Surprise Party

Image by Christian Dorn from Pixabay

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. – Matthew 5:7 NIV

When I was in grade school, I always wanted to have a real birthday party – you know, when you invite the whole class at school. Every year when I asked, though, my mother’s answer was always the same: “No.” Maybe the class size of nearly fifty had something to do with it.

“Please, Mom,” I’d plead. “Everyone else has one. Why do I always have to be different?”

No amount of begging, whining, or pouting, however, changed her mind. Her lopsided cakes were for family only.

One year, though, I was determined to have the kind of party I wanted, in spite of my mother’s usual “no.” So I invited all the kids in my third grade class to come to my house on Saturday, November 5, for my birthday party. My mother, of course, knew nothing about it.

I bowled in a youth bowling league on Saturday mornings, and when I left the house that day, I still hadn’t told my mother about the party. The walk home after bowling was the longest walk I ever took in my life! I trudged the eight blocks home in the cold, damp November wind, thinking of how much trouble I was going to be in once the kids started showing up at my door.

Not only was I going to be in the doghouse at home, but I’d be the laughing stock of the whole school once word got out about the party with a lopsided cake, and not enough ice cream and pop. Don’t even mention games. That was not my mother’s forte.

When I stepped into the dining room at few minutes before two – the time I told everyone to come – I gasped in surprise. There in the middle of the table, set for a party, was a big, decorated birthday cake!

“How did you find out?” I blurted to my mother.

“Vivian’s mother called to ask me what time your party started,” she said.

Thank you, Mrs. Bludis, I thought, breathing a sigh of relief.

“We’ll talk about this after the party,” my mother said quietly as someone knocked. “Go answer the door.”

For the next three hours, I tried to ignore the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’d probably be grounded for the rest of my life. When the last guest left, I hurried to help clean up, grateful to my mom for helping me save face and hoping my initiative would lessen my punishment.

“What would you have done if Mrs. Bludis hadn’t called?” my mother asked me after we were done.

I shrugged.

“I didn’t understand how important this was to you. I’m sorry,” Mom said, “but I hope you realize you were wrong to go behind my back.”

I nodded.

As it turned out, my only punishment was three agonizing hours imagining what my just desserts would be when I could have been enjoying my birthday party.

My mother taught me an important lesson in mercy that day. While it isn’t easy to forgive someone who has done something wrong, showing undeserved kindness blesses both the giver and the receiver, and brings healing to broken relationships.

I deserved justice. Instead I received a birthday present I never forgot.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Thank you, God, that Your mercies are new every morning. I sure need them everyday. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 18:21–35.

Travel Travails, Part 2

We live by faith, not by sight. – 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV)

If you thought my travel troubles going to Colorado were bad (described in agonizing detail in last week’s column), that wasn’t even half of it. While the trip out took 17 hours, getting home took twice as long, thanks to another snowstorm. 

My mood soured even before I left Colorado Springs. Waiting at the gate, I squirmed in my seat, watching the morning’s blue sky disappear and the previous day’s blowing snow return. The time for boarding came, but the plane to Denver still hadn’t arrived. Due to the nearly 4-hour delay and the weather chaos heading east, my flight itinerary was adjusted. 

And I’d prayed for two months for good travel weather. I texted my husband, “What good is prayer?”

After an 8-hour wait in Denver, I finally boarded the flight to DC at 1 a.m. Three sleepless hours later, we landed at Dulles, where I waited 12 hours for my flight to Johnstown, and where I acquired a new skill—snoozing in an airport. 

The morning stretched into afternoon, and the snow changed to sleet, then rain. I nervously watched the flight information board, expecting this final flight to be delayed like all the others on this trip. But—hooray!—we took off only 45 minutes after we were supposed to. One stop in Altoona, then on to Johnstown. Almost home! However, the light snow in Altoona wasn’t light in Johnstown. The last leg of my troubled trip was cancelled. 

But my travails weren’t over. My luggage was missing, and the one of the two taxis summoned to ferry us to Johnstown—the one I was in—almost broke down before we even left Altoona. The driver, however, pushed on, even though the oil pressure gauge and check engine lights warned of impending trouble. Lord, please don’t let the engine blow up. I wasn’t mad at God any longer. I just wanted to get home.

The closer we got to Johnstown, the more the weather deteriorated. Ice pellets rapped against the windows, road cinders hit the doors like a million bullets, and the tires struggled to grip the icy ramp off the four-lane to the airport. Still the driver sped on. Lord, just get us to the airport in one piece.

Within sight of the airport, the taxi in front of us spun out into the deep snow along the bank. Our taxi made it to the airport without incident, and my son came to fetch me, 24 hours later than planned. After a good night’s sleep, I drove home. My luggage arrived that evening.

After all that prayer . . . 

Did my travel travails mean God didn’t answer? That He didn’t care? That He really isn’t in control? 

What it comes down to is simply faith. And mine faltered. Big time. And that pricked my pride. I’d thought of myself as a person with a rock-solid faith, but when a time of testing came—and an insignificant time of testing at that—I huffed and puffed and acted like a spoiled child not getting her own way. 

In her Bible study Living Beyond Yourself, Beth Moore describes two kinds of faith: a roller coaster faith based on what God does, and a rock-solid faith based on what God is

I know what kind I need. What about you?  

When life goes awry, my prayers go unanswered, and Heaven is silent, remind me, Lord, that my faith shouldn’t be in what You do, but in what You are—an unchanging, sovereign God whose grace and love are exceedingly abundantly above all that I can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Amen.

Read and reflect on Hebrews 11; Isaiah 55:8–9.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.