In February 1978, I sensed God call me to spend a summer volunteering on a kibbutz in Israel (a communal farm that provides room and board for six days of work). I asked friends to help me discern if I heard God correctly. Some were pretty sure it was from God, and others were certain it wasn’t. After deliberation, I decided to go, but not until April.
The deadline to register as a volunteer had passed a month earlier (this was in the days before internet, email, or fax; though indoor plumbing was making a splash). I still thought I heard God invite me to go, so I drained my savings and bought a plane ticket.
When I boarded a plane May 2nd, with my last $300 in my pocket, not a soul in Israel knew I was coming. And I had no idea what to do when I got there.
My itinerary took me from Detroit to London (where I visited friends), then to Athens for a two-hour layover, and finally to Tel Aviv. When I arrived in Athens, I discovered my two-hour layover wasn’t two hours but a day and two hours. The hostels were full and hotels cost about $100.
To kill time as I figured out a plan, I visited the famous Acropolis. While sitting on its steps, high above the city, some tourist-kids began to talk with me. It turned out that they were middle-school students from Israel on a field trip to Greece. (I was jealous: my Detroit field trips took me to its sewage and water-purification plant.) They introduced me to their chaperone.
That chaperone happened to be the world-wide head of the kibbutz volunteer program.
He heard my story, suggested the perfect kibbutz for my situation, gave me money for a taxi from Tel Aviv to his office, handwrote a letter for me to give his secretary, and invited me to have dinner and spend the night with him and his school kids.
Christian meditation is a gift from God to help us see him. Unlike Eastern meditation, which empties the mind, Christian meditation fills the mind, with God’s words or his actions. In my book Hearing God in Conversation I describe four biblical methods for learning to hear God in meditation. But Scripture itself recommends many more.
One of its best recommendations is a type of active remembering. King David wrote,
I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands. (Ps. 143:5)
Meditation of this form—Active Remembrance—involves the recollection of an act of God, then a vigorous reflecting on what it reveals of God, and finally integrating that truth into our lives.
Scripture overflows with divine miracles. One spillover from all those stories is the consistency of God. He’s exactly the same today as then. We can ponder the work of his hand in Scripture, and we can also reflect on his work in our lives today.
My accidental layover in Athens was no accident.
What Stirred Me?
The “work of God’s hand” in my travel story reveals many of God’s attributes, but one in particular strikes me: God loves to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
It is a pattern in which he delights. From Joseph triumphing through betrayal and imprisonment, to an enemy army pressing the Israelites against the Red Sea, to Gideon vanquishing the Midianites with 300 men. God loves to turn events upside down.
J. R. R. Tolkien coined a phrase for this. He calls it a eu-catastrophe (a “beautiful calamity”), when evil is unraveled, bad is transformed into good, and sorrows are swallowed up in joy.
In my current stresses, I’ve been acting like the disciples on Easter morning, living life without the resurrection. Today, I’m remembering what I’ve forgotten.
In Christian Meditation.
P. S. Try it. Recall a time God acted in your life. And then meditate on it; Actively remember it: what do his actions reveal about him? How will your life be better by holding this truth about God close? Consider sharing your story below as a comment.
It’s not that God is silent, we just haven’t learned how to recognize his voice.