Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Over 1500 years ago the Celtic Christ followers represented the Holy Spirit as a wild goose rather than the peaceful dove. The Celts chose wild geese as the image because they aren't controllable. There is no illusion of being in charge of wild geese, unlike that of a cooing dove. And so it is with the Holy Spirit- where we are beckoned we are to follow, often unpredictably so!

Jesus was inherently unpredictable for the disciples. Many missed the boat because they could never have imagined a suffering messiah. One minute Peter is the rock and then Jesus calls him Satan! Even the heartiest disciples were crushed and missed the presence of Jesus on the Emmaus Road. Many times Jesus is in our midst & we don’t see it.

One of the goals of the spiritual life is to continue to wake up to the voice of the spirit, the quiet voice, and the testimony of scripture. Most people don’t read their Bible not because they don’t want to hear from God but because when they read they never hear from God! We can read as a textbook and not read spiritually, to eat, to ingest it, to put us into the stories and ask what God might be saying to ourselves. We do this same thing in prayer time and again if we only go to God with a shopping list.

When I look back upon my life in Christ I can’t think of a more apt metaphor for the Spirit of God than that of wild geese.

Right after becoming a Christ follower I get these crazy ideas to quit my job and go on missions. I do some short-term stuff & then get this crazy idea to go back to university, which I really didn’t want to do. Half way through I wanted to quit university but in the backwoods of Africa on a mission for God I hear God say, “I asked you to go to school. Are you finished?” I end up going back to finish not knowing the next step, only to find myself at seminary & a youth pastor.

The stuff the Holy Spirit told me, and then Anola & I to do over those years as individuals, families, as a group, yikes, crazy, unpredictable, amazing, humbling, yet always substantiated by scripture. Many time I wanted the route mapped out and a detailed itinerary, especially smuggling Bibles in rural china, getting caught, trying to rendezvous with people we’d never met in country we couldn’t speak the language in. Yet God did what we set out to do!

The Holy Spirit wants to lead the way, and in that sense we listen for the wild goose. We’re in the back seat, and backseat drivers are usually terrible drivers!

I find the early Christ followers following the leading of the Holy Spirit as the wild goose, especially in Acts, and their experience was the very thing I saw in my own life! There were delays and detours, yet never really a delay or detour because they began to see that the interruption was what God had in store for them to begin with. Shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonments, even crazy answers to prayer for people who pray yet don’t believe it can happen! Read Peter's experience in Acts 12-

Still shaking his head, amazed, he went to Mary's house, the Mary who was John Mark's mother. The house was packed with praying friends. When he knocked on the door to the courtyard, a young woman named Rhoda came to see who it was. But when she recognized his voice—Peter's voice!—she was so excited and eager to tell everyone Peter was there that she forgot to open the door and left him standing in the street.

But they wouldn't believe her, dismissing her, dismissing her report. "You're crazy," they said. She stuck by her story, insisting. They still wouldn't believe her and said, "It must be his angel." All this time poor Peter was standing out in the street, knocking away.

Finally they opened up and saw him—and went wild! Peter put his hands up and calmed them down. He described how the Master had gotten him out of jail, then said, "Tell James and the brothers what's happened." He left them and went off to another place.

I can echo the words of Phil Yancey, “As I travel, I have observed a pattern, a strange historical phenomenon of God moving geographically from the Middle East, to Europe to North America to the developing world. My theory is this: God goes where he's wanted." Follow the wild goose!

God's character is never unpredictable. Where He shows up often is.

"To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation." Oswald Chambers

For me, one of the charms of outdoor life is the unpredictability of its conditions. A river, for example, may be too high, too low, or just right; the wind ahead or behind or still; the weather wet, dry, cold, or hot. It's in our reactions to these conditions that we discover our essential qualities. Those of us accustomed to being in control, or perhaps needing to be, often become anxious when events fail to accord with our well-laid plans. We always see most clearly into our own souls -- and the souls of others, too -- when adversity has peeled us, like onions, several layers deep. Willem Lange

Where is the Spirit showing up in your life? Go ahead and follow. I dare you to move...


Blogger Mike Morrell said...

Hi Stew, I'd like to contact you with something related to Community of Hope. Could you contact me at zoecarnate [at] gmail [dot] com?

Thanks so much!


9:35 PM  

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