Breadcrumbs, Part I

So what makes me think there’s even some chance of some other call in my life now?

I have to say, I’m the kind of guy who appreciates being upfront, not being coy. I got so angry one time at one of my wife’s girlfriends when we were in our 20s: this girlfriend of hers (let’s call her Kelly, because I really do forget her name) and her boyfriend would go to the clubs with us, and we’d all be dancing. Suddenly Kelly would leave–just, up and walk off the dance floor, maybe go to another dance floor on another level of the building, just to see if her boyfriend would follow. I ain’t got time for that kind of games.

I say that by way of saying, I would really find it reassuring to find a burning bush talk to me sometime. Or a blinding light on the road. Or any of the really upfront ways in the Bible that God uses to get someone’s attention. But alas, I am fresh out of pyromiliac shrubbery, and while the morning sun is often j-u-s-t in my eyes as I drive, that’s not the same thing.

Instead, I am left listening, like Elijah:

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13)

The still, small voice: so, so hard to pick out, out of all the noise and busyness surrounding me. I find it’s even hard to do when I’m alone, everyone else is asleep (as they are right now): I still have stuff running through my mind, and it’s difficult to calm myself to be able to find if there is a little signal buried in all that noise.

So: what am I doing here?

I’m trying to sort through the bits and pieces I pick up along the way. Little things: I often have music running through my head, a little soundtrack to accompany my day. Lately it’s almost always contemporary Christian, sometimes with amusing effect. Last weekend I was golfing with my college roommate ahead of our upcoming golf weekend. Ninth tee box, I get set, draw back, swing…and lift my head and completely miss it. And what do I hear going through my mind? The tag from Hilary Scott’s new single: “All I need to be…is…still.” Our God has a wonderful playful sense of humor, doesn’t he?

But seriously, who else’s soundtrack is nothing but praise music?

And that’s not all…more next time.

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Discernment

How do we know when God is steering us, versus when it’s just what we think we want to hear?

My daughter’s been wrestling with a pretty major school decision, and in the next couple of weeks she’ll have to make a decision. She’s been in prayer about it, but asked for advice on how to tell if it’s God’s will that she’s hearing, or if it’s just her own preferences that she’s picking up. We talked it over, and talked with our pastor, and here’s some of what we came up with as ways to tell if it’s God we’re hearing.

  • Does what we’re hearing draw us closer to God, or push us further away? Jesus said there are false prophets, liars in our minds, and that we will know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:16-20). If what we’re feeling urged to do helps advance the Kingdom, that’s a good sign. If it tends to make us focus on our selfish desires, then it’s not.
  • Meditative, contemplative prayer. Emptying the mind is a fiendishly difficult thing to do (and I do mean fiendishly–the tempter is always there to draw us away from focusing on God), but if it’s possible to do so, pay attention to the words and images we may get in our minds. Then try to erase them, and see if they recur. Words, images, or feelings that keep being brought to mind could be God’s efforts to break through the noise of our lives, and for his “still small voice” to be heard (1 Kings 19:11-13). I find it very, very difficult to turn off all the noise in my head–my brain is always running. But this might work easier for some who are more blessed than I with the ability to turn that faucet off.
  • Trying it on for size: If we think we get a sense that God is nudging us in one direction or another, then in prayer we can “try it on”–“God, I seem to sense you saying yes, we should go on the trip…is that right?” And then being still, and seeing if you feel affirmed in the choice. And if not, if you still feel uneasy, then perhaps it isn’t.
  • Closely related: do you find peace in the decision you’ve made, or do you feel still in chaos? God brings peace with him, and so a sense of peace with the decision may be a strong indicator it’s God’s will coming through.

What other techniques do you know for being able to tell when it’s God’s voice you’re hearing?