Today started out as one of those days. I prayed very specifically for someone only to find later that they were experiencing the very thing that I had asked God to deliver them from. This was followed by a trip to the mechanic. I recently had a pretty significant amount of work done on our Suburban. With six kids we naturally require a larger vehicle and the Suburban fills the bill nicely. On a trip to the closest Sam's yesterday I noticed that the truck was running hot. The repair work that we recently had done all had to do with the cooling system. I reasoned that it was merely a minor adjustment to one of the previous repairs. But it wasn't. While still unsure as to the true nature of the problem we are faced with the possibility that we may have to replace the engine. I don't know anyone for whom that expense wouldn't be prohibitive. All this before 8am.
My day then took me to the hospital, where I stood by the bedside of an Alzheimer's patient. The disease has robbed this person's family of a parent. This person was unaware of my presence but appeared full of despair. My heart breaks for their family and for the patient. The other visits were not as difficult, but taxing all the same. Everyone looks to a pastor for understanding and comfort, yet they are unaware of the cost these demand of the human agent involved. Hospitals are by their nature places of great stress and emotional upheaval.
My next trip took me to the nursing home. I must confess to you that nursing homes are not my favorite places to visit. A bad experience at a nursing home as a child still has a profound effect on me today. But I have learned to deal with my discomfort. The first place I always check for the person I came to see is the dining room. I found her there taking part in a worship service being held by a local church. As I came into the dining room the first thing I noticed was the piano. The woman playing the piano was in her 60's but she played with the energy and enthusiasm of someone a third her age. The music was infectious and joyful and I enjoyed it as much as the residents. It was uplifting to see and hear her play.
But the blessings did not stop there. After a testimony time a woman using an oxygen tank shared a devotional message. I honestly cannot tell you much of what she said, but I can tell you that she made this statement: Without the mountain you have no testimony. When I heard those words it was as if the Lord had slapped me on the side of the head and said "See, there's a purpose in all this." I don't know about you, but I need to be reminded every now and then that God really is in control. Somewhere in the course of the morning I had become overwhelmed by the hurt and struggle all around me. Coupling that with the unpleasant possibilities with the car and I found it easy to think that God had somehow forgotten my situation.
Without the mountain you have no testimony. How easy is it to forget the truth of those words. She went on to say that we shouldn't pray that God would move the mountain but that we should pray for strength to climb the mountain. There are people all around us who need to see that God can and does give us the strength to climb the mountains of our lives, whether they are financial, health, or spiritual mountains. I should have remembered that and I'm more than a little embarassed to admit that I had allowed myself to forget it. In my years in ministry (30 years come November) I have met many people who thought their pastors could make no mistakes...I'm sure I've disappointed all of them. But I'm also certain that God has provided the strength to climb every mountain.
As I thought about that this morning I thought about the piano player. She had seen much trouble in her life, I'm sure, but there she was playing with a passion and a joy that told me that she understood that there was a purpose in the mountains she had faced. She had learned the truth of God's presence and the strength he provides on the mountains. She reminded me that cars, health and church are all under his dominion. The may be mountains to me, but they are opportunities for God to prove his faithful love for me.
Thank you ladies....God used you to redeem my day.