Family Vacations. The attributes of God.
Two topics that have no apparent connection.
But God never intended for his people to insulate him from their daily lives.
“Our Father in heaven … give us today our daily bread”. This is more than a ritual prayer to be recited by memory. This is a truth about the character of our God – he is our loving Father, and is attentive to what we need, as well as what we long for and what we lack. Why? Because that’s who he is. God keeps an eye on his friends; his ears pick up every moan and groan. *
Yes, the attributes of God extend both to our basic human wishes as well as to our delights. The brief story I will share today gives a testimony to the goodness of God in three scenes.
The fall of 1999 didn’t find me moaning, but one day I did lament the financial restrictions of pastoral ministry as I reflected on our family vacations. Our budget generally limited us to two choices: drive west to the coast to spend time at my mom’s cabin at Mission Springs Conference Center or travel south to Los Angeles to be with Linda’s parents.
I don’t recall why I was thinking about the East Coast, but I had a wish that Sara and Ben – 16 and 13 at the time – could visit Washington D.C. and immerse themselves in the historical bounty of the surrounding states. But I figured that dream would never happen.
Please understand – I did not ask God on that day to provide an enriching East Coast experience for our kids. To be concise, I wasn’t praying.
Linda and I were blessed with parents who logged thousands of highway miles in their overstuffed family cars, –seeing bayous and parks, skyscrapers and historical monuments – and we wanted the same for our kids. But the pocket out of which we pulled our vacation money wasn’t deep.
Around two weeks later I received a phone call from Dean Marcellana, a former music student at University of the Pacific in Stockton. He was our pianist at Escalon Covenant for a couple of years. I hadn’t seen Dean since he left California to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, so it was a surprise to hear his voice.
It was an even greater surprise to learn why he called. He asked me to officiate at his July 2000 wedding to Jennifer. He offered to cover the cost of flights to Boston as well as lodging for a long weekend for Linda, Sara, Ben and me.
Do I need to tell you I said yes – quickly and enthusistically?
My inner longings became our delightful reality. Boston was incredible – a wonderful wedding, walking the Freedom Trail, and seeing a ballgame at Fenway Park. That kick-started a full week of delightful experiences: New York City, including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and the lead-up to July 4 2000 fireworks with a million people – literally, which was actually overwhelming and scary – in Lower Manhattan, a side trip to Cooperstown to see the Baseball Hall of Fame, and finally a few days in our nation’s capital.
Let’s get practical. I’m not saying that a) my lament b) sparked an idea in God’s mind that c) he planted into Dean and Jennifer’s wedding plans. God is much bigger than our obsession with cause-and-effect reasoning. I’ll never know the sequence, and I don’t need to.
What I do know, and continually marvel in – is that God is good, and in his inherent goodness he loves to delight those who delight in him.** In this one instance from years ago, I can point to a specific gift to me and my family. I wonder how many other bountiful blessings I have received without recognizing.
And here’s the honest struggle – accepting the astounding truth that God loves me, and wants to bless me, the bumbling impulsive fool that I was and still am. I’m sure that he rolls his eyes at some of my statements and actions, and at other times he smiles when I follow in the footsteps of Jesus. And because he is good, and his lovingkindness endures forever, he protects and provides abundantly.
Can you believe that incredible truth about you – that God is good to you, and loves to bless you with the desires of your heart?
May the story I have shared with you spark your own recollections and reflections.
Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see — how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him. ***
Benediction of Blessing
May you live with an increasing awareness of God’s presence in every facet of your life.
May you run to him with your needs and your laments.
May you have eyes to see the goodness of God and his abounding delight in you, expressed in multiple ways.
* Psalm 34:15 The Message
** Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
*** Psalm 34:8 The Message
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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