I can still hear my mom's voice calling through the house, "Are you ready for some yard work?" It sounded a bit like that Monday night call on US television, "Are you ready for some football!"
Even though I always heard Mom's voice - which was quite big for someone only five feet tall! - I would be as quiet as a mouse. I would freeze into silence and hope my younger brothers and my sister wouldn't give me away.
But let's be fair, Mom had other calls too, like, "Are you ready for some ice cream?" Now, that was one I always responded to the first time!
The trouble is, she knew I heard both calls. That's why I regularly got what I called her "listening sermon." "You only listen to what you want to hear!" she said. "It's time you chose to listen, listen, listen! And think." And then she would tell me the Bible story about Samuel and Eli, which is really pretty cool. It explains something about listening - and obeying.
When he was young, Samuel served God by helping Eli the priest. Samuel slept on a mat not far from Eli's room and twice ran to Eli when he heard a voice calling out his name in the night. Each time, Eli assured him that he had not called him, and sent Samuel back to bed. When Samuel was awakened a third time by the voice, Eli realized it was God who was speaking to Samuel, and he said, "Go back and lie down. If someone speaks to you again, answer, 'I'm listening, Lord. What do you want me to do?' "
At that point God spoke to Samuel about his future, which included big opportunities for him and ways to grow closer to God. He became a prophet, and was the last judge to lead Israel. You can read the story in the Bible book called First Samuel, chapters three and four.
Sometimes God's voice comes like a burst of fresh thought. And sometimes it's not exactly what we want to hear! Like when you know you should give a friend a turn on your scooter. Or when you know you should apologize to your dad for doing something he told you not to do. We don't always want to hear those messages from God. But we have to listen anyway. And just the way Samuel did, we'll learn that obedience and love bring their own reward.
How do you recognize God's voice, though? When Mom used to call through the house - even though I couldn't see her - I knew who it was. Her voice was really familiar to me.
When we pay attention, we get to know God's voice, too. You might call it the voice of Truth. And we learn to tell the difference between that voice and other voices that tell us something very different from what Truth is saying. For instance, when you listen to God, some of the things you hear a lot are ideas like this: "I love you. Don't be afraid. I will help you. I will never leave you." Truth doesn't say things like "You're no good. You'll never be able to do this. You're scared of that."
We don't need to be fooled by voices in any disguise that lead us away from God. Some of those flashy commercials on television are fun, but you're probably not fooled when they keep saying, "Buy this! It will bring you more fun, more friends." Something inside us knows the difference between what's true and what's not. And we can get so familiar with the kind of thoughts God sends that we don't get fooled by things He would never say!
Mom always told us that God's voice deserves our full attention. God is the source of everything that's really great in our lives. And He makes you feel happier than even the tallest ice cream sundae you can imagine!
Shepherd, show me how to go O'er the hillside steep, How to gather, how to sow,- How to feed Thy sheep; I will listen for Thy voice, Lest my footsteps stray; I will follow and rejoice All the rugged way.
Mary Baker Eddy
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society