You never know when someone somewhere will open their heart and tell you things only a priest should know or when someone needs some practical help that opens their hearts to the good news.
This happens to me…often.
Yesterday I went to the gym(my wife ensures me that working out is good for me) rode the ole bike for 7 miles up and down programmed hills while reading my moleskin notes of the past just to see if I wrote something worth remembering.
I usually wear a tee-shirt, a long sleeve tee-shirt, a sweat-shirt and a warm up jacket and shorts. As the work out progresses I tend to remove a layer of clothing. After the torturous bike ride I do a circuit of weight lifting just for muscle tone then head to the dry sauna.
The sauna is a the good part…usually I listen to podcasts, or to a book of the bible or to some songs for 20 minutes.
Yesterday, I sensed I should forgo the ipod.
When I arrived there was a guy in his late 60′ or early 70’s. We began to talk…He, for some reason, started talking about Billy Graham and how he was a man of integrity and how his life-style contrasted with the TV preachers of today…
He said he liked Billy Graham because one time in his early days a newspaper showed a picture of him riding out of town with a bag of people’s money…as a result Billy G. formed a trustee board and just took a modest salary. (modest for a guy who traveled the world etc.)
He also mentioned Rick Warren who lives off %10 of his income and gives away his book royalties. And how the 5 TV preachers were in trouble. Points duly noted.
Suddenly as we were talking he pauses and says, ‘I need to confess something to you. I was a man who had the Spirit of God really in my life, I was raised poor and only have a 4th grade education and have done well in my life.’ He didn’t know who I was, that I was a pastor, etc. he just needed someone to listen.
He then proceeded to confess some of his life failures, his weaknesses and sins and how his sin had damaged his marriage of 46 years. ‘She still won’t forgive me for what happened in 91.’
I then asked if I could pray for him and his wife. He said, ‘yes‘… We prayed together. After the prayer I encouraged him to reconnect to his early faith and that the connection was only a prayer away and to talk to his wife perhaps God would answer our prayer and she’d listen. With tears in his eyes he said thanks…and left.
Over the years I’ve learned that when people really open their hearts like this guy and receive prayer they often feel very exposed and need some space. So I waited a short while before I headed to the locker room pondering the encounter.
You never know…Gas
The day before I was driving to pick up my sister to take her job hunting. I noticed a guy carrying a gas can in his hand. He looked very cold. I zipped my car into a parking lot and motioned the guy over and offered to take him to the gas station.
His name was Earl, as he sat down he said, ‘I can’t believe you are stopping to help me? I help people all the time but you are the first guy to help me.’
He then told his story how he has always helped people, giving them rides etc.
At Christmas time a few years ago he noticed that stores throw away the left over poinsettias. He formed a group of friends that now travels to the stores, flower shops and picks up the flowers and takes them to nursing homes, hospitals, and to shut ins. He mentioned that Hertz like the idea and they donate the vans. ‘I’m the kind of guy, who along with my wife, like to help others.’
He also kept mentioning that he’d pay me back etc. We pulled in to speedway, I used my card and told Earl to fill up the gas can while I went inside. I then purchased a $15 gas card…
Dave, a friend of mine, walked in and stated, ‘You’re doing an act of kindness aren’t you?’ I said, ‘Yep.’ Dave said, ‘I want to have a part here’s a $20.’
Once I got back into the car I handed Earl the gas card and the $20 and told him the story about Dave who wanted to have a part in helping. I went on to tell Dave’s story, that Dave was part of a group of believers who believed serving others is what Jesus wanted them to do. They have a food pantry called FISH. They are unique in the way the run the pantry. They take phone orders and deliver the groceries to those in need.
Earl then talked about his past church connection and how he was turned off by what he saw. He mentioned he was a ‘people watcher’ and watched people to see if they enjoyed church or just went through the motions. His experience told him that many were just going through the motions. ‘Why would anyone want to go to a church and be miserable? ‘ Good point, Earl.
I then told Earl about the Vineyard…how we believe that our practice should reflect our beliefs…and told him a few of the ways we serve our community as we drove to his truck.
He thanked me…shook my hand… and said ‘Don’t be surprised if you see me again.’
I waited with my flashers on until he drove away.
You just never know… when someone may need to talk or when someone may need some practical help. You just never know?