I recently heard the most beautiful story of an encounter with God. It was from someone exploring their faith, who comes from no church background but is finding a home as a Christian.
After a long season of bad dreams at night, they had one in which there was torrential rain. It was carrying them down a street as they searched for shelter. By the road was an American diner, all neon and bright lights, and they went inside. But it was cold and empty. There was nothing there so they left and went on further.
Amid the storm they found a little chapel, not much to look at, but inside were people who greeted them and made them welcome. They were taken to a room with a fireplace and a huge roast dinner. It was cosy, life-giving, and they could stay as long as they liked and eat their fill.
When I heard it, several things went through my mind, but along the many was the thought that this person hasn't experienced enough to recognise the more profound parts of our heritage regarding hospitality. Hospitality is a foundation of the Christian faith, from its Jewish roots, in welcoming the stranger.
But the provision given in that dream, and to someone so fresh in their encounter with God, was truly prophetic. It was a gift to someone without any subconscious 'creating' the dream itself. It was truly an encounter with the Holy Spirit: as some many examples of where dreams are one of the earliest and strongest relationships humans have with God.
So hearing that story was incredibly inspiring to me. It was alive with all the love that person needs from God, and alive with how much they are discovering the community of Christ is a home in which the stranger is not simply welcomed but necessary.
I will treasure hearing that story for the rest of my life because it reminded me of my own faith, its times of trials and storms, but how even the most seasoned of us need that innocence daily.
To recognise afresh the place of God's Spirit talking to us in the most unexpected ways, and usually when we need to hear God the most.