Over the last year and a half, God has been becoming increasingly vocal, and with each thing He says, I get better at recognising His voice.
I’ve heard Him on and off since I was a young teenager, and it began to increase when I was 16 and started praying/reading my Bible more (surprise surprise). Then I heard Him very clearly when my Dad passed away, when He told me to move out of my Granddad’s, and I ended up following His voice all the way to the Isle of Wight for a 4 year placement alongside a theology degree.
While there, however, I got caught up so much in the busyness of life, responsibilities, essays, grieving for my Dad and grieving for my whole family. My faith and trust in God began to decline, and His silence became deafening. I felt agitated and uncomfortable working for Someone who’s voice I never heard. I told my oldest brother in an email about my frustrations, to which, I got the loveliest, most encouraging reply – and the promise of a book in the post that would help. And help it did.
The author (Brad Jersak) encouraged the practice of some listening exercises, which I tried out, and suddenly, I began to hear the voice of Jesus speaking to my heart. I realised that He had been trying to speak to me, but the chaos in my heart and the noise around me prevented me from being still enough to listen. I suddenly became aware of how much He has to say, and how keen He was to share with me. Thus began my journey of listening/conversational prayer with God… But then I plateaued again… And became agitated again… I had become lazy at reading my Bible!
So I started looking for a Bible reading plan, and found one called ‘Read the Bible in 90 days’. I made an incredulous ‘cyuh’ noise, and God said “Why are you laughing?”
“Because there’s no way I could ever do that!”
To which, He gave a firm, challenging reply:
“You haven’t even tried. I dare you.”
So, begrudgingly, I took His challenge, last year in June. And then it was like an explosion of His voice – everywhere I went, making comments on the things I observed around me, or replying to my thoughts, or interrupting me to tell me something. I realised that the more I learned His style and manner of speaking, the more I recognised His voice in my thoughts, and the more I got to know about the things that hurt Him, disgust Him, annoy Him, amuse Him, make Him glow with love and compassion...
Then last year in the autumn, I visited Swanage for a few days and had such an incredible time. When I had to leave to go back to the island, I didn’t want to, which was the first time ever since moving there. The following Monday (31stOctober), I felt absolutely pants – like, really pants. I asked God, ‘why do I feel so rubbish?!’
He replied very quickly, “Because I’m preparing you to leave.” This was very timely, because I had been exploring the idea of staying on the island, but this was just the shove I needed to leave that hope well alone. My love for Swanage and my desire to come here began to grow over the next few months. I kept asking God where He wanted me to go after the summer, until eventually He said, “I’ll tell you when you’re on your block placement.”
All the while, I was hoping He would send me to Swanage! By Christmas, I was certain I wanted to be in the South West of England, but knew I had to wait for God to speak. All I had to do was wait… Haha! And of course, He waited until the last day of my placement.
I was sat on the floor in church, when Mark said ‘let’s pray about… blah blah blah…’
I seized the opportunity to seek God, and instead of praying for whatever it was Mark said (sorry, Mark!) I said, ‘Well, God, it’s the last day of my placement and You said You’d tell me while I was here… Are You going to wait until I’m at the ferry, or – ‘ and before I could finish the thought… “Here. I want you here.” Which He then confirmed through some other people straight after the service, which was pretty incredible!
I had no idea how it was going to work, but then over the next few weeks, He worked it out for me, and just handed it to me. And that is a very brief summary of how I ended up in Swanage, working for The Wave with all you lovely lot.
Being a Christian might sound really boring…
God is such a kill joy. He never speaks. Church is dull. Why do we stand up and sit down so much? Why does the speaker have to preach for so long? Why did Jesus talk in riddles aaaaaaaall the time? I’ll get bullied if I start talking about Jesus. Can’t I just live the same way as before? Swearing isn’t that bad… I don’t get why sex outside of marriage is wrong.
But my experience has been the polar opposite. I used to think those things above… but once I started reading my Bible and getting to know God for myself, I realised that He is so far from boring and a kill joy. Following His voice has been and will remain to be the best adventure ever in my life. It’s exciting to step into a new thing, and say ‘OK, what next, Jesus?’ It’s comforting and reassuring when other people say the same things as God, and it’s also really cool when He tells me off – but that’s for another time!
It’s challenging, it’s fun, it’s frustrating, it’s exciting, it’s painful, it’s a test of patience, and sometimes it can be really messy – but I couldn’t imagine living this life without the vibrancy Jesus brings daily. And I definitely couldn’t live without His lovely voice! I want to invite you to join us on this journey. Read your Bible – ask God to show you things as you read. Write them down. Ask Him questions. Write down the first thing that pops into your mind. Save them for later. See if He says it again, either directly to you or through someone else. You might just find out for yourself that His voice is the greatest gift and treasure in this life.
When you're 6'6" it's pretty hard to blend into the crowd and this has it's obvious ups and downs (ho ho):
The strangest thing about being tall is (despite it being totally genetic and out of my control) people seem to chalk it up as some kind of personal achievement and congratulate me on my obvious efforts to become really long.
Strangers also seem to think that they have some sort of innate right to comment on my height and talk about me within ear shot.
Somewhere there is a photo of 8-12 South Americans at a Pearl Jam gig having their photo taken with the Giant Smiling European.
I am generally used to all of this, but the feeling of standing out, being different or new can still be unnerving even as I approach my 30's.
About 530 years B.C. When Daniel was around 15 years old his city Jerusalem, the capital of Israel was assaulted, besieged and conquered by Nebuchadnezzar. This was a man whose foreign policy made Tony Blair and George Bush look like the kind of people you'd take to Iran for a picnic.
Whilst in Babylon, Daniel and his fellow kidnapped, war-torn Israelites were effectively brainwashed: they were taught a new language and told to serve new god's, taught to think differently, dress differently, eat differently and forget everything they had been taught back home. They were even given new names... not too different to turning up for your first day as a year 7 or sitting your A Levels.
Despite everything being set against him and living with the people who massacred your people - Daniel nailed his colours to the mast choosing to stand out, not just as an Israelite but as a follower of God - even if it meant putting his neck on the line.
There is an overwhelming temptation to keep our heads down, keep our mouths shut and keep our faith private but when you live your life on mute, more concerned with blending in than standing out you lead a life of little to no impact or consequence.