A year ago, Paul Scanlon from Abundant Life Church in England, spoke at our church. Pastor Scanlon is an engaging and humorous speaker with a challenging message. Last year he encouraged us to be willing to give up 15 minutes a day to be inconvenienced by God in order to do something nice for someone. We didn't have to tell them about Jesus, or beg them to come to church with us, we were just challenged to do something nice.
Well, how hard could that be? I mean, what's 15 minutes? But right away I had a problem. I had no idea where to start. After great consideration I decided that the best way to go about this was to let God show me what I could do. Of course, I was excited at first and every day I'd wake up and pray, "Lord, show me how I can be inconvenienced today to do something for someone else."
I don't know, maybe I wasn't paying attention, but nothing obvious came up right away. I try to be kind to people on a regular basis so maybe I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, but didn't notice it as different. And, as ideas like this often go with me, I soon forgot to ask God to show me who to help.
But, one summer day, I remembered the challenge and can still show you the exact spot I was standing in a building in downtown Minneapolis when I silently prayed, "Lord, you still haven't shown me anything about this inconvenience deal. Really, I'd like to do something."
I left my meeting in Minneapolis and headed home, stopping at a friend's house along the way. It was a Tuesday night and I left her place about 6:30 p.m. thinking to myself, "it's only a half hour drive from here which means I'll be home just in time for NCIS. Perfect!" Side note: I LOVE NCIS. It is one of my favorite television shows but if you miss the first five minutes you never really know what is going on the rest of the hour because it's all based on the "incident" that happens at the start of the show. Another thing you should know about NCIS is that you don't want to be eating while you watch those first five minutes. Fair warning, enough said.
As I drove down the little back road out to the highway I decided that I'd call home and check my voice mail messages. Sure enough, there was a message from a woman who wanted some Creative Memories products. I used to sell them and apparently she hadn't gotten the memo with the information that I was no longer in the business. As it turned out though, the item she wanted is one that was no longer being made and I happened to have a couple of extra that I wasn't going to use. And, as is most often the case, she needed this product right away. (I refer to these incidences as "scrapbooking emergencies.") The caller told me that she was "in town" right now (that's Cannon Falls slang for "I'm in the city limits and I'm trying to get everything done so I won't have to drive the 10 miles back in from the country tomorrow.") I told her that I was on my way home and if she could wait 30 minutes she could have whatever she liked. So, we agreed that she'd wait in town and meet me at 7:00. That settled, I hung up the phone.
It was at that very moment that I realized; if this person is going to come to my house at 7:00, I'm going to miss the first five minutes of NCIS; the CRITICAL moments of the show. Admittedly, I got a little pouty and then a still, small voice rattled around in my head and said, "Well, you asked me to inconvenience you." RATS! I hate when that happens. For the record, though there may not have been a booming voice coming out of the sky I knew that the thought in my head was clearly from God. I laughed and said "Yes, well, I didn't mean I wanted to be inconvenienced in my inconvenience." If it's possible to hear God chuckle, I did.
As it so happens, Paul Scanlon will be at our church again this weekend. I can't wait to see what his challenge is this year. But you can be sure, I'm going to be more careful about what I pray for!