Last week I camped with my wife in and around Redwoods National Park. We left many light footprints on several forest trails, walking beneath ages old gigantic trees. The silence in the great woods surprised me as much as the enormity of the ancient giants.
With a canopy high overhead, and hundreds of feet of trunks beneath, the sound of wind and birds is far overhead, leaving a deep quiet along the path. The height of the trees is difficult to grasp from below. Here and there, however, an old redwood had fallen,
stretched out with massive root ball tipped up. Here is a video of one that tumbled so long ago it is decaying into the ground. It took me a minute to walk its length. (Copy and paste this Youtube link into your browser): https://youtu.be/4IYwogZI4TA
I visited Idaho Falls, Idaho, last week. My good friends Larry and Jan invited me to stay with them in their lovely home with a beautiful guest room. The evening I arrived Larry left for a band rehearsal (he plays the baritone in a community group) and I had opportunity to visit with Jan. As we caught up on family news she told me how Larry, who is a submarine veteran*, found a new fellow submariner one day while stopping in for coffee at the local McDonald's. As he entered he saw an older gentleman wearing a submariner's cap, which I understand such folk do to identify themselves to others who might be in the vicinity. Soon Larry and Richard had made acquaintance, and Richard invited Larry to attend a submariner's group that meets monthly in the area. Larry had wanted to connect with sub vets and so readily agreed. Significant Others also invited, so Jan was invited too. Richard explained that he was with a gal who was not his wife, but it was all on the up and up since he is not married. So the day comes when Richard and his partner came to pick up Jan and Larry to go to the gathering. Jan immediately recognized Alice, who is a member of the same church Jan attends. Then she realized who Richard was, also a regular there. I happened to know them both. I had officiated at Alice's husband's funeral when he was tragically killed in a car accident, and had lent support and approval when Richard and Alice hooked up some time afterwards. Yes, tiny world.
So the foursome happily goes to the submariner vet gathering. Among other activities they take a collection called a 50/50. Folks put money in a pot and at the end of meeting draw for the winner, who gets half the pot while the rest goes to help folks. Since Jan was new they invited her to pick the winner. So she reached in blindly and pulled out her husband Larry's ticket. Of course this created some amusement. They weren't sure they would ask her to pick the winner again. But next month they did in fact invite her to choose the lucky winner again, with the caution that if she picked Larry's ticket again they would ban her in the future. So she reached in and pulled out Richard's ticket.
I stored these anecdotes in my head and got myself to bed in the guest room. I had a really good night's sleep and woke up early. I had packed my bicycle with me and decided to go for a ride in the morning before the heat set in, which can be intense in IF. I rode out from the west side of the town to the east side and wandered about to familiar places, such as the house I used to live in and by the church where I served for eight years. In the process I rode around Community Park, which has a 3/4 mile path around it, favored by walkers. Several times I alerted folks to my approach and they politely allowed me to pass. One group included five or six women and a couple of men, spread out, with some of the women talking to each other intently. I didn't see faces as I pedaled past.
After a while I got hungry for breakfast and thirsty for coffee so I ambled over to the local McDonald's. I parked my bike outside and lined up to order. As I was waiting I saw an older gentleman walk up, and noticed he had a cap on, which I recognized as a submariner's cap when he came in and stood behind me. I turned to him and said, "Hello, Richard!" His eyes widened with recognition and I reminded him of my name as his former pastor. We greeted each other warmly and began a busy chat while I ordered breakfast. All the time he was watching outside for the arrival of his partner Alice with her walking group, who of course do circuits around Community Park and then come to McDonald's to undo it.
Eventually Alice and her friends arrived. She was surprised and pleased to see me, and quickly introduced me to her friends. They explained that they were a mish mash of churchy folk, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and she and Richard Methodist. As they crammed themselves into a corner seating area I stood visiting and smiling and then one of the gals asked if I would, as a pastor, bless their group. Ah well, no escaping the role sometimes. So I said sure and there in McDonald's in the middle of Mormonville I raised my hand, called down the love of God upon them and packed the abundance down on their heads. Seemed like it was one of the coolest blessings they had ever gotten -- sure was one of the happiest I ever gave.
You can make up your own mind about connections or coincidents. But I am rather convinced about connections and God's sense of humor. Any doubts, start hanging around at McDonald's.
*Larry served on the submarine Parche in the cold war. His crew set underwater distance and endurance records while spying on the Russians. Spooky!