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Every year I start with fasting and prayer. For the month of January I will be fasting and praying for 2017 to ensure my focus is in alignment with what God is focused on and that my priorities are in order. I encourage you to fast and pray with me!

I wear many hats, I get to be on staff at my amazing church (Shoreline Dallas), I volunteer for a non- profit (Treasured Vessels Foundation), I am an author, I have been married for 13 years and I get to be the mother of 4 kids. My youngest son, Brayden, loves Star Wars, LOVES it (If this was a dating relationship, Brayden would have a restraining against him for stalking and harassment). While we were watching the Olympics he was playing on the floor not even watching the tv then the new Star Wars trailer came on. Next thing I know he's standing up and walking towards the tv as if he's planning on getting INSIDE of it and he stands there with his face to the screen in awe humming the music.

What I find fascinating is that he wasn't even paying attention to the tv until he heard something familiar, something that he loved and he stopped everything and listened. Our brains are amazing. A study was done by a group of linguists in Glasgow that found our brains are wired to recognize voices of friends and family with only 2 words spoken, with almost 100% accuracy. Why is this? Because when we spend a lot of time with people we become intimately familiar with their voice so much so we can identify them when only 2 words are spoken.

I believe God wired us this way so we would be able to immediately know HIS voice when He speaks to us, but this requires us to actually spend time with Him. We all have busy lives, so prayer can be an afterthought or something we do in difficult situations when we need guidance. Sometimes it's intimidating because we don't know if we are "doing it right" so we don't do it at all. I know I am guilty of this. The turning point for me was the utter frustration I felt when I needed direction and I wasn't sure if He was speaking to me or if it was just my own voice in my head and I needed His guidance but I couldn't HEAR Him above the noise and chaos in my head. I was angry and I said, "GOD WHY WON'T YOU SPEAK TO ME?" In His gentle correction I heard Him say, "I am speaking to you but you don't recognize my voice." This began my journey of talking to Him (which is what prayer really is, talking to God), regularly. I threw the fear of "doing it wrong" out the window and I asked Him to teach me how to pray, and He did.

John 10:3-5 says, "3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.

The world we live in is fighting for our attention. It's loud and chaotic, our schedules are packed with "stuff" and we leave very little room for God and when we do, often times we can't pick out His voice amongst the noise of the world. We were created to have a relationship with Him, in fact Jesus died so that we could be reconciled back to the Father. He loves you so much He sent His Son to die for YOU so you could know Him. He wants to protect you from the "stranger" who only means to do you harm and to separate you from God and often times the "stranger" is successful, we follow his voice instead of Gods because we don't know the difference between the two. God wants to be the one leading you, He doesn't want you following confusion or chaos. In fact, He wants you to be so used to hearing HIS voice that you can immediately identify the voice of the stranger.

Just real practically, for me I talk to Him all day. I don't pray for one hour as soon as I get up because I have 4 kids and when I wake up I am immediately met with questions about socks and breakfast. I pray when I run, I put on worship music and I just talk to Him and this is actually where I hear Him the clearest. Then whenever I have to drive somewhere and I am alone in the car, I will again put on worship music and either worship Him or pray or both. I sit in the car line waiting to pick up my kids and I will read my Bible while I wait. My day probably looks different from yours, but get creative about when and where you can MAKE time to spend with Him.

Here are some ways to learn how to hear His voice:

1. Prayer. Don't spend the whole time talking, stop and listen for a response.

2. Read the Word. Start with a verse a day or a chapter a day. God's voice won't contradict what is written in the Word.

3. Wise council. When you are dealing with confusion and whether you heard God or not, talk to someone who has a relationship with God and in bearing the fruit from that relationship. Ask them to pray for you and WITH you about it.

4. Journal. Write down the things you hear Him saying either in prayer or when you read the Bible. This trains you to hone in on His voice by writing down His words, it also gives you the ability to look back on the things God has taught you along the way.

God loves you more than Brayden loves Star Wars and more than I love coffee. He wants a relationship with YOU, regardless of what you think you have done that would "disqualify" you from this opportunity. There is nothing you have done or will do that would keep God from loving you and accepting you as His son or daughter. Perhaps you want to know Him but you have never taken the step to invite Him into your life, this would be the perfect time to pray your very first prayer, the one that will radically change your life:

Jesus I ask you to come and invade my life. I confess with my mouth and believe in my heart that you are the Son of God, the one who died to set me free. I know I am a sinner but with the blood you shed for me, I have been washed as white as snow so I could know and be known by the Father. Teach me to hear your voice so I am lead by You and not a stranger. Thank you for loving me and teach me how to love you. Give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to know You better and may my life be lived to bring you glory. In Jesus' name, Amen.



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