Straight from a Listening Heart
By Lisa Elliott
I find it interesting how God trains us up to use the skills and abilities He’s given us in unsuspecting ways. For example, in high school I loved and excelled at typing. I won several awards for typing more words in a minute than I could speak. And that’s pretty significant! Little did I know how important my skills would become, nor did I realize how they’d be used to train me to listen.
Throughout college I obtained a part-time job typing papers and manuscripts for students. After graduation, my first full-time job was as a medical receptionist. Some of my responsibilities were to welcome patients and answer several telephone lines, while keeping tabs on the comings and goings of three doctors in high demand. I was also in charge of transcribing any letters or reports that needed attention. I learned the importance of listening when patients called or when the doctors were giving me instructions for a certain task.
When I was married I was hired at another doctor’s office as a medical transcriptionist where I learned to listen on a new level. I was required to take dictation from six doctors via a headset attached to a small tape recorder that I controlled with a foot pedal. Each of the doctors presented a different challenge to my listening ear. One of them had a thick Scottish accent that I had to be very attentive to, to make sure I got every slur and roll of the “r” in its proper place. Another doctor had a very distinct British accent and I patiently listened while he hummed and hawed over various word choices. To properly transcribe for another I had to significantly slow down the Dictaphone to properly hear the words he was ejecting at a rapid-fire pace.
Years later, I was hired at an ultrasound and mammography office to transcribe for radiologists. There, I was introduced to an entirely new vocabulary of medical terminology. My listening skills were developed further as I transcribed Latin into English from a thick Polish accent.
In all of the above cases, I had to set aside distractions and train my ear to listen. People’s lives depended on it!
My listening skills took on another dimension as I raised four young children in a busy and demanding ministry household. That’s when I learned the importance of training my ear to listen to the Lord’s voice. My own life depended on it!
Surprisingly, it came through the still, small voice of my youngest daughter, Erin, two-years-old at the time. She was chasing me around the house one day, clinging to my leg while I busied myself with seemingly urgent chores. All the while she was declaring she had something to tell me. I encouraged her to just tell me while I carried on with my tasks. “I am listening.” I told her. Then with boldness I could no longer withstand she said, “No you’re not listening. Sit down and look at me!” Ouch! She had my undivided attention! In that moment I had not only heard Erin’s voice, but the undeniable voice of God.
If your life is anything like mine, it’s easy to get busy running through life with all kinds of seemingly important tasks to be accomplished. So much so that we don’t take the necessary time to stop, look and listen to the One who longs to speak truth into our hearts. I’m sure you’d agree that it’s hard to hear the still small voice of God through the noise, commotion, and confusion that is screaming for our attention. If we only realized what we’re missing out on when we don’t take the time to listen: wonderful truths, life-changing insights, and words of love and affirmation that our hearts need desperately to hear.
Here are a few ways I’ve trained my ears to listen:
One-on-one: My personal time with the Lord is not always exciting or necessarily stimulating. It is, however, always meaningful once I’ve given Him my full attention. I’ve learned to take a few minutes to clear out my personal space—literally and figuratively—in order that I can fix my eyes on Him. I keep my day planner handy and write down anything that distracts me so I can re-focus again. At times He speaks through the stillness and quiet when I take up a comfy chair in my house and read His Word. As often as I can, I drain the cares of my days while I soak in my bathtub. My favourite times are while I’m walking. I call them “power” walks. Sometimes I can hardly keep up with the Lord as He begins to speak. Before I know it I’ll be running home to take dictation and transcribe those things He’s spoken into my heart before I forget them.
Creation: Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (NIV) There is something about being outside—by a body of water, walking along a nature path, or heading for the hills or mountains—that allows God to speak to me, wash over me, and fill me with the wonder of His presence. I have created my own little haven of rest in my backyard, including a fountain and a swing. There, in my garden “He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I’m His own (Lyrics from “In the Garden”).
Corporate Worship: The Lord has been known to step into my personal space in my church pew or a corporate gathering to strike a chord in my heart either through the presentation of His Word or the lyrics of a song. Sometimes it’s as I partake in communion with Him, remembering His sacrificial love for me. Other times it’s through a personal testimony.
Wherever you choose to listen to the Lord, take my advice. When He’s trying to get your attention, stop, look, and listen to His voice. Better yet, don’t wait until He’s trying to get your attention. Give it to Him. Train your ears to listen for His still small voice. It will likely be a whisper meant for your ears only. And you don’t want to miss it!
Isaiah 50:4: _ The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed._ (NIV)
Straight from the Heart,
About this Contributor:
Lisa Elliott is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple and Dancing in the Rain. Additionally, she has written articles for Just Between Us Magazine and devotionals for theStory. She and her pastor-husband, David, have four children (3 on earth, 1 in heaven) and serve the Lord together in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
To book Lisa for a weekend retreat or day conference contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org