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Friday, 17 July 2015

Hearing God.

I've had a bit of a journey when it comes to hearing God, since I was quite young to now. It's something that I've reflected on before - I particularly did so when I did my story for my church's 'Real Stories, Real Faith' series - but things have changed a bit since then.

So, when I was younger, I didn't hear God. Praying felt like talking to God, not talking with him. And I wanted the latter, but I didn't really know how to get there. It didn't ever make me think that he wasn't there; because he'd communicate with me in other ways, which were much less direct. And I'd see him working in my life. But I wouldn't hear him at all. I remember once having a diary where you were there was a space to write down answers you heard to prayers. Those sections were always empty. I never heard God.

Things changed around the time of uni. I can't remember exactly when it happened, but at some point, I was just having quite casual interactions with God. It's not that I was hearing him, persay - more feeling him, sensing some of his emotions. One of the main ones I'd feel was laughter. He joked a lot with me, and I with him. That's partly where I got the idea that God is the ultimate troll from. But I think I talked about that in another post.

At some point - I can't remember quite when - I started going on walks with God. And he would show bits and pieces to me. I'd see something, and knew that it meant this or that - it was God's way of speaking to me. So I try to go for walks pretty regularly, even if it's just short.

Since then, I'd also had a few times when my mentor had asked me to go to a specific time and invite God or Jesus into that place, and we'd have a bit of a conversation there. Some of those were fairly short and simple - some had a bit more to them. But all really impacted me.

Last Sunday, I heard Bill Hybels' talk on time, and how we use it. And one of the big points he talked about was spending 15 minutes every day in a chair, listening to God and reading his Word. So I thought I'd give it a go. Our church is starting The Story this coming Sunday (if you haven't heard of it, it's the Bible written like a novel, in chronological order - it goes for 30-something weeks) so I thought I'd read that. So I spent some time reading that, then some time in prayer. I finished and I still had a few minutes left. So I thought, what the heck, let's try and have a conversation with God, like I did sometimes back with my mentor. And yeah. That happened. It was really simple. And really awesome. :) So I've been having some pretty awesome chats with God each day in that time, which has been really great.

I think part of the thing that held me back before was self-doubt - the thought of, "but no, that's just my own mind talking there," and that sort of thing. But I've since found that things like worry, doubt, fear - these things are always going to get between you and God, rather than connect you to him. (Yes, the Bible says to fear God. That's a different sort of fear, and not what I'm talking about here.) So yeah.

I'm still learning, but I thought that was a pretty cool thing that I'd like to reflect on :) As an aside, I definitely recommend taking the 15 minute Chair Challenge. And do it in an actual chair, and the same chair each time. It's a psychological thing, with the same environment and such. Even better if you can do it at the same time each day. Give it a go for a week, and see what happens :)

Friday, 3 July 2015

Real Hope.

This last weekend, I got the opportunity to help out Hope 103.2 with their annual June Appeal. For those who aren't aware, Hope is a community listener-funded Christian radio station. It doesn't get government or commercial support - it has a limited amount of air time that it can give to sponsors for commercials, and some sponsors are on the website, but the rest of their money they get from people who donate. So every year they have a big effort leading up to the end of the financial year in June. (I think they might also have another one in November. Not sure.)

This year, their target was $850,000. Just from donations. I was there on Friday, Saturday and Monday for a fair bit of time, and got to see a reasonable amount of what was happening. I'd been part of it last year as well, but I don't think I was there for as long.

Now, that my seem like a pretty hefty target for some of you folks - particularly if you've ever tried raising money yourself! But they actually ended up raising over $1.1 million. Which is pretty darn awesome.

So, I was on the phones, and people would ring in and say they wanted to give a particular amount, and sometimes they would share a bit of a story with you. You had people ringing in to give anything from ten dollars to ten thousand dollars, and everything in between. Kids donating pocket money and birthday money, people out of work donating money, single parents, pensioners, businesses, uni students - people from just about everywhere. We actually had someone from America who works on the plane trip from somewhere in America to Sydney calling in to give! (She was in Sydney at the time, thankfully.)

As you can imagine, you got some incredible stories. Stories of people who had lost so much, and then found Hope; people who just happened upon the station at just the right time; people who had been listening to the station since it started 36 years ago (though it wasn't called Hope back then); I even had one guy call in who wasn't a Christian, but still wanted to donate because he listened so much! It was pretty awesome.

My story with Hope, for a long time, wasn't really my story at all. I grew up with my parents having 103.2 on in the car whenever we were driving around, so it was the main radio station that I knew (though Dad would often put on the sport AM station). So many of the other stations were talking about things or playing music that I wasn't comfortable with playing, so when it came to the point where I had my own car and chose what I played myself, Hope was my first choice. But most of the time, I just played CDs, and didn't listen to the radio. I just wanted music! Radio had too many ads and talking for me.

This year, though, that changed a bit. I've talked in one of the other posts about how I've been struggling this year, particularly with my point of trying to do it alone (not healthy). Hope has really helped me through that, I think. More and more this year, I've found that I've been listening to Hope, and leaving the CDs out. Not all the time, but now most of the time, I'm listening to the radio rather than my collection (and I've got quite a collection!) - though this may also be something to do with the fact that I now have work in the morning, and Dan and Dwayne are on :D (The same Dan from Saturday Disney, 90s kids. Yep. He's pretty great :) )

So yeah. That's my Hope story, I guess. But what I've realised, looking back, is that Hope is really two big things.
Firstly, it brings joy. The amount of laughter and joy and fun in that radio station is fantastic. And I particularly felt that being there, and talking to the people and interacting with them myself.
Secondly, it shows you that God is working, here and now. Because you hear these stories of Hope, so often, when people ring in and talk about the impact that Hope has had on their lives; and you realise that God is still there, and still working, and still being awesome. (Because that's just what he does, yo.)
And through that, there is real hope. Not a kind of nice idea or philosophy or airy-fairy thing, but real. Working. Living. Moving. Today.

And that's pretty cool ;)