Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Confession 276: Active Listening

Obey God’s message! Don’t fool yourselves by just listening to it. If you hear the message and don’t obey it, you are like people who stare at themselves in a mirror and forget what they look like as soon as they leave.  But you must never stop looking at the perfect law that sets you free. God will bless you in everything you do, if you listen and obey, and don’t just hear and forget.  James 1:22-25

Have you ever heard of the term active listening?  I remember talking about this quite a bit in my undergrad Interpersonal Communications course.  Active listening goes beyond simply hearing what someone has to say to being actively engaged with the speaker throughout the conversation.  It’s looking at someone while they’re speaking, making eye contact, nodding your head, giving verbal reinforcement and encouragement.  Active listening tells the speaker:

1) I am important to you
2) My feelings are valued
3) I am respected
4) I am understood

When we actively listen to someone, our actions demonstrate that we have received the message loud and clear.  Our response to what the speaker has said should reassure the speaker that she has been heard.

As the mother of two young boys, I truly appreciate the concept of active listening.  I’ve found that my boys can hear quite a lot.  For instance, they hear, “Go wash your hands and come to the table for dinner.”  But their continued playing or watching television five minutes after the fact tells me that they weren’t really listening.

Similarly, we can hear God calling us to something, but our response to that call will prove whether or not we were actively listening. 

Take this story of King Saul for example:

In 1 Samuel 15, God sends Saul off on a conquering mission with specific instructions NOT to take any plunder from the attack.  Saul hears the Lord’s command, but does exactly the opposite.  Saul takes the plunder from the attack in order to “make a generous sacrifice to the Lord”, despite direct instruction that nothing should be saved.  Samuel, God’s prophet,  comes to Saul and asks him, “Why didn’t you listen to the Lord?”

Saul replies, “But, I did listen.”

Samuel then points out the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  Saul tries to justify his actions, telling Samuel that the plunder was to be a thank offering to the Lord.  Samuel’s response:

“Tell me,” Samuel said. “Does the Lord really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him.”
 1st Samuel 15:22

When God calls us, He wants us to be active listeners.  He wants to see that He is important to us, that He is valued and respected above all things, and—He wants to know by our obedient response that we understand Him.

God wants active listeners.  Are you listening today?

Blessings and Peace,

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Confession 275: Challenging the Call

When God calls us to a task, it is rarely ever an easy thing to do.  Oftentimes, the work seems impossible.  Always, the task at hand is one that takes time, trust, and infinite patience.  We don’t fee qualified, prepared, worthy, or even desirous of the opportunity God is presenting.  In reality, we’re probably not actually qualified, prepared or worthy of the opportunity. 

Listen to some of the responses of people in Scripture who have been called by God:

Moses: “I have never been a good speaker.  I wasn’t one before you spoke to me, and I’m not one now.  I am slow at speaking, and I can never think of what to say.”  Exodus 4:10

Esther: “…there is a law about going in to see the king, and all his officials and his people know about this law.  Anyone who goes into see the king without being invited by him will be put to death.”  Esther 4:11

Gideon: “Please don’t take this wrong, but if the Lord is helping us, then why have all these awful things happened?”  Judges 6:13

 Jeremiah: “I’m not a good speaker Lord, and I’m too young.”  Jeremiah 1:6

Zechariah: “My wife and I are very old.”  Luke 1:18

Mary: “Mary asked the angel, ‘How can this happen?  I am not married!’” Luke 1:36

Ananias: “Lord, a lot of people have told me about the terrible things this man has done…” Acts 9:13

Do any of these objections to a call sound familiar to you?  I’m too old.  I’m too young.  I’ve never done this before.  I’m not in the right season of my life.  I don’t have enough experience in this field.  It’s too dangerous.  I don’t trust you.  You’re asking too much.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ve used a couple of these objections with God once or twice before.  I, personally, have used the “this isn’t a good season in my life” objection way too frequently.  I mean, how much can God expect me to do with two small children in tow?  A lot!

You see, God knows what our objections are going to be before we ever voice them.  And God not only hears our objections, He prepares and blows them out of the water.   

Listen to God’s reply to His faithful servants:

To Moses: Who makes people able to speak or makes them deaf or unable to speak? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Don’t you know that I am the one who does these things?  Now go! When you speak, I will be with you and give you the words to say.  Oh, and take your brother-in-law Aaron.  He’s a great public speaker!  Exodus 4:11-12

To Esther via Mordecai: “Don’t think that you will escape being killed with the rest of the Jews, just because you live in the king’s palace.  If you don’t speak up now, we will somehow get help, but you and your family will be killed. It could be that you were made queen for a time like this!”        Esther 4:13-14

To Gideon: “Gideon, you will be strong, because I am giving you the power to rescue Israel from the Midianites.” Judges 6:14

To Jeremiah: “Don’t say you’re too young.  If I tell you to go and speak to someone, then go! And when I tell you what to say, don’t leave out a word! I promise to be with you and keep you safe, so don’t be afraid.”  Jeremiah 1:7-8

To Zechariah via Gabriel: “You have not believed what I have said. So you will not be able to say a thing until all this happens. But everything will take place when it is supposed to.” Luke 1:20

To Mary via Gabriel: “The Holy Spirit will come down to you, and God’s power will come over you…  Nothing is impossible for God!” Luke 1:35-37

To Ananias: “Go! I have chosen him to tell foreigners, kings, and the people of Israel about me.” Acts 9:15

You see, God doesn’t care if we’re old, or young, or single or married, or experienced, or well-trained, or prepared or have young children.  Each and every time we raise an objection God says, “GO!!  I AM is going to take care of everything you need!!” 

God doesn’t need us to be anything but obedient because He Is everything else.  When God calls us to a task He makes a sacred promise to be with us throughout the entire completion of the project.  God knows we can’t do it on our own—that’s actually part of the point.  We can’t.  God can.  We go.  God does.  And then, God is glorified and magnified and we have experienced the love of God in deep and profound new ways.

The apostle Paul writes that Christ’s power is made stronger when we are weak.  Because when we face a task that we know we are not qualified, trained, or are scared to do then we have to turn ourselves completely over to God.  And that is what God desires most of all—His children depending and relying on Him.   And when we give ourselves fully and completely over to God, amazing things can happen.

Blessings and Peace,

Monday, April 22, 2013

Confession 274: A Monday Meditation

I've been reading through the book of Psalms from the book, Psalms/Now by Leslie F. Brandt.  Today's psalm, Psalm 37, seemed a good reminder after the national chaos of the past week.

Psalm 37

It's high time we stop complaining
about the dissipation of our world
or the corruption of our society.

At the same time we eye with envy
those ungodly characters
who appear to have more fun
or to be more successful than we are.

If we really trusted in God
and were truly committed to His purposes,
the world might be a great deal better off today.


He is destined to the the source
of our joy and well-being.
He is the fulfillment of our hearts' desires.

If we dedicate our lives to Him and His will, 
He will be able to work through us,
to permeate this world's darkness with divine light.

Let's keep our cool and try to be patient.

about the apparent hopelessness of it all.
We only contribute to this despair
by always being negative and defeatist.


He has His own way of dealing
with the instigators of corruption.

It will take TIME,
but the victory is ultimately God's!

Those who live within God's will
shall surely discover
that His purposes prevail,
that true joy and peace and security
come from Him.

Let us wait on God and seek daily to obey Him.
He is our salvation and our security,
and NOTHING in this world
can take that away from us.

Let us calm our hostilities,
overcome our anxieties,
and walk in peace and love.

Blessings and Peace,

Friday, April 19, 2013

Confession 273: Planting Seeds for the Harvest

Who are they who truly love and serve God?
It is they who discover and live
Within His purposes for their lives.
Psalm 24, Psalms/Now

I have to confess that I don’t always enjoy getting up and going to work in the mornings.  I’d rather linger over a cup of copy, relishing time spent in the Word, easing into the productivity of the day.  

I remember one morning in particular where I felt like my time at work could be much better spent in the confines of my own home when I noticed the look on the face of one of the teachers.  Something told me to stop.  She needed to talk, and she needed some spiritual encouragement. 

In that moment, I realized that God had placed me right there, right then to fulfill a purpose.  A few minutes earlier I had been asking myself, “Why, exactly, am I here today?”  And in that hushed conversation, God showed me why, exactly, He had put me there.

When God call us, there is something specific and meaningful He wants us to do.  It might not seem very meaningful at the time, but some days are seed planting days and some days are harvest days.  Regardless of which day you’re waking up to, I bet that God has something in mind for you to do.

Moses was called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt—a harvest day if there ever was one!!  Jeremiah was called to speak the words God would place in his mouth—lots and lots of seed planting days ahead.  Esther was called to save her people—great big harvest.  Ruth was called to love in faith—seed planting that established the line of David.

For me, most of my days seem to be of the seed planting variety.  I rarely see the “big picture” God has in mind.  However, I firmly believe that God does indeed have a master plan.  And in my prayer and Scripture time each morning, I ask God to place me smack in the middle of it.

Some days, my task is clear.  I hear God calling me to write a note of encouragement, have a conversation with a friend or co-worker, offer a hug to a struggling student, write a blog post, sponsor a mission project…. 

Other days I don’t hear anything, but I do not doubt that God is moving all the same.  It’s that prevenient grace of God moving through our lives whether we are aware of it or not.

In our task-driven, goal obsessed, results oriented, data driven culture, it’s easy to forget that God has a multitude of tasks He will call us to throughout our lives.  We focus on one big thing and strategically mark a straight shot path to achieving it.  The reality is life is much more fluid than that.  We might begin our day with one agenda and find, upon awaking, that God has drawn out a completely different one.

And even if we are focused on that one giant task/dream/plan we feel God calling us to, God’s probably not going to take us there in one straight shot. God called His people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, but there were over 40 years of smaller tasks to be completed before that harvest came to be.  The people weren’t ready for the big harvest yet.  They needed to learn who God was.  They needed to learn to trust in God, to honor Him, to worship Him, to LOVE Him.  They needed those 40 plus years to become the people of God. 

In determining the big tasks God is calling us to do in our lives, we have to be open to the smaller tasks God calls us to each day.  Jesus didn’t tell Peter upon their first meeting, “You’re going to found my church in Jerusalem someday.”  Instead, he simply said, “Follow me.  Put one foot in front of the other and walk along my path.” 

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my favorite go-to verses.  In this passage, the Lord assures the people of Israel of this:

“For I know the plans I have for you….Plans to prosper you, not to harm you.  Plans to give you hope and a future.”

It’s reassuring to me to know that God doesn’t have a plan for my life, He has PLANS!!  Moreover, those plans (note the plural) are good.  They are infused with hope that springs from the great love of an eternal God.  They are a promise carved into our souls of a prosperous future we cannot see.  But God sees it.  God knows it.  God planned it.  And God is building it.

So, what is God calling us to this day?  To follow Him.  To trust Him.  To hope in Him.  To walk with Him.  You might not even see the seeds you’re planting today.  It doesn’t matter.  Trust that God has placed you exactly where He needs you to be.

Blessings and Peace,

My Family

My Family

My Family 2

My Family 2