Does God really speak directly to us?

Published 1:01 pm Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Does God really speak directly to us?  In a word, yes.

On January 29, 2009 I was in a traumatic motorcycle accident in which I suffered a severe closed head injury – a concussion. As a result of that injury I remember nothing of February, March, or April of that year, and I only began to have vague memories beginning sometime in May. Since I was on sabbatical and we had already paid for a beach house for the month of May at Folly Beach, S.C. my wife, Pam, decided we should go there anyway despite the limitations of my short term memory which functioned only inside a three hour window. My first real memories of that year consist of being at the beach sitting on the edge of the surf staring out over the water and wondering if I would ever be well again.
Early one morning toward the end of the month I was sitting at the edge of the rising surf with my feet in the water asking our creator if I had any hope of functioning normally again. At that very second a perfectly white and complete sand dollar washed up in the water and lay between my feet.  I have had a fascination with sand dollars ever since I was a child and was told the story of the symbolism held in its shell.  If you are not familiar with the legend I commend it to you at where the markings on the sand dollar are explained as having Christian symbolism pointing to God’s grace and love. In all my years combing the beaches from the Outer Banks, to Myrtle Beach to Folly Beach I had never found an undamaged sand dollar. Having one wash up between my feet during a prayer for guidance was providential to say the least, and certainly God speaking directly to me in a time of need.
Skip forward now to the summer of 2013. We were staying in the same house at Folly Beach and I was following my daily practice of praying and meditating in my usual place at the edge of the surf.  It just so happened that on this particular day I was asking God if I should take early retirement or if I should try to stay in institutional ministry for another four years.  At the point I admitted to myself that I was burned out and needed to leave full time ministry for the sake of my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health I glanced down and there between my feet, in the very same spot as in 2009, was another perfectly formed sand dollar resting on the sand.
I picked it up immediately and ran up to the house to tell Pam what a coincidence had just occurred.  Full of consternation I pondered all day long what this sign could mean.  The very next morning, sitting in the same place, in the same chair, in the same surf I asked God a direct question: “Do I need to retire now?” I watched the waves break and wash over my feet for half an hour or so, and then I saw it coming, tumbling to me through the incoming tide, my third perfect sand dollar and the answer to my question. Yes, I was being told, it was time.
Whether one addresses the ultimate power of the universe as God, Yahweh, Allah, Buddha nature, the Great Spirit or whatever serves to wrap one’s finite imagination around the infinite love and presence of the one creator, be assured, God will speak to us in ways we often do not expect.
Institutional religion has taught us that there is only one way to hear the divine creator speak to us, and that is through scriptures, doctrines, disciplines, and the practices of institutional beliefs as interpreted by its leaders.  However, I have heard the Lord of the universe speak to me many times in the most unusual and mundane of ways.  We have to learn and be willing to listen to that “still small voice” speaking to us when we least expect it and in the most unexpected ways.
I now have three identical, perfectly shaped reminders of that voice.  One day soon I will find the right piece of wood and mount them behind glass in a frame for everyone to see.
Oh, and one other thing; during the remainder of that vacation week last year I found five more perfect sand dollars on my morning walks and was able to give each one to a child and tell him or her how God’s grace and love can be communicated in a plain white shell, just as it had been told to me so very long ago.

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