Welcome We have all heard the wisdom that hearing and listening are not the same thing. If you’re married or have kids, you probably need no further explanation. The idea is that I can hear words, and even understand the meaning and syntax of what I’m hearing, but it takes more than physically functioning ears to really listen and make those words meaningful to my life. This can be especially true when it comes to God’s Word. I’ve been “hearing” scripture since I was a baby, but I sure haven’t always listened to what God was telling me! For today’s devotional I will share some of my recent discoveries about listening to God. Our recipe today is a fun hybrid…Cinnamon Roll Cookies!
Food For Thought In my past decade of life, I have not been listening to God very well. In fact, most of the time I wasn’t even trying. I believed in God and Christ as my Savior. I thought God might answer big prayers for really good people, but didn’t think I qualified much for this help. With my Christian up-bringing and deep-rooted beliefs, I knew my life was far from spiritual, even if I was trying to be a “basically good person.” I was sad about this, and I’ve said my apologies to God, and I’ve been forgiven. So now, my responsibility is to change my actions, to begin listening with open ears, an open mind, and an open heart.
Not to condone my own behaviors, but I can see how this pattern of living is easy to fall into during our late 20’s and 30’s, especially during the times we are living in now. Like so many others, I had way too many distractions in my life, preventing me from fully listening to God and His instruction for my life. We all just have so many things screaming for our attention these days: kids with their school work and extra-curricular activities; climbing career ladders or just trying to survive work day after day; managing homes, bills, chores, automobiles; trying to give our spouses decent attention; volunteer and church work; the list really could go on and on. And then you add in entertainment distractions like television, social media, and our endless “devices.” It’s easy to see how God’s words for us can easily be drowned out by all these worldly distractions competing for our time and attention. And here’s the stumper…all of those distractions aren’t going anywhere! They’re here to stay, as much as I may want to remove myself from them permanently, it’s a part of real life. So how do we get our ears open for the business of listening to God? Here’s a hint…it actually starts with your eyes!
So how do I listen to God with my eyes? As Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…” This is the only way I can think of to combat all the distractions we have around us that seem to pull our attention away from the Lord. In Matthew 6:22-23, we are reminded that “The eye is the lamp of the body” and if our eyes are bad, our whole body will be full of darkness. Likewise, if I keep my eyes focused on things that are pure and holy, noble and true, I will keep the body full of light and goodness. The more I focus on Jesus, the more I can hear what my Heavenly Father has to tell me. And it’s not just my eyes and ears that are connected, but also my mind and my heart. If I close my ears to the Lord and His instruction, then I have closed my heart, as well. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to close my heart to God’s love, hope, and grace!
So now we know that in order to better hear God, we have to first look and see God. I’m going to take this a step further. We have to see God everywhere and in everything. When we allow ourselves to put our full focus on Him, we will naturally become more attentive to His gentle nudges and whispers. I have experienced this first hand in the past year. By genuinely seeking God in all things, I have become keenly aware of what He is trying to tell me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I get hit in the face with a magic sign telling me “God says do this!” I’m sure I still miss some things, too, since I’m not perfect in my focus. But it’s there and I feel it. Maybe it’s a silent prayer of confusion and God simply whispers to me, “Make a decision, and I will bless it.” Or wrestling with another decision, I see an answer flash in front of my eyes right before I drift off to sleep. Or maybe I pick up my Bible for my daily devotional time and turn to a passage that speaks directly to a recent struggle I’ve been having. And this morning, in my devotional time, I prayed about some frustrations. I heard (felt) God say “You have not exhausted all your resources; you have not tried everything yet.” And of course, He’s right. These are not coincidental circumstances, but they would easily be overlooked as God’s message for me, if it weren’t for my intentional focus with my eyes and ears. And the best part is the more I listen to God, the less I will listen to the worldly influences around me. I promise, this works!
I posted earlier this week about humility and the lessons I’ve needed to become more humble. Having my ears open has a direct connection with my humility. From my own personal experience I have learned that when I am not focused on God, I will stumble. I will make poor choices, I will become prideful, and I will have to face consequences for my actions. I will still make mistakes, without a doubt, but keeping my eyes and ears turned to God will go a long way in keeping those mistakes smaller and more manageable. So now, as part of my daily prayer and devotional time, I ask God to help me keep my ears, eyes, mind, and heart opened to Him and His direction for my life. Without praying these words each day I am in danger of allowing myself to slip back into old habits, habits of trying to do everything myself and allowing distractions to take me away from God’s instruction.
Today’s Scriptures I have two additional verses I’d like to share in addition to the verses mentioned above. They are useful tools for keeping my focus and attention in the right place. The first passage from Jeremiah happens to be one of my most favorite in all of scripture and I read it often. The second passage addresses a constant struggle I deal with regarding where I keep my focus.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Colossians 3:1-2 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Today’s Prayer My Dear Heavenly Father, I know I lose my focus easily and take my eyes off You above, and I’m so sorry. Lord, I ask You, daily, that You help me keep my focus by having my eyes, ears, heart, and mind opened to You and Your direction for me in my life. I ask that our people get their focus back and open their ears to hear what it is You are trying to tell us. We need You to guide us. We need Your direction. Let us see You everywhere and in everything. Let us not just hear Your word, but really listen, so we may use it to become stronger souls. In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.
Today’s Recipe Do you love cinnamon rolls? Wow, I do! But they are a lot of work, or at least I think making yeast doughs is a lot of work. I’ll go to the trouble sometimes for a good pan of cinnamon rolls, but maybe just once or twice a year. Besides being a lot of work, our family of three does not need a dozen or two cinnamon rolls on the counter, tempting us every time we go by them. So I came up with this SMALL BATCH recipe for cinnamon roll cookies. You get the flavor and appearance of a cinnamon roll without all the work AND there’s only 6 cookies. This is a great treat to make up when you crave something sweet, but know you shouldn’t keep a lot of desserts around…um, that would yours truly! My family really enjoys these!
Cinnamon Roll Cookies (makes 6 thick cookies)
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup milk
- Cinnamon-sugar blend (whisk together 3 TBS sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon)
Heat oven to 425 degrees. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt. Stir in milk and 3 tablespoons of the melted butter. Mix until a dough comes together. Turn onto floured surface and knead about ten times. Roll or pat dough into a rectangle. Brush dough with remaining butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll up like a jelly roll or cinnamon roll dough. Slice dough into six even pieces. Place dough, cut side up, on greased baking sheet (I actually use silicone baking mats for mine.) Bake 10 minutes at 425 degrees.