Saturday, November 7, 2009

An Encounter with Abraham

Going to church conferences is a two edged sword - on one hand you do usually come away changed on the inside spiritually. On the other hand, unless you are fasting you gain weight. A conference schedule is wake up, eat breakfast, go to morning session, have a coffee break, go to late morning session, eat lunch, take a break for afternoon, eat supper, have evening session, break and have a snack and then back to last session. By the end of a 5 day conference, ohhhhh my.

My husband Doug, our friend from church, and I left one such conference and on the way home made a detour and stopped at a large outdoor mall. Our friend, loves to shop. I, on the other hand, do not. That being said, Doug and I took off around the mall to walk off our conference schedule. About half way around the edge, I started feeling queezy.

Doug offered to go back and get our car; he gave me a kiss on my cheek and set off the way we had just come. I looked around for a bench I could sit on and spied one off to my left facing out to the parking lot. Sitting on it was an elderly, bearded gentleman, hands folded against his chest with an angry scowl on his face. I paused, considered my options and then went and sat next to him and said, "Hello". Not a sound from my new neighbor.

I settled down to wait for Doug to come back and looked around at the scene before me. I had learned the week before to ask God to show you what He wanted you to see - so I asked and waited. Almost at once I noticed all the people; in their cars, walking on the sidewalks, talking, laughing, crying, just being. I realized that so often I looked at buildings and cars and things but missed what God loves so much - each of us. I started praying for people as they walked by or as my attention was caught. I then prayed, "and God, if you will give me an opening with the guy next to me...". All of a sudden, a sneeze welled up inside of me and I really sneezed BIG. I heard from beside me, "Bless you". God had given me my opening.

I turned to the man beside me and thanked him and smiled.
He asked, "So, why are you not shopping?", looking straight ahead.
I replied, "I really do not like shopping. We stopped here because my friend wanted to shop."
"Don't like shopping, you are an unusual woman. So tell me, the man who was with you, was he your husband?"
I smiled, "Yes, he is my best friend and I am blessed to have him as my husband."
He turned and looked at me. "You like him?"
"Yes, I do."
He turned and looked at me, interest in his eyes. "You are a very unusual woman. So tell me, are you one of those, you know, Born Agains?"
I smiled and said "Yes, I am"
His arms at his sides, he asked quite seriously, "Tell me what that means. I have heard of it and have always been curious."
I looked at him to judge the seriousness of his inquiry and then replied, "To better answer your question, tell me what you understand it to mean."
His eyebrows raised, he took a deep breath, "I suppose it means that you have dedicated your life to God, but I do not know why that would be more than what I have. I have been in one church all of my life, the same one that my father before me attended and the same one that my grandfather before him believed in and followed. The faith I have is that of all my fathers before me."
I nodded my head and then gently said, "Okay, now I understand. The faith I have is in Jesus Christ Himself given by God His Father to us so that we could have a relationship with Him. My faith is a very personal one on one with Jesus and is walked out daily." I looked at him to see if he understood.

I watched as his face contemplated what he had just heard. He chewed on the inside of his cheek, and then making a decision he turned and looked straight at me again. "My name is Abraham. I am a great grandfather, and please pardon me if I seem to be rude, this is all so new to me and I am having to think about what you are saying. Please continue."

I took a deep breath, smiled and then said, "The Bible says, "
"Stop," he said, "without the Bible - tell me what all of this means to you."
"Okay, I can do that if I can refer to where I heard the truth in the first place. My story is nothing without the Words of the One who made my story possible. Okay?" He nodded yes.

I began telling him about my life before Christ, the fact that I am a sinner and that God has given to me and anyone else who will take it a promise of forgiveness. I told him about what Jesus did for us, how He died on the cross and then rose on the 3rd day. I told Him that He died once for all that we might have access to God. I told Him I realized my own need and how I believed in all that was told to me by my father - a man who was touched by God and changed in miraculous ways.

I looked at Abraham and he was intently listening, nodding every once in a while. I continued and told him that if we confessed with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in our hearts that He was raised from the dead that anyone could be saved and be born again.

"But I am an old man," he said, "It is too late for me." I shook my head, "No, as long as you have breath, it is not too late."

I knew, somehow, that today was not the day for Abraham to make a decision. Today was a seed planting day - Jesus would harvest on another day. I quickly asked him if he had a Bible that he read and he said, "Yes, I have a Bible, but I have never read it." I challenged him to read the book of John, that in that one book he would find what he was looking for. He smiled and said, "I am going to read it - I can tell it will be good by all that you have told me."

I heard Doug call my name and saw that he had pulled up beside me. I shook Abraham's hand and we smiled at each other. As we were driving off, I turned and looked - Abraham was sitting on the bench still, a large smile on his face and waving to all the people as they drove and walked by him. God had touched his life.

That day, I was thankful for a full, queezy stomach and an encounter with one who was needing the One.

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