He is speaking. Can you hear Him?

Have you ever heard the comments, “God is closer than your next breath?”  or “God is always speaking to us?” Do you believe that? Have you heard that “still small voice” speaking to you?

As I sat outside on the patio this morning, my mind started wandering. It drifted through past conversations I’ve had with friends about this very thing. How does God speak to me, to you? Is He? How will I know if it’s God? I don’t know that I have the right answer, but I have a lot of thoughts about it and wanted to share what’s on my mind. I hope in the comments, you will share your thoughts and experiences as well, since we all have something to teach and something to learn.

There are those who have audibly heard the voice of God; an actual voice they heard with their physical ears. I’m not one of them. I would love to be, but I’m not; at least not yet. I believe that because our Creator made each of us in such unique and specific ways, we can’t say there is only ONE way to hear our Father’s voice.  We all interpret life and what we see, hear and feel very differently, according to our gifts, abilities, personalities and physical make up. It makes sense that we would sense our Creator’s voice in many varied ways.

Others in my circle of friends, hear His voice through very specific and detailed dreams and visions, where God is clearly showing them something important about life changes that are going to happen, the direction certain relationships are going, how they need to proceed in a certain area of their lives. I hear God this way, too. Not daily or even weekly; not in a consistent, regimented way, but He has spoken to me this way. When I was first dealing with the possibility of breast cancer, God gave me very detailed and specific dreams about it, so that I would know some of what was coming. He knows me so well, that He knew I would need this preparation; an advanced warning, so to speak.  It was a tremendous blessing to me and I am so grateful for the dreams He gave to me. It showed me that He is involved in every single thing that He filters through His hands and allows to touch my life. He knew cancer was going to be part of my story. He gave me some advance notice, because He knows how I operate. This is love.

Nature is one of the things in life that I love the most. I crave it. It is an essential part of my being, of my make –up. I feel the most alive and in touch with my Father when I am outdoors. My senses come alive and I am captivated and touched by all the sounds, scents, sensations. I have had my deepest times of communion with God, while outdoors in nature; whether it is the forest, a meadow, a trail I’m hiking, sitting on the beach or puttering in my own backyard. It isn’t an audible voice I hear, but it’s what I sense; like a spirit deep knowing that He is there and He is speaking. The brush of a gentle, playful breeze that cools my neck and ruffles my hair tells me that He cares, is always and ever-present. I hear Him speaking to me in the pounding surf and lapping waves; fear and wounding are drawn out and away in the swell of the waves as I pour out to Him all that is in my heart. The peace and awe that fall over me in the midst of the Redwoods; that glorious scent of pine, ancient growth and strength remind me of His power and creativity; that He has everything planned out that concerns me and mine; it isn’t necessarily safe and predictable, but it is good and right and promised. Sitting outside under the stars and the moon, I feel His majesty and His Lordship cover me like protective wings. He created what I see above me which is hard to comprehend, but He also created me and loves me. To me that feels so safe; I am protected and fiercely guarded. My Father’s eye is never off of me. His eye is never off of you.

Maybe you don’t believe that you have “heard” Him speak to you, but I challenge that. I really do. He speaks all the time to His creation.  Keep an open heart and open ears.  Slow down and allow yourself to hear Him. Ask Him how He wants to speak to you. I promise you He does. He has words for you and so much wisdom He desires to pour into you. But our Father God is a gentleman. He waits to be invited.  Will you let Him in?

Beauty

Middle school. What is the first  word that pops into your mind when you hear the words middle school? Awkward , the fear of being different, of not having a “place”. Much of my thought life in middle school was taken up with concern over where I belonged. Who would talk to me today? Would my friends still be my friends? Was I pretty enough for a certain crowd to speak to me and acknowledge me? Maybe it all boiled down to wondering if I was enough?

As I lead my group of 8th grade girls once a week, I see this painful struggle. The desire to be loved and enough, just as they are; to be liked, sought out, pretty, hip and cool.  This struggle is just as real for young men, as they struggle to find their place in the world. It is  real for all of us.

At our middle school group last week, we talked about beauty; specifically inner beauty. So much is hurled at us about our outward appearance; our size, shape, eye color, hair color, skin tone, you name it; someone, somewhere has decided what is and isn’t ok. W ewant to measure up to what culture has defined as beauty and I think it is terribly flawed and destructive.

Think for a moment about something that is uniquely you. Something that is a different, that might stand out. Is it your laugh, smile, eye or hair color? Do you have a unique sense of style or quirky sense of humor? Do you realize this unique part of you is a gift from God that sets you apart as special? You are His creation. Can you look at your uniqueness and begin to love it?

Read Psalm 139:13-18 and allow it into your mind and receive it in your heart.

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me.”

God took such time and attention to detail to personally create you. Your shape, size, sound of your voice, color of your hair and skin were all planned out as He carefully invested time and poured His breath and love into the person that you are. He is crazy about His design! Ephesians 2:10 says “for we are all God’s masterpiece. He created us anew in Christ Jesus so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”

More important to God, I think, is our inner beauty. I define inner beauty as the characteristics of Jesus; such as, gentleness, kindness, inclusivity, confidence, compassion, mercy, humility, forgiving, full of love and kindness.  These traits have the power to draw people to you, because they see Jesus shining through the vessel of your physical body. We all have a God sized space in our souls that longs to be known, loved and accepted. Only God can fill that void in our lives. The more we look like Jesus on the inside, the more beautiful we become on the outside.

Take a few minutes to think about the traits of inner beauty that you have been gifted. Are you patient and laid back or are you a confident, type A go-getter? Are you kind and merciful? Are you a dreamer or a realist? Are you a leader with a dynamic personality? Are you humble and gentle? Do you have compassion for those less fortunate? Are you an encourager? All these qualities are gifts given to you by a loving God who knows all of your strengths and  weaknesses. He doesn’t look on you with eyes of disappointment, frustration or annoyance. He created all of you and intimately knows your thoughts, struggles, fears; your areas of strength and weakness. In your weakness He is strong and He uses those areas to draw you closer to Him.

If you struggle to see yourself as a lovely, precious, beautiful creation on the inside and outside, I challenge you (this is for me too!) to ask God to be your mirror. Ask Him to reflect back to you, all the beauty and loveliness He sees when He looks at you. When He sees you, His unique and valuable creation, He sees all the potential He placed in you. He sees the time and effort He personally put in to creating you for very specific purposes. There is only one you and you are definitely enough. You are a gift, from our Creator, to the world and I pray you see yourself that way.

What would happen when you look in the mirror this week, if you refused to allow negative thoughts and words any space in your mind? What if you refuted every negative word, thought, or description of yourself that you harbor in your soul, with positive words and thoughts; you could only call out encouragement and goodness, as you protected your heart from caustic and castigating words?  Imagine what God is seeing in you and receive in your heart and soul, that what He sees, He is so incredibly proud of and so in deeply in love with. You are enough.

Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you, His power gives you victory. The Lord will take delight in you, and in His love He will give you new life. He will sing and be joyful over you.”  

Morning at the duck pond

 

 

The sun hasn’t been up for long, yet the pond is fully awake.

On a large moss covered rock in one corner of the pond, the cormorant is sunning itself; fully spread wings welcome the warm sun.

Turtles occupy a majority of the warming rocks and gnarled old roots, jutting up from the still water; always watching, always aware; stout legs and webbed feet stretched out to soak in the warmth.

As I wander closer to the pond’s edge, sleepy ducks regard me with curiosity, but they aren’t afraid; others doze on, with heads tucked into cozy, feathery wings.

The proud Canadian geese continue nibbling grassy tidbits and bugs as I stroll on by; a few venture a hiss or two, just to make sure we are on the same page.

The pond is still and quiet; yet it’s not.

Human noises are blessedly absent, but morning greetings and conversations are vivid and noisy; the rhythm of the pond is in full swing!

Cheerful, grounding, natural.  Life lessons can be learned here; the Divine is all around.

Along the grassy edge of the pond, small fish and tadpoles congregate in the warm shallows, as a ray of sun brings heat and light. Life.

My shadow causes a frantic, mass exodus, as they dart in a mass of tiny tails and fins to safer waters; ripples and bubbles marking their escape.

A large, silent turtle, with only the tip of its snout visible, is waiting; slowly submerging in an effortless swim to its breakfast. The ebb and flow of life on the pond.

Along the edge of the pond there is evidence of nests and bedded down reeds; a few delicate egg shell pieces and tufts of feathers and down. Home for a family of ducks; their safe place; warm and tucked away.

Moving along, the insistent chirping of a red-winged blackbird, signals that I am bit too close for comfort to his family home in the tall, fully leafed tree in front of me.

I move gingerly around this part of the pond, as he begins to dive and swoop at me; making it clear that I’m a visitor here. Respect.

Rounding one side of the pond, a mama and her ducklings dart and swim through the glass smooth water; nibbling up tidbits as they happily cluck and chatter to each other. She steers them toward the middle of the pond. Cautious.

The ripples they leave behind swirl and eddy, then disappear as the still water swallows them up. Calm restored.

Random splishes and splashes can be heard, as turtles slip into the water like small submarines; tiny, pointy heads can be seen as they break the surface to keep a sharp eye on the pond bank; scouts that watch and wait.

The green Heron, master fisherman, is tucked up and underneath the mass of reeds, on a thin root poking up through the water. He patiently waits in stillness and silence. He knows food is just below the surface and silently waits for his opportunity.  Patience.

A ripply movement catches my eye and I carefully make my way to the edge of the pond, curiosity brimming. Is it the river otter come back again; fishing and dining on crawdads and little fish?

No, it is a large, orangey, iridescent fish; the tail poking up and rippling the water like a miniature shark’s fin, as it roots in the murky, muddy water under the gnarled old tree, with the beautiful leafy branches.

I am captivated.

I sink to my feet watching it go about its business; gracefully moving and swishing as it searches for a treasure hidden in the murky pond.  Trust.

A sudden cacophony of honking and quacking, breaks apart the loudly peaceful pond, as a goose announces its displeasure; wings and webbed feet flapping and dashing into the pond, causing a few moments of panic and unrest as others follow suit.

Quickly, all is calm and everyone goes about their business, as if nothing has happened. Ritual, rhythm, order restored. Life at the pond.

The bench that is tucked in under the beautiful tree, with weepy branches skimming the water, beckons to me.

Resting here in the shade, I try to blend in quietly, allowing nature to return to its busy activities, and the turtles to relax their ever vigilant and rigid watch.

There is always one who stalks, silently tracking my movements.

As my eyes roam over this place I love, I notice that the trees and flowering plants are always reaching up to the sky, their source of life; branches and tender shoots going up, up.

Even in seasons of autumn and winter, when skies are grey and the sun seems scarce, always their branches seek light and reach upward. They know Who sustains them.

Some of these trees are gnarled and funky, with twists and crimps, bends and burned out, broken up places, yet up; they always point up.

There is a lot to learn out here at the duck pond.

The simplicity of creation looking to the Creator to protect, provide and sustain, as the seasons and cycles of life move ever onward.

My life resembles these tenacious trees, with their broken branches and crooked spots and their seasons of beauty and abundance, fully leafed and lovely.

Seasons come and go, ebb and flow as the divine tapestry of our lives are woven by a Master weaver; intersecting pain and beauty; abundance and lack. Always with arms and face lifted up to the Source of Life.