Leaping and Listening

Why is it that when we talk to God we’re said to be praying but when God talks to us we’re schizophrenic? ~Lily Tomlin

I was about seven months pregnant with my first son, when my husband left for a weekend church retreat. Friday and Saturday passed with no movement from my active little fellow. I became concerned.

Sunday morning I sat in the pew, waiting. My husband walked to the podium and began to preach.

The baby inside me jumped and turned in a silent “Hallelujah dance.”

He had heard his father’s voice and responded.

Mary and Elizabeth are both stunned to find themselves pregnant. Elizabeth has tried to have a baby for so many years she has stopped counting. She has probably stopped praying.

Mary is not married, isn’t even sure how a baby is made, and yet here she is– pregnant.

In fear and confusion, Mary heads to her cousin Elizabeth’s house. She knocks on the door, raises her eyes to meet Elizabeth’s gaze, and offers a hesitant, “Shalom.”

The baby inside Elizabeth leaps when it hears the sound of Mary’s voice. . . Mary so recently touched by the Holy Spirit . . . Mary so longing to know everything is going to be alright.

And Elizabeth knows what her child has heard. She is filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaims, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! . . . Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:42, 45)

Elizabeth was in tune with the Spirit. She was listening for its call, watching for its coming.

Did you give $10 to the homeless man at the Spirit’s urging? Did you call that friend you haven’t heard from in years? Did you stop to pray for the passenger in the passing ambulance? Did you carry groceries for the mother with three children pulling on her pants? Did you encourage the humming teen in the checkout line to keep singing praises?

Do you know when you hear the sound of God approaching?

Are you listening for his voice?

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.  Proverbs 3:6 MSG

When the Word Is Quiet

The measure of a conversation is how much mutual recognition there is in it; how much shared there is in it. If you’re talking about what’s in your own head, or without thought to what people looking and listening will feel, you might as well be in a room talking to yourself. ~Dylan Moran

“Go on in the living room.” Katherine’s voice echoed down the hallway.

An old woman sat in the hard, wooden chair. White hair framed a glaring face.

“Go here. Go there. I just want to know why.” Mary struggled to speak, her voice barely a whisper. But her body was yelling loud enough.

I walked over to see what was going on.

A stroke took away most of Mary’s voice, and age has taken away her strength. Mary whispers everything she says. Katherine is hearing impaired and couldn’t understand Mary’s angry outburst.

I squatted next to Mary and asked what was wrong.

“No one ever tells me what’s going on. ‘Go here. Go there. Take a bath.’ But they never tell me why. I just want to know why.”

“Well, Miss Mary, I’m Traci. I come to read every week.” I placed my hand on her knee, and she looked in my eyes. “You always come in the living room and listen to me read. Would you like to come in today and listen?”

She covered my hand with her own. “Yes, I would.” She grasped the chair arm and began the painful process of standing. Katherine tried to help. “You go away.” Mary whisper-yelled at Katherine.

She grabbed her walker and followed me to the living room.

“I just want to know why.” I lift my eyes to heaven, but the answer is incomprehensible. “Why do I have to do this? Why do I have to go there?” Nothing. The answer is inaudible, and I am hard of hearing.

Mary didn’t follow me because she was desperate to hear my story that day. She followed me because I am familiar. She found me to be gentle and reassuring.

Sometimes I need a gentle, reassuring mediator, too. I cry out to God, but his voice is too quiet, my ears too deaf. I don’t know what to do, so I sit stubbornly in my chair glaring at the world in confusion.

Then the Spirit whispers words I mostly don’t understand, but they are gentle and familiar. I take Jesus’s hand and follow him to the Father’s throne room where I am a part of the story.

And so are you.

Every house has a builder, but the Builder behind them all is God. Moses did a good job in God’s house, but it was all servant work, getting things ready for what was to come. Christ as Son is in charge of the house. Now, if we can only keep a firm grip on this bold confidence, we’re the house! That’s why the Holy Spirit says, Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear as in “the bitter uprising,” that time of wilderness testing! Hebrews 3:5-7 MSG

Holy Spirit Coach

“On this team, we’re all united in a common goal: to keep my job.” -Lou Holtz

We’re down to the final teams: Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots. They have two weeks to prepare. They’re lifting weights, watching their diets, maintaining their schedules for proper sleep and exercise. And they’re reviewing plays with the coaches.

Coaches get paid a lot of money. The average NFL head coach salary is between two and four million dollars. Some make a lot more than that, others make less. But I think we can all agree that they are well compensated for their work.

So what does a coach do for all of that money?

A coach motivates the players. He talks to them, encourages and inspires them. He gets to know each player, understands what makes them tick, and then manages the team in such a way that each player can perform his best.

A coach doesn’t work alone. He has other coaches who instruct the players. He ignites passion in the fans so they will support the team. And he reports to the owner, making sure that the owner understands his players.

We have a head coach too. The Holy Spirit.

Certainly there are assistant coaches: preachers, elders, deacons, friends, brothers and sisters who have handled more tackles that you.

But it is the Holy Spirit which stirs us up and whispers that we can do this great thing before us. The Spirit switches on the light so we finally understand the play book. The Spirit draws the body of believers together so that we cheer one another on, offering support and encouragement.

And the Holy Spirit speaks to the owner of the team, God himself, so that he understands what we are going through, why we are reacting the way we are, and asking for a little more time to prepare this rookie player.

Our head coach doesn’t make a salary. There’s no glory in it for him. Not even an upturned cooler of ice water when the game is over. No, the Holy Spirit is the most passionate of coaches. He does it because he loves us and he loves the Owner.

He’s the truest member of the team.

 People who are ruled by their desires think only of themselves. Everyone who is ruled by the Holy Spirit thinks about spiritual things. If our minds are ruled by our desires, we will die. But if our minds are ruled by the Spirit, we will have life and peace. Romans 8:5-6 CEV

The Right Equipment

lawnmower-384589__180We have a lawn mower that has seen better days. Last year we put so much money into repairs that we decided as soon as something goes wrong this year we will buy a new one. Several weeks ago, after one swipe around the goat field, the mower blades disengaged and refused to continue. It was time to put the mower out to pasture.

The new mower cost more than the first one. It has a floating deck, which means that no matter how bumpy the ground is, the blades will float over top of the terrain. The turning point of the mower is easier and smaller so the lawn doesn’t have large misshapen areas anymore. The grass looks great. The extra cost was worth the expense because the work is performed better with the right equipment.

I have been painting rooms in our house all year. I am not exaggerating. Every month since December of last year I have painted something in our house. Paint brushes and rollers are not all made alike. I enjoy a particular brand. It has a smaller handle with curves that fit my hand well. The bristles are soft and angled just right so that fine lines around the trim are easily painted. The brushes cost more, but they actually save me time and paint in the long run. I am actually more efficient when I use the right equipment.

I have several types of nail polish. The cheaper brands look good at first, but they chip the first day of application, and truth be told they run when I apply them. The more expensive nail polish has a better brush, is a thicker liquid, and lasts much, much longer. The right equipment stands up to the pressures of living and makes everything look better.

Are you getting the picture? Whether you are talking about mattresses, tissues, paper towels, cars, or dog toys, the right equipment makes a difference. And the right equipment always costs more.

You can still get the job done with inferior equipment, but it won’t be as good. Either it won’t last as long, won’t look as nice, or will be harder to complete. Paying the extra price is worth it.

We can do the work of this life with the equipment we have or that we can purchase. We can be successful in our jobs, our parenting, our marriages, our relationships, but without the right equipment it will be more difficult, and truth be told, it won’t look quite as good.

God has given us his Spirit so that we will have the right equipment. I know, I know. The right equipment is expensive. Don’t worry. Jesus already paid the bill.

But the Holy Spirit will come and help you, because the Father will send the Spirit to take my place. The Spirit will teach you everything and will remind you of what I said while I was with you. John 14:26 CEV