The women of the Amaranth Gospel Mission, the church in which I grew up but had not visited in decades, were planning a ladies’ day out and discussing whom to invite as guest speaker. One of the leaders, Shirley, had a potential speaker in mind and mentioned her name to the others.
No one said a word.
Did they even hear me? she wondered.
The next day, she received a text from one of the other women: “Have you thought about inviting Terrie Todd?”
Shirley had not. And she wasn’t sure she wanted to. But, she was willing to pray about the matter. While she waited for more direction from God, she decided to tackle the job of preparing that Sunday’s church bulletin. She always likes to include a seasonal poem or brief story in the bulletin. It was Thanksgiving weekend. What could she find?
She Googled “Thanksgiving devotionals.” One of the sites that came up was called Thoughts About God. Shirley figured that sounded as good as any, and went to the site. She clicked on “Thanksgiving” and began scrolling through the titles of articles listed under that theme. One called “Better Late than Never” caught her eye and she began to read.
Shirley quickly realized the piece was much too long for her bulletin, but the story had already pulled her in. It told about a mother receiving a hand-written thank you card from a daughter. Shirley had recently spent a great deal of time writing her own mother a lengthy letter of gratitude, so the story held great significance for her. She read the whole piece and felt blessed. At the end, she found the author’s name.
You’re way ahead of me.
It was the answer Shirley needed. She called me, but did not reveal that story because she didn’t want it to influence my decision. She extended her invitation and I told her I’d pray about it and return her call the next day. It wasn’t until after I’d hung up that I began to see God was up to something—as I wrote about in last week’s post. Would a visit to Amaranth be another piece of my “slide show?”
I called her and said yes.
Shirley waited until the end of our day together to share her story with the whole group. I was astounded, but not as much as I was a couple of days later.
With a bit of effort, I tracked down the site where she’d found my story. I remember writing it, but it would have been twelve years ago—long before I had a column or a blog of my own. I probably wrote it for my church’s newsletter, which was not online. I keep meticulous records of work I submit for publication, but I found no record of publishing that story anywhere. Yet there it was.
And of all the gazillion options that might come up when one Googles “Thanksgiving devotional,” how did Shirley unwittingly come across mine?
You can call me crazy, but I believe God orchestrates these things. He knows how desperately our feeble hearts need affirmation that we’re on the right track. He guides in ways we can’t figure out, and it makes us love him more. The enemy of our souls will tell us every lie in the book, and they can sound so true. But he can’t do what only God can do.
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (from Psalm 103)