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Yes, God Speaks to Us Directly

“Yes, God Speaks to Us Directly” by John Sumwalt
“Not Getting Any Credit” by Frank Ramirez

Yes, God Speaks to Us Directly
by John Sumwalt
Psalm 62:5-12

On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.” (v. 7)

A bomb exploded on a downtown street in Nashville on Christmas morning. The massive explosion damaged over forty buildings and several vehicles. The police officer who was approaching the RV where a suicide bomber was hiding reported later that God spoke to him and saved his life.

Officer James Wells was walking toward the RV when, he said, “I literally heard God tell me to turn around and go check on Topping (fellow officer) who was by herself down on Broadway....” Wells said, “This might not be politically correct but this is my truth. I was just telling myself, 'Stay on your feet, stay alive…I just take off in a full out sprint and I'm running toward Topping to make sure she's okay. We kind of meet in the middle and we just grab each other... It was just weird," Wells said. "It felt like something out of a movie."

What? Is this possible? Does God really intervene in the events of this world? Should we believe it? This is a report of a personal experience with a subjective interpretation of its meaning. There is no scientific way for establishing whether the officer really heard the voice of God, or that it was God, and not his training or intuition, that saved his life.

This graduate of the University of Wisconsin, with a degree in experimental psychology, dismissed these kinds of anecdotal reports as wishful thinking for years and years. But after hearing hundreds of people share similar accounts, I became a believer. Yes, God sometimes acts directly to save the lives of some people.

Anna Joy Bauer tells how God spoke to her mother: “She saw a lady crying and she said she heard God tell her to go talk to this woman. So she went to talk to her and learned that this woman’s husband was dying and in need of an emergency kidney transplant . My mom prayed for her and began to walk away. She said she heard God loud and clear tell her to go back to the woman and say she was his match. My mom of course didn’t have any of the testing done, didn’t know the guy, and had no way of knowing that she would be a match. But she confidently went back to tell her what God said to her. The next day, they began doing all the tests and she was the perfect match for him. She gave him her kidney and not only is this guy still doing very well and alive and healthy, but my mom’s one kidney is performing better than ever, too."

My friend, Bonnie Bailey from Greenfield tells about how struggles with an alcoholic husband brought her to a place of despair: “One night after another one of our arguments, I sat on the stairs leading to our basement. I felt as though I was at the bottom of a pit. I put my head down and cried, pleading with God, ‘Lord, I just can’t take this anymore. I don’t know what else to do. I’ve tried everything to keep this marriage going. Please help me. You’ve got to tell me what to do!’

Bonnie said, “All of a sudden, I felt like someone had placed a hand on my shoulder and all of the heavy weight was being lifted off my back. As that weight lifted, I looked up and saw a glowing light in the middle of the room. As I looked into the light, I heard a voice in my head saying, ‘Just let go, everything will be alright.’ I stood up feeling very relaxed, and then went back upstairs and told my husband to do what he wanted to do. I then went to bed and had the best sleep that I had in a long time. I ended up getting a divorce. It was a rough time, but everything ended up for the best.”

Yes, God speaks to some of us directly some times. Whenever I tell one of these stories in a sermon or at a storytelling event, inevitably someone will ask me afterwards, “But why hasn’t this happened to me?” And I always say, “You are not dead yet. There is still time.”

The psalmist got it right. We can count on God to deliver us. Believing that is the only refuge we will ever need.

* * *

Not Getting Any Credit
by Frank Ramirez
1 Corinthians 7:29-31

But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that. (1 Corinthians 7:28)

When William Herschel discovered Uranus on March 13, 1781, it was the first new planet identified in like forever. The worlds visible from Earth (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) had been known since antiquity, and must have been identified as wandering stars for as long as people have been looking up into the heavens.

After this discovery, the planet’s orbit was plotted out, but as time went by there were enough perturbations that it was decided that there must be another world beyond Uranus causing this error in calculations. This led to more calculations. Mathematician Urbain Le Verrier predicted where it ought to be and on September 23-24, 1846 Johann Gottfried Galle and Heinrich Louis d’Arrest saw Neptune through their telescope.

By the way, Cambridge astronomer John Couch Adams made the same calculations and is given some of the credit for the discovery in most quarters.

As it turned out, Neptune’s presence didn’t quite explain away problems with both their orbits, and so it was theorized that there must be a ninth planet at the edge of the solar system. One of those who determined to discover Planet X, as it came to be known, was Boston astronomer Percival Lowell. He began his search in earnest in 1902. Lowell decided that the complex mathematical calculations would be worked out at his Boston office, while the observations themselves would be made at his observatory that rested over a mile in altitude outside of Flagstaff, Arizona.

The necessary mathematics proved to be so complex that Lowell decided he needed a computer, a first-rate computer, for the calculations, and being independently wealthy, he sought out the best.

Of course in those days computers were human beings who did the necessary computing by hand. In this case the computer was Elizabeth Williams, who in 1903 became one of the first women to graduate with a honors degree in Physics from MIT.

The archives at Lowell Observatory include much of her work on the problem in her handwriting. Both sets. Williams would write in cursive with her right hand while simultaneously producing calculations with her left hand. Using the orbits of Uranus and Neptune as the basis for her work, she worked out what part of the sky Lowell would have to examine in order to spot this mystery object.

These calculations were printed in a book titled Memoir on a Trans-Neptunian Planet, under Percival Lowell’s name. Elizabeth Williams is given no credit for her work which fills all 105 pages and the nine graphs of this book.

Lowell died the next year, and never found the planet. Williams continued to work for the observatory, moving to Flagstaff in 1919. In 1922, however, she was abruptly fired, not for any mathematical mistakes, but because she married the astronomer George Hamilton. This led Constance Lowell, the widow of the astronomer, to dismiss her immediately, since she believed it was improper for married women to work for a living.

Hamilton and Williams found employment together at the Harvard College Observatory based in Mandeville, Jamaica, where the two worked side by side until Hamilton’s death in 1935.

Meanwhile, in the late twenties the Lowell Observatory resumed the search for Planet X. A Kansas farm boy named Clyde W. Tombaugh, who had built his own telescope back home before being hired by Lowell Observatory in 1929. He used Elizabeth Williams’ calculations and with the aid of a Blink Comparator (a device which allowed him to compare two photographs taken days apart to see if any planets out there were moving) discovered the ninth planet which was eventually named “Pluto,” not only because the god of the underworld lived in a dark place, but also because the first two letters, PL, were the initials of Percival Lowell.

Williams lived to the age of 101, dying in 1981. During her later years, she moved to New Hampshire and ran a summer retreat home, “Peaceful Acres,” with her sister. Her contributions to the discovery of Pluto were largely forgotten, although recently Catherine Clark, serving at Lowell Observatory as a doctoral student in astronomy, made a presentation about her at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in January of 2020.

Until very recently, strange ideas about what married and unmarried women were allowed to were largely restrictive in most times and places. Indeed, the seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians has often been used to promote celibacy and solitary life, although that’s probably not at all what Paul the apostle is talking about.


StoryShare, January 24, 2021 issue.

Copyright 2021 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to the StoryShare service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons, in worship and classroom settings, in brief devotions, in radio spots, and as newsletter fillers. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to permissions@csspub.com or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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