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March 4, 2014

An Interview with Judy Gordon Morrow, author of The Listening Heart

My friends, it is my great honor and pleasure to introduce you to Judy Gordon Morrow, the author of The Listening Heart. Judy's book is kind of like Jesus Calling, but in my opinion, even more intimate. I've been reading the entries each day and have found so much encouragement and inspiration in each one. Judy's story is amazing and to know what she walked through just brings even more of Abba's love to each page. I highly recommend this book, and one blessed commenter will receive a copy donated generously by Judy herself. Without further ado, here's Judy.

The Listening HeartJudy, you share in the beginning of your book that your dialogues with God were “born out of overwhelming desperation.” Can you share a little about your story?

Let’s see if I can manage to give you the condensed version! For years I lived an active and full life, married and raising three boys, working in a school library, involved in my church—you get the picture. Then in the year 2000 my life was turned upside down. My marriage of almost 29 years ended, my grown sons faced troubling challenges, and I moved out of state to take a new job. I was living far away from family and friends, feeling clueless in my new workplace, and having to “do it all” as a single woman.

Living alone for the first time ever and feeling overwhelmed by my new reality, I was desperate for God and His help. Surprisingly, I discovered that being desperate for God is the very best place to be. The Lord met with me in my brokenness and shared his heart with me like never before. I soon wearied of scurrying for scraps of paper and decided to place a spiral notebook before me when I knelt on my bedroom carpet. I wanted to be prepared to write His precious words, since I was—and still am!—so prone to forget. During breakfast I would reread earlier journal entries to hear again His words of hope and encouragement during those dark days.

When you started writing all this down, did you ever imagine it would become a book? And can you share a little of how that happened?

When I wrote the first notebook entry in January of 2001, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that God would transform those pen scrawls into a book. Only God!

It still feels surreal that a book came out of 12 years of 34 notebooks penned while on my knees. As the notebooks started piling up, God would occasionally lead me to share excerpts with friends needing encouragement. I would hear back from them, “It feels like God is speaking to me,” and, “Could I please have a copy of that?” Those were God’s first seedlings for the book.

Then God led me to share an entry publicly for the first time when I taught a workshop at a writers’ conference in 2002. Unknown to me, a professor of theology was in the audience that day, and afterward he encouraged me to consider publication, stating, “The Church needs this kind of writing today.” I was touched by his words—and by his endorsement years later—but I still had no clear direction on how to compile the book.

At that same conference eight years later I submitted sample writings to a couple of editors, and both were interested. Yet the book remained in what I call “God’s Waiting Room.” Over a year later, while working in my office one day, God surprised me when He told me to compile the entries by months. That “aha” moment made so much sense to me, as I knew there were entries throughout the years that referred to Christmas and to spring days. It was then, in my heart of hearts, I believed it would somehow be published in God’s perfect way and timing. Yet I’m still amazed it happened! Every morning when I pick it up to read, I marvel once again and thank God for His “miracle,” and then I pray for every reader.

Does it ever feel strange to you that people you don't even know are reading these personal exchanges you had with God?

I’d have to say it feels both strange and wonderful, with wonderful winning out. I omitted, of course, any writings related specifically to personal concerns like my family and my work. But our Lord made it clear that so much of what He shared with me would also benefit others. There were times when I was typing up the entries for the manuscript when I would keenly sense the presence of Jesus. He would give me “glimpses” of readers being encouraged by the very words I was typing, and I would stop—in awe of Him yet again—and weep for joy. When we spend time with our Lord and get to know Him, our love for Him will only grow, as will our trust. We wouldn’t trust a stranger. Getting to know the One who loves us best satisfies our souls like nothing else. I love being with Jesus and just basking in His sweet presence, and I yearn for others to experience His precious presence and to know His lavish love for them. (Dineen here) Take a look at this entry from February 25th, one of my favorites:

Your amazing ways. That is what is needed in so many realms of my life. And that is what I am so capable of doing for you. What is amazing to you is the norm for Me. What I can do is an intrinsic part of who I am. So what My children perceive as amazing—and rightly so—is simply an outward display of who I am, the great I AM. Great in power, great in knowledge, great in love. Out of My greatness I give to My children, but My resources are never diminished or depleted. Too many of My children approach Me as if I am not enough. They apply their lack to Me, their limitless God, and then wonder how I can possibly work out what concerns them. They are operating out of the mindset of human constraints rather than setting their sights on their eternal God who can’t be contained. Oh, if My children could only capture who I am! The God of wonders, might and power! The God of closeness, caring and compassion. The God of hope, peace and joy. The God whose arms are always outstretched in welcome and whose heart yearns for the companionship of His children. No, do not be afraid of those nations, for the Lord your God is among you, and he is a great and awesome God. — 7:21, NLT

If you could share one thing with the person reading this right now, what would it be?

Take time to be with Jesus daily; it will change your life. For years I had focused more on being busy for Jesus than simply being with Jesus. When I finally started meeting with the Lord consistently in January of 1996 to pray and read His Word, I confess, it was more out of duty and guilt. By April God had transformed duty into joy. I encourage you to meet with the Lord out of your desire to know Him. If that desire is absent, pray for it—pray to hunger and thirst after God. Even if you can spare only minutes, give those first minutes of your day to Jesus and focus on Him.

Perhaps look at it this way. The better we know someone the more easily we recognize his or her voice. The same is true with God. And He has made it clear to me that our spending time with Him brings Him much joy. What an honor and privilege that we can bring our Lord joy in that way!

So while my times of recording His words to me began out of a season of deep desperation, now my times are motivated by the joy of being with the One who loves me most. He doesn't speak specific words to me every day, but reading His Word and being in His presence set the tone for my day. That time helps me to keep my eyes on Him and see things through His perspective. I long for everyone to experience the truth found in Psalm 16:11,  “In Your presence is fullness of joy.” There is nothing sweeter this side of heaven! Thank you, Judy! Your words and heart are an inspiration to us, and thank you for sharing them with us.  

Judy MorrowJudy Gordon Morrow is a lifelong lover of words and has published poetry, articles, song lyrics, and devotionals. Her first book dealt with pregnancy loss, followed by nine gift books. In her prior “word-lover jobs,” she served as a school librarian, newspaper copyeditor, and nonfiction editor at Multnomah Publishers. She speaks at events for women and writers, sharing her passion for the Word and words.