Being out of town and on vacation does not mean that life stops … and it certainly does not limit God's gracious behavior, or the intriguing items he places before us. Of the myriad of conversations we have had with family and new acquaintances, I will just share two.
The first conversation is one that I alluded to last week. It took place in the bar and grille of our motel on the first night of our trip … one of the last places on earth one would expect to meet a Seventh Day Adventist pastor. He was the age of our sons, and looked like he was about to head home. He must have found the conversation interesting, however, because he ended up ordering two more drinks before the night was done. And the most interesting thing of it all is that one of his parents went to high school with me at Buena Vista. I intend to contact him again soon … you never know what God has in mind in West Virginia!
The other conversation was around a pool, and started with a man noticing my Tiger shirt and asking if we were from Michigan. One thing led to another, and before long we were sharing our Missouri Synod faith stories and meeting each other's families. I believe the catalyst that moved everything forward was the discovery that he knew Rod, the best man in our wedding, back from their days together in Riley, Michigan.
These are just two small samples from the many. I wish I could take the time to share additional ones with you. Conclusion drawn: God keeps opening doors and inviting us to walk through them with him … and he has plans and ways to use us beyond our wildest imagination.
Of course, vacation isn't really vacation for me without the reading of some good books. The one I just finished, "Rising Strong" by Brene Brown, was most interesting. It was loaned to me by friend Rob Kasper … and I am now recommending that everyone I know should consider reading it. I will simply leave you with a few quotes to consider:
• The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness - even our wholeheartedness - actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences including the falls.
• Disappointment is unmet expectations, and the more significant the expectations, the more significant the disappointment.
• Trust is choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person's actions, and distrust is deciding that what is important to me is not safe with this person in this situation (or any situation). [quoted from Charles Feltman, "The Thin Book of Trust"]
• We can't be brave in the big world without at least one small safe space to work through our fears and falls.
• There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise.
And then I start reading the next book on my pile (totally unrelated to the previous one) and it opens with the line, "transforming people one at a time is at the heart of God's plan for the world. … If you get the man right (or the woman, obviously), you get the world right." Conclusion: God's work of transforming the world in our lifetime starts with his on-going work in us individually … yet, somehow, at the very same time, he is using us to bring his transforming Word to the world … one relationship at a time.
This overwhelms me, and moves me to say with St. Paul, "I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3.14-19)
It's Thursday already! This only leads me to wonder what God in Christ Jesus has in store for each of us in the week ahead … and to think this is exactly why time keeps flying by!