The mother's heart is the child's schoolroom.
Henry Ward Beecher

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Frankly Phyllis

Who Is That Voice?

At the end of this month, many of us will open our front doors to characters we do not recognize and hand them treats. In my daughter's neighborhood, the trick-or-treater must do a trick to earn that treat. So, kids sing a song, recite a poem, do a gig, or ask a riddle. The challenge is to look surprised when you've heard the most popular riddle that year about 50 times. Business is good at their doorstep, however. They have over 200 costumers!

Have you ever noticed when you ask, "Who is this character?" (especially, when you know the child or he's your own kid), that it's only when you say his name that off comes the mask or out comes the smile to reward your efforts. Our four-year-old Brooks was all dressed up one Halloween, and I could not guess the little guy's name. After a minute, from behind the mask came a whispered, "Listen to my voice, mom!"

I'm writing, once again, from our Michigan cottage. This time I'm readying for a women's retreat up here with Dick Swenson, M.D. (Woman to Woman guest on the episode titled, "Take a Load Off!", aired in June 2008) who keynotes for 220 women from around the country. Watch for more about this on my blog. Meanwhile, the cottage phone on the stand next to me holds one voice mail message from exactly two years ago. It's my dad's voice with good news following cataract removal at age 91. (Mind you, he did not wear glasses and was still reading maps with over-the-counter half-glasses at the time.) My kids think it's weird that I play this message back now and then. The message isn't profound. It's simply, "Hi Phyl. It's Daddy, around three o'clock. I'm now back to perfect eyesight. I have a certificate from the doctor that I don't have to take my driver's test. I don't need to wear glasses. So, back to square one. Now if we can just get the body working a little faster, we'd be in great shape! Isn't the Lord great! Thanks. Love ya. Talk to you later!" I treasure the sound of his voice, which was silenced when he was called home to heaven several months later in his sleep.

What is it about a voice that's so special? You know what I mean. Our voices are unique, so much so that research reveals our "voiceprint" to be as unique as our fingerprint! The implications of that are huge. One day, we'll probably be able to access bank accounts, activate engines and, who knows what else with our one-of-a-kind voices. This begs the question, what do you do with the power of your unique voice? Do you bring comfort, speak encouraging words, speak the truth? Is your voice more effective with sound bytes, or do you hold forth for more airtime?

The next question is this: whose voice do you listen to? In this swirling political season, voices call to us to do this and think that. If you're an election junkie, you probably hear those voices in your sleep! Whether in politics or in real life, we want to discern whose voice speaks truth, to know who is worth following. It's a tough choice for some and an easy choice for others. It's the same in the family, in the neighborhood, at the office. Voices can beckon, urge, sometimes annoy and anger or motivate and inspire us.

Speaking of voices, I love opening my Bible to the Book of John in the New Testament, the second half of the Bible. (I don't hear voices in there, but no matter how many times I read John I come away with tons of ah-has!) He quotes Jesus talking about a voice - namely His! Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd, as you probably know. Those who follow Him and live out His teachings are called "sheep." You've heard the song, "I am Jesus' little lamb." It's the same deal. Jesus makes a point in the 10th chapter where John records Him talking about how His "sheep" know His voice and won't be led astray by voices that beckon but are not His. Here's the exact quote. "My sheep know my voice. The watchman opens the gate for him (the shepherd), and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from Him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice" (John 10:3-5 and further to the end of the chapter: Concordia Self-Study Bible).

It's important to follow the right voice to keep from getting led astray. Do you get the tie-in with the little snippets above? Our voiceprint is as unique as our fingerprint. It is recognized. Brooks tells me at age four, "Listen to my voice, mom!" He knew I'd recognize him then. My dad's 91-year-old voice still reminds me of who he was, what he stood for, how much he loved our family and, in his case, how faithfully he followed the Good Shepherd and modeled that for us. And actually, when that voice mail message finally gets erased, I'll still hear his voice because it's part of who I am now.

Your voice is truly a gift. You use it to lead, to follow, to rebuke, and to lift up. The bigger question is, what does your voice say in response to the Good Shepherd who calls you by name? Can you hear Him saying, "Listen to my voice? Come to me, you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." Do you recognize His voice from all the others? You will when you get to know Him. My son reminded me I knew his voice. I recognize my dad's voice because one way or another we walked together this side of heaven all my life. Walking with Jesus is like that. He draws you close through his Word, His Sacraments, and through others who know Him. It's how you literally hang out with Jesus. He brings Himself, His protection, His wisdom, and His life-saving grace to you with your name on it!

I grew up playing the piano using sheet music for "I'll Walk with God." The song is sung by the heart-rending voice of Mario Lanza. I just looked up the words online and see that an album of his music, with this song, was released in 1999. This is one of those soul-stirring, hymn-like songs that stay with you once you hear it. The first and last verses give you the idea.

I'll walk with God, from this day on.
His helping hand, I'll lean upon.
This is my prayer, my humble plea
May the Lord be ever with me.

I'll walk with God, I'll take His hand.
I'll talk with God, He'll understand.
I'll pray to Him, each day to Him,
And He'll hear the words that I say
His hand will guide my throne and rod
And I'll never walk alone,
While I walk with God!

Whose voice IS it? No costume can hide it. No others can be as authentic. When you hear His voice in His Word, it's safe to follow!

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