Last year one of the comments on the surveys after annual conference was that everyone who gave an address or a report preached to the body. I took that comment to heart so I am not going to preach to you today. Instead I am going to tell you a true story. This particular story took place last winter between Christmas and New Years. As some of you know I work for a professional baseball team in Joliet Illinois. For the first time since I have worked there we closed the office between the two holidays. Because the park was closed I saw an opportunity to clean up one of our meeting rooms that houses the Joliet Sports Hall of Fame. Because my wife is a good sport she volunteered to go with me and help.
We arrived at the park early in the morning on our cleaning day and went right to work. We moved furniture, wiped down tables and chairs, wiped off counters, emptied trash and cleaned bathrooms. Finally all we had left to do was to vacuum and shampoo the carpets. By 2:00 pm we had everything done and all the equipment put away. Just as we left the room and I pulled the locked door shut my wife said to me “ where is my purse” and at that point we realized that we had locked the door with her purse, my car keys and the stadium keys inside the room. So not only were we locked out of the room but also we could not go anywhere because the car keys were locked inside. So what do we do?
At the time we only had four other people who had a master key. One was in Minnesota, one was in Missouri, one was in Southern Illinois and one was on a cruise. After talking the problem over my wife decided to do what any good Baptist does. She prayed about it while I went in search of a key. My first stop was to the general manager's office but it was locked.
Next I called the police but no luck there either. Finally I called the city hall because the city owns the park. A lady there suggested I call the fire station located across the street from the park. As luck (or prayer) would have it a young man at the fire station knew where there was an emergency box located outside the park that housed three keys. He came to the park and helped me find the keys. We then proceeded to the locked door to try them out. Keep in mind that my wife is still praying. We tried the first one and it would not work. We tried the second with the same result. So we are down to the last key.
Try to imagine the anxiety if this key does not work because I am out of options. Well, the key worked and we were able to unlock the door and get our belongings. OK now for the important part of the story. The young man who helped me find the keys was not only a fireman but also an EMT at the station. As I looked at him he had a worried look on his face. I ask him if he was OK and the question opened a floodgate.
He told me that he had experienced one spinal surgery and in a few weeks he had to make a decision on whether or not to have another. He knew that to continue his work he needed to have the surgery but he was scared to death. So we begin to talk and as we talked I could see him becoming calmer. To make a long story short I told him that we would pray for him and ask God to be a part of any decision he would make. As we continued to talk I could see his whole demeanor change. A few minutes later I asked him how he felt and he told me that our talk had helped him make a decision to have the surgery and that he was not afraid anymore. Several months later I asked a fireman from the same station how the young man was and he told me that he had gone ahead with the surgery and that his recover was on track.
My point of this story is that God can take a problem and make something good out of it. Had I not locked my keys in the room I would never have met the young man and been allowed to minister to him. God provides these opportunities for us each day and I hope and pray that we will take the time to see them and be able to help. Please look for them. I would like to close with the following prayer for children:
We pray for children who like to be tickled, sneak popsicles before supper, and can never find their shoes.
But we also pray for those children who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire, who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers, never counted potatoes, who were born in places we wouldn’t be caught dead, never go to the circus and live in an X-rated world.
We pray for children who bring us sticky kisses and fists full of dandelions, who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.
But we also pray for children who never get dessert, who have no safe blanket to drag behind them, who watch their parents die, who can’t find any bread to steal, who don’t have any rooms to clean up, whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dressers, and whose monsters are real.
Let’s pray and accept responsibility for children who spend all of their allowance before Tuesday, who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food, who like ghost stories and shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse out the tub. Who get visits from the tooth fairy, who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool and who squirm in church or at temple, who scream on the phone whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.
And let’s also pray and accept responsibility for children whose nightmares come in the daytime, who’d eat anything, who’ve never seen a dentist, aren’t spoiled by anybody, who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep who live and move but have no being.
Let’s pray and vote and speak and lobby for children who want to be carried and for those who must be, for those we never give up on and for those who don’t get a second chance.
Let’s pray and accept responsibility for the children we smother but also for those children who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.
Please grab the hand of a child who is being left behind.