Monday, March 8, 2021

How to Actually Hear God

I’ve never felt God has communicated directly with me. I have heard that sentiment from several people. But isn’t that just the way it’s supposed to be? I once thought.

Yet, there are all those evangelical types who say, “God told me…” describing a literal conversation. I had answers to prayers and inspirations that I attributed to God, but I avoided claiming that he specifically told me anything. Until one morning…

It was a usual weekday; waking up and preparing to rouse the children for another school day. What is Cheryl Oris doing? The question popped into my mind. She was a childhood friend I had not seen since our family moved away when I was in second grade. Given my usual active mind, even though I had no curiosity about Cheryl’s whereabouts, the question did not seem unusual.

These days, you can easily track people down on the Internet….except wait…she’s probably married and probably has a different last name now. With that dead end, I got on with my day, not giving it another thought. Until the mail arrived that morning. Among the envelopes was one from my sister Colleen which contained a newspaper clipping from a Dearborn, Michigan weekly newspaper. “I thought you’d find this interesting,” she wrote at the top. It had a picture of a woman with her name in the caption stating that she was receiving a teaching award. Colleen had circled the last name and wrote next to it, “That’s Cheryl Oris’s married name.” 

Wow! There were no odds. None. The question posed to me earlier that morning was answered in the newspaper clipping. I reprocessed the earlier moment and realized the question had come from outside of me. “So that is you, God,” I said, thinking of other times when heavenly messages had arrived seemingly from outside of myself. One example was in a college social work class, The topic was child abuse. I contemplated how I could possibly feel a shred of Christian love for anyone depraved enough to intentionally harm a child. The command to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” seemed unreasonable in that context. 

Those adults you have contempt for were once the children you have so much love for. That realization came to me from outside of my own thoughts. Child abuse tends to be cyclical so the damage done to a child is frequently repeated in their adult life. Of course it can never be condoned, but I suddenly had a perspective that enabled me to love them as a child of God—albeit damaged and in need of help and legal measures. I could at least now pray for them and feel some level of Christian love. 

There were other such moments that I recalled with new insight. I have come to understand that the closer we walk with God, the better we hear him. It’s about talking with God often, especially in prayer, listening to his word through Scripture, and sincerely desiring to do his will, even when it’s difficult. 

An example of hearing God even when it’s difficult happened over 15 years ago when my husband Mark and I accepted a teenage AIDS orphan from Kenya into our family of 10. We were asked by a missionary if we would take him in. We prayed for God’s will. Every hurdle was overcome so it  felt like an internal compass strongly pointing in that direction despite my own fears. On the day that I picked up our Kenyan son from the airport (my husband was on a work trip) a sudden, unexpected feeling of peace washed over me as I drove out of the airport parking lot. 

2019, Immediate family plus 1 brother-in-law

Three years later his younger brother joined us. In that case, after some initial resistance, I agreed over the phone with Mark to accept him then ended the conversation to go to morning Mass. I was spacing out and not focused but the words from the first reading suddenly cut through my reverie: “For in you the orphan finds love and compassion…” Hosea 14:3. God was surely speaking to me. 

The oldest son is now a medical doctor and the younger one served 4 years in the Marines, works for the government and is getting an MBA. Both were big blessings to our family in ways we could not have imagined. 

I have shared other stories of how God has spoken to me in Teresa Tomeo’s book, Listening for God: Discovering the Incredible Ways God Speaks to Us. She and others shared their own moments when God spoke to them clearly. It is not about seeking the supernatural but rather about being open to it, which was the inspiration behind my own book,  Holy Hacks: Everyday Ways to Live Your Faith & Get to Heaven. By walking with the Lord in everyday life, we go deeper into our faith and actually expand our capacity for hearing God speak to us. 

Learn How To Listen For God at the "Listening for God" virtual conference.

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For more inspiration check out Patti's latest bookHoly Hacks: Everyday Ways to Live Your Faith & Get to HeavenOther books include:  Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and the best-selling Amazing Grace Series. 

Follow Patti on Pinterest, like her pages at Holy HacksDear God Books,  Big Hearted Families,  Catholic News & Inspiration on Facebook, and her author Facebook page.  To receive articles in your inbox, enter your email in "Feedburner" in right column.   God bless you!

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