31 Days: The Gift of Listening

Gold Rush A number of years ago, I asked God a question. A question followed by a declaration. A challenge even.

Lord is this all there is? Is this all I’m ever going to experience of you? Because if this is all there is, it’s not enough.

I was hungry. I didn’t fully realise it at the time, but I was hungry for more of God.

I’d been a Christian all my life, but I felt that there had to be more than what I’d experienced. That was a particular turning point for me, because it opened a way for God to show me that there was so much more to having a relationship with him than I could possibly imagine. He’s been continually answering that question with more of himself. And I’m still just beginning to discover the depth and richness of relationship that He offers.

Knowing that if I’m willing to listen, He’s willing to speak, has been one of those precious discoveries.

One of the ways I do that is to write my questions in a journal and wait for his answers. It’s not a ‘prayer list’ so much as a conversation. I write because it’s helps me to concentrate, and so I can come back and see what God was doing, what he was saying in particular seasons of my life. It’s good to see what I was learning, and to see what I’m still learning. It helps to see the threads he’s weaving together into the fabric of my life.

A simple question I often ask is, “Lord, what do you want me to know right now?”

That’s the kind of question that allows Him to set the agenda, to steer the direction of our conversation. There have been times (many, many times over the years) when I’ve been afraid to make room to listen. I’ve been afraid of what I might hear, what he might say, what he might ask of me. But I’ve discovered that most often he wants to tell me how I’m loved, to encourage me, to lead me forward.

I’m discovering what a precious gift it is to listen to God, to know him and to be known.

31 Days to Listen

This is Day 22 of the series 31 Days to Listen.

31 Days: Listen in Solitude

Eucalyptus Arms

In solitude we can listen to the voice of him who spoke to us before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, who set us free long before we could free others, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone. It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the result of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared.

Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude: three meditations on the Christian life


31 Days to Listen

This is Day 21 of the series 31 Days to Listen. Visit Write 31 Days to see what other writers are doing for this challenge.

31 Days: When Listening means Waiting

By the Lake

Waiting can seem like the hardest thing.

Sometimes it seems that there is only silence when I listen. That I am alone with my own thoughts and nothing else.

Where are you Lord? Why are you silent? How long must I wait for you to acknowledge me, to whisper in my heart?

But Lord, I also know the fickleness of my own heart. I know how quickly I would rush on if you never made me wait. You create space for us in the waiting. How else will I learn to quiet myself, to be still in your presence, to listen, to love you, if you do not make me wait?

If your speaking must always be on my terms, in my time, if I am unwilling to wait, then I am not really loving you.

There is something in the waiting, in the listening, that speaks love.

Love is patient. As you wait for me, so I wait for you.

It’s hard, there’s no denying. But there’s also hope. You love me and I am not forgotten.

Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:14

31 Days to ListenThis is Day 8 of the series 31 Days to Listen.

The Gift of Discipline?

You know it’s been too long when you have to replace all the batteries in your Wii remote control and balance board before you can start using it. And you know it’s definitely been too long when the Wii Fit Plus screen welcomes you and tells you it’s been 330 days since your last session. Yikes! I could blame part of it on back injury, but the reality is that I haven’t been disciplined. Period.

I’ve always disliked the word ‘discipline.’ It sounds too much like punishment. And I’m not interested in signing up for that.

Nevertheless, discipline is something I’ve been thinking about lately. Being a word person, I decided to check the actual definition of discipline. There were seven definitions in my dictionary, and yes punishment did rate a mention, but the first definition went like this: instruction and exercise designed to train to proper conduct or action.

I like that because it emphasizes the practical action by which I may learn; gaining knowledge or skill or fitness. It doesn’t insist that I’ve already arrived at the destination.

I once heard the author Calvin Miller speak, and one particular statement he made has always stuck with me: “Grace is what God does for us and discipline is what we do for God.” I’ve been thinking about that statement again this week, and I’ve come to the conclusion that when we exercise spiritual disciplines out of a desire to offer our love and devotion to God and to cultivate our relationship with him, then our discipline is a gift to him.

In a workshop session I attended last year, we made a list of spiritual disciplines that Jesus exercised. It was quite long by the time we’d finished, but here are a few: prayer, solitude, silence, fasting, reading scripture, confession, forgiveness, sleep (rest), exercise, serving, submission, compassionate deeds, worship, play. You may think of others.

I find these quotes from Richard Foster (author of Celebration of Discipline) helpful for thinking about the value of spiritual disciplines:

“Spiritual disciplines are the main way we offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. We are doing what we can do with our bodies, our minds, our hearts. God then takes this simple offering of ourselves and does with it what we cannot do, producing within us deeply ingrained habits of love and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Renovare Perspective, April 1999)

“Spiritual Formation is a process, but it is also a journey through which we open our hearts to a deeper connection with God. We are not bystanders in our spiritual lives, we are active participants with God, who is ever inviting us into relationship with him.” (Renovare – Spiritual Formation)

When I think about it like this, my perspective changes. Discipline becomes something that is attractive, something that I want to do, not something I have to do. What are your thoughts on discipline as a gift to God?

Image: Sarunyu_foto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net