Tom with kids in Kuwait

Tom with kids in Kuwait
Tom with kids in Kuwait

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A perfect day or pondering providence

Perfect Day
Grace A. Bounds
The smell of coffee awakened me even before the alarm went off, which now would not be granted its privilege of making that mechanical ringing sound.  Why don’t they make clocks with a more pleasant sounding alarm?  That’s right, they do.  It’s just that I didn’t need any training in how to sleep through them.  Thank God for annoying sounds, well, at least on most mornings.  There was a little less than the half pot that normally greeted me on my morning trek to full consciousness.  Jim must have needed the extra caffeine.  No, that wasn’t it at all.  How could I forget our house guests so quickly?

There’s a thought that will wake you sooner than espresso.  Jim came home with a young couple and their two children and introduced us for the first time as he seated them in the living room.  As we both walked into the kitchen to get them some iced tea, actually the kids wanted Kool-Ade but were thrilled with ice water all the same, Jim told me that they needed a place for the night.  I about dropped the six drinks that I had placed on a makeshift tray when I asked my husband how he knew these people and he said that he didn’t.  They just needed a place to stay for the night.  It was a good thing that the only 6 matching glasses we had clean were plastic Eskimo Joe’s cups.  My mind raced with thoughts of why, why now, drugs, axe murderers…with children—ok that was a stretch—but it could happen.  If he wants to be a Good Samaritan he can just cart them off to the Lucky 7 Motor Inn and Suites a few miles down the road and pay the $29.95 himself, but while my mind cataloged endless fatal possibilities, my body just delivered the drinks, with a smile I might add.  The night was uneventful though it was sort of fun entertaining people that we didn’t know.  I didn’t know they were coming and never had a chance to get anxious about getting the house ready for them.  As it turned out, I wasn’t such a bad hostess after all and we enjoyed the company.  I really need to ask Jim how he ran into these nice folks.

My arthritis in my left elbow was trying to get the best of me again.  Sometimes, it seemed that every time I was off to a perfect day, the pain would return.  I guess everyone has a thorn in their side.  With a deep breath, I savored the smell of the coffee, took my first sip, and said aloud to the empty room, “Yes, Your grace will be sufficient for me.”

It was at that time that I noticed that Paul was still in the screened in porch and had surely been there all night.  We had put him out there so he wouldn’t get too excited with children in the house again—something he wasn’t used to as ours had been long gone when we got him.  Jim named him after looking at his records at the animal shelter and told me that he had been kicked out of several good homes in many different cities and that he had probably been beaten more than once, but he seemed eager to go on one more journey upon his release from prison, which by the way was on Rome street and we live in Spanish Heights.  I submitted to what surely my husband believed to be his exclusive domain and Paul of Tarsus—yes; Jim went the whole nine yards in naming him—has been with us for eight years now.  This morning, I wasn’t as concerned with his title as I was with why he didn’t have that panicked look on his face and wasn’t barking at me to let him out.  It could only be one thing.  He had managed to find a spot to relieve himself inside.  I decided to finish my coffee before venturing beyond the French doors into whatever odors awaited me this morning.  Paul just stared at me wagging his tail as if all was well in the world.  Well, perhaps for him it was.  He didn’t have to clean up whatever mess he had made.

I walked back to the coffee pot to top off my cup, really to delay the inevitable cleanup, when I noticed a sticky note on the counter next to the coffee pot.  I put Paul out last night after you were asleep but brought him in because of the storms.  Storms?  There were storms last night.  I must have slept really well.  Usually it takes at least an hour for my mind to wind down and let go of enough stuff that I can finally get to sleep.  Wow!  I did feel like I had rested more, even with the evening’s activities. The note continued, I figure that by now you have mentally kicked Paul out of Thessalonica and sent him packing for Berea.  How does he know?  And must he continue with the Pauline metaphors.  OK, the answer to the second question is a rhetorical yes.  I also guessed that by your second cup of coffee you would be awake enough to find this note, let him out, relieved that he had not relieved himself indoors, and all would be right again with the world.  Love, Jim.  There is no one in the world any better at getting that much on to or out of a sticky note.  I’ll bet that he is still smiling about it.
I hadn’t even made it to the shower when the realization hit me that I had just gotten a great night’s sleep following what turned out to be a relaxing evening at home with guests that felt like friends, awoke to fresh coffee, had my anxiety over a crises that didn’t exist curtailed by a little sticky note that couldn’t have been better if it was a poetic love letter--ok, maybe that last one was a stretch.  Love letters are good too.  Looking upward, knowing that I could not gaze far enough to see how close He really was to me, I said only, “God is Good.  Praise God!”

I put my car keys on the counter next to my Invitation CD that I promised myself I would give to Becky today at work.  Getting the right time and place to witness to her has been tough.  I feel that she is ready, but don’t know that I am.  I know what to say, but don’t know how to start.  Maybe the CD will get her to ask me some questions, then I’m off to the races.  I was surprised that there was still hot water for my shower, not knowing how many people had been up and about and bathed before me.  It felt good and my arthritis paid faded for the moment.

As I backed out of the driveway and put the car into drive, I realized that the CD was still on the counter.  How did I pick up my keys and miss getting the CD.  Oh well, back up the driveway.  Guess that God is going to let me pay the price for losing my memory or maybe for thinking the worst this morning.  As I re-entered the house and grabbed the disk, I noticed Paul still shut up in the porch.  This time he was whining—a clear signal that he couldn’t hold it much longer.  I guess I would have been cleaning up Paul’s mess if I hadn’t had to come back in.  What a lucky break.  Sometimes I think that there really are no coincidences, then I come to my senses and realize that God probably doesn’t worry too much about what I have to clean up around here.

As I backed out of my drive for the second time, Linda was just walking past our house on the other side of the street.  I had wasted enough time and really needed to get to work and thought that I might pretend to talk on my cell and not notice her, but I rolled down the window instead.  “Car break down again?”  She nodded.  “Hop in.  It’s not too far out of my way to drop you at work.”

Linda was in the car in an instant.  “Thanks.  It’s not broken, we just didn’t have any gas money, but I get paid tomorrow so it will be ok.”

“How about you stop by at the same time tomorrow and I will give you a ride then?”
“That wouldn’t be too much trouble?”

I’m not sure what got into me.  Why wasn’t I coming up with some conditions or something like, you had better be here 10 minutes early so I don’t have to wait on you or something like that.  Instead, I just said, “No trouble at all.  If you can make it a couple minutes early, we could go through the drive through and get a biscuit.  My treat.”

“Really?  I prayed a lot last night asking God to just get me through another day and He sends me you.  Too bad He can’t help me with my homework.”

“You’re going to school too?”

Nodding her head in the affirmative, “Might be able to get my degree in about another year.  This college literature is sure tougher that I thought.  I’m still not getting this whole metaphor thing when it applies to something more than just an article or short poem. “

“I might be able to help.  I married the Sultan of Metaphor, which I think would be a metaphor.”

We talked and laughed all the way to Linda’s work.  She thanked me again as she got out of the car, though this really wasn’t much of a detour for me at all.  This was hardly a morning with which the words routine, normal, according to plan, or any derivative of those meanings would apply.   I was running late and needed to get a move on, but for some reason, felt compelled just to stop for a moment in the parking lot and be still.  God didn’t say anything out loud, but I felt His peace.  It was only for a moment, then I was on my way again.

I also never saw the large stakebed truck in time to do anything.  I’m no mechanic, but the look in the driver’s eyes said that he had control over neither his steering nor brakes.  The truck sped by the front of my car with no more that a new coat of paint’s worth of distance between our vehicles.  He ran off the road only a few hundred yards down the road into some sand that road crews had failed to clean up from the winter storms months ago.  The sand brought the speeding hunk of metal and produce to an abrupt, but upright stop and I saw the driver get out of the vehicle, look to the sky, and kiss the ground.  Had I pulled out of that parking lot a second sooner, Jim would have had only the Apostle Paul to keep him company tonight and probably for the rest of his life.  Maybe there are no coincidences.

I was still a little pale when I arrived at work only a few minutes late.  Becky met me at the door.  The word about my close call had preceded me as someone had obviously seen most of what transpired, though they were certainly unaware of my divine pause in the parking lot.  “I’m fine” calmed her a little, “except for one thing.”  We made eye contact.  “I’ve been meaning to give you this for a week now.  I’m beginning to believe that there are no coincidences, that my days are just as they should be, and that everything that appears to be meaningless is only meaningless if I am not being purposeful myself.”

“That’s a mouthful…and thanks for the disk.”

“Becky, I’m sorry that I waited this long.  If you will listen to it tonight, I would love to talk to you about it tomorrow.”


As I settled into my cubicle, I noticed another yellow sticky note affixed to the side of my monitor.  This wasn’t from Jim, it was from the boss—read my first email as soon as you get in.  On some days my mind would have raced through the absurd possibilities of yet undone tasks—probably would have used the term harebrained thoughts--that might be contained in this electronic missive that awaited me to exhaust myself in yet another senseless cause in response to its beckoning, but today was the day the system ran a virus scan on boot up.  

That meant at least five minutes before I could get to work.  Instead of giving in to my multitasking nature that seems to govern my day, ok, sometimes my life, and start revising my lists; I just decided to be still for yet the second time today.

I looked at my desk calendar and flipped the page to today’s date.  The picture of the sunrise was overlayed with Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.   Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.   Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you.   If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.  I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.   Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts.  The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes.   To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless.

I heard a series of tones from my computer that told me the scan was completed and that my email program was running.  On most mornings, these tones would have been commands to quit wasting time and get to work.  Today, I thought for just another moment on you have preserved my life and on the last words…to all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless.  Wow.  I had been preserved that very morning.  There are no coincidences.  This day is exactly as it is supposed to be.  It’s perfect in all of its apparent disorder that somehow has been ordered for me.  For the first time in a long time, I thought with clarity.  Send me in, God.  Use me for your purpose, shape me in your image, shine your light through me, humble me so I don’t fall victim to self-pity, keep me strong for as long as you want me to run this race and fight the good fight.  I have been mistaking all that goes on around me as a distraction, when I am the one that needs to throw off my entanglements with my selfishness and put your perseverance in my heart.  Send me in, God.  What a perfect day you have made for me to show your glory to those around me!
Time to open that email.  It read only, thought that you would like these.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'    This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'    All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the 
Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
Heb 13:2-3; Matt 22:37-40; Matt 28:18-20; Matt 25:40; Ps 46:10; 1 Cor 12:4-6;Matt 25:21
You guessed it.  Grace A. Bounds is used as a pseudonym for this article.  For more articles by Tom Spence, follow these links:

 Here are some articles that look at the very challenging book of James.

How about something from the Gospel of Matthew

Number 3 seems to preach to itching ears...I hope not, but have to address it!

Having a hard time getting any response from the folks at Promise Keepers so I will do what you do when you live in the 21st century; blog it.

Headed to Dallas tomorrow for another PK gathering.  I always love it but this year I am a bit concerned about some of the promo that has preceded it.  I am wondering if somewhere in the mix, PK has begun to preach to itching ears.  I will find out over the next two days, but here is my concern.

Considering the current times, as Promise Keepers, we must boldly and courageously stand for truth. We must defend biblical marriage, champion the life of the unborn and protect religious liberty. We cannot stand back and allow moral relativism, cultural decadence, spiritual apathy and ecclesiastical indifference to hinder us any longer. We must draw our battle lines without compromise.

Hey guys, it’s time to get grounded.  We are about following Jesus.  While I love the fact that we have religious liberty in this country, take care in including it when you [we] draw our lines in the sand.

Jesus said that we would be persecuted.  The prophets before us were persecuted.

Biblical marriage -  Yes!
The sanctity of life—all life—yes!
Religious liberty—This is an American thing not a biblical command.

Don’t get me wrong, I love America and I love our liberty.  Having served as a United States Marine Corps officer for over 20 years; I love our constitution and our liberties, but if you intend to defend something, you need to know what it is.

Religious liberty is an American concept not something that we as men of integrity, Disciples of Christ, followers of Jesus need to have as our rallying cry.

This is not well grounded.  I ask that you reconsider the mantra you have put forth.  We may very well lose the battle over religious liberty [I pray that we don’t] but we must never concede our allegiance to Jesus.  Faithfulness not liberty is what we must stand for.

We have been blessed for decades not to have to wrestle with this issue but now that we do, we as Christians must know that the battle cry is not for religious liberty but for faithfulness to our commander—Jesus Christ.

Religious liberty provides freedom for all faiths—even those that are offense in some way to us.  Religious liberty is a wonderful freedom provided by our constitution. 

Faithfulness in the face of religious persecution should be your third area of focus.  I hope this is clear to you and you have a receptive spirit and not just a polished routine that you don’t want to revise.

Please prayerfully consider this.

I look forward to hearing you this weekend in the Dallas area.

Semper Fidelis,

Tom Spence

Post Script...  Don't get me wrong.  I will love this weekend and won't let this one point disrupt what promises to be a blessing to many, including me!