Monday, May 23, 2011

How Does God Speak to You?

For those of you more interested in thinking about how we speak to God, you might want to read this post on my creativity blog, where I wrote about the process of writing prayers for Bread for the Day, a daily devotional resource from Augsburg Fortress (you can reserve your copy here).  I've spent the last several days thinking about how God speaks to us.

I've had several occasions in the past weeks to think about how God speaks to us.  Are you one of the people who feel that you know exactly what God wants you to do?  Do you pray and get an answer right away?  Does God speak to you in a language that you clearly understand?

I am not one of those people.  I'm blessed to be part of a church that has many ministries that are so appealing to me, and I'd like to be involved in more of them. Yet there are only so many hours in a day and week, and the time spent on one project necessarily takes away from other ministries.

I'm suspect that one response to that would be to listen for the Holy Spirit, but unlike others, I'm not always sure I know what the Holy Spirit is saying to me. I feel like the Holy Spirit often uses a language that isn't as familiar to me, and while I might get a sense of what the Holy Spirit is saying, I don't experience it as a set of marching orders or directives. More like nudges, if even as clear as that.

As I've been thinking about these issues, and wondering if Christians who have such different senses of communicating with God can really work together, I thought of a poem I wrote years and years ago.  I suspect it was in response to similar issues.  I suspect I was yearning for God to just speak clearly to me.  Some days, a burning bush would be nice!

This poem appeared in my first chapbook, Whistling Past the Graveyard.  Let me say in advance that I don't feel the last stanza of this poem represents my approach to theology; I don't blame God for these deaths.  I don't hold God responsible or expect God to come sweeping in to save people from fates that come as a result of free will.

Frog Flingings

She says she’s a cultural Jew,
which really means she likes the holidays and the food.
She says she can’t be cozy
with a god who would incinerate twelve million people.

I think of God’s history in Judeo-Christian tradition,
how God must resort to desperate measures
before people will slow down to listen.
Am I letting God off the hook for the Holocaust?

I don’t want God to have to fling
frogs at me to get my attention. I want
to be so in touch that I hear the still,
small voice crying in this wilderness of American life.
I don’t want God to set fire to the shrubbery
to get my notice. I don’t want God
to have to resort to infanticide
before I realize I’m on the wrong path.

Still, a prophet would come in handy in times like ours,
someone with a direct pipe to the divine,
someone who would deliver dictums, someone we could kill
when we didn’t like the message.

No wonder God has to kill millions every decade to capture
our attention, to focus our gaze on issues of true importance.
Our thirty second attention spans wouldn’t even notice
a burning bush, wouldn’t hear God speak.

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