How Do You Hear From God?

I think one of the biggest questions, challenges, concerns, or struggles people have when it comes to their faith, or any type of spiritual beliefs in general, has to do with hearing from God. If you ask someone of faith they will tell you that God has certainly had a hand in their lives, or that they can see God’s leading.
And yes, we’re able to pray directly to Him, we don’t have to go through an intermediary like a pastor or priest which makes it a lot more comfortable and encourages us to do it more often.

But let’s face it, saying prayers to God is not often the same as sitting down to have coffee with someone and having an actual conversation where there’s listening and speaking on both sides of the table. I say that it is rarely like that because throughout spiritual history there have been people who have spoken directly with God like Enoch, Samuel, Solomon, Jonah, and Saul/Paul from the Bible. And then there are people from more recent history who also had a close relationship and heard from God like Smith Wigglesworth, Mother Teresa, and Billy Graham, just to name a few of the more well-known people.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with God guiding us through means other than words, I will always take that over nothing at all, but there’s something so much more personal, powerful, intimate and real about hearing actual words. It’s kind of like how you can connect with someone on social media and message back and forth, but unless you meet them in person or talk on the phone/skype, you’re not really positive they’re a real person or who they say they are.

I don’t think it’s impossible to actually talk with/hear from God, and since God is all powerful He’s certainly able to talk with anyone (or everyone) at any time. But most of us don’t take the time to develop the relationship with Him that would encourage Him to speak directly to us in that way (although He certainly can speak to you that way to get your attention as He did Paul/Saul who He didn’t have a relationship with).  And while He could speak to us all with words, it might make Him seem less divine or people would feel like they’re more equal with Him, which wouldn’t be a good thing.

So what do you do if you want to hear (more) from God? Read your Bible, make time to pray and talk with God on a very regular basis, and be open to His leading and the changes of your plans. God may choose to speak words through someone else that you need to hear, He may make your path obvious in another way, He may touch your heart with an impression or direction, and He may speak to you directly with words. I believe God speaks today, and He wants to speak to each of us, it’s a question of whether we are truly listening or not.

Whispers from God

I’ve been thinking about relationships a lot, and especially about the relationship that we have with God. With each verse in the Bible I read I’m reminded of how incredible He is and how little we really understand Him. Yes, we can simplify it and wrap it in a nice package and say God is love, grace, forgiveness and salvation, but the list of characteristics could extend indefinitely, and each of us would come up with a different list of who God is to them.

The Bible gives us an in-depth look into the lives of dozens of people in different life situations and stages of their relationship with God, one of which is Elijah. Elijah was a prophet in the Old Testament, who connected God and people of all walks of life from kings to single mothers. He didn’t die of anything traditional, instead God took him away when it was his time (2 Kings 2). During his ministry he did everything from raising the dead, and calling down fire to defeat false prophets in an epic showdown.

One of the special things about the Bible is that it doesn’t just show the stories of people, it shows personal interactions between people and God. Elijah experienced a rather special supernatural event and communication from God while he was taking a bit of a sabbatical. He was feeling discouraged as many of us do, especially as we see the world moving around us and some of the terrible things that go on. During that time of rest and prayer God stopped by to speak with him and find out what he was doing, because it looked an awful lot like Elijah was doing more hiding than renewing (which he admitted he was).

So God decides to put on a bit of a show for Elijah, and sends a windstorm, earthquake and fire his way. 1 Kings 19 makes it clear that although God sent those natural events his way, God wasn’t actually in them. 1 Kings 19:12b says “And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” And in that whisper God’s presence arrived and spoke with Elijah, reassuring and encouraging him and sending him back to the mission field.

God made a point during this interaction with Elijah to show that He was more than capable of showing up in big and powerful ways, but that what was most needed, and He was capable of doing, was showing up in a still small voice. The same is true for our lives, God can show up in big and powerful ways, but He can also show up in the moments of quiet. I think God tends to show up in the moments we’re able to be quiet and pause more often because the world we live in is focused on the big and the bold (think number of likes on social media, going viral, being a celebrity etc.), so rather than attempt to compete with that or try to one-up everyone else trying to be on top, He chooses to show up in the moments we intentionally make time for Him.

I encourage you to make time regularly in your schedule to stop and spend time with God. Maybe that means going to a church that’s open for quiet prayer during the day and making that your lunch break, or starting a time of meditation after you put the kids to bed, or using the time that you spend alone in your car to talk with God (not ideal, but better than nothing). The more you make time for God, the healthier your relationship will be and the more you’ll hear from Him through prompts, peace and maybe even words.

All In This Together

If you’ve been around this blog for a while you know I love to celebrate our differences. I love that the areas in which I’m not as capable there are other people who are not only capable, they really enjoy these things. It’s healthy to have differences of opinion and see things from different perspectives and to like different things. But a quote I read this week reminded me that it’s not always good to look for the differences:

“One of the most basic things we all share in spite of class, race, economic status, or age is our need to eat. It was no accident that Jesus shared a meal with his disciples in that upper room before his betrayal, death, and resurrection. It is that very meal we commemorate each Sunday in the sacrament of the altar where we hear once again Jesus say: Take, eat, this is my body. Drink this all of you, this is my blood of the New Covenant. After Jesus’ resurrection, it was in this way that his disciples came to recognize him as their risen Lord.” Br. Jim Woodrum

If we want to be alive we all have to breathe and we all have to eat and we all have to sleep. Everyone has relationships of some kind. Everyone is born young and grows up, and most die old. Most of us have dreams and goals in our lives. Most of us want to be loved. All of us have a group of people we call family, whether they’re related to us by blood or choice. And as Christians we’re all united through our faith in Jesus and His Resurrection.

It’s good to see, appreciate and even celebrate our differences. A world where everything was all the same would be boring and lack the life and depth that our current world does. I also don’t think we’d be nearly as successful with solving our problems if everyone/everything was pretty much the same. But we have to be careful to not focus so directly on our differences that we forget that we’re all human, all in this life together and that we all want to live and love just like everyone else.

So this week rather than celebrating your differences, I encourage you to celebrate your similarities and the things you all love with those you spend time with. Talk about that basketball game or TV show that you all watched, talk about the races you’re all preparing for, talk about the pets you all love, get their advice and insight on the situation you’re all working through at work, and celebrate how connected you all are.

Getting through Lent with Grace

We’re a week into our journey of Lent for this year and I’m working through a couple of different Lent devotionals. I’ve been enjoying them because they each bring a different perspective to this journey that we’re on and to spiritual life as well. One of the things I struggle with regarding Lent may be something that you struggle with as well, and that’s the continual focus on our sins. I know it’s important to recognize our sins, to ask for forgiveness of them and to make changes in our lives based on not living those sins, but it’s not exactly encouraging to talk about our failings all the time.

Maybe it’s my fault because I’m immersing myself in Lent and not just reading one devotional each day, since it gives me a lot more exposure to the topic of Lent and those that go along with it like looking at your failings. On the other side of the story sometimes it’s good for us to really take a solid look at all aspects of our lives. About how we treat people, how we use our resources, how we treat ourselves, how we think, how we worship, how we go through our day-to-day lives. Taking 40 days out of 365 to make sure we’re leading lives God would be proud of isn’t so bad.

Since we’re human we know we’re going to mess up as we go through life, it’s a consistent messing up-seeking forgiveness-healing cycle. The reason we can do the solid 40 days of Lent and reflecting on our imperfections is because we know that after doing the hard work there will be a great reward, and that’s the celebration of Easter and the promise of God’s eternal love. Whether this Lent journey speaks to you and invites you to take time for reflection more frequently throughout the whole year, or you just take this time to experience God’s grace and love, I encourage you to be open to whatever God will be showing you.

“Lent is a time for us to take an honest look at ourselves and receive the grace of Jesus’ healing love.” Loyola Press

Preparing for Easter

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Easter journey. It’s an opportunity for us to prepare our hearts for Easter, 40 days (not including Sundays) representing Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. It’s a great time for us to dive into the Bible and read or re-read the stories of the life of Jesus and learn about His life and learn from His wisdom. The Bible may have been written many years ago, but so many of the lessons and experiences in it are relevant to our lives today, especially the teachings of Jesus and the ways that He lived His life. Yes, we take time to learn about Jesus all year long, but I think Lent is an opportunity to journey along with Jesus and really dive deep in His life, and with 89 chapters in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you can read 2 each day (including Sundays) and get through all 4 books and read all about the life of Jesus before Easter.

Why is Jesus so important to the spiritual journey and our spiritual studies? Not only because He’s God son and not only because He lived and died for us to save us from our sins, but because He was human just like us. He’s someone who experienced our struggles exactly as we do, He knows what it is to live and survive in this world, and knows how to do it all while staying true to God and living a life of faith. Each day we have opportunities to live our lives like Jesus did on a regular basis. He taught lesson after lesson about caring for the body, having healthy relationships, caring for others, choosing love and compassion, listening to others, listening to God and the treasure that life is. It’s a reminder that we don’t have to do the miracles to share God and Jesus with the world, that in our little actions, daily tasks and regular interactions we’re able to make a difference in the lives of others and share the love of Jesus even if we don’t say we’re sharing love because of our faith.

We can’t forget that He performed miracles, that God is still doing miracles today, and that Easter is one of the biggest and best miracles, but we don’t live life miracle-to-miracle. We live life far more often in the day-to-day life that Jesus did, doing normal things like eating, traveling and sleeping, those actions reveal how human He was, and how closely we can identify with Him.

I encourage you to join me during this Lenten season, preparing for Jesus’s death and resurrection, celebrating His life, both how human He was and how divine. What is Jesus calling you to learn and prepare for these 40 days?

“Jesus changes our image of God. Jesus immerses himself in life — eating and drinking, walking, and working, and weeping, and resting, touching and feeling, and pointing to the very ordinary stuff of life as being revelatory: revelatory of what life is to be and of who He is to be for us.” Brother Curtis Almquist

30 Days of Thanksgiving: All The Saints Before Us

This November we’ll be talking about the topic of being thankful.  This month I really want to work on being more thankful myself, so in addition to the thoughts of thanks on Facebook and Twitter, each day this month I’ll be sharing a reflection, encouragement, inspiration or just bit of thanks here on the blog. Today I want to start in what may seem like a strange place: Halloween.

Halloween was Wednesday, and while it’s a very secular celebration today, historically and originally it was something much different.  It’s originally known as All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve, the day before November 1, today, which is All Saints’ Day.  What’s All Saints’ Day?  A day honoring all the saints, both highly decorated and less known.  And what’s a saint? A saint is someone who is recognized for having an especially close relationship with God and living their life in a way that is dedicated to God.

It’s a day that reminds us of the afterlife, of the fact that good people of faith have gone on before us.  That they’ve had their turn sharing God with the world and doing His work here on earth.  It’s an opportunity for us to recognize, remember and thank all those from the past who have paved the way for our faith today.

This All Saints’ Day there are several new saints up there, including a missionary friend I’ve supported for several years.  It’s not easy to no longer have these people as part of our world because we loved them and they were doing such great work here on earth for God.  But at the same time we know they’ve entered into their eternal blessing and their reward after all the work they’ve done for God throughout their lives.

So this All Saints Day make time to thank God for the people of faith who influenced, guided and encouraged your faith, whether they’re from the past few years or several hundred years ago.

Faith for the Ages

This month we celebrate(d) days that speak to a whole variety of people. We had the holidays of Labor Day on the 3rd and Grandparents’ Day on the 9th, and coming up on the 26th is See You At The Pole Day, which is a day that students gather around the flagpole at their school and pray. One of the most awesome things about faith and spirituality is that it’s something for everyone. It’s not something that only young people are interested in or only senior citizens, or only people from one country or only people of one language, it’s something that can speak to anyone at any time throughout their lives.

The Bible begins with chosen groups of people, from Noah’s family to Abraham’s family to Joseph’s family to David’s family, all part of a chosen group of people: the Israelites, as those who are “God’s people”. Then in the New Testament things get turned on their heads and we’ve suddenly got Jesus dying for everyone’s sins, and then Peter dreams of a sheet of animals in Acts 10 which blows the field open more specifically and clearly saying that anyone and everyone is able to access Eternal Life through Jesus.

All of this says there’s never a wrong time to start to get to know God or to rebuild your relationship with Him. There’s nothing going on in your life that God hasn’t been through with someone else before. There’s nothing you can tell Him that will surprise Him. You can share the Good News with anyone whenever God gives you an opportunity. You can have your new day whenever you need it. Grandparents can sit and read Bible stories with grandchildren.  Partners can read together.  Parents and children can read together.  Anyone can join a Bible study and develop their faith and their faith community.  What have you learned and how has your faith journey changed as you’ve grown?