When some strange thing happens once, it's probably a God thing. When the same strange thing happens twice, it's probably a God thing - and He's trying to get your attention.
Last Monday afternoon, much to the chagrin of my sweat glands, I hooked up my dog Maggie for her constitutional around the neighborhood. Given that the average heat index was around 106 or so during the afternoon last week, this walk was not exactly the most pleasant of experiences for either of us (although she can claim to at least have gotten SOME relief out of it). But, dutiful father that I am, I knew she needed to go out, despite the fact I also knew I was going to kill a 64 ounce bottle of Gatorade the second we got home.
As part of her approved poop route, we had to walk past the new athletic building for the university being constructed on the other side of our neighborhood. Now, again, keep in mind: the heat index is in the lower 100's. The temperature itself is cracking 100. Warnings have been issued for people to limit their time outside for fear of dehydration or heat stroke. And what did we have to walk past? About a dozen or so men, building a brick wall around this complex, which takes up the greater part of the block it is located on.
Yeah. Carrying and laying bricks. In the heat. Having to stand outside while the mortar dries so as to be able to lay the next level. In the heat. Standing in what is in essence still a construction site, complete with tilled earth, no trees, and no shade whatsoever. In. The. Heat.
Because neither of us felt like walking at our typical brisk pace, we were able to actually overhear some of the conversation taking place with the men. Not that we were intentionally eavesdropping, but their voices were somewhat loud. Boisterous. And what we heard...well, there are things one stereotypically expects to hear from construction workers. Factor in that they were having to work under conditions unfit for most people, and you can imagine what was being said.
Actually...you can't. Because I couldn't believe it myself.
As a group, they were discussing church. They church service they had attended mostly together, from what I could gather. And they were peppering their talk with shouts of "Glory!" or "Amen!" Even the ones who weren't at the service were piping in - positively! - on what the discussion was about. Being thankful. Being grateful. In spite of one's circumstances. Thanking God always. Seriously. Now, not only were they discussing faith, but they we doing it in public. Discussing what had been said at church. The day after the services. Under such adverse conditions that would have most people either not speaking at all (so as to just get through the day and make it to the end of it) or if they were speaking, probably not in the most positive or upbeat of tones.
Most of the time, I wonder if what I say even manages to make it as a topic of conversation out of the doors of the church, let alone to the car ride home. For it to be talked about the day after? Yeah. Impossible to comprehend.
The sad stereotype is the when we as Christians leave church on Sunday to go to a restaurant, our witness is dulled by the customer service we demand and the crappy tip we leave. If we talk about what was said or done at church, it is almost always a critique - can you believe what someone wore; I can't believe how bad the worship was; I think I've heard the pastor give that sermon before; why is it always about tithing, anyway; and so on. And if we are that bad the day - heck, within the HOUR - that we leave church, how much progressively worse, gripe-laden, or un-Christ-like do we become...until we show up for our small group or mid-week church gathering?
For these guys to have been talking about church the day after in and of itself was mind boggling enough. For them to have been using the sermon - and the words of Christ - as a positive application for their life given the conditions they had to endure? I was humbled. Massively humbled.
Not because I wanted to have that kind of a church experience, but because I want to have that kind of a heart.
The fact that earlier today, with a temperature of 104 and a heat index of 109, I walked Maggie past this same group of men, doing the same work, under the same conditions, carrying on a strikingly similar conversation - this time, about being strong and courageous - it was just...a God thing. A strange, beautiful, smile-because-you-just-have-to God thing.
I think tomorrow Maggie and I may carry Gatorade on our walk. About a dozen bottles of it.