Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
Happy November. Can you believe it? Before we get started with our conversation today, I wanted to let you know that I know the holiday season can be hard sometimes. Maybe it’s the first year without the presence of a loved one, or maybe all the chaos or contention in your family weighs heavily on your heart, and you’re just not sure you’re ready to gather together with them. Maybe you are struggling with anxiety or depression. Or maybe you have felt that invitation from God to finally deal with the trauma or loss you are carrying around. And you’re ready. You’re ready to take it to God and let Him heal some of those broken pieces inside you.
Invitation to Journal Gently
If that’s the case, I want to personally invite you to join me for the Journal Gently program. I know not all of you were able to join when I launched it back in August. Maybe the timing wasn’t quite right, or you didn’t think you’d be able to fully participate in it, to give it the time and attention it deserved. And I totally get that and respect your decision in that. And that’s why I have changed it so that you can start anytime.
Journal Gently would be especially helpful as we prepare to enter the holiday season because it is a program designed to help you process your grief and trauma together with God. Each week, you receive a short audio training, a short reading, and some options for writing exercises. You complete the work when it works for you—so you can do it all at once within an hour or two, or you can spread it throughout the week, doing the audio training one day, the reading on another, and the writing prompts a few days later.
The cool thing about Journal Gently is that you get 1:1 private access to me via email. So it doesn’t matter when others start or where they are at in the journey. You start when it’s right for you and I’ll walk with you through the process as your personal spiritual director and writing guide. There are questions each week you can respond to, or you can simply share your own insights or reflections. You also have the chance to ask any questions you have. I am there to support you in any way I can. Share as much as you want to, or keep it to yourself. That’s okay, too. Whatever you are most comfortable with.
You can learn more about the program and sign up at lovedoesthat.org/journalgently.
Plus, as a podcast listener, I have a special coupon for you to save $30 on registration now until the end of the year. [Must listen to the podcast for the code. 😉 ]
And if you’re interested in Journal Gently but feel like you need a payment plan, I’ve got you covered for that, too. When you check out, you’ll be redirected to PayPal. There is an option in PayPal to “pay later” and that will help you set up a payment option. Now, that is entirely between you and PayPal, so make sure you understand the plan, but it is there if you need it, okay?
If you have any questions at all, if you’re not sure if this is a good fit for you right now or not, then please don’t hesitate to email me. You can reach me at email@example.com. Remember, my name is spelled K-A-R-I.
Posturing Your Heart to Hear from God
Okay, now I am excited to be back with you today because I have something kind of special to share with you. You see, back in September, we went through a 4-part series about posturing our hearts to hear from God, and each heart posture started with the letter R.
The first R was ready. We talked about getting ready to meet with God—creating a physical space to have some time alone with Him but also creating an inner space and preparing our hearts to hear from Him.
The second R was recognize. We talked about recognizing God’s voice, His presence, His invitation to you in that moment. What does God have to say to you?
The third R was receive. This was about receiving that truth, that promise, that invitation from Him. Accepting it, believing it.
And the fourth R was respond. We want to respond with obedience. Was there something God invited us to do? Did we do it? Did we demonstrate our trust or faith or surrender somehow?
If you missed any of those, definitely go back and listen. They are episodes 82 through 85.
But while I tried to be practical and specific, I know that sometimes, these things can be hard to understand unless you have an example to flesh it out a little bit.
I also know that one of the things you all ask about a lot is knowing if you’re hearing God’s voice or not. How do you know it’s Him? How do you know it’s not your own thoughts?
So when I experienced something recently, I knew I wanted to share it with you because it would demonstrate what I mean by these heart postures: ready, recognize, receive, and respond.
Again, I share this only as an example. God speaks to each of us personally and I’m sure that as I relay this tale to you, it will remind you of some of the promptings you’ve received in your own spirit. I often call those “sacred nudges”—invitations from God to believe something or do something.
So, what happened?
A couple of weeks ago, I sat down at my computer to listen to the recording from an online retreat I was participating in. This was from a woman I highly respect and I knew it would be so very good. The theme of the retreat was both inspirational and challenging, but I was ready for it, eager to dive in.
Plus, as someone who loves to learn and gather resources to pass along to others, I was excited to experience the retreat. Because I don’t recommend resources to others unless I’ve reviewed it or read it or gone through it first. So in my different roles over the past several years as youth director or children’s ministries director or Bible study teacher, or now as a spiritual director, I’ve always been on the lookout for godly and biblical resources to share.
Now, this particular retreat consisted of three different sessions, and I was just sitting down to the first one. I had my computer open, ready to take notes (because I can type faster than I can write), and I was eager to catch specific Scripture references or phrases or instructions for the reflection time.
And this is exactly what I do. I sit through the first half of the session avidly taking notes and capturing as much detail as I possibly can.
And then I get it—that sacred nudge. That little whisper in my mind:
“This isn’t for them. It’s for you.”
It wasn’t an audible voice. But it was a phrase that got stuck in my heart, and I couldn’t let it go. Any time I kept trying to take notes, it came to the forefront of my mind.
“This isn’t for them. It’s for you.”
It was a gentle, yet firm invitation from God to simply receive this retreat for me. For my own heart. For my own relationship with Him. And not try to listen only for the sake of passing it along to others.
And so for the rest of that first session, and for the two following it, I kept my computer put away and took notes only as God prompted, writing them by hand in my journal.
Walking Through the Four Heart Postures
So let’s take a few minutes and walk through those four heart postures to see how this experience demonstrates them.
First is getting ready, both the physical space and my heart. Now, physically speaking, I was alone in my office and knew I wouldn’t be distracted. So in that way, I was ready to hear from God. But my heart and mind were more focused on gathering information, not on meeting with God.
Now, in that episode on getting ready, and in some retreats I’ve led, I’ve tried to be clear that while we want to make sure we are preparing ourselves to meet with Him and hear from Him, God is bigger than that, and He can speak to us whether we are ready or not. And that is so incredibly gracious of Him, is it not?
It’s just easier to hear Him, to recognize Him, when we’re listening for Him. It’s like, when you’re looking at a specific bird, it’s easier to hear when it’s singing and what its song sounds like. If you’re just sitting outside and doing something else, you may not hear the bird at all, even if it’s making noise right next to you. Does that make sense?
So I’m grateful that in my half-hearted readiness, God still whispered to my heart.
Second is recognizing God’s presence and voice. As I said, in this case, it felt like a sacred nudge, a little whisper, that said, “This is not for them. It’s for you.”
It was a repeated phrase. Something that wasn’t just there once and disappeared, but one that stuck with me.
It stuck with me because it was convicting.
It was a mirror, of sorts, that revealed to me my motivation for participating in the retreat. And to point out that while the motivation wasn’t sinful, necessarily, it wasn’t where my heart needed to be.
God wanted me seeking after Him.
Now, if you’re a leader in any sense—if you teach a class at church or volunteer for a ministry or local organization or serve as a coach or anything like that—you might experience, like I sometimes do, that you’re often the one leading. That there aren’t as many opportunities for you to sit and receive from others. Not that they don’t exist, but they can be harder to find or you might need to be more intentional about asking others to mentor you or coach you or things like that.
And so now that I’m back in a season of leading and teaching and caring for others, it seemed to me that God saw my desire to be in the student’s seat, per se. And that this was an opportunity to do just that—I didn’t see it yet. I was trying to use it for something else.
“This is not for them. It’s for you.”
It was an invitation from God to not listen for ideas or inspiration or for what I might be able to pass along to others, but to simply receive it for me. To let God speak to my heart. To open myself up to hear what He might have to say.
Part of how I know this was God, too, was because I experienced what 2 Corinthians chapter 7 calls “godly sorrow.” It led me to confess my error to God and then repent. I didn’t feel condemned or guilty. I felt convicted. There’s a difference.
So that was recognizing God’s invitation to me to partake in the retreat for myself, not for what I might pass on to others. The third part is to receive, to receive what God has for you.
Now, I’ll be honest and say that part of this was hard for me to receive because (1) I like to take notes, (2) I don’t like to have unfinished notes, and (3) I knew there was a limited time to view the video recordings, so I wouldn’t have a chance to watch again and take notes. You guys, I literally have hundreds of pages of notes on my computer from different trainings I’ve participated in or books I’ve read.
And so part of me resisted. I tried to keep taking notes. It is one way I learn, after all. But I just didn’t feel at peace with it. About halfway through that first session, I finally put my computer away.
And that’s where we get to the response. I obeyed. I acted in a way that demonstrated my receiving that invitation from God.
Instead of taking notes on my computer, where I could capture a lot of ideas and phrases word for word, I switched to taking notes by hand, where I could only write down the big idea.
Instead of listening for things for other people, I asked God to open my heart and speak to me. To help me hear what He had for me.
And if I found my heart and mind wondering, I would try to pause and refocus before continuing on.
What I Want You to Know
My friends, that’s just one example of what it might be like to hear from God and respond to His invitation to you.
And I want you to realize, it doesn’t always have to be some big revelation that we receive from God, some life-changing invitation to do something. It can be something seemingly small.
For me, it was entering into the retreat in a different way.
In other cases, it might be the way we’re talking to our spouse, or the nudge to turn the music off in the car so we can talk to God, or to send a note to a friend.
It might be to ask your kids to play a game with you, or to serve your family by cooking their favorite meal even though you’re tired.
It might be to take 5 minutes of your lunch break and step outside to simply “be” with God for a few minutes. Or to read a book. Or take a nap. Or to paint.
These are ordinary, everyday things. But they can all be sacred nudges or invitations from God, if only we have the ears to hear.
And the more we receive and respond to those invitations, the more likely we are to keep hearing them.
How does God speak to you? Go back and listen to those episodes, numbers 82 through 85, and work through any of the exercises.
And then let me know—where have you sensed God’s invitations to you recently? Really, I would love it if you would email me or send me a message and let me know. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Where have you sensed His presence? Where have you felt those sacred nudges? How did you respond?
As we share these stories with one another, we build one another up, encouraging one another to keep listening for God—and to keep responding to His invitations through obedience.
Now, don’t forget, you can now jump into the Journal Gently program at any time. Just go to lovedoesthat.org/journalgently for the details.
Okay, that is all for today, my friends. Thank you so much for being here with me and allowing me to share that experience with you. Until next time… let’s encourage one another.
- Episode 82: Posturing Your Heart to Hear from God, Part 1: Ready
- Episode 83: Posturing Your Heart to Hear from God, Part 2: Recognize
- Episode 84: Posturing Your Heart to Hear from God, Part 3: Receive
- Episode 85: Posturing Your Heart to Hear from God, Part 4: Respond
- Episode 24: An Example in Spiritual Discernment and Decision Making: Going “All In” With Love Does That
Learn more and register for Journal Gently, an 8-week program designed to help you use writing as a way to process hurt, grief, and trauma with God.