A Handshake Did It
CRACK! The sound of the window breaking resounded around the dining room. The people who had just eaten lunch were stunned.
“What happened?” Perry questioned his wife.
“I don’t know, dear. It must be the neighbor boy playing ball between the houses again.” Nancy glared at Perry, challenging him to make a fuss in front of guests.
“I thought you talked to the kid’s dad about that.” Perry wasn’t going to let the subject drop.
“I did. He promised the boy would stop it.” Nancy was furious with him, for his mule headed attitude in front of company. Just because they were having problems, did everybody have to know?
“Maybe I should go over there and give that guy a piece of my mind.” Perry started to rise from his chair, but Nancy put a restraining hand on his arm.
“Don’t you think you’d better wait until you cool off a bit? If you go over there all in a tither you’re liable to start something you can’t finish.”
Perry grumpily sank back into his chair, glared at Nancy, making Joe and Mary very uncomfortable. “Well, I guess we better be going. I have an appointment at the hairdresser, and Joe is taking his Boy Scout troop on an outing tomorrow. He really needs to get his supplies. Mary gave a groan. “If it’s not one thing, then it’s the other.”
“Well, Mary’s right as usual. I’ll see you in church Sunday,” Joe smiled at his sister.
Joe rose, shook hands with Perry, who didn’t bother to get up, and said to Nancy “Thanks for a delicious lunch, Sis. I’m sure Mary enjoyed somebody else doing the cooking.”
After Nancy saw them to the door she wearily went back to the living room. “I’m tired. I’m going to lie down for a while. I’ll clean up the kitchen later.”
Perry interrupted her with “This thing with the Bowie’s can’t go on.”
“Oh, Perry, just drop it, why don’t you? I’m fed up with your groaning and complaining.”
As she slowly went up the steps, Nancy began to think about the problems she and Perry were having lately. What happened? What did she do to start this roller coaster? Much as she tried to rationalize the situation, she wondered if things would be different if Perry went to church with her. Didn’t he know there was no problem too big or too small that God couldn’t help you solve? By this time Nancy’s slow steps put her in front of her bedroom door. She and Perry didn’t even share the same room, let alone the same bed any more. It’s odd how that came about. One night they were sharing the same room. The next night Perry declared “I’m going to start using the spare bedroom,” and off he went. Lonely, she laid across her bed and talked to God.
“Oh, God, I don’t know how to bridge this gap between Perry and me. Why can’t I find the right words to try to get him to believe in You? I have tried, God, I really have. Now I leave it in Your hands. I can’t travel this solitary road much longer. Please help me. Show me the way and show Perry the light. Amen”
She heard Perry come up the steps. She hoped he might stop and knock, but he just kept going to his own room. It wasn’t long before she fell into a troubled sleep.
The problem she was having with Perry was the first thing her thoughts turned to when she awoke. She had learned as a child those who do wrong will never share in the Kingdom of God, but Perry wouldn’t believe. He didn’t even know he was doing wrong in the sight of God. Nancy had been raised in the church. Their home, when she was a child, was full of laughter. Not somber and tense like theirs. She picked up her Bible from her night stand. She knew reading the various scriptures from Psalms, her favorite book of the Bible. “Whom have I in heaven but You? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart, He is mine forever. How good it is to be near God! I have made the sovereign Lord my shelter.”
Then she read her favorite passage from Psalm 18. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the strength of my salvation and my stronghold.”
Nancy felt better, more ready to face whatever after she read her devotions, and prepared herself to go downstairs to clean up the kitchen.
After breakfast, the next morning, eaten in silence, Perry tossed the newspaper he’d been buried in aside. He took the last gulp of coffee, and loudly pushed his chair back. He picked up his briefcase, and grazed Nancy’s cheek with a suggestion of a kiss, and headed to his car.
His thoughts were muddled as he drove to the office. What was happening to his marriage? I still love Nancy, but lately she had grown so distant. It must be all that crap she hears in that church of hers. Well, if she wants to believe those things about God, she can. That doesn’t mean I have to.
Soon he was at his office parking lot. He picked up his briefcase, locked the car, and entered the building. As he walked through the outer office on the way to his own, several cheery voices said good morning. He nodded to them, entered his office, checked his mail and turned on his computer to check the day’s stock quotes.
Perry was so preoccupied with his thoughts he was startled to hear a knock on his office door.
Paul, friend and co-worker, entered, and mentioned to Perry, “I’m going to the church’s men’s prayer breakfast in the morning. We gather at the Central Plaza. After we eat our Dutch treat breakfast we have a short devotion. We decided at the last meeting everybody would bring a guest tomorrow. Would you go with me? I’ll even buy you breakfast. We meet at 7 so we all have time to get to work by 8. How about it? Want to go?”
Perry didn’t really want to go, but Paul was a good friend, and they did enjoy each other’s company. I don’t suppose it would hurt me this once. Aloud he answered, “Yes, I’ll go with you, but don’t expect me to make a habit of it. Would you like me to pick you up?”
“I’m glad you’re going. You won’t regret it. You can pick me up about quarter to seven. I don’t like to be late. Is that O.K.?”
After Paul left, Perry asked himself, why did I do that? I don’t want to go to some dumb prayer breakfast. I probably won’t know anybody. Oh well, I guess I’d better make the most of it. I don’t really have an excuse not to go.
Arriving home to the dinner already on the table, Perry sat down in his usual place.
“Did you have a nice day, Perry?” Nancy interrupted his thoughts.
The silence that followed was deafening. Out of the blue, Perry spoke.
“I won’t be here in the morning for breakfast.”
“What’s the matter, Perry? Going on a diet?”
“No, Paul invited me to go with him to his church’s prayer breakfast, and I told him I would.”
“Well, isn’t that what you wanted?”
Unwilling to rise to the bait Nancy merely answered “I hope you enjoy yourself. Where are you having breakfast?”
“At the Central Plaza.”
“Don’t forget to set your alarm clock.”
With that Nancy rose, and started to clear the table for dessert. I’m glad he’s going, but I hope it isn’t just a flash in the pan, was her thought. I just have to play the situation by ear.
The next morning Nancy heard Perry go quietly down the stairs, and leave by the front door at 6:30. “Dear God,” she prayed, “Please let this be the start, not the calm before the storm. I left it all up to You, so do Your thing.”
Meanwhile, Paul and Perry arrived at the restaurant. Perry was surprised how many men were there that he knew. I didn’t know so many of my friends were into this God thing, was his first thought. That’s Jack, the plumber who fixed our pipes last week. Over there is Wally. He delivers our mail. By golly, there’s Ralph. He’s president of our company. He must be in to the God thing, too. The girls at the office must be, too. Maybe that’s why they’re so blamed cheerful all the time.
Finally, breakfast was over, the waitress had cleared the table, and refilled the cups with fresh coffee. Then one of the men rose, said, “My name is Jim Bowie, and I’m going to present a brief devotion.”
Good God, that’s the man from next door whose kid broke our window. I didn’t have any idea he was one of ‘those’ people too. There might be something to this stuff, were the thoughts rattling around in Perry’s head.
Jim said “My topic this morning will be Talk the Walk. Those of you who brought guests this morning are talking your walk with Jesus.
“One Sunday recently I woke with a headache. Not serious, but bad enough to keep me from going to church. I turned on the TV and the minister was talking about my subject.
The message that particular Sunday morning was one we all should obey. Talk the Talk, Walk the Talk, Talk the Walk. I won’t even try to repeat the sermon, but I can relate what it meant to me, and maybe you’ll agree with my thinking.
Talk the Talk – I am a Christian. Are you? Do either one of us talk about our Christianity, or are we either afraid or too shy to do that? Regardless of our personality, we must not be afraid or shy to talk about what being a Christian means to us.
Walk the talk – Extenuating circumstances such as illness, lack of transportation or age might prevent us from taking an active role in our individual church, but if we don’t have that ‘excuse’ we must walk the talk by being active within our church. You don’t even have to be in a physical church to walk the talk. Do you call a shut-in, and let them know you are thinking about them today? Do you call an organization you once were active in, to volunteer to be on the telephone committee, or offer to be the telephone committee of one? There are many ways to walk the talk.
And last but not least, talk the walk. Jesus said ‘do not hide your light under a bushel’. Talk with
enthusiasm and pride about the walk you are taking for God and yourself.”
Then Jim picked up his Bible, and looking over the gathering, said “Now I’m going to give you two or three verses to take back to work with you. I am reading from John, Chapter 15, verses 7 through 11.”
“Now hear the word Jesus spoke – If you abide in me and my word abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done onto you. Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. These things have I spoken onto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”
“Now, go in peace and may the word guide your footsteps.”
While they were walking out to the car Paul asked Perry “Well, what did you think?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“Want to go with me next week?”
“I’ll let you know. I will admit I have a lot to think about since the meeting.”
When Perry arrived home, Nancy was just putting the finishing touches to dinner. He picked up his mail from the hall table, and sat down to look it over. Then Nancy called him for dinner.
“I went to the prayer breakfast with Paul this morning.”
“Did you see anybody you knew?”
“Yes, I was surprised how many I did know. Mr. Bowie from next door was one of them.”
“Did you enjoy the fellowship?”
“They seemed like a very congenial group of men. When we were through eating, Mr. Bowie
had a short devotional and closed the meeting with a brief prayer.”
“Do you think you might go again?”
“Paul asked me. I told him I’d let him know.”
They finished the meal in companionable silence. Nancy didn’t ask any more about Perry’s outing that morning. She didn’t want him to feel she was pushing him.
Later, while they were sitting in the living room, Nancy wondered why the TV wasn’t on. Perry always had it blasting away.
Suddenly, Perry put down the paper he was reading, turned towards Nancy, and said, “We have to talk.”
“About anything in particular?”
“I know I have done a good job of making your life miserable. I’ve been miserable too. After I was in the company of all those believers this morning, I got to thinking. They all looked so with it. They all had a smile for their neighbor. They acted like I would like to act, but they seemed to have a quality or something I don’t have. I began to think maybe all this stuff about God, and loving your fellowman, might have something to it. I’m going to find out, but I have to do it my own way. Will you help me, Nancy?”
Nancy’s heart was filled with hope as he finished talking but she didn’t want to antagonize him with her anxiety. She turned to Perry as he finished talking. “You know I’ll do everything I can, Perry, as long as you realize this is a trip you have to decide for yourself you want to take.”
Perry kept going to the prayer breakfast with Paul. Then the day came when Paul had to go out of town on business, and Perry found himself at the weekly prayer breakfast by himself. New friends made him feel welcome, and he found himself more relaxed then he had been in some time.
A few weeks later Nancy called her brother on the phone, and extended another invitation for lunch Saturday coming.
The conversation was lively during lunch and surprisingly Perry provided some comments of his own, adding some highlights to the experience. Later, after they retired to the living room with tall glasses of ice tea, Joe turned towards Perry. “You seem to be in a friendlier frame of mind than you were the last time we were here. I like the change, but how’d it happen?”
Perry grinned. “Just wait and see. You’ll find out.”
This time there was no ball, no broken windows, and Joe and Mary were more comfortable. After a while Mary regretfully said “We don’t like to break this party up, but we’d better get home before the kids think we’ve forgotten them.
This time, much to Joe’s surprise, Perry rose to his feet as they prepared to leave. “I’m really glad you came. We’ll have to get together again soon.”
After Perry saw Mary and Joe to the door, he entered the living room. ”Like me to help with the dishes? Many hands make light work.”
Nancy was taken aback. They’d been married eight years, and never once had he made such an offer. “You took me by surprise, Perry, but I’d love to have your help.”
As Nancy washed the dishes and Perry dried, they had a freer conversation than they’d had in some time. Nancy’s thoughts were different than they had been lately. I can’t get over the change in Perry, was her immediate thought. I feel like a normal life might come with his change.
Things didn’t change over night, but then came the Sunday Perry joined Nancy when she went to church, and she had tears in her eyes the day he was baptized, and accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.
And all because one man had extended a hand of fellowship.
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