9:30 a.m., already hot - especially for my beach town which boasts the best climate in the world. I was walking two of my fluffy little dogs several blocks from home when we intersected the path of a fellow walker and his dogs.
‘Man, I just can’t believe this heat - it is crazy,’ he commented. ‘Yeah, I don’t really want to whine considering what some people are up against, but you aren’t lyin’ - it is hot. Do you have air conditioning?’ I queried. ‘Yes, of course,’ he said. ‘Not me,’ I laughed and said, ‘I make my own every night with an ice pack on my head and a little electric fan.’
‘You have to consider this with me for a minute,’ and I knew the neighborhood stranger was about to say something serious … ‘zoom up about 30,000 feet, do a little research and you will see this is global warming, climate change. That’s what is causing this heat, that is what is causing all these California wildfires!’ he emphatically stated.
‘Yeah, that could certainly be,’ I calmly replied. There was something more to be had in this conversation, so I forged ahead. ‘I would like to take you higher than your 30,000 feet.’ He looked at me like I had questioned his knowledge of the climate or how to understand it. ‘What about from 90 to 100,000 feet, like maybe where God is looking down.’
My fit, blondish-gray haired conversant then cocked his head and smiled derisively but said nothing. ‘Hey, just curious,’ pressing on, I smiled, ‘what do you do with God, like where is God in your life’s equation?’
‘Oh I don’t even want to go there,’ he said. Funny thing, my dogs would normally be barking or carrying on, but they were totally complicit in this conversation. (Of course, I have raised them to know Jesus, so they knew where I was going in this mid-morning exchange.1) ‘Ah, come on,’ I challenged, ‘I’m never going to see you again, why in the world would you not answer that question? It’s the most interesting conversation ever.’ He turned and looked at me again.
Hesitatingly, he said, ‘All right, I was raised Roman Catholic… I became a doctor, wasn’t really so much into faith, was also a competitive cyclist.’ (that accounted for his slender athletic build) ‘I had a bad injury, career ending . . . and then--’
‘You had a breakdown,’ I blurted out. He looked long at me and said, ‘yeah, I did.... So in the last several years I have dug into eastern religion trying to find myself in spirituality.’ I just listened and let him talk about his search for meaning and peace.
‘And you? What do you believe--you’re religious?’ ‘No, no,’ I said, ‘but I do believe in the God of the Bible, which of course includes Jesus. Beside the gospel accounts, the historicity of Jesus was corroborated by first century historians, Josephus (Jewish) and Tacitus (Roman), for whom it was not in their best interest to record… you know what I’m saying?’
‘Yeah, but Jesus died in the year 31 and the Gospels were not written for another 40 years ,’ he said. ‘By the way, what’s your name? I’m Dan.’
**Right here, I should have known the approximate date of the earliest gospel accounts,2 though I wasn’t looking for an argument but a rich discussion.
Dan continued, ‘You aren’t saying you are looking to God to fix global warming, are you?’ ‘No, no, just that I think talking about our belief and hope for all of life, including eternity, is even more vital than the climate.’
‘Here’s the thing,’ I continued, ‘I have been at the bedside of numerous dying individuals and even atheists who have hated Christianity want to know if there just might be a heaven on the other side of this life. If so, they don’t want to be on the outside looking in . . . forever. Life is so fragile, so very unpredictable. Like take for instance, my friend Julie . . .’ and I told him what had just happened.
Julie is making funeral arrangements for her beloved husband today, while last week at this time, he was right as rain. A strange fall, a stroke, a coma . . . in Heaven now.
Friend, you and I are not promised tomorrow. It is the reason Jesus was willing to walk headlong toward the Cross. We are in the last week of his life as we study John chapter 12 - his anointing by Mary (the fragrance that would go to the cross on him); the palm-waving procession into Jerusalem, those who came out to see him and believed him, and Jesus’ emotional statements that his sacrificial death is why he came.
My new neighborhood friend, Dan, is not promised tomorrow either and while he quoted Buddhist principles and Bertrand Russell, neither will help him on his day of reckoning. He conceded this, ‘we are at such a time of division in our country, and it is almost impossible not to think of people as ‘us’ or ‘them’. I guess I would have thought of you as a ‘them’ but after talking with you, I can see you are a woman of love - you are an ‘us’.’
‘Thanks, Dan, maybe we will have another conversation someday… see you later.’
Will you use ordinary conversations as opportunities
to have the richest dialogs ever?
Fact #1: People want Jesus, they just do not know how to find out about him
Fact #2: many people feel burned by the Church and will not walk through her doors; we who walk with Jesus are the Church, let's love like it.
Will you look to engage in conversation in such a way that you can
offer hope and a forever relationship with the Creator?
1 - of course, I do not think my dogs air Christian, even though they are always nearby when I am studying my Bible and praying
2 - The Gospel of Mark shortly after AD 60, Luke between 60 and 70, and Matthew shortly after 70; all written while eye witnesses were around and could have refuted the material included in the gospels. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? F.F. Bruce