Monday, March 3, 2008

Not In The Earthquake, Not In The Fire

I've never witnessed an exorcism. I've also never spoken in tongues, or been "slain in the Spirit". I'm not at all sure I've ever even seen these things actually happen, as opposed to seen someone who really wanted one of them to happen acting like it was happening.

This is not to say that I deny the possibilities of any of these things. God does not do parlour tricks, He does not perform on demand, and He's certainly not about to effect an undeniable miracle to prove anything to me or anyone else. All I can say is that other than the Biblical accounts, I'm very skeptical of claims of Divine (read: supernatural or paranormal) activity.

God's speaking can be added to the list. I've never heard an audible voice which I believed to be God. I've never been awoken in the night by a disembodied voice speaking my name, and I've never had anything you could call a prophetic vision, even after eating really spicy foods right before bed. I can't and won't deny that it's happened to others, but it's outside the realm of my own experience as of this writing.

That being said, I believe wholeheartedly that God does speak to us, if we are willing to listen. He has hopes and plans for every person on Earth, whether we like it or not. He speaks in a variety of ways, most of them far too quiet to hear unless you're listening closely. He speaks through Christian friends, He speaks through Scripture, He speaks through our convictions in the Holy Spirit (that which the world calls conscience), and He speaks through the circumstances and events that surround us.

Today I want to tell a story about God trying to tell me something. It could be explained any number of other ways. Coincidence would be the obvious explanation, if only I believed in that. This sort of thing has happened to me a few times; this was just the most recent.

My work duties and schedule changed recently, so that the time when I normally did my daily Bible reading was no longer available. I've read all the way through the Bible at least once a year for almost two decades now, and I have no intention of stopping.

I tried finding another good time, but nothing worked. I'm very picky about my Bible reading. I can read magazines and other such inconsequential material with the TV on, people talking around me, etc., but I need quiet for reading Scripture. Our house is small, so that winds up meaning that I only do my reading when everyone else is asleep. I'm not a morning person by any definition, so staying up late works best, but these days I have to go to work at an hour that I describe as horrifyingly early (I won't say how early, because you're probably already up by then, and would have your final confirmation that I'm a huge whiner).

My reading fell farther and farther behind as the days passed and I never made time for it. That's not especially unusual; although I've made it all the way from Genesis to Revelation each year, there have been a few Christmastime marathons to make it under the wire.

After a short while I noticed something else, which I attributed at first to the change in my routine. As early as my alarm clock was set to go off, I was actually waking up 15 minutes or so before the required time. I found this quite frustrating, since I certainly didn't want to be awake any earlier than necessary, but that wasn't really enough time to bother going back to sleep. I usually tried anyway. This happened consistently, every day for about two weeks.

Then one night I was talking with my wife about falling behind on my reading, and I said, "I think the only way I'm going to get back on track is if I start getting up a little earlier and read in the morning." For once in my life, I know how psychics feel when they do "automatic writing" (or at least how they would feel if it was real, not that I buy it). That idea had not occurred to me, and the words did not pass through my mind at all before proceeding out of my mouth (not that that's particularly unusual either).

I realized that my waking up early had been no accident and no coincidence. I was being gently told what I ought to be doing.

I started setting the alarm earlier, and getting up to read. As I expected, I stopped waking up before it rang. I had received and obeyed my instructions, so there was no need for Him to continue to prod me.

You may think this is trivial. You may think that God wouldn't bother with such a small matter. I would answer that every person's spiritual life, of which prayer and Bible study are crucial elements, is of the utmost importance to Him, and if you like I'd be happy to show you some parables to back it up.

He speaks, but sometimes you have to be willing to listen very carefully. For all I know, He may be trying to tell you something right now.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a toy bird.

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