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Sep 01, 2020 67 0 Teresa Weider
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Tell Them That I Love Them

Your life will never be the same if you do this…

Beyond words

Words are all around us and are used to make us feel or react to things and events. Words are powerful tools to lift us up or bring us down. In this fast paced internet age of communication, it is more important than ever to look for words that inspire and give hope. Years ago, there were bumper stickers and signs that simply read “John 3:16”. I had no idea what these words were referring to. One day, a friend explained that it was a Bible verse. After finally getting around to looking up that verse, I can honestly say they were the most powerful uplifting words that I have ever read. This scripture has become so popular, that most people can recite some, if not all of it from memory. Why would so many people memorize this verse and print its simple reference in public places? It’s simply because these words are packed full of love, hope and salvation.

John tells us in his Gospel that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” This passage not only gives us hope for our salvation, it is a message of immense love. Read it again…God so loved the world! Let that sink in a few minutes. God loves ALL of us and EVERYTHING in the world that He has created. This is a powerful message worth unpacking, but I must backtrack a little to explain how the depths of John 3:16 was revealed to me, in my own corner of the world.

One morning, many years ago, my husband had gone to work, our children had left for school, and the house was QUIET! Still in my pajamas, I sat at my kitchen table with a warm cup of tea, planning to settle in with my sweet Lord to complete a weekly Bible study lesson. It was a cool, cozy California winter day. It would rain for a while, then the sun would peek out from behind the clouds just long enough to make everything glisten before another cool fragrant wave of rain would follow. The rhythm of rain and sun in northern California makes the most delightful rainbows that tend to remind me of God’s covenant with us. “He is our God and we are His people. He is my God and I am His…. (happy sigh!).” What a delightful way to start a Bible study session.

When the Sun Shines

I have heard that God has a sense of humor, but this morning I was not in the mood to indulge His wit. I had just opened all my books, readied a pen, and sipped a bit of tea when I felt a soulful urging. Suddenly the rain stopped and the sun appeared. I tried to ignore the urgent prodding, but it became stronger. “But Lord,” I moaned, “I am still in my pajamas!” We had 2 small dogs and I felt that God wanted me to change quickly, leash the dogs and take them for a walk while it was sunny. I was not to take anything with me. I felt a peaceful but strong sense of urgency. I was out the door within minutes. I thought God had given me a brief window of time to soak up the sun since I was recently diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency. Sunshine, my doctor informed me, would help reverse that. But little did I know that God was about to facilitate a unique kind of Bible study.

At the round end of my neighborhood cul-de-sac there is an entrance to a labyrinth of walking trails. Approaching the entrance, I noticed a large white unmarked cargo van parked ahead. Although my stomach started to tighten in anticipation, God seemed to prod me onward. Close to the van stood an armed corrections officer standing at the ready. “Oh Lord, what are you up to? This isn’t funny,” I thought. I tried to act casual as I walked past the guard. I nodded at him, but kept walking.

Pushing the Panic button

Parallel to the trail, there’s a creek that fills with water when it rains. Looking down into the creek I saw 6-8 men in orange jumpsuits, the kind worn by prisoners from the local prison. Two beavers had recently decided to dam up the creek and caused a drainage problem. The men in the orange jumpsuits were low security prisoners sent to clean the debris from the creek. However, they were guarded by armed security. I clutched my Rosary and kept moving.

The prisoners stopped working as I walked by and a few of them made barely audible comments about my little dogs. Just then, one of my dogs decided it was time to answer nature’s call. She stopped in full view of the workers. Suddenly another correctional officer appeared from nowhere and approached my dogs and I. For some reason I felt guilty for lingering, but I was at the mercy of my dog’s timing. I wanted nothing more than to hurry along.

As the second armed officer drew near, my insides started to tense. But then I heard myself asking, “What are you guys doing?” I was surprised to hear my own voice break the silence. I already knew what they were doing. Where did that question come from? The officer confirmed my assessment and we exchanged a few quick pleasantries. I cleaned the area and continued my walk.

Kissed on the cheek

As I walked, I wondered why God had wanted me to leave the house so urgently. I thought again about the sunshine being a gift for me and settled into a peaceful walk. God’s presence was all around me and in the comfort of His presence, I decided to take a longer walk than I had intended. The Rosary in my hand became our conversation as I prayed the mysteries of the day. About two decades into the Rosary, the wind began to pick up and a light mist kissed my face as if God’s lips had gently brushed my cheeks. The gentle mist, however, soon turned into a light rain, which in turn became a heavy downpour that soaked me and my dogs. “Very funny…” I thought. I had not taken an umbrella. “You told me not to take anything with me!” I laughed at God’s sense of humor, thanked God for the rain and hurried home. But God was not done yet.

Were the guards and the prisoners still there? Approaching the trail exit I noticed the white van. For some reason, I felt relief that they had not left yet. Stranger still, I was suddenly convinced that I needed to give them something. But what? Water? Cookies? What? What did I have? My mind raced. I had made banana bread that was cooling on the kitchen counter.

Yes, that was it…quickly now…get inside and cut it up! The sense of urgency intensified. Don’t dawdle! Something was guiding me. Hastily I cut up the bread, put it on a plate, covered it and briskly left my house just as the white prison van was passing my driveway.

A Godly Smile

As if on cue, I waved to the driver with a smile. He recognized me and cautiously rolled to a stop. I held up the bread as if an offering. He rolled down the window and I said, “I just thought you might like the men to have this. They worked so hard.” I barely completed my words, when the officer smiled and nodded to accept my offering. I could not see any faces, but I heard a man in the back seats exclaim “Aah.” The officer took the bread and just before he rolled up his window, a prisoner poked up his head and with a toothless, godly smile said, “Thank you! Thank you!” I said, “God bless you” and one by one they echoed back the same sentiment to me. As they drove away, I slowly walked back into the house and sobbed tears of joy. I had been blessed.

I believe everything that happened that morning happened for a reason. Every word had purpose. Every second counted. The rain and sunshine performed on cue. Even my dogs’ cuteness and the call of nature played a role. God had set the stage and gave me a role to play in a powerful Bible study lesson that reminded me He loves us all and He never forgets any of us. He loves all of us no matter where we are, what we look like or what we have done. He loved me, He loved the compassionate officers, He loved the prisoners, He loved my dogs. He even loved and played with the wind, the sun, the rain, and the rainbow that day.

I may never see those men again in this life. I gave them banana bread to fill their stomachs for a brief moment, but God loves them so much that He gave His only begotten Son, the true and everlasting bread from Heaven. When God sent His Son for our salvation, it was because He loves! He loves All His creations. Everything God created has His love in it and through His Son Jesus Christ He will give us everlasting life. I have never looked at John 3:16 the same since that day. I see God’s love in everything now. I have also become fond of the expression, “Make hay while the sun (Son) shines.” But I have added something to it: “because you don’t want to miss God’s lessons or blessings!”

Loving Father I praise and thank You for loving me beyond all measures. Every moment I am in Your sight and You know the deepest recess of my heart. Today I firmly resolve to love You with all my heart and to never leave the light of Your unceasing love. Amen.

Teresa Weider

© serves the Church remarkably through her active involvement in various ministries over the years. She lives with her family in Folsom, California, USA.

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