The Stench of Human Sweat

Last week I experienced a tempest in a teapot, and I failed to weather the storm with grace. On Monday afternoon, I discovered that my blog’s subscription sign-up form was broken. It accepted the entry of an email address; everything looked fine. Except it didn’t actually update the subscription files. So I began a sweaty scramble to fix it.

Sweat

I worked from 3:30 Monday afternoon until about 9:30 that evening. At that point, the tiny-tempest sank my site: everything stopped working. I went to bed. I woke early Tuesday morning, coordinated communication between four different help centers, got the site running, temporarily jury-rigged an email signup form, and published last week’s article.

Phew! It took me nine hours, but I got it done. Afterward I took a prayer time, beginning with My Utmost for His Highest. The devotional ended with:

Is there someplace where you are not at home with God? Then allow God to work through that particular circumstance until you increase in Him, adding His qualities.

I immediately felt convicted (in a good way). I hadn’t really repaired my website “in God.” Sure, I had asked God for help, but I had been “at home” in my skills rather than in God.

My work had the stench of human sweat rather than the fragrance of the Father.*

Hearing God in the Multiplicity of His Methods and Moments

Most believers I know long for—and long desperately for—God’s voice, but we don’t hear his voice because we are unaware of the lavishness of his methods and moments.

Scripture says, “God speaks in many and diverse ways, but nobody notices (Job 33:14). We miss his voice because he’s not a paint-by-number God. He speaks in ways we can’t imagine.

rainbow

Far too often well-meaning people describe conversations with God with unhelpful, misleading examples. Their exchanges with God sound like dialogues written by master playwrights:

I asked God: What should I do with my life?
God answered: Are you willing to take a risk?
I replied: Yes, but I don’t know what to do.
God said: Move to Timbuktu.

When people tell these stories, we think, I never hear God so clearly. Let me tell you a secret: neither do they. At least not most of the time. Those stories are usually shorthand summaries of hours spent reading Scripture, reflecting on his words, praying, getting Godly nudges, and recognizing God’s voice in circumstances and through friends.

Because God speaks through his infinitely imaginative, artistic mix of methods and moments.

Hearing God in Reflection

Many years ago, I lived in London with a bunch of friends, working in campus ministry. One of my friends spent a couple hours with Dr. John Stott, an internationally-known pastor with a church that also ministered to university students.

Rodin-The Thinker

Dr. Stott and my friend discussed prayer. Dr. Stott confessed that his best prayer time is spent in thinking with God, reflecting on scripture passages, and meditating on eternal truths.

My friend argued that the best prayer is found in corporate worship, enthusiastic singing, exalting in the presence of God, shouting his praises, singing, dancing, kneeling, and bowing before the throne of God. We considered Stott’s “prayer” of reflection too intellectual, too shallow, too unenlightened, and perhaps unspiritual. We chuckled.

In fact, I’d say we snickered.

By the end of his life, Time Magazine identified Stott as one of the 100 most influential people in the world; he had written over 50 books; and he had helped hundreds of thousands of people —probably millions. And we twenty-something neophytes snickered at his shallowness.

Thirty-five years later, I’m rethinking spiritual reflection—actually practicing it—and it is rich beyond belief. Stott was oh-so-very right, and I was oh-so-very wrong. Spiritual reflection is one of the deepest ways to connect with God that I’ve ever experienced.

I love to brainstorm, whiteboard, and creatively go after innovative ideas. I love doing this with friends when considering anything, so I am trying it with God. And I love it.

Spiritual reflection is connecting me to God, and I’m hearing his voice.

Hearing God in our Inner-Being

Why did Jesus come to earth when he did? Why not immediately after Adam and Eve sinned? Wouldn’t that have saved the world from centuries of pain? Or, why didn’t he come to the slaves in Egypt instead of sending Moses? Or, why not now? Why didn’t God choose to appear on earth to our confused, depressed, decadent Western World? Why then and why not now?

hearing

Scripture says, “When the right time came, God sent his Son” (Gal.4:4); elsewhere it reads, “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). The Bible says God figured out that the perfect time—the exact right time in all of history for all of humanity— to appear on earth. And it was two thousand years ago. Why then?

I can imagine a few better times. How about when “each man did what was right in his own eyes;” or the centuries of worshiping idols in the “high places;” or during those same times when the wealthy oppressed the poor, widows, and orphans? Why not then?

Or what about when brutal Assyria and Babylon cold-bloodedly conquered, pillaged, and raped God’s chosen people, when enemies dashed their little ones against stones? Why not then?

Instead Jesus came when God’s people were the most righteous they’d ever been in their two thousand year history: there was no hint of any idolatry, the Scriptures were taught in every synagogue, and temple worship was practiced exactly as taught by the Bible.

Of all the evil and needy times in the history of God’s people, why was that the right time?

Taking Out My Trash

Last week I discovered that my church’s rubbish vendor was taking us to the cleaners. In the last four years, their price for garbage removal increased from $65 a month to over $170. I found another company that provides the same service for $55 a month. The decision to switch waste removal providers was a no-brainer. Or so I thought.

Trash Bin Kid

 

I called the overpriced trash hauler to discuss cancelling their service. They told me that we had a three-year contract with them signed in August 2011. That contract had automatically renewed after three years so it was now in force until 2017. If we scrapped their service before then, they would charge us a fee of over $650 simply to stop their overpriced service!

On the other hand, they said if we signed another contract, they would reduce our monthly hauling fees back to what it was four years ago.

This kind of business philosophy is utter rubbish. It feels like they hold us hostage with threats of penalties instead of wooing us by good customer service. Their offer to reduce our rates rubbed salt in the wound: why the heck had they more than doubled our fees in less than four years if they could profitably serve us at the old rates? Their proposals littered my inbox.

I was in the mood to do some serious trash talking.

Why Mary Magdalene?

Mary Magdalene is called The Apostle to the Apostles; she was the first human to see the risen Christ; Jesus ask her to preach to the apostles the truth of the resurrection; for a time, she was the church.

Mary Meets Jesus

Why Mary Magdalene? Of all the followers of Jesus, why does God choose her?

What can we learn from Mary?

What four words does Jesus say to Mary Magdalene that we need to hear today?

Listen to this 31 minute podcast from Easter Sunday:

Mary Meets The Risen Jesus – Sam Williamson

(Ignore the feedback in the beginning. It goes away.)

Sam

It’s All My Mother’s Fault

Two months ago I got pneumonia. It took me three weeks before I thought to ask for prayer. For twenty-one days I asked not a soul: not my family, friends, church, or wife. I didn’t even ask me to pray for me. Finally, in a burst of spiritual spontaneity, I asked a friend in a PS tacked onto an email, and he asked my church. In less than a week, I was feeling considerably better.

My 23 year-old mom on her honeymoon.

My 23 year-old mom on her honeymoon.

Coincidence? After all, I had also finally visited my doctor, then taken a course of antibiotics, and I had rested for three and a half weeks. That’s probably all it takes anyway.

Yet it left me convicted about my lack of prayer. I seldom initiate intercession. If someone else asks me to pray for them, I usually do so (often, though, with just a hasty word or two). Rarely do I have the idea to pray for someone else, as in, “Hey, let’s pray for your work situation that’s causing such angst.” The idea of intercession doesn’t cross my mind.

Last Wednesday, my email reader Outlook stopped syncing with my Gmail accounts. When I woke up, I noticed synchronization errors and tried to fix them. I spent the next ninety minutes googling the error message, and changing port numbers and encryption methods. Nothing worked. I restored all my original settings, and the same error message mocked me once more.

I chatted with my wife for a bit (mostly about my morning’s irritations) and headed back to my synchronization headache. On the way, I remembered that I’m trying to remember to pray for help. So I dashed off a quick prayer, God, I’m frustrated; please fix Outlook for me.

When I got to my desk, Outlook and Gmail were syncing great once again. Coincidence? Maybe.