Category Archives: Listening

Haters Gonna Hate. Proverbs Nine Eight.

“Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
rebuke the wise and they will love you.” – Proverbs 9:8.

Parachute

I have this problem. Well I have many problems. But I have this one in particular where I like to tell people what to do and what to think. It stems from this belief that I am pretty smart and that means people should really take my advice.

Now there is nothing wrong with dolling out some sound advice. Even some un-sound advice is okay to give out. The problem really lies in the delivery and the audience. That is usually where my problem lies. My audience, usually is not super impressed with my advice. I like to pick the ones who are stubborn and I like to pick the times when they are unwavering. I seem to deliver it with the worst possible tone, an air of arrogance, that makes them put their guards up.

I like to learn. I love to discuss. I even tend to argue. The exchange of ideas is an amazing thing. Minds are like parachutes, they work the best when they are open. I have to start finding some open minds, and I have to start opening mine more often.

There are a couple of seminars, summits, and power lunches happening in the area. Part of me wants to go and they other part of me somehow feels like if I go I am admitting that I need help. That my advice is not good enough as I have to rely on the words of others. I have to change my attitude about advice if I want anyone to start accepting mine.

You see athletes have coaches. Now when you are little you need one to teach you the game and set up drills so you know how to play. But even the top athletes have coaches. These athletes know the game, sometimes better than their coaches. They know what drills need to be done. They can really almost coach themselves. Almost. Even the best need an encourager. Even the greatest need to hear and see from a different vantage point.

I hope that I can fix my problem and start realizing that when I want to discuss, argue, and advise I need to be around people who have open minds. And I need to make sure mine is deployed as well.

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How Amazing Are Your Thoughts Concerning Me, Psalm 139:17

Listen With Intent

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That is the quote that springs to my mind when I think back on my July 4th. As the sun rose on July fifth I woke up to my husband going back to work and as I looked around I had a lighter feeling in my heart as it seemed the small crystal that I was given as a gift was casting more rainbows into my room than it did yesterday.

The plan for the day was to set my heart right with God, meditate on his word, and practice quieting my mind so I may listen for his voice. I picked up “Walking with God” and started to read. Again I was struck with how these words came to me at the right time. The author expressed concerns about dealing with hurt and disappointment. He also worked through how to turn his failures into a time of learning and drawing nearer to God.

God can talk to us in many different ways. I grew up hearing about Special and General revelation. Special revelation is how we know God through the Bible. It is the primary way we learn about our Father and Creator, how to gain salvation through Jesus Christ, and how we should live our lives. In my religion classes they classified General revelation as what we can see of God through nature and what we can learn from it. It is our inherent sense of right and wrong and the beauty of a sunset.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”  – Romans 1:18 -20

The author of my book, John Eldredge, talks mostly of a way my teachers and professors never did. I am not sure if he would classify it under General revelation, or something else entirely. He points out that the book of the Bible is not full of story of exceptions, but of truths that we should whole-heartedly believe in. One of these truths that God, through the Holy Spirit, wants to know us intimately. John talks in his prelude that sometimes we feel that our daily lives, our usual tasks, are too minuscule for the Ruler of the universe to care about, but there are many times the Bible points out to us that that is just not true. He quotes a few verses from Psalms a couple of times to drive the point home. His favorite that he references is this,

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.”

He wants to talk to us. To have a conversation with us, even about the small things. He already knows when we sit and when we rise, so of course he wants us to ask “Where is my watch?” and “Where should I go for lunch” and he is ready to give us a response. Most of us are willing to do our one-sided conversation through prayer, never expecting an answer. This book is telling me something I have been longing for, that God is waiting for me to listen for what he is trying to respond with.

So today, I was going to try to hear that response. I tried one of the suggestions that this book talked about, asking God what I should read today from the Bible. I started out with a prayer, the things I would usually pray for at the beginning of my day. I then grabbed my Bible and set  it on my lap. “What should I read today God? And help quiet my mind so I may hear you and not my own thoughts” . . . Nothing. But that was alright, this was going to take some getting used to. I asked again “What should I read today God?” and John 10 popped into my mind. No good, that was my mind, I was thinking John 10 because the author used it as an example, but just to make sure, “Was it John 10?” Nope, didn’t feel right. I asked again. This time the book of Psalms came to me, and it felt more than just my own suggestion. I got a little excited, but I had my doubts. Psalms, of course my own brain would choose Psalms, who doesn’t want to read Psalms. So I asked for clarity, “Is it Psalms God? Is that the book you want to me go to?” . . . 139. I felt that. 139. Why would my mind make up such a random number? So I turned to Psalm 139 and before I started to read I place my hand over the passage and asked one more time. “Is this the passage for today? And if it is, let me know that this is you, and not my over-anxious brain making this into my own thing.” I felt a yes, this was right. I lifted my hand and started to read.

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. . . “

The passage goes on of course, but if you were reading closely enough that last bit should sound like an echo. I knew. I knew I had heard God. The verse that I had read the day before in the prelude of my book, the verse that had meant so much to me as the author described it as showing us that, yes God cares about the little things in our life. I had been struggling with that, I feel that God should only care about the big things. The big movements, the big people. You know, like Pastor’s who are leading troubled churches and missionaries in Africa. Why would God care to talk to me? To know me? Because . . .

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” – Psalm 139: 13 -16

Not only was this verse one that my soul need to hear, that my mind needed to read, but it was one that I could not dispute that God had put into my heart. It echoed the message of the book I was reading, and my mind is terrible at memorizing numbers, so there was no way it remember that the author had been quoting Psalm 139. There was no doubt in my mind that this was the verse I was supposed to read and there was no doubt that God, my almighty and perfect God, has no trouble reaching down to me, no problem talking to me.

I had heard Satan’s whispers before, now I was ready to start hearing God’s voice instead.


I Would Like To Tell You A Story of God’s Victory. Part Two.

“I would like to tell you a story of my victory. Unfortunately, that seems to be a story of another day.” Oh how wrong I was . . .

The first post I put up on July 4th was on my other blog, ended with the quotation, and my second post ended with the full quote above. I had suffered a lot of pain that day, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. That first post was written while my pain was still fresh and the day was still young and the second was written as a new day had dawned.

When the tears had subsided and when I had unloaded my heaviness, telling James all of the lies that I had been hearing and had been believing and might still believe, we took a nap. I woke up a couple of hours later not knowing what I would do with the rest of this painful day.

I went on my computer. Wasted some time on iwastesomuch.com and read some blogs. One of the blogs I followed had posted about a failure they were struggling with and trying to learn from, so I thought I would take my fresh pain and turn it into some prose as well. Writing “I Would Love To Tell You A Story of My Victory” on my Ripples in Culture blog.

I then moped around for a bit. Slightly uplifted from the blogs I had read and some inspirational images I had stumbled across. I asked James to make me some home-made mac n’ cheese and I started my bubble bath. This combination may sound strange to you, but James will easily tell you that this is my routine when my body and my mind need some healing.

I was in a half daze. Trying to pull myself out of this funk and yet the old me enjoying it. Like a pig wallowing in the mud, welcoming this gunk and enjoying the feeling of it covering me up so I can hide.

I hunkered down on the couch to watch James play some video games, Dragon Age 2 to be exact. On the coffee table were  the two books that I had been given by one of the members of our congregation. This lady is a wonderful and lovely woman, but I fear very misunderstood, even by me. She makes me feel uncomfortable. She likes to hug people, especially those that she knows who are hurting. And she likes to linger. She is a little socially awkward wonderfully sprinkled with lacking personal space.

She is one of the most amazing children of God I have ever met. When it comes to giving and sharing she is beautiful at it. She was there when I shared my testimony and has been reigning hugs down on me ever since. She shared with me part of her story and showed me the scar that was left from her own self-mutilation. I was then handed a card with a poem she wrote for me, a gift of a glass crystal that makes rainbows in the sunlight (I had shared how I used to love colorful gifts as a child, but had lost some of that to my dark depression), and two books called Walking With God and Waking the Dead, both by John Eldredge. She told me that they had helped her and some of what I said in my testimony had reminded her of those books and she hoped that they would help.

So I picked up Walking With God and started to read. It only took one page and I wanted to cry . . . and to laugh.  I also wanted to chuck the book across the room and forget it existed. The words hit too close to home. I had been opening myself up, or trying to at least, to the Spirit. I had been pouring out concerns and hopes to our mentors trying to figure out why God still has us living in Fargo. We have been here for two years now, and I had only been thinking we would be here for one. I wanted to move to Chicago, but every year when our lease is up for renewal we find a good reason to stay. We renew again next week.

I mentioned during my last post that I had been seeking, but had not been finding. It was my fault. I was not really opening up. The part inside of me that likes to do things on my own was taking over. I should be able to fix myself. So with that and the lies of the demons I was made deaf.

This book was all about how to seek intimacy with God, how he craves that from us, and how we should seek to hear him, and how we should crave that as well. Darnit, my crappy day was bound to get better.

I read and read and read. Stopping only for a moment as we got ready to drive out to a campground to visit our friends, our mentors, and their family for some campfire, somes s’mores, and some games. I read in the car down there. We hung out, and I was okay. I actually smiled and felt happy. There was very little time for serious talk, so I was not able to discuss in length the problems I had been having that day, too many other people around. But I was still doing alright. We played some pinochle, and of course girls rule and boys drool, we crushed them.

I read on the way home. I was hooked. I was mesmerized. My eyes and ears were starting to be opened. During the car rides that day, while I was reading, my ears would perk up to a song here and there. We had our radio tuned to the Air One station, it plays some awesome Christian music. And every time my ears would perk up for a song, it was one that was a song that my soul longed to sing. Music can be such a counselor and such a healer sometimes.

By the time I laid my head down that night I was a new person. I no longer wanted to recede back into the old me. I no longer believed Satan’s whispered lies. I wanted to run the race set out before me, full sprint.

And tomorrow would be a new and wonderful day, with a new gift from God. . .


I Would Like To Tell You A Story of God’s Victory. Part One.

Blooming Rose

Ask me again in twenty years, and I will probably tell this story differently. Ask me again in a week and I may have a different view. But ask me at any time what I did yesterday and I will tell you that I started to celebrate real freedom.

Yesterday was the 4th of July! A day for being patriotic by wearing American flag shorts. A day for being with family and blowing up a bunch of things together. A day to celebrate no work by boating, bbq’ing and guzzling beer. A day, where I did none of that. This fourth was not a typical one for me. I did not dress up or really spend much time outside. I neither watched or launched fireworks. I did have a few sips of a beer while playing Pinochle I guess.

What I did on the fourth of July was watch a terrible day unfold into a turning point. I started to experience freedom in a way that I had never had before.

Bright and early on the fourth my husband, James, and I woke up and dressed to run the 10k we had signed up for with some friends (if you want to read about it more in detail you can go to my other blog here). I fell apart during the second mile and the race was a crushing defeat to me mentally. We came home with me limping, as my right foot had opened up old blisters and formed some new ones during the race. We came home with my eyes filling with tears, even more tears than the ones shed when I had to stop and walk that morning. We came home to all of the brokenness I had been facing in the past weeks crashing down on me in the form of every single old lie that was whispered to me during the worst days of my depression.

I wobbled toward my bed, my leg muscles beginning to stiffen from the run, and I crashed down into it. When my husband joined me I started sobbing, admitting defeat, and repeating all the lies that had been running through my head. I was done. I was not a runner and I should not be running races. I was passed by the old and the young, the fit and the unfit, we ended the race with only a few behind us. This was not meant for me. I am weak and pathetic. I will NOT run another race again.

Then the rest of it came pouring out as well.

You see, I had painted a target on my own back during the last couple of weeks, and the weekend before to be sure. I had issued a challenge to Satan during the last month of my life. My husband and I had started to take some big steps in our faith walk together. Our relationship with God was really blooming as we prayed more, read the Bible more, and talked more about our faith. We had found some wonderful spiritual mentors. We had made friends with a couple in their 30’s, who act like they are in their 20’s, and have created a family bond with them as we go over frequently to play games and to be mentored by them. They are blessed with many spiritual gifts. Him being the pastor of our church and her being his wife who is like me in so many ways it is scary! (But scary good!)

And last weekend was just adding the cherry on top of this Satan maddening sundae. Our church, both the traditional morning group and our international afternoon group, held a Prayer and Restoration conference. Our pastors wanted a time for us to step outside our normal church experiences and allow the Spirit to move and give us time to pray silently and come forward and have others lay hands on us and pray for us. We were thrilled to attend every service, one on Friday, two on Saturday, and two on Sunday, each of which lasting about 2 hours filled with listening to many people share their testimonies and singing praise to God. We also got an overload on doing what we love, singing and playing guitar for our praise team. That weekend was full of practicing as we had three services to sing for, each of which needing a half an hour of song.

Then, on Saturday, I stood before a mixture of our congregation and the international group and aided by an interpreter I shared my personal testimony. For the first time, I spoke out about my struggles with depression and cutting. I shared how God helped me learn to trust in him, to give my hurt to him, and to not struggle on my own. And I shared something I had only shared with six people before this. I shared the miracle that God gave to me.

I was warned by my mentors to prepare for what I had opened up. For what pleases the Lord angers the demons in our lives and the joy that I was riding on that weekend was probably going to be assaulted. So war struck up against me during my weakest moment, limping along on a 10k that I had been worrying about for weeks.

Along with the worries of my run I had been carrying a lot of weight concerning my future. I had recently left the comfy job at the bank to pursue my passions and to search for what God is calling me to do. So far, this has included putting in 10 hours a weak helping a Christian counseling center with marketing, social media, event planning and fundraising, putting my writing into practice with my blogs, and looking into a public speaking career. I had been searching for guidance, and hearing very little. This lack of guidance was more me putting most of my faith in myself and thinking of my gifts as my talents, not putting my faith in God and seeing my gifts as the blessings he has given me. It was not his silence, but my lack of listening.

After the sobs for the 10k started to cease and I had shared how worthless I had felt that morning, my husband could do nothing but hold me as a new onslaught began and through my fresh tears I vented all. That 10k had been symbolized my life as I ran it. I had started out with a promise, with a hope. I had showed that I had some talent previously and now I should be able to do better. I should be able to finish stronger. But instead I watched as others did better, were rewarded, and enjoyed their run. They did not deserve it. I deserved it. I was more athletic than them, I was prettier than them, I was more talented than them. . . . or was I? No, I am losing at this race, losing at this life, and being passed by others because I am worthless. I am a failure. I am ugly. I am nothing.

The thoughts of my depression in high school. The lies Satan has whispered to me more times than I could count transferred over into my new life. “You will not succeed at this new marketing job. Sure it is what you love and what you went to school for, but you lack the talent and lack the drive. So don’t try to hard, for if you try really hard and you fail it will hurt and everyone will be disappointed in you. Writing? Ha. You gave that up years ago. Sure your high school English teacher loved your words and encouraged your talent. But you learned the truth in college when others were better and your professor was shocked by your misuse of punctuation and sentence structure. A public speaking career?!?! Are you serious? You think your measly experience on the speech team will help you with that? What about that one year when the rest of your team made it to sectionals and you cried like a baby outside because your name did not appear on the list? You have no talent there. . .”

Whisper. Whisper. Whisper. “Give up. Survive like you did in high school. You are raw and you hurt from this past month of opening up and trying to grow. It is useless. You hurt. So scab up. Take the old shield of fake smiles, sarcasm, and social norms that you hid in during high school and live behind it again. It hurt less then. It disappointed less. If you do not try, you cannot fail. You hate being a failure right? So why set yourself up for it?” Whisper . . .

If you had clicked over and read my other story of this day, the one I had written after waking up from my nap that followed my run and my tears, you had seen that I had entitled it “I Would Like To Tell You A Story of My Victory” and I had ended it with “I would like to tell you a story of my victory. Unfortunately, that seems to be a story of another day.” Oh how wrong I was.