God’s Voice is Like A Headache

This is an approximation of the zig-zag visual...

Scintillating Scotoma as imagined by Wikipedia.

As a follower of Christ, I’m inherently – at least at some level – a mystic. At least one dictionary defines the word as , “a person… who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect.” What I’m talking about specifically is what is often referred to in Christian circles as “hearing God’s voice.” (This is almost always followed up with “I don’t mean audibly, I don’t think I actually heard anything,” as if a group of fellow semi-mystics have any right to judge if someone did claim to hear something from God.)

I do believe that there have been a few times in my life that I’ve been distinctly ‘spoken to’ by God, but the how of His voice in my life are not always easy to explain. Recently I came up with a way of describing it that is no less subjective, but, perhaps, somewhat illustrative.

God’s voice is like a migraine.

When I first got my migraines in 2004 they came on pretty gnarly, so bad in fact that I ended up getting tests done to make sure I didn’t have a tumor. They would (and continue to) start with what experts call a scintillating scotoma or a migraine-aura (see the image above) and every once in a while with one side of my face or a few fingers in my hand going numb. Thankfully, the tumor-fear-inducing numbness is now far more rare. This is how I first started knowing that my day was ruined… I wasn’t going to be able to read anything the rest of the day, driving was going to be a difficult for at least a half-hour. Day ruined.

Nine years later, I can see them coming 5 minutes away; that is 5 minutes before my vision gets all trippy. I don’t have any way of describing what I’m feeling, but I have close to 100% accuracy of feeling it coming before it does. Even more so, I can always tell when it’s going to go away about 10-15 minutes before it does.

Constant Homeless Prayer

For three of those years, we lived in the Washington, DC metro area. I’d never really had experience in living in a legitimate city – the public transportation and eating-out options are still life changing experiences in my life. Living in a city with a ubiquitous population of homeless people was even more life changing.

People often have “rules” about how to deal with people asking for money on the street. I am not really a “rules guy,” but I am a “systems guy.” I like having processes to solve problems, I don’t like always/never guidelines. So, I had to come up with a guideline for how to deal with the situations. It seems clear to me from the Scriptures that followers of Jesus are to care for the poor, but there’s debate whether giving money is a good thing at all and I don’t know what the answer to that is. But, I believe there is a “best” in every situation and that the Lord was willing to tell me what that was.

The only always/never rule is that I will always buy a new issue of Street Sense from a vendor with his license/ID displayed.

So, here are my guidelines:

  • They have to actually ask for money or something else.
  • If they ask, I will quickly pray and ask God what I should do.
  • I do what I’m told.

It was amazing how often I got to pray this prayer. On Metro days (as opposed to driving days) I would walk by at least 10 people asking for something. Over the three years, I probably prayed the prayer more than 1,000 times. Still, it took about a year, but I actually found out that Jesus’ promise that His “sheep hear [His] voice” was true! I honestly would get an answer just about every time.

“Give her $5.”

“Not today, but if you see him again tomorrow.”

I did.

“Reach in your pocket and the first bill you touch is his.”

That bill ended up being a $20.

“No.”

“Give her your gloves.”

I did.

“I want you to take him out to dinner.”

That last one will be one of my life-long regrets. I didn’t.

So Many Voices

I think that we often struggle with hearing from God. How often have you bounced back and forth between “yeah, I think that’s the Holy Spirit,” and “nah, that’s just my own thoughts.” (It’s funny how often “it’s your own thoughts” when it’s something that is stretching or distasteful.) But, I know His voice now! When I hear it, I know it like I know my dad’s voice , my uncle Dal’s voice or my brother’s voice – a voice that kinda sounds like my inner voice, but it’s definitely not! It’s not that sneaking voice that entices me to stay on that show a few more minutes or to have just one more of whatever. That voice sounds like mine as well, but is far too easy to hear and far too similar to what I want to do anyhow.

The thing is, I can’t describe or explain why it is that I know one voice from the other. Or one tug versus another. The only advice that I can give was actually just described to me last Tuesday by my friend Jon who is a pastor in DC:

You have to keep practicing.

Learning to Hear

I hate my migraines, but I know them. I know their voice, I know how they feel coming and I know how they feel going away. But, it’s an experience that’s pretty close to solipsistic – I have no idea how to describe it. I’m impressed that someone was able to somewhat accurately create an image of what I see when it’s coming on. Just add tunnel vision. My migraines have helped me learn to hear my brain’s “voice.”

I loved our three years in DC. They were formative in a number of ways and I am hopeful that one day we’ll move back. But, even if we don’t it will still reside in a foundational location in my life it was the place I learned to hear God’s voice, tutored by the 7,000 or so homeless residents of the area.

Things to check out:

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Today starts my second week in my cubicle.

I’m working at Campus Crusade for Christ’s headquarters in Orlando, FL. The position may only be for a year (10 months, really), but we’ve really moved and it’s a real change and challenge for my wife and I.

We’ve developed friends here already, but (so far) they’re shallow (as in “not deep”). I enjoy the team that I’m working on and really believe that it’s will be a good fit – there’s sufficient freedom to work as well as a decent amount of structure to help me know what my job really is. The members of my team (I’m working in the US Communications group and working on web publishing) are fun and the right kind of dissimilar to make it a lot of fun.

We miss friends from DC and from our neighborhood in Arlington. A lot.

Even now I’m a little teary thinking of the people who left before we did. The teammates that we worked closely with – laughed, debated and fought with.  I am tempted to want to “go back.”

I miss our small group, the friends that we’ve now had for 2 1/2 years and the ones that we met 6 months or just under a year ago. I miss my unofficial small-group men who helped to heal my heart and to rile my debating nature.

I miss the sweet Pakistani family that lived below us – mom, dad and 4 kids. I miss helping with math & social studies homework. I miss trying to explain what it means to be a good tipper and a good grownup – but in a way that doesn’t communicate that those things are what determine your value and worthiness as a person.

I miss the church that has been the perfect imperfect home for us for three years.

I’m looking forward though. To an opportunity to do church different than we usually have. To work in a job that is more defined than I’ve ever had, yet as free and open as well. I’m looking forward to new friends that we may have to let go in a year (in the normal CCC fashion).

Ultimately, I am learning to trust God with my past and my future. It will be good.

Reflections on Snowmageddon: Community

Snowmageddon from Space

As you all know, the Washington, DC area is now finally beginning to dig out of the 3′ blanket of snow that was laid upon us in the past 7 days. It’s been a lot of fun on my end, actually. Here’s some reflections and memories that I wanted to share.

There’s so much that I think I need to break it up into multiple posts.

Topic 1: Community

As February 5, 2010 dawned, I was slowly becoming aware of the magnitude of the situation that this snowstorm was going to be. Two days prior I had received an email from Craig who lives with one of my CCC teammates and a pretty good friend. Craig is usually pretty calm, but he has his things that he can get excited about; this was an entirely different kind of excited. Here’s my favorite part of it (emphasis his):

I hope this storm is not a bust, but we cannot take anything for granted. I will say I cannot recall a time when nearly all models and every [meteorologist] was in agreement on a MAJOR winter storm over 48 hours in advance. Likewise the NWS posted up to 20 inches merely in their watch. This language in a watch is unrivaled.

This email was only a harbinger of things to come. Over the past week I have spent a lot of time with a smallish group of people: Carrie (my wife), Craig, Jake, Steph, Erin, Maegan,  and Bethany. There were a few more people that joined us occasionally or just for a time: Lulu, Matt, Jeff and Scott.

Regardless, we have had a lot of fun and have rejoiced in fighting our cabin fever together. On Saturday we walked the mile-and-a-quarter on unplowed roads to the Ballston Metro to get to the epic snowball fight at Dupont Circle, we ate together, played a lot of board & card games together, cooked together, had home church together, some of us went sledding, trudging to the store, watched Lost, and waited expectantly for Craig or text messages to tell us that schools or the Federal Government was closed.

It has been a lot of fun to get to know people better and rejoice in our collective quirkiness. I do have to say that I think the think that has been the most enjoyable for me has been watching Craig get really excited about checking “meteo” sites and updating us every five minutes on the latest forecasts, weather-blog posts and news regarding our pet snowstorm.

We’ve loved the time off school, work (for some of us) and the pressure that this city can lay on us. It’s been fun to watch Fenty bungle his way through it as usual as well.