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January 2017

Activating Your Spiritual Senses II

Hi Everyone!

Today’s Soul Focus is the second segment on the topic of Spiritual Senses. You can find Part I under the category “Spiritual Senses”. In this post, I’ve provided examples and action steps that you can put into practice to amplify your spiritual senses. One of the great benefits of activating your spiritual senses is how it helps you collaborate with God. We'll focus on three senses -- listening, perceiving, and seeing. Look forward to my next post February 5th on Health for the Seasons and Stress Management. I welcome your comments and feedback. Thanks for reading!

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Listening

God speaks in the silence of the heart --Mother Teresa

Listening means to give attention to and take notice of the words and the emotion behind those words. As the listener, you are fully present with heart and mind in the conversation. Whether it’s listening to another person or to the Holy Spirit, listening is essential to understanding. God may be communicating with you daily, even hourly. This communication can go unnoticed for several reasons: I'm not anticipating God connecting with me, I let the loudest noise in my life get my attention and miss the whisper of God, or I'm simply deaf to His voice. For some of us, we don't recognize God speaking to us. If you develop your spiritual listening sense, this can enable you to tune-in to the unique way God communicates with you. For example, He may speak to you through another believer—God’s message for you through them. You may have thoughts that are out of character for you (in a good way) and this may be the Holy Spirit whispering to your heart and mind. Or, a verse from the Bible might come to mind and the deeper meaning of those words is revealed to you at that moment. Here's an example: I received a text a little over two weeks ago from my friend, Annette, about a women's event in Columbus. She lives in Cleveland but thought I might want to explore it. I read the text and said to myself, "I should check it out on the radio station website--104.9. But, I didn't. Off and on a thought would pop into my head, "Hey, you didn't check out that event." But, I didn't follow up on those nudges. Then this week, I get a phone call from my husband in the am while I'm at work. Here's the kicker: the fact that my phone was in my range of vision (at work my phone is on vibrate), I saw the call, and I answered it, is miraculous. The fact that my husband calls me to tell me about a women's event at Mill Run is unprecedented. When I put my phone down, I knew I had to go to that event. This was my last chance to listen to what God wanted me to hear. This was an invitation from Him to me. And, once I was at the event it become clear why He invited me. So, I want to ask you this question: How might your day, your life be different if you let God capture your attention?

The key aspect of listening for God’s communication is quiet. Quiet is important because He doesn't compete with anything else. The act of deliberately stilling yourself tells God you are available to receive what He wants to give you. Believe me, there’s so much to be received—comfort, encouragement, wisdom, favor, blessings, and more. To successfully develop a practice of listening you need to put yourself in a setting of quietness and this includes physical and mental stillness. I totally understand you may not enjoy being in quiet and stillness with your thoughts. And, it could be difficult to settle your mind and your body. So, here's a couple action steps to help you make “being in quiet” a more natural part of your life. First, you need to identify the best place for you to be in quiet. This step is no easy task because its dependent on the nature of and the demands of your day. Now this might make you laugh but I’ve actually gone into the garage, gotten in my car just to get away from the household noise. I'm sure I'm not the only one. It’s one of the best places for me to get a moment of quiet. I get in the car (weather permitting), with ignition, radio and phone off and I let the quiet and stillness envelope me. I encourage you to get creative with finding quiet. Once you’ve identified your quiet spot, you’re ready to start a practice of being in quiet and stillness. The practice of a quiet heart and mind is very beneficial for enhancing your perceiving sense. If you’d like some help with this, you can go to the top of the blog and find the link to “A Practice of Quiet”. There you will find written guidance as well as a podcast to guide you in the practice.

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Perceiving

We have what we seek. It is there all the time and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us --Thomas Merton

Perceiving is the second sense that allows us to experience God's presence and power in our lives. Perceiving means to be aware of or know by way of the senses as well as the act of recognizing and understanding. Perceiving is being spiritually aware in heart and mind. God is unlimited in His choice of how He will interact with you, but you’ll miss it if you’re distracted. I know there are numerous moments throughout the day when I could connect with God but I have chosen to let something else be my focus. What do I mean? Daily, there is a steady stream of individuals coming into my office seeking information. Add the non-stop emails, my pager, my phone, my to-do list, and my thoughts. I jump from one thing to another working out of my own strength, my own wisdom and it works for me. For a while. But, I don’t have the resources day-in, day-out, hour after hour, moment after moment to solve, fix, brain-storm, lead, serve, and encourage. I need to take a time-out throughout the day to tune-in to God. I know what it’s like to be a lone wolf. There were years I be-bopped around making decisions and choices that, frankly, blow my mind when I look back. I can tell you that did not work out well for me. Maybe you do okay without listening for or perceiving God’s communication but I have no desire to do things the hard way because that’s all I have experienced—the hard way when I go my way.

There’s no limit to the distractions around us and I can pick and choose. I intentionally choose to be distracted by my Heavenly Father's tug in my heart, in my mind. Here are a few examples of how you might perceive God. You have a feeling of unexplained joy within your soul. You have a sense of comfort washing over you after a prayer or conversation. You sense hope in your heart and mind despite the potential outcome of the circumstance. Perhaps you're physically alone, yet you know deeply that you are not—you perceive the presence of Christ. Or, you experience a comforting blanket of peace around your heart in the face of an unsettling situation. These are only a few of the unlimited ways you may be able to perceive the Lord. The key to perceiving is an open heart and mind. We have a tendency to give credit to good luck, bad luck, karma, coincidence, or even ourselves for things that happen in our lives. But, I maintain that with an open heart and mind you'll be able to perceive and acknowledge God’s presence with you. Your sense of perceiving is often complemented by your ability to see.

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Seeing

I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it ceased to be one --Mark Twain

Seeing is similar to perceiving but it includes the physical vision as well as the ability to view a mental image. Spiritual seeing involves being able to reflect on your situation as if you are an outside observer and identifying God’s intervention in your life whether in the past or in the present. It is by seeing God’s active presence in your past that you are able to build a history of faithfulness. The importance of seeing God’s presence in past events comes into play when you’re faced with a current situation requiring an intense trust in God that seems nearly impossible. Having done the work of looking back or reflecting on God’s history of faithfulness and presence in prior situations, you're able to rely on His provision, protection, and involvement. This is your encouragement! Your trust is strengthened, and you're able to choose to hope during challenging situations in the present as well as in the future.

One way that I most clearly “see” God’s involvement in my life is through my journal writing. As I’ve gone back and read excerpts from my writings it’s incredible to “see” with fresh eyes the truth of the situation, recognizing the potential outcome and consequences that could have occurred and then comparing this with the actual outcome. I may not have been pleased with the actual outcome, but I can “see” God’s involvement. And, I can reflect on how I came to make that decision and choice along with the knowledge of whether or not I asked God to be involved. Other ways I have come to “see” God’s presence in my life has been with professional counseling. These are two examples of how I began the work of intentionally looking for the history of God’s faithfulness to me. When you realize how much and how often God's been at your side in the past, you are awakened to the truth--His love for you is unfailing, He delights in you, and you are never rejected. (Psalm 91:14-16, NIV)

I hope this has given you some insight into the spiritual senses and its significance to your relationship with God. Jesus felt strongly about the importance of listening and seeing in Matthew 13:13-16: “For this reason I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You will listen and listen, yet never understand; and you will look and look, yet never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn back—and I would cure them.’ But your eyes are blessed because they do see, and your ears because they do hear! (Holman Standard Bible). These people could see and hear, but they were blind and deaf spiritually. I want to see and hear with more depth beyond the surface. I desire to experience the deepest connection with God that He will allow.

God interacts with you in a very personal and unique way and it may take some time for you to discover how to listen for, perceive, and see His active presence. I feel certain your relationship with the Lord will take on a deeper dimension as you set yourself aside from the world to seek and tune-in to Him.

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Let's Connect

If you have a prayer request, a private comment, or a question, please email me at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com

 

 

 

 


Activating Your Spiritual Senses - Part I

Hi Everyone!

It’s a new year and it’s going to be filled with incredible encounters between you and God! I’m excited to share this blog post because activating your spiritual senses opens one of the doors to being intentional in your relationship with God. Today’s Soul Focus is an excerpt from my unpublished book, Now That I’ve Found You, God. I wrote this with my friend, and church pastor, Bob Bowers.

Along with the post, I’ve provided a podcast that guides you through a practice of quiet. Now, I’m going to go off road here for a moment so bear with me because this is going somewhere. I think of you as a family and with your family you try new things such as a new recipe. Well, I’ve recorded this podcast with high hopes that its beneficial and does what I hope it will do—guide you into a place of mindfulness and a sense of relaxation. But…we all know things may seem like a good idea and then Kaplooey! If something doesn’t work, then I want to know. Your comments are so important. You’re the experts! Now, let’s go to the Soul Focus.

Soul Focus - Your Spiritual Senses I

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Do you have a television show that captures your rapt attention? You know the one—where the story unfolds with each new episode, each new season. Well, what if we compared our lives to a long-running television series? Each episode shows the characters making choices and decisions to create dramatic endings, successes, comedy relief, or loss and sadness. As we watch, we often see or know what the characters cannot. The choices and actions of a character determine their outcome. As viewers we don’t get to butt in, advise, direct, or help the character in any way to take the best path or make the better choice. We can only watch it unfold.

As I look back at the episodes of my life, playing the re-runs in my mind, I’m amazed at my lived experiences. I see sadness, excitement, good choices, poor choices, success, loss, courage, laughter, silliness, and regret. And, all along God watched as I lived it but never simply as a viewer of my life. God has always been willing to interact with me, connect with me. He walked with me in every one of those moments and was available to offer me direction and wisdom. As I’ve replayed those episodes of my life, what stands out most clearly is this: a realization of His protection and faithfulness despite my lack of listening for, perceiving, and seeing Him in those times.

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God knows the plans He has for me and, thankfully, He desires to interact with me and lead me away from paths and plans leading to dead ends and deep pits. Being in communication and collaboration with God is the most special part of my relationship with Him. Relationship with God is what makes women and men different from all the rest of creation. When I fail to engage God, interact with Him, then I also fail to listen, perceive, and see God’s direction or wisdom. It is I who spiritually close the door on Him. That act can never be good for me. There came a time when I realized I needed (and wanted) to intentionally seek God’s guidance. Now with a new mindset, I continually challenge myself to stop taking the lead on decisions and choices, and enter into a practice of seeking and tuning in to God interacting with me. However, initially the problem for me was the" how" — how do I seek and tune-in to God’s voice, His presence, and see Him?

Contemplating on how I could seek and tune-in caused me to come up with the idea of the spiritual senses. I believe you and I have spiritual senses and each sense acts like a filter. Your spiritual filters are made of your knowledge of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, and your history with God including the degree that you trust and hope in Him. When you face a circumstance, event, person, answer, outcome, or difficulty, you have the option of running it through your spiritual filter. This filter allows worldly elements to pass through leaving behind the spiritual implications. Using this practice, you may see, hear, understand, or acknowledge with greater clarity the power and presence of God in the things you experience. The importance of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word is that it teaches, counsels, and guides you to hear, see and perceive. Keep in mind that your personal history with God, and how you relate to Him, has implications for how you will or will not see Him as you face various challenges in your life. Be open to the many ways God will communicate with you.

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Yet, there are those other times—other times that no matter how often you ask, seek, and tune-in God is unnervingly quiet. God reserves the right to refrain from letting you see the how, the why, or the big picture. With much sincerity, I am able to empathize with you. I know of the hours, the days, seemingly filled with nothing that could be labeled good. Those times require you to activate your deep trust and hope in His sovereignty. Choosing to lean on the Lord allows you to experience His promise to hold you up in it. From my experience, it may be that you will understand God’s involvement only by way of reflecting back on those times. Reflecting back is how you build God’s history of faithfulness to you. This history between you and God helps you do this: filter new and challenging situations with a belief that God will be with you in the present as He was with you in the past. You want your spiritual senses to be active and turned on so you can listen for, perceive, or see God. In fact, Jesus spoke of this in John 10:27—“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  

To better understand each spiritual sense, we need definitions for listening, perceiving, and seeing. All of the definitions are paraphrased from Merriam-Webster.com. Listening means to give apt attention to the message. The listener is fully present with heart and mind while the message is being received. Perceiving means to be aware of or know by way of the senses coupled with recognition and understanding. Seeing is like perceiving and includes the physical vision as well as mental imagery. Seeing may also involve reflection as if you are an outside observer of your own situation.

I believe listening, perceiving, and seeing help you to collaborate and communicate with God who knows all things, sees all things, and is in all things. You benefit when you open your heart and mind and humbly ask for His involvement. Daily you are presented with numerous decisions and choices. Your decisions and choices in addition to how you handle a circumstance matters because you’re a reflection of Jesus to the world or to the one soul who’s watching. When you seek God and anticipate God working in a circumstance, then you will reflect the peace of Christ, the attitude of Christ, and the love of Christ. Listening for, perceiving, or seeking to see God in every aspect of your life relieves you of having to rely on your own limited wisdom and understanding. (References can be found at the end of this post.)

In my next post, I'll provide examples and action steps you can put into practice to enhance your spiritual senses. One element of fine-tuning your spiritual senses is the practice of quiet.  Below I have created a podcast that will lead you into a session of quiet listening.

 

A Practice of Quiet

Download A Practice of Quiet Podcast

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Let's Connect

If you would like to submit a prayer request, a private comment, or ask a question, please email me at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com

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Spiritual Senses Reference List

Definitions for listening, perceiving, seeing:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/listen

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perceive

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/see

Verses from Holman Christian Standard Bible:  John 10:27—“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”