Since we started reading the actual Bible instead of just the children's Bible, she has been asking more deep questions and learning a lot more.

She has asked me, "How do I talk to God Mom?  I can't hear Him."  We've talked about how God speaks to each person in a different way and how it's usually not like you would hear a Mommy's voice or Gumby's voice, though some people might hear God that way.  Mommy just doesn't know anyone personally who does.  I told her that Jesus promised that if we want to know answers to things and we ask Him, that He WILL give us those answers.  Sometimes it just happens slower than we want it to.  Keep on asking Him until He teaches you how to hear His voice.  Does God ever break His promises?  She quickly replied, "Nope!"

Then tonight when I was reading in John, something grabbed her mind and she said in a very frustrated voice, "I just CAN'T FOLLOW Jesus Mom!  I don't know how to hear Him.  I tried, and asked Him, but I just don't know how."

If only she really knew how many people are fully grown Christians and have this same feeling.  I would imagine that there are many people that really do want to hear Him, but just don't know how.  It's only in the last couple of years, and mostly this particular last year that I have learned to hear His voice on a regular basis myself.  I can't speak for everyone else, but it's not something that I ever felt like I could get information on and I didn't even know where to start.  Now, I have had times when I was seeking specific answers and asked the Lord and fervently sought answers, but I felt like that wasn't all that God had meant for His children to have.  I felt like when reading Biblical examples of people, those that were living for God after the Holy Spirit was part of the picture were led in specific ways.  It was something more than just living by what was given as direction in scripture.  (Which is also very important!)

I started seeking the answers daily.  I began having daily time with the Lord and reading His word.  He taught me how to listen in the "small" things, as well as the big.  He is still teaching me.  And just to make sure that I am not misleading anyone, since we got home with our new daughter, I haven't been so good at that daily time.  I've allowed busy and tired to get in the way.  I'm obviously not sharing that to be proud, but to make sure that I am not misleading.  Because of this, I haven't been focused on the things I want to be focused on quite as much.  (By the way, the first thing I told my daughter about hearing God's voice was that we need to read His words regularly.  That one of the things He does often is bring scripture to mind that we read quite awhile ago, and this can answer questions we might have or tell us if something we are doing isn't what He would like.  Then John 14:26, in our reading, helped me out a bit.  "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.")

I could very easily have given some four year old answers to my freshly four year old daughter, but my desire is never to water down the gospel for my children.  I believe that a child has the right to the same information as an adult.  The Holy Spirit does the same work in a child as He does in an adult, and it's not my right to decide that she is too young for a concept.  Now, I might have to use slightly less complex words with her, but I'm not really the intellectual type.  My kids can understand most of what I am going to say because my mind works on a pretty simple level.

So, I told her that I would share with her how God often talks to me.  It might be totally different from the way He talks to her, but it was all I had to give her.  And I asked the Lord, right there in my quiet mind, "What do you want me to say to her?"  He told me what to share with her and then said to trust Him to fulfill His promise that whoever seeks will find.  Even a child.  So, I did.

My clearest times with Him are through creation.  SO many words are spoken from the Lord when I just sit and watch the natural surroundings of outside.  He especially speaks to me through wind and clouds.  So, I sat with her at her window and said, "Lets just sit quiet and listen to see if God has anything to say to us."  We sat for a little while and she asked me if I heard anything.

I said, "Yes.  Do you see that bird eating from the ground over there?"

"Uh- huh." she replied.

"Well, that bird is eating worms from the ground and it brought to my mind something that it says in God's word.  Jesus was telling his followers not to worry about anything, that God always provides for His children.  He asked them if the birds worry about their food.  Do they worry about their food?"


"That's right.  They just find it.  They know that God will provide it.  And the they think about how they are going to get their food?"

"No.  What do flowers eat Mom?"

(I DO have a four year old here.  Lots of questions that side track.)  "God makes sure they grow and gives them food too.  And then Jesus said that He loves us WAY more than flowers or birds because we are His kids.  Just like I love you WAY more than flowers and birds!"

Then we sat some more.  She told Gumby to be quiet so that she could hear God =).  She listened for quite some time and I was just about ready to tell her that we could try again later.  That it might not be today that God was ready to open her ears.  But then she smiled at me.

Quietly she said to me, "He said something to me Mom."  She smiled at me with a shy little grin that told me she was very pleased.

"What did He say?" I asked, actually quite curious to hear what she had to say.

In a very matter of fact way, she smiled and said, "He said that He loves me very, very much."

Now, that very much sounds to me like one of the first things God would say to His child as He is training the ears of their spirit to hear Him.  That moment made my eyes water and my heart feel blessed to know that He allowed me to be there for that special moment when she heard His voice for the first time.

This leads into something I've been wondering a lot lately.  Where are others with this?  I really want to know, is this an area lots of us struggle with?  Or is it just something kept more private?  And if so, why?  Because it seems like it's so much harder to live the life we are called to live when we don't know how to hear His voice.  It's like we are all a bunch of waxy eared, hard of hearing sheep wandering around and we don't know how to clean our ears out.  And I might be in a smaller group than I think here, but when learning something as important and faith-requiring as hearing the voice of God clearly, I'd have felt more confident having the experience of others to learn from.  It just seems like it gives a jumping off point instead of not knowing where to even start.

My question is, for those of you that are followers of Jesus Christ, do you know how to discern His voice?  If you do, how did you go about learning that and cultivating it?  Or did you do anything specific other than praying and asking for that ability to grow?  How have you/would you answer your child's questions about this?  How would you answer an adults questions about how to learn to hear God's voice?  I really, truly want to know your opinions here.  I want to hear examples of how God speaks to different people (because I KNOW we are all different and God is very creative, so there is much possible variety in this area).  I want to know what has helped you learn in this area.  And I would love for those that are still feeling like they need some learning in how to hear His voice to have some point of reference.  Please, please give input here.  If you are more private and don't want to share with everyone, you can post an anonymous comment.  Or if you don't feel comfortable with that, but would be okay with e-mail, you can e-mail at puremommyextract at gmail dot com.  I really hope to get some input here.  If you feel comfortable posting on your own blog about this topic, I think that would be even more awesome.  Just link us to the post in the comments so that we can come read.  Like I said, perhaps lots of people DO feel confident in this area and I just haven't heard about it much.  But, it could be that my curiosity is right and many of us have not known where to start or how the Lord even sounds.  It might also be that some believe that God doesn't speak to us other than scripture these days.  We all have different opinions too.

I want to hear from you!

I will also do a different post soon about what my quiet times looked like in the beginning/look like now more specifically, and what my personal ways of practicing and learning to listen and hear God's voice were.  I think it's very important to understand that it's not the same for every one of us, so the more examples the better...which is just my opinion of course.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Sure, it's been silent here...we've been busy staring up at the clouds.

...ummm, right......

OR- I've been busy making tons of frozen meals, going to doctor's appointments for number 4 and "Little Miss Giardia", reasearching and switching to cloth diapers for Smiles and soon to be added number 4, cleaning like mad (otherwise known as nesting), and just plain keeping you from a certain hormonal rage infested female who was hibernating from everyone in order to protect and preserve relationships.

You can take your pick and go with whatever you prefer to believe.

(And though Handsome tells me that my lens had some icky stuff on it, he's wrong.  It's my windows that need to be cleaned...not my lens.  Clearly the nesting hasn't gone so far as the windows...if that was the answer you went with.)