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Today just didn’t start out so well. For one thing, I’m speaking a bunch of times on a lectureship in twelve days and I’m far from ready to roll. This is not a new phenomenon for me, but it is a mental load right now. Every morning I wake up with topics ranging from the beatitudes to modesty to homeschooling with priorities to recognizing signs of an abusive relationship—all rumbling around in the recesses of my brain (and my brain seems to be on recess a lot lately). And so it was this Sunday morning.
So I thought about all those topics and I went to put my lasagne in the oven. I buttered bread and made a vegetable tray. Today was our last service in our old West Huntsville building and so a mega-fellowship meal was planned following the morning Bible classes. I came back to type a few lines on this computer when I heard a loud boom in the kitchen. Upon investigating, I found that a one-gallon industrial style jug of ranch dressing had mysteriously fallen–all by itself (although Glenn WAS the last one to poke in there) onto the hardwood floor. That’s right—one gallon of buttermilk ranch dressing was all over the floor. It was on the sides of the counter. It was on the rug in front of the door (the non-washable one). Worst of all, it was all in those cracks between my pine floorboards. Those are the cracks where things just permanently live once they’re wedged in there…the cracks where liquids just turn to funky gels and solids with really rancid smells.
When I was twenty-five and stuff like this happened, I cried. Now that I’m fifty-two, I have learned that when bad stuff happens, there’s always a blessing trail to follow. If I can consciously stop and recount the circumstances that made this negative event even possible, I generally feel a whole lot better. Let me illustrate.
This morning, when the granddaddy of all ranch dressings hit the floor and I was carrying ranch-soaked towels to the washer, I consciously admitted that there were probably lots of good things in my life that set the stage for the mess. I was right. That big bottle of ranch dressing was in my pantry because it was one of many items left over from a time of happy feasting. It was part of a substantial supply of superfluous (say that three times fast) food. From what occasion was it left? A happy reception for a wedding between my daughter and her faithful husband just a couple of weeks ago. How many people would love to be able to have a reception for a virtuous daughter who was marrying a man of God? Further, how many people would love to have the financial resources to buy food for those people who helped celebrate such an occasion? Further still, how many people have loving friends like Donnita, who have access to industrial ranch dressing and are willing to go and get it and make a ranch dip fountain, along with a ton of other wonderful stuff, for just the cost of the food, itself? And how many people do I personally know who would love to have a pantry? And why did that humongous bottle fall, anyway? Because the pantry was full. Come on, Cindy Colley. There’s no excuse for any pity party about dip on the floor. That dip just put me on the blessing trail.
Then we went to worship God. When we got there, the air conditioner was out. This is Alabama, people. The heat index is 105, in the shade! Wait. I need to stop and ask the question again. So what blessings make me despair at this moment? This good church has been worshiping together for one hundred-eight years. One hundred-eight years ago, on the first Sunday they assembled at West Huntsville, Christians would have marveled if they could have imagined meeting in an air- conditioned building at all…ever! Am I tempted to complain because of one Sunday without air-conditioning? Really? We were there to worship, primarily, but, secondarily, to bid farewell to that old building that has been a tool of evangelism for about forty years. And down the highway, there is a brand new building with a brand new cooling system and lots of other amenities. Lord willing, next Sunday we will be worshiping there. It will be a different pulpit, different chairs, different carpet, different paint colors and different classrooms. But it will be the same church. And that’s what the sermon was about: All the important things that make the church the church are in no way tied to physical structures. Isn’t it great that we can leave behind old buildings made with hands, buildings with antiquated cooling systems, and just keep being the same church traveling toward the “building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (II Cor. 5:1)? It’s that blessing trail again.
And I thought about the stress of the upcoming lessons. Where’s the trail? Well, isn’t it the biggest blessing of all that we have the Word? I mean, the Creator of the universe has revealed Himself and His Will to me. Isn’t it true that the teaching times of my life have always been the times when I have drawn personally closer to Him, because I’m forced to be intense and systematic in my study? Well, here it is—the next few days will absolutely demand diligence in the most rewarding of all of life’s pursuits. And, in a world of distractions from the holy things of life, isn’t it quite amazing that some two thousand people will convene in Sevierville, Tennessee in a few days for “Polishing the Pulpit” –all for the sole purpose of growing in the Lord? It’s that trail again.
The greatest thing about the blessing trail is that a new one starts at every mishap, every, calamity, and every challenge and that every single time the blessing trail leads to God. He is so involved in blessing His children that we can’t even drop the dressing, miss the conveniences or feel the time crunch without noticing the glaring neon signs that identify blessings all around. I hope you can be smarter than I am and start looking for the blessing trails while you still have lots of time left to explore every one. There are tons of opportunities on these trails, too, and you will miss them if you are detained too long in the frustration of life’s messy moments. You can’t leave the dressing in the cracks. Just do the best you can with life’s issues. Get down on your knees and clean up all you can. Then hit the trail.