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Does God Still Speak to Us?

My husband is a very good man. But he didn’t really “get” my kind of relationship with God. To him God was a judge, not a friend. Religion was about following the rules. As long as your “do right” list was longer than your “do wrong” list, you’d be okay.
But he sometimes envied me for my sense of God’s presence and the joy I experienced because of it.
So one day as he was driving to work, he decided to pray. He said, “God, Eileen says you talk to us if we listen. I’m listening. Say something.”
At that very moment he heard a siren and saw a blue light flashing in his rear view mirror. Then the policeman pulled him over for speeding. As the policeman took his license and went back to his car to write out the ticket, Julian thought, “Oh, boy. I can’t wait to tell Eileen about this answer.”
Then the policeman came back to him and said, “Mr. Norman, I am going to tear up your ticket. You were going forty-three in a thirty miles per hour zone, but while I was writing your ticket almost every car that went by here was going as fast or faster than you were. Try to be more careful from now on.” And with that he tore up the ticket.
Julian is a visual concrete thinker, not a words or theory person. What a perfect concrete visual illustration this was of the Scripture in Romans 3:23
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But they are now being justified by his free grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.”
Thanks to Jesus Christ, God tears up our ticket.

However we came to God, we have each in our own way given our lives to him. But I’m afraid that when I told God to take my life and make me into the person he wanted me to be, I was sort of hoping it was going to be the kind of person I wished I could be. Like maybe, thin. Thin is good. And certainly confident, instead of a wus. But God seems to have his own priorities and so far thin and confident don’t seem to be on his agenda.
Because of my preconceived ideas, I think I often miss what he is trying to do in my life. But there are some experiences that even I recognize as answers to that prayer.
When our five children were still young, my father-in-law gave us a side of beef for Christmas each year. One year we had friends who were starting a new business. They had seven children and money was in short supply. So, we decided to share some of our beef with them. I loaded a basket with hamburger, pot roasts, short ribs and even a couple of round steaks. But every time I started to reach for the sirloins and rib-eyes and T bones. I drew my hand back. I dearly love steak and there were many years in my life when I couldn’t afford the good ones. I rationalized that with seven children steaks just weren’t practical. The other cuts would stretch further. So I didn’t share any of the expensive steaks.
The very next weekend we were getting a work related free stay in one of the cabins Julian had designed for a State Park. I left the garage door up about a foot, so the cat could come and go to get his food and get out of the rain. When we returned two days later, all seemed to be just as we had left it, until I went to the upright freezer in the garage to get some meat for dinner.
The bottom two shelves, where all the expensive steaks had been, were completely empty. Everything else was still there.
Believe me. I got the message: Share your best, not just the things you value least.
I asked God’s forgiveness, but also admitted that I would really, really like to know how He did it.
A couple of days later, a neighbor who lived a block downstream on the creek that ran through our back yard, told me excitedly about all the mysterious steaks her dogs were happily devouring in her yard. She exclaimed in dismay, “My dogs are eating sirloins that I can’t even afford.”
Later that same day my next door neighbor casually mentioned that Michelle, the three year old from across the street, had been playing in our yard and crawling in and out of the garage while we were gone.
Evidently frozen steaks make great boats to sail on a creek and only the expensive ones were in her reach.
I was so relieved that she hadn’t gotten trapped in the freezer, that I no longer begrudged anybody, even the dogs, the best steaks.
Some years later the nuns at the rural school where I taught protested that I needn’t have given them such nice steaks in their Christmas basket. Hamburger would have been fine. I assured them that I really did need to give them some steaks with their hamburger.
Sometimes it takes more than just Scripture for me to get the message.

Total Humiliation or Radical Risk Taking Faith?

Recently in a two week period, I was scheduled to lead Worship Service on the first Sunday, give a presentation to a group of retired teachers during the following week, read the Scriptures for the next Sunday service and then give a different presentation to another group of teachers. All of these in some way included some sort of testimony to the presence of God in our small ordinary lives.
I enjoy both the preparation and presentation for all of these kinds of things, so I was happily gathering material and pulling it together on the computer prior to printing it.
The last presentation involved collecting and printing photographs for visuals to accompany the text. Mid-way in preparing these, my computer became very erratic, sometimes slowing down to a crawl, sometimes losing the material, and then the printer began to stop after a few lines and go to the next page, then eventually to shadow print the text in different colors.
By the day before the last presentation, I was a basket case and my husband had to take time off work to rescue me using his computer.
I had for a couple of months been having sporadic gushing nosebleeds lasting up to two hours. In desperation, two days before the last presentation, my ENT had done an extreme cauterization in my nose, which stopped the bleeding but left my nose dripping so much that I had to tie a bandanna around my head to keep my nose from dripping on the materials I was collating.
As I was picturing trying to give a talk wearing a bandanna wrapped around my head and under my nose, my sinus problem and probably stress set off inner ear dizziness and nausea. This became so severe that periodically I was having to lie down to keep from falling or vomiting.
The stress from this then triggered my Irritable Bowel Syndrome, sending me to the bathroom multiple times at warp speed. At seventy-seven, I also tend to have bladder problems when I cough or sneeze or laugh, so as the day wore on I began to consider all the possibilities for total humiliation and to wonder if God was possibly telling me to not give this presentation.
So, I sat down with my Book of Daily Devotions to check out what the one for the next day might say. This sentence immediately stood out, “God honors those with radical risk taking faith.”
My first thoughts were of my grandson teaching in Afghanistan and my son teaching orphans who are HIV positive in Cambodia. My presentation was about the orphans and the volunteers from all over the world that come to help them.  Then it dawned on me. Surely, risking spurting blood, dripping mucus, falling down or vomiting, or possibly even peeing or pooping in public while giving a talk about helping the helpless qualifies, at least, as risk taking faith.
So, I trusted God enough to go ahead with the presentation, but hedged my bets by not eating or drinking anything before hand and clutching one of my husband’s large white handkerchiefs the whole time I was speaking.

I do believe.  Help thou my unbelief.

Can You Listen to a Stone?

Yesterday, on the blog Radical Amazement, there were beautiful photos of gatherings of butterflies on creek pebbles. Some were black and others were typical Monarch golden butterflies.

Years ago when I was experiencing several truly heartbreaking tragedies, I was seriously considering getting one of those tacky bumper stickers that loosely translated say, “Manure Happens.”

Driving out my country road one morning, I was yelling at God in my mind, “Where are you? I am up to my neck in manure here?” Just then, I noticed a large ripe cow paddy beside the road. It was literally covered in large golden butterflies. I had to pull over because I was both laughing and crying.

What a perfect symbol and answer to my cry. Yes, manure happens, but so does grace. And often it’s the manure that is the fertilizer that brings the grace of growth and transformation. A couple of days later a friend found me a bumper sticker that said, “Grace happens.”

After remembering all this, I decided to journal for the first time in months. When I opened to the last page I had written, the last line was, “Can you listen to a Stone?”

It seemed to connect with the small stones and the butterflies.  As I reflected on them, I realized that I actually do better coping with the larger disasters of life, because I do turn to God and somehow focus on listening and being empowered by grace. It’s the myriad of small difficulties that seem to accumulate and turn me into a nervous wreck.

I’m in one of those sieges right now. And not doing very well at letting go and letting God empower me. As I looked at the photos, it hit me that once again God had sent me a symbol. There is the grace of transformation even in the bunches of small pebbles in my life.

It’s a wonderful reminder to live in the present moment, listening to each small hard thing for God’s call to grace and growth.

“Yes, with grace, I can begin to listen to one small stone at a time.”