Friday, December 20, 2013

A Christmas Story

V. B. Tenery

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” ―Malachi 3:10

During the Christmas Season of 1981, I lived comfortably under somewhat spartan conditions in a small town outside Dallas, Texas.  I had a good job and made enough to support my small family of three. However, it meant a daily forty-mile trip into the city―a small price to pay for job security in the troubled economic period. Another plus for me was that the benefits of country living more than compensated for the long commute into the sprawling city.
One of the big rewards was the rural church we attended. My mother, daughter and I rarely missed a service. None of the members were wealthy, but they had earned a well-deserved reputation for helping the less fortunate in our neighborhood.
The Sunday evening before Christmas when we arrived at church we found it packed. Most members had forgone travel because of the tight economic situation.
Just before the pastor dismissed us, he made an unusual request. “I would like to take up a love offering for a former pastor of this church. He mentored me when I first entered the ministry. Today, I received heartbreaking news that he has cancer.” He hesitated for a moment and his voice choked up when he continued, telling us the pastor had become too ill to serve his congregation and the church had not provided health insurance. “His church doesn’t feel they can continue to support him. He and his wife have only their Social Security and the medical bills are high.”

He paused and looked out at the church members before he added. “I think we need to pray about what God would have us give in the love offering and about adding him to our missionary fund.”          

One of our deacons stood. “I don’t think we need to pray about making him part of our mission program. Let’s just take a vote and do it.” The vote passed unanimously.

The need touched my heart, but I had a problem. Because of Christmas expenses and tithes, I had no money, except for a twenty-dollar bill inside my purse that I needed for gas the following week to get to work.

As the offering plate moved towards me, I bowed my head saying the prayer I already knew the answer to. When the plate reached me, I tossed in the twenty. It’s just You and me next week, Lord.

The deacons made a quick calculation of the love offering and announced it was over eight hundred dollars.

“I’ll take it to them tonight,” the pastor said.

I’d felt that the old servant of God’s need was much greater than my own, but it didn’t stop me from wondering if the gas in my car would make it through the following week.

It wasn’t until Wednesday that my stress level began to climb. On the long trek from Dallas, I watched the needle on the gas gauge enter the red zone. I knew from experience I had enough fuel to get me home, but not enough to get back to work the next day.

Over dinner that night my concerns must have registered on my face.

“Something wrong at work, honey,” my mother asked.

I shook my head, not wanting her to worry. “No, work is fine.”

Calling in sick was an option, but lying to my boss wasn’t. Also, I needed to be at work. Thursday was Christmas Eve and I had to pick up my paycheck before the long Christmas weekend began.

After dinner, I again pushed aside my problems to spend time with my daughter, Holly. Her excitement bubbled over with Christmas near and activities at church. As a working mom, I had little time to spend with her and I gave her my full attention when we were together.

As I dressed for work Christmas Eve, I chewed my lip and pondered my problem. Go to work and trust God to make the fuel in my tank get me there? Or stay home?

I lingered over toast and coffee that morning and my Mom turned to me. “Don’t forget to leave Holly’s tickets for the church hayride today. Her Sunday school teacher is picking her up this afternoon.” I had bought the ticket a week earlier for the hayride and pizza afterwards. I reached into my pocketbook and pulled out the ticket . . . along with a twenty-dollar bill.

I was dumbstruck. “Mom, did you put money in my purse?”

She laughed. “No, I would have if I had any money. Why?”

I held up the money and told her about putting my last twenty in the love offering plate Sunday night.

“Maybe its just God letting you know He’s still in charge,” Mom said.

Skeptics will say that I put the money there and forgot about it. Perhaps they are right. But if I did, God guided my hand knowing just when and where I would need it.

It is important to remember that the verse in Malachi says He will pour you out blessings, not wealth. The Lord simply replaced the offering I had given just when I needed it most. But the blessing keeps giving every time I am reminded of this incident―knowing that God is faithful. All He asks is that we step out in faith, and leave the rest to Him.

―St. Martin’s Press published this story in the Christmas Miracles anthology. October 2009 under another title.

No comments:

Post a Comment