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The Hound of Heaven

January 14, 2019

This isn’t my time.  Don’t push me.” (John 2:4, The Message).

The “Hound of Heaven” is a poem written by Francis Thompson, first published in 1887 in a Catholic literary magazine called Merry England.  The poem begins with the narrative of a pursuit: “I fled Him down the nights and down the days; I fled Him down the arches of the years; I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind; and in the midst of tears I hid from Him . . . “  The poem describes Thompson’s flight from God and God’s plan for his life.  He finally surrenders to God’s love and to his plan.

Many Biblical heroes fled from the plan that God had for them—notably Jonah and Moses—and were pursued by the “hound of heaven.” They either couldn’t be bothered or felt that they weren’t up to the task.  In Moses’ case, he thought he was ill-equipped to do the kind of public ministry that God was pushing him toward.  But God doesn’t make mistakes.  And when he gives you a gift, he expects you to use it, not squander it.

Even Jesus needed a push to get off the dime.  He was reluctant to use his gifts.  When his mother suggested that he do something about the empty wine glasses at the wedding, he first protested: “This isn’t my time.  Don’t push me.” (John 2:4, The Message).[1]  But then he thought better of it, and performed the first miracle of his ministry.

God often uses people in unexpected places.  Because next Sunday is Sanctity of Life Sunday,[2] the example that came to mind involved a 19 year-old college student grappling with an unintended pregnancy.  She was told at a local women’s clinic that she had her whole life ahead of her, and that they could make “it go away.” Feeling trapped, and presented with no other choices, she had an abortion.  Still haunted by it two years later, she happened upon a post-abortion support group, and was overwhelmed by the love she received from the members of the group.  The group was one of the non-judgmental, caring outreach programs facilitated by Claris Health.  That young woman began volunteering with Claris, and has been the CEO of Claris for the last 16 years.  God used a woman who had an abortion to care for and nurture other young women in crisis pregnancy situations in a caring and non-judgmental way.  Talitha Phillips describes it as her “calling.”  Regardless of the choice made by a woman in a crisis pregnancy, Talitha and her amazing team use their gifts to counsel and care for these women as she was cared for many years earlier after her own abortion.

Paul explains that it is the Holy Spirit who doles out spiritual gifts: “God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful. . . (1 Corinthians 12: 4-11, The Message). The gifts given by the Spirit include counseling, understanding, healing, and many others.  It is the Spirit who decides who gets what.

Has the hound of heaven pursued you?  Have you been given a gift that you put on the shelf because you felt you didn’t have the time, energy, or ability to pursue it?  Has the hound of heaven pursued you for weeks, months, or years to begin a ministry or perform a service for which you are uniquely gifted?  Do you have a passion for the lost and the least?  Do you want to help people who are confused, exhausted, hurt, needy, ill, anxious, hungry, or lonely?  Do you love to work with children?  Look around to see where you can be of service.  Like Talitha, you may have been gifted by the Holy Spirit with skills that are needed by a ministry or organization, or you may be moved to begin your own endeavor.

After you have identified a ministry or service, ask yourself another question: is it something from which you will not personally benefit financially or otherwise? These are a few questions to ask before you begin any endeavor, to ensure that it is where God is leading you, and not your ego or personal ambition spurring your undertaking.  If the action to be taken is truly of God, then you will be blessed by your obedience: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.  You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours” (Psalm 128).

You may have to give up some activities that you enjoy in order to pursue the ministry or service, but the blessings you will receive by using your God-given gifts will far outweigh anything lost.  Stop running, and give God’s way a try.  Let the hound of heaven catch you and lead you to a place where your gifts can be put to good use.

Prayer:  Father, guide our thoughts and steps as we seek to do your will.  Send your Spirit to open our eyes to the needs of others around us, and open our hearts so that we are willing to use the gifts you have given us to teach, heal, counsel, care for, and love others. Amen.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1]The Scripture texts for the Second Sunday after Epiphany are Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 128; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11.

[2]See Life Matters, https://dianereagan.com/2018/01/15/life-matters-2/

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