Thursday, March 11, 2004

Still, Small Voice

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep….and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.” ~ John 10:11,4 (NKJV)

We had a close call at our house last week. My son, Kirk called me in Nevada one morning before school to tell me that the carbon monoxide detector downstairs was beeping like crazy. The message on the alarm read, “Move to fresh air.” Well, Keen had already left for law school and Kirk didn’t know what to do. Thank God he called, because if he hadn’t, our house would have been filled with carbon monoxide by the time they returned home that evening and I don’t even want to think about what could have happened next.

So I called Lane’s Plumbing and Heating and Danny Lane was able to check on the problem right away. He quickly discovered that our heating ducts were completely clogged because they hadn’t been cleaned out in several years. Yikes!

Needless to say, we are thankful for the loud beep of our carbon monoxide detector. But sometimes life’s warnings aren’t quite that easy to hear. Sometimes we have to tune in and really listen to that still, small voice inside of us that some people call a sixth sense, gut instinct, or mother’s intuition. Whatever you call it, I believe it is God’s way of giving us some much needed direction in the affairs of our every day life.

There have been so many times in our life when Keen and I have learned the importance of heeding that still, small voice. For example, when Keen was writing his weekly column called My Perspective, many people were angered by his criticism of the county commissioners. He was verbally harassed and physically threatened on more than one occasion. One night around 12:30 a.m., Keen woke up suddenly with the strangest feeling that someone had done some damage to his trash truck. So he got dressed and walked to our shop which was just 2 blocks from our home. He first walked all the way around the truck and kicked the tires, thinking that maybe someone had slashed them. Since they were all fine, he climbed into the cab of his truck to start the engine. Due to the ominous feeling he had inside, he was especially cautious as he turned the key in the ignition. Right away he noticed that the oil gauge wasn’t moving and he quickly turned the truck off, thereby saving the $10,000 engine. As it turned out, someone had removed the oil plugs in both of our trucks and drained the oil completely out of them.

If Keen hadn’t been pre-warned by God, he never would have been watching the gauges that closely when he turned the truck on the next morning, and the engine would surely have been destroyed.

Another example concerns a trip I took to Washington D.C. several years ago with my son, Josh. We flew out to attend a hearing at the United States Supreme Court involving a case about a tow truck operator from Northlake, Illinois who was removed from the rotation list after he made a political contribution to the sitting mayor’s opponent.

The case came before the court about four months after ours and was decided on the same day – June 28, 1996 – by the same 7-2 margin. At any rate, my brother Bob had invited us to stay at their house, but when I was making our travel arrangements I had a strong feeling that I should get a hotel room. When the first two hotels I called were completely full, I began to second-guess my decision. “What difference does it make whether we stay in a hotel or stay at Bob and Christine’s?” I asked myself. “Besides, we can save a little money if we stay with them.”

So rather than listen to my gut and call other hotels, I just gave up and decided to stay with my brother. To make a long story short, our trip would have been perfect – if we had only stayed our own hotel room. It was a major hassle for Bob to give us directions to the subway and explain how to use it before he rushed off to work. Then it rained the whole day and Josh and I were left to wander the streets of D.C. aimlessly (with inadequate outerwear) all day long – slipping into one museum after another just to escape the cold, damp weather. Oh, how I wished I’d listened to that ever-so-subtle feeling that I should get a hotel room! Josh and I could have been nestled into the warmth of our room, enjoying pizza and a good movie. Then, when Bob got off from work, he could have picked us up in the hotel lobby to meet for dinner. Instead, we stood on a dark street corner (in the cold and rain again), waiting for him to pick us up and drive us back to his house. Now that may not seem like a big deal to you, but I really believe that God cares about every detail of our lives, and, if we are willing to listen, we can save ourselves a whole lot of inconvenience and discomfort.

In other cases, it could be more than just a matter of convenience – it could be a matter of life and death. Like the time our son, Josh, decided to go driving around with some friends before the Friday night football game at Wabaunsee High. The driver of the car insisted that everyone fasten their seatbelts, and thank God he did because he tried to pass on a curve and met an oncoming car. The vehicle rolled several times and landed on its hood - leaving all four passengers hanging from their seatbelts. Miraculously, everyone escaped with only minor injuries, as did the driver of the other car.

I have always tried to teach my children the importance of “listening to their heart.” So just out of curiosity, I asked Josh if he had any sort of red flag or bad feeling before he got in the car that day. He admitted that he did, but that he had ignored it. Who knows? Perhaps it was a “still small voice” that made the driver of the car insist that everyone wear their seatbelts, too.

There are times when the voice may not be “still and small”, but rather “loud and large.” Greg Hawley, one of the owner’s of The Steamboat Arabia in Kansas City, shares an amazing story about the time they finally discovered the sunken ship they had spent so many years (and $750,000) searching for. He said two of the members of their team were in a deep, deep hole in the middle of a field when they suddenly realized they had located the ship. Loud cheers of jubilation rang out as they joyously celebrated the long awaited discovery. Then, all of a sudden, at exactly the same moment in time, both men heard an audible voice telling them to “Get out! Get out, now!” Without a moment’s hesitation, they scurried as fast as they could to the top of the deep canyon. Greg said that they had no sooner pulled the second man out when the entire hole caved in. So we just never know how important it might be to heed the warnings God gives us.

Dorothy Masters from Harveyville tells a similar story in the first chapter of her book titled, Life is a Choice. Dorothy had been going “full-tilt” in the nursing profession for nearly 40 years and the stress had begun to take a toll on her mind and body. She not only suffered from severe joint pain in her hip and but she’d lost her sense of humor in the process.

Dorothy was also feeling increasingly frustrated by the changes she had seen in the medical field, particularly the way doctors and nurses prolonged a patient’s life when there was no hope for recovery. Dorothy said her whole body seemed to be screaming, “I can not take this dead run approach of hospital nursing until the calendar says that my retirement is in the mail.”

Well, one night she was walking down the hospital corridor during her night shift when she heard a voice say, “Get the hell out of here!” She walked a little further and heard the same voice say, “We have worked too hard….,” and then it trailed off. After tending to her patient, Dorothy took a deep breath and reflected on the voice she had heard in the hall. Suddenly she realized the voice was that of her late husband of twenty-two years, Loren B. Masters, who had died in a car-tractor accident eleven years earlier. Dorothy said that whenever Loren used that tone of voice when he was alive, someone was in great danger! Realizing that Loren, as her Guardian Angel, was telling her to quit work and enjoy life while she still could, Dorothy penned out her resignation and gave two weeks notice that very night. She’s never regretted her decision, and has now gone on to write two more books – Fun on the Run and Keep on the Sunny Side of Life. What an inspiration!

In his latest book titled, Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive, author John Eldredge tells a story about the time he and his family vacationed at a ranch in Colorado where they enjoyed horseback riding, porch swings and campfires. The decision to return the following year seemed like a “no-brainer.” They had even considered making it an annual family tradition. However, when they prayed about it, they sensed God telling them, “Not this year.” It was hard to accept because everyone in the family wanted to go back, but they chose to cancel their plans..

“When the Hayman Fire burned 137,000 acres of Colorado in June,” he writes, “we looked at each other and realized that was the week we would have been at the ranch. It was almost totally engulfed in flames.”

Looking back, most of us can probably recall times in our lives when we, too, have felt that twinge of uneasiness tugging at our hearts. I truly believe that if we’ll heed that still, small voice in our hearts, we’ll be very glad we did.

“And let the peace....from the Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts – deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds..."
~ Colossians 3:15 (Amplified)