A Chapter in the Life Of

I was in Chapters Bookstore the other day … I am addicted and need a bi-weekly fix. You know, look and touch, breath deep and smell the printer’s ink, drool and covet. I can’t help it – it is all my father’s fault. When he was alive he owned a printing company and so I am addicted as a result of his influence and my disfunctional upbringing. But, when I leave the store and get into my car – before driving away I sincerely repent in the front seat of the car. Got to keep things right with the “big man upstairs”, right? And then, of course, I get my Blackberry out and picked a time several weeks down the road when I can come back again and touch, feel and smell, look and drool. Not my fault, I was born this way!

While in the ever-shrinking “religious” section … right next to the ever-increasing “New Age and Occult” section … I met a woman who was deeply engrossed in looking through the various books on the shelves … Close quarters as there are now only 6 shelves of books in the section – Political Science has been slowly creeping in and taking over one end. So, it was not difficult to know what she was picking out to look at. I’m a people watcher and so I do watch and I did notice. It was all over the map – the fluff of Joyce Myers, the self-help, feel-good, non-gospel gospel of Joel Osteen, the Dummy books on other religions, prayer, the Christian faith and the Bible for Dummies. Then into some “Gospel of Judas”, “The Da Vinci Code”, Mary Magdalene and the cult following she still gathers today, MAry the Queen of Heaven heresy … Boy, this lady was picking up and looking at books from A to Z and back again.

Being the extreme introvert that I am, I started a conversation with her. I mentioned how the section was shrinking and that I was finding less and less to draw me here – now doing most of my book buying on line. (Secretly knowing I only came down here to smell and touch – not buy). She agreed about the smaller selection and expressed how frustrated she was as she was trying to find a ‘Bible study book’ to help her study the Bible at home. I responded with a few suggestions – Max Lacado, and others like him. That is when the explosion happened.

Here is where we went in 20 minutes – not in order as my memory is not that good and confusion reigned…
1> Just moved back here from… never told me from where or why she moved away in the first place
2> Lutheran to the core
3> Attending a Lutheran Church that does not preach the Bible
4> Her friend who use to teach a Bible study was told to sit down and shut up and so packed up and left – voila, no Bible study to attend so needing one for herself at home
5> Interested in other religions – thought that they all contain some truth and all lead to the same place
6> Not sure where that place is or what it is really called but it is for everyone
7> She thinks she has a good grip on the truths of the Bible and believes she now needs to be studying theology and maybe attending a seminary or a university where theology is taught
8> She is thinking of studying theology at home but can’t find a good book – I suggested R.T. Kendall’s “Understanding Theology” Volumes 1, 2 and 3.
9> She does not like most books in print by major authors because after you have read their first book almost all the others they publish are a disappointment and contain either repeated material or simply lack substance (Ah! Something we can agree on)
10> She is attending a Lutheran Church that belongs to the Synod that does not ordain women
11> She knows there are basically two Synods – one believing in being born again and one that is liberal and does not believe this … and did not elaborate any further
12> She knew the word “evangelical” and applied it to the branch that she was not attending in the Lutheran systems
13> She was aware of other denominations and believed they were all good – Anglican, Roman Catholic, Baptist … but had some harsh statements and observations about Pentecostals and speaking in tongues
14> I could go on but you get the picture…

All through this I was trying to talk to her about her relationship or non-relationship with Jesus. I was trying to steer the conversation gently towards salvation and the need to have an encounter with the living God and have your sins forgiven. I am decent at doing that as I do it daily … no go, Joses!

It was imposible to direct this conversation. And the longer we spoke the more aggitated she became and the less control I had on the direction the conversation was heading. She was moving facial muscles, twiches becoming stronger, pushing glasses up on her nose, fiddling with her hair, moving her body back and forth, speaking faster and saying less … unless you were there you would not believe what I saw and experienced.

It quickly became evident that she just might have some company – say, a religious spirit or a spirit of tradition and it was becoming upset. I don’t say that lightly and I’m not one to go looking for demons behind every bush or under theatre chairs.

I eventually simply had to walk away as I had a coffee appointment on the opposite end of the city and, in my estimation, this encounter was not going to go anywhere except around and around and around and around and around…

I ended the conversation and walked away. I always think through my encounters later in the day to see what I could have done differently or what I would do next time I found myself in this type of situation … I am hungry to learn from these encounters.

Still working on the list…

Touching Base or Touching Hearts

I thought that I was finished for the day. Day’s work was done! I had spent a great deal of yesterday talking to non-believers inbetween appointments with members of the Church I help to lead. So, today I was simply going to touch base with several businesses that I go into several times a month. You know, drop in and if they were not busy offer to buy the office staff a coffee and then have a 20 minutes – at the most half hour – chat and move on. One business especially as the owner has just had two weeks in Chicago and Winnipeg on holidays and I wanted to show that I remembered and cared -He got back this morning for his first post-holiday day in the office.

Went just as planned. Better than planned. Much better than yesterday. More on that in another blog. I even had the opportunity after one conversation – before leaving the store – to buy some basics to go towards making my supper (I have been a bachelor for a week as my wife is in the north visiting with family).

I rush home to walk the dog – and as I’m leaving the front yard a white van pulls up AND STOPS. Nope, not the police. It is a neighbour from a few houses down the lane (around the corner on the next street but we connect from the back end of our homs on a connecting laneway). Normally a few words of “Hi, how are you?” or “Nice day!” or “That was some game last night” with me hoping I reference the right game (I watched the Chicago Cubs play baseball – research for a December trip to Chicago).

Today – not the case. He needed to talk. He has no idea what I do for a living … He and his wife had recently gone to Casino Regina for breakfast (news to me that they were open that early) and she had stayed afterwards to gamble a bit … He went home to clean up and work around the house. Got a call within the hour that his wife had fallen – within 24 hous she was dead. Brain anorism … no warning that it was coming. Fine one morning having a breakfast out and dead before the sun rose the next morning.

Needless to say it was a long chat … and the dog was really great – he just sat in the middle of the road next to me patiently waiting for me to get on with important business – his walk and bathroom break.

It really brought focus back to my day – no, two days. I had tried to share the gospel numerous times with a number of people over the last 48 hours and was feeling slightly down about things. I had made some good contacts and kept in touch with several others I have been working with – building relationships for a fair length of time. But, none of them had “heart” if you know what I mean. Yes, started some new relationships. Yes, kept older one moving along in the right direction. But it all lacked heart, substance, feeling, gut, meaningful discussion, depth … it was just conversation.

Then standing in the middle of the street in the 5 p.m. traffic I actually had an opportunity to really enter a man’s life in a time of need and loss. He talked and I listened. I talked and he listened. His wife was only in her mid-50’s and so this was totally unexpected. Death usually is. No, they had not prepared themselves for this eventuality. No, they did not have an active faith or involvement in a local church. No, they did not have an understanding of life after death. Yes, they knew the right religious phrases and the basic concepts of religion – but did not know the life-giving message of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

No, I did not share the gospel with him earlier tonight. It was not the time for that. It was time to talk about memories, pain (still very fresh), should the house be sold, why didn’t we move out to the farm like we always wanted to (regret over lost opportunities) …

But, we see each other daily – and I think a good home-cooked meal (or my burnt offerings from the BBQ) – would be in order shortly. Then my wife and I can listen and in the quiet of our home – not in 5 p.m. traffic – share the gospel in a gentle way with a man whose wife most likely will not be in Heaven…

Now, yesterday’s encounter is another story…