Written by Rev. Keith Turman
By the sound of it, the woodpecker was about the size of a pterodactyl. I stopped working and left my hoe in the garden. I wanted to lay eyes on this magnificent creature. I crept through the trees but couldn’t find it. One would think a pterodactyl easy to find. I figured the drummer was a pileated woodpecker, so I searched ground level—that’s where I’d seen them before. But I should have known better. This was a different sound—a different rhythm. So I leaned against a giant pine and after a long while, I found him. Way up in the treetops, the big noise rattling my world was from a small red-bellied woodpecker. Crazy. I was mesmerized—lost in awe and wonder. And I knew that God was nearby.
The next day I traveled to Greensboro for a three-day training event at the Center for Creative Leadership. On the afternoon of the last day, we were given a written assignment that each participant would then share with the whole group. I had an hour to consolidate the material and apply what I had learned to my ministry context. But my brain was fried. It was three days full of really good leadership stuff, but I couldn’t think. I sat at the round table and stared at a blank page. My thinker had stopped thinking. I now had forty-five minutes to come up with an intelligent thought for an intelligent group of peers. I went outside and sat under a big tree. I still couldn’t find an appropriate thought. I was tempted to just curl up in fetal position and take a nap. Thirty minutes. In desperation, I whispered a prayer that went something like, “God, could you please help me with this?”
I’m not quite sure how to explain what happened next. Immediately after my prayer, a red-bellied woodpecker landed on the tree right next to me. It scared the bejeebies out of me at first. But then I was gripped with awe and wonder, and my mind became instantly clear. Thoughts and observations came as quickly as I could write them down, and I finished the assignment on time. I doubt if my colleagues considered it genius work, but I couldn’t have cared less. It seemed that God had whispered my name, and that my life mattered to the creator of galaxies.
On the day of Pentecost, the church was given power to speak in ways that people from every nation could understand. Someone told me once that God is like that. They told me that God speaks in a language we can understand. God certainly spoke to the early church, and it seems from their stories that they had little trouble understanding what God was saying. I sometimes wish it were that easy—that God would send an angel or a pterodactyl. Even though that would be terrifying, God’s voice would be clear. I think that’s why the first church was all in. They knew God’s voice—knew God’s heart. Maybe because they believed God’s promise: When you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord (Jeremiah 29:12-14a).
I wonder what it will be like one day when people tell our story. “Yeah,” someone will say, “Those FUMC Waynesville people, they laid down their tools just long enough to hear a whisper. And the world was never the same.”