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Choosing a path.

Listening for that still small voice.

Waiting for that nudge.

Knowing which way is THE way can be tough even when we are practicing discernment. And Sunday school last week brought that front and center for all of us.

Class was canceled because our pastor’s daughter tested positive for COVID. We wear masks and we social distance but with a diagnosis in the house he is self-quarantining. He phoned in his sermon. We showed it on Facebook and broadcast it to our outside drive-in service.

We are having to wait to finish our class. And that made me realize that there are two answers to prayer that we don’t always discern.


That’s a tough one for us to hear because so often we pray when we have a need right this very moment. And we want the answer right this very moment too.

But sometimes the answer that we receive is wait. Wait until the time is right. Wait until we are ready. Wait until we have quieted our hearts and our minds.


It isn’t what but how.

Sometimes the problem is that we want a clear path – this choice or that choice. But the answer isn’t so much which path to walk but how we should walk it.

Walk in peace. Walk in his light. Sharing his love. Seeing those in need. Recognizing your fellows as children of God.

These are all possibilities for the “how” of life and they can apply equally to an engineer’s life as they can to the life of an electrician or a teacher. My grandmother may not have been a missionary or an evangelist, but I don’t doubt for a minute that everyone who dealt with this Avon lady knew who she followed.

The answer that we want may not come right this moment. It may not even be the kind of answer that we expect. But an answer will come.


Some people talk to God as easily and readily as picking up a phone — they have God on speed dial. Through meditation, prayer or other means, they’ve perfected the art of hearing what God is telling them; their ears perk up at sounds outside the spectrum of human hearing. I admire them. I envy them.

My ears stretch and crane for the slightest peep. I hear only the silence of my own selfish heart. Would I believe the voice of God if it came to me? Or would I dismiss it as a figment of my own imagination? What does it take to hear God? Well, for one, it requires being attuned to your own inner self. This is difficult to do when one is not essentially interested in one’s inner self. Call it dint of long acquaintance, but I am thoroughly sick of my inner self. I’d like it replaced, please, with something better, holier, more interesting. I am tired of slogging through its sludgy waters.

Then I remember: St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta last heard the voice of God as a young woman traveling on a train. She never heard the voice again, not through the long years of her service to the poor, holding the hands of the dying, through her own illness and death. Not once. Her “dark night of the soul” lasted decades. And it would be difficult to argue that she wasn’t trying to do what God asked of her all those years ago on that train. She was. With a resounding silence as her reward.

So maybe God doesn’t speak to us with an eye as to what we deserve or even ask for. Maybe God figures once is enough for the right folks. Only when was my once? Was it deciding to go away to a college I’d never even visited before but which ended up creating lasting ties and thoroughly overhauling my spirituality? It was a decision that could certainly be described as providential. But I’d hate to think that the first, last and only time I heard or heeded God was at the raw age of 18. That’s a lot of wasted years.

Or is that I don’t know how to listen? That would be strange indeed, as I count listening as one of my greatest ministries. I’m the woman that strangers pour their hearts out to while standing in line at Walmart. I hear about other people’s crises of faith. So maybe I’m not supposed to hear but to be a conduit to the One Who Does Hear?

I wish I knew, but I suppose that would require a rather loud message that I, for whatever reason, lack the skill to interpret. It doesn’t mean that I am going to toss out my inner telephone. No, I’ll keep it on, hoping as I have through all these long years, that someone will give me a call. I’m waiting.

childrenAs I was reading some blogs this week, I spotted yet another post about setting a good example for your children.  “Be careful what you do,” warned the blogger.  “They’re paying attention.  They are going to learn from you.  This means that if you want them to be Godly, be a good example.”

That’s true, but if all you do is lead, you may be missing an opportunity to learn.

No one was more relieved than my family when the school year ended a few weeks ago. With it we had a break from the bullying problem my son has endured throughout the school year.  Unfortunately, both boys are on the same sports teams so we only had a few days respite while the other boy was out of town.

Still, a few days in peace is a few days without conflict. We talked about the situation and prayed.  What should we do?

The day the other boy was due back, my son sat down at the breakfast table.  “I’ve really missed him as a friend. If he’s done with whatever his has been, I’m willing to be friends but just at practice at first.”

Fortunately, I had food in my mouth because my first thought was neither polite nor godly.  Really? After all the grief that child has caused?  Is that smart?  Still, if my son was willing to bury the hatchet, it was his choice. I wasn’t coming around fast but I was determined not to aggravate the situation.

After dropping him off, I ran a few errands.  Of course, because that’s how my luck runs, I ran into the other mom. I could pretend not to see her or really and truly bury the hatchet so I asked about their trip.

Would I have done this without my son’s good example?  I’d love to say that I would, but I doubt it.  Avoiding her would have been too easy.

Fortunately, when I’m too stubborn to hear the truth, God calls in the troops and send me lessons through my son. I do my best to be a good example, but I’ve also learned to pay attention when he has something godly to say.


In her marvelous book “Entering the Castle: Finding the Inner Path to God and Your Soul’s Purpose” by Caroline Byss, the author discusses how and when we hear God speaking to us. First, she says, one must have one’s spiritual defenses down. That is, we must drop the social and sometimes cynical face we wear in the world and totally immerse ourselves in feeling — which is precisely why so many of us find ourselves thinking of God while looking at nature. You have to get past yourself to hear the voice of God.

Which is precisely the problem with contemplation, whether in prayer, meditation or simple holy quietude. We expect to hear God at these times, but often don’t. Why? We’re ready. We’re open. Shouldn’t God leap at the chance to be listened to?

God is not a TV show: You can’t stream God on demand. God speaks when God wishes to speak, not on our time, but on God’s. Of course we’d like to control the flow of communication. We humans love to control things. You’d think we’d have learned by now that we are quite powerless in the grand scheme of things. For all of our scheming and scrambling, we still die. We still hurt. For all our talismans and superimposed myth-making (lucky numbers! psychic connections!), we know nothing.

Today is the national day of prayer. This year’s theme: Hope. Hope’s a tricky little imp. It’s difficult to keep hold of hope when you can’t hear God, when you’re waiting for a message that has not come. Hope may be the most easily lost commodity on Earth. But that’s what makes it so important, so dear.

Here’s hoping we hear God when God speaks to us. Here’s hoping our defenses are down, that we remain in a constant state of willingness. Because whether God whispers or roars, God always has something to say to us. Prick up your ears! Let’s all pray today for the ability to hear and strength to obey.

Dear Lord,
When I pray,
help me to still my mind,
steady my hands,
stop my feet . . .

And listen.

Help me listen
to the world around me,
the beat of my heart and
always for Your voice
as it comes, sure
but quiet into the space
that I have left open
just for You.



Have a Mary Little Christmas

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