August 30, 2014

Another Look: Those Who Dance Are Considered To Be Insane By Those Who Can’t Hear The Music

I wrote this nearly two years ago. I thought it would be well to revisit it in light of Chaplain MIke’s post yesterday morning on listening for God’s word. Listening for God’s voice is not a topic we can get too much of.

 

And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. (1 Samuel 3:1, ESV)

For so many of my almost 37 years following the Lord, there has been no frequent vision, at least not for me. My “words from the Lord” have come through sermons and books I read. Even Scripture as I read it did not seem to be “alive” to me. My life was directed by what I saw others doing and what others “suggested” that I should be doing. You know, good Christian suggestions like, “You are going to go to a Christian college, aren’t you?” “Don’t date her—I don’t think she is Spirit-filled.” “All real Christians do ____/never do ____.” There always seemed to be someone within a stone’s throw willing to give me his personal advice on where I was failing to live up to the moniker of “good Christian.” With friends like this, who needed to hear God’s voice himself?

But three years ago this month God began to do something completely different in me. I remember the day, the hour, the location when in July of 2007 God began messing in my heart in a new way. He let me taste of him and I saw that it was good. It was like I was given beef tenderloin after eating “meat” hot dogs all my life. I never wanted to go back to hearing God third-hand. I only wanted to experience him through him. But it was a skill I was sadly lacking.

Hearing God’s voice seems to come so naturally to some. Still others speak a lot about hearing God, but the way they repeat what he “said” to them and the way they act it out leads one to believe the voice they heard may have come from just a little lower than Heaven. Then there are the multitudes who never experience God for themselves and seem to be ok with that.

I was one to whom God came in person, tapped me on the shoulder, and then ran off, expecting me to chase after him. I have been running after him for the past three years, dancing a crazy, wild dance with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Merton says, “It is not we who choose to awaken ourselves, but God Who chooses to awaken us.” God chose to awaken me, and I have not slept since.

In this awakening came a clarity of his voice as well. I began to hear him much more intimately than ever before. He began to reveal himself in whispers, echoes and occasional shouts in my inner ear. While that sounds as if it would be wonderful, it is more often frightening. After all, this is God we are talking about.

So how can we be sure that the voice we are hearing really is God? And what about when he calls us to do something that makes no sense, that seems to be opposed to everything we’ve learned as Christians? What happens when he directs us to go on a path that everyone else says is the wrong direction, people we have trusted and looked up to? What then? After all, doesn’t the Bible say…

Following Aslan

The four Pevensie children and Trumpkin the dwarf are trying to find their way to Aslan’s How to meet up with Prince Caspian. The land has changed so much since they had been there last, but Peter thinks he knows the way they are to go. He uses his wisdom and knowledge the best he can and comes up with a plan. But as so often happens, the Lion interrupted their plan.

“Look! Look! Look!” cried Lucy.

“Where? What?” everyone asked.

“The Lion,” said Lucy. “Aslan himself. Didn’t you see?” Her face had changed completely and her eyes shone.

“Do you really mean—?” began Peter.

“Where did you think you saw him?” asked Susan.

“Don’t talk like a grown-up,” said Lucy, stamping her foot. “I didn’t think I saw him. I saw him.”

“Where, Lu?” asked Peter.

“Right up there between those mountain ashes. No, this side of the gorge. And up, not down. Just the opposite of the way you want to go. And he wanted us to go where he was—up there.”

“How do you know that was what he wanted?” asked Edmund.

“He—I—I just know,” said Lucy, “by his face.”

Of course the children don’t go where Lucy says she saw Aslan. They go the way Peter planned out. You can guess how it turned out. After a day’s worth of very difficult travel, they ran into an enemy patrol and barely escaped without getting shot. They hid in the woods for the night, knowing they would have to retrace their steps in the morning and try a different route. Sleep came quickly after they had eaten. But sleep did not last long for Queen Lucy.

Lucy woke out of the deepest sleep you can imagine, with the feeling that the voice she liked best in the world had been calling her name.

Somehow I think the key to Lucy—and us—hearing from God is longing for that voice more than any other. Lucy went off in search of the one who called her. She found him, to her great joy, and after snuggling with the great lion for a few minutes, she heard him speak to her.

“Lucy,” he said, “we must not be here for long. You have work in hand, and much time has been lost today.”

“Yes, wasn’t it a shame?” said Lucy. “I saw you all right. They wouldn’t believe me. They’re all so—”

From somewhere deep inside Aslan’s body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl.

“I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?”

The Lion looked straight into her eyes.

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “You don’t mean it was? How could I—I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don’t look at me like that … oh will, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?”

Aslan said nothing.

“You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right—somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?”

“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.”

“Oh dear,” said Lucy.

“But anyone can find out what will happen.” said Aslan. “If you go back to the others now, and wake them up, and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must get up at once and follow me—what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.”

And that is just what Lucy does. She goes back and wakes the others. Of course they are tired and grouchy and sore at being awoken in the middle of the night. And what’s more, they still can’t see Aslan. Why is it that Aslan is only appearing to Lucy and not to the others? We are not told in so many words, but we see it clearly: Aslan wants the others to learn to walk in faith, not by sight. Only after they begin walking in the direction Lucy says they are to go will they see Aslan for themselves. I feel so sorry for Lucy, for that is the place I find myself right now. Having heard God clearly and yet others not hearing him. George Carlin said, “Those who dance are considered to be insane by those who can’t hear the music.” Why is it that only I am hearing the music?

A Retreat With Monks

The week before last I was scheduled to go on a private retreat at a working monastery somewhere in the midwest. (How is that for vagueness? Find your own monastery!) I had planned this retreat months in advance, but as it drew nearer I knew what it was I was going for: I wanted to know for sure that what I was hearing in my heart was from God and not just my imagination running away with me. But God was unable to hold himself back until I reached my retreat destination. The night before I was to go, my sister in law, someone who has spoken prophetically into my life over the years, pulled me aside and said the Lord had given her a word for me that I was to hear before I left for the weekend.

“God wants you to know,” she began, “that you are a prophet and a visionary. That the words you are hearing in your heart about people and places are from him; you can trust them. But you are to learn the difference between things you are to act into existence, and things you are to pray into existence.”

I wept openly. This was exactly what I wanted and needed to hear. My sister in law had no idea what I was asking God to show me. I hadn’t shared this with her at all. Oh, she knew about one of the pressing things in my life, and she had a specific word about that one thing for me, but as for the overall, that had to come from God. No one else had heard the cry of my heart. I asked her to repeat everything she had said. Then I had her repeat it again. “The words you are hearing about people and places are from him. You can trust them.”

I went on the retreat anyway, of course. And God overwhelmed me in incredible ways—of course. I met with the guestmaster of this house—let’s call him Father Daniel. I shared briefly the journey God has had me on these past three years. I didn’t get into the areas of need in a specific way. I just asked him how I could know for certain I was hearing from God, and not just me. Fr. Daniel reached across, put his big hand on my shoulder, and with the kindest eyes I have ever seen, looked deep into me and said, “Son, you are walking with God. You are hearing him. Keep walking with him. You may have to go it alone, but never stop walking with God.”

More tears. A lot more. Wasn’t it Jeremiah who was known as the “weeping prophet”? I think I know a little bit why. When God speaks, it is an awesome thing.

How does he speak to us, anyway?

In the book of Acts we see a number of different ways God chooses to speak to the early church. He uses angels (1:10, 8:26, 12:9), an audible voice (9:4), visions and trances (9:10, 10:10, 22:17). He uses flesh-and-blood prophets (9:10, 11:28, 21:10) and dreams (16:9). He spoke when the apostles had been fasting and worshipping (13:2). He even uses the Holy Spirit as a form of roadblock, forbidding Paul from going to specific places (16: 6-9). I’m sure I’m missing others. The point is that God speaks to his people in a variety of ways. There are no models or methods that he always sticks to. He can use an inanimate object like a bush that burns but is not consumed. He can use a jackass that is smarter than the one riding him. When God wants to speak, how he speaks is not the issue. What is the important thing is this: Will we listen?

The Only Reason God Speaks

I have clearly heard from the Lord in one of the situations I am facing. It could not be anything other than God speaking to me. Yet what he is calling me to is totally crazy. It goes against all common sense—unless one can somehow contrive to see from an eternal perspective. And yet…yet…I see Aslan—Jesus—in this. And that is the bottom line. There is no revelation that God gives his people that is for any reason other than to reveal Jesus. That’s the test. Does what you have heard in your heart lift up Jesus? Sure, it may seem impossible or crazy, but does it lift up Jesus? (“Mary,” said the angel, “you, a virgin, are going to have a baby without sleeping with a man. Oh, and the baby is going to be God himself.” Start with that one. If what you hear is no crazier, and it lifts up Jesus, give it a chance.) If Jesus is not revealed in what you hear, drop it. God does not come to tell you things just to make your–or my–life better. (“Hey there! God here. Why not place a bet on Raindrop to win in the sixth at Santa Anita?” I don’t think so…)

Jesus. That is the entire purpose of the Spirit of God who lives in us. Jesus.

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you (John 16: 13-14, NKJV)

The Holy Spirit will tell us of things to come, but only when doing so lifts up Jesus.

Yet right now I struggle. I struggle mostly because I feel like Lucy—like I have seen and heard Aslan where others have not. It is so hard to get someone else to follow when they have not seen like you have. I understand that very well. There are many times I have wished Jesus had picked on someone else to do the seeing and hearing. Just tell me where I am supposed to go–I don’t have to see for myself. I’ll follow another. Maybe. But Aslan appeared to me and said, “Come.”  What is my choice? I can follow him, even though none go with me. Or I can make my own plans and go my own way. I can even couch my own way in Scripture and good traditions and common sense. But when the lion has called for me to come with him, even though it makes no sense (think of Peter and his vision of the lowered sheet in Acts 10. How much sense did that make? How well did that line up with all Peter had learned and believed up until then?) I must obey. I must follow.

That’s where I am. I make no claims to be anything more than a stumbler and bumbler when it comes to knowing how to hear God’s voice. I still must learn when I am to act something into existence and when I am to pray something into existence. But my biggest challenge comes when I know beyond any doubt what God has spoken to me. It is then that the game begins. What will happen? There is only one way of finding out.

 

Comments

  1. Joseph (the original) says:

    I have been “stumbling & bumbling” along my faith journey the past 37 years also. That does not ignore the first 20 years of my life raised in the Roman Catholic worship tradition & the foundational training I received there. However, at the age of 20 after a rather dramatic automobile accident, I had a very personal epiphany with Jesus the Christ. It literally changed my life…

    I had a dream not too long after. An amazing dream meant only for me, but it actually represented the very experience I would have as I walked out my faith journey. It was prophetic in the truest sense & has become more understandable as the years have gone by…

    In this dream I was walking along a path near the ocean, or sea, or a lake. Anyway, the path meandered amongst sand dunes & scrub grasses. The path was very obvious although narrow. It was a well-traveled path & not like walking in soft sand. The sun was out, the breeze brisk & the setting was one of anticipation, aliveness (is that a term?), beauty, excitement…

    As I was walking along I happened to notice Jesus right up ahead of me at the next crest of the low dunes the path was going thru. My heart literally skipped a beat! I mean Jesus was so close I could hear His conversation with this older bearded man as they walked briskly along lost in conversation. My position was just behind them at first, but they outpaced me & it was clear they did not notice my presence…

    As they crested the next rise & were temporarily out-of-sight I excitedly decided to start running to catch up to them. After all, this was the very Jesus I had just recently had a very special encounter with & my longing was so strong it literally drove me to increase my pace…

    However, as I ran down the one dune & the two men disappeared from view beyond the next rise, I was totally shocked by what I saw as I arrived at the very spot they were just on. Jesus & His mystery friend were now 2 dune rises away from where I was. In spite of my most determined effort at running, they had outpaced me…

    A bit downcast & perplexed I doubled my efforts. I ran with all the strength I could muster only to discover on making it to the next rise Jesus & His friend were now 3 dune lengths ahead. They were getting away! No matter how hard I ran I could not catch up, let alone keep pace…

    As I stood there panting on that dune top, both Jesus & the man that He was conversing with kept on the path that now turned slightly to the right & soon they were out of sight…

    I cannot describe for you the absolute sorrow I felt at that moment. My heart literally sank into the pit of my stomach. I knew without a doubt this was the very Jesus I had just recently committed to follow & yet I had just failed to accomplish such…

    My despair was so great I broke out in huge sobs as I collapsed on my knees in utter grief. It was the most horrific emotional intensity I have ever experienced. I was inconsolable…

    The tears were so copious my sight was severely blurred. My hands were over my face as I rocked back & forth on my knees there on the sandy path. I sobbed until I could not cry another tear. As I let my hands slip down from my face there in the sand were the unmistakable sandal prints of Jesus. And in the middle of each sandal impression was a blood stain…

    I woke up with a start…

    It has taken me these 37 years to finally understand what it was Jesus intended this to represent. First, that older, gray-bearded mystery man Jesus was talking to was me. My future me though, not the me I was then…

    I would go through a season of feeling like I could never catch up to Jesus, always being on the fringes & never in His presence as I desired…

    I would make every effort at trying to catch up though, only experiencing severe disappointment & discouragement at my failures. Jesus would always seem just out-of-reach for the majority of my faith journey…

    The Reality though was a mature version of me confidently in stride with Jesus as I imagine the disciples experienced on the road to Emmaus. That was what Jesus desired from the beginning, & He graciously gave me a glimpse of it before I ever realized it as my Reality…

    Although I felt some comfort in the fact that the blood stained sandal prints would always mark my path & I would never get lost, my perception of the absence of His presence would mark the majority of my journey. It has only been in the past 5-6 years that I have ‘arrived’ at the beginning of that dream as the older, mature, graying man walking shoulder-to-shoulder with Jesus…

    What an amazing dream. No more looking down at the sandal prints though. I now walk side-by-side with Jesus looking Him in the eye as we continue on what remains of my earthly sojourn…

    • Thank you for sharing that dream – what a gift to you.
      What I find fascinating is that it has been a journey over time, requiring perseverance and maturity for you to discover what the dream truly represented.
      When I’ve had ‘prophetic words’ given to me or dreams they have rarely been clear from the start and their meaning has unravelled over months, even years. It’s as if clues are given in a puzzle and I have to tease out the meaning – sometimes I feel very frustrated about the lack of clarity but at other times it’s almost like a very good game that keeps me wanting more.

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        this is the most powerful of maybe a half-dozen divinely inspired dreams i have been given…

        they are intensely emotional & incredibly sharp in detail…

        i woke up sobbing. it was as real as real could get…

        there are other minor elements to the that short vignette. one interesting aspect of my dream was that i never was able to get a good look at Jesus’ face. i was always a bit behind & to the right. and i could not understand what the 2 men were talking about even though i heard them clearly at first. i did notice their stride was determined, not slow & deliberate, as if they knew exactly where they were going & it was important they get there quickly…

        so, i cannot answer that very pressing theological question everyone has: what color were Jesus’ eyes??? :)

        • Awesome dream, Joseph! I’ve been blessed enough to dream of Jesus once, very vividly. Without trying to open a different can of worms, it was the rapture. Or the Second Coming. Whatever. Anyway, I remember seeing Him coming and in the dream I was stretching a hand out to Him, just begging for Him to come closer. I woke myself up actually reaching a hand up from the sofa where I was lying.

          • Joseph (the original) says:

            i also have had an apocalyptic themed dream. since it was intended for me only, it does not have any broader prophetic application. i am not sure of its total meaning, but it did include a huge meteorite that looked exactly how current movie/science programs represent them. at the time it was not the way such things were imagined. anyway, i was on this large bridge & as the meteorite hit off in the distance the resulting shock wave & earthquake caused the bridge to buckle. i felt real fear & also called & reached out to Jesus to save me. there were other elements leading up to that shocking finale, but i woke up with a start with my heart racing & me panting heavily…

            another dream i had was Easter week themed. i was part of a band of disciples in a modern day setting trying to protect Jesus from being taken by the mob that came to crucify Him. we had small automatic weapons & metal helmets, but strangely we had robes much like Jesus was wearing. we were pursued into a swamp-like area where the little bit of ground we stood on ended at the water’s edge. it was night. we had lanterns, but Jesus had a glow about Him & He wasn’t anxious at all. He seemed to be putting up with our feable attempts at trying to keep Him safe. there weren’t 12 of us though, maybe 5-6. the mob came with their flashlights & we could sense their presence, but could not distinguish them clearly. i remember feeling a complete failure at protecting my Savior. i fell at His feet & sobbed uncontrollably. I felt a touch on my head as if to assure me this is how it was meant to be, as if He were doing it just for me. i woke up with a start still sobbing…

        • If you really want to know, the odds overwhelmingly favor brown.

          His hairstyle, on the other hand, is a big question mark. (If he had hair.)

    • Thank-You Joseph for sharing your dreams… I had a dream or a vision 30 years ago and it has yet to make sense, so hearing that it took you 37 years to understand brings a spark of hope…

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        Gerald: some of my dreams have immediate application. however, those very few divinely inspired ones are not so easily interpreted, nor applicable…

        it is like my theological perspectives that have truly matured as i have gotten older/wiser. i can remember a few vivid dreams that were perplexing & even theologically challenging, but that does not mean they had no purpose or that their meaning will not be understood at a later date…

        since i dream multiple dreams every nite & do accept much of the scientific explanations for them, there are those dreams that are so distinct/unique they are truly other-worldly. yet i feel they are meant only for me, unlike those that claim their dreams/visions/experiences meant for everyone…

        i have had spiritual warfare dreams that really have only direct reference to myself, but it is not an element of my post-charismatic past that embraces these things. they happened. period. i understand them in the context they were revealed, but i do not think they are the universal common way to view our immediate existence…

        same with my interaction with loved ones that have died. i cannot tell you my experience was the Reality, but for me, they are incredibly vivid interactions at another dimension that makes me wonder at the way we view the afterlife…

        i will not write a book, do seminars, claim my experiences are doctrinally infalible. that is not the purpose of my dreams. there is a spiritual dimension & sensitivity that i have been allowed to interact with, but they do not make me a prophet, a mystic, a seer. they are simply how God elects to interact with me at very specific times to communicate things to me personally that are not so earth shattering & of any interest outside my own individual spiritual journey…

        i think that is how God interacts with almost all of us regardless of our sensitivity or ability to perceive such things. in other words, there was nothing about my past or what i did or what i believed that made more in tune with such things. and there is nothing in them that indicates what God is doing in someone else’s life, although there are elements of my dreams that take my immediate situation & ‘make plain’ the spiritual dynamic behind such circumstances i am going thru…

        in fact, just sharing this as i am doing now makes me more appreciative of how God does interact with me even though i take it for granted…

        • Joseph (the original) says:

          sorry…my response to Gail, not Gerald…

          and i do believe Jesus a dark-haired, brown-eyed Jew even though the claims of some NDE survivors insist they are blue…

          blessings…

  2. Jeff, I read and felt…..so many mixed emotions. I long for your type of direct interaction with Him, but don’t think I have ever had it. I am thrilled for you, but can see that it might be tough to be the one who “sees”, just as it can be hard to be the one who has NOT seen but is blindly following anyway. I have had one or two dreams that seemed from Him….but I have long, technicolor feature-length dreams ALL the time, and most of them are meaningless jumbles (except for a nightmare every fortnight or so…)

    I usually find comfort in Jesus’ words after meeting with Thomas…..”Blessed are they who have not seen and yet still believe.”

    But don’t feel too sorry for me…..I feel a rapture in the Eucharist, I read and pray and learn from other, greater Christian minds and souls, and have clear ideas when “things that happen” seem to be showing me a path of action. PLUS….I am learning to TRUST HIM. You would have to understand my horrible anxiety, need to PLAN and control everything, and my fear of the future to understand what an accomplishment God has pulled off in getting me here.

    To me, this trust is the cornerstone of everything I do in following Him….even if I only see flashes of tawny fur off in the distance, in front of me.

    Leading.

    • To me, this trust is the cornerstone of everything I do in following Him

      Very, very well said; may that trust multiply today.

      GregR

  3. I will be their God and they will be my people….

  4. I love the picture of God waking us, a picture you began with Merton and finished with Lucy and Aslan. It is in sleep that we find the most comfort, rest, and stability…but that pesky Jesus just won’t let us be. I know y’all get weary of my Flannery O’Connor quotes, but she wrote in Wise Blood…

    “His [Hazel’s] grandfather had been a circuit preacher, a waspish old man who had ridden over three counties with Jesus hidden in his head like a stinger.”

    The compelling call of “Follow Me” is just like that, isn’t it? It doesn’t come complete with a brochure and map, and a free pair of sandals. It’s compelling and uncomfortable; it requires movement, or we might go quite mad in our resistance.

    I left my career behind several years ago to do “full-time” ministry for “part-time” pay, and was later told by a fellow pastor that I had made a “rash decision”. I had, in fact, prayed over the choice for years and years, consulted with wiser folk than myself, and resisted the urge for as long as I could.

    I lost a lot as a result. But I did not lose anything that couldn’t be replaced, or anything I couldn’t live without. I’m as part-time as part-time can be now…doing a little Bible study about twice each month, speaking about once monthly at the University of Georgia’s InterVarsity chapter, and doing the occasional wedding or funeral, if called upon…and I’m back at my full-time career (making much less money this time). I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons in the years since leaving it all behind, one of which is this…Perhaps God awoke me from my comfortable sleep not as a means of leading me to a vocation, but as a way of teaching me a new way of living…And isn’t that what Jesus promises? New life?

    Excellent post, Jeff. Thanks for sharing it with us again.

  5. Kerri in AK says:

    And sometimes God hits you upside the head with a 2×4…

    A year ago, I was attending a social event where the members of the three church councils in the parish were meeting four candidates to be interviewed to fill the local priest vacancy. I was a member of one of the councils and our job was to answer any questions the candidates had about the parish. One of the elderly members of my council still had one priest left to meet but was hanging back because someone else was speaking with him at that moment. Except that I knew that this priest was being monopolized by the speaker and had been for rather a long time. So I chose to play the American card (context – I was an American volunteer at a residential home in England for people recovering from crises) which allowed me to take the fellow gently by the arm and walk him over and politely introduce him to the priest. Sometimes the overly polite nature of British people can be a detriment and I knew we didn’t have all night to mingle. Suffice it to say the priest, the elder and, interestingly enough, the speaker all looked relieved at my interruption.

    I lingered while the elder spoke about his concerns for our church to the priest (because I’d only been part of the church for less than a year and he’d been a member for decades). But when he talked of the lack of support from the previous priest to develop lay leadership in our church and that we didn’t even have a lay reader; a 2×4 smacked me in the head. WHACK! My head spinning, all I knew is that God wanted me to become a lay reader. In a bit of a whirl, I sought out a friend on the council to get a bit more of the back story (she corroborated what I’d heard) and told her in a very bemused fashion that I felt God wanted me to become a lay reader for our church – to which I got a rather startled look. On the short walk back and then in my room I got into a huge argument with God – Why me? Why here? I’m not English, I’m not the most diplomatic person on the planet, my work visa is only good for another year, I don’t know what a lay reader does and, dang it, I’m not even Anglican but United Methodist! It was so overwhelming that I gushed tears and had to stifle sobs. Getting ambushed by the Spirit is not easily embraced. At some point a little bit of my rational brain wondered “And I’m arguing with God…like that’s going to get me anywhere.”

    In the year following, I’ve discovered several things. The first thing was that the courses for lay leaders (pastoral assistants, evangelists, lay readers) was being reviewed and revised in the diocese and that no new courses would be starting until September 2012. My work visa expired in mid April this year so I left the area to return to the US to apply for a new work visa to work in a different part of the country and in a completely different diocese. Talk about being confused and frustrated – I could very clearly see where God wanted me to be and it made no sense that I was having to leave. I had a lot of “But you said you wanted me to be here! To be a lay reader HERE! So why isn’t it working out that way?” conversations with God. Shortly before I left England, in conversation with someone else about a volunteer who very clearly felt called to become a community member where I was working but was having to start as a day volunteer for some months and then perhaps become a residential volunteer IF it worked out and so forth, it came to me that the path between where we are and where God wants us to be may not be a straight line. D’oh! As Pattie noted for herself, I too am learning to trust God. That my ways are not his ways and my understanding of the situation is not his understanding.

    I’m in the process of applying for a new work visa but I haven’t a clue how that’s going to work out. I don’t feel that I’m done with whatever God wants me to be doing in England either. So now it’s a matter of trust. What I am thankful for, however, is how supportive those I have spoken to about this have been. The church council I was on was fully supportive (and just as confused as I was when I told them I was leaving), all the local clergy most especially the new priest for the parish have provided suggestions and guidance, the community members where I worked encouraged me, friends and family have been cheering me on. How come they’re so confident in God’s direction in my life and I have trouble with the “trust him” part??? It hardly seems fair but then God moves in mysterious ways (and has a plan, as one of my sisters continually reminds all of us).

    Okey dokey, God. You got my attention. Can I now have a little more direction – please?

  6. Jeff, I kinda needed this today. Thanks for writing it then and re-sharing it now. I’m kinda thinking that ‘outside the camp’ is the place for me. Though I’m certain most Christian’s would disagree, and have. Nothing lights my fire more than someone, anyone, trying to fit this square peg in a round hole. And I think maybe, just maybe, God made me that way. Different. Non-conforming. Rebellious. First I used it for my good, and then He got involved. There are days I live off that knowledge and energy, knowing full well I’ll never be like anyone will expect or prefers. And then, there are days like today where the voices are telling to just: “Shut the hell up! You have no business representing Christ! Sit down. You’re not getting anywhere and you never will.” And I usually get really quiet except for here online where all ya’ll don’t know me and I can spew this out and no one will knock on my door and tell me I should read my Bible more or attend a church service on Sunday so this will all stop and I can be delievered from myself. And then, I usually cry.

    • Rebekah, at the risk of sounding like a candidate for the laughing academy, that sounds to me like the voice of the Enemy trying to take you out. Make no agreements with him. You are God’s own precious daughter. Period.

    • Rebekah, “outside the camp” is where most of us ought to be. When Jesus told his disciples to “make disciples of all nations” he didn’t refer only to the lost and lonely in the far reaches, but also the vicinity just outside your door and speaking your own language. Many of us spend our days preaching to the choir and hanging out within the comfy high walls of our Christian island fortress waiting for someone to call us to action. Sounds to me like you know your gifts and have offered them in service. Go get ‘em … :)

      …and CJ is right.

    • Well gosh, what do ya know…..I love CJ and Gail and Jim Park and Pattie too!! Thanks for easing my heart on this rough and rumbly day! Peace and grace to every last one of ya!!

  7. David Cornwell says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this Jeff. These experiences that go beyond human explanation are to some extent dangerous to talk about because of the responses they evoke, mainly from those who have never heard the music.

    Three times in my life I have had such experiences. Once I when I was only 14, once as a young man of about 21, and the other a few years ago. They were all different, and I’ve shared the later two with only a very few people. The experience when I was 21 involved a directive by God to pray for a certain person. It came out of the blue, at bedtime, and without previous concern for that person. I prayed in a way that I’d never prayed before, or probably since. Immediately when I awoke the next morning the meaning of this prayer became apparent, and the ensuing events consumed my family’s attention for the next few days.

    These things happened not because of my goodness, as I wasn’t any better than any other boy of 14 or 21, and really not mature in faith or knowledge. They are totally the result of grace. I’ve been convinced since then that this grace comes to us, not because of correct theology, from following the commandments, or belonging to the right church… but simply because… actually I don’t know the “because.”

  8. Hmmm – like oil pouring over our heads, flowing freely through the “beards” of life healing our wounds, bathing our humanity with cleansing, a perfume like that of Mary preparing us to do as it pleases God in glory. So encouraging for the many who seek after the riches of our salvation in Christ Jesus. Thank you for this treasure this day . . . perhaps this what is described might be the peace that God says shall be found . . . the treasure in the field . . . the lost coin . . .the voice of our Shepherd???

  9. Lucy was always my favorite character from the Chronicles of Narnia; I long for that kind of heart. I’m a stumbler & bumbler myself, though, and God in His grace gives me just enough to keep me moving forward. . .

  10. humanslug says:

    Do you ever find yourself secretly wishing that you would get fired from your job and then go home to find that your house has been leveled by a tornado?
    Or maybe that Gandalf would unexpected show up at your front door with 13 dwarves and nominate you to go on a perilous journey?
    I rejoice with you, Jeff, in what lies before you in Christ — but, truth be told, I’m more than a little jealous.
    As someone who used to catch frequent glimpses of Aslan, it’s been a long, dry season since I’ve seen or heard from Him.
    And, as the years pass, the hunger and passion I once had is starting to fade — and that’s what scares me the most.

    • I read a post of yours from yesterday and can only say you have a steady faith and a gracious outlook that I would “hang” with any day. My own experience with the prophetic has not been good. I have been around so many whose experience and revelations were the focus. The post of today is different from what I have encountered here at IM. Looking for more is such a snare. Remember the promises, remember what the Lord has done for you. Don’t let the adversary discount your faith because “you have not heard from Him”. It’s bushwah to quote an old expression from my mother.

  11. Jeff,

    Hope a quote here doesn’t seem like a fix for you… Not my intention…
    Thomas Merton said that if God showed you the way He was going to bring you to Himself you would never come. If we had seen this road in advance, I doubt we would have ever traveled it. And we would never know the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
    Praying for you today as you continue to step into the unknown… Praying that as you do you will taste & see the goodness of our Lord. It is maddening, yet necessary, I suspect that God calls me to Trust Him when I want to know beyond a shadow of doubt, which hasn’t worked out so far…

  12. I have only had one experience that is outside the “normal” and I cannot be positive that it was from God or was instead some other type of experience. It didn’t happen while I was praying or while I was in church or when I was in great need or anything like that. It was a couple years ago, maybe in early fall. (After it happened, details seems to float away.)

    I think it was during the morning hours and I had just finished getting ready to go to work. I was in my bedroom and no one was with me. My husband was on the next level down in the house, in the office. I clearly heard three words, “I love you.” It was not like words heard just “in my head.” It was like words heard with my ears from a voice that spoke in the room. The voice was not one that I could recall hearing before.

    So who knows….it could have been some kind of ESP thing, maybe somebody somewhere said “I love you” to their beloved and somehow it got heard by me through some odd quirk of nature that we do not understand. Maybe it was some old memory that surfaced in a very audible type of way. Maybe I was picking up a thought that someone sent my way. It was not a scary thing. It was a reassuring thing.

    If it WAS from God, he knows me very well because I probably would have been frightened by anything more odd than that. As it was, I just went on with my day and have told no one until now. Not even my husband. I may regret even posting this now, knowing that there may be some who will think it was an “evil” thing. But I am doing it anyway, perhaps because someone out there needs to know that this kind of thing can and does happen. We can’t “make” things like this happen though. I was not expecting it at all and had done nothing that I know of to bring it on.
    Sweet and gentle things have happened during prayer times, but again, this was different.

    • JoanieD

      What a lovely experience, glad you shared… Warms my heart to think about the Lord speaking those 3 words to you, what more could one ask for… beautiful!

      • Thank you, Gail! I am glad to hear that the telling of this experience warmed your heart.

  13. Randy Thompson says:

    It seems to me that only God can understand what God is saying. The rest of us get only part of the picture, at best.

    God speaks, and tells Abraham to go to a land He will show him. As I recall, God wasn’t terribly specific. Abraham up and went, and, somehow, ended up where he was supposed to be.

    God speaks, and tells Isaiah to speak to a people who won’t listen to him.

    God speaks to Joseph in a dream, and then sends him to Egypt as a slave.

    God has Samuel anoint David as king, and then David spends years fleeing from Saul.

    God gives Elijah a great victory on Mount Carmel, but then “loses” the “war,” and Israel ends up destroyed by the Assyrians.

    God speaks to Jeremiah, but Jeremiah watches helplessly as Jerusalem is destroyed by the Babylonians, and the last we hear of him is that he is being carted off to Egypt.

    We know our Bibles too well, and have forgotten that when God speaks or acts, it doesn’t always make a lot of sense, or seem to accomplish what we think it should. Only in retrospect does God make sense.

    As Kierkegaard noted, life is lived forward but understood backwards (my inelegant paraphrase). I think that is often true of our experiential knowledge of God.

    The present didn’t listen to or understand Isaiah and Jeremiah. The future did.

  14. Opening the Scriptures is a joyous occasion seeing God has given me a way I can hear from him any time I wish. And the dance of faith which ensues from hearing God’s voice is transforming.

    • So very true, Alex.

    • Randy Thompson says:

      I agree, Alex, but it depends on where you open the Scriptures. Take, for example, Exodus 35-40, Numbers 1-8, or Ezekiel 40-48. Reading these passages has not been for me a “joyous occasion”! (However, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone, somewhere didn’t find them so.)

      No fair allegorizing these passages, either!

      • I wonder if a change of perspective helps.
        The bible is a collection of books and letters, and as such there are various genres involved. You can read the passages you quoted and the question in all of this is what place do they take in salvation history?

        God was taking a desert tribe, revealed Himself to them and gave detailed instructions on worship, civil life and moral codes. In a sense, He was building a people. Some of those instructions made sense then, and now, if we step back and look at them from a wider perspective they make some sense.

        Its almost like there is the microscopic view up close, which sometimes is bewildering. But if you step back and look at the wider picture, you have a greater appreciation for it.

        That’s my 2 cents on this.

  15. Does faith have anything to do with this at all?

    When I read through old and new Testament narratives I see a God who speaks, to individuals.

    Adam, Moses, Abraham, Lot, Jacob, the prophets, then the disciples and Paul. Jesus said my sheep hear my voice.
    So there seems to be a lot of talk of God speaking, so why have we ceased to believe this?

    • Adam, Moses, Abraham, Lot, Jacob, the prophets, the disciples and Paul, really aren’t all that many people compared to the total population. And there were long periods of time when God didn’t talk to anyone, such as during the 400 years that the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. I agree, when you read throught the Bible it seems like God talks to a bunch of people all the time. But really He only spoke to a few during special times that were few and far between.

    • “So there seems to be a lot of talk of God speaking, so why have we ceased to believe this?”

      I have not ceased to believe it, but I am more cautious when people say, “God told me …” I’ve heard some crazy stuff from people who are convinced that God spoke to them. In some evangelical churches I’ve attended, people fling this statement around in a seeming attempt to outdo each others’ spirituality. In most cases, when God speaks, it’s a private word and maybe should be kept that way unless, of course, you are Jeremiah, Elijah, Jonah, etc. If it’s a true word, it will come to pass. If it’s a call to obedience, do it. Mary set a good example, “… and Mary treasured these things in her heart.”

      P.S. I keep forgetting that I am human; trips me up every time!

      • I am with you on this. I think we need to be very cautious, and even have a way of weighing and testing the word.

        I have heard some pretty unusual stuff from people about what God had told them, and I have had those conversations in the past few weeks where it was ‘God told me’ or ‘God led me’. The problem with pulling that card out is it shuts down all discussion.

        In spite of that, God still speaks.

  16. Interesting analogy (the dance thing, not the Tolkien cartoon). There are many “genres” of dance (communal and traditional, couple-style, artistic) and many styles within these. Maybe religious differences are like a ballroom where everybody in the room is dancing to different styles (lambada, tango, hip-hop, mazurka, all those exotic Indonesian dances) and complaining about each other’s dance steps. Of course that assumes that they’re all hearing the same music, but religious differences are also a lot like differences in musical taste. Remember back when rock and roll fans used to hate disco and want it to die? (Now they just laugh at it.) Maybe religion is like that.

    A number of people report precognitive dreams. I have experienced some (few if any in the last couple of decades, though). Of course, I have also experienced dreams portending events which did not happen, e.g. with a certain woman I was dating, and would warn against putting too much trust in dreams.

    Here’s a cute story, though I would hardly hold it up as proof of God’s existence: While away from home, I phone my wife to wake her up. (She prefers me to the alarm clock.) One day, for some reason, I called her twice (about 20 minutes apart). I have no idea what made me do that. It turned out that she had gone back to sleep!

  17. I don’t want to discount the validity of the several experiences noted in this post. However, in my pastoral work I find that many people struggle with this. It may be one thing to hear God’s voice like this and quite another to suggest that anyone or everyone should experience it. to my knowledge the Apostle Paul never took anyone out to that place on the road to Damascus and waited for the flash of light from heaven to hit them. When you lay this on people you might be giving them a burden, another brick in the packback. Now they feel discouraged, or guilty, or something. So, I want to be gentle, but it may be possible that there is a bit of spiritual ventriloquism going on here. God doesn’t speak to us like he did to Abraham or Moses because we have the Word and the Spirit. Now we walk be faith and not by sight.

    • Joseph (the original) says:

      i think the point Jeff was trying to make is this: God does indeed speak to each & every one of us. however, it is a common aspect of our desire to interact with the Almighty that we look over at so-and-so in the bible or in church history or a good friend & thing that their experiences are how we want ours to be…

      we do get distracted by the more sensationalistic stories of closes encounters of a divine kind, but i do think God is interested in communicating to us in the unique way He designed us…

      after a time on the spiritual journey, as maturity is achieved, we begin to relax with how God has been dealing with us whether or not that includes some very incredible interactions. i certainly recognize they are the exception in my own life, so i do not seek them out to become the new norm. i simply understand them for what they are & appreciate them for the way God chooses to reveal Himself to me…

      my experiences will not become the standard of divine working. nothing in the way God works is going to be understood or experienced the same way by each one of us. true, it is the same Spirit, but He is far more than either a Super-Duper Special Effects deity out to wow us, nor a subdued, stoic figure limiting His interactions with us as if to maintain some aspect of gentility…

      for you to say “God doesn’t…” is very presumptuous, but your caution can be understood as well-intentioned. since i have seen some very weird stuff passed off as of God, there is a need for wisdom, sensitivity & a good dose of common sense…