FOREWORD BY JOHN ORTBERG "Many people claim to ‘hear God’s voice,’ though not always with discernment. I’ve found Liz Ditty to be a trustworthy guide in learning how to listen, and how to do so with wise discernment.” —Philip Yancey, Best-selling author “Liz Ditty writes with warmth, humor, and grace about the spiritual practices that too often feel overwhelming. She approaches the spiritual life with simplicity and generosity and tells a story of learning to listen to the voice of God that inspires me to do the same. God’s Many Voices is a book for anyone who believes God is still speaking, and anyone who needs a friend to walk them directly toward that Holy Voice.”—Micha Boyett, Author of Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer Do you wish to hear God speak to you in your everyday life? God’s Many Voices will help you discover a God who is infinitely closer and more involved in our world than we give Him credit for. This book is an invitation to learn God’s voice from the scriptures and then recognize it everywhere in daily life. Author Liz Ditty uses biblical teaching and relatable examples, reinforced with reflective exercises at the end of each chapter to open readers’ ears and hearts to what God is telling them. Only His voice in our lives can give us confidence in our decisions and dreams, give us freedom from our fears and failures, and lead us toward the joy of being fully alive, accepted, and loved by God.
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About the Author
Liz Ditty is a graduate of Emmaus Bible College and trained through Sustainable Faith as a Spiritual Director. She is a speaker, writer, podcaster, and volunteer jail chaplain. Liz was raised in a fundamentalist cult where her father served as one of the elders and church planters. Even as a young girl she felt gifted and called to teach, but she was taught that women were to honor God through their submission and silence. At the age of 23 she left the church and her family. Over a decade of freedom later, Liz’s first goal in ministry is to encourage others who have heard the wrong story about God to take their questions and hurts straight to him. She teaches regularly at the multiple campuses of WestGate Church. Serving in the heart of Silicon Valley, Liz is comfortable with skeptics and has always loved great questions. Liz lives with her husband Mike and two children, Olivia and Flint, in San Jose, CA.
Read an Excerpt
NOTICING GOD'S WHISPERS
I didn't pack anything to go to the beach that morning. It had been a slow, blurry week with nothing but exhaustion and uncertainty over why little things felt so hard. I turned the key in the ignition and drove to meet God. I didn't tell Him I was coming, but Jesus promised that He always answers the door. I needed a getaway, some inspiration, some God-strength to get me through. Pulling out of the driveway, I had a thrilling rush, as if I were starting a year-long journey around the world with nothing but the clothes on my back. My lips tightened into the sideways smirk they make when I am doing something unexpected and a little irresponsible.
The beach is just far enough away to be a trip, but still close enough to be a friend. As the road lengthened in my rearview mirror, I thought I could outrun my racing mind, but I am harder to get away from than I expected. Head buzzing with hypothetical conversations and unlikely situations and very real strategic plans to conquer the week ahead, I kept interrupting myself to declare, "Almost there now! Here comes the beach!"
I opened the car door and stepped out into clean oxygen, bright sunshine, and the smell of salt. I wanted the fragrant breeze to blow its sticky wildness around every strand of my hair. Hello, God. Here I am. The sidewalk was peppered with stray sand as every step took me farther into the piercing blue sky, the skin-warming sun, and the spirit-soothing breeze. I laid my sweatshirt on the impressionable dune and sat down, sinking in. Okay, God....
I didn't actually have a plan, and it seemed a very normal day at the beach. I don't think I expected angels to greet me, but whatever I expected, this actual moment was not as spiritual as I had hoped....
I don't like sitting down for very long, so I hopped up with a new idea: walking. I tied my sweatshirt around my waist, picked up my sandals by their thin straps, and went down to the water where the seafoam teases, then surges. Everything was beautiful, everything was right, and, still, everything was just a beach.
I started to question what I was even waiting for, what I was expecting, what it even means for God to "show up." I breathed, deeply. I even opened my arms up and lifted my sandals high above my head with a slow and exaggerated inhale ... I sighed my breath out with a defeated exhale. My hands fell. I'm not doing this right. Nothing's happening.
I had been intentional about making time to be with God, but I couldn't get comfortable in the quiet of my escape. Pressure, fear, and fatigue were all still screaming at me, and everything inside my brain that kept me from connecting with God at home had followed me to the beach. I stared down the gorgeous coastline and tried to pray, catching myself again and again lost in my own wandering thoughts and distractions. I felt I was talking to the sky.
I was losing my train of thought ... underwhelmed ... hearing nothing but the wind in response.
I lost my breath for a split-second staring at the surface of the ocean's gliding, piling waves. A rush of wind caught my imagination up in wondering what all lies below and beyond the surface of those shimmering sunlight and blue-gray shadows. What all is going on in the ocean today? God told Job that He knows where sea monsters sleep. I wondered how far away that underwater cave might be and if the mythic Leviathan was still there resting. Give me a hint, God.
My prayers were changing.
NASA says that we have better maps of the surface of the moon and Mars than we do of the ocean floor. God explained Himself to Job by owning the mysteries of the ocean, and I let myself fall into those mysteries. Wrapped in wonder, I started to see Him too. If He is truly present everywhere, even in undiscovered corners of the dark ocean floor, He must be present here with me now. Whether or not I can feel Him, whether or not I can focus my attention, He is here. If He knows where the Leviathan sleeps, He knows where His daughter stands.
I finally heard God's voice whispering, a force pulling, from just beyond the scattered distractions that had slyly followed me to the beach. "Fear not! I am with you."
That was it. One little catch of breath. One moment of involuntary worship. Awareness of my smallness giving me incredible respect for God's being. He hadn't finally ridden up on a wave like King Triton. Instead, He had patiently, kindly, touched my eyes with salty grace for one moment, and I saw that my awareness of His presence is too easily uncalibrated. He is mysterious and big, and He doesn't live at the beach. He is always present with me and usually closer and more available than I dare to imagine.
God, give me eyes to see. Ears that hear. A heart that never loses its sense of wonder.
Sacred space in the Old Testament, holy ground, was a place where God and humans met. Moments before the meeting, before shoes were taken off and bodies fell flat before Him, holy ground was ordinary, dusty, rocky earth. But that is exactly where God meets us, right here in our world. On our dusty, rocky planet.
A Samaritan woman met Jesus by a dusty well on the wrong side of the tracks in John 4. She asked Jesus which mountain to climb to meet with God. Jesus tenderly told her a shocking truth: one day soon everyone would worship God in Spirit, not in a temple or on a mountain. The apostle Paul picked up Jesus' thought and explained that the holy, official place where the divine interacted with humans — the Temple — wasn't a place or a building anymore. Our very bodies are God's temple.
All of my chaos may have followed me to the beach, but so did all of my capacity to meet God just as I am. My body is a temple; your body is a temple if you follow Jesus. Our own skin, with all its susceptibility and strangeness, forms the walls of a sacred space — our very selves — where God meets humanity. Where God meets us. Holy Ground is under the soles of our feet always. God's Spirit isn't a pilgrimage away, or hovering distant and uninterested in a far corner of the universe, or in a vault that only special people have the code that unlocks it. If we belong to God, we carry His Spirit with us. Within us.
The Holy Spirit prays for us and, on our behalf, calls out to God, "Daddy!" When I don't know what to pray, and I have almost forgotten that I am God's child, I hold on to that reality and this truth: I am not far from God, and He is not far from me. The space my body occupies is a meeting place with God. From the first days God created humans, He has walked and talked with us. It's what He loves to do. We were made with the capacity to talk with God, exactly as He intended for us and exactly as He designed us.
As much as the possibilities of intelligent design excite me, they can be incredibly intimidating. The camera store in our neighborhood had a vendor fair around the time I was thinking of buying a camera. All of the big companies had banners with their logos hanging over the front of tables covered with black tablecloths and manned by a sales rep. Spread out on the table were different lenses and filters and various parts scattered between them. One of the reps was all smiles as he called out for me to come see a camera he had to show. He gingerly passed it to me, and my hands fumbled. "Oh, wow! I didn't realize how heavy this is!"
He explained to me how the camera was built and the internal lenses and something about shutter speed and light. I didn't want to interrupt him — he was really on a roll! — but when he flipped the camera around to show me how to change the aperture and other settings, I finally came clean.
"Look, I'm not a photographer. I just want a camera that won't take blurry pictures. Do you have one with a good auto mode?"
He blinked at me three times and smiled with his eyes wide as if he were about to say something obvious: "If you want pictures that aren't blurry, you should learn to use the settings."
That sounded complicated, so I thanked him and went to the next table. But I kept thinking about what he said.
You see, we're all living in these temple bodies that are capable of hearing God and talking to Him. Like my camera and me, though, most of us leave the fullest of our human capabilities to the experts. We don't know where to start, we don't understand all of the factors and settings, and, overwhelmed, we can't imagine making minor adjustments makes that much of a difference anyway. Not to mention, I'm a little lazy.
Yet God's intention from the very beginning — evident in the first days of Eden — was to be in conversational relationship with humans. He didn't abandon that goal after our rebellion. He made promises, vows, and covenants to rescue and restore humans to their design and His intention of being with Him and hearing His voice.
With the Bible so adamantly insisting that God is speaking to us, why do so few of us recognize God's voice in our daily lives?
You may not think you've heard from God, but you may not have known what to expect. When we think about hearing God's voice, our first picture can be something like clouds parting, total clarity, and an audible voice that thunders something important. God can speak like that, but it's usually the exception. Burning bushes and clouds of fire have held the voice of God, but so have whispers and silently overflowing jars of oil.
God loves to break into our ordinary. He loves to meet us where we are, as we are. He loves to join us on our favorite couch early in the morning poring over His words, or singing softly to Him in the kitchen during the day, or tossing restlessly in our bed at night. Conversation with God is not merely an exchange of words; it's an ongoing relationship with the Creator and Orchestrator of our universe. He is still sustaining his creation and remaking dry earth into riverbeds, every day.
Have you ever been driving, worried sick about something, and then had your breath taken away by the sunset? God loves to remind us how big He and His world are so we can gain perspective on our problems.
Have you ever seen someone and just known you were supposed to talk to her? God gently directs our paths.
Have you ever come across words in the Bible or on a billboard and felt like they were put there for you, for exactly that moment? God leaves us notes in the most surprising places.
You can hear God. You probably already have.
Sometimes, without realizing it, we get in our own way of hearing God's voice. When the Bible talks about eyes that see God and ears that hear God, those abilities are linked to our heart (Isaiah 6:10; John 12:39–41). We find it difficult to hear God's voice when we allow bitterness, unforgiveness, or anger to slowly harden our hearts. In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus taught that if we are angry with someone or if someone is angry with us, it's better to leave our sacrifice at the base of the altar, go to be reconciled, then come back to worship God. If we are feeling an awkwardness in our relationship with God, we can also take inventory of our relationships with other people. Our hardness toward other people can harden our heart to God.
Our relationship to ourselves also matters to our relationship with God. It is difficult to notice God when we are occupied with numbing our emotions or pain. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown points out, "We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions." The same low points that send us seeking after God's comforting voice can prompt us to unhealthy comforts as well. Dysfunctional relationships, shopping, food, alcohol, technology, and other distractions not only keep us busy and a little satisfied, but they also keep us completely stuck.
Learning to listen, then, is learning to notice all the things God is already saying to us that we may not be hearing. Listening can be just as valuable as hearing. We may find different spiritual seasons of our life dominated more by hearing or by listening. Even silence is part of the ongoing conversation between God and man, with its own purpose. Our engagement with God is what matters. Whether we are in the depth of doubt or enjoying a keen awareness of His voice, the goal Learning to listen, then, of listening is not simply to hear God's is learning to notice words but to move closer to Him.
Yet its hard to trust the voice of God when so many who hear God speak hear Him say the strangest things. I know a man who claimed God told him to leave his wife and children for another woman, a soulmate whom God had designed just for him. I listened to an interview with a Nazi who was an active member in the Ku Klux Klan, and he quoted Scripture — God's own words — cherry-picked and misinterpreted to justify his hate, racism, and violence. Self-delusion loves divine approval.
The only thing worse than a church of people who hear God say crazy things is a church of people who aren't listening for His voice at all.
So we walk toward this holy conversation with God knowing that our self-deception follows us like a shadow. Still, we cannot opt out. If we say we follow Jesus, we have to follow Him. We have to have a relationship with Him that goes beyond transactional morality and that more closely mirrors how He wants to relate to us: as a brother (Hebrews 2:11), a friend (John 15:15), and even a newlywed (2 Corinthians 11:2). No relationship can thrive without communication, and our relationship with God is no different.
Now, I'd love to say that I've never put words in God's mouth or chosen to misunderstand what He was saying, but I've done both. It's hard when God isn't saying what I want to hear. During my career transition from a high-tech company into motherhood, for instance, I hit a point where I was desperate to know what was next. I couldn't tell if my break from the workforce was temporary or if God was leading me through this big transition into new territory. I had left a job that I loved: amazing coworkers, meaningful work, and the invigorating sense that I brought unique value to our team.
Still, here I was, obeying what I thought was God's voice directing me to take a break — and I was miserable. I loved my baby, but I was battling depression and utterly humbled by how hard it was to be a mom at home. Not only was it mentally difficult to be in such a thankless and unseen role, but it felt physically impossible to feed my child and keep my house clean — and don't even talk to me about the gym. I had always been a competent achiever in school and work, but motherhood kicked my tail. I prayed every day for weeks about going back to work. Hearing nothing but silence in response, I reluctantly took the advice of a trusted mentor and obeyed the last clear thing I had heard from God: stay at home. I knew had a lot to be thankful for, and I grudgingly believed — but see clearly now — that God had good things for me in that time.
One day, as I stared into the blank slate of my future, I thought I heard a whisper from God: "Liz, you're not going to teach executives anymore. I want you to teach My people."
I was desperate for new direction, but this had been such a subtle thought in my mind. I wasn't sure if it was God. I asked Him to repeat Himself.
"Was that You?"
"Where do I start?"
"What exactly am I supposed to do?"
Over the next three months, I would wholeheartedly seek God. I prayed. I read my Bible. I asked Him over and over to clarify His words. I looked for opportunities that might be His leading me toward this new thing. I asked the church if they needed help.
As I sat with a wise woman of God, I earnestly described to her how God was teasing and eluding me. I asked if she thought I had heard Him wrong. Or, I asked, if that was a call on my life, was it for now or for ten years from now? I leaned forward and asked so many questions, not even realizing I wasn't waiting for her to answer a single one.
She took a deep breath.
"Liz, I don't think God is hiding from you. He just isn't where you are looking."
I was confused, and she sensed it. She smiled gently as she asked kindly, "Are you looking for God, or are you looking for answers?"
For the first time that morning, I was silent. My motives always surprise me. It's possible to seek God's voice but not seek God. We won't find Him if we are moving toward our own goals and desires and trying to see Him there. God is who He is, and if we want to hear Him, we have to come to Him in our own broken desire to love Him. We have to move only toward Him and His love, not toward His wisdom or blessing or direction. One way we do that is by listening for God's voice, for listening is an act of love.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "God's Many Voices"
Copyright © 2018 Liz Ditty.
Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 Learning to Listen
1 Noticing God's Whispers 3
2 Recognizing Gods Expressions 17
3 Responding to Gods Invitations 33
Part 2 Expectant to Hear
4 A Voice That Speaks in Scripture 47
5 A Voice That Speaks in Prayer 69
6 A Voice That Speaks in Community 91
7 A Voice That Speaks in Our Daily Lives 111
8 A Voice That Speaks in Coincidences and Interruptions 131
9 A Voice That Speaks in Beauty All Around Us 149
10 A Voice That Speaks in Desiring, Waiting, and Silence 165