Vacations, Breakdowns, Willie Nelson & Angels

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pastordad1So summer vacation didn’t appear to get off to our expected spectacular start.  For those who enjoyed my recent Facebook post entitled Recap of yesterday’s 14 hour trip to Orlando, (who I know were laughing WITH us and AT us), I really should take a moment to let you share in the ways in which it was redeemed.

Memorable moments amidst the chaos… 2 minutes before all the drama began, a sweet, older, Asian lady checked us out at the CVS counter.  “Oh 3 boys!” she exclaimed.  “I just love the boys!”  It was a remark made with a tone of nostalgia, and a genuine warmth that let me know there was a beloved history behind her words…as well as a longing of days gone by.  I walked away with a polite smile, my cellophane bag and a mysterious internal reprimand to slow-the-heck-down.

We looked forward to the ice-cream at the next stop; but as I placed the key in the ignition, it was apparent that our old friend–who had transported us 350 miles so far–was suffering. I’m not exactly sure how to describe the will-almost-start shuddering that we all heard and felt.  Please understand that my brain has no section for perceiving this kind of incident.  I can play Rachmaninoff, sing the latest Chris Tomlin song, and translate from Koine Greek or Ancient Hebrew into modern English, but it’s a good day if I remember which side the gas tank is on when it comes to cars.  “Dear God, please show me what to do.” I just kept turning the key hoping our fate would change. van

And it did…when “Willie Nelson” showed up at the window.  “It ain’t yer battery.  I been listenin’ to it.”  Stringy, greasy hair, toothy grin and diamond earrings, “Willie” was very kind in his counsel.  He even pulled out the jumper cables just to prove it. And he gave me the name & number of a local tow and repair company.  I thanked him and accepted his information.

It was tense in the car.  We could taste the pool water that awaited 90 miles south.  And it got a little snappy.  I may or may not have barked that this would be a good time for people to pray while I ran across the street to the auto business I had spotted.

If you find yourself working hard to convince others of your great spirituality, it’s evidence that you are likely mistaken.

 

It amazes me how, at middle-age, a temper-tantrum-throwing inner child still exists, screaming “it’s not fair” from within. I confess this freely because vulnerability is an essential for our spiritual formation.  If you find yourself working hard to convince others of your great spirituality, it’s evidence that you are likely mistaken.  And if you are trying hard to look spiritual because you think people expect it, and you are fearful of being found out that you don’t completely have your act together then allow me to let you in on a little secret…no one does.  We’re all a hot mess. Every growing believer is on a journey of being refined by the Spirit. No one has arrived.  Even your pastor.

Bolting across 6 lanes of traffic and entering said place, the heavens opened and a beam of light shone on the back of a young man’s T-Shirt…advertising the EXACT name and number of the repair place “Willie” had just given me.  His tow truck was there; and because we were so close, he towed us over for nearly nothing.

While the van was being towed, my wife took our sick child into the CVS Minute Clinic to have him examined.  Because they determined we needed to go on to Urgent Care, they didn’t charge us.

The van was diagnosed and was going to be a large expense we had not counted on. But we just went through Financial Peace University at our church and were prepared for an emergency.

We decided to eat dinner while the van was being repaired.  As the menus were passed out, I was proud to overhear the boys agree amongst themselves to not order something that cost too much because of the van :).

Then the garage called before our food even arrived…they completed the repair in record time. And we were on our way. But in the malay of everything that happened, we left a bag (which contained about $50 of products) on the floor under our table at the restaurant.  Returning to the restaurant, we located our waitress, Alex, who talked to the bus boy, who remembered throwing it away.  The next thing we knew, the boy AND the manager were digging through the trash and FOUND IT!

Then out of the blue my oldest son asked, “dad, do you think maybe that old guy with the weird hair and the earrings might have been an angel?” Now I don’t know what mental image you have when you read about angels in the Bible.  Mine include less jewelry, shorter hair, correct grammar, and more teeth. But I may be completely incorrect. It was a great opportunity to share Hebrews 13:2 with my son:  “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing many have shown hospitality to strangers without knowing it.” It was a wonderful moment to affirm our faith. “You know, kid…it just may have been an angel. But angel or not,  based upon what we’ve seen, we can be sure God’s got our backs today.”

Yes, it was an expensive 5 hours in Gainesville, FL.  But we were surprised by the kindness of multiple strangers:  a cashier, a tow-truck driver, a waitress, a doctor, a mechanic, a bus boy, a restaurant manger, and “Willie Nelson.” Or were they all strangers?  WE were the strangers.  Which is the greater miracle…an angelic intervention or a person’s willingness to consider my needs greater than theirs?

From where I stand, the latter wins hands down.  And for the fact that our children got to witness and experience that, it was worth the price of admission. Maybe it wasn’t the happiest place on earth, but we were all reminded of a greater truth than we would have found in an amusement park. Take THAT Disney.

Your family is your small group.