Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hidden Treasures

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!"
Romans 11:33

God is so good.
His ways are so far above our ways.
Every now and then, He manifests and proves that fact in the most amazing of ways.

Over the past few years, we have been dealing with a problem.
It has escalated to the point of really getting on our nerves....
until it finally reached the very last nerve we had left...
a few weeks ago. :~)

Let me explain.

The land next door to us went up for sale...on the market...several years back
and was bought by a small, but quickly-growing African-American church group.
They built a church, and it has grown and prospered ever since.

At first, we weren't sure about it, because of the traffic it would create
on our country road.
But, it has never really been a problem in that way,
and we have pretty easily adjusted to any added noise or distraction it has caused.
In fact, it is nice knowing there are God-loving people who come to worship Him
every week...right next door to our house.

Not too long after they built the church, we began to notice a problem....
it was small, at first,
then got bigger, as time went on.
Rocks began to appear in our yard.
Rocks that suspiciously look just like the gravel rocks in the church yard next door.
Rocks that were impossible to miss when we were mowing the lawn.
Rocks that steadily and consistently dulled and ruined our lawnmower blades,
which, by the way, are not cheap to replace.

I have lost count of the blades we have had to spend over $40 each time to replace,
all because of those aggravating rocks.

We tried to bear with the situation,
not wanting any kind of confrontation or conflict with our neighbors.

Then one day, Zach was outside playing and thought he saw some of the children
who attend the church next door picking up rocks from the church parking lot
and throwing them into our yard....purposely and directly towards our dogs.

At the time, we had some little puppies.
Had one of those rocks made contact with one of them,
they would have been killed on impact.

I felt this warranted a phone call, so called the pastor's husband and told him about it.
I found him to be easily entreated and as kind and humble as he could be.
He apologized profusely, promising me he would address the problem
and discuss it with his wife, the pastor.

Things improved for a while.

Then a pattern began to emerge.
We would call them from time to time as the rock problem became unbearable,
the dear sister pastor would speak to her flock,
things would improve again...
then the problem would start up...again.

It has been like a vicious, unending, extremely annoying cycle.
Until Zachary met me at the back door recently.
He was as frustrated as he could be.

"Mama, we are going to have to call the police."

"Why, Zach?"

He went on to explain that he and Kevin had found a large number of rocks,
some of them very close to our house...
as if they were thrown there, on purpose, with the intention of making contact.

I had just mowed the lawn...a few days before,
so I knew these were absolutely fresh rocks.
This had just happened, without a doubt.

"We can't keep putting up with this, Mama."

"You're right, Zach.
But, I really hate to think of involving the police.
Let me call the pastor one more time, okay?"

Kevin came around the corner with a bag he had collected the rocks in.
He agreed that we needed to try to resolve this more time.

So, I made the call.

I asked them to come over to the house and look at the rocks.
They agreed and promised to be there in a few minutes.

When they arrived, Kevin asked them to come in and have a seat.

As I stood at the door to greet them, I melted.

It was something about the look in her eyes.....they were kind...and apologetic...and humble.

There was no animosity.
No confrontation.
Just a meek, Christlike spirit....
that somehow touched a chord deep inside...
and caused me to forgive...and forget about the rocks.

This woman has a reputation of warring for the souls of her congregation.
She cares...deeply...and puts her whole heart and soul into feeding and nurturing her flock.

"I'm so sorry this keeps happening" she said, as she climbed the steps to our front porch.

"It is not your fault", I assured her, as I ushered her and her husband inside.
That certain look in her eyes resonated deep.
I recognized her emotions....
from having felt them so many times through the years.
A host of memories rushed over me..
problems I have experienced first-hand in church leadership,
things for which I have been blamed, but over which I had absolutely no control,
times I have been humiliated and embarrassed by the behavior of lay members,
incidents that occurred that were completely out of my hands, but for which I absorbed total retribution.

How could I blame this precious woman...this sister in the Lord?
When, clearly, she was not at fault.
She cannot control the conduct of others...
no more than I can.

As we sat down, the awkwardness of our meeting quickly dissipated....
just evaporated...into thin air.

What followed was one of the most edifying visits we have experienced in a long time.
She poured out her heart.
I poured out mine.
Our husbands chimed in, here and there,
but I believe God knew that she and I needed that talk.

Our lives have had so many parallels.
We have been through so many of the same things.
We shared battle scars and swapped war stories.
I was amazed...and so was she.
I can't tell you how many times one of us would start to share something,
and the other would realize the similarities in the way God has led and dealt with us.
My mother died last year.
So did hers.
Both were extremely supportive of our ministries.
Both left gaping voids behind...impossible to fill.
Both of us have the blood of Jesus coursing through our veins.
We are sisters...because of Him.
There is no animosity...even because of the rocks.
No prejudice.
No racism.
It does not exist...between us.

Just two hearts....two kindred spirits....striving with all our might to go to the same Heaven...
doing our utmost to serve and please the same God....
fighting individual battles in the same war.

At one point, she said,
"Oh, I needed this so much!
Thank God for those rocks!"

We laughed and laughed.
Who would have guessed?
That a pile of rocks could bring down such a blessing?
The Spirit of God was there right in the midst of us.

We began to talk about all of the rocks and stones stories in the Bible....
how David brought Goliath down with one smooth stone, etc.
Our souls were filled by the time they rose to leave.

When we parted, we made plans to meet again.
We both need the encouragement...and the fellowship...
and the inspiration we find in each other.

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."
Proverbs 27:17

Such true words!

Who would have thought that a pile of rocks thrown by the hands of mischievous children
would turn out to have been instrumental in arranging a Divine appointment like this?

Kevin and I made new friends...
all because of something that has been an extreme nuisance
and trial to us.

The other day, we went panning for gems.
We hadn't done that in quite a while,
and I had forgotten how much fun it is.

The guy handed us our bucket.
It was heavy.
We followed him to the panning area, 
and he got us all set up to begin our treasure hunt.

Looking down into the bucket, 
it didn't look like 
much more than just a bucket of uninteresting, ordinary sand.

Kevin and Zach dumped some of it out into our little screened-tray.

After they dumped it, you could begin to see that there was more in that bucket
than first met the eye.
There was more to the mixture than just sand.
There were other elements scattered here and there throughout.
And it soon became apparent that in order for us to separate the sand from the other particles,
we were going to have to put forth some work and effort.

Zach lowered the tray into the water trough in front of him,
allowing the water to flow over the sand-filled tray.
As the water washed over it, the sand began to slip through the holes in the screen
and be washed away.
Only the larger elements that couldn't fit through the little holes were left behind.

Zach began to pick up the left-behind particles in his hand to examine them
and give them a closer look.

It turned out that his efforts had been very worthwhile.

He discovered that buried down in the sand were the most beautiful stones,
and, after the sifting process, only the good stuff remained.
All different colors and shapes and compositions.

This was one of my favorites.

I love the turquoise/aqua color,
with the rusty-colored stripe running through it.

I think turquoise and any shade of brown goes so well together.
Also, turquoise and pink.
Just beautiful.

When we were finished, we took all of our treasures to the guy up front,
and he took the time to identify the various types of stones.
I have already forgotten their names...
I should have written them down or labeled them somehow.

What impressed me is that he knew every single one of them,
right off the bat.
Like he was familiar and closely acquainted with each, individual type.
He knew they were in there, hidden in the sand,
when he had handed us the bucket.
We had no visible proof that what he told us was true.
It required a measure of trust on our part to pay him twenty some dollars
 for what appeared to be just a bucket of everyday sand.

We took his word for it, believing there was something valuable,
and we were not disappointed in the end.

Sometimes, God hands us a heavy the form of a trial.
It is hard to carry.
We falter under the load.
We peer inside, seeing nothing valuable, or even worthwhile.
And though we know Romans 8:28 by heart,
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,
to them who are the called according to his purpose",
we just can't see how any good can come 
from the things we are going through.
We wonder why we must carry our bucket....why we must bear up under it...why we must deal with it.
We question God's wisdom and our lot in life.
God sees beyond the plain, even ugly, particles of our bucket....
to what is hidden and buried....beneath the ugliness.
He tells us there is good in the bucket.
Valuable nuggets.
Hidden deep inside the trial.
We can't see all.
We have to take His word for it....and trust....
that He would never tell us something that is not true.

Our trials can appear to contain nothing beautiful...
just like the individual grains of a gem-miner's bucket.
But, in reality, there is good in every test God allows.
There is treasure mixed in every one of our buckets....
and in every one of our piles of rocks.
Even in the midst of the darkness...
that so often envelops our spirit.
There are beautiful nuggets....disguised and masked.
It will require us to dig.
And work.
And seek.
And get to the bottom of find the good.
But, God promises that good is absolutely, always there.

Sometimes, it is all about perspective...and how we approach things....
how we view the path in front of us.

Who knows?
If we keep an open mind and a humble spirit,
in our digging, we just may find something colorful or even beautiful....
like the treasure of a much-needed, sweet, new friend.


  1. Hi Cheryl. We got back from a much needed vacation on Friday. We spent precious time with family, and we went to the beach for a couple of days. Then, tonight, I read this special story. You didn't know how much gold was in those rocks. I am still learning this too. Thank you, dear friend, for sharing this story with us.
    Love and Prayers, Debby

    1. Oh, I am SO glad you were able to get away and especially to be with family! Those times are the most precious of all! Thank you for your kind comments. It was so good to hear from you, as always. Love & appreciate you, Cheryl