A summer vacation by the coast – what could be better? Our family of four spent a week at my mom’s cabin in the Santa Cruz Mountains, nestled among the peaceful redwoods, with much cooler temperatures than we had at home.
Unfortunately, the heat that week was rising – between my son Ben and me. I was constantly correcting him, but he didn’t seem particularly grateful for my fatherly input.
Time to take a hike – me, not him. So on Thursday, July 31, 1997, I left the cabin to sort things out, walking towards my favorite redwood grove. It’s a great spot to pray, with the two-hundred-foot tabernacle of trees rising around you. But it also has a classroom feel; years before the outdoor education program set up a mini-amphitheater with redwood logs. Pray and learn – always a good combination when you’re meeting with God.
So, class was in session, but mostly I was providing the lecture. For the better part of an hour I alternated between pleading with God and arguing (in my mind) with Ben. Finally I stopped talking, and began to think about what he needed from his dad.
What he needed was simple: let up on him. Being a pre-teen – he was eleven years old at the time – was difficult enough. But I was acting like an overzealous referee, blowing the whistle on his every misstep and foul. Many times I had watched basketball games and encouraged the refs to let ‘em play!. Why couldn’t I do that at home?
Ironically, I had been preaching to the congregation in recent weeks about grace. God has been merciful and compassionate to us; as His people, we are called to dole out what we’ve been so generously given. I was certainly dispensing something to Ben, but it didn’t smell like grace.
Finally, I asked God for his help. I had long since given up the hope that I would be suddenly transformed into Mr. Rogers. But I did want some tangible assistance, and so I asked God for a helpful mental image, something that I could keep in mind to avoid the tension.
Almost immediately the strangest image came into my head: a spigot. You've used one many times. If you're at a gathering and want a drink from the coffee pot or the iced-tea dispenser, you set down your cup and pull on the spigot. The liquid flows until you flip it back up again.
I sensed that God was telling me to be like a spigot. He has poured an abundance of kindness into my life. He was calling me to keep the spigot open – pouring out grace upon Ben, my wife Linda, and our daughter Sara, as well as anyone that comes across my path.
My spirit soared as I left the grove. Walking back to the cabin, I prayed repeatedly for the ability to remember the image I had been given. Too often God provides a helpful word that we all-too-quickly forget.
Not more fifteen feet from the driveway entrance to the cabin I had the urge to look down and to my left. There in the ivy lay a spigot – a brand-new, blue plastic spigot. Incredible! Had God prompted someone to throw it out the window at a precise moment?
I’ll never know the answers to the many questions that ran through my mind on that summer morning. But what I do know is that God had answered my prayer. For the next three weeks I carried that spigot around in my pocket to remind myself of this powerful lesson.
Where is that spigot today? It’s mounted on a plaque that adorns my office wall. And I purchased another one to hang from the rear-view mirror in my car. Learning to drive graciously is a work-in-progress for me.
Obviously, the Blue Spigot has become a life principle. I wish I could say it’s become natural and easy for me to keep the spigot of grace open and flowing, but I admittedly have a strong tendency to control the flow.
How about Ben … and his sister Sara? All these years later, our lives are intimately connected. They both love God and actively serve him, as do their spouses. Nothing could be finer.
Now let’s reflect on this story together. As you can imagine, I have looked at and thought about the gift of the blue spigot hundreds of times. I am convinced that there’s a great lesson about our God in this story. He is actively involved in our world. In your world. He loves you. He hears your prayers and takes them seriously. He can arrange the details of your life, and can even drop insignificant but powerful little reminders into your lap. Or at least into the ivy along the road, and prompt you to look for it.
Do you believe that?
I hope so. But there’s a greater lesson in this story, and it has to do with trusting God. It’s about the long journey of following Jesus and the help of the Holy Spirit along the way. We’ll explore this in depth in other posts, but here’s the short version: Blue Spigots are not starting guns to begin our walk of faith, but aid stations to renew our spirits somewhere down the path.
May God open your eyes to see the abundance of blessings in your life because of his kindness and grace.
May God give you a heart of contentment, one that overflows with a generosity of spirit.
May God give you hands that will keep the spigot of your life open, blessing others with the kindness and grace of Jesus.
This post is the first entry -- with more to come -- from my "Book of Stones", a written record of the wonderful and often surprising acts of God in my life. I've been intentional about writing them down ever since our daughter Sara was born. The idea for this book came as my response to Joshua 3-4, a great story about our powerful God. He has always encouraged his people to remember what he has done, and I've taken that to heart.