No More Guilt-induced Doubt

Welcome Encouragement for Today friends! I’m so glad you stopped by. You can enter today’s drawing at the bottom of this post. And if you’d like to hear about upcoming giveaways or more confessions from an imperfect woman in desperate need of grace,
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Sometimes I wonder how I can go from being in such a good place with Godfeeling peaceful, loving and patient.. but then something happens that sends me into an orbit of aggravation!! 

It happened just the other day…

Things were going well. I’d had a lovely afternoon working from home. Alone. Life was peachy.

But then school got out and kids came home. Within 15 minutes of arrival, one of my boys did something and said something that wasn’t so peachy. Then he did NOT do something I’d asked him to do and let’s just say… I lost all my peace and patience right there in the middle of my kitchen.

I was not And I let my precious boy know it in a not-so-nice kind of way.

Then I felt GUILTY and like the WORST MOM on the planet.

For a few minutes I was pretty sure that’s exactly how God wanted me to feel ~ so I wouldn’t act so ugly the next time. 

But finally, after I’d almost convinced myself that I was the worst mom and had no business in ministry, I remembered something a pastor said about the difference between conviction and condemnation. He explained it like this:

Condemnation sweeps across our thoughts with generalized statements such as, You’re such a failure, You’re so hypocritical, or You can never be counted on. That is the accuser. His tone is condemning, questioning, and confusing. His accusations lead to guilt and shame.

But the Holy Spirit’s conviction will be specific. He will reveal a sinful action or attitude and instruct us on what we need to do to right the wrong: whether it’s restoring a broken relationship or returning something that isn’t ours. He’ll give us steps we need to take to change our behavior or attitude.

•       Instead of You’re such a failure as a [wife, mom, daughter, friend], the Spirit might say, You were really critical the way you talked to _________ (your husband, child, parent, etc). You need to say you are sorry and ask for forgiveness. Then tell them something that will build them up instead of tearing them down.

•       Instead of You’re so hypocritical, the Spirit might say, You judge others for gossiping, but you are doing the same thing when you talk about your neighbor at work. Tomorrow at lunch break, apologize for what you said and share a few things that are positive about her.

•       Instead of You can never be counted on, the Spirit might say, You didn’t keep your promise to go see your mom today. Call her to apologize and maybe set up a lunch date for this weekend.

Satan condemns accusingly, to make us feel guilty. God convicts lovingly, to lead our hearts to repentance. {tweet this?}

Jesus’ convictios draws us away from destructive behavior that hinders our relationship with Him and with others. His goal is to bring us out of the darkness of sin and back into the Light, so we can walk with Him in the freedom of forgiveness and the confidence of His love.

The next time we blow it or lose it, let’s ask Jesus to replace our guilt-induced doubt with HIS grace-infused confidence, as we hold onto the promise that His grace is sufficient because His power is made perfect in our weakness. 

Swope_ConfHeartDevo_3DsmIf my P31 devotion or blog post resonated with you today, I hope you’ll ENTER TO WIN a copy of my new Confident Heart Devotional. I truly believe the stories and truths in it will change your life {like they have mine}!  

 Based on honest struggles we all have with comparison, self-doubt, fear of failing, and the life-changing lessons God’s taught me and ten other women, {whose stories are in the book} you will discover how to change the way you feel by changing the way you think – which will transform the way you live! 

Expanding on what readers of my first book LOVED most: “When I say … God says …” statements, I’ve written 60 new devotions and new {WISGS} statements to equip you with a new a thought map and a promise – to live in every day! 

ENTER TO WIN (This giveaway has ended, but I’d still love to hear from you!)

: Click “Share Your Thoughts” below and do just that to enter to win one of three copies of my devotional book, and a $15 P31 Online Store gift certificate today!

****If you are reading this via email, click here to return to my blog and be part of the giveaway. {Your comment mus be left below this post to enter. Thanks!}

Becoming a Woman Who Listens to God

Welcome Confident Heart Online Study  and Encouragement for Today friends!! If you’re new here, welcome!

On Sunday, I started an online study of my book, A Confident Heart and I’d love to have you join us! (Click here for more details).

One of the first things I learned, when it came to overcoming self-doubts and living in the security of God’s promises , is that we have to recognize and listen to God’s voice. It’s also the topic of my P31 devotion today.  Here’s a little more about where my “listening to God” story came to a turning point. At the end I share “How to Discern God’s Voice” and a give-away.


I sat on looking out the window, wondering what the future held. My excitement, mixed with the fear of getting over-committed, ignited a rapid firing of thoughts: What would I say yes or no to? What was God calling me to do? How would I figure out His plans and purpose for my schedule?

Wondering and worrying wasn’t getting me anywhere, so I wrote questions in a notebook: “Lord, what should I say yes to? Where do You want me to spend my time? Will You please show me Your plans for me this coming year?”

I wanted a sneak peek into God’s calendar so I could adjust mine. Instead, I sensed Him telling me not to worry about tomorrow but to live each day in the hear and now. {And He even spelled it that way.}

I did okay when it came to obeying God in the obvious things. It was selfless acts of obedience that challenged me most. But that day, I made a commitment to live in the “hear” and now.

A few weeks after, I noticed my husband’s side of the closet was a mess. Immediately I thought about how J.J. enjoys “order” although it’s not his natural inclination. Then I sensed God whispering, “One way you could really love J.J. would be to organize his side of the closet.”

I wish I could say I obeyed. Instead, I argued: “He’s a grown man; he can organize his own side of the closet. I have two kids, two dogs and myself to keep up with. Have you seen our garage and attic, Lord?”

“Did you hear Me? Are you going to obey Me now?” God’s Spirit nudged.

How did I know it was God? you might ask. Well, I knew it wasn’t my idea.

Just that week I’d read the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, and recognized myself in the third servant. He hadn’t been entrusted with much so he buried his talent in the ground. I always assumed since he wasn’t faithful with it because he thought his Master wouldn’t notice.

Sometimes I saw my role as a wife, mom and friend as “average” one-talent kind of assignments. Plenty of people have the same responsibilities, I thought. Without realizing it, I let myself slip into being selfish and impatient here and there. But God wanted my willingness in every area of my life – hear and now – acting on His promptings throughout my day.

Jesus said, My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27 (NIV) And the more we listen to and obey God, the more familiar His voice becomes.

Obedience means exchanging our will for His.

So, why does God wants moment-by-moment, day-by-day obedience? Because He loves us and wants us to trust Him.

God is so patient as we learn to trust Him. And we discover over time that it’s in our relationship with Him, we find the purpose, direction and meaning we’re looking for. When we live in the “hear and now” our calling and our calendar begin to reflect our love for Him, and His love for us — not our need for fulfillment or the desire for others’ approval and acceptance.

Dear Jesus, am I living and listening the way You want me to? Sometimes I fall into the trap of waiting for a better tomorrow or an easier assignment so that I can be faithful. Help me trust You. I want to but sometimes I’m afraid. Give me courage to listen and follow You with all my heart! Amen

PS. I reorganized JJ’s side of the closet ,and  I’m almost sure I heard God chuckle and felt the warmth of His smile. May He smile on you today as you commit to live in the hear and now – acting on what you hear and living it out now.         


Discerning God’s Voice

Here are a few questions we can ask. When I sense God speaking, whether it be through scripture, an impression on my heart, circumstances or through His spirit in me, I always look for Biblical consistency:

  • Is it consistent with God’s Word and God’s ways?
  • Is it consistent with wise Biblical counsel I’ve sought?
  • Is it consistent with God’s leading through doors He’s opened and closed?
  • Is there a consistent theme I’m seeing in my life or hearing during my personal Bible study time, through sermons, Christian songs, conversations, etc?

Recognizing God’s ways and God’s will comes as we spend more and more time in His word. All of us have different things that draw us closer to Jesus, and here is one practical thing that helps me: watching the Gospel of John movie on DVD. It makes Jesus, His words, the people and the stories He lived in come to life in a powerful way. After watching it, when I read my Bible I can see Him and hear Him. Which makes me want to spend more and more time with Him, which helps me know Him and recognize His voice more clearly.


So, what is one thing you could do to become more familiar with God’s voice?

Let me know by clicking “Share Your Thoughts” below and you’ll be entered to win my “Listening to God” gift pack which includes a copy of the Gospel of John movie on DVD, my book A Confident Heart and my message on CD, Rest Assured: How to Rest, Be Renewed & Remain in God’s Promises and Plans

Also, if you want to join my online study, please click here for more details. I just found a deal this week for those who can’t afford the book and shipping. Amazon has the Ebook for $8.99 and they offer FREE Kindle for your PC software! So, you only have to pay $8.99 and the book downloads onto your computer! Email if you want more details about that deal!

(If you are reading this post in an email, click here to return to my website to enter your comment into the drawing.)

Discerning God Voice – Part 2

Welcome “Made to Crave” webcast friends! I pray God encouraged you tonight through Lysa’s message, Dr. Chilton’s nuggets of eating and exercise wisdom, or something JJ and I shared about our “cravings” that are drawing us closer to God and each other. If you missed the webcast, you can watch it Tuesday at 12, 3, 8 and 10pm EST here.

Today, I’m continuing my mini-series on listening to God and discerning His voice. Tuesday JJ and I will be taking questions and then Wednesday we’ll be sharing more about journey ing together through Made to Crave.


Years ago, my friend Melissa learned a powerful lesson about discerning God’s voice. It happened on the soccer field one afternoon.
Melissa’s son Hayden was really good at playing offense on his soccer team, and loved to score goals. But, although he was good at scoring goals, his coach recognized that Hayden was even better at defending the goal.

It was the last game of the season, and Hayden’s coach had decided to put him on defense for the majority of the game. As the game came down to the final minutes the score was very close. Every one was excited, and many of the parents became a little vocal, to say the least.

At this point Melissa noticed the coach was shouting to Hayden “Back up and play your position.” While another adult yelled, “Kick the ball and follow through!” Then another said, “Come on, number 9, chase the ball, go for the goal, move up, go right, you can get it.”

The coach, beginning to get impatient, said “Come on, Hayden, listen to me.”

Melissa noticed a look of extreme frustration on Hayden’s face, and she knew something was wrong. When the game ended, Melissa called Hayden over to the side and asked him what was wrong. He simply replied, “I couldn’t make up my mind who to listen to. I couldn’t tell which one was the coach’s voice.”

This is one of our biggest struggles in discerning God’s voice. We are bombarded by voices all day. Some are audible voices, but others are non-stop choices and unending noises. Decisions and concerns. Discouragement and doubt. Desires and dreams.

If we want to hear God speak, we have to slow down, look God in the face and become so familiar with His voice that we can recognize it in a crowd…a crowd of thoughts. A crowd of emotions. A crowd of confusion. A crowd of great options and big decisions.

That is what Hayden would have had to do to determine which one was his coach’s voice. Are you willing to do that?

Are you willing to spend time with Him, reading, talking, listening and letting Him whisper to your heart? Are you willing to turn off your computer, radio or t.v. and give some of your undivided attention to Him so He can give His undevided attention to you? Are you willing to let Him replace your thoughts with His by just being still and writing down what you sense He’s whispering to your soul?

When you do, you’ll become familiar with His heart. You’ll begin to know His character and concerns. And you will learn to recognize His voice over all the others. But it will take time.

Sweet friends, there are no short-cuts to the deepest desires of our hearts. We long to hear God and He longs to speak to us.

All of us have different things that draw us closer to Jesus, and there are two practical things that help me: reading through the gospel of John very slowly each year and watching the Gospel of John movie on DVD. The movie was in theaters a few years ago and it was breath-taking. It makes Jesus, His words, the people and the stories He lived in come to life in a powerful way. Now, after watching it, when I read my Bible I can see Him and hear Him. Which makes me want to spend more and more time with Him, which helps me know Him and recognize His voice more clearly.

So, what is one thing you will do this week to become more sensitive to and familiar with your Coach’s voice so you can recognize it in the crowd?

Let me know your plans, thoughts or questions, and I’ll enter ou into my give away that includes a copy of the Gospel of John movie on DVD.


The winner of last week’s give-away for Lysa TerKeurst’s book
What Happens When Women Say Yes to God is MARY.

How Do I Know if it’s God Speaking to Me?

UPDATE: Hi sweet friends! You moved me with your response to my devotion and your stories, questions and more. I’ve been praying for you as I read your comments. So many thoughts rush into my mind – things I’d love for us to process together. Please know I haven’t forgotten to come back and write more. Unfortunately, I caught my 2yr old’s cold and it slowed everything down. I’m better now but I have a project due to my publisher today for my book. With the weekend coming, let’s plan on meeting here Monday. And I’ll announce the winner of the book then too! If you haven’t entered to win, read this post and you’ll know what to do!


I’ve got a devotion today over at P31 and Crosswalk about becoming a woman who listens to God. If you’d like to read it, click here. In it, I shared how I used to wonder if I was hearing God’s voice or just my thoughts. Does that ever happen to you?

Well, before we jump into our talk about listening, I first wanted to “welcome” any new friends who are visiting for the first time from Encouragement for Today. We’re glad you’re here and hope you’ll stay a while! There is always a place for you.

One thing that helped me listen to God was learning how to capture my run-away thoughts that caused me to doubt my ability to discern God’s voice. Several years ago, I came up with a few questions I ask myself when I sense God is speaking to me, whether it be through scripture, an impression on my heart, circumstances or through His spirit in me. I always look for Biblical consistency:

  • Is it consistent with God’s Word and God’s ways?
  • Is it consistent with wise Biblical counsel I’ve sought?
  • Is it consistent with God’s leading through doors He’s opened and closed?
  • Is there a consistent theme I’m seeing in my life or hearing during my personal Bible study time, through sermons, Christian songs, conversations, etc?


There is a little more I wanted to share about increasing our confidence in our ability to recognize and respond to God’s voice, but I’m having technical difficulties as I try to pre-load this. So I’m pasting in the give-away I promised below, and will work on the rest behind the scenes. I’ll try to have it loaded later on Weds. Aster is home so I never know how my plans will go :-). Be sure to come back for more encouragement. I’ll add to this and leave the post up until Friday when I announce the winner!


If you want to become a woman who listens to God, and discover the adventure of faith He has for your life, you will want to read Lysa TerKeurst’s book What Happens When Women Say Yes to God.

Today, I’m giving a copy away to one of you! Enter to win by clicking on the word “comments‘ right below this post and share your thoughts or questions about listening to God. Please include your email or friend me on Facebook so we can let you know if you win.

After you’ve entered to win, click here to download a great FREE resource from Lysa’s book with more ways to hear and discern God’s voice.

**To find out when this post is updated and to see if you are the winner, be sure to link up in the Google Friend Connect box orbecome a friend on Facebook!

Last Week’s Winners

Thanks so much to all of you who joined in our conversation about Listening to God. If you missed it click here and here. I’m enjoying reading through your thoughts and questions again, and will be sharing more of mine on this topic in the coming weeks.

Sorry it took me a while to announce our recent winners. I wanted to allow time for sign ups and then I got sick, had a field trip to chaperone and Thanksgiving came! I forgot that I’d forgotten which is a little typical these days. So, here I am with a list of the “week before Thanksgiving” winners:

The winner of Lysa TerKeurst’s book What Happens When Women Say Yes to God is Sasha Young.




The winner of my new message on CD, entitled Rest Assured isKelly Pruitt.

Do you long to find peace for your anxious heart and purpose for your busy life? Jesus invites us to come to Him with our worries that make us weary and learn to live in the power of His promises and the assurance of His plans. This message will help you rest mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally as you learn to exchanged fear-filled thinking with faith-filled believing and peace-filled living!

The winner of It’s No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know byRachel Olsen is Holly Townsend.


Be sure to join me next week for more encouragement and some great Christmas give-aways! And if you want to make sure you don’t miss a thing, be sure to subscribe to my updates via email in my sidebar, link up in the Google Friend Connect box or become a friend on Facebook!

Discerning God’s Voice

Let’s keep talking about listening to God today. In case you wonder why there are food photos on my blog, it’s because God’s been talking to me in the kitchen lately – showing me things about myself that I didn’t know. Like the fact that I’ve been held back for years by my tendency to avoid chopping fresh vegetables.

See these three guys? They intimidate me.

Many recipes have never graced my kitchen because of them. But recently the cooker “wanna-be” in me decided she was “gonna be” after I posted about myRed Beans & Rice fiasco 17 years ago! The very next day I saw this recipe online:

Crockpot Red Beans and Rice

  • 1 pound Dried Red Beans
  • 7 cups Water
  • 1 whole Green Bell Pepper, Chopped
  • 1 whole Onion, Chopped
  • 3 stalks Celery, Chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Finely Chopped
  • ½ pound Andouille or Polish Sausage, Sliced
  • 3 Tablespoons Creole Seasoning
  • Hot Cooked Rice

Preparation: Place all ingredients except rice in a 4-quart crock pot. Cover and cook on HIGH for 7 hours or until beans are tender. Serve with hot cooked rice and cornbread. Delicious, warm, and your man will love you forever.

I decided it was time for me to reclaim my confidence and my rightful position in the kitchen. I went shopping that very day, feeling so brave and inspired. But then I got home. My determination fizzled. Life got busy. And I couldn’t find a convenient time to cry over chopped onions. I never felt like I was in the mood to pull seeds out of the green pepper, cut the celery or face the dread of burning eyes and running mascara.

My fresh vegetables and my “gonna-be” sat in the refrigerator, getting old and brown.

Last week, I was going out of town and wanted to make a special meal for my family. But I still didn’t want to deal with the green pepper, onion and celery. Then that morning I ran by Target and happened to notice these frozen chopped onions.

Whoever came up with frozen chopped onions is my new hero! And whoever gave me that little veggie chopper I had not used in years, I love you!
Now isn’t that a beautiful sight?
Chopped celery never looked so good!
And I did a number on that green pepper too.
Just so you know, that whole onion is back in my fridge.If you live nearby, you can have it. I’m never chopping an onion again!
Not a tear was shed that day. Well, except happy tears when I served up my first successful batch of Red Beans and Rice!


And, just like the recipe said, my man was happy, too!
(Disclaimer: I found out ‘cajun’ andouille sausage is really HOT!)


So what does this have to do with listening to God and discerning His voice? Well, first don’t you just love that in the midst of ordinary life we can stop and ask God to speak to us? To show us something simple or profound…like why our hearts are in an angst or why we’re avoiding vegetables and recipes when we have all the ingredients.

That is what I did, and that day He showed me…

  • I avoid things that require something I don’t want to give.
  • Dread and procrastination makes every obstacle bigger than it has to be.
  • There are always tools and people available to help, if I ask or look for them.
  • I need to face challenges head on with more confidence and courage.
  • This lesson applies in many areas of my life.

When the answers came, I thanked God for showing them to me. How do I know it was Him? In this case, it didn’t matter. But my heart learns to trust Him more and believe that He speaks to me each time I give Him credit for giving me wisdom (James 1:5) when I ask for it.

There are times when my questions are deeper and decisions are more complicated. In those times, I have what I’ll call my “recipe for discerning God’s voice” since we’re in the kitchen today. When I sense God leading me, whether it be through an impression on my heart, circumstances or through His spirit in me, I look for Biblical consistency as the key ingredient:

  • Is it consistent with God’s Word and God’s ways?
  • Is it consistent with wise Biblical counsel I’ve sought.
  • Is it consistent with God’s leading through doors He’s opened and closed.
  • Is it there a consistent theme I’m seeing or hearing during my personal Bible study time, through sermons, Christian songs, conversations, etc.?

Hearing and discerning God’s voice is a challenge. But it is possible and He wants to speak to us. We just need to become familiar with God’s Word and His ways. We need to ask for help and look for evidence of His consistency. I have a new message on CD, called Rest Assured that I’m giving away today that could help you!

In it, I talk about what keeps us from hearing God – our worries that make us weary, our need for control and other obstacles – and how we can let go of them. By talking about them and listening to God’s perspective on them through His Word and prayer, we clear the clutter in our hearts and minds. And that is what He knows we need. He invites us to come to Him to receive rest mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. In His presence we can find His peace, hear His voice and learn to live in the power of His promises and plans.(Note: It’s not on the P31 site yet, but I’ll try to have someone load it today.)

To enter to win, click on the word “comments” right below this post, and let me know if this message “Rest Assured” is something you need, or how the “consistency” questions might help you discern God’s voice in something you are seeking Him for. I love sharing what God’s showing me but it’s even better when I get to hear and learn from each of you – so let’s talk!

And after you’ve entered to win, click here to download a great FREE resource from Lysa TerKeurst with more ways to hear and discern God’s voice.

Listening To God

Welcome friends! Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to visit. If you found your way here through my P31 Encouragement for Today devotion, “Living in the Hear and Now,” I’m so glad you stopped by. I hope you’ll stay a while and make yourself comfortable.

One of my deepest desires is to be a woman who listens to God. But, I don’t always get it right. Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s God talking or just me thinking. Ever wondered that?

I also I admit, I’m not always crazy about what I sense God telling me to do. Yet I’ve learned over the years that when I listen to God, I discover His best for me. And I grow in my trust in Him.

I’ve seen again and again that His ways lead to His goodness. And when I follow Him, His mercy follows me.

As I shared in my devotion today, I went through a season of learning how to really listen closely so that I could experience a day by day abiding in God’s presence and plans. I thought I’d been listening to Him all along, but my prayers reflected that I wanted to know where to invest my efforts. In a still small voice God showed me that He wanted my ears more than my efforts.

He was more concerned about character than my calendar. I realized that many times I’d sought God for the larger plans in life, convinced that if I figured out what He wanted me to do I could become the person He created me to be.

Have you ever thought, “If only God would show me what job to take; what man to marry; what church to attend – then my life would be complete and I could serve Him with my whole heart”?

The problem is sometimes we get a glimpse of where He wants us to go and then assume we know how to get there. I’ve made that mistake many times and then wondered why I wasn’t getting anywhere.

Jesus depended on the Father for the large and fine print written in His life plan. He listened closely and obeyed quickly. John 5:19 reflects His absolute dependence: “The Son can do nothing by Himself; he can do only what He sees the Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son does also.”

Like Jesus, we will discover God’s purpose for our lives through dependent hearts that seek to listen to His. We will find out what’s on God’s calendar and part of our calling when we live in the hear and now – listening for His voice and obeying it each day, in every here and now.

Questions to Consider

  • Do I read my Bible so that God’s words and ways are familiar to me?


  • Do I intentionally listen for God’s voice or do I assume I know what He wants me to do?
  • If God were to speak to me, would I recognize His voice? 
  • Is my mind so full of worries that my thoughts drown out the possibility of hearing God’s thoughts? 


Steps to Take

  • Take time now to quiet your heart and your thoughts.


  • Be still and acknowledge that God is God and you are not. 
  • Tell God your desire to hear Him today and then ask Him to speak to your heart. 
  • Share with Him your plans for the day and then ask Him to show you His. 
  • Give God permission to interrupt your thoughts and agenda and lead you in a different direction if He wants to. 
  • Get ready for a day filled with adventure and companionship as you walk hand in hand with your Maker.


Verses to Ponder
1 Samuel 3:10, “The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Psalm 119:16, “I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

John 14:31, “But the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”

Isaiah 55:2-3, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live….”

Isaiah 50:4, “The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.”


If you want to become a woman who listens to God, and discover the adventure of faith He has for your life, you will want to read Lysa TerKeurst’s book What Happens When Women Say Yes to God.

I’m giving a copy away to one of you this week! It’s one of my all time favorite books and it kept me inspired to keep my promise to God that I will live in the hear and now! To enter to win, click on the word “comments’ right below this post and share your thoughts or questions about listening to God. Please include your email so I can find you if you win. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Anything. Just talk to me…I’m listening :0). I love reading what you have to say!

And be sure to come back tomorrow! I’ll be talking more about listening to God and offering a great free resource to help you discern His voice from your own. If you’re new, I want you to know there’s a place for you here and I’d love for you to join us! You can subscribe to updates via email in my sidebar, link up in the Google Friend Connect box or become a friend on Facebook!

Hearing with My Heart

********** Winner announced at the end of this post ***************

The word “listen” is mentioned in the Bible over 400 times! I guess that means it’s important to God. Listening is not one of my natural strengths but it’s something I’ve really worked on because it’s important to me, too.

Listening is about more than hearing someone’s words. Listening is about hearing someone’s heart by listening with mine.

I think I’m a little A.D.D.. My thoughts go a million miles an hour in a thousand directions, and I can get easily distracted. It’s not so much that I can’t focus, but that my brain tends to focus on more than one thing at a time. My husband can’t understand how I can be on the phone talking to a friend and also hear every word he just said to one of our kids, and repeat both conversations.

When I am listening with my heart, it’s different. I am fully engaged. I am leaning in, and I am giving someone my full attention. Here are a few things I have learned about listening that have helped me become a better listener.

Minimize distractions: Turning off cell phones, computers and televisions helps us give our full attention, or talking in a place where distractions are less likely is even better.

Use encouraging body language: Nodding your head tells someone you hear what they are saying and encourages them to continue. Using postures, positions and movements similar to the person talking helps them relax and open up.

Put yourself in their shoes: Active listening is not about inward thinking. We can avoid thinking about how what they are saying impacts us personally by looking at problems from the other person’s perspective, actively trying to see his or her point of view.

Avoid Interrupting: One of the biggest challenges to listening is impulse thoughts that become impulse interruptions. Write down thoughts and wait for the other person to talk at their own pace. Although sharing a common experience can be helpful, it also takes the focus off of them. Only share personal experiences briefly to empathize but then turn the focus back to them.

Repeat and encourage: Repeat some things they say and encourage them with positive feedback. For example, you might say: “You didn’t feel like that was fair, and I can see why.” Make eye contact from time to time. It’s not good to stare, but it is good to show warmth and interest in what they are saying.

Summarize: During an in-depth conversation, it’s good to summarize what someone is saying and say it back in your own words. This assures them you have truly been listening. It also gives them a chance to correct miscommunications or wrong assumptions.

Ask Questions: Meaningful questions help a person reach their own conclusions. Towards the end of the conversation it’s good to transition to guiding questions. For example: “I understand why you didn’t feel like it was fair, but help me understand why you felt like you couldn’t say anything about it to me/them sooner.” Wording questions this way also helps someone move from an emotional response to a more constructive response.

One of the most important aspects of any relationship is communication, and listening is key. By listening with your heart, you will strengthen and build your most important relationships.

In my devotion “The Gift of Listening” featured on the P31 website and Crosswalk today, I encouraged readers to make a list of people they want to really listen to today. Who would be on your list? Here are some very practical things I do to give the gift of listening to my family each day:

  • Turn off my cell phone in the evenings
  • Limit email checking when they are home
  • Delay answering the phone during dinner and family time
  • Turn away from my desk at work when someone comes to talk with me

How does it make you feel when someone really listens to you? Did you know that when you listen to someone, you are telling them how important they are to you? Just ask them and you’ll see. That is what helped me make this a high priority in my life.

How does it make you feel to know that God is always listening and giving you His full attention because you are important to Him and the words you speak go straight to His heart?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Just click on the word “comments” below and let’s talk. I’ll be giving away a copy of my 2-part DVD teaching entitled Living and Leaving a Legacy from a drawing of those who participate in today’s blog conversation, so be sure to leave your email or check back on Thursday.

PS. If you are on Facebook, I’d love to be friends! I blog a couple of times each week, but I share daily encouragement through scriptures and everyday life lessons on FB. Simply click here or on my Facebook profile in my sidebar.

And the winner is… “Anonymous” who posted at 8:50am sharing how she could relate, statingmy 6 year old, is often saying ‘Mom – you are always on the computer'”. Random, with the help of the Holy Spirit, decided you would win my 2-part DVD teaching entitled Living and Leaving a Legacy. If that’s you, please email your name and mailing address to by Monday. ~Thanks and congrats!