I was in Kansas for preaching during the month of July. It was hot -- 107F plus around 100% humidity. The day we arrived, I walked to a nearby Subway for a snack. Once inside the air-conditioned building, I asked about a salad and they only had one that was basically a full meal. I said that I didn’t need that large of a snack. I asked if I could just have a 6” sandwich, but no bread? Laura, behind the counter, said, “Sure, I can do that.” So, she put the meat, cheese, veggies, into this cup. It was a really full little cup of goodness. And then she charged me for it: “That will be $1,” she said.
“One dollar?” I said, staggered. “Did you really say one dollar?”
“Yep. I charged what I think you ought to pay. And this looks like a good meal. All the colors of the rainbow. I always say we are rainbows so need to eat them.”
“Well, thank you,” I responded. Her comment sparked a conversation about life, faith, trust in Jesus, and the fact that I was there for a retreat happening across the road. You oughta come!”
Laura said: “The food is great there. Say ‘HI!’ to the chef for me.” When I did convey her greeting to him, he told me, “Well she better say ‘Hi,’ I am her uncle!”
Ah. A small town!
I went to a quick stop for some dark chocolate was a necessity. I bought it, paying more for it than I had paid for my lunch at $1.69, and then walked back to the college the two blocks opening and eating it as I walked. It melted in the packaging due to the heat as I walked. I ended up mostly sucking the melted goodness out of the package!
That reminded me of the heat back in Kentucky when I was attending seminary there. Karen and I one day had taken a cube of butter out of the freezer and placed it on a plate on the table, and then got the rest of dinner and brought that to the table. By the time we got back to the table moments later that frozen cube of butter had totally melted. Welcome to humidity!
There in Kansas I was one of the leaders for a four day retreat happening at Sterling College. The retreat was a Christian Ashram, a movement of retreating started by a missionary to India in the 1930s named E. Stanley Jones. It is a powerful model that opens up the opportunity for the Lord to move in and through those gathered. At every Christian Ashram I have been involved in for the past 38 years, I have seen God move powerfully. This was no exception. Through prayer groups, preaching, teaching, times of joy and fellowship the way is opened up for God to touch those gathered and change lives.
One element of this particular Ashram is the lay witness. During this time different people shared about how Jesus had impacted and changed their lives, and kids did skits and sang songs. It was this joyous time of sharing in the beauty of what God is doing and how he works constantly.
I was struck in this time that God is moving in ways unseen even at an event that is designated to make Him visible.
Even though we were there to experience and celebrate the fact that Jesus is truly Lord, still, there were moments during the time that surprised us as we encountered God in ways unexpected. For me, one of these was that brief encounter with Laura at Subway, and while on a walk, another day in conversation with a new friend at this gathering during which she could share her heart, and a third was when a group of us went to go sing hymns at a retirement home. I stayed after we had sung, which was so enjoyed by the residents there, to play bingo. Seriously, I am big into a party! :-) There was a volunteer with a perpetual smile who had had polio as a child and therefore moved and spoke with great difficulty. She could have been home feeling sorry for herself, but instead, was serving others. She loved those residents, helped them, got them their special coffees or teas and laughed at their jokes. She was Jesus with skin on in that place. It was beautiful to see.
In life -- sometimes we look for really big, obvious signs that God is on the move, but perhaps it can be the simple, little things of life where we can look and encounter the goodness of God. Certainly in the book of Esther we see God’s fingerprints in everything from a beauty pageant, to overhearing a conversation, to insomnia, to self sacrifice, to fasting, to celebration. God everywhere even when unnamed. May God show up everywhere in your life as well.