Published April 27, 2010

Paul's Epistle...

My column here last week about "Divine Appointments" related how I was delayed by ten minutes during a recent walk – putting me right where I should be when a needy man asked me for a quarter – and I provided a Gospel of John booklet (and a dollar).

Several readers responded with similar experiences. Donna Bacon wrote with a story of how, heading home from a Greenes concert, she inexplicably made a wrong turn. It delayed her considerably, but, returning to the correct road, she came across two accidents that apparently happened just about the time she would otherwise have been there. "The first delay on getting to the main highway may have prevented me from being in one of the accidents I later encountered."

Shirley Comeaux wrote, "I have long believed God intervenes in our lives in what may seem insignificant ways. Being early for a meeting, having a phone call as I'm about to leave the house, accidentally scheduling two things for the same afternoon – these have all worked out to God's advantage. I cannot explain it. I simply accept it."

Rose Mary writes from Texas, "When I am delayed about anything, I have learned in my 64 years to say ‘thank you Lord for what you just protected me from being involved in, whether a wreck, gossip, mishap...(etc.).'"

Writer Donna Clark Goodrich passed along this excellent story (below), which, with her permission, I'd like to share with you. It illustrates well how seemingly unrelated developments or life experiences actually may be related – and may be, in fact, Divinely orchestrated.

"For Elmer's Sake"
by Donna Clark Goodrich

"Lord, why have you let Mother linger so long? You know she's ready to go."

It was two o'clock in the morning in December 1982. Sitting in the tiny, smoke-filled waiting room of the Intensive Care Unit, I thought back over the events of the last eighteen months: my mother's cancer surgery, the chemo treatments, my eight trips between Arizona and Michigan, and the final surgery which led to the coma in which she now lay.

The week before, the doctor had told me "24 to 48 hours" and I had summoned my brothers and sister who had come, along with some of their children, to be by Mother's bedside. Day after day we waited and watched. "She quit breathing," someone would say and we'd rush to the cafeteria to get a family member. But by the time we returned, the breathing had begun again.

Exhausted, and needing to return home for a statewide Christian writers seminar I was leading, I often found myself alone in this little waiting room, praying and questioning God.

On this particular night, however, I was not alone for long. A man in his middle sixties made his way into the room, dragging his IV stand beside him. "How are you doing?" I asked him.

"Not too good," he answered in a low voice. "My doctor told me today I have only six months to live."

We chatted for awhile. Then he asked why I was there and I told him about my mother.

"How did she handle it when they told her?" he asked me.

I shared with him about her Christian faith which had kept her all through the years, and also that many people had been praying for her.

"I used to pray," he admitted, "but I don't anymore. It's too late."

"It''s never too late," I told him. Reaching into my purse, I took out my New Testament and turned to John 3:16.

"Listen to this verse," I told him. I read the words, putting his name in the appropriate places: "For God so loved Elmer, that he gave his only begotten Son, that [if] Elmer believes in him Elmer shall not perish, but have everlasting life."

Elmer read the verse again, then he looked up and asked, "Does that mean there's still a chance for me?"

"That's exactly what it means," I answered. I explained the gospel message in a few words and then asked if he would like to pray. He bowed his head and repeated the words I said to him. When we finished, he said, simply, "Thank you," and left the room.

The next day while walking down the hall I looked up and saw Elmer coming toward me. His head erect, he shook my hand and said, "It''s okay. I'm not afraid to die now."

Then I knew why God had let my mother linger for so long. It was for Elmer's sake.

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