15
Jul

Making His Appeal Through Us…

Last Sunday I preached at my church. I, with much trepidation, told about my experiences with God over the past 4 years. Some of my faithful readers are probably saying, “But you blog openly about it!” 

True. But I don’t have to look many of you in the face as you read it! So, if you hate what I’m writing, I don’t have to know about it. I can live in a delusional world where everyone loves me! 

So, to get up in front of people I adore and love and ask them to believe all of this stuff is really tough territory for me. Thankfully, some were quite kind and said it helped them. Others simply politely kept their mouths closed! (This would be why I love my church!) Others, who were unable to hear it for one reason or another, asked that I let them read it. So, for those folks and for my faithful readers:

For those of you who don’t already know me, I am a mother of three grown children, the mother-in-law of two great people and the new grandmother of one fantastically awesome grandson. I’ve been in the mother role for over 30 years now. And some maternal habits don’t die easily, even after your children are all grown and you have no need of maternal habits anymore.

So, when our pastor asked me to preach today, I almost instinctively reached up to put my hand on his forehead and check his temperature. Here’s why:

I’m a preacher’s kid.

Wikipedia says that the stereotypes of a preacher’s kid are twofold: “in one, they are perfectly angelic role models, in the other they are rebels at the opposite extreme.” I tended toward the latter so here’s what I learned about church being Dad’s daughter:

  1. If the service begins at 9:30 am, you will have to be at church by 7:30 am, properly dressed and CLEAN. And there are few excuses tolerated for not doing so. “Not being a morning person” is NOT on the list of acceptable excuses.
  2. You can fit exactly 12 tic-tac-toe games on the back of an offering envelope. You can fit 16 on there if you write really small. Theoretically, you can fit 20 if the pew pencils are really sharp. However, since the preacher’s kid is usually responsible for sharpening the pew pencils, this will probably never be proven.
  3. Never sit on the right side of your mother’s elbow if you are snickering at Mrs. Zwiefelhofer’s oddly flowered hat during worship.

 

I will attempt to do something a bit more productive than what I just mentioned. But, if this goes seriously awry, I’m blaming our pastor, since he’s a preacher’s kid, too.

Unlike my dad, unlike our pastor, I am not a theologian. I’m something far worse.

I’m a blogger.

I comment on what I see around me and tell stories. So, today, I’m going to tell you some of my story.

Here’s the first thing you need to know about me:

My body hates me.

It rebels at the most inopportune times. I have had horribly debilitating migraines since I was 6 years old. I have had 4 heart attacks without any pre-existing risk factors for heart disease and I will probably have more. My rare condition is not remedied by medication, diet, exercise or being in a Zenlike position for the rest of my life. I developed anaphylactic shock reactions to most antibiotics and some painkillers after the first heart attacks at age 39. I never know what the next moment will bring. While I feel fine right now, I may be in the hospital ER when I leave here. But yet, I consider all of that good stuff.

Yes, good stuff. I don’t think I would have gotten to the relationship I have with God now if it weren’t for all of my medical adventures. But, I’m hoping what I learned about God in the process is now of some benefit to you.

Heart attack # 4 occurred on June 17, 2013. It was a doozy. I thought it was my ticket to Heaven, quite frankly. What was even more unsettling is that I couldn’t sense God’s presence at the time in my life when I most needed Him. I tried to pray, but it’s a little difficult to pray when your entire body is in severe pain. The one person who could relate to my situation, our minister, was moving to Ennis. Our new minister was moving to our town.

I recovered from “4”, I came home, and began to weep uncontrollably for several weeks. Nothing consoled me that used to console me. And I didn’t understand what God wanted me to do.

I became convinced that writing a blog had something to do with what I was on Earth to do for God. I had this sense of peace about it that only comes when you know something is of the Lord. There was only one problem. No one and I mean no one, was reading this blog.

As part of the anguish of a life that I thought had not produced much for the kingdom of God, I asked, “Why do you want me to keep writing this blog? No one is reading it.” I just hung the question out there for once in my life. My normally busy brain and interior voice, for once, was silent. In that silence, a quiet voice said, “Because I want to be with you.”

What?! I knew that voice was not mine. My voice would have said, “No one wants to be with you.” I had never heard that voice and I sensed an instant peace I cannot even describe. The only conclusions I could reach? Either that was God or it’s time for a psych eval at the local hospital.

Whatever it was…all I knew is that I wanted more of it. But I had absolutely no idea how to hear from that voice ever again. And was I even supposed to hear from it again? If it was indeed God’s voice, who am I to want God to speak to me more than once in my earthly life? I should be thankful for such an awesome gift and let it be.

I don’t do “Let it Be” very well. It’s my least favorite Beatles song.

Thankfully, God led me to a program in the metroplex that teaches exactly that. I am now surrounded by people who not only hear from God often, but also have visions and experience God in a myriad of ways that I never knew were possible. It has been a huge paradigm shift for me…everything inside of me is changing.

How do these people know how to do this on a regular basis? Because our beloved Christian saints of the past left us a road map. That road map comes in the forms of prayer practices that unfortunately, are not often shared in our churches today. Kory said it was not presented in his studies at his seminary. A lot of the books written about them are no longer in print.

Do I think this gift of God’s real presence in our lives is just for some of us and not for all of us? No.

Let me say that again: No.

Acts 2:38 says, “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It’s quite clear that Peter does not think that this inward manifestation of God at work in us is just something reserved for the Apostles or only really, really devout Christians. If I can have this type of relationship with God, so can you.

Will God speak to you? I don’t know. Why? Because I’m not you and I’m not Him. He may choose to reveal Himself to you in a completely different way because you’re very different from me. What is meaningful for me may have no meaning to you. But trust me on this—God is at work in your life.

Why don’t we hear more about this kind of encounter with God if it’s possible for all of us to have it? I have a few theories about that.

First, it sounds crazy. Obviously, I’m not the first person to recognize that. Today’s Scripture reading says:  “If we are crazy, it’s for God’s sake. If we are rational, it’s for your sake.” (2 Cor. 5:13-21) Even our movies consider it fun to mock a person’s experience of hearing from God. As a result, those of us who have had this experience often fear how we will be viewed by others.

Second, we think we want to hear from God, but also fear it. What if God says something that we don’t like? What if He asks me to make a huge change or sacrifice to my present life? Mary Ann Scofield says, “It is natural to resist anything that threatens the status quo: Since God is always leading us toward becoming more loving, we will often resist God’s approach.”

Third, this sort of experience requires silence and stillness. It takes focus. Does that sound like 21st century America to you? Scofield further states: “Our culture does not value stopping, waiting, noticing, or pondering, though all of these are required for prayer. Our culture…rewards good deeds and punishes evildoing; God persists in being extravagantly generous and forgiving, upending all of our ideas about what is fair. Our culture lauds talent and success; yet God chooses to identify with the least among us.”

Everything screams for our attention and if our attention is not solely focused on God, God is polite and waits until we get quiet. It was just pointed out to me yesterday that the word silent has the exact same letters as listen. We have to stop and listen to God.

Was I anxious to lose the respect of the people I love and admire? No. Was I fearful about what I might hear from God? Yes. Was I good at being silent and still? Um. No. I was lousy at silence and stillness. But that scripture that says, “Be Still and Know that I am God” is oh, so true. If we want to know God, we have to get still, inside and out.

I’m entering my last year of training. As a way of documenting our journey with God, we are encouraged to keep a journal. I have never kept up with a journal or diary all the way to the last page. (I held up my four, sizable journals.) These first 4 journals are full—completely full of God moving in my life. God talking. God giving me visions. God teaching me, sweetly, gently and lovingly.

Do I write every day? No. Because I, like everyone else resist this new thing in my life that is upending my status quo.

So, how do I know that this is God’s voice and not something else? As my training group leader has said, “Does it produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit when you hear it? If not, it’s probably not God.” These conversations are supposed to produce something good, something kind, something loving, within me…within my family…within my neighborhood…within my community and perhaps, just perhaps, some day, within my world.

I’m the first to say I still don’t see outward signs of transformation. Most of the changes are only ones God and I notice. That’s why the journals are so important. When I’m feeling depressed about my walk with the Lord, I reread my first journal and realize I have, indeed, come a long way.

Here’s just a few things I’ve noticed about my life before and after these conversations with God:

  1. I used to love the latest and greatest Bible study on the shelves at Lifeway. Beth Moore was my girl! Now I’m looking for texts written by 11th century monks.
  2. I never understood the Scripture, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Now I do.
  3. I used to think there were only 4 kinds of prayer at most. Now, I know there at least 50 ways to pray to God and a pile of variations for each of them.
  4. I used to have an opinion about everything and was very judgmental. Now, I prefer to wait and hear the other side of the story and suspend judgment. I try to simply accept people as they are now.
  5. I used to think I was not a great Christian if I wasn’t constantly doing something for His kingdom. Now, I prefer to just imagine myself sitting with the Lord.
  6. I used to play the loudest music on the planet and like contemporary music in worship. The louder the better. Now I prefer silence.
  7. I used to prefer praying “off the cuff.” I still do this a lot, but I now understand all too well the value of the prayers of others, written down and published.
  8. I no longer worry who will read my blog and often don’t write a thing there.
  9. 20 minutes of silent prayer once a week seemed like an eternity two years ago. Now, I may spend 5 times that amount in one day and it flies by.

 

It has been an adventure. God surprises me often with what He wants me to know. Here are a few snippets of what He has taught me:

  1. He has a sense of humor. One sleepy morning I was definitely having trouble focusing on Him. I asked, “Jesus? Did you ever wrestle with distractions? The reply? “Are you kidding? I had 12 and I handpicked each one.”
  2. I don’t fully trust Him. I don’t fully trust Him because I don’t fully trust people. People have hurt me. People have rejected me. They are human, after all, and make mistakes, like I do. I’m trying to overcome such fear, but it’s not easy.
  3. God accepts me as I am. In the words of William Paul Young, “He’s rather fond of me”.
  4. He tells us things in bite-sized pieces as we’re ready to hear the things He wants to tell us. He does this to prevent us from being overly frightened by the future. I could never have shared this story with you 2 short years ago. But, I’m here now!
  5. Nothing is wasted in the kingdom of God. It may look senseless, foolish and wasted to us, but God is still using it to bring light and love into us and into the world.
  6. God’s love and even correction is gentle, calm, peaceful, the joy of all joys, kind, and well-timed.
  7. When he speaks, I often cry. And I consider myself a rather stoic person. I’ve learned to keep a box of Kleenex and a large wastebasket nearby when praying.
  8. God speaks simply. He is often brief.
  9. What he repeats is what is important.

 

Perhaps you are wondering what God might say to us, as a church? So, I asked Him. And this is what I wrote in my journal as His response:

“I have much to tell them. Tell them I love them. Tell them I miss them. I am waiting for them. I will answer, if they pray. I am more than a church service on Sunday morning. I am more than a sermon and a prayer. I am a way of life. I am the way of life. I want to be an intimate part of everything they do. That is why they are created in my image, so we can be together for all eternity. I am waiting for them. I have much to tell them.”

So, how to hear what He has to tell you if you have never done this before? There are many ways, but let me suggest that you consider the following:

Give God 20 minutes of today.

Away from all of the noise.

Away from other people.

Set a timer for 20 minutes and open your Bible.

Find a scripture. Read it slowly. Let it wash over you.

Then, ask yourself: What word or phrase is jumping out at me? Ask yourself: What does God want me to know about this Scripture?

Then, be silent. Be still.

If it’s helpful, write this question in a journal and then write the first thing that comes to mind.

Trust that what you write is God speaking. Even if it isn’t, God still knows that your intention is to find Him. And He will, one day, somehow, honor that intention.

Keep writing, even if you don’t know what to write. Draw a picture if that makes more sense to you. Doodle, if like me, you’re not a great artist.

Silence the critic within you and wait for God. He is waiting for you.

This entry was posted on Saturday, July 15th, 2017 at 5:26 pm and is filed under God stuff. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

comments

13
  1. July 15th, 2017 | John Arnold says:

    Wonderful. Dear. Wish I had been there.

  2. July 22nd, 2017 | maryann says:

    Thank you!

  3. July 15th, 2017 | John Arnold says:

    Love you bunches!

  4. July 22nd, 2017 | maryann says:

    Love you bunches!

  5. July 15th, 2017 | Liesa says:

    Since the miles prohibited being there in Person I’m sending many thanks to you for sharing here. I would call you and chat, but am fighting a UTI and am really weary and not wanting to be on the phone unless absolutely necessary! It means missing the shindig for Ropers tomorrow…aargh! Proud of you! It will be interesting to see how the Lord uses you further in this avenue!!!!! Send along a family update when you are able, please. Love and prayers.

  6. July 22nd, 2017 | maryann says:

    Will update soon…as usual, the calendar is full, so it may take some time! Hope you’re feeling better!

  7. July 16th, 2017 | Lizzy says:

    Wise and well timed words… just like God to lay it out. Thank you for sharing. Really hit me …. pretty sure I needed this message. Thank you for being so open and willing. Love ya

  8. July 22nd, 2017 | maryann says:

    Love ya back, Lizzy!

  9. July 17th, 2017 | Charlotte says:

    MaryAnn,
    Thank you for this. I was encouraged by your words. I am struggling with my relationship (or lack thereof) with God. Its not that I don’t believe He exists, or that I doubt Christ is my savior. I am struggling with trusting Him in anything, let alone all things.
    I so appreciate all the things you’ve shared in this blog- you have touched me, and encouraged me to start meeting God again for more than praying for others. I had forgotten that I need to know God’s word and then wait for Him- just be with Him.
    I love you!

  10. July 22nd, 2017 | maryann says:

    Love you, too!

  11. July 17th, 2017 | MaryAnn says:

    Thanks, everyone, for the kind words. God is anxiously waiting to meet with all of us. We often fail to be a human being and wind up a human doing. When we work on being first, the doing is no longer drudgery. 🙂 Love to all!

  12. July 21st, 2017 | Pam Patterson says:

    Mary Ann, I definitely would have come if I’d known you were preaching that day. Your blog is a welcomed word from the Holy Spirit, and I thank you for your bravery in sharing.

  13. July 22nd, 2017 | maryann says:

    Thanks, Pam!

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