Three years ago, as our grandson Cooper turned four, he received his first Lego set. What fun to sit with him and help him construct it.
Fast-forward three years. This past Christmas he received a StarWars Lego set. Cooper was turning 7 in a couple of weeks, so when I saw the recommended age of 9+ on the box, I was a little concerned.
No worries needed, Grandpa. Apparently he built it on his own in a couple of afternoons. Wow!
It’s a special joy to watch someone you love grow and learn. Where do we get that emotion? From Dad! Crafted in his image, our Heavenly Father experiences that same joy when you and I, his beloved children, grow in our abilities, and especially to trust him.
Last week we looked at the benefits of immersing ourselves in the Psalms. Yes, they teach us to pray, but they overflow with personal declarations about the benefits of learning to trust God with our dilemmas, our disappointments, and our delights. If we desire to thrive in life, like healthy trees we need to send out our roots by the stream. That language is found in Isaiah 17; the key component in the prophet's counsel? Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.
And as we rely on him, God’s face lights up, and he helps us to grow even more. For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.*
Did you know that? Do you believe that?
Today’s post chronicles a gift I received from God, a learning laboratory that propelled me to an awareness of one powerful truth: God can be trusted.
The gift? Traveling around Europe on my own for two months.
I had great plans for August1979 – take a break from my studies to explore Europe after spending a year at North Park Seminary in Chicago, my denomination’s school on the campus of North Park University.
But in early July, that dream was dying. Weeks earlier I had shown up at the Berkeley Marriott for the first day of my promised summer job as a waiter, just like the previous year – only to learn that my former boss was now a former employee. No openings. Sorry.
It took me three weeks to get a job, but one that didn’t pay nearly as well. With barely enough cash to buy an airline ticket and a two-month train pass – and I wasn’t willing to pile up credit card debt – the trip seemed impossible. Scrapping my plans loomed as the best choice.
But one day my brother Doug asked me a simple question: Do you believe that God wants you to go to Europe? Meekly I answered yes, fully aware of how lame that sounded. But Doug wasn’t kidding. He believed in me, and he believed in God. Buy the ticket, he said, and give God a chance to provide for you.
I’ve always been grateful for his words, which prompted me to take a step of faith. Thanks, Doug.
Once I committed myself to go, I started to get creative. I eventually learned from a friend that DHL, an international logistics company, often relied on one-time couriers to deliver packages. On July 31, I contracted with DHL to fly to London on August 12, delivering to their agent in Heathrow dozens of excess-baggage claim checks for parcels and packages. Two months later, I would fly back home with the same arrangement.
I cannot adequately explain the joy – I was given a free round-trip flight to Europe! ** With the refund for my purchased ticket my finances were transformed. Wow! God did something I thought was impossible. What else can he do?
Plenty, as it turned out. God has promised that when we seek his guidance, and not just lean on our smarts and social skills, he will direct our paths. I can affirm that also.
Three weeks later I found myself stumped in Sweden, peering at a map in the Malmö train station. I had been staying with the family of a friend, but they asked me to make alternate plans for the weekend and return on Monday. The dates were already set for me to see relatives in Stockholm, so that wasn’t an option.
Hmmm. The bench on which I sat became a prayer altar. Where to, Lord?
The city names on the map meant nothing to me, until I saw Jönköping. That sounded familiar, but I couldn't remember why. A train for that destination would be leaving soon. Sure, why not.
That afternoon I stood in the Jönköping train station, looking for a phonebook (remember those?). Yes, there was a Covenant church in town, so I called the Pastor, Sven Moresby, who spoke English well. Was there someone in the church who could host a Covenant pastor-in-training for a couple of nights while he explored the region?
I could practically see the smile on his face as he spoke through the phone: you picked a great weekend to come. He reminded me that Jönköping was the home of the Covenant’s sister college in Sweden. No wonder the name of the city sounded familiar. The students from North Park University had just arrived for their semester abroad. I could stay in the dormitory and eat with them for the weekend. Plus, the Sunday worship service for his congregation would be in English.
What a great weekend! I already knew some of the North Park students, and loved immersing myself in Swedish culture. Well, not completely – I kept my swim trunks on instead of stripping down naked in the sauna.
My two-months in Europe is full of stories that connected God’s provision with my prayers – spending several days at Schloss Mittersill, a 16th century castle in Austria owned by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; two nights of free housing with a new-found friend in London; and a two-month job the day after I arrived home, doing demographic research for the commercial real estate company where Doug worked.
The final lesson in the laboratory of trust came as I returned to Pasadena in January 1980 to complete my master’s degree studies at Fuller Seminary. I had a problem, however – no place to live. I could have done the natural and normal thing: go to the housing office and find the best place for the best price.
But emboldened by God’s faithfulness in the fall, I asked him for another big gift – free room and board for the next six months.
Was I dreaming? No, I was just doing what Jesus invites us to do – ask and you shall receive. I knew that such opportunities came up now and then as a help to seminary students; I had been given free housing for the majority of my first two years at Fuller.
I shared my brazen request with the receptionist at the seminary housing office shortly after it opened on that first day of the new semester. That’s remarkable, she said. Someone had just dropped off a notice: the candidate will live in the home of an elderly couple in exchange for buying groceries and cooking dinner for them every day.
From January to August 1980 I lived with Lee and Elise Prentice in Arcadia, California. I had one wing of their large home in the foothills all to myself. Lee would accompany me and pay for all our weekly grocery needs. I drew on years of cooking experience for our daily dinners. It was a pretty sweet deal.
And … because I didn’t need a high-paying job, I was able to accept the call to serve as Part-Time Youth Pastor at Eagle Rock Covenant Church. On that first Sunday, February 3, 1980 – forty-two years ago today – I was introduced to Linda Magnuson. Her love is the best gift I have ever received, and she is the most wonderful and supportive wife that I can ever imagine. We were married a year later, on the first day of spring, 1981.
I hope these stories have been a blessing to you. But more importantly, I hope they will bring a new spark to your ability to trust God. May your trust grow for all the days God gives you. And as that happens, I hope you will sense that he is smiling over you and will continue to strengthen you.
As your walk with God continues, and maybe as you immerse yourself in the Psalms, David’s prayer may become yours also:
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. (Psalm 143:8-10)
Benediction of Blessing
May God surprise you with a gift that will reveal new possibilities, beyond your ability to imagine.
May God direct your path in a decision you have to make, and may you honor his name.
May you be emboldened to ask God to provide for your deepest needs.
* 2 Chronicles 16:9
** I told my experience to my cousin Bruce Linscheid and to a few friends, who also benefited from this bonanza over the next couple of years. No surprise – DHL doesn’t operate that way anymore.
Schloss Mittersill: By WOKRIE - Own work, CC BY-SA wikimedia.org
* * * * * *
Do you like The Blue Spigot? Please share it on social media and with your friends.
You can have my weekly post delivered directly to your email address by subscribing on the contact page.
Would you like to comment? Have a question? Head to the contact page and send it on!
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM