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Who Speaks to Your Heart?Tuning in to Hear God's Whispers
By Stacy Hawkins Adams
ZondervanCopyright © 2010 Stacy Hawkins Adams
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWho Is Speaking to Your Heart?
I am the mother of a middle school-age daughter. Yes, please pray for me! I say that partly in jest, but mostly because if you have raised or spent much time with teenagers or preteens, you know firsthand that nearly everything you do or say is an embarrassment to them. If I'm driving down the road singing along to a song on the radio, I embarrass my daughter because someone in a car traveling nearby might see me. If we're in a restaurant and I ask the waitress to correct a problem with my meal, she's mortified that I've drawn attention to myself, and thereby to her. She can't wear the same jeans or T-shirt to school or camp within a ten-day span because one of her friends will remember, and if she misses the premiere of a made-for-TV movie she's been longing to see, the world might stop rotating.
My little woman leaves me exasperated many a day, but when I'm on the brink of losing my patience, I remember taking my own mother through most of the same changes. Don't let God fool you-he has a sense of humor. Revenge (or vengeance) does belong to him, but if you're a parent, you'll find that he reaps it on your parents' behalf through your children. Just as I'm about to launch into a speech to my daughter about the foolishness of peer pressure and wanting to be like everybody else, a memory flashes across my mind's eye of some of the things I said and did to Mama that now explain why she spent so much time at her bedside, on her knees in prayer, every morning and evening.
What's clearly going on with my daughter is what development experts will tell you is normal: the rank of who influences her is gradually shifting from her parents to her peer group. That means that what her friends say and think means more to her on some days than what her dad and I insist is the truth. She eventually acknowledges that we're right, but other voices continue seeking to speak into particular areas of her life. In part, I think this shift of influence is inevitable, but I also see an opportunity. What better time than now to begin giving her the skills that this book seeks to equip you with-the tools to know God so intimately that he reigns supreme, no matter what else or who else aims to become first priority?
Regardless of whether you've acknowledged it, someone is influencing your actions and thoughts too. Stop for a moment and consider whose opinion you respect most. Is it your spouse's or a friend's? A parent's or other relatives'? Your colleagues' or a boss's? Often our immediate response to a question like this is to frown and say, "Please! I think for myself!" But really think about it: we live in a culture that thrives on "faking it until you make it," and being in the good graces of the "right people at the right time." Thin is still in and so are wealth and youthfulness. Fashion is celebrated, while faith in God is dismissed or ridiculed.
When I was a high school and college student, fitting in was a priority for me too. Having the right clothing and hairstyle mattered. The pop culture of that day, and the opinions of my friends, were speaking into my life. Then I realized I was in love, and while I had long been a Christian and prayed to God for guidance, my special friend's opinions came to matter a great deal. I also had to contend with the opinions and advice of my family, my college instructors, and my summer internship bosses.
To the outside world, I was clearly a go-getter-a journalism major with strong language skills and an ability to focus and achieve my academic and extracurricular goals with excellence. Inside, however, I wasn't much different than my daughter. Behind my smile and the confident execution of my academic and journalistic pursuits, I was a shy people-pleaser, and I wanted to be well liked as much as anybody.
I never compromised my values or my faith, and in fact I sometimes found myself estranged from acquaintances because I wouldn't just "go with the flow." But others' views still mattered, and I wanted to honor the adults in my life by making them proud or by proving through my devotion or hard work that I was worthy of their love and attention. I told myself that this was my practice with God too.
During that period, when I was acing college, soaring as a budding writer, holding steady in a long-time, long-distance romance, and publicly living out my Christian beliefs through regular church attendance and restraint from some of the college partying and pranks I had access to, I thought I had it all together. I could see that God was leading me and opening doors at every turn.
God was indeed blessing my hard work; but I also was holding tightly onto the reins. I was following the rules of what it meant to be a "good" Christian to the letter. I sought to hear loved ones and friends say "well done," rather than risk making a mistake, appearing foolish, or failing to follow what everyone else considered the logical path to pursue after college. Not that I had any rebellious temptations in mind, but had they been there, I wouldn't have veered far from what seemed a likely route to success.
I look back at that season of my life with the proverbial 20/20 vision that history gives us, and I can see that while I uttered routine prayers to God for wisdom and guidance, I didn't always have the courage to listen for his answers. Instead, I filled the times during which he would have gladly spoken with answers of my own or with the advice and directives from people I trusted and admired. They shared from the heart, but I wasn't wise enough in that season to realize that I should have paired the wisdom they offered with some quiet time alone with God to sort out just how he wanted me to move forward given all of the opportunities before me.
Over the course of this book, you'll likely find yourself reflecting on similar periods in your own life, when your excitement or impatience led you to hear what you wanted rather than waiting for God to speak. You'll have opportunities to acknowledge those circumstances and make a decision to learn from them rather than beat yourself up. With God's help, it's never too late to replace questionable patterns or habits with new ones that permit God to be your first responder.
Ultimately, for every situation we have questions about, there are divine answers. God doesn't always speak when we want him to, or how we want him to, but until we learn to listen for the unexpected and to look for the answers in whatever forms he sends them, we'll often miss the message or discover it later than necessary.
This book will give you practical steps to help you listen and hear God speaking. God rarely shouts or appears today as he did to Moses, in a burning bush. He doesn't routinely send angels to rouse us from our sleep and issue instructions as he did in biblical times. Wouldn't it be great if he did? We'd have no doubt that we were on the right track, and when doubt tried to delay us, we'd have tangible proof that God had given direction. But since we don't have that kind of road map, hearing him speak will require that we listen to our own lives so that we can learn to embrace all that God has created us to be. When we are in tune with who we are, we can better determine who God is to us. We'll have the guts to turn down the volume of life's chitter chatter and open ourselves up to him.
God often speaks in whispers - in subtle swishes through our mind or heart, through comments that seem perfectly timed from a friend or stranger, or in passages in a book, magazine, or website that touch our core. As we come to know his voice, we'll more often recognize him whenever and however he approaches us.
Becoming intimate with God will take time and commitment. It is a never-ending process that ebbs and flows with every season of life. This book can be considered a baby step in the right direction. But each step matters, especially if it brings you closer to the divine Creator. Decide that you want to hear from him rather than from everyone or everything else that's clamoring for first place in your life.
When you are certain you are ready to give God that primary position, tell him so, and let your actions back up your words. Make time in your schedule to study the Bible each day, even if only for a few minutes. Carve out time for more than just a mad-dash morning prayer and really talk to God instead of simply sharing your wish list with him. Ask him to help you learn how to quiet your mind and spirit so you can hear him speaking. Over time, prepare to be blessed.
Learning to Listen
Matthew 6:33: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
1 Thessalonians 5:17: "Pray continually."
Meditate on these Scriptures over the next few days and memorize them. Read the entire chapters of Matthew 6 and Thessalonians 5 to understand the full context in which this advice was rendered. Once you have memorized the verses, turn them into personal prayers, such as, "Lord, help me to seek your kingdom first and trust that you will provide everything else I need," and, "God, please help me pray throughout the day, trusting that you will guide my every word and action in ways that bring me closer to you."
Excerpted from Who Speaks to Your Heart? by Stacy Hawkins Adams Copyright © 2010 by Stacy Hawkins Adams. Excerpted by permission.
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