“God is already there” is a statement we often use when we are planning something new or thinking with some anxiety about the future. But sometimes we can’t see the reality of that statement until after the fact. The following story began unfolding about a month ago, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that I began to see how truly God was already there.
Shayne Looper writes a syndicated column that often appears in our daily paper, the Holland Sentinel. Several weeks ago, I read a column that I thought was really appropriate for the Apprentice classes at Christ Memorial Church. So I copied it to hand out to my class. Then I decided to quote part of it in this blog. Finally, I decided I wanted to include it in the March issue of the Apprentice newsletter. By this time, I was feeling increasingly guilty about using this material (even though I was attributing it to the writer).
There was no contact information in the article other than the church that Shayne Looper pastors. So I googled the church, found a contact e-mail address and asked permission to reprint the article. I wanted him to know where his writing was appearing, so I explained that the newsletter was for people who had participated in the Apprentice Program which was based on the series of three books by James Bryan Smith (Good and Beautiful God, Good and Beautiful Life, Good and Beautiful Community)
A few hours later I got an e-mail saying that, of course, I could reprint the article. Shayne also mentioned that he had read the Good and Beautiful books and found them helpful. I emailed him back to ask him if his church had an Apprentice Program. If not, I offered to talk with him about it. He said that they did not have a program and he would love to hear about it. He said that he was coming (from the Coldwater area) to Grand Rapids on March 18. would be staying overnight and wondered if I would be free to meet with him and his wife on March 19. Since talking to people about Apprentice is one of my favorite things to do, I said, “Of course.”
March 19 finally got here and I met Shayne and Karen Looper and began my passionate and rather hurried discussion about the wonderful transformative quality of the Apprentice Series. I could tell that Shayne was really getting excited about the material. Along the way I mentioned that some years ago I had been in a two-week class with Richard Foster at Spring Arbor University. Shayne said, “I was there, too!” I knew he wasn’t part of my cohort, so I started questioning him. He said that he had been invited as a pastor of a church in the area to attend the public sessions. “Bill Vaswig was there, too. Remember?” he concluded.
I could hardly believe it. I said incredulously, “You were there for the Taize’ service and the healing service? You were one of the thirty or forty people in that room at the same meeting I was at?”
He nodded and said, “I spent quite a bit of time talking with Richard Foster.”
I thought to myself, “No wonder he is understanding everything I’m saying!” We continued with the meeting until they had to leave for home. They were excited. I was excited!! My very busy day continued, and it wasn’t until I was driving back to church that evening to teach an Apprentice class that I realized what had happened and I got goose bumps and chills and all the signs we get when the supernatural occurs. God was already there! I retraced the circumstances that brought this couple and this church and me together.
- I was a regular reader of his column.
- I liked a particular column and the Holy Spirit nudged my conscience to ask permission to reprint it.
- I mentioned the James Bryan Smith books.
- Shayne mentioned reading the books.
- I was nudged to write another e-mail offering to share what I knew about Apprentice.
- He was planning a trip to Grand Rapids and, it turns out, to Holland to meet another reader of his column
And way back years ago, God put both of us at the same meeting so that we both were on the same spiritual formation path. And then God arranged the intersection of our lives so I could tell him about the material that could build on everything he had already learned and bring transformation to his congregation.
And the story continues, I know, because God is again already ahead of us.