As I sat in McDonald’s yesterday, shoveling my ice cream into my mouth and looking across the table at the big smiles on the faces of Camden and Acadia as they licked their one dollar cones, I couldn’t help but praise God. I was grateful that God had motivated me to join up with Him as He is fulfilling His promise in the hearts of my children.
The night before, Camille had been lamenting to me how challenging it was for her with Camden at bedtime. He wouldn’t go to sleep. He kept getting up and misbehaving – going into Acadia’s room as she was just starting to doze off. It kept piling up. Frustrated, Camille wondered how on earth we could get Camden to participate in better behavior.
I told Camille that I had just started praying a new prayer of praise to God over Camden and Acadia. Tucked away in the last verse of the Old Testament, God promises His people that, in the last days, before His Second Coming, He would send Elijah the prophet to carry out a special work. The work is simple: “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). I told her that I have been praising the Lord recently that He is not only doing this work in my heart, but that He is doing this work in Camden and Acadia’s hearts. He is turning their little hearts to us as their parents – and having their hearts is far better than having their behavior (though the former will, of course, lead to the latter).
So yesterday afternoon, after Camden and Acadia joined me at our little church school for worship and recess, I got to thinking as I drove home: Poor Camille has been shut up inside all day long, watching the kids, as well as our little niece (who we were responsible for watching most of the day due to our sister’s-in-law work schedule and doctor’s appointment). I bet she could use a little more time alone as our niece, Daphne, continues to take her nap. Why don’t I take the kids to get ice cream?
This is a pretty big deal for me. Usually, on Wednesday afternoons after I go visit with the kids at school (along with Camden), I am in a hurry to get home to get to my computer so that I can read and respond to e-mails, type up board agendas, or engage in writing. Right now, I am presently writing my third book, and the chapters are just flowing off my fingers.
But I instead decided to join up with God as He brings Camille’s heart and my heart closer together, and so I chose, full of praise and gratitude, to bring the kids to McDonald’s to get a cone of ice cream instead. And as I sat there in McDonald’s, enjoying the bountiful taste of God’s goodness myself (not a bad perk itself), that’s when it hit me: not only was I giving Camille a wonderful break, but I was joining up with God’s promise to “turn the hearts” of my children towards their father! No stress in doing it! Just receiving from “heaven’s storehouse.”
The really awesome thing about responding to God’s initiative and receiving His promises, though, is that He just piles blessing upon blessing upon blessing. And we find ourselves accomplishing more while doing less. After Camden and Acadia finished their ice cream, they wanted to play on the playground. So when they went out there, there was an older couple, along with their adult son, sitting at the playground as they watched their granddaughter play on the playground. The older gentleman immediately started talking to me, asking what the kids names were.
To make a long story short, the man ended up being originally from Massachusetts, near where I grew up, who was a former High School Track & Field and Basketball coach in a town near where one of my cousins lives (whose house I just stayed at this past weekend). But even more significantly, for the past 18 years – before retiring a year ago – he has been living in Maine and serving as a Nazarene pastor.
After discovering this, Camden called me to play with him on the playground, and I said, “Hold on, Camden, I’m just talking with my new friend. He and I have a lot in common!”
When the man asked me what it was we had in common, I said, “Well, number one, I’m originally from Massachusetts. Number two, I’m a pastor. And number three, I’m a Seventh-day Adventist, a faith that shares a common heritage – Wesleyanism – with Nazarenes.” Without missing a beat, the man said, “Are you vegetarian?” I said, “Yes!” To which he said, “That’s great! I’d like to be a vegetarian!”
God is good. We continued to talk for a few more minutes before he had to go. I gave him my phone number and he gave me his, and he told me to stop by for a sandwich sometime when we are down in his neck of the woods, visiting Acadia National Park. Before he left, though, his wife, who had been talking with someone else, said, “Wait a minute: I didn’t hear what you guys have in common.” Without missing a beat, the man responded, “Well, he’s a pastor. And we’re both vegetarians!” His wife cracked up and said, “You’re not a vegetarian, honey!” But I responded, “No, I believe he is! He looks like one to me. I am looking at him through the eyes of faith.” We had a good chuckle about that.
I am praying for the man and his wife. And I believe he will soon be a vegetarian (which he indicated would be especially good for some health challenges he is having). And I’m grateful that when we respond to the Spirit’s leading and initiative, He sets up divine appointments and we meet people that we would never meet if we worked tirelessly in our own strength to create witnessing opportunities for ourselves. When one is obedient to Christ’s promptings and we are walking by the Spirit, He just adds blessing upon blessing upon blessing, and we accomplish more than if we were walking in our own strength, running around and trying to get so much done.
But here’s the best news: those are yesterday’s blessings and yesterday’s praises. I don’t have to live on those. I am eagerly anticipating all the blessings that God will accomplish through me today.
“Prayer is the key in the hand of faith to open heaven’s storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence” (Steps to Christ, p. 94). This is true as much today as it was yesterday.