Today’s blog post comes from Bill Tonnis, musician, pastoral minister, hospital chaplain (in training) and contemplative. Thank you Bill for pointing out the unexpected ways that God finds us and calls us to ourselves and to our purpose in this life. See Bill’s bio below, but more importantly, check out Bill’s website for his music and to learn more about his journey!
Listening to God
Praying is something I did a lot of in my life…but it was all “one-way” praying as in ME doing all the talking and God doing all the listening. It wasn’t until I was quite miserable with how I had engineered my life that I actually listened to what God might have to say. It took a flood…literally…for me to shut up and listen. After covering the major flood of the Ohio River the entire first week of March in 1997 as a radio news journalist, I sank into my couch at home and in total exhaustion and misery from a lack of fulfillment I simply told God, “I give up.” It was in the silence of my surrender that I “heard” in my heart a voice that said, “Get your guitar.” This made no sense since I hadn’t even touched that guitar in ten years and had hardly played it since I was a teen. But the experience was so strong that I couldn’t deny it. Fast-forward 16 years later and I am: releasing my third album of original Contemporary Christian Music; have a web site and daily devotional on my blog titled “Today’s Contemplation; have completed a Masters Degree in Religious Studies; have become a youth minister and music minister; am halfway through Clinical Pastoral Education (chaplaincy training); and my whole life is built around “listening” to God speak to me in the silence.
It seems so counter-intuitive in our culture to simply sit in silence and listen. There is no “doing”…just “being.” I’m sure you’ve heard the clever line about us being human “beings” and not human “doings”…but there is a profound truth there. One of the major influences in my contemplative journey has been the Catholic Monk Thomas Merton. I found a kindred spirit to help lead me from following my “false self” to discovering my “true self.” Never mind that Merton has been dead for nearly 50 years. The words of his books spoke directly to my soul. Lectio Divina each morning followed by a quiet time of centering prayer made all the difference. While I have no idea what God has in store for me next…the inner peace and fulfillment I am finding in each moment makes the journey an exciting adventure. As I pursue God in the silence…my false self diminishes while my true self rises.
Bill Tonnis, formerly a radio journalist, now works as the Pastoral Associate for Outreach at Our Lady of the Visitation Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. He shares his talent and testimony at schools, churches, meetings, conferences, youth groups and retreats. He has created a ministry presentation titled “Listen – Live – Give… Find Your Voice” focusing on how to live your calling and to be disciples for Christ. In 2007, Bill Tonnis released his debut CD titled LISTEN TO YOUR HEART. His follow-up CD, titled LIVE TO LOVE was released in 2009. Then in 2013, Bill’s third album titled GIVE PRAISE AND THANKS was released. The songs on these projects represent a variety of musical styles, but the constant theme is that it is never too late to find YOUR voice…to become your “true self” and to help build the kingdom of God.