No Strangers Here by Lorraine Triggs

Water Tower Place was still a novelty when my mother and one of her friends drove from Detroit to Chicago to visit me. My flat mate and I happily dragged my mom and her friend to our favorite haunts—Marshall Field’s, Gino’s East, Stuart Brent Bookstore on Michigan Avenue (the crown jewel of Chicago bookstores, IMHO) and Garrett’s Popcorn. The personalized tour ended at Water Tower Place.

By that time, my mom was tired and assured us that she would be just fine sitting on the bench at the bottom of the escalators in the busy entrance to Water Tower Place. We waved to her as we rode the escalator up to the shops. Hours later, as we rode the escalator down, I noticed a woman who looked awfully like my mother talking to a couple of people like they were old friends. That couldn’t be my mom. She didn’t know a soul in the city.

Wrong.

“This is my daughter,” my mom exclaimed as soon as she saw me, and then introduced me to the other women by name, telling me where they each lived and a little bit of their stories. As we left with our goodwill ambassador in tow, the security guard called out, “Bye now, Grace, you come back and visit us anytime.”

Mom knew no strangers. In her later years, she relocated to Jefferson City, Missouri, to be closer to my middle sister and her family. She moved into an apartment building and in time knew no strangers. We went to visit her. After we had been there for just a few minutes, there was a knock on the door from an older single lady.

Grace opens the door. Zona, the lady who lived downstairs, brought my mother her house plants to nurse them back to health. In she comes. She hugs us and tells us how much she loves Mom. Zona drinks my mom's coffee over Bible verses, angel food cake, summer fruits.

Knock knock. Grace opens the door. Bill, the handyman with tattoos on his arms and a handlebar mustache, comes to happily repair her shower head. While she waits for him to finish, she makes his lunch.

Knock, knock, knock, knock. Rosie lived across the hall. Grace opens the door. Later she explains to us that Rosie "wasn't quite right, but she's okay." Rosie felt free to knock on Mom's door at any time of the day or night. Mom was always there to listen to her fears or dreams or imaginations. Rosie left always feeling loved.

The young family in the building next door adopted Mom into their family because they lived far away from their family.

The other day ago, Debbie, a childhood friend from my childhood church, posted on Facebook how Paul in Romans 16:1-16 listed name by name many people who touched his life. She decided to do the same. The first name she listed? Grace Lustig, my mother; the second name was another Grace.

These two Graces called themselves, "Abundant Grace" and "Amazing Grace." My mother claimed Abundant Grace because of a few extra pounds she had over Amazing Grace.

In some ways it really didn't matter. Both Graces exhibited abundance and amazing grace to rowdy children, to a newly arrived mother from Russia and to a formidable Mrs. Mac (whose name also made Debbie's post and would also make my list if I wrote one).

My oldest sister who lives inside the beltway of the District of Colombia is very much like my mom. She has a knack for collecting people from down the street, in the suburbs and on Capitol Hill—strangers, really, until they enter her home (which is also where her Brethren assembly meets). There, they break bread together—either her homemade bread over a meal or in remembrance of the One, who had nowhere to lay his head.

It’s in the remembrance of Jesus and his blood spilled and body broken that strangers and aliens become fellow citizens with saints and members of God’s household. It’s grace that helps us see strangers and aliens as potential family members. It's grace to remember that we, too, were aliens, who needed the same invitation extended to us when we were far off. And it's grace that will bring us home again.

We all could use with a visit from grace these days. Abundant and amazing.

Today's Delivery by Wil Triggs

The first thing to do is pray. Every time. The beginning of every delivery is taking the time to pray.

Luka tells me that this is what he does whenever he gets into the truck. It’s not just the possibility of engine trouble. Between Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen, this is not a safe part of the world in which to deliver Christian books to pastors. He is especially involved in getting theological books to pastors, teachers and students of theology.

But this is part of his calling. This is what God wants him to do. So, this is what he wants to do with this day, a few hours in his life.

Into the truck he goes. The prayer goes up to God. The key goes into the ignition. His foot presses down on the gas.

In the village where he grew up, there was a church, his church. And there was his home. These were the places where he first learned that Jesus loved him. I use the past tense on purpose, and not because Luka has moved on from the village and his childhood home or the church in which he grew up.

I use the past tense because in recent years, his church was burned to the ground. His mother fled their home and lived in the bush for months before returning. She’s back, but her body and her mind are still recovering. The church is rebuilding.

This is not the first or second or third world. This is Nigeria. A little of each of those worlds all rolled into one place. Like and unlike any other place on earth. So, Luka perseveres.

There was a time he recalls when the traffic was stopped on the road. That’s happened to all of us. It could be road work, a traffic accident, someone’s car having trouble. But for Luka, there are other options. He couldn’t see ahead enough to tell what was going on. On this day, he sensed danger. Something made him park the truck, lock up and get away.

This is not something he would normally do. Luka is not a small man, big enough to stand up to the hassles of traveling to and from rural areas. Not this time. He had to leave everything behind and get away.

Only later did he hear of the violence that lay ahead on that road.

God protected him. He returned safely later in the day and drove away, his delivery delayed but safely made.

What can we do so far away, and essentially, far removed from violence and persecution? The first thing to do is pray. Every time. But how? Especially when the many little and big details of his ministry are unknown to us.

One thing I do know is that there are Bibles and Christian books across Nigeria because of the work of this man and the publishing house, ACTS, he works for. And I know other people who take the same risks as Luka; then there are the many others who are not known. What can we do for Luka and them?

The first thing to do is pray. Every time.

I admire the joy Luka expresses on social media. Often, he will post photos of beautiful flowers or friends. His perspective is not one focused on hardship, but on beauty and truth and the great love of God.

As I’m writing this, though, I message him to ask how we might best pray for him.

He replied right away…

"We need peace. More and more pastors are targeted, kidnapped and later killed. Churches are living in fear, especially pastors. There are different levels of crime mostly targeted at Christians and those sympathetic with the church. Pray for leaders who are bold enough to condemn these activities from the Fulani herdsmen. Pray that they know the love of Christ.

“Pray for ACTS as we dedicate a one-volume Hausa Bible commentary August 17 (today!). This is the singular most important tool that pastors and evangelists can use to be effective to reach these unreached groups in the north of Nigeria, Niger republic and Sudan.

“Pray for our staff as we will be moving to distribute this commentary to churches and mission centres through these dangerous zones. Pray against the attack of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen. Pray that God will use it to reduce these senseless killings.

“Pray for my parents in the northeastern part of the country, for Nigeria and for my church EYN—Church of the Brethren. Greetings to the family members and the church. Thanks a million.”

When you get in your car today, the first thing to do is pray. Every time.

Pray for where God is taking you, pray about the people you will meet. Perhaps you will be making a delivery of good news to someone. Be ready and watchful.

And join me in praying for Luka and the Christians of Nigeria. 

A Prayer for Today by Dr. Wendell C. Hawley

Today's musing is from Dr. Wendell C. Hawley's book A Pastor Prays for His People.

Everlasting God, Lover of our souls,

Open our eyes to see your love for us—

Your love which was established before creation

And continues unfailing and unending, even unto this very hour.

Your Word tells us that you had a plan for us a long, long time ago.

A love for us not based on

performance,

or beauty,

or inherent value.

A love which sent a Savior to the unlovely,

the destitute,

the helpless,

the condemned.

A Savior whose love prompted him to say:

“Come unto me all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Lord, may you this day be the present help of all who turn to you,

whether hurt or ashamed,

whether sick or disheartened,

whether afraid or defeated,

whether troubled or angry.

You have come to change the human condition drastically, totally . . .

the sinful heart,

the stony heart,

the rebellious heart.

Holy physician, divine surgeon . . . work in our lives that our souls might

prosper in spiritual health and vitality.

Do this in the life of every person now praying to you.

Thank you, Lord,

for hearing,

for answering,

for meeting every need.

Amen.


Jesus Is My Boss by Alison Taylor

Alison is a junior in high school and involved in HYACKs, the high school ministry at College Church. She enjoys reading, writing and music. Alison’s parents are Jeremy and Nancy Taylor.

On the morning of June 17, a group of twelve high school students stepped out of the church van onto the concrete driveway of “The Ministry” in Englewood—viewed as the poorest, most violent neighborhood in Chicago. We had arrived, and we were determined to make a difference.

We filled our time with all sorts of memorable activities: meaningful conversations about how best to respond to poverty, prayer walks down deserted streets lined with crumbling houses and mountains of trash, and most serious of all to residents of Englewood—intense games of basketball. But among all of these, the memory that will stick with me the longest was a simple testimony from a guest during dinner near the end of the week.

The first thing I noticed when he walked in was his baseball cap, which read, “Jesus is my boss.” It was well-worn, clearly a regular component of his outfit. As he sat on the couch waiting for dinner, he read the Bible he had brought with him. His eagerness amazed me. It was like he was partaking of the most delicious, satisfying meal imaginable, hungrily absorbing every word—all this before the actual meal we would eat. I immediately assumed that he was either a brand-new Christian for whom the youthful excitement has not yet worn away, or a believer of several decades who knows God intimately from years of dedicated Bible study.

When he began to talk, it was like every word he spoke was more important to him than the one before it. Sentences tumbled from his lips without a specific structure because there was always one more thing to say. “I could talk about Jesus all day!” he said after one particularly long tangent. But listening to him was neither boring nor confusing, because everything he said was profound, coming straight from the Spirit.

He had been jobless and homeless for more than 40 years, repeatedly spending all his money for drugs. He wanted nothing to do with God. It was not until his mid-fifties that a pastor began to reach out to him, inviting him to Bible studies and following up afterwards, even visiting the homeless encampment where he lived. When he finally gave his life to Christ, at almost 60 years old, it was only by the relentless efforts of the pastor and by the work of the Spirit in his heart.

The obvious takeaway from his story is to never give up on people, even if they seem like they are hopeless. Becoming a Christian does not always happen overnight; it may take years of prayer and limitless love before any fruit is visible. We should pray for patience and persistence as we share the gospel with our friends.

Ultimately, no amount of time or love can change a person’s heart—only God can do that. It’s like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:6: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” That is why prayer is so absolutely crucial; on our own, we cannot accomplish anything!

Beyond that, there is also another, deeper point, which I discussed at some length with other members of the team. This man—who read his Bible with an insatiable hunger, who could not stop talking about his Savior, who loved to inspire young people with his testimony of God’s work in his life—had been a believer for not even ten years. I have been a Christian for longer than that. So how did a homeless drug addict of 40 years become such an enthusiastic follower of Jesus?

From an earthly perspective this seems impossible, and even unfair. Why should God save someone who is so sinful? The answer reveals itself all throughout the Bible. In God’s eyes, I am as much a sinner as anyone else, which means I am equally incapable of following God’s perfect Law, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

God’s grace isn’t limited to privileged churchgoers in Wheaton. It is offered to hospitalized overdose victims, imprisoned criminals and destitute immigrants. And all who respond to God’s offer with faith receive the same status: children of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Before God, I have nothing to boast about, because my salvation is something I have not earned. This means that even though this man wasted fifty years of his life, I will never be superior to him in God’s eyes.

And that truly is good news.

Sudden Drop by Lorraine Triggs

I hate roller coasters—the sudden drops, twists, turns and speed.

I’ve been to Cedar Point, the roller coaster capital of the world, and why anyone would brag about that is beyond me. I’ve also been to Disneyland, slightly comforted by the fact that I was a Mouseketeer. What harm could befall me at the happiest place on earth?

A friend tricked me onto the Tower of Terror once, saying that it was just few little drops. I don't know why I believed him because I could hear the people screaming.

Fortunately, I was not fooled by the Mickey Mouse head on California Screamin’. I stayed behind, safe on the sidewalk, as my husband and son happily, willingly locked themselves into that tiny car for three minutes of sheer terror. Later in the day, they went back for more. I thought they were crazy

I have been accused of overthinking roller coasters. Before I ride one, I want to know the number of drops, how bad the turns are, and do you go upside down at any point in the ride? I cast doubts on well-meaning friends who assure me of smooth rides.

Perhaps the only good thing about roller coasters is that they end. The drops and upside-down loops don’t go on forever and ever. The three minutes of terror end as the car slows down to a stop. Too bad life isn't like that, where twists and turns just end.

A while back, my life was going along rather smoothly and predictably. No surprises, nothing I couldn’t handle. I had things figured out. Then out of nowhere came the sudden drop. I had no idea when or where the next turn would take place. I was in an endless upside down loop, and way past the three-minute mark of when this difficult trial was supposed to be over.

That's sort of the point of trials. We don't know when the next drop or turn will come. We don't know when they'll end or where they came from, can't figure out why us, why now, and please, God, just make it go away.

I think that hanging upside down in this endless loop has given me a different perspective on trials and hard times. It might not be about trials after all, but about Jesus and grace and being more like him today than I was at that first drop, or when the next unexpected turn comes.

What if following Jesus means not staying on the sidewalk, but waiting in the line and stepping onto the roller coaster? That would suggest that some of life's turns and twists and drops take us to places of hardship because we are following Jesus. 

It's about looking to Jesus, who "for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2) It's realizing that Jesus isn't keeping us off the coaster, but sitting here with us at every twist and turn and scream. And it's also looking less at the here and now, and more at the not yet to come and the pure joy at seeing Jesus face-to-face, at the end of the ride that is really just the beginning.

And the Answer Is . . . by Diane Jordan

t may be because I am far removed from those days, but I find I miss those years when my children peppered me with their incessant questions.

Yes, there were days my eyes glazed over and I half listened to the non-stop chatter of my son, or I dreaded the hard questions my daughters invariably would ask.

Yet it was also those times that afforded me a window into their souls, and provided many an opportunity for some deep conversations.

This past week I relived some of those days as I sat in on our SICM Boys Day Out, and the Girls Day Out that followed the next day.

On their day out, the boys heard Pastor Dan speak about what it means to be a man of God as he relayed the story of David—a man after God’s own heart.

On Girls Day Out, the girls were reminded of what a faithful woman of God looks like as Michelle Kelley spoke about Queen Esther.

After each talk, the SICM team handed out pieces of paper. The team told the children to write down any questions they had about the Bible lesson, about Jesus, church, the Bible, faith—you get the idea.

After lunch SICM chose some of the questions and talked about what the Bible had to say.

Here is just a sampling of the questions the children wrote down.

•What if Jesus didn’t come to earth and didn’t die on the cross?

•What do I do to become a Christian?

•What should you do after you become a Christian?

•How do you be baptized?

•What are more ways to be a man?

•Why did Esther do it [go to the king] if it was so dangerous?

•How old is God?

•How old is the Bible?

•Who wrote the Bible?

•How did the Bible get to us?

•Is there anything God cannot do?

•What will God do to Satan when Jesus comes back?

•What if all of the Bible stories don’t really exist?

•Can sin ever go away?

•Is there a doggie heaven?

•How do we know that people we lost are in heaven?

•Is it a sin not to celebrate Christmas?

There's a popular story, which has probably reached legendry status by now, about a pastor who was giving a children’s sermon.

He started, ”I’m going to describe something, and I want you to raise your hand when you know what it is. I’m thinking of something that lives in trees and eats nuts …”

No hands went up. “It can be gray or brown and it has a long bushy tail.” The children looked around the room at each other, but still no one raised a hand.

“It chatters and sometimes it flips its tail when it’s excited.”

Finally one little boy shyly raised his hand. The pastor breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Okay, Michael. What do you think it is?”

“Well,” said the boy, “it sure sounds like a squirrel, but I guess the answer’s supposed to be Jesus.”

I am grateful that our children have a safe place to ask questions.

I am grateful that they know people who take their questions seriously.

I am grateful for parents and all the other adults I know who are helping to lay spiritual foundations in the lives of children.

And I’m grateful that the answer is always Jesus.

Monumental Cross by Wil Trigg

The Supreme Court ruled on the “Peace Cross” just before we left for our vacation to the Washington, DC area. It was a case that pitted the American Humanist Association against the American Legion.

We went to the area to celebrate the wedding of one of Lorraine’s nieces—nothing at all to do with courts or monuments. We stayed with Lorraine’s sister and brother-in-law (the bride's parents). As our brother-in-law drove us to his home from the airport, even under the darkness of night, we could see that he was driving right by the shape of a cross.

A travel-weary Lorraine perked up. Is that the Peace Cross? She asked out loud. As news junkies, we knew about the case and the ruling. With family there, we saw some social media activity trying to garner support for the cross. One of their kids—our nephew—who lives in another state, posted on the ruling on his Facebook page. Though his views are left of center politically, his fond memories of the monument meant--we think--that he was pulling for its preservation.

So I've been reading up on this decision to allow this cross to stand on public land. I haven't found some of the comments of the Supreme Court justices to be all that encouraging.

Here we are at the Peace Cross

Here we are at the Peace Cross

Back when World War I ended, the cross was less of a Christian symbol and more of a public expression of support for the war.

Looking at it up close in real life, I think I got what the judges meant. No Scripture was on the cross. It wasn’t religious exactly, but historical. This really isn’t a Christian monument. Thinking historically, what other symbol would connect with the culture at the end of the first war. If it was built today, one of the judges suggested that the court and the public at large would likely have a different view.

But it's about the first World War, and the cross was synonymous with the war, not an expression of Christianity. Standing next to it, I get that.

But even as I write it, I’m saying to myself, “Wait. It’s the cross.”

It seems like everything is so partisan these days. Lydia and Chas, our family there, live in a community that’s overwhelmingly home to democrats. This is not an upper middle-class socially conservative mostly republican place like DuPage County. But it is a place where Jesus lives, where the church they are a part of is reaching out to the people around them.

I asked our brother-in-law what the community thought. He explained (and Lydia later affirmed) that except for the people bringing the suit, everyone wanted to keep it. Across the street from the Peace Cross stands a World War II monument as well as one commemorating a Revolutionary War battle that the colonialists (that’s us) lost. It’s a collection of patriotic monuments. Who wouldn’t want that?

If you look at the photo, you'll see a covering on the top of the cross, because it was being renovated and work stopped until the outcome of the court’s ruling. Lydia said that there had been local discussions about what to do with the cross if the court ruled against it…one idea was to take off both sides and just make it a tall column. And who would pay for such work? Fortunately, the renovation can resume.

With time, things change. The veterans of World War I died. This memorial remembers them. And given the SCOTUS ruling, it’s going to stay around. I am moved by the war memorials in D.C. They make me think about the sacrifice, the human toll in a war.

But does that give us peace?

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (I Corinthians 1:18)

We live in a world where people sue about a memorial cross, where some berate people with different political perspectives or religious beliefs, or we minimize the humanity of people from other countries or social classes or races or those who have not yet been born, the disabled and the elderly. Christians imprisoned, kidnapped, and churches blown up or closed down. We can be sure that we are not living in a world of peace.

I don’t mean any disrespect to the people who gave their lives in World War I or in any of the other wars. But none of their spilled blood gives me what I really need. It can’t atone for my sin. Don't get me wrong; I'm grateful for their human sacrifice.

Yes, I love the freedoms we have in this country, the liberty we live in the words we speak publicly, the freedom we know in the church in which we openly and freely worship, the fun we have as we watch the parade and cheer our STARS or march with Caring Network.

Make no mistake, however. The cross of Jesus is not a civic memorial. It doesn’t become a symbol or tradition of our country or local community. With July 4 festivities looming, I hope that’s not what the cross is for us.

The cross of Jesus doesn’t lose its power over time. To the contrary, it grows, it deepens. It affects every corner of our souls. It makes us family with people we’ve never met who live in countries where we’ve never been. If it's about a country, it's one that isn't on this earth.

Yet there are so many ways our eyes can be diverted from the cross, I mean, the real cross. That cross is harder to see on some days, maybe most days. But let's look at that one.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

Mysteriously, the work of Jesus multiplies where the cross of Jesus is under most fire. More Christians than ever before. More martyrs than at any other time of history. The blood of Jesus spilled for us does what no fallen soldier’s blood can do. No law, no court ruling, no military force, no earthly father, no friend or family member can do what Jesus does. Even if they give their lives for us.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

Let's Get Going by Virginia Hughes

Virginia’s dad at his oak desk.

Virginia’s dad at his oak desk.

The sun is shining, the breeze slight, birds are singing and flowers swaying. Today is a rare day that beckons, come outside! Come, walk and chase. Come, see and sit and breathe. A perfect day full of promise. A day like this on a Saturday back in my childhood home would have us hoping Dad would notice it and call out to us in the middle of our weekly chores, “Let’s get going!” Weeding tools would be put away. Irons and vacuum cleaners turned off. Laundry could wait. Grabbing tennis shoes in hand, we’d race in bare feet to the station wagon passing giggles of glee between us like rays of light.

With Father’s Day having recently passed, I have been thinking of things that remind me of my dad. I remember his sturdy suitcase covered with labels from around the world. He wore dress suits and starched white shirts and neckties. His piercing eyes peered out from wire rimmed glasses under a shock of dark red hair slicked back with Brylcreem that revealed a receding hairline. On his feet he’d wear wingtip shoes in black or brown leather, and the scent of warm and welcoming Old Spice wafted around him after he shaved.

An imposing oak desk anchored his home office, along with a floor to ceiling library of dark barrister bookcases full of Grandpa’s book collection and commentaries to study for preaching sermons. Dad did a lot of writing and preaching. He preached in Tagalog and Ilokano overseas. He also had a habit of praying loudly in his office very early in the morning at home. Lessons in loving the Lord and reading the Bible were the steady cadence of my father.

His shoe shine kit is also memorable. When I think of his well-worn wingtip shoes in black or brown leather, they gleamed with a shine thanks to the labors of us kids well trained in the contents of the heirloom shoe shine kit. It once belonged to his father and was constructed of sturdy enough wood to travel back and forth overseas many times. It had metal cans of brown and black shoe polish, whose sharp turpentine aroma and quick staining power challenged our young powers of focus and diligence. Soft rags and sets of stiff brushes used for cleaning and shining on up to the softest brushes and cloths designed to produce the best shine rounded out the kit. We were all taught to shine his shoes. If he had to ask one of us, a nickel per shoe was earned. If we remembered to ask him, a whole quarter was paid for the two shoes. Shined shoes had to pass inspection before nickels or quarters were paid.

My father was a man of inspections. Smooth bedspreads, crisp table settings and our personal appearance were frequently noted. Growing up in boarding school and military training taught him to set high standards and equip himself for every task. And he was set on equipping us in similar ways.

Then there were Dad’s surprises which filled us with delight. On Saturdays in the middle of doing chores, if the day and attitudes were just right as they are today, we might anticipate the declaration, “Let’s get going!” These adventuring words took us on unfamiliar roads to a picnic by the ocean or to a place we’d never seen, on a hike in a state park or a long walk by a rolling river. “Outdoors Dad” wore his oldest pair of dress shoes ever gleaming with shine. Oh, what earnings could be counted on later with the gauntlet of getting the mud off and the shine back on those shoes. Then he’d roll up his shirt sleeves and loosen his tie. This soldier in the Lord’s army was always in some form of recognizable uniform.

“Shouldn’t we pack a lunch?” Mom would ask. In earlier times with a younger, smaller family, Dad would answer, “No need, we’ll buy mangoes in the market!” Dad used to answer this way in the islands. Once we moved back stateside, Mom had us filling thermoses and making a picnic basket full of fruit, sandwiches and cookies before we went anywhere. We grabbed old blankets for our picnic and headed for the station wagon. There was also a separate bag of sandwiches just for Dad who’d be doing all the driving at breakneck speed and asking for a sandwich five minutes into the trip and every hour and a half thereafter by our calculations. Dad wasn’t the only one keeping track of things.

Dad’s speeding on highways and back roads greatly amused us back then. The officer who walked up to our pulled over, waiting station wagon stuffed with wide-eyed children would ask, “Do you know how fast you were going, sir?” Dad would smile and hand over his driver’s license. “Reverend?” The officer’s eyebrows would arc in surprise. I saw Dad talk to many police officers but he never received a ticket. Praise God we were never in an accident. Once the warning to “Never speed again,” was issued, Dad would ask if he may pray for the officer or answer any questions about faith.

Sometimes a quick prayer was prayed right then. Sometimes he’d go back to the officer’s car and pray and talk in the car alongside the policeman. We could see through the patrol car’s windshield that Dad was pointing to verses in his Bible. We would try to guess if he was reciting a verse from Ephesians or Romans or was he to John 3:16 yet? Dad liked to ask an officer if the local jail had any occupants who needed visiting. If it did, we’d all follow the policeman’s car to the jail and go visit a very surprised occupant. Dad enjoyed telling the family joke, “Have you met my family? They’ve all spent a lot of time in jail.

So when it came time for driver’s ed, I was told that even though Daddy drove like a demon, I had better drive right and observe all the rules of the road. Especially the speed limit; as he was not paying for my tickets. However, he promised to visit me in jail if I disobeyed because he always visited prisoners in jail. “C’mon Dad, tell me why you get away with speeding? No one gets away with that,” He told us maybe if we were World War Two veterans who became missionaries, and then pastored a local church; some understanding and grace may yet fall upon us. Or maybe we should work on our missing charms and stop asking pesky questions.

One day, returning home from a beautiful adventure at Turkey Run Park, most of us were dozing as we neared our city’s limits. On the edge of our Indiana town, as shadows lengthened, a group of four young African American musicians stood by their broken-down van with their thumbs in the air hoping for a ride into town. It was the mid-seventies, during years of heightened racial unrest in our town. Locally, anger on both sides had been stirred up in an “eye for an eye” unwinnable contest. Cars heading into town were steering clear of this group. Not Dad. He pulled over and backed up to get closer to them.

Our father who hitchhiked from a ranch where he worked in Colorado to his parents’ home in Indianapolis during summers as a teen, always stopped for hitchhikers anytime of the day or night. We were used to it and nodded obediently whenever he picked up a hitchhiker warning us again to never hitchhike and not to ever pick up hitchhikers ourselves as “the times they are a changing’.” Dad jumped out and shortly returned with the order to make room for our passengers. Those of us in the middle seat jumped into the back and the band took over the middle seat holding onto their guitars and horn cases, while mic cords and all sorts of sound equipment was squeezed into every available space in the car.

We drove to a part of town we’d not be wanted in and caused quite a spectacle with our family parading cords, microphones and small amps into the venue helping them set up for the concert. Then before we left, Dad, the band and all of us, held hands in a circle while Dad prayed for their concert, their families, safety on the roads and most of all, their souls. He gave them Bibles from the ever-present Gideon Bible box in our car, also his business card so they could contact him anytime.

He blessed them by reading Psalm 121.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Dad finished reading and we were invited to the band’s concert that night, but we didn’t get to stay. Dad invited the band to church the next morning, but they would be driving to St. Louis by morning. Then one of the band members started singing the old familiar hymn,

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

Together we sang all the verses we could remember and said goodbye. The drive home was filled with surprise that our now-favorite hitchhiking band knew the words to the serious church hymn, “Rock of Ages.”

As we go out into the highways and hedges this summer, I wouldn’t recommend speeding like my Dad because no one except Dad gets stopped and gets away like he did. The hitchhiker part of the story, God bless and protect anyone brave enough to help that person in need. I still obey Dad and don’t hitch or pick up hitchhikers. Maybe if I know you, I’ll pick you up if you don’t look too scary! What we can all learn from Dad is to be generous in helping and be willing to pray and invite everyone to saving grace. Our job is to love, and this is the perfect day. Let’s get going!

And the lord said to the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. Luke 14:23 (KJV)