Listening

An ODC Story: Jen Farrar on Learning to Listen

If you haven't heard, there was a workshop hosted by Melissa & Zach Anderson a couple of weeks ago that focused on equipping us to truly listen for the voice of the Father.  I knew it was going to be a huge moment for those who participated, but I couldn't have anticipated the seismic activity that is rippling in and through Open Door as a result.  Below, Jen Farrar reflects on the experience of the workshop and what shifted (and continues to shift) in her life as a result.  For those of you who missed the first one or who want to freshen up on your listening tools, Melissa is hosting one-day workshop Listening Workshop this Sunday, March 30.  Contact Melissa (melissabelleanderson (at) gmail.com) to register.  Here's Jen's reflection: Several months ago I received an email from Open Door asking if they could use my house for a workshop.  It was easy to reply “yes” to the email, however, I had no idea what I was replying yes to.

More emails arrived in my inbox to prepare those signed up for the workshop.  To be perfectly honest, I didn’t fully read them, as I wasn’t committed to attending the training.  With three small kids and a husband who was going to be away for part of the weekend, what more of an excuse did I need to not engage?  I find myself entering into this type of excuse often, when I’m tired and the laundry is piled high, “I don’t have time for you God, there’s too much to do and I didn’t get enough sleep last night.” 

God had a different plan for the weekend.  Melissa & Zach Anderson and a crew of folks came in Saturday morning and took over my house, in a good way.  They had baby sitters, coffee brewing, snacks, and months worth of prayer and preparation to get folks like me to pay attention to what God was trying to say, no matter how “busy” we think our lives are.  

35 people came into our home that weekend for prayer, worship and to really learn to listen. 

The focus of the workshop was on listening to the voice of God.  My 7 year old often asks this question, “How do you hear God?”  It’s such an important question, one worth spending time learning and listening whether you are an adult or a child.  The workshop gave me tangible opportunities to listen to God speak.   One thing I’ve always longed to hear God say are the words, “You are my daughter, my precious little girl.”  My earthly father has never said those words to me, rather he’s told me how I never measured up to his expectations.  

Spoken, sung, prayed, whispered, I kept hearing I was loved and precious from God.  I felt God wrap his arms around me.  I saw the sky open up with doves flying and heard God say, "You are my beloved and precious daughter, whom I am well pleased."  My heart is still overflowing with joy from the singing that took place in our dining room.  It truly felt like a choir of angels singing together.  

The biggest shift for me was to feel God’s love.  Simply put, I know I am loved.

Over the past month, I have heard God speaking to me more clearly.  Not words of condemnation, but of acceptance and Love. 

Several weeks have now passed since the “high” of the weekend workshop.  Like any retreat I have ever been on, entering back in to reality is always a little difficult.  There’s often a little doubt that it all could have been true.  Could God really love me?  Is it really His voice I heard and hear on a daily basis, telling me I am precious?

I am on a quest now to keep hearing God and to find ways to hear I am loved. 

I have a strong desire to hear His voice and for it to replace Satan’s lies in my mind.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, frustrated, unworthy, I have heard God say to me, “I have given you the task of caring for 3 children and serving your husband.  Do this with joy and gratitude in your heart and in return, I will give you joy!”

The change that occurred in my heart was directly related to my connection and intimacy with God.  The ability to listen to Him speak to me is a tremendous gift.  I feel empowered and I feel like I have the authority to dispel the lies from Satan.  

In no way do I feel as if I have arrived or have become the confident, strong and faithful Proverbs 31 woman God created me to be.  I have made a small shift, however, in how I look at my life.  I am grateful for God’s love. I am grateful for all His blessings. 

I am His daughter and I hear Him whisper, “you are precious and loved, no matter what.”  

Listening: The Gateway to Identity & Mission

How are we to know who God is, who we are, and who others are if we're not familiar with the voice of the Father?  How are we to understand how to join Him in His reconciling work here and now if we don't know what He's saying to us?  In a new Circle launching on Feb. 15 & 16 and guided by Melissa Anderson & Alison Knox, we'll explore these questions and others and be equipped with a practical tool to help us listen for the Father's voice.  Below, Melissa reflects a bit on her own journey of listening.

As a little girl, we had an exchange. I’d sing to Him as I looked into the sky and I’d feel Him smiling back through the warmth of the sun on my face. I honestly remember feeling Him, knowing Him, hearing Him, loving Him as young as four. What I had with Jesus was sweet, it was simple and it was true.

By the time I was ten, I had endured years of shame, fear, control and abuse in a household that claimed Jesus as their Lord. We would dress in our best for church every Sunday and after a morning of violence, in we would file. My parents would teach, lead and serve as elders and my siblings and I learned to play the part of, ‘happy family’. I was bitter. I was angry and I was done singing.

 Religion was a game I played. I knew all the rules, asked no questions, knew who was in charge and how to look just fine, all the time. No one knew the dark, angry girl I was. I laughed at the existance of God and hated the church. By the age of fifteen, I had already decided that I wanted to take my own life. I still hid very well and not a soul knew.

The summer before I turned sixteen, waiting for the right time to go through with my plan, I was forced to go to a summer camp with a group of teens and Youth Pastor I did not even know. This was not your typical summer camp. They didn’t have normal campfire, or ‘cabin’ time to share a bible verse or, two. We had church! The Pastor would preach and the kids would worship, really worship; hands raised and all! They spoke in tongues and answered altar calls! This was all a bit overwhelming as at this point I did not even acknowledge God’s existence. However, each night I experienced things as I clung to my seat, that I could not explain. After several nights of this, I was clinging particularly hard as I tried to resist walking up to the front of the room where the Youth Pastor stood. It was in vain. I remember not knowing how I had gotten up there as I looked into the Pastor’s eyes. He began to recite my life story and he told me that God did not want me to go through with my plan to end my life. He somehow knew all that I was ashamed of and yet, he also knew that Jesus just wanted to be close to ME. It was then that the words reached my heart and washed over me like nothing I had ever known before. I saw my first vision that night. It was simple and sweet and true. I saw Jesus and I, hand in hand, skipping rocks on the lake, walking and talking together as friends.  

Walking out of the room that night, I knew two things; someone who was able to hear God’s voice saved my life and that that same God loved ME. Those two things changed the course of my life forever.

I was absolutely enchanted by the thought of being as intimate with Jesus as He suggested in that vision and I wanted to be able to touch someone as I had been and possibly save a life.  I immediately began a journey of learning to listen. I studied, I was mentored, taught, and challenged in this practice and I was given tremendous tools. I am passionate about promoting Intimacy with Jesus and sharing what I have learned with anyone who asks.

The tool that has been by far, the simplest, most tangible and easy to replicate has been the one I will be sharing on February 15th and 16th. I continue to experience God's transformative Love through this regular practice. The first day of the workshop, I will share with you a bit more of my listening journey and help activate you in this practice. On day two, using this practice, we will begin to dip our toes into capturing His heart for the ones around us and sharing what we receive with the utmost honor, Love and respect.

A Circle Story: The Practice of Listening

Circles are Open Door's way of tangibly training people in the Way of Jesus.  These are the primary spaces in which we become equipped & mobilized into God's reconciling mission of Restoration.  Our Circles take on myriad forms and themes, but a few of things remain the same in each: (1) they are all oriented around the life and teachings of Jesus; (2) they create space for shared life and belonging to occur; and (3) their impact is beyond those who are a part of the Circle.  Learn more about Circles and/or find a Circle by clicking here.

Deborah Benzuly is in a Circle of dynamic women who have chosen to enter into an extended journey with God, each other, and others.  In this guest post, Deborah reflects on one tool that has been especially transformational for her and for those in her Circle.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) I haven’t completely understood or internalized this verse until I entered into a Circle with some amazing women a few years ago.  My original intention was simply getting to know a few other women believers...I had no idea what was in store for me. We've been on a journey through life together: relationships, children, jobs and school. We’ve experienced God’s amazing healing and cultivation in each woman, a true testament to God’s work in us all.

Transformation is what we're about. We have all assumed a posture of growth, to be accountable to one another, and to speak truth and encouragement to one another.  This has not come about naturally, but with intention and purpose from everyone in the group.

It is because of this that I have personally experienced a closeness with these women that I could say I’ve never experienced before with friends.  Each woman brings a unique gifting to the group that I benefit from on a regular basis.  With Kelly, I learn the power of empathy and compassion for myself and for others. Kate has taught me the importance of rest and tangibly incorporating a Sabbath on a weekly basis.  Ashley constantly shows me to embrace God’s love and joy through daily life.  And I have challenged the group to bring learning and ideas into tangible action. Lastly, I have learned how to hear God’s voice and the presence of the Holy Spirit from Melissa.

Melissa has always been the one in the group that seemed to naturally channel the Holy Spirit in forms of encouragement, prayer, images; you name it.  We often joke that she has a direct line to God. She quickly debunked the myth that she was the only one God was speaking to. She normalized her ability to clearly hear God’s voice and speak truth and grace into each one of us into something that we could do too. She framed it as a skill, rather than a gift, as it is something she has learned and has practiced on a regular basis.  It was then that we all had to experience this for ourselves.

We asked Melissa to lead a night of teaching us how to hear for God’s voice. It may sound silly, but the thought of sitting still and silent for more than 2 minutes hoping to hear something was anxiety provoking.  My relationship with God had to this point been one of prayer, however not a conversation. It was during this night that Melissa taught us how to listen for the Holy Spirit.  She walked us through a process of prayer, of breaking any agreements we may have with the Enemy, and asking God what He wants us to hear from Him.  She encouraged us to write anything we heard, saw, or felt, with no censor and no scripting. Then she cut us loose.  In the next 30 minutes, I couldn’t stop writing.  I can only best explain it as an outpouring of love, encouragement, and challenge from God in the form of images, reference to specific scripture, and an audible voice that sounded so much like a loving and tender Father.  When we circled back as a group, I couldn’t stop smiling, laughing, and crying.  It was as if I finally listened and God couldn’t stop talking. I had a direct line too, just like Melissa, and that was worthy of celebration, laughter, and tears.  For it was there all along, I just needed to learn how to listen.

 I am so thankful for Melissa having shared this experience with us and tangibly showing and walking us through listening for God’s voice. This has become a regular practice for me and continues to deepen my relationship with the Father. I am so grateful to be in a group that learns from one another, sharpens one another, and loves one another.

ODC Elder Candidates & Our Final Step...

A few months back (Seismic :: Elders; May 20, 2012), we explored the biblical concept (roles & qualifications) of eldership and told the story of the formation of our original community of elders: the Steward Team.  In short, the role of our Steward Team is to steward the holistic formation of The Open Door Community.  Their job is to proactively abide in a listening posture with the Spirit of Jesus and to courageously lead our community into God's dream for us.  Kara Lynch, Tim Halls, Charlene O'Brien, Kerry O'Brien, and Jer Swigart have served faithfully as our initial Steward Team.  The time to expand our community of elders has come. Following our teaching, we invited you into a day of communal fasting that concluded with an evening of listening, prayer, and nominations.  A list of over thirty names were received for consideration.  That list was passed along to Open Door's Lead Team who entered into a process of discernment and listening on behalf of our community.  By the end of their process, Lead Team presented a recommendation to the Steward Team that included a focused list of candidates to be considered.  At that time, Steward Team entered into conversation with four individuals, two men and two women.  On their own initiative, two of those candidates opted to remove themselves from consideration for this year.  The other two have continued through our process of conversation, prayer, and discernment and are, at this time, being strongly considered for inclusion on Steward Team.

We are pleased to announce that those two candidates are Ben Johanson and Tony Collins.

One final step of communal discernment remains...a step that we invite all of The Open Door Community into: Psalm 133 says, "How good it is when family lives together in unity." In John 17, Jesus prays that we would be ONE, not just for our own sake, but for the sake of the watching world.  Jesus knew that the watching world will discover the truth about who God is and experience His tangible love because of our unity. Paul writes, in Ephesians 4, that we are to eagerly maintain the unity of the Spirit.

Unity is a big deal to our God and is, therefore, a big deal to us.  Thus, we invite you to join us in pursuing and preserving the Unity that is ours in a very specific way: In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches that if you are at the altar of worship and remember that your friend has something against you, stop everything that you're doing and proactively pursue reconciliation with your brother or sister. In Matthew 18, Jesus expands this teaching to include the work of reconciliation with with anyone who has hurt/offended/or sinned against you in any way.

This is the work that we are invited you into with Tony and with Ben.

If you recognize that there is anything (big or small) that has interrupted your relationship with either of these two men, then we ask you to pursue unity by engaging in the work of reconciliation with them.  They have been invited into the same work with you.  If you feel as though mediation is necessary, then anyone from our current Steward Team will be happy to enter into that work with you.  Additionally, if you feel strongly that one or both of these men are not qualified to lead The ODC in the capacity of eldership, then we invite you to contact Kara Lynch before this Sunday, September 16th.

Thank you for joining us in this essential work.  Please pray over Steward Team, Tony, Ben, and our Community as we seek to listen well for and faithfully live into God's future for us.

Anticipating our 2nd Communal Fast

Last week, the Spirit met us with words, promises, and exhortations. Words Saturate, Breath, Beloved, Abide, Deepen

Promises I am here. I am doing something here.  I am your breath.

Exhortations Pay attention. Be ready. Repent of excess. End image management. Pray for open doors and open hearts. Live fully awake to now. Abide in Me.

In these final hours before our second Wednesday fast begins, perhaps a word on the kind of fast that God longs for:

Isaiah 58:1-11

As you journey throughout your Wednesday, join us in prayers like these: 1.  Spirit, we're listening. 2.  Spirit, expose what hinders, limits, and imprisons us. 3.  Spirit, help us understand what you require of us. 4.  Spirit, set us free to set others free.

Join us at 916 A Dewing Ave., Lafayette, CA at 7:00pm.  We'll break our fast with a light soup and bread dinner after our time together.