Sometimes scripture takes you to a place you aren’t prepared to go. Have you ever been in a place so uncomfortable, yet so true that you can’t escape it no matter how hard you try?
“The time is coming,” says the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord.” ~Amos 8:1
This kind of famine, it doesn’t look like only crumbs to sustain the growl of the stomach or like parched earth deplete of what quenches thirst. It is dark void, without a ray of joy or hope. And as I sit in church, listen to these words, they jolt perspective.
Because I know how to do this, do church on Sunday. How to dress acceptably, take the hand of the greeter and return pleasantries, find a place to sit on the hard pew. Scoot in to make room for others. Walk out of my way to greet strangers. Take the bread in my cupped hand and dip it in the challis of wine at the altar. Join in singing. Kneel for prayers, listen to the sermon, and take notes. Shake the hand of the minister on the way out the door.
However, if I don’t hear His voice, sense His presence beside me, what does all this knowing do for me? All outward form without passion leaves the heart empty.
When I think about not hearing His words over me, it is like lying down to die. Because without His words, I am dust that flies aimless in this world. I am a hopeless speck of misery relying on the wind to take me where it will.
If I rely on my own thoughts, the opinions and approval of others, it is like gerbil running on a wheel. It takes me nowhere, never satisfies.
“I hate all your show and pretense – the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies . . . I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.” ~Amos 5: 18-24
These ancient words of warning and judgment, they pierce the ears, make the body restless and restore hope, usher gratitude. Because they document truth so we know how to live today, learn from those that came before us.
And the boy wearing the white robe, the acolyte helping prepare the table for communion, he drops the glass lid to the cruet on the brick floor. The sound echoes loud over the melody and he gasps with red face. In the stillness, all eyes witness this young one practice the externals and I remember what the eyes cannot see.
How just last year this same boy reads a poem he pens to a room full like this one. Words spilled from a flood inside about the one he abides with in the quiet of his room with bible laid open, journal ready to receive words He speaks.
This knowing how to practice the religion of approval, what we do on the outside, it falls to the floor in the shadow of truth. That He loves us for who we are, not for what we do. We become the love of God so our lives spill over like a river onto our spouse, our kids, our friends, the cashier at Starbucks, the bagger at the grocery store, the teacher in the classroom.
I will accept famine but please Lord, not famine from you. Because when you speak, I want to, I need to hear your voice.
Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. ~Psalm 51:11
Thanking God with Ann today:
- For hearing His voice in the early morning hours
- My husband who loves me no matter what the circumstance
- Kids who travel safe from retreat with their peers
- For Ann’s words: Peace is a Person, not a place.
- Friends who call when they travel, because they have the time to really listen and care.
- The way sunlight illuminates vibrant leaves in Fall.
- Sleeping in and laughing in those first minutes with the man God gave me.