October 23, 2013

It’s Personal

Today we spent a lot of time on our tour bus. We stopped for several hours at Niagara Falls and enjoyed the beauty and power of the water rushing over the edge. Mist from the falls covered us.

We then continued our journey to Battle Creek, Michigan, taking a route through Ontario, Canada. Jim Nix, our faithful guide, shared more stories about Adventist pioneers, focusing particularly upon Ellen White. As a young student, Jim had begun to interview people who had known Ellen White personally. Lugging a large reel-to-reel tape recorder around, he managed to preserve fascinating fist-hand oral history. FACE IT: Tourists braving the power of Niagara Falls to take a closer look. A nice illustration of Ellen White’s prophetic dream during a time of crisis in which she saw the church, symbolized by a ship, facing an iceberg. [PHOTO: GK]

One story particularly touched me. It was told by Ella White Robinson, Ellen White’s granddaughter. Ella’s father, Willie C. White, had remarried several years after the death of his first wife Mary, Ella’s mother. He had met his second wife Mae in Australia, and they had married some time later. Ella and her sister Mabel then joined their father and their new stepmother in Australia when Ella was about 14 or 15 years of age.

Willie White often hosted many visitors. Naturally, that meant more work for all the family members and Ella, eager to spend more time on her schoolwork, detested her many household chores. Apparently, she really hated scouring the cooking pots that were used over the open fire of the stove. Ella decided to make this issue a matter of prayer, and asked God to somehow reduce her chores.

Since Ellen White’s home in Australia was not far away from the home of her son Willie, the daily routine always included an early morning visit by grandmother Ellen to spend some minutes with her grandchildren and organize the task of the day with her son and assistant Willie. One morning, however, things were different. During the night God had sent special messages for the family. Grandmother Ellen took out a folded manuscript page and began to read. During the interview Ella described how she listened to the counsels given to her father and her stepmother interestedly—yet they did not really affect her personally.

Suddenly, however, this all changed. Ellen looked at Ella and read what the angel had told her regarding her granddaughter. The counsel was straightforward: Ella, consider the burden your mother is already carrying; you should help your mother more! Ella felt angry and upset. She had prayed for less, yet God told her that she should do more and be less selfish.

In the interview she described feeling upset and angry as she ran to her room, but then it suddenly hit her: The God of the universe had actually heard her prayer and had sent an angel to respond to her request. It was awe-inspiring and when it sank in, she decided to heed God’s counsel. She then went outside to give one of “these detestable cooking pots” a thorough scouring.

I could resonate with this story. How often do I pray with an agenda and “know” already what God needs to do. When God’s Word and guidance finally becomes clear, however, I am tempted to just shrug it off and move on with my own plans. When God speaks, it’s a good idea to pay careful attention.

I want to pay more attention.