Heard

(Post #4 in a 5-part series collaboration)

By Aaron Pilant (bio below)

When I was preparing to get married twenty years ago, I remember some very important advice that the marriage counselor gave us both.  He said that communication is the key to any successful relationship.  He went on to say that if we could learn to communicate well with each other, our marriage would be a success.  No problem.  I like to talk.  She likes to talk.  Done.  Twenty years later, I have learned that communicating is not just talking, but being heard as well.  I have also learned that communication is not always verbal.  Actually, most communication is non-verbal.  The communication you are reading right now…non-verbal.

I am a Christian who committed his life to Christ at the age of thirteen.  My “salvation” experience occurred when I was alone in my bedroom late at night.  I had been struggling with this decision for some time.  I was wrestling back and forth.  That night was different though.  I remember being in bed trying to sleep, but I was unable to stop thinking about God and my relationship to Him.  I was raised in church.  My parents dragged me and my siblings to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.  I participated in church clubs and activities, but secretly I was battling in my inner heart and mind.  I knew how to give my life to Christ by surrendering to Him, but for some reason I resisted.  That night in June, I was back wrestling within again.  This night was different, though.  This night, I felt that I could no longer put this decision off.  There was a sense of urgency within me.  This is where I first remember hearing from God.

I think it’s important to know, I have never audibly heard God’s voice.  I have never seen writing in the sky.  What I heard was within.  I was given a vision of my reality apart from God.  Then I heard within myself, “Why are you waiting, Why are resisting me?”  The vision was unpleasant.  The question burned within my mind, my heart, my soul.  I finally yielded that there was no good reason.  I then poured my heart out to God asking Him to forgive me of my sin and stubbornness.  I then committed to following Him as my Lord.

So from that day I have worked diligently and sometimes not so diligently to hear God in my life.  I will say this-there are times when I can’t hear God.  But there are many times where I hear God speaking to me in my heart.  Every time I hear from God, it is within.  Sometimes it is words.  Sometimes it is peace.  Sometimes it is just a feeling.  I am usually able to determine that it is God when the communication that I am receiving is far from what I would naturally want to do or like to do.  They are always in line with His word and often confirmed through scripture being brought to my mind.

I want to conclude by saying God doesn’t always speak to me when I want him to…or speak to me in the way I want Him to.  There have been many occasions when I have pleaded God for answers and none came.  I have spent hours, days, weeks, and months waiting.  I do get frustrated when waiting for these answers.  Funny, though, I am soon reminded of Isaiah 40:31 or a verse very similar.  I think, though, there are very good reasons for the lack of answers at times.  I know that when the answers are not readily available I spend more time talking with Him, calling out to Him, pleading with Him, crying to Him.  I wonder if the reason that answers are not always so available is because God wants to spend more time with me.  Or probably more accurate, He knows I need more time with Him.  I have often been told that life is not about the destination but the journey.  I believe that our walk with God is the same.  If you can’t or don’t hear Him, He doesn’t want you to give up.  He wants you to spend more time with Him until He knows you are ready to hear what He has for you.  God speaks to us all.  We just need to learn to listen.


Blogger Bio:  Aaron Pilant married Erin Pilant nearly 20 years ago. They have a 16-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. Their very favorite thing to do as a family is go to Disney World, and they do it often.

A Memorable Human Encounter

Once in a while we’re fortunate to have a memorable human encounter. When it happens, I believe we should share it. I had one yesterday.

Actually, several dozen people were present, but I suspect few of them would classify it memorable. We all got to hear a few words from a local leader in sports and education. He shared some life principles as part of a community gathering at our church. His words were well said and presented. He knew what he wanted to say, he said it, and no more. He represented himself and his position honorably.

His words weren’t necessarily his. The majority of what he shared retold what he remembered learning from his grandfather, a Baptist minister. He recalled them with fondness and admiration acknowledging they started the journey he is continuing himself and now works to pass along to students and athletes under his leadership. Everyone listening had a human encounter.

But mine was memorable, not because of what he said but because of what he didn’t say. Until last night, he and I had only communicated through email and voicemail where I extended the invitation to him to come speak and then our prepping for it. In them and through all he shared with me privately and publically last night, not once did he mention his title, his success, his credentials, his history, or his current victories. Only since last night through the wonders of the Internet have I learned there is plenty he could have mentioned. His lack of being about himself was refreshing and honestly unexpected. That shows character. That reveals humility. That deserves memory.


Thank God for this servant leader, Coach Shakir. I’m grateful for this encounter. I pray God blesses his future encounters to continue to be memorable for all the right reasons.

Heard

(Post #3 in a 5-part series collaboration)

By Erin Pilant (bio below)

Nearly 16 years ago, my husband and I had to make, what we would call, a major life decision. In our three short years of marriage, we had had a couple of decisions to make; but in my book, this was by far the biggest.

I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. This was where I worked, where I got married, where our son was born. This was the place where we were going to raise our family and where we were going to grow old. My husband was a youth pastor of a small, country church. We had seen many students trust in Jesus and grow into leaders within the student ministry; we had formed close relationships with them. We loved this little church and it’s people; but God was changing our hearts, and we didn’t understand why. He had other plans for us, but we didn’t know it yet.

An opportunity was presented to us. A church in Independence, Missouri, where my husband was born and raised, was looking for a youth pastor. There were too many “coincidences” for us to ignore this, what we thought could be God literally moving in our lives. This was the first time I begged God to give me peace about something…about anything. This would be such a huge life shift for us. I couldn’t imagine living somewhere other than Florida. No longer being a few minutes away from my parents. Leaving my job of 7 1/2 years. My mind was on overload. So I begged God for peace, the kind of peace described in Philippians 4:7: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I was very nervous, and I needed His help.

I cannot tell you where I was, or what I was doing, or even how long it took. But like a wave flooding over me, He gave me the peace I had been asking for. Suddenly, I had full confidence that God was going to take care of us and that He would lead us to the right decision. In every step, He guided us and gave me peace, a peace that transcended all understanding. My soul, my heart and my mind, they were all at rest.

God answering my prayers for peace was a big moment in my Christian life. No, not all life decisions end up where I thought or even where I wanted, but God showed me that He really does desire to give us what we need. My desire was to hear from Him, and He gave me exactly what I needed. Our move to Independence, Missouri, ended up not being a difficult one at all. I knew we were right where God wanted us.

It’s important to know that God speaks to me in several different ways. The Holy Spirit convicts me often. He speaks to me through others, like my pastor. And sometimes I just have a nudge in my heart or the pit of my stomach. However, peace is what I continually ask God for.

How do I hear from God? He gives me peace-His peace. My heart hears His whispers of comfort…in small decisions and in the big, life-changing decisions…in the moments when I need clarity and I’m searching for the next step. I ask God for only the peace that comes from Him through being in His Word, continually drawing closer to Him, and being in prayer. He gives me peace to see that my heart and mind are ready for the next step.


Blogger Bio:  Erin Pilant married Aaron Pilant nearly 20 years ago. They have a 16-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. Their very favorite thing to do as a family is go to Disney World, and they do it often.
Erin is a Marketing Director of Chick-fil-A Cortez Plaza (941-727-7313) and for 8 years has been making people fall in love with the brand, one Chicken Sandwich at a time.
When Erin isn’t at Chick-fil-A, Disney or at Church, you can find her watching a new movie or an old classic and spending time with friends and family.

🐄eat more chicken

Hey Leader…Get Some Help

A copy of this Carey Nieuwhof book was given to me recently. Just finished reading it. Worthwhile.

I want to pass along one paragraph that may be one of the most helpful practices in the book. In chapter five entitled “Don’t Quit,” Nieuwhof lists five practices that have helped him, the founding pastor of a multi-site church near Toronto, persevere. The second practice reads:

2. Get some help. A decade ago I sat down with a counselor for the first time. Jim helped me get through some key issues, and he helped my wife, Toni, and me navigate some of the pitfalls common to couples when one is called into ministry. I’ve seen a few counselors over the last decade during different seasons and am quite sure I wouldn’t be in ministry today if it weren’t for their influence in my life. When I’ve been tempted to quit moments before a key breakthrough, my wife, prayer, wise words from others, and the help of a counselor made all the difference. I really believe God uses other people to speak to us. Interestingly enough, I don’t know of a single influential ministry leader who’s made it over the long haul who hasn’t been through some form of formal or informal counseling. My only question is why I didn’t go sooner.

Leader, consider the practice of your colleague. Get some help.

The 7-year-old & The 77-year-old

Many believers claim Jeremiah 29:11 as a favorite verse. Rarely have I heard anyone share the next two verses along with it. There’s more to claim.

You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.

Wednesday morning I shared verse 13 with a lady in my office. It came to my mind while I listened to her explain how she has been drawn to God by attending our church since moving to Bradenton. At the age of 77, she is seeking God with all her heart for the first time in her life. And God is keeping His promise.

Yesterday God showed himself to a 7-year-old. The nurse at her school inquired if we could help this little second grader with some new shoes. She has tremendous health issues, so her family struggles to meet basic needs. When we showed up with a pair of shoes for her, unbeknownst to us we were showing her God listens. She loves pink. And we had brought a pair that looked like these:


God cares about your details.

God listens to your calls.

God sees all hearts, the 7-year-old whose heart is suffering and the 77-year-old whose heart is searching.

Call. Come. Pray. Seek. Search. With All Your Heart.

Heard

(Post #2 in a 5-part series collaboration)

By Bob Morrissey (bio below)

On March 19, 1995, I had just arrived home after serving with my dad on the church Sunday school bus. I was 14 years old, and the events of that morning were not on my mind; and shockingly enough, neither was the lunch my mom had prepared for our family. I was interested in what was on NBC. My mom told me to stay at the kitchen table, even though my eyes kept drifting toward the opening above the kitchen sink which looked toward the TV in the living room. Finally my dad interrupted with permission for me to leave the table and to watch Michael Jordan as he was returning from his first retirement from the NBA. I remember nothing of church that day. But I do remember that game.

I didn’t know what Jordan would do in the game, but I knew I could see him if my mom would just let me turn on the TV. How did I know he was playing? Why was it so important that I watched the game?

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Because:

  1. I saw so many commercials of him with Nike, Wheaties, Gatorade, and McDonalds.
  2. I had two glass-framed posters of him hanging in my room.
  3. I had watched 5 years of him playing previously.
  4. I pretended to be him in my driveway.
  5. I wished that I owned a pair of Jordan shoes.
  6. I knew all of his stats.
  7. I collected as many basketball cards of him as I could. (Which I still have!!!)

I didn’t miss seeing his first game back because He was on my mind.

It reminds me of Matthew 6:21 which says, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” I had invested so much time and money into him I could not help but to ignore everything else going on that day.

I do not want to just hear from God when I read the Bible or when I hear a sermon. I want to know everything I possibly can about what He is doing every moment. I think I often do not hear His voice because He is not on my mind, because He is not more important to me than my church, my wife, my kids, or what I have to accomplish that day.

When I hear from God throughout the day it’s because:

  1. I put Him first early in the day. – Psalm 63:1
  2. I’m asking Him to speak to me. – Matthew 7:7-8
  3. I’ve made His priority my priority. – Colossians 3:1
  4. I’m talking about Him to others. – Matthew 28:18-20

Doing these things is taking my treasure, my time, and focusing it on Him. When I do this my heart follows, and I can’t help but hear Him all throughout the day. These four things cause greater anticipation to hear Him and be in His presence, therefore I seldom miss His voice when He chooses to speak.

What could you do to create anticipation in your own life to hear God speak to you?


Blogger Bio:  Bob Morrissey grew up in a Christian home. From an early age he knew that God had called him to ministry. He started The Church at Clawson where he is the founding/lead pastor. He enjoys bringing truth from God’s Word and making it practical and relevant to our everyday lives. He met his wife Cindy while attending college. They have three sons: Bobby (15), Tyler (13), and Jaydon (10). Bob and Cindy love to go out and get a good steak, hit up the local ice cream store, watch The Blacklist, or re-watch Star Wars. They love taking their kids to the park and watching them in their sports leagues. Bob loves playing and watching sports. His favorite Detroit teams are the Tigers and Lions.

A Publix Hug

This weekend has had some pretty cool moments:

  • Friday: A couple of hours at an elementary school celebrating the first quarter results of student’s and teacher’s hard work
  • Yesterday: A couple of hours celebrating the 86-year life of a church member
  • Today: A couple of hours praying with, singing alongside of, and listening to the body of Christ

As good as those hours were, the coolest moment lasted probably less than a minute. And of all places, in a Publix parking lot.

As I walked to my car, I thought I recognized the boy getting out of the car parked beside mine. I was pretty sure he was one of the students from the celebration I attended at the school on Friday where he was recognized for making the Principal’s list and also won a drawing for a new bike and helmet.

I decided not to just wonder and move on, so I said to his dad,Excuse me. Does your son go to Ballard Elementary?”

“Yes.”

“Did he make the Principal’s list and win a bike on Friday and had on a yellow outfit?”


“Yes.”

“I thought that was you.”

“Yeah, what a shock to see him come out of school with a bike.”

To this point his son hadn’t said a word. In fact, he never did. He did something better. When he recognized me, he walked straight to me and gave me a hug.

This isn’t the first time this school year that a Ballad student has spontaneously given me a hug. These Ballard kids get it. They don’t make big scenes. They respond genuinely, with no fear, showing all their thankful, grateful, and humble heart.

I’m working on being more like them. A Publix hug certainly jolts the motivation and inspiration.

Heard

(Post #1 in a 5-part series collaboration)

By Dawn Stark (bio below)

This morning in my daily devotion I’m reading from 1 Chronicles 14 where King David is fighting the Philistines. In preparation for the battle, David inquires of the Lord about strategy and God answers very specifically: “Do not attack them straight on. Instead circle around behind and attack them near the poplar trees.  When you hear a sound like marching feet in the tops of the poplar trees, go out and attack!” (NLT). I don’t know about you, but throughout a lifetime of inquiring to the Lord I’ve never been given such a specific and detailed answer.  Yet, this type of communication was commonplace for David and many others as recorded in the Old Testament.

God speaks this clearly to believers throughout the New Testament too. A good example is the back and forth conversation between the Lord and Ananias in Acts 9.  God’s instructions were very detailed: “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now.  I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” Acts records Ananias’ response to these instructions and God’s reply to his questions too.

I believe God still speaks to us today. Scripture explains He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 18:8, Mal 3:6).  He speaks to us through general revelation, such as what we observe in nature and from history; and, He speaks through special revelation as recorded in Scripture.

Worship and prayer are both powerful ways I hear from God. Worship is the cornerstone of my spiritual life.  Many days I wake up in the morning with a song running through my head and heart.  I’ve come to wonder if this is the Holy Spirit helping to prepare me for the day ahead.  Prayer is also a huge factor of my faith life. I’ve found that prayer quiets and heals my soul, or as Ole Hallesby so powerfully writes, “prayer is the breath of the soul, the organ by which we receive Christ into our parched and withered hearts” (Prayer, 1936, p.14).

God speaks to my heart during personal devotion time and through the preaching of the Word too. These are aspects of his special revelation, which require me to faithfully attend to the habits of reading the Bible and attending church.  I’m constantly amazed how often these activities seem to overlap and confirm each other-for instance, when a passage I’ve studied during the week just happens to be a key component in pastor’s Sunday message.

Meditating along the ocean shore or hiking through a nature preserve become holy places where He will reveal something new about His faithfulness and strength to me. Soft as rain, these gentle whispers create a new thought that cause me to suddenly see situations in my life differently. In the “be still and know” solitary spaces, God is near and always leading me forward.

Finally, and probably most profoundly, I hear from God through the relationships we form in this life.  Within the context of family and friends I learn of His faithfulness, compassion, and enduring love.  As I wipe away my children’s tears, I know that God also wipes away mine. Not only can I understand His patterns and purposes deeply through these vital relationships, my desire for His presence deepens.  When earthly relationships bring pain and disappoint, I run to the Creator to be healed by His unconditional and steadfast love.

How do I hear from God?  Oh, I hear from him in so many beautiful and powerful ways. I may not be the recipient of full conversations as the saints of old; but His presence fills me, heals me, and guides me daily. He is imminent and He is faithful.  I just need to be quiet and listen.


Blogger BioDawn Stark and her husband Tim ministered to youth of all ages, from babies to young adults, all while enduring their own private infertility battle.  Throughout this process that spanned a 23-year period, Dawn learned to worship her way through life’s challenges and heartbreaks.  As with Hannah of old, God was faithful and eventually granted Tim and Dawn three biological children, including a set of twins, and two adopted children from Guatemala.  

It was during Dawn’s adoptions from Guatemala that her eyes were opened to the complicated and lasting effects of poverty. Stuck in the process for years, she dedicated the rest of her working years to be an advocate for children and families in need.  Serving in the non-profit arena since 2013, she has worked for the Both Ends Burning campaign as the Director of Faith-based Initiatives and One More Child + FBCH as the Orphan Care Coordinator.

Her advocacy journey led her to Operation Blessing in May 2019 where she now serves as the Regional Philanthropy Manager for the Southeast Region.  In this role, she works in a 9-state region to match the philanthropic goals and interest of partners with the needs of the most vulnerable in 39 countries, including the U.S.   She is passionate about the work Operation Blessing is doing to bring hope and help to suffering families through innovative programs and partnerships that maximize resources and save lives. 

Dawn graduated from Regent University with a degree in government/ international relations and is currently completing a master’s degree in international community development at Southeastern University. She is a blogger, aspiring author, public speaker and a beach lover.  She currently lives in Sarasota, Florida with her husband of 34 years, five children, and Siberian Husky puppy.