Over the years I’ve come to recognise the look, the response to a God happenstance.
This week I experienced the first digital version of this phenomenon when Mark Stanford e-mailed me. He had just been inducted as vicar of Holy Trinity, Formby. Here I paste: “Just read your card; WOW!”
When it happens it’s always a valuable exercise to work out how God made it happen. More precisely, how did he work through me?
Such as when I visited Dick. Many of you have heard the story but even so here it is.
Newly arrived as a curate in Heswall I visited Dick in hospital, recovering from a heart attack. Again I visited him on his return home. Later that week I was just driving the car and randomly thought “I’ll call in to see Dick. He lives just down the road.”
As soon as I arrived, I remembered he was due to be out, away somewhere. So why was I visiting? AlsoI had only just seen Dick. I turned back to my car but then thought “Now that I’m here, I might as well ring his bell!”
To my surprise he answered the door and showed that look which I have since come to recognise.
It was a valuable visit. Dick gave his life (along with his business) to the Lord. A new creation!
Only some months later I discovered that Dick was about to overdose.
As he held those extra tablets, he prayed on the off-chance that someone was listening: “Send someone to stop me!” The doorbell rang – and it was me. (Clearly, God had no one else more suitable in the neighbourhood.)
When that happens, work back. How did my mind make that decision? Anything unusual? Answer – nothing special at all. No special voice, no strange tingling down the spine. Just your ordinary, everyday brain activity.
So this Sunday I sat down to write my “Welcome to your new parish” card for the Stanford’s. WH Smith don’t stock these and so I bought a National Trust blank card. Jacqui liked the mountain scene. This meant I had to think of a suitable Bible verse.
One for a new vicar will usually contain the words “armour” or “burdens” or “suffering.” I think I prayed very simply, saw the picture on the card and tried to think of a verse involving mountains. So I wrote Matthew 19:19. “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Again, nothing special, no angelic whisper, no powerful sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Just a simple prayer and the regular thought process. No more.
Showing great creativity/eccentricity (you choose) for a licensing service, Mark prefaced his prayers with his new congregation with a remarkable video clip and then showed a Bible verse on the screens, I assume the one to define his ministry. Guess which one? Hence his e-mail.
And what does that teach us? To expect God to work through the ordinary processes of our minds. All we need is to acknowledge him and he will direct our thoughts. He is closer than we realise.
Watch the video! Think mustard seed/mountain.