Stop and let me tell you what the Lord has done for me. -Bro. Herbert "Red" Johnson's "Little Red Ants."
Earlier this week, I made a new acquaintance. In Walmart, of all places.
I was speaking to a friend of long-standing when this fellow walked up and began talking.
One of the things that struck me about this area when I moved here many years ago was the friendliness of its people. Even in the Sunny South, where I have lived all my life and where the graciousness of its inhabitants is an object of pride and delight, the folks of NW TN set the standard (so it seems to me) for openness and friendliness.
I mention that because this gentleman was obviously a northerner (by his accent) brought here by Goodyear (he mentioned) sometime in the way back when.
And no doubt he was captivated by the warmth of the natives to such a degree that he, being unused to such behavior (and desiring no doubt to enter into the friendly spirit of the region), developed the habit (I suppose) of accosting total strangers in public and yakking away.
I say this, mind you, not in a spirit of criticism, but merely to point out that the incident was slightly unusual. And endearing, actually. He seemed such a sweet-spirited man with a wonderful smile which lit his countenance throughout our conversation.
My old friend excused himself on account of previous business. One of the marks of our graciousness is our tendency (indeed our desire) to stop whatever activity we are engaged in to simply stand and talk, at times for an extended period.
So my old friend left and my new friend remained and we talked. Or he talked, mostly. We exchanged names and handshakes and he continued to speak.
I noted that most of his conversation concerned his father, who must have been long dead, given my new friend's age. He spoke of his dad's business success, of his many interests and abilities (golfing, hunting, fishing, even bowling) and his larger than life physical presence.
Sprinkled throughout his conversation was also an intimation (barely detectable unless you listened carefully) of his own failure to measure up to this man he so obviously worshipped so many years after the fact.
We talked, I don't know how long, until I made my excuses, shook hands once more, and extended an invitation to come and worship at GPC.
As I said, a rather odd encounter even in a region famed for its many odd "characters."
I reflected later on (as I do, partly because in a world ruled by a Sovereign God, there are no coincidental occurrences) about the almost exclusive focus of the man's conversation upon his father.
And, honestly, I began to be convicted.
I was blessed with a wonderful dad. What joyful memories I have of the countless ways by which he expressed his love for me, my brother and my two sisters.
But I have a Heavenly Father whose love far surpasses anything any earthly father (though we are blessed to have them) could express.
What if this Father were the constant topic of my conversation? The Psalms, especially, are filled with remembrances of God and His mighty deeds, His gracious mercy.
My new friend couldn't stop sharing stories of his dad. Why should I not be overflowing with conversation of my God and Father?
Isn't it strange and wonderful, the unexpected and unlikely people and circumstances God uses to remind us of Himself?
And of how my witness could be as simple and basic as speaking of my Heavenly Father's love.