December 22, 2023

Listening for the voice of God leads to life-changing moments that evoke awe and reverence in the hearts of people

(Editor’s note: The Criterion invited our readers to share their stories of how God has made his presence known in their lives. Here are a few more stories in our continuing series. See part two)

By John Shaughnessy

There are words and voices we don’t necessarily want to hear in our lives, but sometimes we need to listen to them.

James Dickey has experienced that reality during two life-changing moments.

The first one occurred when he was a teenager. Seconds after leaving a party, he noticed that one of his shoelaces wasn’t tied, so he stooped to tie it.

“I was only a couple of feet from the door, and on the other side of the door I heard my friends discussing all of my faults. I was crushed,” recalled Dickey, sharing one of the stories from his book, It’s All True! A Sinner’s Journey to the Truth.

“Here’s the great news. No one ever knew that I was standing outside the door to hear those comments, and I acknowledged the truth in their criticism. I was more than motivated to work on being a better person. That night will be forever engrained in my mind because it made me a better person.”

The second moment came when he was an adult struggling to get along with a co-worker. When that situation continued for a long time, Dickey was convinced it would never change. Then, he says, he “actually felt God asking” him to pray for the woman.

“So I started praying for this person every day, not begrudgingly, but from my heart,” recalls Dickey, a member of St. Louis Parish in Batesville. “Amazingly, our relationship blossomed, seemingly overnight, and to this day we are friends.”

Years later, Dickey looks back upon those moments and even sees God’s presence in the one that occurred when he was a teenager—a moment that led him to work to become a better person.

Dickey says, “If you just say yes, a simple yes from your heart, he will show you every day that he is with you.”

‘It was a message to me from God and my dad’

There are moments in life that we never forget, especially the one that touch our lives with heartbreak and then lead us to a moment of hope and faith.

Deardra Cancilla Webb, a member of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis, has lived that reality in a moment involving her parents, Pat and Mary.

“My dad woke up one June morning, made himself a cup of coffee, sat down in his recliner and died,” she noted in a handwritten letter.

“When my mother awoke and found him, she called me, as I lived only a block away. I immediately went to her. We called our pastor who also quickly came and gave my dad conditional last rites. The coroner and funeral home people came to take the earthly remains of my dad’s soul away.

“By then, my brother and sister arrived, so I left to give the sad news to my family. I was brokenhearted and dreaded telling them, but when I walked up on my porch, a lily I had planted from a pot to the ground was in full bloom. It had never bloomed before, but here it was in all its glory!

“I had just finished reading Elie Wiesel’s book Night. A phrase from the book popped into my head, ‘Life, life, new life.’ It was a message to me from God and my dad that he had moved on to his new life in heaven.

“This whole scenario comes to me often and brings me peace and assurance that God is with me. Incidentally, the lily never bloomed again.”

‘I only need to listen and to do what God makes known to me’

Janine Schorsch refers to special moments in her life as “God-incidences”—moments when God’s presence “evokes awe and reverence” in her heart.

One of those moments that stands out to her occurred during a weeklong silent retreat where she recognized Janet, a woman she had met on a previous retreat.

“At the beginning of the retreat, we were brought together to share what brought us to the retreat and tell a little about ourselves,” Schorsch recalls. “Janet shared that she had completed writing a spiritual book.

“A few evenings later, even though it was a silent retreat, we were invited to attend a session about interpreting dreams, as in the biblical sense of a message from God. Intrigued, I attended and saw that Janet was there as well. We each shared a dream that we had experienced, and the leader walked us through the symbolism of her interpretation of God’s message, cautioning us to only accept her interpretation if it felt right.”

When the leader gave her interpretation of Janet’s dream, connecting it to her children, Schorsch could tell that it didn’t resonate with Janet.

“I said a prayer for her to know God’s message,” says Schorsch, a member of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Parish in Bright. “Later, in chapel, I very clearly sensed God’s presence. He told me to tell Janet that her dream was not about her sons, but about her book.

“I wrote a note to Janet telling her about my experience and, even though she might think I was crazy, this message was truly from God: ‘It’s about the book,’ I wrote in a note to her and slipped it under her door.”

When Schorsch returned to her own room hours later, she found a note from Janet, who told her that she had been walking in the labyrinth when she heard a voice telling her that her dream was about her book.

“Wanting confirmation that this was truly God’s voice, she asked God to give her a sign,” Schorsch says. “When she returned to her room, my note was waiting for her.

“I have never forgotten that moment. It has given me the courage to listen to the

still, small voice of God and to act on his will for me. I know that I don’t need to orchestrate the outcome. I only need to listen and to do what God makes known to me.” †

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