Seeing divine appointments in everyday stories

Categorized as 11/15/10 Goshen News column

In the predawn darkness I sit, sipping fresh coffee and scratching the next column on unlined sheets of printer paper. I’ve forgotten my backpack, the carry-all that I sling over my shoulder every time I go to write.

I feel disoriented without the familiar items at my fingertips; the dog-eared Bible with both covers long since gone. The daily devotional, also with one cover missing, that inspires me often. The journal in which I write my words to Him and His to me. The Thousand Gifts book in which I record His fingerprints, handwritten on a numbered list.

So I listen for a bit, holding quiet conversation over the mug before bending to work the next piece out on plain paper, praying for inspiration as I go.

Around me, the hustle and bustle in this, my favorite place to create, begins to escalate as the sky lightens just outside the plate glass window. There comes a small group of three. I see them often here, these three gentlemen in their plain T-shirts printed with the name of their business. I wonder about them and their ties. A multigenerational trio with a grandfather, perhaps, and a son and grandson?

It’s evident that the young man has Downs syndrome. I watch the respectful, even fond interactions amongst them. I smile when he taps the elderly gentleman on the shoulder, waiting for, and receiving, a warm acknowledgement. I laugh out loud as he slips behind the man, positioning himself perfectly between his shoulder blades, and smile again when the gentleman turns around and – whoops! There he is.

I return a smile and a wave from a local businessman and friend. Together with his wife and sons, he owns and operates a flooring store nearby. When their business burned some time ago, they testified to God’s goodness and opened their doors again. Knowing that they pray for area merchants to prosper has inspired me to do the same.

The cheerful barista behind the counter has a story, too. She’s a single mama with a darling little boy. Recently, she started college classes. Her dream, I know, is to have a coffee shop of her own someday. I hope she succeeds.

Just there are two more area businessmen, and joining the line at the counter is an advertising/marketing fellow who is also a DJ for the local Christian radio station. He’s using his talents in various ways.

Here comes a mother who lost her beautiful blond daughter earlier this year in a fiery crash. The pain she faces is unimaginable. Unspeakable.

Everyone, I’m reminded today, has a story. Every soul carries secret pain, secret longings, burdens hidden to the naked eye. Every heart thirsts for joy.

I’m not sure when it started, really. Perhaps it was last winter; I cannot say. I only know this – whenever and however it was birthed, it has become a part of my being, my daily plea, this one small invitation breathed heavenward.

“Ordain all of my appointments.”

It’s only five words, this tiny prayer, but its implications are big. It is at once both frightening and exhilarating.

It’s frightening for anyone used to warring for control. It means death, that’s why; dying to self and one’s own agenda. Death to one’s demand for the schedule to go just so and for life to happen on our own terms. It’s uncomfortable and unnerving. Ask me how I know.

“Ordain all of my appointments.” In this single prayer, there is a turning to Him, a surrendering of who and what and when. It’s an act of faith, feeble though it seems, that offers Him the key and throws wide the door to the heart.

In God’s economy – it’s true – life follows death. Resurrection follows burial, and so in the dying, something new is born. A holy excitement springs up, and eyes that were dim begin to see His hand in the events of the everyday. Begin to see those around, not as accidental intrusions or interruptions to a busy, demanding life, but precious souls who have been placed there on purpose for that very moment in time.

And this is where my story intersects with others. At each point where my path crosses another’s, there I have the opportunity to either give or receive, sharing what is in my basket or receiving with gratitude what is offered to me.

If it’s true, as Ann Voskamp says, that everyone is “just one decision away from a spiritual, financial, and moral mess,” then what if my obedience at that moment could be their tipping point? What if a word, a smile, a decision to be vulnerable could make the difference?

What if?

We should never underestimate our ability to influence others. What we do and how we live matters. Deeply. In the end, every person chooses alone, but you and I, we can help. We can lead. We can love. And we must, if we truly want to make a difference where we are.

It can start right here with this one request: “Ordain all of my appointments.” Join me?

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