Posts Tagged ‘God’s guidance’

Holidays are over and my boys headed back to school this week filled to the brim with adolescent reluctance.  Now they are in high school there is less drama and screaming in getting back into routine, but there’s certainly a whole lot more sighing and rolling of the eyes.

Just as they have grown taller over time, so too have their questions evolved. It can be daunting as a parent to be asked certain questions.  When they were very young, the questions about sex were difficult, but at least they had their funny side – “Mum are those lions on TV fighting?” (son 1) – “No, they are just playing!” (son 2).  Phew, that time I didn’t need to say anything at all, just quickly change the channel!  But I have found the theological questions are often the hardest to answer.  As little guys, there was the “So who is God?”  This one was easy enough.  But then came the brutal follow up question: “But who made God?” and things started to go downhill from then on.

Recently another theological question arose during a car trip to the local shops.  “Why do Christians believe different things, and why do they disagree so much?”  Now where do you begin answering a question like that?

The first thing that came to my mind was a day long ago when I was home alone as a fifteen year old.  A sweet looking elderly lady with a woolen skirt, sensible shoes and a wide welcoming smile came to the front door.  She was clutching a booklet with what looked like happy people in a tropical garden on the cover and began talking animatedly about paradise on earth and God’s kingdom.  She seemed friendly and harmless enough so I told her I had recently become a Christian myself and shared with her how happy I was with my new-found faith.  Strangely, my enthusiasm for God seemed to dial down the radiant smile on her face.  She continued with her heaven on earth spiel and I continued telling her about my discoveries about God.  As we talked, it became glaringly obvious that we were both coming at this Christian thing from a very different angle.  I was willing to accept our differences and call it a day, but she continued relentlessly, becoming less friendly and more red in the face as she went on.  Eventually, when open hostility took over and the sweet-looking lady turned very sour, I shoved her back out the front door, closed it with a thud and stood feeling stunned, confused and shaken. A few minutes later the tears came.

That was the day I discovered that not everyone professing to be a Christian is full of the unconditional love and acceptance we expect, and that beneath certain inviting smiles lurks a whole truckload of secret agendas and control issues.

Recently I attended a Christian Women’s Conference in Sydney. The keynote speaker was an entertaining and intelligent woman and I enjoyed listening to her words of wisdom.  But towards the end of her final talk, she made a comment that jarred against my spirit.  Describing how we listen to God and are guided by Him, she encouraged us to read God’s Word, but to guard against such things as listening for his voice in other ways, seeing him at work in circumstances, or of taking notice of mystical things such as dreams and visions. Now I’m sure we have all met people who have gone a bit too far down the “mystical” path and have left reality far behind, but her tone was verging on mocking and allowed no room for those who may have had genuine mystical encounters.  As she spoke I recalled the heavy sprinkling of mystical experiences throughout the Bible  – for example the promises in Acts 2:17 that: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams’.

I sat squirming at this point as I just happen to be one of those slightly weird Christians who do have the occasional mystical encounter – a sentence may pop into my mind at just the right moment to steer me out of trouble, or a dream predicts a pivotal event which is ahead and prepares me for it, or I meet a new person and inexplicably know about a secret battle in their life which helps me treat them with an extra dose of sensitivity.  During times of illness, stress and grief, these “mystical” experiences have given me the strength and hope to keep on going. I know not everyone experiences God the way I do, but I suspect some of you reading this will relate to what I’m describing. We all have our own stories to tell and it’s captivating to listen to each story with an open mind and a gracious and humble heart.  Our stories are as diverse as we are –  and are uniquely ours.  To listen to a well educated and well meaning woman of faith denounce these experiences as silly in a room of a few thousand left me feeling utterly deflated.   I half expected everyone sitting around me to hear the undignified slow squeak of a balloon losing its air.

So I gazed at my son with his important question, sharing his concern for the confusion and pain that arises between those of us who profess to share a common faith.  I answered along these lines:

“You know when we go out together, we head down to the bookstore and buy a book each and then go and chat in the café?”

“Yes” he replied.

“And you know how your brother hates bookshops, and when we get together we go for a walk in the bush and look at all the different types of birds, and take some photos?”


“Well I think it’s like that with God too.  Each of us are different.  He loves us all, and he knows exactly how to communicate with each of us.  Some of us are academic, logical and structured  – others are emotional, creative and messy.  He relates to each of us where we’re at.  Different churches reflect these different ways of relating with God.  The problems start when people of one style of faith begin to judge and criticize people of the other types.  If we could only accept our differences, get on with our own journey (or as I read in Romans recently “tend to your knitting”) and leave others to tend to theirs, we would fully express what it is to be a Christian.”

It was the most honest answer I could come up with on the hop and I hope it reflects some of the truth around this complex issue.  He seemed satisfied with that for now. I’m sure another question will come up soon and I will try to answer.  In the meantime, I will keep on listening for the answers, which I know will arrive in their own unique, quirky and God-inspired way.

So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit…  So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.  Romans 14:10-12 (The Message)




Read Full Post »

The afternoon is grey and I drive the boys to the shops.    I cave in to their pleas for some Pokemon cards, heavy with ‘working in school holidays guilt‘ after leaving them with a friend for the day.    I never go to the shops on a Tuesday afternoon and am pleased that it is quiet and there are plenty of parking spots.

I notice the sun is shining now, but I still feel grey.   Where has the colour gone?   Each step is an effort and my mind is foggy.    I can’t remember what it is like to have energy and motivation.   The grey is like the mist of  a London evening, chilling my lungs as I breathe it in, cold and damp against my skin.   I recognise this greyness – the exhaustion, the depression and the burn-out.

I’m praying for help to climb out of this invisible pit, as I take my sons’ hands and enter the shops.  I  hunt for some change for the Pokemon cards and head for the bread shop.   I can’t even think what I need to buy for dinner.   I’m longing for a sign, a kind word, or a bolt of lightening from above.

Then I hear a voice, calling my name.  A bright, clear and familiar voice.  It’s my friend and she is holding a bunch of bright orange flowers toward me and saying something incongruous. 

I just bought you flowers.  I left work, as I felt the urge to buy you flowers.  God told me I had to buy you flowers.   And here you are!

I am stunned and feel shaky.  I can hardly find the words to thank her.   I stare at the vibrant orange of the gerberas and roses, so rich and deep – warm colours which rapidly invade the greyness and send the mist scurrying away.    Around me all the colours return – like a black and white movie screen slowly transformed into radiant Technicolor.

I try not to cry as I hug my friend, my face relaxing into a smile.   She has to get back to work and I hold the flowers in my arms.   The boys and I go to a cafe where I have a warm, comforting cappuccino and we laugh together. 

Many years ago, after re-discovering God after a long absence from his presence, I went shopping for a new dress.   I had been invited to a wedding, and I had recently lost a lot of weight, and had no idea what would suit me.   I asked God to come shopping with me and to tell me which dress to buy.   Crazy as that sounds, I set off with complete confidence.  

At the first dress shop I found several dresses and tried on the first.   It was shorter than I usually wore,  shiny black and fitting, with a white spotted collar just off the shoulders, and I wasn’t sure.    I asked God what he thought and stepped outside of the cubicle where the mirror was.     I heard a booming male voice behind me:

That looks wonderful.   You must buy it!

For a moment I thought God had actually spoken out loud, but I turned to see my old Sunday-school teacher, who was waiting for his wife.   He smiled widely and continued to tell me how great I looked and urged me to buy the dress.   So my decision was made and I had many fantastic evenings in that dress!

Sceptics would say my encounters with God are coincidences and may even suggest that I am naive and even a little mad.  Yet I could write pages about similar incidents when I’ve asked for God’s help and he has come through for me, regardless of whether I’m facing terminal illness or the trivialities of  everyday life.

My friend who gave me the flowers, and my old Sunday School teacher, are both sensitive and intuitive people.    I’m so grateful that my friend listened to God on that grey Tuesday afternoon and brought the colour back into my world.    Imagine the impact we could have on one another and on a suffering world if we truly listened to that inner voice, and acted on the promptings in our spirit.   Next time you feel the urge to show some kindness, even if it’s slightly outside your comfort zone, take the plunge.  You may actually be acting as the hands of God and touching somebody who really needs it.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.      Hebrews 11:6

Read Full Post »