Hearing God’s voice: an exercise

June 8, 2010

I had an unexpected exercise today in listening to the Holy Spirit.

At work, we have a koi pond. I sometimes go and spend a few minutes there, relaxing, meditating, praying. I usually go as I walk from a morning meeting held in another building.

As I left the meeting today, I really needed to go to the bathroom. So I was going to hurriedly walk back to my building, skipping the pond. When suddenly, I heard a voice in my head: “Go to the pond.”

We expect the Spirit of God to lead us — and sometimes, to speak to us.

Did you know that Jesus promised “the gift of the Holy Spirit” to his followers? To put it a weird way, I suppose you could say we are possessed. We cannot live the Christian life otherwise; as Jesus Manifesto puts it, “Jesus Christ could not be a ‘successful’ Christian, and He admitted it.” From the Vineyard church, I learned that Jesus did all he did not from his divine nature, but by being filled with the Spirit, obeying the leading of the Father. We are to do the same. Naturally supernatural, we expect the Spirit of God to lead us — and sometimes, to speak to us.

If you have never heard God speak to you, here’s the quick rundown: I do not mean a literal voice. (Very few people have had that experience.) I mean that voice inside your head that sounds a lot like your own voice. It is very close to your imagination, because the realm of imagination and creativity is the realm of the prophetic, where God speaks. The only way to get better at distinguishing between that voice and your own is through practice. Usually, it’s sort of muddled.

But once in a while, it is as clear as a verbal conversation…

I heard the inner voice say, “Go to the pond.”

“What?” I replied.

“Go to the pond.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I have something to show you.”

“But I really have to pee.” Remember, when I go to the pond, I usually spend a little time there.

Then came the surprising response: “It’s OK, this won’t take long.”

So off I trotted, wondering what all this was about. I wondered how long it would take, since God might show me something but I could easily miss it — especially because my bladder was putting a clear time constraint on this detour.

I reached the pond, and gasped.

blue heron

Photo by Mike Baird (license)

There, capturing my attention in the center of the pond, was a fantastic bird. A blue heron! (Much like the photo above.)

I laughed. I did not stay long, of course. But as I hurried on, I quickly called Kay to tell her about this odd experience. I said, “Remember, we used to call this sort of thing ‘close guidance.'” (That was our term for specific instructions, like “Turn left.”)

She said, “It sounds like God gave you a practicum.”

Huh. A training exercise. We used to have these fairly often during seasons of heightened awareness of God’s presence and activity. I wonder what might be coming next.

Have you ever experienced “close guidance”?

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

20 responses to Hearing God’s voice: an exercise

  1. Thanks for the Creative use of my Heron image at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/490786503/ here at http://www.blogoneanother.com/2010/06/hearing-gods-voice-an-exercise.html where you craft a nice message – I’m glad my photo helped you reach your audience.

  2. Jon:
    Your post is so instructive on many levels:
    Fathers do the very kind of thing you experienced: “Hey come look at this, it’s cool!” So many believers forget that He’s a loving Dad–what Father doesn’t delight in showing his kids cool stuff?
    You heard the sound of his voice, and your decision to obey positioned you to see what he had for you. Obedience isn’t about following rules, it’s about positioning ourselves to partner with God.
    And–what if you imagined the whole “voice” thing? So what? You were willing to take action based on his voice. I believe that God appreciates a willing heart, even if we “get it wrong.” You were exercising yourself in cooperation with the Father.
    Thanks for posting this, (and nice picture, Mike)

  3. Mark Duhrkoop June 9, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Once when asked to move up my plan for when I would leave for a mission trip, I responded with the usual I’ll pray about it. Not 20 minutes later in my daily devotions I was in Hebrews Chapter 3…”Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” and for a hard head like mine, it’s repeated just in case I didn’t get it the first time!

  4. Nice bro! Once I was driving home as a storm was coming up. I looked at our capitol building in down town Little Rock and thought how cool it would be to have a straight on shot with lighting hitting in the background. As I’m driving I “heard” God say “turn left on Capitol” and after a quick argument because I was running late to get home, (I did not have to pee by the way…) I relented and turned. I went through about 3 blocks and just before a 4 way God said “get your camera ready” (I’m a photojournalist) so I rolled through that stop to the next with my camera up and even got the settings to where I thought I could be ready for anything. Next block another 4 way and I had camera held halfway to eye and prefocused on the building ahead just in case something happened… just as my wheels stopped lighting began hitting behind the capitol and crawling above the sky right in front of me! I fired away and got about 4 or 5 frames of the one of the craziest “close guidance” moments of my life. I was shaking and felt like I was in a dream as I glanced around to see if I was the only one who saw it. I think I may have been, at least on that street, going that way after business hours. I quickly scrolled through the images I just captured and not a one of them showed the lighting… I guess God just wanted me to see He could do it and watch it together with Him. While I was bummed I had no proof of the event, God and I had a good laugh over it and it was one more “blue heron” moment to remind me that He is God and can direct me as He chooses.

  5. By the way, did you make it to the potty in time?

  6. Mike, thank you for sharing the gifts God has given you through Creative Commons!

  7. Ray,
    Exactly, it felt just like, “Come look at this, it’s cool!”
    My daughter asked, “So… there was no deep spiritual meaning. Was it symbolic?”
    “No,” I replied, “It was just a big bird!”
    Just as those companies that do a good job of encouraging innovation, I think we need to be willing to “get it wrong.” John Wimber said faith is spelled r-i-s-k.

  8. Mark,
    That’s like an unplanned Lectio Divina! One of the things I think we can trust God for is to know how to get through our hard heads. 🙂

  9. Guy, that’s a neat (and kind of funny) story. And I think you’ve just coined a new phrase for me: a “blue heron” moment. I like it!

  10. You be glad to know…

  11. I find myself to be what I’ve labelled as a “practical christian”.
    In other words I don’t get / don’t hear / don’t distinguish the voice or prompting of God. I used to get real bummed out by it and spent many a moon asking God to “fix it”. Instead I’ve noted that my talent is that I spot practical needs and service those – and let’s face it, we all need folks to do the hands on dirty stuff and we all need folks to do the praying or listening or …. point being we all have different uses I guess.
    I 99.9% of the time see God’s hand in something after the event. I’ve pretty much accepted that this is the way it’s going to be for me but from time to time I ask again or seek to read a book / blog post / etc that may give me that Eureka moment.

  12. Stuart, thank you for the gentle reminder that any single experience is not normative. I have been in situations of crazy Holy Spirit stuff, with people falling all over the place and some having visions… and others, right there, quite unaffected and feeling left out.
    One of the problems with the charismatic renewal was a sense of elitist pride, a declaration that “we have it.” One way to avoid that may be to take contextualization to the limit: smaller, smaller, until you reach a single individual. The question then becomes, “Hello. What is God up to here, and what unique facet of his nature is being revealed? Let’s partner with that. Oh, and join it to other facets. Cool, check it out!”
    So I encourage you to keep asking for more of what the Lord has for you. Which may be unlike what he has for anyone else.

  13. You are correct. It takes long time to recognize God’s voice. However, the best teacher is the Holy Spirit. I find it easier to hear God speak when I pray and expect to get something or a respond. Sometime also depends on the urgency of the circumstances. He speaks to us real audible voice. The best way to test the voice with from God or other sources is to be still and see how you feel. If your spirit not at peace it is probably not from God. I am building this website http://www.hear-god.com to share my testimony to help hear the voice of God and recognize. Be Blessed mike! I love the above instructions.

  14. This happens to me quite often. One way I’ve learned to distinguish God’s voice from my own will is asking myself, “Do I really want to do this?” If the choice were left up to me, I would bypass the pond for the potty. I also ask God to show me clearly if it is Him or maybe some false pride creeping up in me. He has always been faithful to show me the way.
    One caveat though: please do not try to conjure these experiences (or any other spiritual experience such as tongues, dreams, visions, etc.), to make them happen. Then the line has been crossed from God communing with us (prayer, by the way, is still the best way) to a sort-of pious witchcraft.

  15. Oh yes, expectancy is a big key!
    And then, to test things as you describe.
    These are good tips!

  16. Your test is very useful and practical.
    And you’re right, the difference between relationship and magic is that magic is about manipulation and control. Humility is another big difference.

  17. This is quite interesting. I had a similar experience a decade ago, when I took a shortcut between buildings, past a drainage trench, and saw a white heron. With the misty fog, it was quite beautiful.
    There is a rhythm of God – a mix of schedule rhythm and “algo-rhythm” (a spiritual depth that happens after a necessary set of events and relationships). It helps to get in tune with the rhythms.

  18. Good thoughts on rhythms, Mike — something for me to meditate on.
    “Algo-rhythm” is a curious word!

  19. > “Algo-rhythm” is a curious word!
    It’s a takeoff on algorithm – from my hi-tech days. Some stuff is scheduled – like a big trade show. Other stuff is based on a sequence of events, hence, the project progress is algorithmic, not scheduled.

  20. Here is an interesting documentary on the subject.
    It’s about a man who hears voices and obeys.
    It’s called: The Voice
    What do you think of this guy?