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!
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.
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.
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.
If you have a prayer request, a private comment, or a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org