So I finally got there…to the LifeWay Store in the Bluebonnet Boulevard Building, just beside the Mall of Louisiana in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I was beyond excited, as we don’t have that store here in Ireland. I stood just feet inside the entrance, stunned…much like the way I did when I found myself inside a Wall-Mart the previous day; stunned by excitement and hardly able to decide which aisle to start at.
I needed some new worship CD’s, (yes $5 each will do thank you very much!) I picked up a few study aids as you do, rummaged through the gift section, card section, devotions section and chatted with the lovely staff as I made my way up and down each aisle. Most of what I really wanted to buy I had to leave on the shelf, my wallet and my suitcase could not have endured my excited shopping!
I had my heart set on one specific item in particular: a new Bible. So finally I found the Bible section, all of five rows long. WOW where to start? Camouflage covers, pink blingy covers, ladies editions, women’s study editions, and a gazillion of choices of versions, print, colour and focus. Finally after quite some time I found my gorgeous bright red new Bible. Yes it was perfect and it was Valentine’s week, so why not get a Book about the love of God in the brightest red I could find. It was the very last of the red edition and was soon firmly under my arm as I left to head up to the cashier to pay. I left a few items back on my way, deciding I really did not need so many new CD’s.
On arriving at the cashier area, I stood in line and chatted with some lovely staff, who just wanted to ask me questions to hear my accent…it was nice! I got to the cashier, loaded my few items on the counter and awaited my credit card to be accepted. The total came to $51.00. And I waited, and I waited. There was a problem. By now several people were waiting behind me. I was as red-faced as my red Bible. Gently a customer patted me on the shoulder, and chatted for a bit about my credit card issues. The cashier clerk had a second cashier open up to relieve the queue and my embarrassment. Knowing my credit card is only used in emergencies, I explained that it is not a financial issue. The clerk assured me that the message on the screen insinuated that the problem was that the bank in Ireland had blocked my card due to a breach in security. Yes you got it, I forgot to tell them I was leaving the country. Sigh! What to do now? I had left my cash in a safe place and was just using my credit card for that visit to the Mall. Maybe I could sing for it??
I was so sad….I looked at my carefully chosen items, especially the beaming red Bible, that was exactly my heart’s desire. I began to gather the items up to put them back on the shelf, utterly disappointed!
Just then, that same gentle pat on my shoulder caught my attention. That same kind customer was standing beside me, looking down at my sad Irish eyes. I really was not sure what he was doing. I told him I needed to put it all back as my card is under inspection due to security issues. Just then he handed his own bank card to the cashier and smiled at me saying “These items obviously matter to you, and what matters to you matters to God. So I am buying them for you as a gift.” My lip began to quiver as I tried to say thank you but it was okay, and that he did not know me so please don’t worry. He turned and said to me, “God knows you!”
I was stunned. I stood there and watched this complete stranger buy all of my items, the full total of $51.00. I had goosebumps on my goosebumps! Tears of surprise literally felt like they were running up and down my face. He just smiled, handed me the shiny bag with all my items and went to leave. I ran after him, hugged him and asked him for his business card to send a thank you gift when I returned to Ireland. He was delighted to.
I have tried to contact him since I returned but no success yet. Maybe angels carry business cards? I don’t know. But, even now as I recount this story, I am reminded of the powerful love we shower on someone when we randomly show kindness. I need to do it more than I do, and every time I open my new red shiny Bible, the love of God reminds me that what matters to me, matters to God: even the seemingly little things! =)
On a recent short stay in America the beautiful, I learned of two astounding growth phenomena. Mistletoe and Resurrection Fern. Yes a strange combination, but linger with me a few minutes and I will unveil this incredible mystery.
We were driving along the swampy marshes of Alexandria, Louisiana, en route from Baton Rouge to Dry Prong. While we were cruising along the motorway I commented to my dear cousin about the unusual vibrant green circular plants growing on most of the trees that filled the watery bayous. I found what she told me truly fascinating. She explained that this is mistletoe…and it grows in abundance there, but what is so impressive is that it can thrive on even the deadest of trees. I stared at it for the hours, days and weeks that I spent in Louisiana.
All the while it spoke to me of a deeper lesson. Let me explain…
Mistletoe is one of the most luxurious green plants you will ever see. It is shiny, vibrant and altogether lush. Every bunch I have seen looks so impressive I almost thought it were fake. So, this incredible green leafy plant can grow on the most lifeless host you have ever seen. And God spoke to me. Are you in a season where you feel or sense that absolutely no fruit or good thing can come from your heart or life? You look at your dry branches and make the evaluation that this is just a lifeless season where you have nothing to give. My dear friend, even if you despise these days of struggle, unanswered questions, difficult dilemmas, or heartfelt loss, hang in there, fruit can grow in these times. You are able to bless others in this time of transition, so do not write yourself off and bow out gracefully from life. You are bearing fruit that may seem unseen or impossible to you, but you are. Sometimes, the toughest seasons we walk through actually yield the most precious harvest. In due time you will see it and be amazed at how God uses your selfless surrender as a means to encourage and motivate those around watching your life. As mistletoe grows in the lavish way it does, so you are growing as you wait on God and trust His perfect timing and providence.
A week later, I walked down St Charles, a beautiful street in New Orleans, with a dear friend and her son as our tour guide. As we walked they told me about the incredible stately oak trees that stood like tall soldiers down each side of the bustling trolly-train street. On these monstrous trees, with roots almost longer than the trees themselves, grew another phenomena: Resurrection Fern. Incredible.
Resurrection Fern is found growing on the trunks and branches of oak trees. It gets its name ‘resurrection’ from the way the fern acts during certain weather seasons. During a dry period, the fern will be brown and completely lifeless.
It will appear to be dead and you would be forgiven for never expecting it to yield any appearance of life ever again. But as soon as the season of rain comes, that same moss will explode with green life again. As I stood there gazing up at these magnificent oak trees and the fascinating resurrection life of this beautiful fern, I was struck by the cycle of life it goes through.
These two contrasting plants spoke volumes to me of the seasons we all walk though in this journey called life. There will be times when we appear to be lifeless and sense we shall never radiate with abundance or blessing again, but when the rain of heaven comes, life appears and our thirsty soul transforms into an oasis of growth and abundance.
Dear one, which ever season you find yourself to be in, know that the Master has a plan for this transition time and by remaining close to Him you will yield a beautiful harvest in abundance. You are producing a precious fragrance that will touch and inspire many. Lift up your weary head and thank Him for the new thing He is doing, soon it will spring forth, soon you will see life appear. Whether you feel like mistletoe or fern, to Him and those around you, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.