I am thankful for friendship and I am so thankful when it knows no distance or time. My friendship with Jenn is exactly that. We have been friends for over 12 years. We live in different countries, yet when we meet up we continue as though we saw each other yesterday. Why change, why let distance or time dictate the friendship you want?
I met Jenn for the first time in Fremont, California in 2003. The thing I remember the most about our meeting was that I was instantly in her world, her humor and her friendship. Normally when you meet someone for the first time you have your traditional formalities: hello, my name is, where do you live, what do you do, etc. Not this meeting! We were cracking jokes right away! Through our friendship we have travelled with work, travelled for fun, and travelled to each other’s cities for visits. She is one of my friends who cheers me on, dreams with me, tells me like it is and listens to my heart. She is a great friend! I have learned a lot from her! She is real, raw, and always speaks hope! She is also so much fun, loves to throw a party, can whip up an amazing meal in a matter of minutes, has energy I can’t keep up with and has the most beautiful heart. She is also gorgeous!
I could ask Jenn so many questions about her life to share with you: how she balances it all with being a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, singer, songwriter, speaker, etc. One night I sat on the couch and I looked at my computer; I heard God say, “Ask me what I want Jenn’s story to say.” Ok, “God, what do you want Jenn’s story to say?” I felt Him say, “Write about how she hears My voice. I want those reading this to know that part of her story.” With no hesitation the writing just started to flow. I knew that Jenn’s story was to help those in their journey of hearing God’s voice!
The one thing that always pops up in my conversations with Jenn and the one thing I witness constantly in her life is her ability to hear God’s voice. It’s something that seems to be so simple, unpolluted, regular and normal in her life. I am always fascinated, inspired and jealous when I witness this. I hear God, but I need to train my ear more and I need to create an atmosphere to listen. Sometimes it feels like a massive chore to be able to hear Him, like I am straining to listen through a thick wall and all I end up hearing is a muffled voice. We are always quick to say, “Why aren’t you speaking God?” But I am pretty sure He is always speaking, we just need to change the way we listen!
The first people we learn from are our parents. When Jenn was a baby her father had decided to go on a fishing trip to the coast (they lived in Humboldt, California). He led a casual Christian life but wasn’t really living for God. Jenn’s mother had asked him that morning to attend church with her but his plans were to fish. The ocean was rough that day. As he was driving to the coast the presence of God filled his truck so strongly that he pulled over to the side of the road. He heard God say to him, “You are going out there today and there is no guarantee you are coming back and you aren’t ready to meet Me yet!” Jenn’s dad is not an emotional man, but that day he sobbed. He turned his truck around and drove home to pick up Jenn and her mother to attend church. He arrived at church and told the pastor what had happened, “I haven’t been living right and I need to repent to the church.” He stood up in front of the church crying, “I haven’t been living right, I need to get right with God and I need to get real and be honest.” He called the church to repentance and the altar filled with men, his friends who were in the same spot as he had been! He heard God in his truck that morning and that morning his response to God’s voice changed the course of the people in that church and the church itself! This is part of Jenn’s lineage.
Jenn knew all about God through reading the Bible, but she wanted to know Him in a different way, she wanted to know His voice. Hearing the voice of God became her number one priority in life. “When you hear His voice it guides every aspect of your life.” The quest to hear Him started at 15 years of age. Jenn worked at McDonald’s as a teenager (one of the things we have in common!). On one of her drives to her shift she saw a piece of garbage on the side of the road. She felt like God said, “Pick up that garbage, take it to work and throw it out when you get there.” Jenn shook off the feeling and continued driving. She got to work, sat in the parking lot knowing that God had spoken. So she drove back up the hill and picked up the garbage and brought it to work and threw it in the garbage. Nothing miraculous happened when she did that! What did happen in that moment? Breaking the need to know and understand why He says what He says. It had to break in Jenn because she was great at trusting Him when something made sense. “He can really use you when He can get you to trust His voice when you don’t understand.”
Still a teenager, while Jenn was at church during worship she had a mental picture of her standing in the church kitchen, holding a small white bowl of water in front of a couple that attended her church. She saw herself splashing them in the face with the water. What a strange picture to get! Because of the reputation she had been building with hearing God’s voice, she knew He was speaking. She thought to herself, “What have I got to lose?” She shared the picture she had with the couple. They all went to the kitchen and Jenn took a white bowl, filled it with water and splashed them in the face. Instantly Jenn started speaking prophetically to them, “You are bickering in your marriage, there is dissension in your home and God wants you to stop fighting!” Jenn had no idea what just happened! The couple immediately hugged each other and started crying, “That is exactly what is happening in our marriage.” It didn’t make sense to Jenn but that didn’t matter as she was on the road of trusting His voice when it didn’t add up. “You have to stop fearing man more than God.”
When her husband, Brian, pulled her into his office to ask her what she thought about becoming his wife (I wrote about their amazing story in a previous post, “Love”), she knew she needed to talk with God about it. Even though this was what she really wanted, she needed to hear His heart on the matter; she needed to hear His “yes”. I will always remember Jenn saying this, I don’t know if it was the first time she shared this story or if it was later, but she said something like, “I went home, laid on my bed and asked God what He thought. God always speaks to me the way I speak, not in this loud old style type of voice, but just as I speak. So when I asked Him, ‘What do you think God, should I marry him?’ He answered back with a ‘Ya!’” Jenn got her “Ya”! Many of us, well maybe just me, think that God speaks in Old English or with a booming voice like the Wizard of Oz but after hearing her share this story it really shaped me in my process of listening. Maybe I haven’t always heard God because I was listening for the Wizard of Oz type voice when in fact He was speaking all along, but it sounded a bit more like the way I speak, think or how the average person speaks. Maybe when I heard what He was saying I wrote it off as my own thoughts. He doesn’t always speak in the loud sounds of an earthquake or the blazing heat from a fire or in the big gust of wind; in fact He speaks sometimes in the still small voice. (1 Kings 19). We may be guilty of overcomplicating God’s voice. This part of her story has always encouraged me!
You can hear God speak through other people. Brian, Jenn and their daughter, who was 2 years old at the time, were on a ministry trip in Nashville. Brian’s dad, Bill Johnson, was with them in the van driving to church for the nightly meeting. Jenn had a long day, a “Jesus Take The Wheel” kind of day as Jenn calls it. She was tired, their daughter was sick, their flights were delayed and they had to lead worship that night. Jenn was just mad at the day, was in a huff and her sarcastic tendency was at the surface. In the van, she mumbled under breath in preparation for the nightly meeting, “Mommy Hat off; Worship Hat on.” Bill replied to her comment, “The problem is the Worship Hat should have never come off.” That statement changed her life. “What you do is not worship, who you are is worship. Whether I am changing a diaper or leading worship for thousands of people, it doesn’t matter because my life is worship. It changed my entire universe!” Many people all over the world ask Jenn this question, “How do you prepare your life for worship?” Jenn’s answer, “My life is worship; I stay connected to the Lord always. Sometimes we can all feel when the connection is not as strong, it’s ok because it’s life. Even if you have 5 seconds in your car when you are driving, turn your affection to the Lord. When you are shopping for groceries just say, “I love You so much”. Stay in your connection with Him throughout the day.”
God uses the Bible to speak to us. Brian and Jenn had just recorded their first album and it swallowed up a lot of their own personal money. They didn’t have a label at that time and they gave everything to the recording. They were exhausted. It had been a very busy time for them. A friend said to them, “I really feel that you both are to go to Hawaii to rest.” Jenn’s initial response, “Ya right.” However, she felt God on it. That night Jenn prayed, “This doesn’t make sense right now, but I strongly feel that we are to go to Hawaii. Please confirm it in some way.” She opened her Bible (The Message translation) and the first verse she read was, “God is your island getaway!” She shouted to Brian, “Baby, we’re going to Hawaii!!” They went to Hawaii and it was an incredible, a refreshing time for the both of them. The money from their album sales paid for their trip!
As a songwriter, Jenn’s heart is to write songs that reflect who God is and what He is saying. A few of her songs have great meaning behind them.
“When I needed to write for the album, ‘Come To Me’ wasn’t in my heart or head to write. I went into my room, with my journal and lay on the floor. I asked the Lord: “Lord what is on Your heart that You want the whole world to know?” I then started to think of the natural disasters that were happening in the world and heard the Lord say, ‘That is not Me and I am with them. I want them to know that I have never left them. I am faithful, I am for you, with you, beside you and around you.’ The whole thing unraveled. ‘I want the whole world to know that I am with them.’”
I am the Lord your God, I go before you now
I stand beside you, I’m all around you
Though you feel I’m far away,
I’m closer than your breath
I am with you, more than you know
~ Come To Me~
“A personal song to me is ‘God I Look To You’. It’s what I sing to the Lord every day because I feel overwhelmed every day. I deal with being depressed at times. Your greatest strength will be shot at as your great weakness. So for those that are to release happiness, which I am, depression will try and get you. I used to sing in the car all the time, ‘God I look to You, I am overwhelmed’ and God said to me, ‘Well if you keep singing that, you’re going to stay that way.’ Right, ok! So I changed the lyrics, ‘God I look to you, I won’t be overwhelmed’. I had to put it as a declaration, a statement. You need to sing about where you are going!
God I look to You, I won’t be overwhelmed
Give me vision to see things like You do
God I look to You, You’re where my help comes from
Give me wisdom; You know just what to do
~ God I Look To You~
Have you ever been praying or worshiping and your mind wanders? Guilty. I sometimes get upset with myself for not being able to focus. However, I have heard by others that it’s ok, as it could be God speaking to you about a situation. Jenn confirms this, “Pay attention to what you think about, who you think about during worship as it could be God speaking to you. Sometimes the Lord brings really beautiful things to our hearts when we are worshiping Him. Write it down right away and then get back into worship!”
Teaching their children to hear the voice of God is something I have been witness to. It has been such a quest for their own lives and it only seems natural that Brian and Jenn would have it as one for their children. They teach their children to ask the Holy Spirit about certain things, choices and situations in their lives. Does He give it a “yes” or a “no”? It’s a great way to build that relationship with God. Start them young!
There is so much more I could share, I may have to write another post one day! I have been inspired by her walk with God and how she does life with Him. Jenn dreams big, believes big and isn’t afraid to ask big. She shares her stories with vulnerability and she shares them freely with people. I know her heart is to encourage those around her and those far away. As I end this story, I truly feel that when God said to me, “Share how she hears My voice”, that He is proud of her. He is proud of how she has diligently sought after His heart, His voice and that He has loved seeing her grow from challenges. It is a beautiful picture of a Father proud of the growth in His daughter!
My prayer for you is that after reading this, you would be inspired and encouraged to seek out His voice. That you would commune with Him daily, moment by moment and in those conversations with Him it wouldn’t be one sided but that you would learn to hear Him speak to you. God has so many beautiful things to say, so much wisdom and advice to share and direct your life with. He desires for you to seek Him, His voice and His heart.
I know this is Jenn’s prayer for you as well.
All pictures used with permission from Jenn Johnson.
More information about Jenn Johnson please visit Bethel Music.