Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Divine Appointments and Other Such Things

On any given day, for all of humanity, life can go from a joyful peace to filled with tragedy in the blink of an eye. As a result, there are some common questions that plague most of us and these are two of the biggies: 

Does God see me and what I’m going through? 

If He does see me, does He care? 

It doesn't matter who you are, if you have a pulse, you have asked both these questions at some point in your life and, depending on your perceived answer, it has either helped propel you toward an intimate relationship with the Lord or you have packed up those questions and tucked them away in a box and decided you will be the director of your own life. It’s happening every day all around us and I’m going to tell you a story that not only highlights these questions, but points to a resounding, “YES”, in response to both of them.

Jay grew up in Atlanta. His dad passed down his love of baseball and took Jay to games whenever he could. At a very young age, Jay desperately wanted to get close enough to one of the players to get an autograph, but he could never seem to make that happen…until he was 8 years old. 

Jay and his parents had stopped at a Waffle House for breakfast one morning and Jay quickly spotted Sid Bream and another man having breakfast in the back of the restaurant. If you know anything about Braves baseball, you know Sid Bream is an Atlanta icon and will forever be remembered for one of the greatest slides in MLB history. Jay was so excited and felt like this was the moment he had been waiting for. His parents, more understanding of the need for public figures to be allowed to lead private lives, encouraged him not to approach Sid for an autograph, but when Sid and the other man made their way to the front of the restaurant to leave, Jay could contain himself no longer.

Sid, being the gracious man he is, was happy to give Jay an autograph and grabbed the closest thing he could find, a Waffle House napkin.


Always give it 

your best & know

that God loves you.

Sid Bream

Matthew 5:16”

The other man who was with Sid had played baseball as well and he reached in his pocket and gave Jay a testimony card of his that told the story of how baseball had been the instrument used to introduce him to a relationship with the Lord. Jay could not have been happier to receive these two treasures and he went home and placed them carefully in his Bible. As life went on and Jay grew up, any awareness he may have had of the Lord faded and he left Jesus tucked away in that Bible alongside these two treasures.

Jay eventually married and had children of his own. When his son was 8, Sid Bream came to speak at his father-in-law's church and his father-in-law got a baseball autographed for Jay's son. Life had come full circle for Jay.

Shortly after, Jay’s sister-in-law Hannah became pregnant with her second child. Hannah and her husband, Stephen, had worked through a hard patch in their marriage and this baby was the product of their commitment to turn their hearts back to each other and to turn their hearts to the Lord who was doing a healing work in their individual lives and in their marriage. Everyone in their family could see that things were very different for the Vincent family. Sundays were now a day that began with church and Hannah and Stephen couldn’t wait to get there each week. Both Stephen and Hannah surrendered to the Lord and, as surely as Hannah’s body swelled with the sweet miracle of life that was growing within her, their hearts swelled with a love for the Lord and a love for each other. Life couldn’t be better.

Hannah’s due date was fast approaching when she started to feel sick. They managed her symptoms at home for a while before she was admitted to the hospital, but it soon became apparent that Hannah was taking a turn for the worse and it was time to take the baby. On November 16, Brayden Vincent was delivered via c-section 5 weeks early. Hannah was transferred to a hospital in Atlanta where she could receive more specialized care and Brayden was left in the care of NICU nurses. Within a couple of days, Hannah was placed on a ventilator and she was in urgent need of prayer. Those prayers seemed to work and Hannah got word on November 29 that she was scheduled to come off the ventilator the next day. This was so exciting for her family, for all those who were praying and especially for Hannah and Stephen Vincent who couldn’t wait for their family to be reunited. 

Tuesday finally arrived and Stephen felt an urgency to head to the hospital to visit Hannah. Mere minutes after Stephen entered Hannah’s room, her heart stopped and he pressed himself into a corner as her room was suddenly filled with medical personnel who worked to no avail to save Hannah’s life. Tuesday, November 30, 2021 Hannah Vincent went Home. It wasn’t the home everyone had hoped and prayed she’d return to, but she was Home with the Lord she had met, surrendered to and so joyfully worshipped for many months.

Word quickly spread that Hannah had died and all were left in shock. Many, including Stephen, eventually rejoiced that Hannah was whole and healed and basking in the presence of the Lord. Some, however, were left bitter and confused, mad at a God who would allow such a tragedy. How could a 22 year old girl who had everything to live for suddenly be gone, leaving behind a husband and 2 precious children? For some, like Jay, this only confirmed that their assessment was correct that God did, in fact, NOT care.

Friday was the day they would gather as a family with close friends to remember Hannah and to take her body to its final resting place. Jay arrived at the funeral home and took his place amongst the family. Anger had been welling up inside him since he’d gotten word that Hannah had died and he felt a growing resentment toward the God who seemed to care so little. A few songs were sung and then Hannah and Stephen’s pastor rose to speak. He introduced himself as Tim Cash, lead pastor of The Cross Loganville. 

Jay’s pulse suddenly quickened, the room began to spin and he felt like his body was being pressed back in his seat. He was instantly reminded of a testimony card that had been tucked carefully in his Bible next to the Sid Bream autograph. The unknown former baseball player he had met when he was 8 now stood before him, 30 years later. Jay struggled to keep himself composed as he felt his world tilt suddenly off kilter. 

Hannah and Stephen had become a vital part of their church family and a celebration of Hannah’s life was held on Sunday. It was a time of worship and celebration amidst the tears that flowed so freely. Those who were gathered were reminded that, because she had surrendered her life to the Lord, Hannah would now live for all eternity with Him. While there was still great sadness, you could almost reach out and touch the hope that was felt in the room.

As the service ended and everyone attempted to collect themselves, Jay asked the formerly unknown baseball player if he could tell him a story and they retreated to a private place. He quietly shared the story of their first meeting as he carefully turned over a Waffle House napkin and a testimony card with the pastor’s face on it. Circumstances that the Lord had set in motion in a Waffle House in south Atlanta had culminated in a funeral service 30 years later and Jay could no longer deny that maybe the Lord DID see him and maybe He DID, in fact, care. It didn’t mean he didn't still have questions and it wasn’t still a struggle to understand why a 22 year old girl with everything to live for had to die, but he knew something like what he had experienced could not just randomly happen. He told the formerly unknown baseball player now turned pastor that he was willing to explore what a life surrendered to the Lord might look like and that the pastor would see him at church very soon.

I admit, like Jay and many others, I don’t always understand how the Lord works and why some people get to be healed here on earth and why others must enter eternity to receive that healing. On any given day, my finite mind is put to the test to understand how life works, but of this I am very sure…

God DOES see all of us and what we are going through.

God DOES care.

I’m also keenly aware that the seemingly random encounters we have each day may actually be divine appointments and we should always be ready to give an account for the hope that is within us. We never know when the Lord may use one of these encounters to rock someone else’s world and point them to His deep love and care!!

Don’t believe me? Just ask Jay!!!

“In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Matthew 5:16