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Hearing God’s Voice

“When did you first hear God’s voice?”   We were recently attending services at the First United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg with friends when the minister posed this question.
Like many others in my own church, I grew up in a faith based home.  My parents and grandparents attended the same church I grew up in.  I attended Sunday School, youth activities, sang in a choir, and even started playing the organ for evening services when I was in the eighth grade.
I believe God speaks to us in different ways.  A beautiful sunset, an answered prayer, the birth of a child; many different things open our hearts.  It is then, I think, we are most receptive to hearing that voice.  Somehow we have been prepared to listen.
However, it was the music that always seemed to speak to me the loudest.  Sacred music of all kinds, along with the 500 or so hymns in the hymnal touched my heart and sent messages that seemed to be just for me.  
Being the organist in our church for 30 years has probably caused me to tune out the way that music prepares us for worship.  I get so busy on the mechanics of playing that I occasionally forget to listen.  
Our visit to this particular church in St. Petersburg was quite by accident.  It was a last minute decision during our visit because we found out our friends attended this particular church.  It is right downtown, in an area that you might think would not be conducive to a growing, vibrant church.  
However, it is very much alive with three services and 1,800 members.  The pictures of all their new members indicated that an old church can indeed attract young families.  Their youth programing was rich and full.
The service we attended was the “traditional” service.  In all honesty, it was because I wanted to hear their organ.  This isn’t just an ordinary pipe organ, if there is such a thing.  It is one of the largest of its kind in Florida.   It was originally installed in the 1920s and later completely rebuilt in the 1980s.  Additional voices were added in the 1990s.
On the stage was a Steinway concert grand piano.  Once considered the finest piano in the world, it remains among the very finest of pianos for this type of large setting.
Fine instruments without a doubt, they were both played by people of immense talent.  There was not one, but two duets, played during the service.  It was not music adapted for the piano and organ, but rather music written specifically for the piano and organ, to showcase the sounds of each instrument.
It was like a concert of the finest order.  The massive organ could make the softest sounds.  The piano was a perfect accent to the organ.  Together they played loud enough to rattle the stained glass windows.  They played gentle enough to barely be above a whisper.
It was the prelude before the service that prepared me to be able to answer the minister’s question.  I first heard God through music.  The gift of music calms me in times of trouble, and helps my spirit soar in times of celebration.   Music captures all my emotions and speaks when no words are adequate.
The instruments were built by artisans, dedicated to producing the finest sounds possible.  They were played by people who had spent years improving the talents that God gave them.  The music was written by people before our lifetime who heard the notes in their head and heart before they put them on paper.
The result was a sound that touched my soul.  My mind was cleared of distractions and I was ready to listen.  What I heard was the voice of God.
Dan Ponder can be reached at

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