by Dale Reeves
One of the last books I acquired and edited during my twenty-two years at Standard Publishing was a book by my friend Gayla Congdon, cofounder and chief spiritual officer of Amor Ministries, a ministry committed to providing life-changing mission trip opportunities, primarily in Mexico and South Africa. Gayla entitled her book, Disrupted, as it all began for her when God “disrupted” her life at the age of eight years old, when she began to get a glimpse of the world through God’s eyes. She has spent her life loving the people God has put in her path in San Diego, California; Tijuana, and Puerto Peñasco, Mexico; the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona; and lots of other places on this globe. As we worked on her book together nine years ago, Gayla and I spent a lot of time talking about the concept of being “disrupted” by God.
This past Tuesday evening, prior to our elders-led “Next Steps” meeting on Wednesday night, I spoke at a fire pit with some men of our church about our need to be on the lookout for the divine disruptions that God sends our way—many which we completely miss because of our busy, frantic, self-centered-agenda-driven lives. Then we prayed about our own abilities to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, as well as that same discernment among our church leadership. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit wants to drop divine appointments into our path frequently, but all too often we see them as coming in the form of distractions—not divinely sent either for our good or for the good of others. Thus, we often miss the boat God has called us to jump into.
Brought into Jesus’ Path
At the men’s fire pit Tuesday night, we spent some time looking at an encounter Jesus had with a man who couldn’t hear and couldn’t speak, that is recorded for us in Mark 7:31-37. Verse 32 in that passage tells us: “There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him” (NIV). This took place in the area known as “Ten Cities” located on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. These were Gentile cities mostly inhabited by Gentiles and under Gentile rule. Another time Jesus said he had been sent to “the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), so it’s interesting that Jesus takes the time to heal this deaf and mute man in a place that was not distinctly Jewish.
As we studied this passage together, we talked about a statement I’ve heard several times in my ministry, that says: “Jesus never went out of his way to do ministry. He simply addressed the needs of those who were brought to him and crossed his path.”
We can debate whether or not Jesus went to Jacob’s well in Sychar specifically to talk with the Samaritan woman or whether he was just “passing through.” We think of the paralyzed man whose friends tore apart a roof to lower the man down in front of Jesus, or the woman who simply touched his garment from behind him, and just that touch healed her. But, it’s an interesting question, isn’t it? Did Jesus ever go out of his way, or were these folks all people who were simply brought into Jesus’ path?
Brought into My Path
So, what does all of this have to do with us today? Glad you asked. My wife and I recently returned from a wonderful 15-day wild west National Parks adventure. While there, my wife took over 3,000 photographs, while I often talked with people we met along the way. I could choose to view these encounters as either “distractions” to our daily agenda, or perhaps some of them were divine disruptions, or divine appointments, if you will. The older I have gotten, the more I have leaned toward appointments rather than distractions.
For instance, on a Saturday afternoon as we were walking into the Chapel of the Transfiguration located at the base of the Grand Tetons which are just north of Jackson, Wyoming, we happened upon a man who was playing organ. As we entered the chapel, Karen and I looked at each other quietly, and I thought, “Surely there isn’t an organist here every day who plays while tourists visit.” Turns out Henry was a “visiting musician” who used to live in Hyde Park and played the organ at Christ’s Church in downtown Cincinnati for nine years. He was practicing for the worship service that would take place in that beautiful chapel set in the majestic peaks. I joined in prayer with Henry, asking God’s blessings on him as he led, and all those who would gather for church the next day.
We encountered a husband and his wife of 52 years who had been to many national parks. As the woman drove her motorized scooter along the boardwalk of the beautiful “Trail of the Cedars” in Glacier National Park in Montana, it was obvious she wanted to talk with anyone who was willing to engage with her for a few moments. After talking with her husband for a bit and laughing about how she liked to talk to others as much I like to, her husband Harold told my wife and me, “Because of her physical limitations, this might be our last National Parks trip.” I said to her, “You’ve got a good man there,” as I turned away and wiped a tear from my eye. She was also the same woman who told my wife and me where to look for a bear as we drove down a particular road. She was spot on, and we got to take pics of a bear up close for a good fifteen minutes because of her tip. What if I had viewed our ten minutes with that couple as a “distraction,” not an opportunity? We would have missed out on several blessings God wanted to send our way.
Brought into Our Paths
Then on day 14 of our 15-day trip, as my wife and I were getting ready for a 10½-hour drive through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, I had another divine appointment waiting for me. As we were leaving our hotel in Fargo, North Dakota, I discovered the front desk clerk was worried and was crying because her 92-year-old grandmother who lived in Kenya was dying—and the young woman felt helpless. After I prayed for her and her grandmother, she let me know that she was a Muslim, and thanked me for praying for her. It wasn’t a time to debate religious beliefs that morning, just to simply be present with the love of Jesus.
Everybody has a story. And, many of them just need someone to stop and take the time to listen to their story. I believe as we journey in this life, whether on a western tour of the National Parks, or going about our day-to-day routines, that God is speaking to us through his Holy Spirit, bringing people across our paths for various reasons. All too often we miss these God-ordained moments because of our own agendas and hectic pace of life. My prayer for you today is that you will be open to the opportunities God brings your way. He is always speaking to us if we will take some time to pause and listen.
Holy Father, I confess to you there are times when you’ve been trying to get my attention, and I’ve ignored you because of my obsession with what I think is important. Forgive me for missing those opportunities to share life and love with others you have put in my path. Today, help me to bring an open heart and open mind to who you want to send my way and what you want to teach me. In stillness I await your voice, Amen.
“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Genesis 28:16, NLT).
“Speak, your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10, NLT).