Monday, March 07, 2005

Rugged and Old

Occasionally I bump into people I know I could never have met without divine assistance. Not long ago, I had one of those blessed contacts. It was a chance meeting with a man my father's age. In the middle of our brief conversation, he suddenly said, "Would you like to hear how I came to know the Lord?"

He told me that 35 years ago, he'd been in a bar with his best friend on a Friday night. They were doing the usual--drinking, smoking, killing time. On this particular night, the bar manager decided to open up the stage for a kind of singing contest. It was before the days of Karaoke, but something similar. Although he'd never wanted to be up in front of a crowd before, he jumped to his feet. "Come with me," he said to his friend. The friend looked at him like he was crazy for a minute and then agreed. They made their way to the stage.

Together they turned the pages on the songbook, trying to find a song they both knew. There was only one they both recognized: "The Old Rugged Cross." The man looked at me incredulously and shook his head. "I have no idea how I knew that song," he said. "I'd never been to church in my life. I had never thought twice about God before that."

He and his friend began to sing the hymn. He laughed, remembering. "You should have seen that place clear out! I think they thought the roof was going to fall in."

But then his eyes filled with tears. "You know, after we finished singing, I went back to my seat. But God was already working with me. The words of that song were sinking in. After that, I started noticing God wherever I went. That's what started it all...and I'm so grateful to him."

Thank you, God, for your consistent, constant, abiding welcome; for the way in which you touch us and reach us; for the amazing and creative ways you hold us close. Thank you for loving us so much that you come and stay with us wherever we are--in a smokey bar, stuck in traffic, sitting in a cubicle, alone in the kitchen, or in the middle of a congregation on a Sunday morning. We thank you for the softening and transforming that's happening in our hearts even now. May we be a blessing to you and to each other this day. Amen.

No comments: