As we find our voice in Christ, we learn to know and sing the music of our soul.

A Joyful Life of Listening for the Echo of a Voice

I came of age in an era when all the truly devout and discerning were in search of “the dot.” Certain that there was one particular place, vocation, spouse, role, and educational path for me in the mind of God (“the dot”), I agonized, prayed, agonized some more, listened for a clear voice of direction, and then, in most cases, ended up simply heading in a direction that seemed to make sense. If things went well, I reasoned that I must have “guessed right,” but the problem of decision making and hearing God’s voice was, of course, just as murky as ever.

Leighton Ford has been listening all his life for the Voice. At times, it has come through on accents that were unfamiliar or unexpected, and he admits that there have been seasons in which he mistook his own voice for the One he had been listening for, but in A Life of Listening, one thing has become clear as a bell: as we persevere in listening for and discerning the voice of God (no matter how imperfectly), we find our own deepest identity.

Ford’s eighty-plus years of listening have shaped his career, first as an evangelist with Billy Graham’s team, then as chair of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, and ultimately as an author, mentor, and leader of his own independent outreach ministry. Finding that God was at work in shaping his life and ministry through all the many and varied voices he encountered along the way, he offers a memoir-style invitation to his readers to listen for “the sound of God at work in our lives, weaving all things together in a tapestry of divine artistry.” (15)

An Accumulation of Voices Filtered by the Word of Truth

My search for the perfect “dot” of God’s will was fueled by an image of God as rigid, dictatorial, and mostly hidden. It turns out that there’s a good reason why Jesus described himself to his disciples as a”friend,” and invested his ministry in walking alongside them in a demonstration of extravagant grace. As we begin to absorb the truth that our actions have neither a positive nor a negative impact on God’s love for us,  we have begun to walk in the rhythms of grace and to hear his heart toward us. Ford’s mission statement has deep roots in grace:

If I am asked for my mission statement, I now say, ‘To be an artist of the soul. And a friend on the journey.'”

The voices we hear throughout our long years on this planet are folded by sovereign design into the many and varied ways in which God himself speaks to us. With the Word of Truth as our filter, the “accumulation of voices” (169) shapes our sense of direction as God the Holy Spirit makes sense of it all and directs us–not toward “a dot,” but rather toward a relationship with God that overflows in our calling, our vocation, a word related to “voice” in the gorgeous sense that as we find our voice in Christ, we learn to “know and sing the music of our soul.” (183)

Giving up the search for “the dot” and, instead, listening for the voice of Christ which “plays in ten thousand places,”** will redefine what it means to follow Christ, for his voice comes to us with vigor and spontaneity, and the glorious truth is that he is ten thousand times more devoted to the guidance of his much-loved children than we are to the hearing and the doing and the following of his Voice.

Many thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Ever Cultivating a Listening Life,

Michele Morin

** The phrase “Christ plays in ten thousand places” is excerpted from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. It is also the title of a book by Eugene Peterson, which I reviewed here.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase A Life of Listening: Discerning God’s Voice and Discovering Our Own, simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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66 thoughts on “A Joyful Life of Listening for the Echo of a Voice”

  1. How beautiful and sound are these words from such a wise mentor to so many for so long. Thanks for sharing this great book.

    I also love the new clean lines of your website!

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  2. This looks like a great read. Thanks for sharing, Michele. I have been reflecting on the Voice of God sounding as many waters and the call of God to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. So this fits so well with that.

    Yesterday, I discovered that in the Hebrew root of the words “speak up for” we actually find “open (loose, release, set free)” and “mouth (commandment, promise)”. And in looking up “for those who cannot speak for themselves” I found that mute in the Aramaic means “to retain anger” and is a simile of “sheep”. It made me think so much of my years as a Prodigal when I was holding onto so much anger as the lost sheep, believing God had deserted and rejected me.

    When we open our mouths (when we loose His Promises into the world) we speak up for the rights (judgment, cause, justice) of the destitute (passing away, vanishing). So, my parents, by resting in God’s Word and speaking it over me in prayer were I believe freeing my voice to join the many waters in Christ as One. I am now still learning to open my mouth and as I do so, as I share of how God kept His Promises to me through my Prodigal journey, I am seeing others’ voices freed from shame to speak aloud the Promises of God also.

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  3. I had never heard it put quite that way (re the dot), but I am familiar with the concept. It seems like a lot of teaching in my teens and college years tended towards finding God’s perfect will for your life. But most of us found He didn’t give us blueprints. The Bible, yes, but not what to major in, where to go to college, whom to marry, etc. Then it seemed like teaching shifted to say there is no dot: you can choose the spouse and vocation you want. I disagreed with that: I felt God did have a place He wanted us to be, tasks to do, close ones to do them with. But I felt as you indicate here, that as we seek Him and walk with Him day by day, He will lead us the way we should go. As Abraham’s servant said, “I being in the way, the Lord led me.” I’m not familiar with Ford, but I think I’d agree with him here. I especially like the point that the Word of God is our filter.

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    1. The “dot” comes from a book written…
      I’m thinking late seventies or early eighties?
      Decision Making and the Will of God
      It was earth shattering for me at the time, and it was quite controversial. The author disputed the idea of an either/or God who has one “dot” for everyone to stand on, and anything else is outside his will.
      I think the main objection to it is the (incorrect) assumption that the author leans toward deism. The main thing is to stick close to God’s Word, be in constant relationship with its Author, and “he will direct your path.”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love Ford’s mission statement: If I am asked for my mission statement, I now say, ‘To be an artist of the soul. And a friend on the journey. It is in a way an art to learn to hear the voice of God for ourselves, but one worth the time and energy to pursue. It is wonderful when we know we have heard His heart for us and when we hear we know He will supply us with everything we need to fulfill what He calls us to do. He is our supply, our guide, our map, our strength, our counselor and our companion along the way. What more can we ask for? Thanks for sharing this book. Another I had not known about before. God bless.

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      1. I remember being one of Ford’s crusades here where I live, many years ago. I believe it was before I was saved and I was invited by a relative. I don’t recall much about it because it would probably have been back in the 60s.

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  5. Beautiful! I am a seeker of that elusive dot. I wonder how much I have missed along the way. I am much more content in this time of life to listen for the voice of God. I just heard about another book called the The Listening Life by Adam McHugh on Emily Freeman’s podcast. Sounds like I need to dig further into listening.

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  6. Michele,
    I love reading the wisdom of those who have made a few more trips around the run than I have. There is so much wisdom to impart. As a seeker of the “dot” I am making some of the same discoveries that Leighton Ford has made and it’s encouraging to know that perhaps I’m on the right track!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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  7. I needed to read this post this morning. This book sounds amazing. I love his mission statement! Thank you so much for always sharing such great books. Your reviews always draw me in!

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  8. What a beautiful reminder about listening to, relating to God instead of looking for that illusive dot. God is so good and full of grace as we figure out that process!

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  9. As a woman who is most definitely an imperfect listener, this sounds like my kind of book! I don’t know how many times I listened for the voice of God and only heard my own voice (usually telling myself what I wanted to hear).

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  10. Like others, I haven’t heard it described as “the dot” but I’m definitely familiar with the anxiety of wanting to find God’s will but not being sure what he is saying! I think anything that can help us listen to God better is helpful.

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  11. Not familiar with the term, “the dot”, although I understand the concept. Thank you for suggesting another great read and I too, like your new look. Thank you for taking the time to link up today. Have a great weekend!

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  12. I used to have a book of Gerard Manley Hopkins poetry, but I think it got left in Turkey. Glad to find out about this book by Leighton Ford because listening to God has always challenged and intrigued me. I want to learn more! (And I think of God’s will for me as a road or a path. A dot is definitely too hard to find!)

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  13. Leighton Ford no doubt has much wisdom to share on pursuing a life of listening. Not long ago I finished Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study, Discerning the Voice of God. I appreciated her affirmation that God is persistent in His leading. He knows our desire to follow His will; and will “consistently illumine our paths with internal inklings of the Spirit, matching them with persistent, external confirmations that help make His voice clear” (76). Determining His will for our lives is not a game of hide-and-seek for that dot–Hallelujah!

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    1. I’m really following my nose on this topic of discernment, Nancy, and it has led me to Hannah Andersons All Things Good via Moody Press. It’s a great guide book using Paul’s list of virtues to act as a filter for what is worthy of our consideration: Is it pure? Is it honest? Is it just, and so on. Very enlightening, and such lyrical prose.

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  14. Michele, I love the description of how the voices we hear all through all lives get so confusing. Until we find a way to clarify which ones we should be listening to, it can definitely leave us feeling very lost. But once we open up to the power that is greatest than us, it starts to become clear and so much easier to find our purpose. It took me 40 years until I understood what people meant when they would say they were “called” to do something. Then my calling came and it was loud and clear and you really can’t resist it when it happens. I love Ford’s mission statement, ‘To be an artist of the soul. And a friend on the journey.’ How powerful is that! Thanks for sharing and linking up.

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

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    1. Calling can be such a slippery thing until we realize that God is not trying to play hide and seek with us! He’s given us a full complement of gifts, abilities, and loves for a reason, and they are our first road map.

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  15. I love your posts. I don’t go to church anymore, and often I find myself not sure what I do or do not believe in, unfortunately the actions of God’s people have caused myself and others at the church I used to attend, a lot of hurt and upset, but your posts are so helpful thank you. Also, I now have Matt Redman’s ‘Ten Thousand Reasons,’ stuck in my head now. I think maybe God has spoken through you today, as I am finding life very stressful at the moment so thank you, thank you, thank you xxx

    #globalblogging

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    1. I’m so sorry that people’s actions have dimmed your view of God, and I’m so thankful he has used this little post as a way to get your attention. Praying for you this morning. We really do have ten thousand reasons to turn toward Him.

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  16. I remember that name–Leighton Ford. I didn’t remember that he was with Billy Graham for a time. Seems like I went to a Dallas Holmes concert and he was there. But that was a VERY long time ago! Lol! And I love the concepts you’ve shared from his book, Michele. Especially the idea God cares so much more about guiding us than we do about listening. I know that means He will pursue me for all of my days! Pinning, my friend!

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  17. I’ve heard the ‘dot’ theory before, but just in passing. It seems like a horrible way to go through life! I pray for guidance every morning, and throughout the day when I feel stuck, afraid, unsure, or bewildered.

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    1. It’s very constricting and fear-based.
      God is so willing to communicate with us, and just as he incorporated the personalities of all the writers of Scripture into their contributions to the canon, I think he works individually with us now.

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  18. This >>> ” as we persevere in listening for and discerning the voice of God (no matter how imperfectly), we find our own deepest identity.” May we persevere and listen for His voice all of our days. Thank you for sharing about this book.

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  19. I have never heard of the dot theory – I learn from and am inspired by your posts whilst trying to figure out my own faith but i pray these days and that helps #DreamTeam

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  20. What a fascinating book and post, Michele. The line that really stopped me was this:

    “as we persevere in listening for and discerning the voice of God (no matter how imperfectly), we find our own deepest identity.”

    Identity has been a heart-theme for a number of years now. I never really considered how listening for and discerning the voice of God would help us better understand our own deepest identity. It makes sense. And I’m pondering it today.

    Thanks for sharing this!

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    1. That was the point that kept thrumming under the message of the book, Jeanne, the idea that who we are and what we’ve been called to do are all inextricably tied up with our identity in Christ and God’s great love for us and knowledge of our frame. It’s so easy to lose our way here.

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  21. “To be an artist of the soul. And a friend on the journey.” <— THAT is beautifully written! 🙂 We all need to be listening for that voice, that still, small voice, all of our lives. We are never too young to listen for it and never too old. Great post, Michele, as usual.

    Thanks for linking up at instaEncouragements!

    Like

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