Hearing from God, Honesty, HOPE

Corona…Ug

It seems everyone has a take on this pandemic. Everyone who’s anyone has spoken their piece. It’s all we’ve heard about for 5+ weeks. I’m going to be so real here: I’m tired of it. I’m exhausted with all of the conversations, questions and speculations, worries and doubts. My email box is full of “updates” and my IG feed is a bit redundant. I’m spent with committing to social distancing and wondering how much it really matters and quitting so I can go to the store then receiving guilt and speculation only to recommit again. I’ve had enough of it ALL!

Then I realize how outwardly I’m looking. It truly is exhausting to take in everyone else’s reactions. It really is too much to try to absorb and care about every take on this situation. It’s too much for any one person, really. And so I turn inward to hear the voice of my Father again. I need to hear His opinion and that’s it. I need to hear His perspective and take it on as my own. I need to be still and rest without letting my brain run away with me!

Time to “see the forest through the trees”!

“God is moving.” A theme I have heard over and over among the Christian crowd. He is doing an “unprecedented work”. I know… He is always moving and always amazing His people with new wonders and acts of kindness. That is who our God is! But in this moment, I need a specific word. One just for ME. I need a fresh perspective that narrows my outlook to take on each day – one at a time – and not a big picture that causes me to dream (and anyway, who can dream without being able to plan a darn thing!?). My brain usually works the other way around: I am not a detail person, I like dreaming. Now this time, I’m trading in my kaleidoscope for a magnifying glass. I want to see the details and hear the step by step instructions from the Creator of the universe, the One who made every molecule of this planet from nothing and mapped out a future full of good things for each one of us.

And so I am leaning in closer. I am hanging on His every word. I anticipate God’s very breath and listen closely for His heartbeat. I am chasing Jesus down with every fiber of my being. Prayer service? I’m there. 6 am? I’m up. Early to bed so I can rise? Yep. Bible reading WITH commentaries. All in. Good Sunday sermon? I’m listening again! What else could I possibly have that’s more important than this? What else do I want my family to know that I value most? And what else would I rather be doing WITH them? Sure we’re still eating family dinner and riding our bikes on every trail and reading alllllllll the books. And my goodness, are we ever enjoying turning our kitchen into a science lab!? (Follow along on FB for those posts.) But more than anything, I want this “break” to be about following Jesus. I want it to be about leaning into the Father and resting in His lap. I want our time to be fear-LESS and prayer-FULL. I want us all to remember WORSHIPING not worrying. I want to hear the voice of the One who calms the storm and not hear the raging sea of the media or the “masses”.

So what does it look like to lean in? Listening for God is actually something I seem to talk about it a lot, haha! It may be the single most important thing I’ve learned in my life. (And the thing that I need to practice the most!) So here’s a few previous posts on Love For All To See about LISTENING:

  • An Introduction to Hearing God: Learning more about HOW God speaks to each of us in different & unique ways.
  • Little Games I play with God Part A and Part B: Some simple ways to practice hearing from God on your own AND with the family!
  • Raising Up Prayer Warriors: More ways to pray with and FOR our kiddos and practicing hearing God’s thoughts about the future generation of warriors.
  • Learning to Listen: Prioritizing time in the new year for my resolution to LISTEN to God consistently and focusing on Him despite distraction.
  • And lastly, A Dream: A beautiful example to give us all hope that despite how much we do or don’t get the hang of listening, God still speaks… even in our dreams.

So let’s all dive in!! Please, oh please tell me what YOU hear God saying! A message meant for you might just as well speak to all of us❤❤❤

Hearing from God, Honesty, Prayer, Simplifying

Learning to Listen

We’re officially one month into 2020. It’s safe to say if you decided to do something new, you know by now whether or not you will actually be doing it for a year. Haha! Who here got a gym membership for the year and used it for a week? {Guilty!} Fortunately, I’ve got a ACTUAL new year’s resolution. One that so far I have followed through on: I committed to a practice of listening to God. This is what it looks like:

  • Spending daily time in God’s word & prayer
  • Thinking before I speak
  • Listening more than I talk {to others}
  • Listening more than I talk to God {My prayer life is getting better and better, but hearing what God has to say takes practice (& patience)!}
  • When I do have a prompting from the Holy Spirit….actually DOing it
  • Bravely speaking when I feel a word from God for others

So how’s it going? It’s hard. I have spent a bit of time avoiding the quiet. It’s much easier to talk than listen! It’s easier to hear your own voice or the voice of the real live people next to you. It’s also very easy to doubt that still, small voice.

Have you read the story of Elijah recently? He has such a unique experience hearing God.

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 

I Kings 19:11&12

I love how God chooses to speak to Elijah. God can certainly speak in a fire or wind or earthquake. God often speaks in nature and beauty. God speaks through other people ALL the TIME. But when God speaks through that still small voice, it’s so perfectly attuned to your heart and what you need to hear… it’s worth the work of being still and patiently waiting.

When I read the book of Revelation in the Message version of the Bible, one phrase jumps off the page over and over. John is sending 7 letters to 7 churches and he ends every letter the same. He says 7 times: “Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.” I love the invitation to listen! And the fact that God repeats himself 7 times is no coincidence. In Hebrew, the number 7 is perfect, completion, heavenly – all reflecting back to God’s creation. Seven times God reminds us that He is always speaking. He is speaking in that still small voice through people and circumstances and everyday occurrences.

Each day I listen for what God has to say, and I act on what I hear. It’s should be as simple as that! Unfortunately, I struggle mostly with my own ideas and inhibitions. I fight myself at every turn. It’s my sin nature. I doubt and question and second-guess but it’s getting easier. I’m getting braver and God’s voice is getting louder. {Either that or it’s just more familiar! You know how a loved one’s voice can stand out over a crowd? You know when they says your name, even if dozens of other people are talking. I want God’s voice to be familiar like that! I want to hear it over a crowd. I want to know what he means when he says something because of all the time we’ve spent together practicing the same language.}

Well, friends. What was your new year’s resolution? Have you followed through? What’s the hardest part of listening for you? And how do you practice listening to God?

Community, Hearing from God, HOPE, Prayer, Uncategorized

Powerful Prayer Part 4 ~ What To Do When Doubt Creeps In

Well now that you’re becoming a crazy prayer WARRIOR, you’ll undoubtedly join the ranks of those who’s faith has fallen and risen again and fallen and risen again. The truth of the matter is: The more you pray, the more likely you are to see miracles (yay!!) and the more likely you are to have questions, fears and doubt.

I love this quote from Shauna Niequist’s Savor:

“The  question is not, will my life be easy or will my heart break? But rather, when my heart breaks, will I choose to grow?”

We all have our moments of doubt. We start to think that maybe God doesn’t want to answer our prayer, or maybe He just won’t. Maybe it’s Him, maybe it’s us, but for some unknown and invisible reason, the answer is no. Honestly, the bigger your faith is, the bigger your questions will become – which is good! With questioning, and voicing our fears, comes a strengthening of our beliefs as we seek the word of God and our faith community for the answers. This actually deepens our resolve in what we believe and why – instead of just taking it at face value.

Buuuuuuut, what do we often do when faced with dissappointment, fear or doubt? We have a little temper tantrum. Yep, so often when I see my youngest lay herself down on the floor for a good scream or stamp that little foot and scrunch up her face into a pout, I think: I bet that’s what I look like when I hear “no” from God, haha!

So as I tell Miss Mya so often “Please, just use your words to tell me how you feel!” And I put on my big girl britches and “choose to grow”. I tell God my doubt and fear. Sometimes this process takes me days. The worries or anger oozes out of me from so many unknown places I never realized it had been building up so much! Sometimes it’s one good cry or shouting session and I can feel the release of my angst and put words to my fear to see it’s only that: fear. There’s no truth in it at all!

OK, but what if your fear and doubt is beyond words? What if those lies have run so deep that they’re mixed up with truth and experience and perhaps even trauma (eek!) and you have nowhere to begin and no way to start? What if you feel hopeless about a thing you hold so dear and it hurts to talk about it – even to God? What if you’re scared or lost or broken or fragile? I think we may all have such an area or season in our hearts if we are truly being honest. You are not the first, nor the last to enter this place.

This is where I have found 3 things to be helpful. (Hint: they all start with my own humility!) Essentially, I admit that I have nothing- not even the words to express my heart. I alone have no power to bring change to the world or my situation and I honestly cannot even change my beliefs. If you are still in the struggle and haven’t reached the bottom yet, this is a difficult thing! If you’re already at ground zero, it somehow seems a little easier. So, on to three things:

#1 : The Fake-It-‘Till-You-Make-It Approach

Maybe it’s not even faking anything, but just pressing forward in the direction you want to go whether you feel it or not! I surround myself with truth. I want to move toward faith so I listen to speakers of faith. I spend time with people who have big faith! I post scripture on every surface of my room/house/car/office and read or listen to TRUTH on auto-pilot until some of the thoughts I’ve chosen to “fake” become my own. (Does this qualify as self-brainwashing? If so, it works!)

#2 : Praying Scripture/Praying in the Spirit.

When I have no words, I have nothing to pray. I admit, I don’t have the answers or the solution and I get to a point where I don’t even know what I’m asking for anymore. This is where the Bible says “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27) These groanings of the Spirit can be so many things. Sometimes my creative side comes through and I can paint, draw or even dance. Sometimes praying in tongues is a way to allow the spirit to do the talking and my heart finds peace. Another way is to play some soaking music and allow the Lord to speak as you rest in His presence. Just allow yourself to be.

Praying scripture is the most powerful way to fight the enemy. There is nothing stronger (especially when I have no words) than the very word of God! Our pastor just gave an incredible sermon referencing this very thing and it might just be the truth you need to fake-till-you-can-make-it! Another great resource for Praying Scripture is Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word. Her book is an incredible list of scriptures organized by topic. If you want to pray for your marriage/anxiety/co-worker, she’s got God’s word ready for you to search and speak. I encourage you to seek the scripture and find a verse, story, or chapter that speaks to where you are right now and pray that! Our pastor gave Psalm 32 and 51 as launching points for prayer and it’s a great place to start.

#3 : Worship & Thankfulness

Worship while we’re waiting, of course! Worship fills my mind and the atmosphere around me with hope even when I’m not feeling it. It’s true that silence can be healing as well, but perhaps a balance of both is what you need?

Thankfulness is a practice of positivity. If I’ve been focusing on the negative, just naming three things I’m thankful for will switch my brain and change the focus from “Woe is me” to “Whoa, I’m blessed!” There is loads of actual research supporting this, but I’m sure you’ve heard it. Play the “Glad Game” you Pollyanna fans!

Now I have a choice, I’ve unloaded on God. (I often view it as a spew or vomit, but perhaps you’d prefer to see it as leaving baggage or burdens at the feet of a wise and capable King.) I’ve surrounded myself with what I WANT to believe and chosen to look for the good. So what next? I can leave His presence and I am truly better for the time I’ve spent. I feel lighter and less overcome already. OR I can stay there. I can choose to let Him speak truth over me. I can listen for the refreshing truth that replaces those ugly burdens. This practice can change the way my brain works to renounce those lies in the FUTURE too! I want to prevent myself from coming back to this place of doubt and despair.

Hebrews 6:19-20 The Message (MSG)

“We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us…”

No matter which avenue you choose, (one or all three!) just keep moving forward. Do what needs to be done so that you are choosing to GROW. As long as we trust God and HIS plan, we will come out as victors- no matter how long it takes to get there and how much “faking” it takes to finally believe.

So what are you trusting God for? What fight are you holding out hope for? What brings you back from a place of doubt? Please share so we can all stand together in faith and even benefit from other’s great ideas!!

Hearing from God, Prayer

Powerful Prayers Part 1 – An Introduction to Hearing God

You guys, I just love prayer. It changes me! It changes the way I see the world. It changes how my day goes. When I pray God shifts my perspective so I can begin to understand what HE is doing all around me! I love talking to God and unloading my “stuff” into His lap, I love reading the Word with fresh understanding and I love listening to Him speak and share His heart.

My quiet time is my favorite time of the day. Of course, I’m nowhere near perfect and some days it is a sTrUgGlE to get 5 minutes with Him. Many days I completely miss out. But that’s the truth: I miss it!! I fall asleep regretting my missed opportunities and I wake up EAGER to try again because I know it’s going to be so goooooood.

As people who believe in God, we know that God wants relationship with us. He wants to teach us through His word and He hears every prayer we think or speak. I also believe God speaks directly to us.

When Jesus died on the cross the veil in the temple was torn. No longer do we need a priest to go to God on our behalf. No more sacrifices to be cleansed so that God can hear our prayers. Jesus’ blood cleansed us once and for all- no matter what we’ve done. God is accessible to every single man/woman/child on this planet…PERSONALLY. My kids will often ask me to pray with them (and I love that!) but God hears them just as well without me. And He offers them the same peace in their hearts when they pray alone than when I say the words. (Of course this does not diminish the truth of “Where two or three gather together in my name, there I am with them” Matt 18:20 & “…A cord of three strands is not easily broken”! Ecc 4:12)

We’ve established the fact that nothing comes between God and us- His people. I want to also make clear that God is alive and active in our lives. There may have been 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testament but that will never happen again. Just as God gave a rainbow of promise to Noah that the previous destruction wouldn’t return, He gave the Holy Spirit to us. A dove of peace and intercession has landed on each person who gives their heart to God. God will not be silent.

So HOW does God speak?

One practice of learning to hear God was taught to me like this: Think of the Happy Birthday Song. Maybe hum along silently in your head. Got it? Ok, sometimes God sounds like that. He’s like an almost subconscious thought that passes through your mind- familiar and peaceful. Occasionally I hear God speak this way and it’s just one word, or a song, or a sentence, or a story. I also have practiced writing like this. I’ll ask God a question and then just write without thinking and when I go back to read it, I often feel as if I’ve received a revelation from God. It stands out as something I wouldn’t have thought of but rings so true in my heart.

My beloved Smokeys❤

Another way God speaks is in pictures. Have you ever imagined your favorite vacation destination when the opposite is actually reality? Like this week when it’s snowing and blowing in Michigan, I’d like to picture the hills of Tennessee. I love the mountains and rivers and rocks when everything is green. I love the humidity and warm stillness in the forests. I can see and feel it already! Really, this is a holy imagination.

One more way we can hear from God is a little harder to describe but when God speaks through FEELING, you know it! Have you ever entered a scary situation but felt peace? Have you been too excited to sleep but felt God give you supernatural rest? I have felt sadness in a room full of happy people but when I asked God why, He brought to mind a person who might be feeling that sadness and when I prayed for them, the feeling left. This is a unique way to hear God’s heart.

Ya’ll, I’m praying this gives you inspiration to jump into prayer if you have 5 minutes and see what God says. Practice asking Him questions and listening for answers. In the next post I’ll have more fun ways for you to play games with God and keep practicing hearing him. The goal, of course, is deeper intimacy with the Father who loves us and pours out His heart for us every day.

(Please note that it’s always important to find scripture to back up what you’re hearing. Search that Bible! Check in with a friend and be sure it really sounds like something a loving and true God would say. Be sure it’s only truth you’re embracing!)

So how do you spend time with God? When do you fit it into your schedule Does it leave you feeling refilled and renewed? Does it take a lot of effort? Sometimes it just does. I get it.