In the old days, God made himself known through signs and wonders. Jesus worked miracles. Prophets dreamed dreams and had visions. But what about today?
Well, if we can keep this just among ourselves, I’ll tell you…God gets my attention through little stuff no one else would notice.
Like 11:11. It’s the date of my grandfather’s birthday: 11/11/11. A cool number. Amazing how many times it comes up on my cell phone or digital watch just as I have made a decision or am departing a challenging event or wondering whether I have done the right thing. I even got it on a Panera receipt. The cashier probably wondered why I was so excited.
Then there is my chiming watch. (I’ve written about it here before.) It chimes the exact hour, every hour. Amazing how many times its sound coincides with just the moment I begin a new thing or wonder whether I should take a different tack.
Or the whirligig that landed on my writing table, just as I was beginning the last book edit? I remember watching those helicopter down to the ground, fascinating me with their flight.
Let’s not forget the deer grazing – sometimes one, sometimes several – who seem oblivious to their message for me: I am with you in this.
I headed out to collect the paper yesterday and my eyes fell upon this.
Come on, this is the stick figure house I always drew, well, still draw because I am not much of a draw-er. Can you believe the detail? No other twigs or branches or greenery or mulch in sight. Just this, smack dab at the end of my driveway, as if it was placed there, for my pleasure. It even launched a ditty in my head. “our house … is a very, very, very fine house…”
God and I have developed quite a few “signs and wonders” in our special language over the years. These things wouldn’t probably attract any one else’s attention. But they do, mine. But where did they come from? I’m not talking superstition, here. I mean really, who gave me these ideas?
Well, Bampa gave me 11:11. I accidentally activated the chime on an excursion my youngest and I took together to a crazy event. She also introduced me to faces thanks to Dairy Queen’s curlicue softserve. The whirligigs are a product of my childhood friends. Observing deer arrived first on the way to deliver one of my children by scheduled C-section. Thank goodness for that doe. All these, and so many more, are the collection of stories that have left a memento. Other peoples’ stories that have intersected with my own and become a part of mine. Entwined as sign and wonder.
So, the small twig house at the end of the driveway? Do you suppose God was just showing off? Or do you think He intended me to sing? Sing/sign? Pretty close. Might just be coincidence.
Hang out… Listen… Walk in the truth. That’s what I heard in a sermon yesterday. The preacher is a young guy. Heck, Tim’s hardly even a thirty something. He’s a kid! And he’s got this nailed. Because he lives in the land of young people and he’s always looking around.
He told us that these days people don’t come to faith by listening like they used to. They used to go: to hear a message, to listen, then believe and make a commitment. Now, Tim said (actually he said people who study this are saying) people come to faith by talking. Easy enough. All we need to do is listen.
Yes! These people need someone to talk to, someone who will hear their side, someone who will listen to their stories, empathize in the difficulties, nod and smile, and put an arm around a shoulder. And remain silent. Unless and until Jesus shares words we’re meant to speak. We’re admonished to be quick to listen and slow to speak, not because we’re not meant to use our words but because words, absent of Christ, indict us.
Mid afternoon Sunday I am driving with my daughter to a soccer team meeting scheduled in a room at a library near her Sunday evening indoor soccer game. The team has arranged this location as a convenience for busy people to attend. We arrive and pull into an entrance way shared between the library parking lot on the right and a church parking lot on the left. Straight ahead is this sign: “CHURCH LOT NOT OPEN TO SOCCER PARKING.”
It stops me cold. I was lucky not to get rear-ended. There are no soccer fields in sight. Simply trees, a library, snow and a mostly empty church parking lot. (Fortunately, there was ample parking at the library.) Yet, the message reads clearly: Soccer players and their families are not welcome here.
Now I am certain that is NOT the message intended by the people who erected the sign. I do not know them. I’ve never been to their church. But as a church-going Christian and a soccermom I understand the battle for parking that goes on on Sundays. Sunday morning soccer games thrive in our area. Spectators come in droves. But the church needs this space for their parishioners on Sundays; please park elsewhere.
They know what they mean to say, but do they know what this means when soccer families read it? My daughter did immediately. She said, “Oh Mom, you have to take a picture of that.” She gets the message. And so do I. This is the message that can underlie our church-speak if we’re not careful. If we don’t hear from Christ first about whether to speak and what to say, our anger can come right out of our mouths. And while it can sound very right to us, it can, to those looking and listening with very discerning eyes and ears, sound very wrong.
To them that sign reads: “You should be in church on Sunday.” Or even, “If soccer is more important to you than church on a Sunday morning, you are not welcome here.”
That permanent green and white sign, erected with forethought and some significant expense, greets everyone who drives to the library, many of whom are soccer families, some of whom are struggling with the challenge that soccer on Sundays has created for their best intentions to get to church on a Sunday. Do we know how we sound?
This morning, the words of Joe Friday came to me (Yes, from Dragnet; I am very much older than Pastor Tim). Every week, Joe nailed the crook, and he would read the suspect his Miranda rights. In the United States, the Miranda warning is required by law to prevent a suspect from compelled self-incrimination (a violation of the 5th amendment). It states:
- You have the right to remain silent when questioned.
- Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish.
Usually, Joe ended with. “Do you understand your rights?” And the suspect usually said, “I want a lawyer.”
Because, of course, Joe Friday always got his man. And when you’re guilty, you know you need a lawyer. You have the right to counsel. An advocate who will speak with you, and if necessary, for you.
We have the right to remain silent. And in this silence to call on our counselor who will surely offer wise advice. Perhaps, to sit quietly. Perhaps, to say what you need. Perhaps, to go and be with them wherever they are, even on a Sunday morning. And when the time is right, to introduce them to the Friend who came with you.
If I come to a complete stop, I’m stuck.
Not that I’m prone to hyperactivity. I’m actually quite a measured person. I consider carefully what I do. I’m not a risk-taker or an impulsive doer. Just a mover. Something about being in motion gives me a sense of myself in space, in place, in life.
So, I wonder about people who just stand there on purpose. Who, through clenched fists and tight lips, say “I’m waiting for ‘a calling’ or ‘for inspiration’ or ‘for a sign.'” As soon as they get the word, they’ll be off to the races. Until then, they are sweating bullets sitting at that crossroads.
I don’t work that hard. There’s a sign at the intersection in the front of my house that says stop. In my car, I do. But on foot, I don’t. I look right, left and straight ahead and then step off into the direction for the day’s venture.
Which way is the “right” way, I really don’t know. But what I have found is that the sign at the entrance is rarely God’s sign. It’s an earthly sign, erected by humans. It’s the law and I’m meant to obey it. But once I choose the way, once I turn in a direction, then God’s signs are all along it to tell me I’m on His path.
Occasionally I see another stop or a yield or a “rough road ahead” sign on this path. These are Him, too. Telling me I’ve made a wrong turn!
Perhaps if I listened more carefully at the entrance of my day I would hear Him calling me into something in particular. A “Go this way. I’ve made you a novelist!” Or “Go that way. I’ve made you a coach!” Or “Turn around. I’ve made you a personal trainer!”
Nope. None of that. The call for me is not a hearing, but a moving and then a noticing. What I am meant to be will come clearer along the way. Perhaps He’ll slap some armor on me and make me a warrior. Or stick feathers in me and make me a bird. Or pour syrup and sprinkles from above and make me an ice cream sundae.
What we’re meant to be will be revealed. For now I’m working on trusting. God’s not calling me to perform divine acts of great consequence. That’s His business. Just to the small stuff. “Go in the strength you have,” He says, “and I’ll be along.”
This requires a certain amount of letting go, a certain amount of trust and a heaping helping of humor. Trusting myself to make all the decisions, now that’s laughable. Trusting in God is much safer, much healthier and the way things are going to work out anyway. Along that path, I may even learn to trust myself! I’m not looking for anything in particular. I’m just coming.
So much simpler than trying to figure it all out ahead of time.