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Our Spiritual Conversations

Think about all the conversations you have today. Are they detail-focused? How many are spiritual? Flying home from a fundraising trip to Midway, TX, I was surrounded by spiritual conversations. If I wasn’t listening, I would have missed it. But I’m not a human being having an occasional spiritu…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Think about all the conversations you have today. Are they detail-focused? How many are spiritual?

Flying home from a fundraising trip to Midway, TX, I was surrounded by spiritual conversations. If I wasn’t listening, I would have missed it. But I’m not a human being having an occasional spiritual experience. I’m a spiritual being having a temporary human experience. 

My prayers and my life can become so intertwined. I call the conversation “listening prayer” because I’m more interested in what God is speaking through life than I am in what I am speaking to God as I live.
 
And the plane seemed alive with kingdom possibility as it bumped along through midwestern air pockets.
 
My own internal conversation was about healing. “Why don’t I see more people get healed?” I asked. I was reading John G. Lake’s works on healing. Stories of raising people from the dead. Thousands healed in the healing rooms located in Spokane. John G. Lake encouraging me along with all his readers to do more than believe – to act on our belief.
 
Before that I was reading a book that dealt with the problem of pain based on the life of Job. Job is second-guessing God and God will have none of it. “Where were you?” He thunders. It’s kind of a one-sided conversation.
 
Beyond my thoughts, I overheard the Latin lady in the seat behind me preaching to the guy next to her in Spanish. He, like Job, didn’t say much, but that didn’t deter her. She had  the gift of an evangelist and she was using it better than Clint Bokelman in his EE hay day.
 
After a while I heard her closing the sale. She had him repeating a prayer after her. Maybe he was experiencing an epiphany, or maybe just extreme claustrophobia. Maybe her emphatic words were grace and maybe they were a waste of air. I couldn’t tell.
 
The guy next to me was reading a theology book. Of course it was a theology book. These are the kinds of people God puts around me on planes.
 
“What’s it about in three sentences?” I asked.
 
“The author reconciles the difference between free will and the sovereignty of God. God knows everything that is going to happen, so it looks to us humans like he is making the choices. But he in fact gives us volitional capacity.”
 
“So from the divine perspective, the parallel lines meet in infinity,” I thought. “I knew that embracing ambiguity was a better route than Calvin’s polemics.”
 
I was happy to have another data point confirming my straddle on this old theological issue and went back to my book on healing.
 
Who knows why God heals in some instances and not in others, but John G. Lake knew that you have to step out in faith. Action produces results. My internal conversation was, “I sure am glad to be a part of a ministry that helps people to move in that direction.”
 
When I stepped off the plane, the conversations continued. On the phone with my friend as I walked out of the airport, I debriefed his trip to India. India defies neat definitions. It is a category-busting culture.
 
I met this same friend when I was 13 at Honey Rock Camp in Wisconsin. And later we were classmates together at Wheaton. After graduating, we randomly met his wife as missionaries in the D.R. And then they’ve been supporters all these years. 
 
My friend is one of the top financial minds in the world and is going through a job change. What is God saying in all this? It’s a conversation. Part of a much longer conversation we’ve been having since we were teenagers about life and God.
 
And then I stepped on the parking shuttle. Doing email as we drove, I heard 104.7 the Fish on the shuttle radio. “Are you a Christian?” I asked Williams, the driver.
 
“I am. I am a Pentecostal preacher!” He responded.
 
I detected an accent. “Are you from Jamaica?”
 
“I was born there. How did you know?”
 
“I’m a missionary and I started working there years ago.”
 
He let me off at my car. “Keep preaching the word!” I said in parting.
 
“Keep saving those souls!” He shot back at me.
 
On the way home, I reached out to my mom. All my spiritual conversations began early in life with my mom. She showed my sister and I the Bible and its stories about Jesus. She taught us to pray. She modeled what a life of service was like.
 
Our conversations may seem more pedestrian these days, but they are spiritual. We talk about how the family is doing. About how her health is doing. She is my top prayer warrior and she never fails to check up on my prayer requests before we say goodbye.
 
In the background, other conversations skim the surface of my consciousness like rocks skipping across water. My family has a text string going about the new baby and Marston. And my college buddies had a text string going about how we all need to get healthier. We’re going to hold each other accountable.
 
So many conversations in a day!
 
My conversations with people have changed over the years, just as my conversations with God have changed. I used to do a better job of praying lists. A lot of days I just seem to pray, “Oh God. Oh God,” and I’ll lift someone’s name up. And I don’t even have words.
 
I’m haunted by the thought that we’re spiritual beings having a human experience. Meghan Tschanz writes about the murder of her friend, Mon, a young girl, but a sex worker in Thailand. It’s horrific and tragic, but it focuses me to fight for others like her. I see afresh how short my window of opportunity is and vow an appropriate redemptive response.
 
All of us have multiple conversations going on all the time. The conversation with ourselves, the one with God, the ones with our family and friends and coworkers. Our amazing opportunity as we talk and listen is to wake up people to reality if we ourselves can first wake up. 
 
We humans think that because we can touch something, that makes it more real than the things we perceive with our spirits. We just need a little help sensing what Madeline L’Engle calls a “tesseract” – the wrinkle in time that connects us to a spiritual universe. We see it as we watch movies like the Matrix or Inception.
 
Back on earth, I loved the conversations we had in Midland, TX. Conversations about what God is doing on the earth. And what we as his sons and daughters can do to restore him as king. What we can do to set the captives free. How we can lead ourselves and others better.
 
They were worth flying across the country to have. And they prompt me to ask you to probe your liminal space – that is, the space between your thoughts and your actions. Are you living life on purpose?
 
What conversations are you having? The conversations
  • with yourself?
  • with God?
  • with your loved ones?
  • with your coworkers?
Where do they take you? Are you talking about the things that are important to you? Are you listening for the way God is prompting conversation all around you?
 
God made us in his image. And he made us to be social and to be curious – he made us for conversation. 
 
Let me encourage you to take a deeper look at the ones you’re having.  God did not make you to be ordinary. He made you to be the objective of his love and to dance with him. He unlocked your dingy jail cell of rejection and insecurity and gave you the keys to unlock prison doors for those you meet along life’s path. To those caught in ruts, it can look epic.
 
Have you thought about the questions that you could ask that would lead to the kinds of conversations that would help you to live the epic life God is inviting you to?
 
I pray that you do. You are so worth it.

Comments (15)

  • Thanks for this. This is one I will re-read and have already shared. Hard to put into words how this post impacted me, but it has. You have the words and the expression is awesome. Thanks so much.

  • Your gift certainly makes way for you.
    I’m not a avid reader of your posts lately but reading this today is very encouraging.
    As a uber driver (over 2,000 trips) in a large college town spiritual opportunities abound.
    Some days giving all I can to encourage riders.
    Other days not so much.
    Thanks for reminding me to fight the good fight stay the course keep the faith !!

  • Michael Paul (Mary Crosbys dad)

    Dude, so needed to hear this today. Reminder that God is speaking and we must turn down the “human” voices and hear the Father’s promptings. Thanks man!

    • Hey Michael – good to hear from you. I pray that God continues to speak clearly to you through your day!

  • Seth thanks for the linear yet appropriately meandering journey of prose you have posted here. I was telling a friend and also our youngest daughter in recent days that God’s miracles are mostly found in the mundane. We cannot assume that what on the surface appears to be incidental is in fact that. Eternity can be set in motion by a call, conversation, commitment or caring act. And your long term ethic to trumpet the “listening” dimensions of prayer is a key unfolding legacy of your life.

    One funny story which played out during a segment of my past “millions of miles on America Airlines life” that something you wrote caused me to remember….

    An earnest CRU (then Campus Crusade For Christ) staffer was seated next to me and pulled out his Four Spiritual Laws booklet and proceeded to walk me down that apologetic path. At point number two he heard me say “I am a Christian” to which he replied “You better be sure!”
    He continued relentlessly avoiding my protestations so I finally succumbed to what was obviously going to be an attempt to “close the sale” and went ahead and repeated a prayer of salvation with him. 🙂 He was so happy to have a spiritual scalp to put on his warrior pole and share around the Great Commission campfires that another soul was brought into heaven that day.
    Love to the Barnes and prayers for the AIM team. I was part of the strategy/broadcasting group for the recent Luis Palau CityFest event in New York City and it was thrilling to see God touch many of the lives (180,000 attended the various events) who came with hungry and broken hearts.
    Still in the fight and love you friend…..Butch

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Butch. Great story – I guess at times in my life I’ve been that unlistening scalp-seeker. So glad I met a conversation-seeking God.

  • I was just having a conversation with God this morning about this very subject and asking for wisdom and truth. I’m so glad that you shared this, it’s challenging and needed. Thanks, Seth!

  • Thank you….so very well developed articulation of has been on my heart this past year… All of your listening prayer materials are having a huge impact on our church… One at a time. Blessings

    • Here we are at 57 years of age, Christy. 35 years removed from Wheaton. So much life lived. Thanks for the encouragement. Hi to Alan.

  • Thank you Seth! So true and foundational in guiding what I will share as I share with my faith circle in early August…

  • What a great read, Seth! It’s more than words but a call to action that reinspires me. Thanks.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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