We are doing a book study as a group at church, and it reminded me that I need to carve out more chunks of time to spend with God. So last week one day I spent some time in prayer on the front porch. It was very refreshing, and as I saw people out and about, I prayed for them. I thought about looking for ways that God is already at work in our neighborhood, as the study suggests. Perhaps He is working in someone’s life now, and wants to invite us to join Him in that effort.
Saturday night, after I got off work, I debated what to do next. Marnell was studying for his sermon the next day. It was cold and wet with 100% chance of snow in the forecast, but I decided to walk around the neighborhood and invite people to church. I think God prepared my heart in that time on the porch, which in turn made me willing to pick up my umbrella and venture forth.
The first person I invited was gone to drug rehab. Nix to that, although rehab is certainly a good place to go if you need it. I texted a couple of neighbor girls to see if they wanted to go to church. I chatted with Mary for awhile at her house, then excused myself, saying I needed to make another stop before it got dark. I splashed toward the home of the two girls I was texting, but they told me that they were not home, but possibly would come to church the next morning.
Well, nothing really seemed to be turning out. I headed toward our house, stopping at another neighbor’s on the way. Peter, he of the famed Salvation of the Heavy Bed Frame’s Progress Up the Stairs, told me to step in out of the cold. I explained that Marnell was preaching the next day and they were invited to church. He seemed embarrassed to be asked and need to decline, but said they had plans. Then he agreed to check with his wife. I didn’t know Polly personally, since she seemed to keep to herself more. For instance, they had declined to help with the garden last summer. I decided his comment was intended to dispatch me on my way, and I went.
I stepped back out into the elements. Oh, there’s nothing as bitterly cold as a snowy night at the end of April when you’ve already had a taste of spring!
“Well,” I told Marnell when I got back to the house, “the first person I went for is in rehab. The girls might come. I did invite Peter but he’s not coming.”
It was a bit of a dismal showing, but I felt peaceful. Later that night the girls reported that they were at someone else’s house and it would not work to come to church. I think I remember praying that if God wanted anyone of them to come to church, he would have to arrange it Himself, because clearly it wasn’t happening through any strategy of mine.
The next morning at church, a few of us had gathered and were chatting in the sanctuary. I was talking to Velinda, and had my back facing the door.
“Who’s that?” she suddenly asked quietly.
I turned, and there was Peter and Polly and family. I nearly fainted in shock. I walked over to welcome them. They enjoyed the service, and we had a nice time with them over lunch.
A few days later, Polly came over with her toddler and preschooler and we drank coffee and made cookies. Her preschooler pulled cookie dough off my spatula and formed it into balls between her cookie-sized hands, and smashed them on the cookie sheet. As I talked with her mother, I found out about the difficult and lonely journey Polly has been on. She didn’t say so, but I wonder if she hasn’t been wishing for someone to invite them to church.
“I want to help with the garden this year,” she added.
Well. Paint me red and call me a fire engine! (As my brother used to say.)
It turns out, I guess, that God is quite capable of managing things Himself. There’s really not much point in taking myself too seriously, because it’s His work, not mine. He wants my hands and feet, but he doesn’t really need my ideas or strategies of how things should be done. He has plenty of them, all superior to mine.