As a teenager, my favorite past time was talking on the phone with my friends. The worst punishment for me, at that age, was to ground me from the telephone. It was my connection to the outside world. It allowed me to find out what was going on in the group’s gossip, to discuss the many thoughts and ideas running through my mind, and allowed for me to have an identity outside of my parents. My friends were my life as a teenage girl. And I knew that I could always pick up the phone and get a hold of someone to talk to. Someone who cared about my thoughts, my feelings, and my struggles just as much as I cared about theirs.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to just pick up the phone and have a conversation with God in the same way? Wouldn’t be nice to hear his responses to our comments, our fears, our worries, and the musings of our hearts and to have a clear painting of his plans for our futures? We can have something like that. But we have to have our hearts open to the movement of the Spirit, to the presence of God in our lives. Sometimes we spend so much time talking when we approach God in prayer that we don’t recognize his voice on the other end answering us when we speak. We forget that prayer is supposed to be like that two way conversation on the telephone. In order for it to be meaningful, we need to listen almost as much as we talk. We need to truly open our hearts to the words that God has for us as Lydia was open and truly heard the call of God for her life.
So when we listen for the word of God the next thing we need to consider is how we listen. Listening is about so much more than just hearing the words. When we listen to God we need to hear his words with our hearts and to dedicate ourselves to the call that he has placed in our lives, a call that is uniquely suited to our lives, our skills, and what we have been created for. To hear the call is to live the call, to commit our lives to it, allowing for the words of God to transform us.
Lydia did more than just hear the call of God; she committed herself to the way of God. She committed her whole life. She converted her whole family and all of her servants. She lived into the message of Christ and shared that message with all peoples. She truly heard the call to a new and more meaningful life. We need to choose how we hear and listen to God. We need to choose to make the words of God count in our lives. American author, educator, and activist Parker Palmer says, “The moments when we meet and reckon with contradictions are turning points where we either enter or evade the mystery of God”. We can choose to enter fully and completely into the mystery of God. Allowing for God’s mystery to enfold us and change our lives for the better. We can choose to allow God to speak to through those contradictions in life and to allow for them to inspire our hands into action.
We all want answers to our prayers. We all want to feel the presence of God and to feel as if God hears our pleas and knows our joys. But to do that we need to make sure that we are approaching prayer appropriately, as a two way conversation and not just a one way chat. God does answer us. We just need to take the time to listen and hear what he is saying. We need to spend just as much time working to open our hearts to the words of the holy as we do petitioning him for our desires, our struggles, and our complaints. God longs to transform life for us. He longs to be the focus of our hearts. So let us listen for God.
Hear God speaking in the movements of nature, in the stillness of silence, in the chaos of life, in the contradictions to make us uncomfortable. When we are called into faith, it requires a response from us. We can’t just say “Oh cool. That’s interesting, now on with life”. When we are called to faith life will never be the same as it was before. As faithful Christians, we are called to make life changes that reflect our faith, that reflect that we have truly heard and committed to the message that God has crafted just for us. Use the story of Lydia as a reminder of what is expected of us when we do hear the word of God and what listening to God truly means, for our scriptures say, “The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul. And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.” The Lord opened her heart and it changed her life forever. Allow for God to open your heart and your ears to his call in your lives and work to do more than just acknowledging him there, live into the life we are called to live as Christians. Help others; touch the life of another person, and work to make this world alive with hope, love, and peace. These are the signs of God’s hand at work in our lives. These are the signs that we have heard God and take his call seriously in all that we do.
So today when you leave this place of worship, take a moment to listen to God. The next time you come before God with troubles, needs, and desperation remember to allow him time to respond and listen for his answers, listen with your heart and all of your senses and allow for his answers to mold your lives.
 Parker Palmer, 21st century American author, educator, and activist.
 Acts 16: 14-15, RSV.
(Based on Acts 16: 9-16)