Stay Tuned! …Don’t lose ‘the signal’

This week’s eNewsletter feature story
is written by Jim Teague,
FPCE communications coordinator.

Chicago Sun-Times:

Power outage at Willis Tower leaves building looking ‘disappointed,’ just like everyone else in 2020

https://chicago.suntimes.com/2020/5/20/21264829/willis-tower-power-outage-sears-tower-face-lights-out

Dear friends,

You may have heard about this week’s flooding that knocked out a power substation in the basement of the Willis Tower in downtown Chicago. As of Wednesday morning, the power was still out, and social media were making note of how “disappointed” the tower looked, darkened against the backdrop of the otherwise dazzling Chicago skyline.

In addition to its impact on the cityscape and the Tower’s workforce, the power outage has knocked several TV stations off the air because their signal is sent by way of the antennae on top of the massive structure.

My wife and I get the bulk of our TV programming via antenna, so we have been without our nightly TV ritual of watching the PBS NewsHour since Monday evening. On the nights when we are not having family dinners together with our sons, Linda and I usually have ours together while watching the news and chatting about the day’s events. But not this week.

It is a strange thing to suddenly lose a trusted source of information and regular communication. Of course, losing access to a TV station for a few days is hardly what one would consider a hardship, and, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is barely worth mentioning.

Losing “the signal” from God, however, is far more disturbing, and the consequences of such a disruption can be not only spiritual, but emotional and physical, too.

Over the past few months, I have found myself struggling to feel really “tuned in” to what God is saying to me. While I’ve managed to stay consistent in my daily time in the Bible and in prayer, I don’t seem to be receiving the peace, wisdom, and sense of God’s presence that I normally do in these regular times with him. It certainly isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this kind of spiritual silence. In this season of COVID-19, with all extra, corresponding responsibilities and concerns, however, I sure could use a loud-and-clear message rather than the far subtler, muted tones I seem to be receiving.

I am encouraged by Scripture that I am not alone in my struggles to hear God. The Psalmists themselves implore him on multiple occasions to make his voice heard to them during their many trials. (Psalms 28 and 83, for prime examples.)

One thing is absolutely clear: God has not gone anywhere. He has not suffered a power outage, forcing the heavenly host into emergency mode. I am confident the archangel Gabriel has not been ordered to a sub-basement in order to oversee a spiritual “manning of the pumps” in a panicky attempt to get the Holy Spirit generators back online.

Is God sometimes quiet? Sure. Silent? Never!  Not to those who listen with the avid ears of heart and mind wide open.

In Romans 1:20, Paul reminds us that God is always testifying to his own presence:

20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. (Romans 1:20 NRSV)

Psalm 19:1 says: The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

Growing up in the ‘60s and 70s, I gained plenty of experience with manipulating the “rabbit ears” antennae attached to our old black-and-white and color televisions in my seemingly perpetual effort to improve the reception. My family had a standing joke that, if you got the picture “just right” by raising one arm up high and getting the opposing foot off the floor, you could expect to be asked to stay in that position for (at the very least) as long as it took to get to the next commercial break. Only then could you relax and try again to find just the right configuration to keep the signal coming in strong and clear. Attaching aluminum foil to the tips of one or both of the rabbit ears was also considered a completely reasonable solution.

Sometimes, lately, I feel like I’m making similarly quirky attempts at improving my reception with God. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve changed where I take my time with him, moving from the comfy living room chair to the kitchen table, the bedroom, and to even my basement office (it’s cold down here, which I like to think helps to keep me focused).

It is no secret where I can go to hear from him when my thoughts and senses fail me, when I’m the one who’s out of tune.  James 4:8 extols us to “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”

His word is always there for me to return to. My phone may lose power, but my Bible is always open to me (no charging adapter required).

And while there are times when the printed page of God’s word can also seem cold and distant, I am confident my perception of God’s silence will not last forever. As Zephaniah 3:17 says:

The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you[
a] in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

This Sunday, Senior Pastor Ray Hylton will be teaching us from 1 Peter 4 and 5 on the topic of “Resisting the Enemy of the Church.” We have a true enemy who can, at times, seem to be roaring so loudly that it can be hard to hear God through the din. But God has already won the victory through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

I hope to see you online for this Sunday’s service. If you haven’t joined us in the past for our Adult Education class with David Ivaska and a variety of guests, please do so. Each week’s study is independent, and you can also find our past sessions online at https://firstpresevanston.org/adult-education/.

Stay tuned!

Blessings to each and every one of you.

In Christ,

Jim Teague
FPCE Communications Coordinator