Saturday, January 30, 2016

A table set for one

The clock struck 11:55 AM as the class collectively stood up and rushed for the door in an eager attempt to be first in the lunch lineup. Down in the gymnasium students assembled with heavy, orange cafeteria trays in hand, waiting for the day's offering of cardboard Stromboli or a breaded chicken patty on a soggy bun. A collective sigh filled the air as hungry students dreamt of Lunchables and Capri Suns.
I joined my fourth grade class, dawning my shag carpet-colored tray and internal anxieties. The food was enough to give anyone stomach upset but that wasn't the cause of my angst. It was what came after the Stromboli, syrupy fruit cup and case of milk cartons. I was scared of the lunch table.
This particular elementary school year I didn't have a single friend in my class. This was problematic enough during the eight periods of school subjects but it became catastrophic during lunch. Although every fourth grade class ate lunch during the same period, students were not permitted to co-mingle with other fourth grade classes. Even though my best friend was in the same cafeteria, eating at the same time, she was in a different class. Translation: she was off-limits. Our elementary school cafeteria was as segregated as Epcot except the principle missed the memo about Disney characters and, oh yea, the fun. The lunch supervisors were more like commanders than cartoons, specializing in the dictating of rules and none of the lighthearted cheer of rides.
As was my usual practice, I took a seat at the end of Mrs. Fuller's table. I don't recall who I sat next to or if anyone ever extended the olive branch of conversation and good will. All I remember is cold cheese and the sound of reverberating echoes bouncing off the walls as hyper kids expelled their excess energy before 12:25 rolled around.

Fourth grade has long passed but the memory of a solitary lunch is fresh in my mind. Isn't it funny how, as a child, being alone is a horror? Especially when the rest of the room seems to have a friend, someone to laugh with and someone who might share a bite of their Lunchable. Fast forward twenty years and a solitary lunch doesn't look so scary. In fact, it looks downright peaceful and relaxing.
The table set for one from the elementary school perspective sounds like a dreaded way to finish a meal but in reality, a table set for one can be the perfect place-setting. You see, God doesn't always want us surrounded by a crowd of people nor does He always intend for us to have a boisterous circle of friends surrounding our every waking hour. Sometimes God just wants us alone and quiet. It is in those moments of solitude that we can hear the still, small voice of God speak to us over our Stromboli. Well, maybe not Stromboli. But you get the picture. Sof tonight you find yourself at a table set for one take a moment to bask in the unseen company of God's presence, say a little prayer and enjoy your meal.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Winning Ticket

For days I walked past customer service lines that were longer than grocery lines. I watched the Trending feed display the rapidly growing jackpot as it exceeded the anticipated one billion dollar mark. I listened to the news release staggering, record-breaking statistics for ticket sales. I read stories of Powerball hopefuls passionately attach their dreams and wishes to six numbers and a paper ticket.
It seemed as if the whole country must have been watching the news at 10:59 PM on January 16, 2016. On that night six numbers were picked and read. Millions of ticket holders watched with high hopes that they would be that one in a 292.2 million. But by 11:00 PM nearly every ticket holder was no longer hopeful. Dreams of exotic vacations, mansions and Maseratis vanished in an instant as millions had to lay down their ticket with not a cent to show for it. Someone else - three someone's to be exact - had won the fortune. Someone else would be living "the dream."
Millions of people banked on winning a jackpot that they hoped would change their lives. Some people promised to help their family, their church and their town if only they were the winner. Others said they could finally be happy if only they had money and what they believed would be endless security.
I'd love to tell those Powerball losers that they were already winners before they ever bought a ticket. The truth is we're all winners. We all have in our possession the winning ticket, just waiting to be redeemed. Every single one of us can cash in the ultimate, eternal prize which is salvation in Jesus Christ.
On the cross of Calvary Jesus picked the perfect numbers on our behalf. He bought us eternal security and endless joy. Then He rose again, delivering us from the sorrow of our depravity and spiritual poverty. He ascended into heaven leaving us with that ticket, urging each one of us to cash it in and live abundantly in the light of the prize.
The Powerball certainly changes people's lives but usually not for the better. Forty-four percent of lottery winners end up broke within five years. The likelihood of family estrangement, divorce and relationship fall-out is higher for the winners than the losers. The financial jackpot doesn't necessarily translate to a life of happiness and ease.
There is only one route to true happiness and it isn't found in a paper ticket. It is found in cashing in on the salvation bought and paid for by Jesus, the Savior of the world. New life in Christ is the only way to have lasting joy and eternal peace.
A Powerball worth millions will certainly change your life but salvation in Jesus Christ will save it.