Thursday, March 5, 2009

Redirecting Grace

Okay, so I abandoned the team—it’s true. But I suffered for it.

After speaking at church on Sunday, I went from a humid 81 degrees and near chaos at the airport in Bridgetown (“How can I get a flight out?”), to 24 degrees and 5” of snow in Charlotte, N.C. The East Coast was in disarray as a large storm moved in, so we were diverted from a shut-down Atlanta to Charlotte, where I spent an all-too-brief night. After my flight landed, the airport closed.

Have you ever tried repeatedly to call an air carrier in the middle of the night when the weather is causing havoc? Make a note: they don’t answer, and you miss out on sleep.

So, from 9am until 7:30pm, I spent a lovely day at the airport on Monday. Do you know how long the same pastries sit in the viewing case at Starbucks? I do. Do you know how many times a soothing yet powerful voice interrupts your dozing to say, “Do not accept luggage from someone you don’t know”? I do.

Other than the skyrocketing gloat factor enjoyed by the team I left (We TOLD you to change your ticket and stay another week!), the good part of my leaving was talking with several people about the New Covenant. On the plane to Charlotte, and during long hours at the airport, we got deeply into it. They had wonderful and vital questions, and all of us were invigorated and encouraged when we parted: one person to Tennessee, one to Colorado, and several more to Missouri. We wouldn’t have met but for the redirecting grace of a storm.

My days in Barbados were filled with, well, warmth. The warm West Indies breeze gave us the perfect impetus to let go of the sometimes fleshly need of a planned or structured presentation, in favor of the Spirit’s leading. Our plan became: “Let’s get with the Bajan believers and see what happens.” And we did, over and over again.

From group meetings in our guesthouse to lunch in the center of town, from a trip around the island to a youth meeting in a local home, our desire to know God together opened and brought out our hearts for God. The visible transformation was amazing! In the safety of our union in Christ, we opened up and found delight with God and with each other. What might ordinarily have caused stress (What should we do at the meeting? How shall we arrange things? What do we want to accomplish?), in fact revived us. It was as if the water provided by the Spirit flowed between us, and we were delighted. Like kids.

As Jesus said it would be whenever His sons and daughters were together, we knew God, and that means we received Life. What a plan. On a rocky knob in the Caribbean, strangers quickly became friends, men became brothers and women became sisters. What we are already through Christ—a noble family—we could feel.

The one regret I have is that I didn’t tell my teammates what I thought of them. Oh, I told them some things—that I loved and respected and liked them—but I didn’t tell them more, and I could have.

Herb, you are delightful, to me and to everyone. You are a rare and refined man, content only to assist people to what’s most true—an appetite for God. What matters more?
Laurie, you are an invigorating joy—ask anyone, and they’ll tell you. You help people “get God” in ways no one else does, maybe because no one else can. He has seen to it that your life means life for us. You’ve got it, girl.
Cynthia, you are indispensible, always showing up and adding stability and strength when it suddenly feels like we’ve got only three wheels. How do you do that?
Tracy, I like you. You’re one who adds zest to life and seasoning to every meeting. You have a way of saying something that brilliantly cuts through the fog of arrogance or fleshly ignorance. We find our way because of you.
Ken, why didn’t we grow up together? What was God thinking? You are wonderfully perceptive, and I like watching as you offer yourself to people. You listen intently and wait. What a good man you are.
Pauline, I love the depth you add to people around you. You are fresh and vibrant, and what God has made of you is opening like a flower; you’re on display, and we notice.

I am richer by far.

As the team moves together through their final days in Barbados, I know they will encounter God because of each other and because of the Bajan believers. God has planned it this way, and so it is.

I hope to return.

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