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Posts Tagged ‘Holy nudge’

I’ve heard it said that the first ability we need to cultivate in our relationship with God is availability.  Being ready and available to do what He says in His word and what the Holy Spirit nudges us to do is foundational to growing and thriving as a Jesus follower.  Last night I was reminded of that in a very powerful way.  I had a conversation with a gentleman I worked with briefly 15 or so years ago.  After not seeing Al since that time we met again here in Washington where we happen to be working on a project together.  Over dinner he shared a bit of his faith story and it surprised me that I likely played an unknown role in his spiritual awakening.

Our faith conversation started when I mentioned that I had been in church all my life, but it wasn’t until I was 23 that I realized that God was interested in a real, living relationship and not just some dry, ritualistic participation in church.  He mentioned that his story was similar and his awakening to that fact began during his one of his visits to my plant in Calhoun, Tennessee around 2000 – 2001.  He said he was sitting in a meeting and he noticed Proverbs 3:5-6 written up in the corner of a blackboard in the conference room.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

He said he was at a point in his life that he was very successful.  He didn’t have any needs being unmet.  He described a life that many people long for – a happy marriage of almost 30 years, two great daughters, good health, a great job he enjoyed, financially sound – in short, a life that he was satisfied with.  But something about that verse on the blackboard just poked at him.  I call it a Holy Nudge.  And it began a search.  From that moment he began to seek out what it meant to trust in the Lord with all your heart and to submit to Him.  Well what happened to him is what God promises to everyone who will seek Him with all their heart – He found that living, vibrant relationship with God that has molded and shaped his life since then.  He responded to God’s nudge in that small conference room and his life has been changed from a good life to a great life in union with His Heavenly Father.

My heart swelled because I remembered my days at that plant.  I worked there for 17 years.  One of the lessons I learned while there was the vital importance of responding to Gods’ holy nudges. I can vividly remember two holy nudges early in my time at Calhoun that shaped my faith walk and put me into a position to be used in my friend’s life… whether I knew it or not.  One was a failure on my part that God has redeemed.  The second is part of that redemption and directly impacted my friend, Al.

I had only been at the mill a couple months when I was asked to attend a four-day communication workshop being held at a nearby hotel.  The leader’s name was Sid.  Sid was a large, jovial guy who liked to ask probing questions.  He began the week by telling us that he had recently had a serious health scare as the doctors had told him that he had the big C – Cancer.  But just a week or so earlier he had gotten the all clear from the doctors – no more cancer,  he was fine.  Later that first day Sid had us perform an exercise of sharing our “lifeline” with the class.  We took 10 minutes to draw a chart that represented our life to the current date.  We were to identify 2 or 3 defining moments and share them in a succinct manner.  He shared his lifeline first and mentioned the low point of thinking he might die of cancer and then his line turned up when he was told he was cancer-free and that life was going great.  As I drew my life line it had a major positive step change when I met the Lord at age 23 and I spoke briefly about that.  I remember that Sid challenged me pretty strongly about my step change.  Thinking back I remember I felt intimidated by the force of his challenges and felt even a bit like I was being attacked for my faith.

I was probably a bit more demur the next two days of the workshop.  On Wednesday afternoon, Sid said he was shutting down the workshop 30 minutes early and he was opening up a bar tab for us so we could stay and chat.  It was at this point that I got a very clear Holy Nudge to stay and speak with Sid.  I remember it vividly because I argued with God a bit about it.  I rationalized that since I wasn’t a drinker, I would feel out of place.  I was working on a piece of furniture for the house and I reasoned that I could use the extra time to make good progress on my project.  Even though God was nudging, I was coming up with reasons NOT to do what He was asking.  I even remember telling myself that as hostile as Sid was, he probably was only going to belittle my faith some more.  To my chagrin, I have to tell you that I walked out and went home to my project.  I can tell you now that I felt bad about it as I wiped stain on the entertainment center.  I even paused more than once to pray for Sid.  But I felt the conviction of the Lord as I was substituting a “religious act” instead of following God’s Holy Nudge.

The next day was the last day of the workshop.  I think I may have even told the Lord that I would stay and speak with Sid after the class or something like that.  The day started fine, but just before lunch Sid told us that he wasn’t feeling very well and that he was going to end the class early.  He mentioned that he had experienced angina a few years before associated with a heart attack and that he was feeling angina this morning.  He was going to head over to the emergency room to get it checked out.  I remember I volunteered to drive him, but he had already made arrangements.  I headed home and I can honestly say I was really praying for Sid now.  But I also expected that everything would be fine since he was heading straight to the hospital.

At work the next day, Ben, the assistant plant manager swung by my office to see if I was okay.  I relayed to him that I had enjoyed the class, but that I was concerned about Sid since he had headed to the hospital.  Ben realized then that I had not heard the news.  Sid had a massive heart attack at the hospital that evening and did not survive.  I realized that I had been in a position to offer Sid God’s Words of Grace the evening before he died, but I had rationalized and walked away.  I was ashamed and saddened to my core.  I had grieved the Holy Spirit and I missed an opportunity to obey the One Who gave His all for me.

Thankfully, God’s grace and forgiveness extends to us even when we fail Him.  Over time His forgiveness brought restoration to my broken soul.  I knew I had sinned greatly.  I knew I directly disobeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  But the same Holy Spirit reached out to me, lifted me up out of my sorrow and self-pity, and spoke life to me again.

It was probably a little less than a year later when I was asked to supervise a large team of maintenance personnel on a multi-day paper machine outage.  I was a 30 year old engineer who had never really worked on tools like a craftsman, and yet I was supposed to direct, coach, and support the efforts of about 2o maintenance technicians performing a dozen or more jobs.  The work was going over the weekend of Palm Sunday.  The first day was Saturday and honestly, that day is pretty much lost to my memory.  I vaguely remember feeling overwhelmed more than once with the large amount of demands that I struggled to keep up with.  As I drove in to the plant on Sunday morning I remember clearly speaking out my frustrations to the Lord.  I even said, “Lord, here it is Palm Sunday and I am heading to work and I won’t be able to make it to church.  That’s just not right.  I won’t even be able to have a real time of prayer since I’ll be so busy.”

The Lord spoke to my heart, “Pray with your Team.”

“What Lord?”

“Pray with your Team.”

Rationalizations rose up in my mind… “I barely  know these guys… Am I allowed to do something like this? … What will they think?”

But then I remembered Sid.  I remembered what disobedience felt like.  And I remembered that I had committed to the Lord after ignoring the Holy Nudge with Sid, that I would obey when He clearly asked me to do something in the future, no matter how crazy it might sound.  Well His voice was crystal clear this time.  So I gave the results to Him and I obeyed.

I didn’t have much time to think about it, I just did it.  I handled the normal safety topic and explanation of jobs the same as I had the day before, but as I ended I then shared briefly that my preference on a Sunday morning was to be in church rather than working in the mill.  Also since I believed God was present with His followers everywhere, including when they had to work at the mill on a Sunday we could take the time to acknowledge Him while at work.  I then let the men know that I would like to start our work day with a word of prayer and that it was fine if anyone didn’t share my belief.  They could stay while I prayed or head on out to the job.  Noone moved.  Then we prayed.  I felt the Spirit of the Lord take it from there.  I’m not sure exactly what I prayed, but I know I was being obedient and that God was pleased.

That started a pattern that has remained a part of my life.  I have had a number of leadership roles.  Not every meeting results in a Holy Nudge to pray with the group… but a surprising number have.  The Lord led me to start and lead a number of prayer groups and bible studies during lunch periods and before work as well.  As Al was telling me his story last night, I was moved to tears.  One of the other habits I got into was using the blackboards and dry erase boards during our lunch time bible studies and prayer times.  And sometimes I would get a Holy Nudge to leave a verse behind… just in case.

You almost never know how your obedience impacts someone else’s life.  Thank you Lord for giving me a glimpse of this one.

Obey immediately when He gives you a holy nudge and rejoice in being a partner in the Father’s work.

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