Ever been speeding to find a ‘word from God” for somebody else?
I was doing that just a couple of days ago and ran smack into the face of God Himself. It was a sort of “word to my son” moment. Yes, I was a little embarrassed for a moment and then, it was like I’m on a divine encounter! God is near and everything is okay.
It was late at night and I wasn’t in my room or office where I could pick up a copy of the Bible or my Kindle® to search for an appropriate encouragement or exhortation for a friend of mine that I was emailing. So, I picked up one of my son’s NIV Study Bibles and started flipping around. I landed in Ecclesiastes of all places and wondered what I might find there. Wow! God stuck my nose right into a passage that had a message for me. It was the beginning of the fifth chapter:
1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
2 Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few.
3 A dream comes when there are many cares,
and many words mark the speech of a fool.
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5 It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. 6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.
I had made a commitment to God a few weeks ago to set aside a regular time to pray for the Body of Christ at Intown Community Church and I hadn’t followed through. I was all in a hurry to help somebody and I was starting to speed on ahead of God. His Word became a Speed Trap. There is a great reminder right in the middle of this passage. In verse 2: “…God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” Soak up all the meaning in that. Savor the deep truth of those words.
I really need to follow through on the important commitment that God led me to as I was in dialogue with Him. That’s where I need to be driving.
Since September of 2009, I’ve read all of these books by Henri J. M. Nouwen. I’ve also read a couple of books about Nouwen.
1. Turn My Mourning Into Dancing: Finding Hope in Hard Times
2. Intimacy: Essays in Pastoral Psychology
3. Beloved: Henri Nouwen in Conversation with Phillip Roderick
4. Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life
5. Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life
6. Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life
7. The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence
8. Letters to Marc About Jesus: Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World
9. With Open Hands
10. A Spirituality of Fundraising
11. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming
12. Creative Ministry
13. Here and Now: Living in the Spirit
14. Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith
15. The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom
16. Home Tonight: Further Reflections on The Parable of The Prodigal Son
17. Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith
There have been a couple of times in my life when my mental or spiritual appetite was such that reading a book by one author struck such a chord that I had to read more. Just a few years ago this happened with leadership expert and allegorical business writer Patrick Lencioni. After reading one of his books, I wanted to read the next one.
With Henri Nouwen, there was something deeper happening. Nouwen’s words spoke to my soul in a rare and powerful way. His experience with God raised a recollection in my spirit. A recollection that I had only begun to experience again after several years of dormancy. Dialogue with God.
Having the need for a spiritual coach, director or mentor is real throughout our lives. For many, the local church does not provide the level of tutelage we need. Ultimately, we rely upon the Spirit of God to speak to our true self. But where do we start? How do we open ourselves to the voice of God? The community of faith is a community of sharing. Experiences, resources and stories are shared like the proverbial beggar sharing with his fellow travelers where to find bread.
In a future post, I’ll share how God led me to a Nouwen book that helped shape my experience with God and my openness to Him. And, then, how my resonance with Nouwen’s writings led me closer to the heart of God. Suffice to say that God is near to us and desires to open our ears and hearts to His voice of love.