Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Father's Favor

Helix Nebula - "The Eye of God"
I got myself in trouble at work in the grocery store yesterday. Surprisingly, I did so apart from breaking any rules or disobeying a spoken command, and with only the best intentions in my heart.

Standing at the end of my checkout lane was a relatively new bagger, one who sacked groceries with a consistently cheerful attitude and an ever present desire to please.  His smile always firmly in place, he would jump to help me out whenever he saw groceries piling up on the belt beside me, a quality that endears a bagger to a cashier like no other. I told him repeatedly that he was the best!

After working together for quite a while that afternoon, he was eventually sent on break, replaced by a customer service clerk who took over his duties while he was gone. Her bagging days long behind her, she had retained her skill, bagging with a speed and expertise that impressed me to the point that I told her it was simply wonderful to have her working again at the end of my lane.

Soon I was the one sent on break, and when I came back, Bagger Number One was back in place. With a twinkle in his eye and an even bigger smile than normal on his face, he informed me that he had heard a story while I was gone, and there was something we needed to discuss. Apparently Bagger Number Two had told him that she was my favorite, and he knew from conversations with me that that couldn't possibly be so! Jokingly confronted on the issue, I laughed sheepishly and told him that I may have told a third employee the exact same thing!

Truth is, whichever bagger is standing at the end of my line is my current favorite...even those who are loved apart from their complete lack of bagging skills! They each have something special to offer, and our interactions are unique to the relationship between us. Some have disabilities that make the successful completion of their tasks a greater challenge, and others' minds are fixed on things other than the food items before them; the topics of conversation are as diverse and numerous as the names on the work schedule. Simply put, each of them has a special place in my heart, help make my days a joy and the hours standing behind a cash register fly by.

Perhaps that is why I was so excited when an especially thoughtful customer service representative arranged Bagger Appreciation Week to celebrate their contributions to our store. For seven days there were bright streamers and balloons decorating the registers, baggers walking around with icing on their lips from free cupcakes and smiles on their faces as they were allowed to pick other store employees to take their scheduled turn pushing carts in from the parking lot. Not only did she arrange for all the cashiers and members of management to write these grocery sackers notes of appreciation, but she then posted all those affirmative messages on a wall for the baggers and shoppers alike to read. Everyone walked away feeling better for having done so, and there was a well-spring of positive energy about the place as a result.

I've told all the baggers at one time or another that it simply does my heart good to turn my head to the left and see them standing at the end of my checkout lane. Similarly, it's a matter of positioning that determines our standing in the spiritual realm. Whoever is at the end of God's line of sight is His current favorite, apart from any skill they may possess. All of us are working with disabilities of one type or another, and struggle somewhat in the completion of our assigned tasks. It's what we do with what we've been given that matters, and the attitude with which we do it that delights Him.

Perhaps you remember the Bible story about the woman who attracted the Lord's attention when she put just a couple of coins in the offering box at the temple (Luke 21:2). She didn't have a lot to give, but she gave all that she had. God simply asks us to do the same, in every area of our lives.

Even the most gifted among us fail to attract God's notice if they're're not standing in the right place spiritually. It's not the position of our bodies that matters, but of our hearts. When we turn them towards Him, His eye turns towards us...and His loving favor is the end result. 

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...”
(Ecclesiastes 9:10 MKJV)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Last Word

A text message chat between us five family members detailed the timing of my youngest boy’s arrival home for a holiday weekend. Letting us know what time he’d be at the airport, he was wondering if anybody could be there at that time to pick him up.

“Can do.” my eldest son texted in response.

Will do.” was my reply.

My middle son scooped us all with his one word answer: “Done.”

The next morning I had breakfast with the latter before sending him off to begin a multi-state drive back home, some travel restrictions he was dealing with causing me more than the usual concern for his safety. Yet instead of giving in to worrisome thoughts I turned the issue into a heartfelt conversation with another family member, He who is actually the Head of the household…and when I had laid my prayer request at His feet and picked up my phone again to head on with my day, there was His one-word response still showing in the last of the earlier text communications: Done.

Amazingly, as the day wore on, that word flashed again and again before me, the resulting peace closing the door on the worry that was trying to come in. Every note I wrote to myself on my phone was finished when I tapped that one word at the top right hand corner of the screen: “Done”. The pictures or comment streams I clicked on in Facebook were brought to a close the same way. It seemed to be the last word in  any of my communications that day. As a result, I went about my tasks and off to work in quiet confidence instead of the usual anxiety, and sure enough, shortly after midnight came the text message that my son had made it home safe and sound. Done.

The same answer has come back to me repeatedly in response to other prayer requests this past week, as well. A sick baby needed relief from constant seizures. Done.  Seemingly inaccessible computer files needed to be restored and properly saved. Done. A lost wallet containing a large sum of money needed to be found. Done.

While I seem to be hearing a string of favorable responses of late, I've learned to accept my share of less popular replies, as well. Many is the time I've dealt with a “Not yet.” to a prayer request, as well as the occasional outright “No.” But the fact that I have an open door to Heaven and am even able to have such honest communication with the God who lives there is an answer in itself to earlier generations that cried out to Him in the midst of their distress. They begged for forgiveness of their sins and a restoration of the relationship between them and their Creator. Then they dealt with centuries of waiting through the silence of the “not yet” response. But eventually the answer came in the form of a Savior, one who taught them to listen to and love their God and one another, then showed them how to do so by serving and loving them unconditionally Himself  in the time He lived and walked among them.

And now when it's time for us to go Home, we know we will be met upon our arrival by our older Brother, who long ago made all the necessary arrangements and had the last word in the ongoing conversation, as well.

“It is finished!”, He said.  In other words, “Done.”

“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, 'It is finished!' And bowing his head, he gave up His spirit.”
(John 19:30 NKJV)

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