(my early morning drive)
"Everyday, I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever." (Psalm145:2)
As many of you know, my wife, MariAnne, and I have been on sabbatical and are in a period of seeking the Lord for our future. We are determined to live by faith and to trust the Lord for His direction and His provision. Learning to be obedient daily to the Lord outside of a "normal" routine continues to be a blessed discipline. One of my prayers has been to be alert and available so as to "seize the moment" to serve when God opens an opportunity for me to bless one person at a time. As you might expect, almost always, it works the other way around. God opens up opportunities to serve others and I end up leaving the conversation or meeting with my heart full of thanks. Who is serving who? Who is blessing who? Living attentively by the Spirit is like those "take your kids to work" days. God the Father is taking me, his son, to work with Him. I watch what He is doing all the time in the lives of people that normally remain unseen to me but never remain unseen to Him.
Let me share you a couple of little stories of how the Lord has done this for me recently. Usually, when I settle into a new place, I try to find a coffee shop where I can read and write early in the morning. I am an early bird and I am happiest when the sun is rising. I rarely sleep past six a.m. Often, I can be found by 6:30 in a little coffee shop somewhere in the midst of a steady stream of bleary-eyed strangers moving about to start their days. One morning not too long ago, as I was doing my routine, a young man got up from his table and asked me about my Bible. He told me that it looked old. I told him the truth: I just drop it all the time. It is worn by abuse as much as use. I introduced myself and he told me that his name was Daniel. I asked him what he was reading. He had a couple books over on his table. He told me he had some books from Alcoholics Anonymous. He was working his way through the process but was finding it hard to read ahead until he had finished his current "step". I asked him his age and he said "Twenty-four." That was my age when I started my first job as a pastor. I asked him if he had a Bible and he said that he did. He offered up that he hadn't been to church in a while. I encouraged him to just do it and then talked about a Bible passage that he might like to read. He went back and sat down at his table. Then, he came back and asked me if I would pray with him. So, the coffee shop crowd did their thing as Daniel and I prayed for God's grace in our lives. I would appreciate it if you prayed for Daniel.
On another occasion recently, I found myself in Los Angeles alone for dinner while MariAnne was in class for her doctoral program. We have friends there who asked if I wanted to join them for dinner. I don't know them too well yet but that is changing. I prayed to the Lord that our time would be enjoyable and that the conversation might be about more substantial things. I wanted to share kindly my love for Jesus. One of our friends is an atheist and the other is a follower of the Bahia religion. Well, I can only testify that it was a very enjoyable and God-led time. Not only did we talk about substantial things, but we spent two and a half hours chatting, laughing, discussing quite openly what we believed. The entire conversation was about religion, heaven and hell, evolution and intelligent design, the teaching of Jesus, Islam and American Christianity. I couldn't have created a conversation with as much honesty and warmth if I tried. I was able to share more thoroughly than I could have imagined what the difference was between "religion" and the truth of our common universal need for the forgiveness and heart transformation which only Jesus can offer. When MariAnne texted us saying "Where are you guys?", we realized how fast the time had gone. I felt that God had given me a deeper love for our friends and a fresh appreciation of the gracious gift of the power and the presence of His Spirit.
One of the disciplines that I am praying to deepen in my life is the discipline of not just "Seizing the Moment" but "Squeezing the Moment". Right now, I am in the land of orange trees and you can get fresh squeezed orange juice everywhere. My prayer is to squeeze every drop of God's love and grace out of the freshest opportunities that God gives me each day. I don't want to miss an opportunity to see and to savour something of the joy and goodness of my God who is always at work even when I am not attentive. I want to say with the psalmist "Everyday, I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever." (Psalm145:2)