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Discussions with God

by davesandel on May 20th, 2021

Thursday, May 20, 2021                     (today’s lectionary)

Discussions with God

We find nothing wrong with this man. Suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?

This is Paul they are talking about. Of course angels and spirits have spoken to him. He wakes up at night certain of where he’s supposed to go the next day. “I am going to Jerusalem. You will never see my face again.” And all his Ephesian friends weep; they have grown to love this strange, driven man. And as he embarks on the momentarily quiet Mediterranean, his own prayers come from a font of joy and peace, not of fear.

Keep me safe, O God. You are my only hope.

But there are storms ahead. After his examinations in Jerusalem he sails to Rome, not as a prisoner but as a missionary (“a prisoner of Christ Jesus”), listening to God every step of the way.

The Lord counsels me and in the night exhorts me. He is ever before me, and with him at my right hand, I shall not be disturbed.

Although Paul makes it sound easy, for me discerning God’s will is a tricky thing. When I am faced with two or more GOOD choices, I do well to discuss them with God for awhile.

In her book The Way of Discernment, Elizabeth Liebert digs into this “discussion” with God. It involves at least seven “entry points:” 1) memory, 2) intuition, 3) body awareness, 4) imagination, 5) reason, 6) consolation and desolation, and 7) nature. When I’m restless and uncertain about what to do next, I can begin at any of these points and deepen the conversation I’m having with myself and with God.

This is far better than what Margaret calls “lucky-dipping,” which just means closing your eyes, opening the Bible to any page and pointing your finger at a verse and then acting it out. I think God gave me mind and emotions and imagination so we can communicate, and so I can express my thoughts and feelings alongside listening to His. To Hers.

Only you, Lord, will show me the path to life, the fullness of joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.

What does John say about living our lives? There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). But facing an uncertain future on my own is scary. Fear resides and presides over other more welcome emotions, over lasting joy, even over my digestion. I get headaches and stomachaches and backaches, especially if I don’t know, or won’t admit, that fear is causing them.

I have given them the glory you gave me so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one.

Talking with God changes that fear. He has something to say, this God who made me and loves me and never forsakes me, who forgives me behind-hand and present-hand and before-hand, who forgives even the sins I can’t forgive in myself. Her words are always going to save me. Pay attention. Use Elizabeth’s entry points. Talk awhile, listen awhile, talk some more, listen some more.

John continues, Fear has to do with punishment. Instead, be made perfect in love. God tells me that same thing, straight out. Stop thinking you deserve to be punished. Your spirit will grow through every consequence you experience. Even when it is painful, NONE of it has to do with punishment. I love you, can’t you get that through your cotton-pickin’ head?

Perhaps God gets impatient with me sometimes. He reflects my own impatience, perhaps. But always the next day the sun also rises, the music of the birds begins again, and although fear might beckon, God’s love is stronger than fear and stronger than death. God’s breath on me fills me up.

You loved me before the foundation of the world.

(Acts 22, Psalm 16, John 17)

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