With three visiting grandchildren I rarely get to see, savoring a week with our daughter I am rarely able to embrace, I’ve asked my friend, Shella, to craft this week’s posting. She recognizes when God is speaking to her as clearly as anyone I have ever known. Her powerful prayers leave me unable to add anything, because I don’t want to break the holiness that lingers in the air after God has poured His words through her. She is an artist. She is different. She has gifts that enable her to see more than most of us do. . . or want to.
In her passionate pursuit of the truth, she is willing to listen and learn, willing to be taught by God, even when it is something difficult for her to receive. I love that about her.
So now, I would like you to meet my friend, Shella. . .
Valerie asked me to reflect on how God has spoken in my life, and so I sat down to do it. I immediately fell victim to the Doritos phenomenon. There wasn’t any way I could write about just one.
There are many times I’ve heard my Lord and many ways I’ve seen Him speak. This week and next, I’ll be telling you a little about who I am and where I’ve been, so that you can see what God has said and done to bring me from where I was to where I was meant-to-be. After all, He was the only one who could. In this sampling of my detours and side-tracks, I hope He speaks into your heart.
This is a story of God reaching down to a girl oblivious of her rebellion, blinded in lies, lost and unaware. As you read, I hope you’ll be able to see His willingness to speak to you, wherever you might be.
I have always been a seeker. For as long as I can remember, I talked with God and believed. The exquisite natural beauty that surrounded me in Florida, where I grew up, was more than enough evidence that a grand and majestic Creator had to exist. I was raised in a Christian church, in the 50’s, in small town America, when no one had to advocate for the faith. Everyone around me was either Christian or Jewish and either was fine by me.
I am also a thinker. I look for deeper meanings; I like dialoguing about ideas; and I am comfortable with uncertainty. I have a capacity for unusual people and an appetite for adventure. I am a free spirit, but one with a strong sense of responsibility. This eclecticism may sound intriguing, and it can be. I tell you this so that you will know who I am, but you should also know that I have not had an easy time of it. I have often envied those people who do not search for the truth about this life nor ponder what happens after it. But I am not one of those people.
I strayed from the church in college and I rebelled against Christianity during my advertising career in Atlanta. I spent most of the 70’s and 80’s sampling every alternative religion or “new” spirituality I could find, certain that I had found “the truth:” that God was present in every religion and that, in essence, they were basically the same.
I spent 20 years exploring metaphysics and psychic phenomena, achieved a M.A. in Psychology, was a pretty good Americanized Hindu, and wandered into the desert of complete idolatry when I followed an Indian guru.
I considered this man a being of higher consciousness and a way-shower. I did not consider him God. He was smart, funny and charismatic and had an energized ashram in India like no other. I immersed myself in his meditations and books, his festivals and sannyasins (followers) for six years. How I got from there to where I am today is, of course, a book.
As a child I had believed in Jesus. It just didn’t seem possible to me as a young adult that what I had learned in church as a child was all that there was. And so, I left Christianity, but I carried Jesus with me all through these phases of my “walk.” I never lost my love for Him, and many times I sensed Him with me and heard His voice nudging me “home”. But, I didn’t belong to Him or know Him the way I do now.
In the early 80’s I lived in an ashram in Poona, India. It was filled with highly educated people from Europe (Germany, England, Holland), Australia, South Africa and the U.S.
A healthy part of the population of devotees was from the psychological professions and those seeking personal growth and enlightenment. Our guru was the overseer of the meditations and therapy groups we attended, and he lectured each morning in the large outdoor auditorium. In the evenings, we had Worship Group and dancing and private energy exchanges called darshans with the guru.
At any one time, there were possibly 2,000-3000 sannyasins (devotees) in the area. It was a wildly creative adventure in an exotic and beautiful place full of lush gardens, monkeys swinging in trees, an organic cafe, bookstore, clothing store, modern living spaces for workers and residents, spaces for a dozen therapy groups and a very large meditation hall, covered but open on the sides to nature. The primitive Indian setting in a lovely academic town on a river far from the poverty of Bombay was intoxicating. We wore the colors of the sunrise and sunset – oranges, pinks, golds and shades of purple – which added drama to the landscape.
One of the premises of the divine dialogue is that:
No matter where we are, the word of God will come to find us, to bring us from where we are to where we are meant-to-be.
The word of God came to find me in India – once in a vision, once “audibly” in my thoughts.
As I was walking at 5:30 AM along a craggy, dirt path to the morning meditation in Buddha Hall, the birds were singing. The dawn was barely breaking but generated enough soft light to illuminate the way before me. I was alone. I remember hearing these words very clearly in my mind:
“Beware of false prophets. They come to you dressed in sheep’s clothing, but inside they are ravenous as wolves. You will know them by the fruits that they bear.”
I had no idea what that meant. In my childhood and early adult years in the church, I had never studied scripture. I knew a few bible verses from Sunday School, but not this one.
I wondered a few minutes if I might need to be aware of something ominous coming, but I happily forgot it as I skipped along Koreagon Park Road to Buddha Hall. I never thought of this “word” again until years later.
One afternoon, as I was doing Nadabrahma (a quiet afternoon meditation with chanting music and slow movement), I saw before me an image of the guru’s face smiling and flowing across the image of Jesus’ face, like a dissolve in a slideshow. I watched in silence. In my heart I thought, “Wow. Jesus and my guru are one,” reinforcing my thinking that the essence of all religions was the same.
Several years later, I would see that same flowing image of my guru’s smiling face as I watched his interview on Ted Koppel’s Nightline. But this time the word “demonic” flashed before my eyes like a New York Stock Exchange bulletin.
Unsolicited, unexpected, explosive, this word shocked me. I absolutely did not believe in any of “THAT nonsense.” But I have to be honest, that was the exact word I heard and saw in my mind.
It was devastating to believe that this was possible, but I knew that God was speaking.
We don’t have to agree with God for Him to speak to us. But we are not going to “register” what He says, if we shut ourselves against what He shows us.
I was in need of a convicting encounter, and I prayed that God would come to me in a way that I could understand. It had to come from Him. I found myself unable to trust what any person had to tell me, because I was afraid of being deceived again.
That transforming moment I needed came four years later like a hammer on stubborn rock shattering my false thinking, but breaking my heart into softness and life. It was August 22, 1989, early evening, in an ordinary dining room at a friend’s home in Syracuse, New York. We met in college, and she had prayed for me for years.
During our visit, discussions had been difficult. One heated topic was self-actualization, which I believed was the path to enlightenment. “Well, even your Bible says, ‘And you shall know yourself, and the truth will set you free,’ I said.” My friend promptly replied, “That isn’t in there.” She opened her Bible to John 8:32, and read “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I was slightly embarrassed as I admitted defeat. Knowing yourself was not what it said. As we sat down to dinner that night, I was battle weary and worn, feeling resistance in my spirit. Then it happened.
In a moment, time and space were suspended and a vast light surrounded me. I felt very small and I could not raise my face to look “up.” I was instantly convicted of the darkness in which I had spent 20 years. I also knew that I was completely forgiven, was “clean” and was loved beyond description. Most importantly, I knew exactly who had come to transfer me from a Kingdom of darkness into His Kingdom of Light.
The following morning, we visited a nearby church where my friend would be photographing an upcoming wedding. As we turned to leave, we looked up over the large entrance doors. There, carved into the beautiful molding, were the words, “And you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.” That was more than coincidence. We were silent as we looked at each other in awe.
I have now walked in the Light of Jesus Christ for more years than I walked in darkness. This means a lot to me.
I no longer walk with a “concept” of the truth, I walk with a Person who is the Truth. This makes all the difference.
After my conversion, I devoured the Word like manna and ate the scriptures voraciously. There is nothing like reading the scriptures in the Light of the Holy Spirit. Nothing. When that word from THE Word comes flying into your heart like an arrow into the center of a target, you have the strength of David to stand against any Goliath you are facing.
When you understand the scriptures, you understand ever so clearly that God speaks to His people. He spoke to our forefathers in the Old Covenant, and He speaks today in the New Covenant.
The same God, though always new, does not change His character. And that character is relational. Speaking to His people is so naturally a part of Him He simply must do it.
I heard Him during the years of my rebellion. I didn’t understand Him until years later.
I did nothing to deserve His mercy. He freely gave it to me when I was as lost as I could be. Now I bow in awe, revering a God who loves us wherever we are, whatever we’ve done, beyond our comprehension. He is The One who sends His words to ordinary, lost people in broad places of destruction, who have no idea of the danger that engulfs them.
But this is only the beginning of what He has gone on to become to me, as He comes again and again to bring me from where I am to where I am meant-to-be.
More to come next week.
No matter where you are
The word of God will come to find you
To bring you from where you are to where you are meant-to-be.