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Posts Tagged ‘listening to God’s voice’

Sometimes it seems to me God uses the most mundane experiences of life and the things right in front of our nose to speak to us. Our part is to have eyes to see and ears to hear—and a heart to follow and live in the light of what God shows us.

I noticed this on two recent occasions that seemed quite disconnected at first. One day while dusting our house, I noticed some large, plastic folders on a bookshelf and looked more closely to see what they were. I discovered some were training manuals from courses I had attended in the past, while others contained leadership material for courses I myself had helped run. They would all be outdated now for sure. Out they went—but not without some pangs of regret. It had all been so valuable at the time. And I know such input impacted people’s lives, including mine.

Then I moved on to examine some thicker plastic folders. Inside them, I found neatly packaged cassette tapes from various conferences I had attended in the early nineties. What wonderful conferences they were, where the Holy Spirit moved amongst us in an amazing way and where we learnt so much more about how to pray and listen to God’s voice! I found smaller packs of cassettes too from prayer courses I had attended and other recordings of well-known Christian leaders at the time. This material had been transformational for me and many others. Yet who would listen to cassettes now? I could have them made into a more modern format—but would it be worth it? I decided in the end it would not be. Apart from just a few I did not have the heart to throw out, into the bin they went.

At that point, I decided there was no point in sitting around thinking melancholy thoughts. There were more jobs to be done, including hanging out that washing! As I did, I noticed our old iris plants were in bloom, their white floppy heads bobbing in the breeze, and there were new white blossoms on the azaleas and may bush. A few jonquils and baby daffodils had appeared, while various ground cover plants were also flourishing. In the midst of it all, the grevillea stood proud, with its lovely apricot and orange blooms, while my Christmas bush seemed to have shot up a P1040104few more centimetres overnight. Spring had certainly arrived. A new season was upon us. I went on to the front garden—and there before me was a small shrub I was sure had died over winter, now covered in pretty pink, daisy-like flowers.

Then God seemed to say to me, ‘You know those dusty, old cassettes, Jo? Yes, they were wonderful in their time and rich in my truths. But this is a new season for you when I have equally rich things to show you and to do through you. Keep moving on with me. Keep growing. Keep giving out.’

May you too listen and hear and perceive the things God has for you in this season of your life.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:18-19

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I watched the man’s earnest face as he talked—and my heart went out to him. At the last minute, just as he and his wife left the bookstore where I was promoting my books, he had rushed back inside to talk with me about his own writing. I had noticed him earlier, quietly standing to one side while his wife bustled about from shelf to shelf, choosing books and dropping them into an almost overflowing basket. It seemed to me he had had plenty of opportunity to chat with me then, but had he been a little embarrassed to put his dream of writing into words? Did he perhaps feel others would laugh?

Whatever his reason, I was determined to answer him as best I could. You see, I remember how hard it was for me to display my ignorance and ask those tentative questions about writing my own first novel. I remember how impossible the whole dream felt. I remember how even I myself had trouble imagining I could create a story others might want to read. Yet I desired to do it—with all my heart.

‘What do you think is the most important thing above all to know in order to write a book?’ he barked at me, staring me straight in the eye.

This gentleman wanted a quick, honest response, I could see. My mind darted this way and that—there were so many things he should know, so many pitfalls he needed to be warned about.

In the end, I told him I have to know it was what God wants me to do. No, that doesn’t mean I announce to one and all that God told me to write this book—which does make it awkward if no one thinks it’s very good! For me, however, I need to be able to sense God’s delight in what I am creating and to be strengthened by the Spirit as I put in the hard yards required to write the best book I can. I don’t want to pour a year of my life into a project that isn’t going to bear fruit for the Kingdom. And I sensed this was where this gentleman was coming from, too.

We talked for a few more minutes before I gave him my card and told him I could supply him with some notes about getting started in writing if he emailed me. Then he was gone.

Will his book ever materialise? I don’t know—but I suspect it will. At least, I think his has much more chance of doing so than those of the two or three other would-be authors who had approached me earlier in the day. I tried to be gentle and encouraging with them all, although I did stifle a sigh at the young woman who seemed rather overconfident about it all and a little unwilling to listen.

But what is the dream or challenge God has put on your heart lately? Whatever it is, whether writing a book or doing something quite different, I hope you can move ahead with your hand in the Lord’s, listening to his voice and looking for his guidance in whatever shape that might come.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.‘ Prov 3:5-6

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I wonder if you can remember a time when you expected God’s guidance to come in a particular way, only to discover it snuck up on you in quite another. Did you perhaps discount it at first? Did you, like me, not ‘get’ it until a little later?

Recently I found myself having to choose between two options, each of which I felt would be useful for different areas of my life. One was a short editing course at the NSW Writers’ Centre and the other a three day Christian Mentoring Forum. I felt the editing course would be a good refresher for me, but I wanted to hear the main speaker at the Mentoring Forum and also take time to reflect on where I am at in my writing. And because I mentor a small number of women, I also wanted to ensure I was giving them the best possible help.

In the end, I chose the Mentoring Forum. I thought that would give God maximum opportunity to speak to me through the input of others, both formal and informal, and through time alone in a beautiful setting. As it turned out, I did value the input and the interaction with those present. And I enjoyed my moments of solitude as well. Yet God did not speak so much through them as through little whispered ‘asides’ that reached into my spirit and brought quite shattering insight at times.

I was not prepared, for instance, for the impact that my own words ‘I am a writer’ would have on me as we introduced ourselves in our very first session together. It was as if God were saying somewhat urgently to me, ‘Listen to that, Jo! Remember it!’ Then in a brief reflective time during a session on ‘Soul Care’, I felt God almost pleading, ‘Get back to writing with me!’ This made perfect sense from my perspective. Many times when writing my novels, I have stopped to sense God’s presence around me. I have even been known to ask God questions out loud like ‘Is this how you want me to write this? Is this the way you want the story to go?’!

But I find myself still rather easily swayed by self-doubt at times, especially when I hear the other wonderful things Christian leaders are doing in their ministries. As I listen, I ask myself yet again if I should be undertaking a more ‘conventional’ type of ministry—if I should put aside my writing and engage in mentoring and caring for others in a more structured way. Yet even as these thoughts course through my brain, I hear the speaker sharing from her own story how she realised she was not to be running a race marked out for somebody else. And like a sharp arrow, her words pierce my soul. I am not to be overawed by the achievements of others. I am definitely not to turn back the clock and hanker after past ministry roles. God has shown me my path for this stage of my life—and my role is to walk it well, in company with the Author of all things.

So as I write this, I am filled again with love for and awe of our God who knows us so intimately and loves us with such a fierce, all-encompassing love—who says to each of us the same as to Israel so long ago:

I have loved you with an everlasting love: I have drawn you with loving-kindness. (Jer 31:3b)

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