Thursday, December 8, 2011

Even in a Webinar

Have you ever been amazed at the unexpected ways you can hear God's voice? Each time I think I've seen the most amazing way--like God speaking to me through my Pilates teacher's instructions--He goes and tops that...
Last week I was sorry for my fall Bible study to end, but I have to admit I was looking forward to seven weeks off so that my evenings would be a little less full during the holiday season. Still, I scarcely hesitated this past Tuesday when one of my Bible study friends, Angel, asked if I'd do another Priscilla Shirer study with her over the Christmas break--Discerning the Voice of God: How To Recognize When God Speaks.
Here's how I explained it to all the friends whom I invited to join us:
If you’re like me, you need to focus on resting during the Christmas season, so
your first instinct may be to say, “I don’t have time.” But consider that
working on a study keeps you accountable to stay in the Word, which helps you to
rest in God. And getting out one hour a week with other ladies could also help
rejuvenate your spirit.
And that's how I ended up at the kitchen table yesterday morning, rubbing my hands together in anticipation as I cracked open the lesson for Day 1. It began with the story of Habakkuk, who initially questioned God, asking how long he would take to answer. God's reply took my breath away: "Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days--you would not believe if you were told." (Habakkuk 1:5)
Priscilla invited me to list the personal circumstances that have been troubling me and then focus on how God is speaking to me concerning them. The first two came easily, but my pen stumbled over the third concern that came to mind; this was one I was trying to let go of, one I'd given up asking about. The last concern was another one that I hated to write down because surely God must be tired of my endless waffling over whether/when/how to finish my novel.
At the end of the lesson, Priscilla told me to write out a prayer expressing my confidence in God's control of my circumstances and my desire for Him to speak to me about them. Here is part of what I prayed: "LORD, you are kind and merciful. You are a God who hears, who calls, who answers. I praise you for what you are already doing [in these situations]."
Although it was a quick prayer, and I was in my kitchen instead of my beloved prayer closet, it was one of those times when I really felt the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and I prayed with fervor and anticipation.
Imagine my delight about 30 minutes later when I read an email that spoke directly to that concern that I'd hesitated to write down. As I checked the time of receipt, my heart skipped a beat. Yep, it was sent shortly after my prayer. Coincidence? Maybe.
Just a couple hours later, God spoke to me for the second time. I was in a webinar, an online presentation called "Training Online: Creating Visual Stories That Resonate." Now I do enjoy this type of presentation on some level, but I really much prefer the classroom environment over listening to a stranger's voice and watching PowerPoint slides on my computer. So I never expected to be riveted, utterly captivated by this speaker as she explained how to use the classic story arc to draw in your learners and motivate them toward lasting change. It wasn't exactly new information to me; I'd heard this before in my fiction writing classes. But there was something about the way she presented it that spoke to me personally.

She showed a fascinating analysis of two very different speeches that captivated audiences, Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" and Steve Jobs's introduction of the iPhone. Both speeches began with what is, moved to what could be, back to what is, back to what could be, etc. And both speeches ended with a call to action.
She ended her presentation by modeling two of the strategies she'd suggested: anticipating and overcoming objections, and a call to action.
This phrase flashed on the screen in simple white letters: "But I'm just..."

"I know what you're thinking," she said. "You're thinking, 'I'm not Martin Luther King or Steve Jobs. I'm just a trainer, an instructional designer, a...'"

She paused for a moment to let us acknowledge the truth of her assertion, and then she went on in a voice low and heavy with emotion. "The truth is, you've been called. You have the power to tell your story as only you can. You can deliver your message in a way that will create lasting change. You have to tell your story, and tell it with passion."
Tears of wonder slipped down my cheeks. There were 999 other people on that call--the session maxed out at 1000--but I knew that Nancy Duarte was speaking directly to me. And the hair on my arms stood on end as I recognized the anointing of the Holy Spirit in her words.
How do you do this, God? How do you continue to surprise me? I wondered. You're not supposed to be this inspired by an ONLINE WEBINAR. Everyone knows online training is boring!
I was positively giddy for the rest of the day, and today too. I've got my passion back, and I can't wait to put pen to paper again!
But God wasn't through. There were two more requests on my list.
Tonight I was enjoying some Christmas music while I washed the dishes that couldn't go in the dishwasher. I sighed when the music faded out and the DJ took another one of those sappy calls about the theme of the night: the best Christmas gift ever.
I half listened as a woman fought to hold back sobs while she told how her family had fallen on hard times. Her husband had lost his job and drifted into destructive behaviors, and her marriage had been shaken. For a couple of years, she continued to love him and extend grace, all the while praying for his salvation.
I perked up at this point, my soapy hand hovering over the dishpan.
"And now, he has given his heart to God," she said, as I shared her happy tears. "We still have nothing, nothing. But this will be the greatest Christmas ever because now we can share.... He finally understands why we celebrate Christmas."
She went on to encourage everyone who was praying for someone's salvation not to give up. "Even if you've been praying for years, and you think it's never going to happen, don't give up."
A grin broke out as I realized God had just encouraged me about my last two requests. I can't wait to see how God will bring those two to himself. In the words of Habakkuk, "The vision is yet for the appointed time.... Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay." (Habakkuk 2:3)
Have you ever been flabbergasted at how God spoke to you? Would you please share your story?


Victor S E Moubarak said...

It's amazing how God speaks to us.

God bless.

Sarah said...

Thank you, Victor!

Anonymous said...

This past year God gave me Romans 15:13. I recite it every time I feel defeated. I remind myself and God of His promise. He has been faithful. I am studying in James right now. I keep thinking about life being a race and He is preparing me for what He has in store for my future. James 4:12 says Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up. James 5:13 says if any one of you in trouble? He should pray. I don't know how many times in my prayers of desperation this past year that God presented scripture that reminded me to be patient and to trust. God is faithful, I know that. In the meantime I will wait and trust. Thanks for lifting my spirits! Love ya - Aunt Sue


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