I became the Phantom Stranger.
I saw the writing on the wall before it happened: I had an opportunity of five whole days off from my duties as a caregiver, and I saw that I could go to DragonCon 2008 in Atlanta, GA and meet all the people I had known of online at The League of Heroes (see link on right). Common sense was of no help - sure, I could run up my credit card, but why? I didn't want to increase my debt. Yet there it was - this strange opportunity I had NOT been planning on.
I thought about flying down - and found some decent tickets for under $300 at the last minute. Still, I felt uncomfortable and let that pass. I could drive if I wanted to. But... "I'm going to drive 12 hours plus, one-way when I don't even have a costume ready? Get real."
I mentioned my possibility of coming down online. I was offered space in a hotel room by a very generous young man I'd encouraged earlier. (Crud. You ever see yourself playing a master chess player and watch him out maneuver you? It was like that.)
Finally, though I THINK I am no longer rebellious against the Lord, He woke me at 4:30 a.m. on the second day of DragonCon, Friday. I woke up - wept a little 'cause my heart knew I was going even if my head did not - and went down to have a cup of coffee and my devotional time with God. I don't know how to explain that. Maybe I was scared, but I knew, just knew I was going to talk to the Lord about this.
Look, if you have never been scared of God, you don't know Him. And if you have never fallen madly in love with Jesus Christ, you REALLY don't know Him. He is always mightier than you and His anger is to leave you alone to do whatever you want.
He loves me too much to do that.
So here's what I read that challenging morning with a hot cup of Joe in my hand:
Right about here, I started laughing at myself and saying well, some pretty earthy things I will not repeat. Let's just say Jesus put His hand on my shoulder and shook His head at my fears.
The Unsurpassed Intimacy of Tested Faith " Jesus said to her, ’Did I not say to you that if you would believe you
would see the glory of God?’ " —John 11:40
Every time you venture out in your life of faith, you will find something in your circumstances that, from a commonsense standpoint, will flatly contradict your faith. But common sense is not faith, and faith is not common sense. In fact, they are as different as the natural life and the spiritual. Can you trust Jesus Christ where your common sense cannot trust Him? Can you venture out with courage on the words of Jesus Christ, while the realities of your commonsense life continue to shout, "It’s all a lie"? When you are on the mountaintop, it’s easy to say, "Oh yes, I believe God can do it," but you have to come down from the mountain to the demon-possessed valley and face the realities that scoff at your Mount-of-Transfiguration belief (see Luke 9:28-42 )...
Here's the coup de grace:
Faith must be tested, because it can only become your intimate possession through conflict. What is challenging your faith right now? The test will either prove your faith right, or it will kill it. Jesus said, "Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me" Matthew 11:6 ). The ultimate thing is confidence in Jesus. "We have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end . . ." ( Hebrews 3:14 ). Believe steadfastly on Him and everything that challenges you will strengthen your faith. There is continual testing in the life of faith up to the point of our physical death, which is the last great test. Faith is absolute trust in God— trust that could never imagine that He would forsake us (see Hebrews 13:5-6).
I mean, I went from "Oh, Lord, WHY am I doing this?" to "Gotcha. Let's get our game on!" in 3.5 seconds.In one hour, sans map and with one credit card and $15 cash, I had packed and was on my way to Atlanta.
Did I begin to falter? You betcha, sweetpea. One hour later, just as I got out of Chicago, I lost heart - totally. I pulled off teh highway and into a Denny's confused and dispirited. "Lord, I don't even know HOW to get to Atlanta! What a moron! I don't even have a map!" I ate a nice breakfast and went back to my car, apologizing for my stupidity. (You must understand, this is mostly non-verbal - but when you are in a relationship, it is the non-verbal communications that speak the loudest. Same with God.)
I went one block west and begin driving north. I see a guy walking with white T-shirt that says "Bus Station - Going Home!" written in magic marker on the back. I pull around to pick him up - "Ah! So this is it, Lord! You just wanted me here to help this guy! Cool! I can do this!"
Happily I offer him a ride, joyfully he accepts - and sees my God's Promises book I keep in my car. "So you're a Christian?" "Yes, sir. I'm a minister. I teach in the jail." "Praise God! God is good to me!" His name was Terry and he was heading home after traveling for months with his work. He himself cannot drive due to a medical condition of Instant Fatigue Syndrome. His mother had fallen and he needed to go home.
"So, where are you going, Terry?" I ask.
[Insert grin on Jesus' face here.]
Knoxville is on the way to Atlanta. A little east, but it is definitely in the ballpark.
I look at Terry and say - after a laugh - "How much is your ticket?"
"$96.." and seeing the look on my face, offers: "I'll give you the money!"
"You got it, bro. We're going to Knoxville." [Insert The Blues Brothers cue here...]
And Terry started to cry. He called his wife and mom from his cell phone and told them God had sent a minister to get him home.
So He did. So He did.
It is a strange thing to pick up a total stranger. It is even stranger when you are introduced by a spirit who knows you both before you know each other.
"God is spirit, and all who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth."
Terry had made his decision to go home that morning. About 4:00 a.m.
Guess Who knew he needed a ride? And knew a guy wanting to go in the same direction?
Yeah. Jesus is Lord.