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Archive for the tag “hope”

The Bus Ride

Laguna-Beach-13-comMy oldest son accepted an exciting new job in beautiful southern California, so I got a call to help him move. It was also my first opportunity to explore the beautiful Laguna Beach area. I had a good breakfast and set out on my own personal walking tour.

It was a gorgeous day and impossible to not marvel at God’s beauty and creativity. I couldn’t help but be reminded that in my wildest imagination, I would never have come up with something as amazing as a sea lion or skinny palm trees that can grow over 100 feet towards the sky. God’s imagination and creativity are mind boggling!

After a few hours, I was ready to give my feet a break so I climbed aboard a city bus headed in the direction of a new scenic spot (and lunch).

Sitting a couple rows in front of me was man about my age who, I gathered, lived on the streets. He was pleasant and carrying on a conversation with the bus driver. I learned his name was Jim. We were making a routine stop when another passenger from the back moved to get off the bus. Just before exiting, he noticed Jim, said hi, and instead of getting off, sat down in “Jim’s row” as the bus pulled away. The conversation then went something like this: 

“Hey Jim, what are you doing today?” 

“I’m just riding the bus.”

There was a short pause, a shrug of the shoulders and then he said, 

“Sounds good.”

The conversation continued with a discussion about various places where they had found things to eat or places to sleep. The contrast with the daily lives of my bus companions while being surrounded by the amazing wealth and beauty of Laguna Beach was profound. The bus made a new stop and a third man entered who instantly knew Jim and the other man.

“Hi Jim. Good to see you. Where you going?”

“No place. I’m just riding in the bus.”

“OK,” the man said and sat down in a neighboring seat. 

The conversation picked up where it had left off as the three friends exchanged helpful information about places to go as well as places to avoid. Then their conversation took a different turn.

“Hey Jim, I’ve got some weed if you want.”

“Nah,” Jim answered, “I’m a drunk. I just want to drink.” 

Jim’s other friend said he’d take some and without hesitation his friend reached into his pocket and handed over a joint.

“I heard your mom was in town,” the guy with the pot said to Jim.

“Yeah,” he answered, “It was my birthday. It was really good to see

her. She got me a hotel room so I could clean up and sleep in a bed. 

She took me out to eat and told me about my kids.” Jim stopped, lost in thought. There was a long, silent pause.

“Your mom is great,” the other said. “Mine don’t like me much…”

I missed my stop and several after that. I was so entranced by their conversation everything else blurred away. I looked at these three men and I couldn’t help but wonder what their stories were. How did they get here? Where were their families? How do they survive from day to day? Then I thought of the popular phrase, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

It’s Easter season, a time to celebrate that Jesus Christ, paid the price for our sins and rose again to reconcile us with God the Father. He conquered death, our greatest enemy, and if we would only believe, made us right with God.

The phrase, “There but for the grace of God, go I” is attributed to the English Reformer and martyr, John Bradford (1510 – 1555). It is meant to be an expression of humility and reliance on God’s grace. It is also a reminder that God’s grace brings hope to each one of us — me, you, the guys on that bus — if we will only look to Jesus.

The bus stopped, others got on, and I got off. I was about to return to my comfortable world. I stood and watched as the bus pulled away. It turned a corner and was quickly out of sight. All I could think was, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Lemonade Stands

According to those who make calendars, summer is officially over on September 23rd.  Sadly, the end of summer also means the end of most neighborhood lemonade stands.

I love lemonade stands.

In fact, my wife and children know that it is almost impossible for me to drive past a neighborhood lemonade stand.  I’ll circle blocks, make illegal U-turns, and drive over rusty nails and shards of glass to get to a neighborhood stand.  I’ll even call my wife and kids and ask them to get in their car and go get some lemonade.

It goes back, of course, to my grade school days when I proudly operated my very own lemonade stand in my front yard.  I remember setting up the table by the street, making the signs, and wondering how much to charge for a wonderful ice-cold glass of lemonade; a nickel, a quarter?  Is a glass of lemonade worth a quarter?

Of course, mom would help make the lemonade and would even supply a small box of change.  Then, finally, after all the preparations were made, it was time to sit in the chair behind the table and wait for the line of cars to show up driven by thirsty people.

That’s usually where the entire operation broke down.

Long, lonely minutes would creep by as I sat there anxiously waiting for a car—any car—to pull down my street.  And nothing would crush my spirit more than when a car would finally come into view only to rumble past without giving me or my lemonade a second thought.  (There’s just something un-American about that.)

There is one summer day that stands out in my life as a lemonade salesman.  It was a particularly hot day and ideal for selling lemonade.  No one, however, seemed interested in my stand.  Cars were driving by that day, but none stopped. My ice had melted.  The lemonade was hot.  The apple I had set on the table to give away as an incentive to my first customer was rotting.  Yet, no one stopped.  And I was fairly miserable.

I was just beginning to close up shop when off in the distance, I noticed a car coming my way.  It was a familiar car.  It was my Dad’s car, and Dad was in it.  He pulled up to my stand and rolled down the window.  “How’s business, young man?” he asked with a big smile.  All I remember was bursting into tears.

The next thing I know, Dad is asking for a glass of lemonade and about the rotten apple on the table.  “Are you selling that apple, too?” he asked still smiling.  I guess I managed a “yes” through my sobs but informed him it was a little rotten.  “My favorite kind,” I heard back.

I have a vivid memory of handing my Dad the warm glass of lemonade and then the rotten apple through the window of his car.  He leaned back and drank the lemonade in one long swallow, smacked his lips and stared at that rotten apple…and took a big bite.

He reached into his wallet and pulled out a bill and handed it to the little boy trying to overcome his heavy sobs.  He said a big “thanks” and drove away.  He was around the corner and out of sight by the time I looked in my hand and saw the bill he had pushed in my hand.  Twenty dollars!

Have you ever gone from despair to joy in under a second?  Well, I certainly did that hot summer day.  It left a powerful imprint on me that lasts to this very day.

It is easy to drive by lemonade stands.  After all, we’re busy and have places to go and people to meet.  But sometimes, if you stop and invest in a “small cup of warm lemonade and maybe even a rotten apple,” you may never know the impact it could leave on someone’s life.  In fact, God could even use it to turn someone’s despair into joy.

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