The God Who Pokes

God from The Creation of Adam (poking)

Part Two

So if you don’t already think I’m nuts for homeschooling my daughter this year, you might when I tell you why.

You see, I was resisting the idea a lot.  It was a stupid, harebrained scheme.  Who homeschools?  How would I even begin to explain this to people?  How was I going to cope with it all?  Would the school be upset with me?  But God kept poking me.

What is a God poke?  Well, it’s not like I hear the voice of God and he tells me to do things in a deep, rich baritone, or there’s this big thunderbolt and I fall off the horse I’m riding and the statue of Mary gets all weepy and the fish poke their heads out of the water to listen to me preach and it starts raining flowers.  It’s kind of like this persistent gut feeling every time I pray.  And good people seem to turn up in my path with the right advice at the right time.  I know that I can tell God to back off with these crazy suggestions and he would.  But I don’t want to tell him to back off, not right away.  I’m curious and a little excited.  I know that in the past when I’ve gone along with God in his ridiculous suggestions, it’s turned out to be the best thing I could have done.

This all might sound mental, but it’s not really.  It’s not like some compulsion – like I have to do something right now or something bad will happen.  And it’s not like I feel compelled by creepy voices in my head.  Nothing bad will happen if I don’t listen to God and his quiet suggestions (except I might miss out on an adventure exactly suited to my personality and stage of life.  I might miss an opportunity to grow and reach my true potential).  And I don’t feel compelled (or hear voices, for that matter) – like I said before, I feel really conflicted.  I keep telling God his ideas are mental and he keeps bugging me.  I need to really trust God, there’s always that leap of faith required, I guess.

I should probably point out here that I don’t think I’m some child of destiny, that God has a plan for me and me alone.  Everyone gets poked by God at some time or another.  Some of us ignore it, some of us don’t call it ‘God’, but ‘intuition’ or ‘conscience’ or some other name that best fits our chosen religion.

I can hear as I write this what my atheist friends would say to all this.  What about all those awful people who commit atrocities and say they were doing God’s will?  Surely it’s dangerous to blindly follow an idea like this?  It’s true.  Not all ‘gut feelings’ come from God.  I don’t like to give him too much attention, but there is an evil mischief-maker out there who likes to trip us up.  That’s why it’s important that we don’t follow our concept of God’s will blindly.  Here’s a helpful test set out in the beautiful form of an ordered list:

  1. What is my motivation for taking this path?  Is ego and vanity a big factor?  If the answer is yes, it’s probably not God.  If the answer is no, proceed to question 2
  2. What are the fruits of this ministry?  Of course, there will be obstacles, but are good things happening because of it?  If you have declared war on another nation and are claiming it’s God’s will, you might have some trouble finding good fruits.
  3. Did I take this on because I really feel it’s where God has called me to be, or am I loading up with more commitments for ‘extra credit’, so that I might impress God?
  4. Do I feel a healthy measure of doubt about this?  I would worry if not.

Of course, I always try to make God fit into a box, but God does not conform to ordered lists, and the best way to discern his will in a tricky situation is to pray, pray, pray.  Read the scripture and pray,  Sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament and pray.  Peg out the washing and pray.  Pray formally, with the rosary or a novena.  Pray informally, in silence or amidst the noise and mess.  Ask others to pray for you.   Ask Mary to pray for you (she said yes to God’s harebrained scheme too, remember?).  Just pray.  Pray lots.

Then maybe it might be time to poke back.

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47 thoughts on “The God Who Pokes

  1. vftmom247

    I really like your series of discernment questions, and am going to have to print them out to use during Holy Hour. You have a really clear, concise, common sense way of putting the whole discernment process. And thanks for giving Mary a shout out.

    Reply
    1. katelikestocreate Post author

      It was only a small shout-out, but necessary nonetheless! There are so many times in my prayer life when I forget to turn to Mary when it’s so obvious (in hindsight) that it’s her help that I need. You would think I would learn after the first time!
      Sometimes, in my posts I try to keep everything all generic Christian, so that my protestant readers don’t feel alienated. But that never works. I must be honest. My readers are smart enough to filter out the specifically Catholic parts if it doesn’t apply to them. And my Catholic readers (if they’re anything like me) will get a little warm feeling of recognition when they see the shout outs so absent from mainstream media!

      Reply
      1. vftmom247

        We translate a (parish priest-written) Impulse, daily reflection Gospel that sometimes appears on my blog too. It goes to Protestants and Catholics alike, and I think that is what happens to the specifically Catholic stuff there also.

        Reply
    1. katelikestocreate Post author

      I’m glad it still translates! In my mind, it’s often the same thing (‘gut’ and ‘God’), just with different names.
      I’m totally guilty of both following my ego and trying to score points with God. I tend to put much more pressure on myself trying to impress people than God would ever put on me. Sigh! I really need to learn to keep it simple.

      Reply
      1. Amanda Martin (writermummy)

        I only pray (to my notion of ‘the universe’) when I want something! I saw a great billboard on someone’s blog that said something like “God is too busy to find you a parking space”. The blogger didn’t get it, but I thought it was hilarious – I’m always praying for a space on the school run. If there is a god, I’m pretty low down on his Christmas list!

        Reply
        1. katelikestocreate Post author

          My mum sometimes prayed to St Anthony to find her a parking space. Catholics like to outsource to saints sometimes. I think God is more likely to grant patience, inner peace and clarity of mind, so that you can be calm, cope with the situation and see the solution when it presents itself. But it would be fun if he could poke a divine finger out of the sky to knock a Mercedes out of its space just in front of me. A girl can dream.
          I tend to pray more when I want something than for any other reason. I should say more prayers of thanks. For my own sake, not for God. I don’t think God is up there with hands on hips saying “I work and I work and I create a lovely universe for them and what thanks do I get? Nothing!”. I think prayers of thanks allow us to keep a healthy perspective on our lives and many blessings.
          I’m pretty sure you’re top of God’s Christmas list, too. And so am I. And so’s everyone else. He’s God. He gets to be exempt from the laws of physics and time and space and all that. So you’re actually his favourite. Keep that in mind when you’re next navigating the car park at Christmas time 🙂

          Reply
      1. Amanda Martin (writermummy)

        Oh goodness me, yes; likes and comments make it all worth while. Often I’m afraid to comment because I don’t think I have anything to add, but I’m trying to get over that! I’m so grateful for the thousand or so comments I got on my blog last year during my challenge… Now I have some breathing space I’m trying to return the gesture and to let people know I do read all the way to the end!

        Reply
  2. Angela

    I have been on the receiving end of those pokes, and have wanted to say “Stop Poking Me!” much in the same way my kids yell when one of their sisters won’t leave them alone….I had been praying for direction about my children’s school situation, and really, it could not have been any clearer if God had painted a giant arrow the ground but was confident that God had me confused with someone else. He obviously forgot that I was pretty anti-homeschooling, that I was a teacher in a school, that I liked working. So the pokes began, and lasted about a year, until I finally said, “Fine! Fine! I get it!”. Now – neither my girls nor I can imagine doing things differently. We love homeschooling for so many reasons and I am grateful for the pokes that prod us to move in a new direction. (Coincidentally, I began homeschooling when my oldest was in fourth grade too – she’s in ninth now, and will start early college next year! :)) Enjoy your new journey!

    mycheesygrits.wordpress.com

    Reply
  3. katelikestocreate Post author

    Thank you, Angela! God doesn’t seem to take much notice when we tell him he’s being unreasonable! I had a look at your lovely blog and really enjoyed it – though I can’t for the life of me work out what ‘grits’ are!

    Reply
  4. Angela

    Thanks for stopping by! GRITS stands for Girls Raised In The South…thanks for the reminder that I need to actually finish my “About” page. 🙂 We’re pretty cheesy around here – lots of goofy jokes and nonsense, plus cheesy grits are some of the best food ever…hence the name. I like your literature references for names – all some of my very favorite stories. 🙂

    Reply
      1. Angela

        Yes – and cheesy grits are some of the best food ever. 🙂 I posted my favorite cheesy grits recipe last week – we eat an alarming amount of them.

        Reply
          1. Angela

            Oh! They’re made up of bits of corn…when the corn is milled, it breaks into a couple pieces, and the small ones are called grits. It would remind you of grainy sand. They kind of look like cream of wheat, but aren’t that smooth….So you cook them like you would oatmeal – with some boiling water, or milk, or chicken stock if you like them more savory.

            Reply
            1. katelikestocreate Post author

              I wonder if that’s the same as polenta. My mum used to make pancakes out of polenta when we were kids (she has coeliac disease and can’t eat gluten). They sound yum.

  5. orthodoxmom3

    I don’t think God poked us about homeschooling… I think He just flat out said ‘Look…it’s this or else..’ lol but I so get what you’re saying here! And I love those questions! They provide very good guidance.

    Reply
    1. katelikestocreate Post author

      Thank you! Day One and Two of our little school have gone beautifully, so here’s hoping! I’m so glad I can spy on other homeschool bloggers like you to get my head around what I’m doing!

      Reply
  6. mathairfiona

    I love your description of the weeping Mary and poking fish heads. Too funny. I also really appreciate your list at the end. It is an excellent way to check yourself and make sure you aren’t just trying to convince yourself that something you really want is coming from God.

    Reply
    1. katelikestocreate Post author

      If I were a saint, I would want poking fish heads as a miracle, like St Anthony (or was it St Patrick? I forget). That, and a house that miraculously tidies itself. That would be sweet.
      Thanks for commenting xx

      Reply
      1. mathairfiona

        Hahaha. I have no idea. I was only briefly involved with a Catholic community when I lived in Ireland so I know relatively nothing about the saints. However, if either of those two things ever happen, I will know who to thank. You know, aside from God 😉

        Reply
  7. redheadmom8

    I’ll never forget when I decided to start homeschooling again. I, too, was worried that the school wouldn’t like it. A few days before I notified the school (it was Christmas break) one of my son’s teachers from the year before got behind us in line at the grocery store. My son immediately told her that he was going to be homeschooled again, and all I could think was, ”Oh, no. Here we go.” Much to my surprise, she was very supportive (she knew I had homeschooled them before and always told me what a good job I had done.). Then she went on to tell me that her daughter homeschools and that I should think of putting my kids in a homeschool volunteer program at a living historical farm. (I never did. It’s an hour away, and we only have one car.) Anyway, her response, to me, seemed like a big thumbs up from above.

    Reply
  8. Ross

    As an atheist, I don’t think it’s productive saying that religion is bad as people do bad things in the name of religion (rather I think the arguments for atheism should stand on their own). So I wouldn’t criticise prayer on those sorts of grounds.
    I consider prayer as a form of self reflection that is bounded by a set of morals. If it leads to positive outcomes and comfort for people then that is a good thing. Just as say meditation might also lead to similar outcomes.
    I have always had the belief, that when it comes to life’s big decisions, it is rare that once we have made a decision we end up regretting it. We are very adaptable to new circumstances. Plus, regardless of the decision or road that one takes, we will never really know what the alternative outcome may have been, therefore we generally take comfort in the decisions we make.
    At the same time, I would hate to think that people think that prayer can influence future events based on god’s will, and I think this is counter productive to whatever aim someone might be praying for. That idea (of the interventionist god) has never sat comfortably with me, even when I was a practising catholic.
    PS. Good luck with the coming year! Sounds like it will be full of challenges and reward in equal measure!

    Reply
    1. katelikestocreate Post author

      Thank you so much, Ross! I think, in some ways, we might have similar ideas on prayer. I also think that prayer is a beneficial means of discernment, governed by a moral framework, often a form of meditation. I also believe that prayer is something that does the pray-er good. As far as this goes, it is possible for a person to be a ‘prayerful atheist’. However, my beliefs take this idea a step further – prayer happens within the context of relationship. I guess that’s what this post is about – we poke God in prayer, and sometimes he pokes back.
      I also feel uncomfortable with the idea of an interventionist god, in the simplest sense of the term. I really don’t like when people try to manipulate God to get their prayers answered, like there’s some sort of magic formula or superstition to follow or God won’t listen. Like prayer is somehow for *God’s* benefit. At the same time, I don’t believe God is remote, that he does not interact with us and get involved in our lives (no matter what name we give him). He can manage this in a very elegant and sophisticated way that works in harmony with the laws of nature. Small miracles, reasonably priced. The way I see it, God exists outside of time and space, and he is not limited in his perspective or influence. Ugh. I can’t find the words to properly explain the foggy picture in my head. Something happened to me several years ago that stuck in my head ever since. It kind of gives me a clue as to how God works in the world.
      I was riding the bus home from teaching rounds and had to change buses at Box Hill. I had a choice of two buses to get home and I knew which one was timetabled earlier. I had planned to walk to the terminal for that bus directly when I felt a strong God-poke: “just walk the long way around and check the other bus timetable”. It was stupid, but God was quietly persistent. To check the timetable on the wall, I had to lean past a lady sitting down. As I suspected, this bus was scheduled later and I would have to go round to the other terminal. Then the lady I was leaning past started talking to me. She asked me the bus time and I told her and said I would be taking the other bus as it left earlier. She said that bus suited her too, so I waited a moment while she stood up and we walked across together, chatting politely as we went. I noticed that she had an oxygen tank on a trolley (I hadn’t really looked at her properly the first time). When we sat down at the proper terminal, there was a pause in the conversation. Then she spoke up again: “I haven’t been doing so well lately. Sometimes, I think about ending it all. Today was a really bad day. I got into a panic at the Box Hill shops. I didn’t know how I was going to get home. I prayed to God and he told me to calm down. He said “just get to the bus terminals and I will send someone to look after you”. When you smiled at me and waited for me to stand up, I knew you were an angel sent by God.”
      Of course, this might all have been coincidence, and while it’s special to me, it doesn’t really translate into a good story with all the detail about bus timetables, but here’s the thing: what if God works through us? What if he answers prayers through the clumsy, thoughtless, selfish people he loves with all his heart?
      If you’ve made it this far, you are a very patient man! Thank you again and again for your comment and for allowing me this space to do a small brain vomit in the comments section. Hope the German winter isn’t treating you too harshly!

      Reply
  9. Amber

    I felt those pokes for a while, and even gave up on the idea for a while….but God is persistent. I have given it over to Him and I feel FREE….and very exited!

    Reply
    1. katelikestocreate Post author

      It’s funny – we feel such resistance to following God, because we don’t want to be tied down or restricted – yet it is only in following God’s call that we find true freedom and fulfillment.

      Reply
  10. HoffmanFamily

    I just found your blog when you “liked” a post of mine…thank you by the way! But boy, did this one really “poke” me! I have been feeling this exact way about homeschooling and trying to figure out if it is God or just some crazy idea! Thanks for the post! Can’t wait to keep reading more!

    Reply
    1. katelikestocreate Post author

      I love the way relevant reading material seems to fall into your lap when you’re trying to discern something. Still, I would prefer a neon sign in the sky, just so I’m sure.

      Reply
  11. journalofacomplexmind

    I believe God does poke at us; after all we are his kids and he cares greatly about us. In addition, he is the all knowing God who sees the end from the beginning. I have had him poke at me many times and always had it beautifully when I listened.
    It is like you said, it may not mean if you don’t, something bad will happen, but I can say for certain that you and your daughter would be better off if you do. But then again, you have to sure it is God speaking. I guess that’s when the test comes into play.

    I would prefer the neon sign too

    Reply
    1. katelikestocreate Post author

      Ah, a neon sign would be ace! But at the same time, I find once we’ve made the decision, God tends to shower us with affirmation that we’ve done good. My first two days of homeschool have been blissful – long may it last! I agree with what you say about God being all-knowing and seeing the end from the beginning. My dad would say God sees things from the perspective of eternity.
      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

      Reply
  12. Mark O'Dowd

    Hey Kate. Great blog. There is certain seven year old I know who is blessed to have such a wonderful God mother.

    Reply
  13. krispin87

    I have always pictured God speaking in a nice, deep baritone!
    I have always found it best to listen to my intuition, or the voice of God. When I don’t I often get into trouble. Sometimes I question it for sure, as anyone should, but we are humans with free will, of course we can and should question things. Also, like you said, sometimes we are claiming it’s God speaking when in fact it’s our ego or vanity. Part of the reason questioning is very important.
    Homeschooling is a challenge, for you and your daughter, but the rewards will be great!

    Reply
  14. katelikestocreate Post author

    I agree, it’s always best to listen to that still, small voice – call it intuition or the voice of God. But my problem is so often I fill my life with so much noise, I block the voice out. I need to remember to switch off all the devices, to stop amidst the clamour and spend a moment with God. So simple, and yet I struggle…

    Reply
  15. Agnes from Melbourne

    Wow…you have put words to discernment that so closely match my experience…you are a true writer, a gift of tongues in modern language. Thank you. I feel such a deep upwelling of conflict within myself that I know can nay be addressed by prayer…I’m being poked too, but I think I’ve been turning a blind eye…or putting my head in the sand…or…(insert clever image here)…and I’ve only recognised it after reading your blog. Thank you. Oh and thanking God for you.

    Reply

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