Writing in the Spirit: Further Thoughts

Writing in the Spirit: Further Thoughts

A man named Vic was nudged to knock on his new neighbors’ door and invite them to his church. One of them went and was nudged to invite me to attend. I was Buddhist at the time.

Something made me go, and I experienced Jesus. Within a few weeks I had the thought, “If Jesus is really real, I’d better live for Him.”

I was a young opera singer, singing in the minor leagues (think single A ball). I had been working very hard to become an opera singer, and I was determined to knock down all obstacles on the way to the Met.

But now, something weird started to happen. I felt myself getting bored with performing and excited about all things Jesus: learning the Bible, reading good books about God, talking to people about faith…

I was becoming afraid. Deep down, I considered that God might move me from my path.

I confided this to a wise Christian woman named Cathy who often gave me books and prayed for me. She said, “Don’t worry, Jeff, I think God will usually make you want to do what He wants you to do.”

Whew… that sounded gentle.

The following summer I had a contract with the Ohio Light Opera Company in Wooster, Ohio. It was boring except for one thing: I started a Bible study, mostly to keep from sinning, and by the end of the summer, the majority of the singers were attending. I was pastoring a bunch of singers.

While in that place I went for a walk one day, and as I stared at the cobblestone sidewalk I contemplated telling Jesus He could have me and do whatever He wanted to do with my life.

I had already trusted Him for salvation. But I had not given Him control. I know this is not logical, but maybe you have been there too. Maybe you’re there now.

You know how when you were young and you first wanted to call a girl (or boy) but you were afraid? You dialed half the number and then hung up in terror? That’s what it felt like. I knew this was a big decision I didn’t have the strength to make. What if Cathy was wrong? What if He made me do something I hated? What if He didn’t let me go to the Met?

“Lord…” I said to the cobblestones, “You can…” oh boy, oh boy, oh boy…, “you can have my….LIFE!” I imagine that I immediately covered my head, waiting for something big. A sign. An angel coming with instructions.

Nothing happened. The summer ended and I went back to my wife, my grad school, and my church.

(Hey, you’re still reading! Thank you. I promise this will get around to writing.)

Fast forward a few months. I’m heavily involved in church, but I have also secured six auditions in New York for opera companies around the country whose doors I had not previously been able to open. Now was my chance to go to the next level (AAA!).

The day before my three week New York trip, someone was laying hands on me and praying that God would call me to be a pastor. I felt like in that prayer time, He likely was calling me to be a pastor.

But this was not welcomed news. I walked away feeling like the rich young ruler whom Jesus had told to sell all his possessions and come follow Him. The rich ruler walked away sad, because he had great possessions. What would I do?

I was in turmoil and I’m sure I prayed a lot, but the next day I felt nudged to go to New York, not knowing what I would do for the rest of my life, but living in the moment.

I got there and the first day I walked around all day long, trying to pray. Trying to listen. Trying to discern.

Then, almost in a trance, almost, I went into a hot dog place, sat down, and got out my folder full of letters inviting me to audition. I called all six companies. All six went to a voicemail. I recorded a message on all six, “Hi, this is Jeff Miller. I’m scheduled to audition on (date). I can’t make it. Thank you.”

There’s that.

Now what do I do? God? You still there? What do I do now?

I felt nudged to stay in New York for the whole three weeks I was planning. Maybe I could find somewhere to volunteer. Yes. I would do that. I spent a week knocking on doors of churches and being turned away. “No, we don’t need volunteers.”

Finally, I don’t remember where I was, but I met someone who told me, “Why don’t you head to the rougher parts of the city?” Yes, why don’t I?

I get internet somehow, maybe an Internet cafe, and I found a mission called The Bowery Mission on Bowery and Prince. I was told it was somewhat historical. I called them. “I’m in town for a few weeks. Do you need any volunteers?”

“Yes. Come right away.”

I went to the mission and fell in love with the sixty guys who were living there. They were getting connected to God and getting their lives back together. Many or most of them had come in through the mission’s daily outreach to the homeless. Every day they went out to a nearby park, fed people, and preached the gospel. Sometimes, one of the homeless would come back and check in to the program. It is a great place.

They put me in the clothing distribution room with these two guys I loved and wish to this day I had still had contact with.

The Holy Spirit had guided me that far, and I believe it had a lot to do with the prayer to the cobblestones the summer before.

But what happened next was extreme and singular in my life.

After I’d been at the mission for a couple of weeks. I was sitting in the back of the room one day before their daily church service. I’d heard people come in and preach to these men about how God could help them. He could get them off the streets. He could get them off drugs. He could get them their families back. They always looked bored, as though they were sitting through it in order to get their food afterward (which is what they were doing).

That was all true; God really could help them with all those things. But I was sitting there thinking, “I wish someone would tell them they should follow God, not for what He could get them, but for who He is.”

Just like I thought when I first went into the church, “If Jesus is worth anything, He’s worth everything.”

At that moment, Terrence, one of the eight pastors who worked there, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You want to do it?”

“Do what?” I asked.

“Preach.”

“When?”

“Now.”

”Okay.”

I guess I’m preaching. This would be my first time to do such a thing. I had taken speech class and made Cs on all my speeches. I was not good.

Five minutes later, I was standing behind an old metal music stand. I read a passage of Scripture from my thick, paperback NIV Study Bible, and then it happened:

It seemed as though I’d been plunged into the ocean violently. There was a heavy, heavy Presence and I started to speak.

I told them from under that ocean that I had everything: good upbringing, a happy and successful life with a wife (who had also been saved that year) that I loved, and everything was going well for me.

But then I was invited to church and saw that Jesus was real. I didn’t perceive I needed anything, except forgiveness for my sins. I just gave Him my life, because He is God.

I didn’t just say it. I said it under that power. That Power! I had never, ever experienced that. I have never quite experienced it since. I didn’t know what was happening, but in hindsight I think it was this: God was calling me and empowering me to preach. He was filling me with His Spirit and giving me the gift I needed for the thing He had for me to do.

I’ve preached roughly 2000 sermons since then, and I’ve never felt anything like it. Sometimes I know God has shown up, but never like He did that day 23 years ago.

However…

He always shows up somehow. I have been good and less good about obeying His nudges, but when I have, my life is surprising and filled with both grace and adventure.

Now—-why am I saying all this? First, because last week I told you that you should seek to write in the Spirit. I wanted you to know what I mean by “in the Spirit.”

I don’t feel I’m being plunged in the ocean every time I write, but I know when it is Him and not (just) me.

If you haven’t experienced a writing session like that, may I humbly ask you, have you given Him your life? Have you surrendered? Are you writing because you are called to write? Do you know that because you seek His voice?

If you want to try it, besides surrendering, wait a little before you write. Sit down and ask God’s help, then wait a bit. Maybe listen to your favorite worship music.

I pray for you right here and now that you will be filled, and filled, and filled with the Holy Spirit, and that you will say what He is saying. When you do, I want to read it!

God’s blessings on your life and writing. May He call you and give you visions, dreams, and words to write.

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