Sunday, July 26, 2009

In the Most Unlikely Places

There are times in our lives when God seeks us out, grabs our attention and causes us to assess our walk. Sometime he does this in the most unlikely of places—let’s say, for example, on a cruise ship.

On the morning of our final day at sea, Kent and I headed to the dining room for breakfast. As fate (or divine intervention) would have it, we were seated next to a couple we had enjoyed the company of the previous morning—a career Navy officer and his wife (Tom and Anne). After exchanging greetings, another couple was seated next to them. Mike and Claudia were from Ohio, newly married, and on their honeymoon.

We learned Mike was a high school history teacher and football coach. Of course I felt an instant connection (it’s a teacher thing). We talked NCLB, IEP’s, PBIS and RTI—until we realized the others, eyes glazed over, were not following our acronym saturated conversation. The converstion then turned to more general issues about education and life in general. What impressed me about Mike was his obvious passion for his vocation. You might think this is normal in young teachers, but often it isn’t the case. It wasn’t long until I sensed that his passion went beyond the classroom into the lives of his students. I was right.

Routine conversation led to the fact that my brother was a children’s pastor and my father a minister. Mike openly shared that he and Claudia fostered a small group for high school students through “Young Life”. We then began to discuss ministry and the role it played in our every day lives. The Navy officer, Tom, began to speak about the church they had left in Memphis when they moved to Maryland and how they hadn’t found anywhere to land since the move. Tears welled up in his eyes as he spoke of the purpose that seemed lost in his life. They had lead a Divorce Care small group in Memphis and were actively involved in their faith community, but since moving found it difficult to find a new church home. He spoke passionately of specific situations where he and his wife were able to minister to others going through the pain of divorce and how energized they had been during that time in their lives.

A fervent Mike, wanting disparately to encourage this Navy officer, shared the analogy that God was like the water flowing though a water slide. He is always there—flowing through our lives. We can either jump in and take the ride or sit on the side and simply watch the water flow. Tom responded with a grin that replaced the tears, “Seems we need to jump back in the water,” he replied.

As we stood to leave our two-hour breakfast, the standard, “Have a nice day” was replaced with, “I promise to pray for you.” WOW—right there in the middle of the Carnival Liberty dining room, God was present.

It may seem as if the Navy officer and his wife were the ones ministered to the most, but that just wasn’t the case. Each of us were ministered to, challenged and encouraged throughout the morning. My own spiritual walk had been in need of resuscitation for some time. Little did I know that God would provide the intervention my soul needed in such an unconventional way; providing a jumping IN point where I could capture, once again, a glimpse of the dream HE had for my life. It was time to redirect my actions to encompass the core values of my soul.

What did this encounter mean for me personally? It means setting new focus. leveraging my time, energy and resources (McManus). It means refusing to waste time on "stuff" that doesn't really matter and focusing on "stuff' that not only will matter today, but will have a lasting effect tomorrow. I walked away from breakfast that morning feeling more energized that I had been in a very long time.

When we got back to the cabin, I grabbed my iPod, towel and headphones then headed to the deck to grab some sun. The events of the morning freshly on my mind, I placed the earphones in my ears, hit “shuffle” on my iPod and laid my head back on the deck chair. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the song that began to play. It sealed my deal with God. Tears streaming down my face on the sun deck of the Carnival Liberty, God continued to minister...


KMY said...

Very moving, Marsha. Very, very moving. Thanks for sharing.