Rusty cars, Awkward Obedience and God’s Grace

Sometimes, especially at the beginning of a new year, I get this lumpy-dumpy feeling. It’s not so much about fat handles or a rotunduous tummy. It’s more about my ineffectiveness as compared to other people.

Maybe comparing is the operative word.

You see, compared to most people I feel like I move at a snail’s space- with about as much fanfare. I mean how many snails have you seen with super dynamic personalities or exploding ministry?

(The fact that I’m actually considering relationships with snails may be part of the problem.)

To be honest, people scare me. That’s why I often wonder how God could use me to show his love to other people.

That all changed a few months ago.

I was taking my mom to the eye specialist. There was almost zero parking space around the office building.  Barely any place to drop her off.


The very suggestion of slowing down could end your life. Death by pile-up. Yes, in Surrey, B. C. its a real thing.

So is frustration.

Mom had a two-hour appointment. What was I going to do in the meantime?

Then I noticed the Safeway parking lot across from the doctor’s office. It spread out farther than the dimensions of a Wal-mart Superstore.

So, why not park?

Then I saw the signs-


and the men in green vests everywhere. They re-enforced the same  message as they circled the lot looking violators.

With the Skytrain and the Guildford Rec Center and Ice Rink across the street, a university satellite campus half a block away, parking spots were at a premium.


Fortunately, I spied a small square of Park and Pay signs to the side of Safeway.

That’s when a rusty tank of a car almost mowed me over.

I caught a quick look at the driver.  Her matted hair, tired eyes and sunken cheeks reminded me that this area was a dangerous place to be in the middle of the night.

Good thing it was in the middle of the day. Even more good news. I found a spot. It cost me all my change and then some. But, I parked.

I pulled out a paperback and tried to lose myself in some somebody else’s problems in some other place. That worked until I checked the time on my phone.

Dead battery.

Not good. How was I supposed to pick up mom? She’d never find me in this maze.I read a few more pages. Then, I sighed, shoved my book in my purse and got out of the car.

I walked across the parking lot and stood by a small bank on the corner.


I wasn’t used to being just “out there” standing around with nowhere to go, nothing to do. But I didn’t want my Mom to get lost or panic trying to find me.

So I let awkward be awkward. And actually kind of enjoyed it

The same rusty car that almost mowed me down earlier  pulled up. A woman in a bathroom and pajama bottoms got out. She opened the back door, unstrapped a toddler from a car seat and headed into the bank.

Dumpy  car, worn PJ’s, erratic driving. I should have felt concern and compassion, maybe even prayed for her. Instead, I waited for her to do her banking business and be gone so I could get on with my awkward wait.

It seemed to be working.

This woman came out of the bank almost as quickly as she entered.

But, she didn’t  get into the car. She plopped down on the curb beside her car and put her head in her hands. Her toddler danced around her while she sat motionless. Tragic. Sad.

I tried to put the entire scene out of my mind.

Not a chance.

God wanted more from me. And, I knew what He was saying even if I didn’t hear an audible voice.

This woman needs money.

She needs love.

Go talk to her.

I took a few hesitant  steps toward the woman. Almost got to her car where she had her back to me. Then, I got scared and circled back to the sidewalk and wrestled with my fears.

What if I was about to offend this woman? What if I made her mad?

When I gathered enough courage to start walking back to the woman again.

“Excuse me,” I said. The woman didn’t turn around.

Excuse me, ” I said so loudly I was sure everyone in Safeway heard me.

She turned around slowly.

“I’m sorry, but I had to talk to you. You seem to be having a hard time. And…I want to help you and your son.”

I held out some money. She shook her head.

“He’s my son, not my grandson,” she said, “And, this is not me. I’m the one who helps other people. This is not me…”

She looked about ready to cry. I told her how brave she was and how blessed her family was to have her.

I”ll take your money, but not for me. For my daughter. She needs medicine,” the woman finally said as she looked past me as if I was not even there. Suddenly, she grabbed me in a big hug and started to sob.

For a few moments, we stood as one. Two women, trying to get through the day.

Not sure what else to do, I asked if I could pray for her and her family.

After that, she got into the car with her grandson and drove away.

I don’t know if I will ever see her again. But, God sees her every day. And, he cares.He cares so much that he will use the most awkward of means to show his love.

Even people like me.

 We all we need to do is obey.

Evidence in Outer Space

twilight zoneI rummaged through the nooks and crannies of my past, looking for some little scrap of hope; evidence that God was real, that He cared for me.

Deep in the recesses of my early years, far below the sordid imprint of my first training bra I uncovered an image of a cramped living room. Long fingers of the late afternoon sun slid across the braided rug. A skinny little kid sprawled in front of a television console and stared at the screen. That kid was me, forty years ago.

“You have entered the twilight zone,” a man in a dark suit intoned as my favorite show began. The camera panned a circular room. Smooth walls curved around an eclectic gathering of strangers. An army officer. Clown. Ballerina. Bag pipe player. Tramp.

“What is going on?” asked the army officer, “Why am I here?”

He glanced around the room.

No windows or doors.

Instead of a ceiling, the night sky hovered over the brightly lit space as if trying to stay warm.

“I have an idea how to get out of here,” said the officer. Energized by the possibility of escape, the characters devised a human ladder against the wall. The army officer scaled shoulder after shoulder until he reached the top. He swung his leg over the side and looked down. Then, he lost his balance and disappeared.

The scene changed. Snowflakes drifted down to the frozen cement of an urban sidewalk. Beside a makeshift booth, a junk dealer hawked his wares.

The camera zoomed in on a cylindrical trash bin next to the booth. Beside the bin, a small doll lay face down in the slush. It was an exact replica of the army officer.

A young girl strolled by. She stopped, scooped up the doll and dropped it into the bin. It fell onto a heap of dolls; a clown, a ballerina, a bag pipe player and a tramp.

When the show was over I turned off the T.V. and ran outside to play. But, image of the army officer stayed with me. One minute he talked and walked and planned his escape. The next minute he was nothing more than a wad of fabric sprawled on a clump of dingy snow.

No thoughts.

No feelings.

No dreams.

That afternoon I had my first inkling of mortality, of what it meant to have a soul. I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live forever.

When bedtime came, I stared at the faint outline of the mattress above me. Suddenly, I detected the presence of an unseen world, a universe of energy and substance older than the dawn of time. The edge of eternity pooled at my window. It stretched beyond the dry grass, past the rusty swing set that clung to the edge of the back yard into the deep expanse of space.