Posts Tagged ‘God’s voice’

FinishedIt’s the last breath, this “giving of the spirit.” We breathe in an out, minute by minute and day by day, but then, there is eventually the last breath. And so it was for the Christ.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. [Matthew 27:50, NIV]

The one thing that has crawled around inside my head ever since Mike died is a simple question: Was Mike really done? Had he accomplished his mission, his purpose? There were so many plans yet and so many possibilities. Was he really done?

And as I reviewed the stories in Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, of Jesus’s last day, especially his time in the garden, I sense a similar question. For he does ask in verse 39 (and 42 and 43), . . . “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will,” or some version of this. There are many treatises on this request, but for me, today, I am simply caught with the similarity to my own question. Could Jesus be asking, “am I done?” “Am I done already?” “Is it enough?”

God’s answer was clear. To that point, what needed to be done was done and what needed to be done next, had to be endured for the completion of the whole package.

Jesus’s moment was in the garden, the moment he let go one more time, and trusted in the Spirit of God that indwelled him.

There was another flash of crisis I think, on the cross, before he last breath. In verse 46, “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lamas sabachthani” –which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Another question about the end? Is this it? Some have written that Jesus was separated from God in that moment as he took on the sins of the world. But I’m not so sure. I believe God spoke and it was private. And God said, “Come.”

I believe the same for Mike, who lay on the floor alone, in much pain, and probably cried out to his God, to his Savior, and he was no longer alone but joined to the world of Spirit who said, Come. It is finished.

And he too, gave up his spirit, into the loving care of God of gods, King of kings, Lord of Lords. Rest now, my husband and my friend. I give you into God’s care now too.

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night messages

Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. [I Thessalonians 5:20-21, CEB]

Tonight, in a program about Artificial Intelligence at the library, one of the participants proceeded to tell the group that she was a vessel, a conduit, and a spokesperson for extraterrestrials. At least, that was the gist of it, in so many words. Everyone stared at her for about four dead seconds and then commenced to talk about something else.

I know she felt strongly about this topic but she is probably schizophrenic. And yet I do appreciate her boldness, that she spoke what she heard in her mind. I understand that we must all be mindful of our surroundings and be sensitive to others, but I find I pass up saying or following many “spirit-inspired messages.” They are so ephemeral.

It’s like a creative solution that comes alive in the middle of the night or perhaps in those first waking moments in the morning. If I don’t capture it on paper, it will be gone. When I am working intensely on a work of fiction and I am unsure where to take my characters next, the Holy Spirit often guides, my true Muse. But what about daily life? Am I as receptive to this nudging and problem-solving in my day to day? Do I reach out to that stranger? Do I speak a word of kindness to that customer? Do I spontaneously enter the moment and do something unprepared? Rare.

Perhaps I’m afraid of those same dead 4 seconds, eyes turned to me, expressions of confusion. What did she just say?

There is mystery and wonder to the world of God, the Spirit realm, and the relationship between God and humans. But I have relegated it to safety and the common place.

God speaksOnce, my pastor, Jess Bousa, preached at length about our small thinking and how we almost insult God with our tiny prayers, our limited expectations. God is a big God. God is a miracle working God who deserves big prayers, big visions, and big challenges.

Just the idea of the Noah story tells it all. Can you imagine the first time he mentioned the plan to his wife or his friends?

Certainly, I’ve never heard a inner voice urging me to build an ark. But what do I hear? And for this reason, during Lent, we are called to pray, seek, listen. The next moment of wonder could be around the corner.

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Despite the fact the Ishmael means “God hears” or “God listens,” the name has become symbolic for being cast out or cast aside. And, isn’t it fascinating that Abraham, the father/patriarch of nations, was also the father of the Arab nations as well as Israelites? If you think the Adam and Eve story caused havoc in Human, what about this one?

Genesis 16:11-12
The angel of the Lord also said to her [Hagar]: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone  and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility towardall his brothers.”

So here are the traits of a donkey [originally wild ass]: hard working (have been used for work over 5000 years); used as pack animals and able to carry large weight for long distances; associated with the idea of people living at or below subsistence levels [the animal of the poor]; they can live anywhere from 10 years to 50 years, depending on their lifestyle and owners; adaptable; solitary; a male donkey’s [jack] bray can be heard over long distances — as much as 3 kilometers; hear well; fight defensively and persistently; they can interbreed which accounts for mules [bred with a horse]; and above all, stubbornness.

The stubbornness of a donkey is based on self-preservation. If a donkey believes circumstances are dangerous, it will resist. Otherwise, donkeys are also known for being friendly, intelligent, playful, and willing to learn.

So, is this such a terrible comparison, to be called a donkey of a man? It wouldn’t have to be except that the dominance of stubbornness seems to prevail over all of the other things. And stubbornness in anyone is a recipe for disaster. In a way, both Abram and Sarai were also stubborn. For Abram, it was called faithfulness, his conviction that God would follow through on His promises.

For Sarai, her stubbornness came into play by taking circumstances into her own hands. She may have believed God as well, but she appears to have been a practical woman. She waited ten years for her “miracle” child and decided that was long enough. Abram did not exactly try to dissuade her either. Abram, like Adam, passed over any responsibility to his spouse. Even when things went awry and Hagar, elevated from mere handmaid to surrogate, began testing the waters of her authority; Abram cast the solution back on Sarai.

I have always aligned myself with Sarai. I have her tendencies. I have her stubbornness. Once I believe I have the the answer or the solution and the track has been laid, I walk it with a vengeance.

I remember standing at the end of the aisle (at 18) waiting to walk toward my first marriage. In that moment, I knew I was making a terrible mistake. But of course, the path had been laid, and so I walked it. We lasted five years, but in the end, I was too immature to handle it and unfortunately, another dream became my obsession and I pursued that one (to move to New York and acting school) with the same singleness of purpose.

Most of the time, I believe we [Human] err because of our sense of time.

Even today, my husband (of 30 years by the way), bemoaned a familiar truth: “everything I start to do always takes longer than I think it will, whether it’s editing a video or fixing a faucet.” So true. It is “time” itself that we try to manipulate. But “time” will not bend to our will. “Time” is God’s domain and His alone to metamorphose.

Here’s the short of it. I accept my stubbornness and realize there are occasions when that is useful (when it’s called persistence) and instances when it gets in the way. Now I want to know and practice the difference,  to remember that I cannot control the outcomes of every situation: to trust God’s time.

Mary Karr, in her memoir Lit, tells of a fellow AA goofball she asked about “God’s will.” How to know when to act. And his answer is so apropos, we wait and stay the course until God tells us to do something else.

Most of us bemoan not knowing or hearing God’s voice because we act before the time. Simple.

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Sometimes, I don’t know how to pray, not for myself or for anyone else. But there is this promise that the Spirit within knows exactly how to intercede. That is a great comfort to me.

Romans 8:26b
. . . We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

I did not realize until I meditated on these verses (Romans 8:26-28) that the Spirit within is not just praying or interceding on my behalf, but praying in a particular way: according to God’s will.

Mike and I used to joke around a lot about a teaching we once heard by a Jamaican/English minister from Florida, Peter Lord, long since off the scene. This particular teaching was called “How to … ‘ah’ … hear … ‘ah’ … God’s voice.” The message was good, but his delivery always cracked us up. This was all the rage back then: trying to ‘ah’ hear God’s voice.

But now I understand that I don’t have to struggle to hear God’s voice in order to be led in the right direction. The Holy Spirit, always with me, is already lined up with God’s will and praying for me. I may not understand the words. I may not understand the sounds, the whispers, the groaning, but I can be confident in the intent.

I think the harsh voice of condemnation has tried to bend my Christian journey into something far more grueling than necessary. I keep forgetting the promised “lighter yoke” [Matthew 11:30].

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Why can’t I remember to ask this question before I hurdle into action after my own great idea or solution? Answer: Because I don’t want to hear another answer…. or worse, I can’t really hear God’s answer. So, I cover uncertainty with bravado and a battle cry, “This way! Follow me.”

Acts 22:10
And I [Paul] asked, “What shall I do, Lord?” And the Lord answered me, “Get up and go into Damascus, and there it will be told you all that it is destined and appointed for you to do.” [Amplified]

Paul was knocked off his horse by a bright light and a voice who identified himself as Jesus of Nazareth, the very person Paul had hated and whose followers he was persecuting, jailing and condemning to death. And yet, Paul had the guts to ask, “What I shall I do?” (I think there was an unspoken “now” at the end of that question). Paul probably expected he would be killed for his massacre of Jesus’s followers. Blinded by the light, Paul arrived in Damascus and did not eat or drink for three days. [Acts 9:9] He was at the Lord’s mercy.

But God did the opposite of what anyone would have expected. Paul was anointed instead, to be a witness to the reality of Jesus as the Messiah and eventually that witness was predominately directed to the gentiles, the most despised people group by the Jews.

Paul didn’t really know he’d end up with the gentiles. When he started telling his story, he taught among his own people. He went to the synagogues and Jewish prayer places. But when his witness was rejected there, he turned to the other people who embraced his message. His ministry evolved and he allowed it to evolve.

God is full of grace and mercy. He doesn’t drag us along kicking and screaming.

Jeff, my old friend, and I used to always joke that we would “never” go to Africa or anywhere else where poverty and hardships were the norm. No way. We liked our creature comforts far too much. In fact, whenever people started talking about their fabulous experiences in various third world countries or impoverished areas, we would look at each other, pretend to wave a flag, and hum the “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

But, what happened? Jeff ended up in the ghetto of London ministering to the homeless and prostitutes for over a year and my family ended up working with two orphanages in Namibia and Zambia in Africa. And all was done with a joyful heart. It all happened at the right time and the right place.

This is the message for me today: my job is to ask. God honors the asking. God is a good communicator. If I honestly want to hear … if I am willing to hear… then God’s “voice” is clear.

Something is evolving. I can feel it in my heart but I don’t know what it might be. I can only ask: “Oh God, what shall I do now?”

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John 7:45
Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

These were professional soldiers; they were sent to the outer courts of the temple to arrest Jesus. But apparently, something happened when they got there.

There is so much left out of the scriptures. We’ll never know what teaching of Jesus thwarted their plans. We’ll never know how many guards were sent. We’ll never know if their hearts were permanently changed. But we do know they started with one mandate and once they encountered Jesus, their orders were tossed aside. When they returned to the priests, they couldn’t even articulate what he had said, just that they had never heard anyone speak like that.

I believe God is speaking like this every day, but we fail to take in His words or His message. Perhaps we do listen while we are present with Him, but then, we go about our day as though nothing special happened. There is even a scripture that captures that phenomenon: “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” [James 1:23-24]

Keep me mindful today. Keep me sensitized to the voice of Jesus within.

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