Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Coincidences? Not necessarily!

How can we stay awake and alert for God's activities throughout the week? 

 It is tempting to write off the nudges God provides through situations and people while we are waiting for some grand breakthrough in our thinking (decision making). 
Last Sunday's sermon included the following story. 

 When we are caught up in a difficult dilemma or a tough decision, we often look for something to give us a sign, a direction to go.  Sometimes, it is the smallest of things that occur that help direct us a certain way.
A Presbyterian pastor tells the story about one low time in his life when God broke through in an unusual way.  He writes: "I remember sitting parked by the roadside once, terribly depressed and afraid about my daughter's illness and what was going on in our family."  
As he was sitting there thinking about his daughter's illness, he noticed a car that seemed to come from nowhere.  He says his message from God, the word he most needed to see at that moment, was found on the license plate.  The license plate "bore on it the one word of all words in the dictionary that I needed most to see exactly then," the pastor wrote.   "The word was TRUST."  Sitting in his car alongside the highway, God's message was revealed on the license plate of a passing car.  
It's certainly difficult to describe such an experience.  "Was the experience something to laugh off as a kind of a joke that life plays on us once in a while?  Or was it the word of God?"  The pastor writes, "I am willing to believe that maybe it was something or both, but for me it was an epiphany."  
The owner of the car turned out to be a trust officer at a local bank. After reading or somehow hearing about the incident, the trust officer paid a personal visit to the pastor one afternoon.  He presented him with the license plate which bore the words he so desperately needed to see that day, "TRUST."  The pastor placed the license plate on a bookshelf where it serves to remind him of his trust in God.  "It is rusty around the edges and a little battered," he concludes, "and it is also as holy as a relic as I have ever seen."

Our attitude or stance has power to determine what we notice.   The dominant question or concern that we carry seems to predispose us to "see" things as relevant or not.  If you are considering buying a Honda Civic it is likely that you will "see" them in greater number on the freeway.  You are also more likely to invite a conversation with a stranger standing next to a Honda Civic and ask:  "How do you like your car?" But if you are considering buying a new bike, your attention will be elsewhere, right? 

If we carry our questions about discipleship throughout the week, situations may CLAIM OUR ATTENTION that will help us to connect the dots between the stimulation of Sunday and our capacity to be "Christlike" each day.  

When something appears before your eyes and you "see" it as an answer to a concern or question you have been carrying, it could be a happy coincidence -- or it could be a manifestation of God's loving activity.  

Either way, I can think of no reason to discount it, can you?  If you go further in the direction it indicates, chances are you will find out eventually whether or not it was valid.  But if you discount it or ignore it completely, you will never find out.

For Reflection:  Have you encountered any coincidences this week?  Where have you heard or seen a comment that connects to something you have been carrying?  Was there a moment when you received "exactly what you needed".  Was there a situation where you were just "in the right time at the right place"?  
Perhaps your presence or your words provided something needed by somebody else.  Try beginning your day with a prayer of consent: 

"Gracious God, I ask you to use me in whatever way I can serve others today, even if I am unaware of the circumstances.  Help me to stay available.  I pray that I don't GET IN YOUR WAY as you use me for the good of somebody else."

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