July 27, 2017
In 1983, Annette and I were not rolling in dough. We paid our bills, but had little extra.
Our pastor had resigned and moved to South Africa. In my position as an associate pastor, I was required to resign whenever the lead man did. I assume that was to clear the way, with no emotional interference, for the new leader to choose his own staff unimpeded.
That means, though I was comfortable (too much so?), I faced being without an assignment in a couple of months. Time marched. Bewilderment bred.
Thirty-four years ago my services were more desirable than they are at this stage of my earthly journey. Five or six churches had sent me inquiries about joining them. This was severely unlike my experience in 2011 and 2012.
While that felt good, and it was nice to know we had opportunities, I had no idea what to do or which direction to take. Which would be the best choice? Where would we like best to live, if we did not have clear indication from God or anyone else?
This became burdensome and bothersome. Prayer seemed to accomplish nothing. Time was getting short.
In those days, annually I planned a youth retreat for teens from our group and those from another town, Idaho Falls. We met in the Sawtooth Mountains in central Idaho. Cathedral of the Pines camp was one of our favorite places, rustic as it was. Crystal Water, a band that joined us several years, even wrote a song about the place. And did they ever have a great Blues song. (Regrettably, I find no image or audio of them on the ubiquitous Google.)
This year for our June retreat, I had invited Thana Singarajah from American Falls, Idaho, as our speaker. He was our guest two times. Thana was a man possessed of incredible faith in God. He went wherever he believed God was telling him to go. He used to make special dishes with no recipe, but by prayer asked God for ingredients and amounts for his dishes.
(Oh! My! Goodness! In looking him up, I just learned he permanently changed addresses just 11 days ago as I write this! This makes me incredibly sad. He is a pillar in my life.)
Thana was a converted Hindu priest from India, with amazing stories about his life as a Hindu in that land. He had marvelous insights into the truth of God and brought deep heart and life impact to us.
On Saturday night of the retreat, I did my usual midnight rounds checking on our campers and that the cabins were secure. The grounds were soggy. Spring snow-melt was flowing. I toed across a long bouncy 12 x 2 plank laid over a (in) large pool of snow-melt about two inches deep. As I went over on my way to bed, a bare wisp of a branch touched my face – barely perceptible.
Paying no attention until I came under a vapor light in the trees about 40 yards away through the brush, I then noticed my right eye had blurred vision.
Oh no! My contact was missing! I had recently bought these new Polycons – a flexible, gas permeable lens.
My first thought: “Annette will not be happy when I tell her this $50 lens is lost, within a week of purchasing it!” Wandering back into the darkness, I tried to figure out where the hopelessly lost bit of plastic may have exited my eye. I wondered if the overhanging twigs and leaves of a tree at the 12 x 2 plank water may have been the spot.
Due to perennial practice of forgetting to bring a flashlight on yet another retreat, after briefly mourning the loss, my hindered survey of the site ended. I headed for my sleeping bag.
Next morning, in the Cathedral Pines kitchen, Thana was conversing with a group of us. I mentioned the loss of my right contact lens the night before. Eight-and-a-half hours had passed. Thana looked at me in his open, penetrating way, and his high-pitched voice declared, “If you go out there and look, in five minutes you will have it.” He turned and went on conversing, as if he’d just said something about it being a pretty day.
I went on listening.
In a few moments, he turned again to me and said to us all, “I guess he doesn’t believe it!”
What was I to do? I departed via the side door of the kitchen and headed to the 12-inch plank, scanning my watch. “‘Five minutes’ he said” shouted in my thoughts. Peering down into the clear, slow water flow, then up to the tree and guessing which wispy branch may have brushed my face, I knelt and gazed into the fluid.
Drifting specks of organic material revealed the direction of the flow. Checking my watch again, I looked to one side of the plank, then the other. A few times I had to rise and give way to someone who needed to cross the plank. Breakfast was finished and people had to go to their cabins or the shower house before chapel.
One young man who had become ill on a hike the day before passed over, and I stopped to inquire after his health that morning. Then across he went, as did seven or eight others.
Splish. Splash. Sploosh. Time wasted.
The board bounced with each step, disturbing the placid stream. Thoughts of a successful search diminished.
After the last young man’s response and watery passage over the plank, I bowed again over the water, to the left. Now to the right side one more time.
Four minutes and thirty seconds running.
Wait. What did I just see?
A tiny, clear dome, pencil eraser sized, protruded nearly invisibly from the talcum-fine silt, waiting for me. After gingerly pulling it from its place, where likely in another few hours it would have been covered over, I ran back into the main building shouting “I found it! I found it!”
Later during Sunday morning chapel I told the group what had happened. They rejoiced with me at the revelation of the power and knowledge of God with us. Further, I was assured that the Holy One Who directed me specifically to a tiny lens lost in flowing water, in a patch of forest, in the dark of midnight, could certainly direct my steps for the bigger situation of my next assignment.
And He did.
God has shown His hand many more times since then. His Kingdom is near, and people who have eyes to see and ears to hear will know the joy it brings.
The Holy One is deeply interested in you.