Jeff had sunk into the couch with Mutt’s jaw resting on his knee. With cool drink in hand, he was watching the football on his big-screen. You could almost insert this picture into the dictionary where “relaxed” used to be.
Except that he wasn’t watching the game. He was still reeling from this morning’s discovery. All that work flushed down the toilet. Oh yeah, Pastor Kelvin had prayed for the whole mess. But he knew God’s promises did not include a replacement bus suddenly arriving in the church car park - gift-wrapped with a big silk ribbon tied in a bow and postmarked “Heaven!”
Jeff might have always been a 3D synonym for “shyness,” because he never sought attention. Let the others do the talking. Then somebody suggested the church start a soup bus before winter set its icy fingers around the hopes and self-respect of homeless people downtown. Before he knew it, he had found himself guiding all those talker types, and as they transformed a decrepit hulk into a vehicle that would fulfil this ministry, his confidence had bloomed in their respect for him.
The church had planned to dedicate the team and their bus the next day, but an unknown arsonist had wrecked the dream and denied people the nourishment and acceptance that they needed so desperately.
And what about the guys at work? He’d got so excited about the project that maybe his enthusiasm had rubbed off on them, but now he’d have to tell them it had all gone belly-up. He’d begun to enjoy his new-found easiness with words, but now the right words had emigrated.
Sonorous doorbell chimes launched Mutt into a barked greeting for an unknown but ever-welcome guest.
When Jeff opened the door he found Pastor Kelvin, smiling. But as Mutt’s nostrils and tail approved the visit, Jeff waved him wordlessly towards the lounge.
“Football’s a lot like the church,” observed Kelvin as he sank into a chair and accepted a Coke. “A few who need a rest are watching by thousands who’d benefit from exercise. But I’ve just had some great news about our soup bus, from Dave Christie.”
“Do you mean my boss?” gaped Jeff. “He’s never been interested in church!”
“So he told me, but he’s seen how you've come right out of your shell since the bus project started, and right now he’s trawling with his business contacts to get us another one! How about that?"
“But I don’t understand, Pastor. Couldn’t God have reached Dave without breaking our hearts with that firebug?”
“He could Jeff, but your growth has inspired Dave, and God’s promises aren’t about special effects. He leaves all that stuff to guys like Steven Spielberg, because he prefers to focus on our relationships with him and with each other. Your humility and your new confidence have inspired Dave Christie to see how he can help us, for God wants to make our soup bus ministry more effective by including some up-and-outs along with the down-and-outs!”
Jeff’s lips moved, but only to sip on his Coke, as Kelvin reached across and lightly punched his shoulder.
“Jeff, we were all expecting great things from God, but his dreams were bigger than ours. We knew our timeline, with our imminent launch. We knew when to expect it, but God widened our timeline because he’s immanent.
“That’s spelled with an ‘a’ instead of an ‘i,’ and it simply means that he’s not limited by time. When he answers our prayers, he steps into our needs or our hopes, and we discover that he’s leapfrogged over our hopes and desires. He shows that he’s been working with those around us, or working through us – or even in spite of us - to bring new life to bloom.
"And he’s kept doing all this under our radar and without asking our permission; because if we were aware of everything he was up to, our pride or our fear or our impatience would get in his way.”
Jeff sat back, feeling the blanket of confusion being lifted away, and he grinned with relief and excitement. So the soup bus was not dead, and Dave Christie, of all people, was warming to what God could do in his life. He couldn’t quite imagine that boss’ voice wrapping itself around choruses or hymns in church, but a seed was sprouting, and God would bring the growth to full-bloom in his own time.
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