Sometimes life is a mystery :)
Through a series of fortunate (as opposed to unfortunate) events, we ended up at a church this morning - a church we'd never heard of really until last night. The church, Christ Church in Bartlett,Tennessee, proved to be a blessing. The way we got there proved to be intriguing and still is to us.
About a week and a half ago, my husband asked me to cut back on spending because we have had some extra expenses this month.
We've been married for 27 years and he's asked me to do that before. And I have... I cut back on groceries but not on books... (Sad but true...) Browsing at book stores is sort of my therapy and Phil, wonderful guy that he is, has never complained about this expensive hobby of mine.
Two days after he asked me to watch my spending, I had a day of one frustration after another and really, really wanted to go to Lifeway for some "book-buying therapy". But for once in our married life, I kept hearing Phil's reasonable request in the back of my mind. So, after running my legit errands, I went home.
Still frustrated, I decided to browse Lifeway's website to see if there were any new biographies out. I never browse the internet for books in general, only when I have a specific title in mind. However, this day was different.
I ran across a newly released biography, The Insanity of God byNik Ripken,which looked interesting to me. However, still mindful of Phil's caution about our finances and very much aware that in another week we would be at a hotel sharing the same parking lot as a LIfeway store in Tennessee- where I would undoubtedly splurge - I didn't get the book.
The next day,I was conflicted - still wanting the book but still feeling like I should at least try to be good for a bit longer ;)
Then it hit me that I could call Phil (at work!) and ask if it was okay to get this book - that way I could have my cake and eat it too! Shop without guilt!
The poor man was most definitely surprised. He made me repeat my request twice - clearly he hasn't heard something like that from me very often - and then, still puzzled (like: there's a trick here somewhere, right???), told me that was fine, no problem.
I went to the store - he didn't need to tell me twice that it was okay! But it wasn't in the biography section. Finally I asked the manager, he looked it up, and said it was in the Christian Living section. This may not seem significant but to me it was - I never browse on the internet for new books in general - but this time I had. And once in the store, I almost never browse through the Christian Living Section of the store. I always hit the biographies, the fiction, and the study Bible section. So if I had just followed my normal routine, I would never have found Ripken's book.
Another unusual thing. Phil has worked at Landers for 10 years and they have sent him to Memphis a bunch of times for training. They send mechanics often, sometimes twice a month or even more. This is the first time, however, that PHil has had a two-day school on Thurs. and Fri. and then another two-day school on Mon. and Tues. IN the past decade, it's just never happened that way before.
When we saw his schedule back in June, we immediately decided to stay over for the weekend and at that point felt we would go to Bellevue Baptist, which we knew was not far from our hotel. As Sunday drew closer, however, we began to wonder if Phil would be able to go to church at all because of back pain - maybe he would literally just have to rest all weekend so he could finish his schools and get us back home to Little Rock.
Also, we felt a little intimidated at trying to navigate a big church like Bellevue. But that was still the plan.
Last night, as I was reading, I recalled that I had seen an ad at the back of Ripken's book, giving a website where the reader could find other stories similar to the ones in his book. About 9 p.m., I found the web address: www.nikripken.com. I read some of the blogs on that page and then clicked on "resources" thinking it would lead me to a list of books. Instead, it listed some organizations. I had seen a similar "Resource"page in the back of his book but hadn't paid attention to it. Now, my eyes went to the organizations that I knew: IMB, Open Doors, Elam MInistries. All great ministries.
At the top of the list, I saw three churches, two of which just had web addresses, one of which had a web address and also the name of the city and state: Christ Church, Bartlett, Tn. As I looked at that, I suddenly thought, "Wait a minute! Isn't Phil's school in Bartlett??? His school is just a couple of miles away from here! So Bartlett has to be close!"
I went to the church's website and it sounded really good. Phil liked it also. I looked for directions on mapquest and it said the church was about 15 min. away from here. We didn't have a printer so I tried to write down directions (leaving out one vital street name as it turned out...) and then, at 10 p.m. last night we headed out to make a practice run to the church. Thirty minutes later, we were so lost that we prayed (imagine that) and then stopped at a convenience store (which had a little window like a bank's with bars on it to protect the clerk - not good) and got directions. We finally found the church, figured out the most direct way to get to Christ church and returned to the hotel where Phil groaned and stretched his back and took some Aleve. (If we hadn't made a practice run last night, we'd never have found it in time this morning).
I went to bed thinking, "Okay. God must have some reason for us to be here on a weekend, for us to know about this church, and for us to have found it. I really think He wants us to worship there but with Phil's back pain, I don't think it's going to happen." So I went to sleep reminding God that He would have to work out the details if we were going to make it to Christ Church. (Even our alarm clock, which has been working just fine, wouldn't allow us to set the alarm for this morning. Phil finally gave up on it and then I tried and finally, between the two of us, we got the alarm set for the right time)
We made it to worship at 9:30 and God spoke to us through the sermon so we decided to stay for the Bible class at 11, which was just as good as the worship time. IN between the two services, a pastor came over to talk to us and I mentioned finding the name of the church in the back of the book I was reading. He looked a bit surprised but didn't comment on what I'd said; just welcomed us to the church.
Towards the end of the Bible class, the pastor pointed us out, said we were from Arkansas, in Memphis for a short trip, and that we'd learned about them from a book and that he'd really like to know the title of it!!!! :)
So we showed several people the book but no one was familiar with it. No one. We talked a little bit more and came up with a tenuous possible link between the church and the book but nothing concrete.
And that's where we are: through a series of fortunate events,we ended up in a church where we met some sweet people, felt totally at home, sat through two hours of Bible study that blessed both of us and spoke directly to our needs, and then we let the people know that their church is listed in the back of a newly released biography:)
It seems to us that God really went to some trouble to get us to that church. And while we received a blessing there, I feel sure there are other churches where we could have received a blessing as well. I hope so anyway!
So I guess, like Paul Harvey, this is the point where I should say: And now for the rest of the story! Only, unlike Paul, I don't have it to give! But someday in Heaven, I think I'll hear it.
Meanwhile, it's just nice to know that God is still in the business of orchestrating events in our lives and that He is indeed in the small stuff as well as the large. If nothing else, it's nice to know that He watches over us while we are away from home, even going so far as to direct our steps to church in an unknown city.
Maybe I should try to be "good" more often :)