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Learning to Listen

May 11, 2010

I like to write. I love songwriting though. It’s something I find myself needing to do. It’s a part of who God has made me.

One of the things that I continue to learn as a songwriter and musician is that when a good idea musically or lyrically smacks me in the face, I’d best make the most of it despite the circumstances. If I don’t, the words that align in mind and heart for the second verse of a song or the key phrasing for a bridge of an unfinished tune will float away more quickly than they came.  I’ve lost so many great song ideas on account of my certainty that I will most definitely remember that chord progression or hook line of a budding tune all through breakfast, getting ready for work, playin with the kids for a bit, and talking with Ingrid about the day’s schedule before rushing off to work.

There’s no way. That seed of a song never had a chance. Plus, when it comes to writing music for the people of God to lift up in praise to Him (if you can’t already tell, that’s the kind I really love to write), I believe God puts those ideas and phrases and even chord or melodic voicings in my heart not just to help  me write a song for or about Him, but to speak His Word into my life; into our lives as the Church.

So I’m on the plane this past Thursday morning headed back home from Washington D.C.and I’m reading Brian Doerksen’s book  –  Make Love, Make War-NOW is the Time to Worship  (I think I’d get through the book much more quickly but I find myself constantly going back to re-read and make notes and think and …yeah it’s a really good book. If you’ve not read it, whether your a worship leader, songwriter, pastor or none of the above, I’d absolutely recommend it as a MUST READ) .

Doerksen talks bout how as songwriters…actually the crowd is bigger than that — As worshippers we’ve got to make the decision to honor the Holy Spirit with our attentive hearts. It might be the inspiration of song lyrics, a scripture that floods our mind out of nowhere, even the prompting to pray; to go; to do for someone. So many times for me, it’s simply that God wants to have my undivided attention so He can provide clarity on questions I’ve asked Him already or address with me some aspect or sin in my life that I’ve probably been ignoring for too long. Whatever the form of communication chosen by the Spirit to speak into our lives, paying attention and acting in accordance with that prompting honors, magnifies and glorifies God. And so often, our honoring Him is turned so very quickly into His honoring of our faithfulness. It’s really pretty exciting.

…right…so…I’m on the plane  and I must have looked like I had to pee really bad (well I did but that’s beside the point); but I’d just gotten these words for another verse of a song I’d been working on and my pen was in my carry-on bag…in the overhead bin (yup…big mistake) and I’m in my seat singing these lyrics over and over to myself…as quietly as possible (I think it was pretty quiet???). The dude next to me is head back, mouth-open, snoring and I’m reaching across him trying to get the attention of the guy across the aisle who happens to be burning through the airlines magazine crossword puzzle. When I finally get his attention and get over his looking at me as if to say…”I don’t know what this whack-job is gonna do next…”  — I ask him if I can borrow his pen for just a quick minute and he graciously obliges, still maintaining the same look of hesitancy.  Lyrics written; pen returned; weird glances at me persist; but I’ve just got such a feeling of joy all of a sudden…

Why, you may ask, am I putting so much stock in kind of a little snippet of my life like this? Here’s why.

I’m learning to listen to Him. I’m ready to listen. I find more and more each day that I long to hear from Him. The more I hear, the more I desire, the more excited I am for our next chat.

I see that God wants to speak into my life and listen to not only my thanks and praises but also my laments despite the schedule I would put on Him; despite the parameters in which I’d expect to hear His voice. There is nothing insignificant to Him about my life; whether it be “snippet-sized” or “life-jolting”. He wants to hear it all.

Conversely, I shouldn’t be surprised that God would speak to me in even the most seemingly insignificant timest; that He’d give me words for songs, words to speak into others lives, or words to fuel or heal my heart.

So let’s hear it? Where and when do you hear His voice? What helps to focus your heart on Him? Or is all this “hearing from God” stuff a crock in your opinion and have you been reading this post and looking at it like that guy on the plane looked at me?


5 Comments leave one →
  1. Gary permalink
    May 12, 2010 9:16 am

    You see, my friend, this was not an insignificant time as you stated. This was simply GOD’s time management for a child. Think about where you were. No work issues at the moment, no family demanding your time and love at the moment, no TV blaring garbage, little to distract. HE has the opportunity to have your unbothered attention. Without outside interventions (from what source you determine-Satan ? ) HE has your attention. Just as if you and Owen were sitting on the bank of a pond gazing at GOD’s blessings, just the two of you sharing time together, delving into each others hearts. We should seek the “quiet” space where we can listen to DAD talk to us. Learning to listen is in part being in a condition to listen.

    • May 12, 2010 9:43 am

      “Just the two of you sharing time together” Yup — I like the way you put that. Thanks and have a great day brother! – Joel

  2. Stacey permalink
    May 14, 2010 1:09 pm

    Some of my favorite times with the Lord are when I’m driving in the car…whether I’m listening to some great P&W music or a teaching CD, the wind coming through my window or the silence of being by myself . i spend a good bit of time in the car, so i do alot of contemplating, praising and praying. He speaks to me in so many ways! I listen to music that soaks me in the love and presence of God, that empowers me as His child, bride, warrior and servant. I listen to cd’s that challenge me to see things differently or draw closer, I can see the beauty of creation. In these ways He communes with me.

    Just the other day I was out vacuuming my car…it was a long overdue vacuum! While vacuuming I was thinking about what was going on in my life at that particular time and I was getting a little discouraged. I finished the job, got into the car and turned the cd volumn up and the words coming out of Kim Walker’s mouth were “I need You”. In those simple words my Daddy was calling me to Him and His peace and reminding me of who He is…that’s He’s faithful and always available.

    I also hear alot when I’m taking a shower. I know, that’s kind of weird. I like to take long showers and usually during that time…because I’m by myself…no kids for just those few minutes, that I’ll begin to discuss things….I usually start with talking to myself about something and then bam! The Holy Spirit speaks to my heart and I’m learning and growing and being blessed. I’ll take it whenever and however I can! 🙂

    • May 20, 2010 9:01 am

      Stacey — I’m so with you on taking the words of the Holy Spirit whenever and wherever you can get them. So often I’m too busy to actually pay attention or more truthfully, I act like I’m too busy to pay attention. Finding those times and places where we know we’re able to tune in to God are so critical and then we’ve really got to covet and guard those times. Because our heart needs them. God wants and deserves our whole attention.


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