I took a trip to Walmart today. I don’t particularly enjoy this and avoid it at all costs. My frequented low-cost leader is in Arkansas. While the journey across the border is only a few miles, it takes me forever. I drive slowly on the narrow, curvy roads. My common goal for all stores is to get in, shop as quickly as possible, and then retreat to my safe little quiet world. Today, I did not accomplish my mission. The world had a lot to say.
I have three shirts I alternate wearing for football season. Each has “Oklahoma” printed boldly on them. My Oklahoma shirts have never been a point of conversation, until today.
“You from Oklahoma?” asks the man with three teeth.
“Um, yes? I grew up far removed from the rest of the state in the panhandle.” I answer reluctantly never wanting to claim that state (I was born in Colorado). Bear in mind carrying on conversations is not my forte. God, with His delightful sense of humor, places me in these scenarios. I sense Him laughing at me.
The three-toothed man becomes visibly excited here, “Me too! I’m from Beaver County. What county you from?”
“Cimarron. I grew up on the edge of civilization in Cimarron County.” (Which county is the question of any Panhandler, as there are only three. Your place of origin matters in this context. The further west you travel in the Panhandle of Oklahoma the further removed you become from civilization. Visit, I dare ya!!) Now, I’m thinking that I’m going to be here forever (I was).
At this point, the man can no longer contain himself. As it turns out, he worked for the Museum in Goodwell (where my folks went to college) several towns east of mine. He worked on an archaeology team that dug up dinosaur and other prehistoric (wooly mammoth, saber-toothed cats, ice age stuff. There are even some prehistoric humans found out there, no kidding. I still dare ya to visit!) animals from Cimarron County. It is a very dinosaur-rich land. We chat about the treeless, rock-filled land of my youth for several minutes too long when God gives me the nod and the wink (I imagine this).
“You know Jesus?” I ask point blank.
“Yup, sure do. Thanks for asking.” He replied, nodding his head in certainty.
(Thank you blogging friend Wally for bringing this point up just the other day! Worth the read, by the way!)
It wasn’t five minutes later, and I hear a voice from behind me holler out “You ever watch NCIS on the TV?” Please imagine all this with your best country bumpkin accent.
“I may have seen it once or twice.” I hesitantly reply, not knowing where this conversation will land, as the man on the scooter proceeds to tell me all about an episode. I’m questioning God at this point until the man says after the final description of the scene, “I don’t have long to live, they found a tumor.”
“Do you know Jesus?” I ask as the man’s eyes fill with tears.
“Yes, yes I do.” He tells me.
“So you know He’s your hope through all this, right?” I ask, pushing the issue just a little.
I reassured the man through prayer and moved on only to have yet another dinosaur conversation with the three-toothed man. Later I’m drawn into a conversation about my beloved University of Oklahoma Sooners with several women. Next, I climb some shelves while another lady kept me from falling as I retrieve freezer deodorizer and finally made it to the checkout lane, two hours later.
The cashier was a teenager who just voted in his very first election, wearing a Santa hat. This hat wearing bit challenged him today, and he was tired. Bitter folks saw fit to make numerous comments about the absurdity of celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving. I said to the exhausted kid, “Ya know, we need to celebrate Christmas first. Without Christmas, we have nothing to be thankful for at Thanksgiving.”
The youngster stopped mid transaction and looked directly at me as the light bulb illuminated in his mind and said, “yes, that’s right we do need Christmas first. I’m going to use that as my response from now on and wear this hat happily.”
On, day nine in my endless quest for thanksgiving, I say “Jesus.” Jesus is indeed the reason for this season as well as the next. In fact, Jesus is the reason for all the seasons. God Almighty became flesh and dwelt among us. If that does not cause thanksgiving, I don’t know what does.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.” James 1:17
So, I find a bit of gratitude in my forever long journey to the low-cost leader in Arkansas. Jesus. Jesus who never changes. The cross is still just as relevant today as it was to the first-century believers. As well, His words still speak to me centuries later. He is Truth, always Truth.
And today I uttered my first “Merry Christmas” of the season, not a moment too early.