In church the other Sunday," said the humorist Erma Bombeck, "I was intent on a small child who was turning around smiling at everyone. He wasn't gurgling, spitting, humming, kicking, tearing the hymnals, or rummaging through his mother's handbag. He was just smiling. Finally his mother jerked him around and in a stage whisper that could be heard in a little theatre Off-Broadway said, "Stop that grinning! You're in church!" With that, she gave him a belt and as the tears rolled down his cheeks added, "That's better," and returned to her prayers."
Sad isn't it? No wonder the world goes to Hollywood, the Spice girls, sports, etc. to put some "spice" into their lives and a smile on their faces. But all this is artificial, imitation, glitter that tarnishes or fades quickly….cheap makeup that must be taken off each day because it is not healthy for the skin. It's false glory.
I have a smile on my face right now....a big one...one that will appear again and again over the years.
This past weekend, I went to a spot in the country where I could get several large pails of pebbles to put in a certain spot behind my house which sits on a small 35 acre lake. It's a nice little place where I have placed two chairs. It needed some gravel.
As I shoveled the gravel into the pails, I was reminded of a time when I was exploring a foundation of a house which had been torn down and removed. I was searching through the cracks and brush hoping to find something interesting. We were a bit financially stressed at the time, and perhaps that is why the thought came to me, "Lord, you could have me find a gold coin just like Peter found in the mouth of a fish when he needed his taxes paid." With that thought in mind, I searched the foundation very thoroughly...some interesting finds and an enjoyable time...but no gold coin.
While reminiscing, I asked again to find something in a manner similar to my asking about finding a gold coin. As my back began to ache from all the shoveling and loading 50 pound plus buckets into the car, I soon forgot about gold coins.
Three days later, I was photocopying an old book which someone offered to scan into electronic format so that we could make it available in the internet and possibly republish in the future. (Anyone interested in doing this sort of thing should let me know. We have many old books like this that we want to resurrect.) It was a 100 plus page book entitled "Bible Proofs" by Dr. J.W. Hanson published in 1888. After copying the book, I reversed the order of the copies, checking each page to see if it was copied correctly. Normally I don't do this. I came to page 20-21 and noticed part of the text was covered by a postage stamp. Opening the book to that page, sure enough, there was a green postage stamp, uncanceled, pressed between the pages.
Tucked away in a closet was an old postage stamp collecting book from my childhood days. I tried to find a picture of that stamp in the book. It appears that it is an 1879 3 cent stamp. After a few emails to some stamp dealers, it looks like the stamp could be worth a few hundred dollars depending upon finding the right buyer, probably enough to get a small run of this book published for our mailing list. (It's a very good little book!)
Well, that put a little smile on my face. But that smile would not have lasted for too many days. Money does NOT buy happiness no matter how much of it one has. But there is something to this story that will make my smile last for all eternity.
The stamp was between two pages. The heading on the left page was "The Promises To The Obedient." The title of the right page was "The Threats To The wicked." The stamp was stuck to "The Promises To The Obedient" page. A few words of a few lines were covered up by the stamp. Upon removing the stamp with steam, I read the lines where the stamp had been pressed:
"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delighted in his way. Though he fall he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed. Psalm 27:23-25 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee. Isaiah 26:3 My son, forget not my law, but let thine heart keep my commandments, for length of days and long life, and peace shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee; bind them about thy neck: write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Prov. 3:1-4"
I guess you can imagine the joy and tears which filled my heart and eyes as I read those words...words from my heavenly Father to me....written thousands of years ago by prophets and kings....reprinted over a hundred years ago by a man of God....and bookmarked by my heavenly Father who knew that one day I would have the desire in my heart to photocopy that book to bless this world with the glorious truths found in that little treasure. I weep as I write. My joy is overflowing....
Church...I can't keep silent....I can't keep from smiling....the reality of God in my life is just too big to be bottled up behind a sanctimonious religious blank stare. There is a big difference between going to a building for a couple of hours bowing down to creeds, doctrines, the teachings of men and their systems, going through a set of hoops which are defined as worship, dropping a few coins into the bag, calling it "worship" and walking in God twenty-four hours a day. One is a lie which demands we take our child-like joy and bottle it up so that we can "appear" religious. The other is LIFE!! Abundant LIFE!!
One day, I was out "evangelizing." Behind a very large rebuilt old Mill on a river, a businessman was under his Volkswagon van fixing something. I was trying to share Christ with the him. "Oh, I wish I had a Bible to give to
this guy!" was the cry of my heart. Within a few seconds a paperback NIV fell from the skies right at my feet. The Bible could have fallen right out of the sky OR someone in the building may have had an "urge" to toss me a Bible. Quite frankly, I don't care how it happened, I got what I wanted when I needed it.
Reality. Relationship. A living experience walking with our heavenly Father brings joy and excitement into our lives which cannot keep the smiles hidden behind religiosity.
This world does NOT need Hollywood NOR the Spice Girls. This world needs a people who walk with their Father with a glorious smile on their face and a heart full of joy, thankfulness, and gratefulness. True worship is NOT found in pews. True worship is found on the tablets of our hearts to be seen and written all day everyday of our lives. It should be a VERY spicy novel! And it should NOT be fiction! It should be a real relationship with our Father, the Creator of the Universe. It should NOT be a rehash of Martin Luther, Pope Nobody, John Wesley, John Calvin or other dead bodies who can't smile or cry anymore! YOU are his witness in the earth today! Don't let a man or woman in a pew tell you to stop smiling. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16
I'm shining right now and I hope some of the beams reach your heart. And may the tears of living joy flowing from my eyes reach someone's religious face today and wash away that religious stare put on by someone, maybe even your parents or a pastor, who taught you that God does not smile. I serve a very happy God Who takes great delight in His Creation. He has prepared it most wondrously even to the point of putting stamps into the right books and on the right pages to be found by His children at just the right moment.
My Father was also smiling when I opened to that page. My joy was His joy. I'm 51 years old, but I feel like a 5 year old who has the best Dad in the whole world. And you know what...it feels just great!!! For me, for Him, and I hope for you. :-)
Oh, Father, put YOUR smile back on your children's faces!
One of His big smiling faced children,
Gary Amirault :-)