Psalm 95:6-7: “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.”

It all starts with a thought. Quoting Melanie Matthews:

“Do you think about reading? What about writing? How about speaking? Do you think about listening? Well, literacy is all four of these things.”

Melanie Matthews is a District Literacy Coach at Washington-Parks Academy and Lincoln-King Academy, and she makes a point. Gaining literacy starts with a thought. We want to be able to read. We want to be able to understand written messages. Just think about the impact of reading and writing! More than an additional way to communicate, it helps us connect with people of the past and present. We can read what they wrote down and be inspired. With literacy we learn to master an entire skill-set: reading, writing, listening and speaking. As a result, a whole new world opens up.

Literacy is based on more than just one factor. So is our walk with God.

Walking with God is a multilayered affair. It starts with expecting that God has something to say. He actually weighs in to anything that matters in our lives. And listening to God’s input, we find ourselves under His care. This may come as a surprise, but truth of the matter is, God cannot care for us if we don’t listen to Him. It’s a catch-22 situation, one of these mutually conflicting conditions: we want God to care, but then we don’t care about what He has to say – well, one doesn’t go without the other.

Listening to God is the key to discovering a brand-new world: the Kingdom of God.

Listening to God, we learn the art of lending an impartial and unbiased ear. God Himself listens this way. He has no preconceived notions. He has no prejudice. Listening the God-way is worth its weight in gold in today’s world. I venture to say that the world lacks listeners, which is why it becomes increasingly illiterate. Listening and reading well ultimately leads to speaking and writing well. That’s how we make a difference.

All goodness starts with a key-thought: wanting to know God. Wanting to know Him, we’ll find Him – and finding Him we have everything.

Been listening all the night long
Been listening all the day
Will I listen for the one you know?
Will I listen, will I pray? – Johnny Flynn

James 1:22: “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”

Listening to someone may change your perspective. You might learn something entirely new!

A brief encounter of the show “Big Bang Theory” comes to mind. “What’s the gist, physicist?” Jokingly responding to a forceful knocking, Penny opens her door to listen to the answer, only to slam the door shut in the face of said physicist a brief moment later. Somebody asks a question but doesn’t really care for the answer.

Have you ever encountered a person who asks the same question in ten different ways just to get the answer that he or she desires to hear? That’s not listening for an answer, that’s suggesting one.

Preconceived notions can get in our way. Depending on how big those preconceived notions are, we need a hearing aid of sorts. The audio from other people is slightly altered because we filter the information to our liking. It’s hard to be impartial that way.

When we’re born, the first thing we do is cry. Hearing that first cry, the mother is happy that her baby is alive and healthy. Crying out comes natural to us. We all want to be heard. Listening on the other hand, not so much! Listening takes skill and expertise. We have to get out of our own way to do so. If we don’t, we’re just big babies, so-to-speak. Part of growing up is to actually become curious in what other people have to say. The more we take in, the more intricately we’re shaped, and all the more well-rounded our world view becomes.

When God addresses us personally and we get quiet enough to listen (which we’ve practiced before by learning how to impartially listen to the people around us), this has a tremendous effect on our psyche. Why? I’ve always wondered. I believe in part it has to do with the fact that God Himself is a great listener. He listens to our heart all day long. So, when He addresses us in person, the Word He has for us is something we need to hear. It will help us grow and move on. It will help us work through issues. Not to mention solace! Brokenhearted, His Word soothes our soul.

Well-received, God’s input will initiate growth, healing, and will change our outlook on things. In other words, God’s input, while invisible, visibly shapes us. We act upon it. It’s fuel in our tanks. It builds our life, our relationships.

Listening requires breaks. The United States is internationally famous for her short vacation time – which I think is really detrimental to human productivity. Appropriate breaks help us stay grounded. It’s insane to fly blind, and it’s unhealthy to live on autopilot. If day to day stuff and stressful situations engulf us and we haven’t had much time to take a break, let’s take the time! To the benefit of our heart and soul, breathe! Let the noise filter out of our heads so we become blissfully aware what our best Friend has to say to us.

God is for you, not against you, and He is the best Friend you’ll ever have. Lend Him your ear – you’ll never regret it!

Proverbs 19:20-21: “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Cats can hear everything! Maya, our pet, can determine by the sound of the engine who is coming home. In comparison, human ears are not as well-equipped. While cats hear sounds about as low as humans, they can hear much higher pitches than we can, and their range goes even above that of dogs.

Even if we had catlike ears, the question is, would we take advantage of our enhanced hearing? Here is another question for you: How easy is it to listen? The talkers among us will probably say it’s easier to talk than to listen. But what about the people who don’t like to talk? Do introverts have an advantage over extroverts when it comes to listening? Perhaps – but keeping silent doesn’t necessarily mean that a person keeps listening. Our thought life has a profound impact on our listening skills, maybe more than we want to admit.

I googled synonyms for the word “listen”, and here goes:

Give one’s attention to a sound, pay attention to, take heed of, heed, take notice of, take note of, mindmark, bear in mind, take into consideration, take into account, tune into

We can drown out God’s voice with our own – the voices in our head and our busy mouth; but we are missing out if we do. There is a world of knowledge and wisdom available to us if we are curious enough to take the time to stop and soak it up. 

The art of silence that takes the things of God into account has a profound impact on our lives. And who would have guessed – honing our listening skills with God also upgrades our people skills. We take the time to listen we find that we have a better understanding of the person next to us.

In a world that’s deeply divided with angry voices competing for our attention, paradoxically, listeners who don’t join the angry choir but lend an unbiased ear have a far better reception. Listeners make things better. Their wisdom contributes to solving the trickiest problems. Listeners promote peace.

Let’s take a mouth break, shall we? Let’s take time to listen today.

Psalm 62:7: “My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.”

People from all over the earth grapple with the God-factor wondering whether He exists at all and if so how to approach Him. There is an endless array of protocol performed in all religions of the world. It’s the human cry for nearness to the Head of Creation that motivates any religion. To feel the need to connect with God is as old as humankind. Somehow we live on this planet called Earth with all its amazing resources, and yet we feel abandoned, sort of like Kevin alone in the house. The 1990 John Hughes blockbuster “Home Alone” depicted an eight-year-old troublemaker who is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation.

Home alone – that’s our mantra. We cry out to the Creator of the universe and pray: “God, please talk to us. God come down to Earth and help us. God, please favor us. God, please protect us. God, please intervene!” These are universal prayers. All of creation sighs. In their language the birds in the air, the predators in the bush and the trees in the jungle cry out to its creator. All creation sings when the feet of the Lord God touch the Earth as written in the book of Psalms (Psalm 96:12):

“Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. “

There is a universal longing that God should come home and make things right. God on Earth is not a new concept. For example, the Egyptian Pharaohs of old are known to have established a government exclusively run by the Sons of God – at least that’s how they advertised it. Looking around, there are many religions advertising that God comes down in human form. We crave nearness. We don’t want God to be remote. We want to reach out and touch Him.

God has many names, the one I love the most is Emmanuel – translated from the Hebrew language: God with us. One of God’s finest features is His mercy. He just can’t help but reaching out to us. Around the world people are seeking to get in touch with the Almighty. Trying too hard, they are really breaking down an unlocked door. As a matter of fact, Heaven’s door is already wide open.

The name “Yeshua” (English: Jesus) means translated “God saves”. We are no longer home alone because God saves. He does all the dirty work. He is the One who restores the communication. He is the One who comes home. We are not contributing anything to make that happen. We may come up with clever methods and build elaborate temples, but all of these efforts are really show-offs – trying to break in Heaven’s door which is already wide open. God saves. God speaks. Our part is to listen up.

The Holy Spirit is poured out for us and God’s Spirit is at work everywhere. The secret to successfully navigating through life lies in receiving God’s signals and walking with Him.

Romans 10:17: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

Before communication comes listening, otherwise two parties are just blaring sounds at each other. A communication meltdown happens when either party is no longer paying attention to one another. We call that the death of any relationship when this situation arises and continues on an ongoing basis.

Death of relationships is sad, very sad. Gathering the broken pieces of a dead relationship and resurrect a friendship is exactly what God has been pursuing with mankind – by addressing the world with His words and actions. Paying attention to His communication efforts is crucial. We watch God’s body language as we look up to His Son Jesus; and listening to His still small voice we receive His Word. That’s fundamentally what faith is all about. Faith is resurrecting communication with God and restoring a lost family relationship – we are all children of the Most High who have initially lost touch with Heaven, although we can find Him if we’re open and willing to listen. Listening, we will find God and discover that we’re found in Him.

Matthew 4:4: “But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Luke 1:28-29: “Gabriel appeared to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!’ Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.”

Is it possible that the Lord is with you, and you’re unaware?  Mary could not make a lot of sense of angel Gabriel’s greeting. She was shocked both by his appearance and the way he greeted her. An unassuming teenage girl, the words: “Favored woman – the Lord is with you” seemed out of proportion. Evidently, the way Mary viewed herself did not match how the angel viewed her – or how God viewed her for that matter. Sounds familiar? Self-awareness is a most tricky thing.

Unaware of ourselves on the day we were born, we first become self-aware as toddlers.  Lewis and Brooks-Gun conducted some interesting research in 1979 when they applied a red dot to an infant’s nose and then held the child up to a mirror. About 25 percent of the infants between 15 and 18 months showed some self-awareness as they reached for their noses instead for the mirror to examine the red dot in their face. In comparison, the percentage increased to 70 percent when the children were 21 to 24 months old.

While self-awareness is certainly age-related, spiritual awareness isn’t. It’s the moment we notice God for the very first time when we become spiritually aware. God on the other hand has never taken His eyes off of us, from the moment of our conception right up to the present time, as King David prayed so eloquently (Psalm 139:13-16):

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.”

How freeing it is to understand that we are priceless in the eyes of God – without having to lift a finger! God cherishes us, regardless how we feel about ourselves. This is the truth that sets us free; however, we won’t know the truth, unless we listen.

Mary listened to what angels, prophets, and shepherds had to say and thoroughly worked through their message in her mind. We need to do the same. Whenever God speaks to us, we do well to let the message sink in. God still speaks today. He speaks to you and me. We only need to take notice.

Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.” Deuteronomy 6:4