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Interview with Ruth O'Reilly-Smith, author of 'God Speaks'

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Interview with Ruth O'Reilly-Smith, author of 'God Speaks'
Interview with Ruth O’Reilly-Smith, author of God Speaks

 

God speaks. If we take the time to quiet our racing thoughts and be still for a moment, we can hear him. He is speaking all the time. 

Ruth O'Reilly helps us to slow down, listen to God and respond to him in her beautiful devotional journal, God Speaks. Draw closer to God as you listen to 40 messages of love straight from the Father's heart, reflect on Bible verses and learn to talk to God with guided questions and prayers. As you write your thoughts in the journaling space provided, you will create a precious record of how God speaks to you that you can always treasure.

Ruth, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born in South Africa and am the oldest of five children. I grew up in a Christian home and gave my life to Jesus as a young girl. I qualified as a secondary school teacher at the University of Pretoria and this is where I discovered my vocation. In 1995 I started hosting a show on university radio and volunteered at a community radio station. Since moving to the UK in 1999, I’ve continued in radio, working in the news room and as host of music and talk-based programmes for two separate global Christian media charities. I did work briefly as a supply teacher in Birmingham, but my great passion has been radio. I currently host a week day show called, This Is My Story on UCB2, which is part of United Christian Broadcasters.

I’m married to Paul and we have teenage twins, Samuel and Katelyn. When our children were 18 months old, my husband was offered a job in Dubai, so we lived there for two years and then we went on to live in South Africa for five years. I continued working in radio and recorded my UCB programmes from Dubai and South Africa. I’ve always enjoyed creative writing and whilst living in in Dubai, I was given the opportunity to write for the Our Daily Bread Ministries publication, which I did for a number of years. A few years ago, we felt the call of God back to the UK and we now live in Staffordshire, England. We attend a local church where I occasionally get to preach and I’ve enjoyed speaking at a number of women’s retreats. I love long walks in the country and catching up with a friend over a steaming hot cuppa. I’ve also recently discovered the joy of baking soda bread.

Why did you decide to write God Speaks?

The letters in this book were written during my personal devotional time with the Lord in Lent 2020. I felt drawn to write a letter from my heavenly Father every morning, but within days I sensed God telling me they were intended for a much wider audience and would become a book. Sometime after Easter, the Lord prompted me to submit them to a publisher, which I hesitantly did and so was birthed God Speaks.

Who have you written this book for?

God Speaks is for those who are hungry to hear the truth of how their Maker really feels about them.

To those who are tired of the loud lies of the maddening crowd over their lives, God speaks.

To those who’ve wondered what God thinks of us when we feel scared or worried, when we fail or are heartbroken? And what about the joyous moments, when we feel happy and laugh out loud, or when we feel brave and excited, how does God see us then? God Speaks is a letter spoken to the core of the parched human soul from the heart of the Creator.

Your book contains 40 letters from the Father’s heart. How do you go about making sure that you hear from God?

My parents modelled quiet time with God. Every morning, they woke up early, read the Bible, wrote down what they sensed God was saying through his Word and then they’d pray, first on their own and then together. They still do this and I start my day with God in the same way.

My husband and I wake up long before our children and my hubby goes downstairs while I lie with my head still on the pillow and eyes closed, and I begin to speak to the Lord in silent prayer. When I’ve fully woken, I sit up and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to me as I begin to read the Bible. I don’t read it on my phone at this time because it’s too tempting to check my emails, the news or social media. I keep my phone face down and don’t look at it until after I’ve had some time with God.

I do read the Bible and pray every day, but I also have a notebook and pen close to hand and sometimes I’ll start by writing a letter to God. I just let my thoughts flow out on the page, but I usually start by thanking God for who he is and what he’s done in my life. I then tend to write a letter from God to me. By faith I believe God wants to talk to me too. I start with something like; “My child…” or “Daughter...” or “My beloved...” or I simply start with my name. I don’t think about making sure my grammar or spelling are correct and I don’t allow myself to second guess whether a line is from the Bible or not, I just let my thoughts flow. I always write a hope-filled, affirming letter; one that’s underpinned by the love of God for me. It can be a short letter of just a few lines, or sometimes it’s a few pages, and I like to finish it with something like, “your Heavenly Father”, or “God”. I’ve also become intentional about seeking to hear God through his Word. As I’m reading, I’m constantly asking the Holy Spirit to help me see how I can apply what I’m reading to my life today. I also find God speaks to me when I’m in nature, so I’m intentional about going for a walk in the countryside as often as possible.

You say in your book that God speaks all the time.  So why do you think we find it hard to hear him sometimes?

The main reason we don’t hear God is because we have too much noise in our lives. From the moment the radio alarm goes off until we fall asleep in front of the telly at night, we fill our days with noise. When we’re in the car, the radio is on, or we’re listening to our favourite podcast or music, work is noisy and when we get home, we put the news on. We’re often afraid to be still. We’re uncomfortable with stillness and quiet, but Psalm 46:10 reminds us that we can only know God in the stillness. We have to learn to be intentionally still, it doesn’t come naturally. I’ve taken to often driving to or from work in silence or when I go for a walk, instead of always putting music on or listening to a podcast, I’ll walk in silence and just speak to God and I’ll ask him to help me know his presence with me.

What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to hear God speak?

Hearing God’s voice is something you grow in. You can learn to be still and you can learn to hear the voice of your Maker. When I say I can hear God speak, I don’t mean his audible voice, I mean I sense God is speaking to me through my thoughts, through a song on the radio, a Bible verse that seems to jump out of the page or through the words of someone like a minister, a friend or a stranger. It’s usually something that will confirm what God’s already been stirring deep in my soul or it’s something only I know about.

For instance, maybe you really love eagles and one day you ask God to show you how much he loves you. The next moment you look up and see an eagle flying high above you. You instantly have a warm feeling of joy deep in your soul and you wonder for a moment if that was God? Perhaps you put it out your mind and go on with your day. A while later a friend sends you an encouraging message with an image of an eagle and again you sense, maybe that was God’s way of showing you he loves you, but maybe you put it down to coincidence. Then you go to your verse for the day and it just happens to come from Isaiah 40:31; “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” My hope is that by now you will realise that this is God speaking to you and letting you know how much he loves you. God is showing you who he is all the time, you just have to tune in to hear his voice. You are God’s child and he wants you to hear his voice – it may come as an audible voice, although that’s very rare. The promise of God is that we will know him when we are still.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you hear God speak and be intentional about having times of quiet - making room in your thoughts and in your activities to hear him. Jesus said the Holy Spirit is our help, so ask him to help you. Step out in faith and begin to write your own letter to God and then begin to write a letter from God to you. Expect to see and hear God in lots of different ways. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you recognise God’s voice. God will also speak to you in visions and dreams so if you remember a dream, ask the Holy Spirit if he wants to say something to you through it.

Journaling has been a spiritual practice for you, can you explain how this helps you in your faith journey? Do you have any tips for those new to this practice/ those wanting to use the journaling space in this book?

I find the practice of journaling helps me focus my thoughts on God. If I try and still my thoughts with the intention of hearing God’s voice, my mind often wanders onto other things, so writing a letter to God or from God keeps me from being distracted.

As beautiful as this book is, please scribble in it! Underline words, write in the margins, draw your own doodles and please have a go at writing your own letter to and from God. It may be helpful to start with the ‘Ask God’ question for a particular day. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you hear God’s voice and then ask the question with the intention of hearing the answer from God. Have a pen or pencil to hand and write whatever comes to mind in the space provided.

It is evident through your book that you have a real love for Scripture. How did that come about?

I have always loved the Bible, but I never knew how to read it. I had my favourite books and verses and I’d often just open it anywhere and start reading a random passage. I knew I needed to read the Bible though and when I made a point of reading it every day over a period of a few weeks, I realised I missed it terribly when I then didn’t read it.

My breakthrough came though when I started writing for Our Daily Bread Ministries. Every month I was expected to write two devotionals from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament and so I found myself having to spend a lot more time in the Word. The discipline of having to read the Bible birthed in me a growing hunger for more. Although I’ve been a Christian for much of my life, I admit I only recently read through the whole Bible from cover to cover. God’s Word truly has become food for my soul – I can’t go a day without reading it now.

Do you have a favourite Bible verse?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

What was the most challenging element of writing the book?

I found the ‘Ask God’ questions most challenging. Not only did I want this question to be short and open, but it also needed to encapsulate the idea found in the ‘God Speaks’ letter. I wanted it to be the catalyst that would open the floodgates of a free flow of words from the throne of God to the heart of the reader.

And what was the most rewarding element of writing this book?

Without doubt the ‘God Speaks’ letters. In the midst of the panic, fear and uncertainty of the outbreak of an unknown global virus that was just starting to take hold across much of Europe at the time, I so looked forward to seeing what God was going to speak to my troubled soul each morning.

Have you learnt anything new about your faith while writing this book?

I’ve learnt the value of surrendering to God and trusting him - God is so kind and he has wonderful things in store for his children. If we still our racing thoughts for a moment, we can hear and see him guiding and leading us in the most incredible ways. I’ve also learnt the value of obedience to God. Even when I felt God was telling me to do something that didn’t make sense or when I felt afraid or worried about how it was going to work out, I knew I just had to step out in obedience by faith and watch him make a way where there seemed to be no way.

What do you hope readers will most get out of reading this book?

My greatest desire is that the reader will hear God speak to the depths of their soul as they read. My prayer is that they will know how deep the love of God is for them. He longs for you to hear him, see him, know him and walk with him. Although these letters were a gift from God to me, they are based on extracts from the Bible and their timeless truths reach into the heart of every human. The letters, along with your journey into intentionally seeking solitude with God and asking him to speak to you, will change your life for the better forever.

In one sentence, how would you describe God Speaks?

Letters from the Father heart of God to refresh the seeking, parched and weary soul.

Is there anything we can pray for you?

Please pray that no matter how busy life gets, I’ll always make time to be still so I can hear God speak and may I always have the grace to follow where he leads.

Authentic Media

Authentic Media is a UK Christian publishing house committed to delivering quality Christian books, music and film to help people on their journey of faith. They are based in Milton Keynes.

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