So yesterday it became quite clear, I lost my “man bag”. You know what that is – a purse for guys. I hate putting things in my pockets so I starting using one years ago. I also am one of those people who over prepares for things, so I have too much stuff with me to put in my pockets anyway. It wasn’t so much that the bag was gone, but what made my heart sink was what was in it. It contained my brand new Kindle (an electronic book reader), my MP3 player, an electronic bible, a digital recorder, several over the counter medications, about 10 blank checks, and a couple of chargers and USB cables for my cell phone and the other gear I had in the bag. Fortunately my wallet wasn’t in there. It was safely tucked away in my coat pocket.
I was crushed. I was trying to ignore the emotions, but it would cost a lot of money to replace those things and they were important to me and very useful for the work I do. I played over every scenario in my head of what could have happened. I called the last couple of places where I knew I had taken it last week. No one had seen it. My wife, Laurel, and I scoured the house and the cars thoroughly several times. It wasn’t anywhere.
My final conclusion was that I had it in the car when we went to church Sunday night and that I had forgotten to lock the door so somebody walked by, saw it, opened the car and took it. It was quite believable. It was dark, the car was parked on downtown Main Street, and the only real activity was the people parked on the street who were in the church. All the stores and businesses were closed so it had to be one of those “evil citizens” who walk the streets looking for people to rip off.
I actually had my bag stolen out of the car before in the same city in one of the local parks in broad daylight while I was walking my dog a few years ago. I had forgotten to lock the car and left the bag on the front seat. There weren’t any electronic things in it that time. Those things hadn’t been invented yet! But my wallet and credit cards were in there. I called the police, they filled out a report and I had to change my bank account, get a new license, replacement cards, and it was very inconvenient. I think I only had about four dollars in the wallet, so at least I didn’t lose a lot but it put in my heart the idea that my city had those who were disciples of the dark side. So it was only logical to think that they struck again in the darkness while I was worshiping God.
I got up early this morning to the anxious pacing of my current dog who wanted to relieve his bladder on the mountain of snow in the yard. After that was over I went into my office, logged on to Amazon.com and deregistered my Kindle reader. At least the thief wasn’t going to get any new books downloaded to the device at my expense. I logged on to my bank account and saw that during the four days I determined the bag was missing no one tried to cash any of my blank checks. Then I started planning my day and included a trip to the bank to cancel the account.
I sat on the couch and played the “Cheerios game” with the dog where I take one piece of cereal at a time and toss it to opposite sides of the living room so he can chase it or try to catch it in his mouth. That substitutes for exercise when it is 5 degrees with a 12 mile per hour wind blowing outside. Then I grabbed the remote control and started watching one of the TV shows I recorded the night before.
I heard the alarm go off upstairs. My sweet Laurel was up now, preparing herself for another day of teaching and trying to control a room full of fifth graders. Suddenly I was hit with a wave of exhaustion so strong that I started falling asleep on Criminal Minds, one of the most intense shows on network television. I shut it down and dragged myself upstairs telling wifey I was going to have to go back to bed again. I wished her a good day, gave her a quick kiss and crawled under the covers thinking about my bag as I drifted off to sleep.
Then it happened. I heard Laurel’s voice banging against my ear drums in exciting tones, “Wake up! Randy, wake up. I have to tell you something.” My vision began to clear as my eyelids opened and the dilated pupils began to shrink under a flood of light. Then I heard her explain almost breathlessly how she heard the garbage collection taking place outside and peeked through the blinds to watch the sanitation workers. They were next door taking swollen plastic bags out of their garbage can and tossing them in the truck.
She continued to observe as they came next to our house and began collecting our trash as well. She saw one of the workers toss the lid of our can to the ground then reach inside and first pull out trash bag number one, then a small black bag with a strap, then another white trash bag. Small black bag? Had she seen that right? That looked like my missing bag. In fact she was sure of it!
She flew down the stairs, tore open the front door and ran down the driveway with no coat and only her socks on her feet through the snow and ice covered driveway. The workers had moved on to the neighbors house and she continued running like an Olympic athlete down the sidewalk calling out to the stunned city employees, “Wait! Wait!” As she arrived next to them she asked, “Did you find a black bag in our trash can?” “Why yes!” was the response. Then he reached over into the back of the truck and pulled out my missing bag. He told her, “We were going to check it out later and find out what was in it and see if we could figure out who it belonged to.” Apparently there is a spot in the back of the truck where the big crusher doesn’t reach to smash the contents flat to make room for more garbage in the truck. And besides he hadn’t pulled the lever yet to activate it anyway.
She took the bag and explained how we had been looking everywhere for it and now it was found. She hugged them both, thanked them and came back to the house totally oblivious to the air temperature, the wind and her shoeless feet. As she stood at the foot of the bed, she reached into her drawer to retrieve another pair of warm, dry socks and told me how she had been praying as she got ready for the day, “Lord you know where that bag is. Please let us find it.” She was totally amazed at how she heard the trash collection and looked through the blinds to watch the workers, especially for such a long period of time. She said, “Randy, I never watch them do that. Never! But for some reason I did and I saw them take your bag out of the trash can.”
Well, the reason was obvious to both of us now. God had stirred her heart to look out the window for an extended period of time so she could see the bag. Then He gave her nearly 60 year old body the adrenalin rush of an Olympian to run through the snow and rescue it from the jaws of the big yellow garbage squisher. She said she wasn’t even aware of the cold or the snow. I kept asking her if I needed to rub her feet and put some warmth back in them, but she declined saying that she was fine. That response blew me away, because I can aim a small fan at her chilly feet in the summer time and cool down the whole bedroom. I don’t think my bride has ever had any blood flow below her knees since I’ve known her.
As I looked through the bag everything was there and it was all in one piece. I’m not sure the medications will be in good shape, after four hours in the garbage can outside in below freezing temperatures, but that is easily replaced. The awesome thing is that all the really important stuff that I use mostly for ministry was safe and back home where it belongs.
Laurel went off to school exclaiming that the day started so great she was anticipating it to continue that way with the kids. I had lunch with her and it has been a great day so far. As we talked in between bites of burger and swigs of Diet Coke, I tried to strenuously retrieve fragments of memory from my aging mind and piece together what must have happened Sunday night. I apparently took a bag of trash out to the garage with me, in the dark, along with my black bag. I blindly and routinely opened the garbage can and threw both bags into it, replaced the lid and jumped in the car, focusing on my destination, Love City Fellowship, instead of the fact that I didn’t have my bag in my hand anymore. Since my wallet was in my coat, I never realized the bag was missing until Wednesday night because I didn’t need anything that was in it and I assumed it was in my home office.
So why is this a special miracle for us today? Because we just know it had to be God! There was absolutely no reason for Laurel to watch the garbage collection from our bedroom window. It’s not a special event. It happens every Thursday. The fact that she watched for such a long time and saw them take the bag out of the can was evidence of God’s Spirit inspiring her to do this in answer to her prayers.
Sometimes you just need a little spiritual boost in your life, and this is one of those times. We’ve had so many awesome experiences over the decades as we have served Him together, but it had been awhile since we saw Him do something so obvious and yet so trivial that it got our attention. God really does care about everything in our lives, not just the big stuff. Remember, Jesus said He knows about every sparrow that falls from the sky (Matthew 10:29). He even knows when one of His servants has a senior moment, a brain cramp, and throws his man bag in the trash. The contents of that bag were tools for His purposes and He was going to make sure I got them back.
So what’s the lesson today? Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6). Believe that when you pray in faith you will receive (Matthew 21:22). And remember, God even cares about the small stuff.
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