Category Archives: experience

The Day I Stopped Speaking to My Wife

by Scott

I remember the early days of our relationship. In the 9 months between meeting and marrying, my wife and I were only in the same city a mere 40 days or so. We were divided most of the time by an ocean, but thankfully had great support in both the US and UK. Therefore, in those many days apart (even when we were both in the UK), we spent much time emailing and texting by phone. I’m talking about emailing and texting a whole lot! It was all-consuming as we looked to stay in touch day after day after day.

As our relationship heightened, we began calling each other, though we also maintained the little love notes via text as well. Our mobile phones were the major place of communication. I remember one month my UK mobile phone bill was around 85 GBP, which was some 50 GBP more than the normal monthly bill. I was shocked, but it was truly worth it in my eyes.

We also moved into the realm of love-letter writing. So, yes, I am a bit of a sensitive romantic. After moving back to the US, being even further apart from my beloved, this became an integral part of staying in contact, expressing our heart’s desire for one another. And, of course, both of us saved each and every one of those emotion-stirring, affectionate letters. They were not just words. They were an expression and revealing of the love we had for one another. And being so far apart, you can imagine their role in articulating our deep affections.

It was extremely difficult following our engagement in the US. After staying for a full 7 weeks, my beloved had to return to the UK to prepare for our wedding and finalising details before moving to the US. It was a painful 9 weeks apart. But, again, I am thankful for the frequent phone calls and almost weekly letters.

But, of course, once we were married, we were able to be together forever. We were no longer divided by the space of an ocean, thousands of miles apart. We were now joined together as husband and wife.

And, for all these years, even through difficulties and struggles and misunderstandings and arguments, we remained true to one another. From multiple moves across oceans, to the bearing of our children, to learning how to lead a church forward in a completely different culture than we were used to, we stayed faithful to the love we held one for the other. Through all this time, we came to know one another’s likes and dislikes, dreams and passions, and even what we shared in common (like sushi!).

In the years of our growing relationship, we would even pull out old emails and love letters, to read over them, and be inspired by the love that began years ago. Of course, this is common to many a couples. But from your own perspective you’re not thinking about all those others. Their love compares in no way to your own. This is part of your journey of the expression of the covenant love you have for one another.

And how about the conversations, the deep exchanges over cups of coffee, over romantic dinners, over date-nights out, over holiday time away. Sharing of those desires and dreams I pointed to earlier. Even learning how to work through arguments and disagreements and deep wounds. The poured-out prayers to our Father for all sorts of things also knit our hearts together.

Yet, there was the day – the day I decided it was best that I stopped speaking to my wife.

Now wait a minute, don’t get mad at me just yet. It’s actually all ok.

You see, the day I made such a decision, I sat down with my wife and presented her with a gift. A rather amazing gift, I might add. It was a collage of all the love letters, emails and texts I had sent to her over our years of love, all bound into a beautiful anthology. I was even able to remember the details of quite a few of our conversations. And so I also included those within the volume.

As I handed her this hand-crafted book, I explained that it contained all my love in word form. Therefore, because she now had this extensive record, I no longer needed to express my love through the vehicle of words. We had reached a place where such expressions were no longer needed. And if she ever found herself questioning my love, questioning what I thought about her, well, she could head to the text. There she would find the unveiling of my true love, all in the words we had shared for years past.

Ok, I’m sure you have easily caught on that I speak in parable here.

This never happened. Well, most of it did. But not the part about deciding to no longer speak to my wife. And I would never, ever desire to do such. Such would actually become counter-productive to the covenant relationship in which we have been joined together.

Now, I could actually put together such a record of the emails, love letters and conversations we have held in years past. That would be quite a gift! It could even be revisited over and over again as an inspiring reminder of our love for one another. But it would never actually replace the reality of sharing real conversation. If I ever suggested such, well, my wife might not be too pleased. And that is quite an understatement.

Yet, I believe this can and does happen with God’s people. For many, it is somehow easy to accept that God no longer speaks because we now have the bound anthology of the canon of Scripture. Or, if He does speak, it is only within the context of the words of previous centuries.

But I believe such betrays the very nature of our God, a nature that is relational at its core, with communication being the very essence of God’s relational nature.

Please don’t misread this statement here, but we are not ultimately people of the book. We are ultimately relational beings, sons and daughters of our Father. We are ultimately people of the Spirit, the Spirit who has been sent to continue to communicate and speak on behalf of the Father and Son.

Again, please don’t misunderstand anything here. I am not so much addressing the God-breathed and authoritative nature of Scripture. I am not here to say that there is no great investment within the communicative-speaking nature of our God as shown in the revelation of the Bible. Matter of fact, just as my wife actually does find an expression of the unveiling of my love in keeping emails, letters and conversations within a safe-keep box (and I’ve kept quite a few things from her), we find even more in God’s revelatory expression of Himself in Scripture.

But my wife would never bestow upon all of that written communication as the sole source of our relationship. It is para-revelatory, if you will. It goes hand in hand with the actual relationship we share on a daily basis. Actually, it might even become subsequent to the real love we share through being together and sharing deep, intimate conversation together.

So, you see the parable breaks down somewhat, as I am not relegating God’s revelation in Scripture as a side-project. But each parable has a major point, and that chief point I am looking to bring across is that our revelation and understanding of our Father must be seen in cultivating a real relationship together. And that real relationship consists of both actual speaking and listening one to the other.

It’s not even about investing our understanding His voice mainly in the biblical words given in the past. It is, but to solely invest such into the Bible is, again, to betray a God who has been speaking and revealing and unveiling Himself from the beginning (which includes well before our beginning). And I suppose He desires to continue such into the rest of future-eternity.

Imagine those who recording what is now in the Bible. They could not fathom a God who stopped revealing Himself. Imagine ourselves in the age to come. As we hear the voice of the Father, we would fill with confusion as to why we would thought the pause button had been hit at some point in our history.

Again, for something so core, so essential, to the nature of our God, one cannot fathom the ceasing of such.

I will never, ever stop speaking and unveiling my heart to my beloved, my wife. And I believe the same stands true for the One who has always spoke, is speaking, and will remain speaking for the age to come.

Great Work in India

by Scott

Earlier in 2010, a friend of mine, Geoff Brown, headed to India to spend some time alongside the churches and leaders we work with in India.

Though my friend, Geoff, believed in the continuing miraculous works and gifts of the Holy Spirit, and had seen those and been used in some of those in the past, God really moved in incredible ways, well beyond what Geoff had expected.

Below is a short video in which Geoff shares some of the amazing work which God did while he was amongst our friends in India.

Series on Gifts of the Spirit Continues at Scot McKnight’s Blog

by Scott

Over at Scot McKnight’s blog, Jesus Creed, after a few week’s with, guest blogger, T, continues his series on gifts of the Spirit. The first article can be found here.

In the second article, T asks about ‘promptings of the Spirit’ and shares a specific example in his own life.

Our church back in Gainesville, Florida, would occasionally have “worship nights.” They were some of my very favorite gatherings. About once a quarter on a Friday night, we’d gather for a couple of hours and the only things on the agenda were worship and prayer. On this Friday, I was sitting near the front, and Kim and I were among the first to arrive. It was one of those nights that I was truly grateful, even excited, for the opportunity to worship God with the church, even before the first song began.

I don’t remember the song, but at some point the theme I was affirming as we sang was willingness to obey God, even though it can sometimes be costly. As I affirmed this to God, and was even considering my own limits for obedience, I felt the urge to turn around. Sitting directly behind me was Jon. Jon was one of the people in the church that I most admired, but kind of from afar. The things I heard Jon say in church or elsewhere were routinely marked by depth, truth and heartfelt compassion, but we were in one small group and he led another, so he lingered on the top of the “people-I-want-to-know-better” list at church for a while.

On this night as I turned around, Jon had a familiar intensity on his face as he worshipped, and with his eyes closed. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, and I turned back around. As I did, I felt an unexpected conviction to turn back around, push my chair out of the way and strongly embrace Jon. Just for clarification, what I felt wasn’t empathy, at least not then. I wish I had reason to be empathetic; Jon was just worshipping God (just like I wanted to get back to doing). If I could describe what I was feeling at this stage it was fear and inner turmoil. My first line of inward defense was to dismiss that this was any kind of leading from God. I will summarize the outcome there by saying that however I reasoned about it, I could not persuade myself this wasn’t God’s unction, despite my best efforts. A simple unction to “do this” had come (as I was pledging obedience to God, no less), and it pretty much only had fear stopping me.

I was stuck. I soon discovered that going back to singing praises and offers of obedience to God were just impossible, unless the goal was hypocrisy and misery. I wanted to get to know Jon better, but not like this! What would he think of me? What if he recoiled? For the next several minutes, I would look back every so often just to see if he had at least opened his eyes so that he would at least see it coming. No luck. My last line of defense was compromise. If Jon wouldn’t open his eyes, I figured I would say something (anything!) and give him some warning or explanation or at least a “hello” first. But as I started to say something my guts burned with conviction that I was compromising out of fear, and not being obedient. After another bit of inward wrestling, I just did it. I pushed the chairs aside (Jon still didn’t open his eyes; the music drowned out the sound) and put my arms around him firmly but gently. I felt like as I did it, that I shouldn’t be in any hurry to let go.

Not only did Jon not recoil, he practically collapsed. His arms—weakly at first, then with great energy—embraced me in return. And he just wept. I must have held him as the singing continued for thirty seconds or a minute at least. By the time we released to look at each other, both of our eyes were wet, but we were both beaming smiles. I knew God was in this, but I still had no idea what exactly had been going on. Jon explained.

Jon had grown up on the mission field with an authoritarian and judgmental father/minister. Jon was in his thirties now and had walked through years of healing from it, but that week he had talked with his dad who had now finally been fully explicit that Jon was a thorough disappointment. All the healing Jon thought he had from his dad opinion of him just melted that week. Jon explained that he was in such misery over it that week, he almost didn’t come that night. He had little “worship” in him. He said he had decided to come with only one prayer that he had been praying repeatedly, prior to and throughout the meeting, but with little hope for any suitable answer, “I just need to know what You feel about me.” When told me that, I wept, but out of repentance for how close I was to blowing the whole thing off or changing it for my fears. Incidentally, Jon and I became close that day, and every time we see each other, even many years later now, a smile comes to both of our faces.

This is a beautiful story of what it really means for God’s people to learn to hear, discern and obey the voice of the Lord. For those of us who believe God still speaks, reveals and prompts His people today with specific words and actions, we all will have experienced some time of questioning or doubt of whether we have truly heard the voice of the Lord. And, I would venture to say that we have all missed or bypassed these promptings. But stories like this remind us that even ‘prophetic actions’ accomplish the same purpose of spoken prophetic messages:

the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation (1 Cor 14:3)

Richard Foster on Silence and Hearing God

by Scott

Over at my personal blog, The Prodigal Thought, I have regularly been posting stirring words from Richard Foster’s classic, Freedom of Simplicity, as I have slowly moved my way through the book. Here are some thoughts of his on practicing silence and how this can help us hear the voice of the Lord:

One way to nurture simplicity is through the discipline of silence. Society is dominated by the inane notion that action is the only reality. Please, for God’s sake and your own, don’t just do something, stand there! Come in and enjoy his presence. Sink down into the light of Christ and become comfortable in that posture. Open the subterranean sanctuary of your soul and listen for the Kol Yahweh, the voice of the Lord. To do so gives us focus, unity, purpose. We discover serenity, unshakableness, firmness of life orientation. (p113)

These are extremely challenging words in the busied and hurried life of today. For some, they might sound New Age, but this is simply about drawing in close to the presence of God’s Spirit who resides within the believer, all to know the Father’s leading voice in our lives.

I, for one, want to quiet my heart before the Lord on a regular, even ongoing, basis.

Real Life Example of Hearing God

by Scott

I think it is continually important to give actual, real life, down to earth examples of what it is like to hear the voice of God and even to prophecy. Most people need this to help bring these things ‘out of the clouds’ and into real life on planet earth. I’ve posted a few examples in the past of such instances in my own life and in the lives of others (here, here and here). And I wanted to post another example.

This comes from Richard Foster’s book entitled Freedom of Simplicity. I have recently been posting a few quotes and short excerpts from the book, food for thought, if you will. But here is an example of Foster sharing a time when he heard the voice of Lord direct him in a particular situation.

Allow me to share with you a very small experience, but one that may help you to see what I mean. This occurred at an especially busy time in my year. I was preparing for a weekend trip that involved speaking at three different churches. The financial arrangement was for each church to take up a little offering on my behalf when I had finished speaking. As I was meditating on what God desired of me for that weekend, I had the strong impression that I was not to take any money at all from these churches. For some time I struggled over this directive, for we were counting on the money to meet several obligations. The struggle further revealed an inward greed that I thought had been exorcised long ago. Finally, I felt clear that this was what I had to do if I was to be obedient. I shared this with my wife, for I felt we had to be in unity on the matter. She released the money much more easily than I, noting that perhaps there would be some people in the meetings who needed to know that ministers of Christ were not always after their pocketbooks.

I told the pastors of the first two churches that any offering should be given to the poor or disposed of in whatever way they saw fit. Although surprised at my unorthodox request, they were congenial to the idea. But I arrived at the third church just as the service began, and so had no opportunity to explain my concern. I was relieved, however, when they did not take up an offering for me, and assumed that the matter was settled.

It was late when I finally arrived at the home where I was to stay the night. As I walked in the door my host handed me a check of an amount that was, for me, considerable. It was from the church. I protested, but they mistook my concern for modesty and insisted with such vigor that I let the matter drop.

I wish I could express to you the experience I went through that night. There was the check lying on the nightstand, mine to take. I did not want to cause offense or seem ungrateful, after all, the money had been given for me. Maybe this last church should be considered an experience separate from the others. But what about the earlier directive – it had seemed quite clear. Back and forth I went. Finally, I had about decided that I really should take the money rather than cause any trouble, but I determined to review my decision once more in the morning when I was rested. I invited God to teach me while I slept if he desired.

When I opened my eyes the next morning it was unmistakably clear to me that I could not – must not – take the money. A period of meditation only intensified the conviction. With considerable trepidation I explained to my hosts as best I could why I was not able to accept the gracious gift. The moment I finished there rushed into me an unspeakable joy. Though outwardly I tried to remain calm, I was being filled with an overwhelming sense of the glory of God. Once alone in the car I shouted and sang and blessed God. I did not have to be controlled by money! I could live in obedience! It was wonderful, jubilant ecstasy, and although the profuse exuberance lasted for perhaps twenty minutes, the sense of deep warm joy flowed over me all day long. (I was pleased to learn later that the church decided to give the money for refugee work in Cambodia.)

I don’t want to give too much commentary to the story above, as I think it speaks volumes itself. But suffice it to say, I believe this is a beautiful account of hearing God and responding in obedience. And, even more, here is a great example of Foster weighing what he believed was a directive from God, and weighing it with his covenant partner, his wife. This is always a very healthy perspective as we learn to discern the voice of God. I’ve shared about this before, our spouse being one of five major gifts we have been given to help us discern the voice of the Lord.

I hope this is another example that helps make hearing God’s voice more and more real.