|Paynesville Press - April 6, 2005|
'Love Thrown Away'
I was walking as a feeble attempt to try and wear off all of the calories I had consumed over the holiday season. It was late afternoon at my parents' house around Lake Koronis and the tar walking path recently laid that summer was still uncovered with snow as we were experiencing only a half-white Christmas.
As I walked the path along Old Lake Road near Kruger's pond, I was trying to sort through a few ideas for my upcoming sermon. As a public speaker, I know it is good to go over your material many times in your mind and get it so you "know" it well enough to only glance at notes when you speak.
The fact that I do most of my public speaking on Sundays, and it being Christmas Day and all, I thought I would ask God what He wanted me to say in the upcoming service. I searched through my mind, and considered Dr. Dobson's annually inspiring Christmas newsletter. Our congregation has come to know that our Christmas service may include the story or quotes from his newsletter almost every year. I count on him to make me sound inspiring, but if I don't laugh out loud, or my wife doesn't catch me crying while reading his December newsletter, I tend to keep looking. I must admit, this was the first year in many when I kept shopping for ideas.
So, since He is "the reason for the season," I asked God about Jesus. I figured if God made Jesus more real to me, it would be helpful to my saying something thought-provoking, touching, or inspiring on Sunday.
Of course, having Jesus be more real to me would do me some good also: I did want to draw close to the Lord, not to simply manipulate Him for information, but to again be drawn back to who He was, and all that He has done for me. I sincerely wanted to know Him more, not just to get something from Him for my upcoming sermon.
I continued thinking, praying, and walking. But no revelation came and I began to get tired and wondered why I was out there. Of course, the four pounds of various Christmas meats, three pounds of fudge, and an unweighable amount of a variety of vegetables, dip, chocolate, cookies, and snacks were really beginning to take their toll on my just staying conscious, not to mention the strenuous exercise of walking.
But I persisted, and I had really begun to pray as I walked, and was asking God for something unique, something fresh: what would Jesus say if He were to speak for our Christmas service.
And then I saw the cardŠor at least its remains. Thankfully, it was only a half-white Christmas, or I may have never even spotted the torn card in the first place. I left the pavement and walked along the side of the road in the ditch, picking up the pieces. The card had been torn in about six pieces, and double layering made it into about 12 pieces total. I gathered all the pieces I could find. The only piece missing was off the front and finished what appeared to be the words, "For my lover at Christmas." I thought: How weird? Who would throw away a Christmas card?
The nice handwriting on some of the pieces caught my eye: I was almost positive it was from a female hand. I tried to picture the recipient who had torn up the card and thrown it away.
The printed message on the card seemed eloquent enough, and since it was a Hallmark, I knew they had sent the very best. But it was the short, to the point, handwritten message that kept my attention. I turned the pieces around and over until they began to make sense, and saw that one of the two sections of hand written messages was only on two pieces. It simply said, "No one loves you more than I do."
How fitting, I thought. Perhaps the card was the answer to my prayers, for Jesus would absolutely say that to me, and it would be a great message for the faithful people who would show up at church on Sunday. The statement was also something that parallels what the Bible has quoted Jesus as saying. He often declared His love to the world, as never leaving us, giving His life for us, and the whole world.
The wind began to pick up, and my exposed skin told my feet to hurry. I was walking along a steep bank where I did not want to have to run after pieces blowing in the wind.
So I quickly, yet cautiously, began rearranging the other pieces in my hand so I could read the rest of the handwritten message. Again, there were the simplest, yet most meaningful words. Right below the printed message of the card, the handwritten message simply said, "I love you," and then down one line, "just me."
Wow, I wondered, who was this "me"? Did "me" mean Jesus to me? The handwriting, now all together, definitely looked feminine, the kind you always envied in school. The kind when you saw it, you thought, "this person should be a school teacher," or, "why can't people like this become doctors?"
I realized that maybe just hours earlier this card was in someone else's hands. First the sender's: that woman with the neat handwriting; then the recipient's: that man in the pickup. Were they mad, crying, both? Just broken up, a date gone bad, and now the "make up" Christmas card didn't work?
Worse yet, was I holding the paper fragments that represented a marriage that had been torn apart one too many times?
Oh Lord, I hoped not, and I breathed a prayer for the people attached to the card. Had their love for one another grown so cold, like the bits of frost and light snow now stuck on some of the pieces? So cold that one of the people in the relationship was at the point of tearing up words of love and throwing them out the window?
Why would someone throw away love? Yet so many people have done that with Jesus. I pushed the pieces together as if straightening a deck of cards and then carefully put them into the large pocket on my coat.
The torn pieces of the card felt precious to me: like a treasure I must preserve. I had recently watched explorer Robert Ballard and his story of the Titanic. He had found treasure and was now trying to preserve the great ship, its artifacts, and its memories from looters.
Boy, talk about hidden treasure: what were the chances of me finding the card, and almost all of its pieces? Why had I gone on this walk? Why in this direction? I asked myself these questions, but in my heart I knew the answers, for I believe God is the champion of lost causes. I believe He is always planning, always reaching to find a way to say I love you to all of us.
What one woman did to reach out and express her love, and what one man did in a moment of frustration, hurt or anger, God used to speak to me. I knew my prayer had been answered, and on more than one level: Jesus was more real to me, and I had my sermon.
I walked back to the house, and after I had wiped the newly-formed fog from my glasses I took out the pieces of the card and began to reassemble them carefully on one of the countertops. The printed words were: "My love, you are the center of my life, The dearest friend and lover there could be. When all the world is crazy and confusing, You are my calm and my security. I look into your eyes and find my soul mate. I hear your voice and never feel alone. Beside you, I believe in love unending, And feel the deepest joy I have ever known."
So many of these words were the words of Christ to me, and I thought, as many preachers would, "This is gonna be good; this will preach." Thank you, Lord.
At the same time I had received the answer to my search for a sermon, I more importantly was reminded that Jesus is the center of my life; He is my dearest friend, and lover. When all the world is crazy and confusing, I do just what I did on that Christmas day: I get alone, I sometimes walk, and I talk to Jesus. He has been and always will be my calm and security. I do feel so close to Him at times that there is not even a human that I tell as many things to. He is my soul mate if that is possible. I do not feel alone, because He promised and has been faithful to never leave me, or forsake me. I am never alone. His love is unconditional; He has promised to be with me forever. Often the most peaceful and most joyous times in my life are when I am alone with Him.
The treasure I found that Christmas day of the "card that preached" begs the question: Are you about to take some of the things He has promised and tear them up and throw them away? For most, a literal reading of that question would seem too harsh, too sacrilegious: few would take pages of the Bible, tear them out, rip them up, and throw them away as they drove along some highway. Yet we do that very thing in our hearts and minds, and we go days and weeks without talking to Him, praying, picking up His Word, and reading what He has said to us about how much He does love us.
Again the question came back to me, why would someone throw away love?
He sent me the perfect card via a couple who never knew that I would find it, and unfortunately may never know His love. Both sender and recipient undoubtedly need Christ's love much more than I. I hope someday both of them can read this story. It would be just like God to have them find my story, about their story, heal their relationship, and help them find Christ, or renew their relationship with Him. You might say that's unlikely, but then so was my finding the pieces of this card.
But Jesus loved me enough, and wanted to speak to me because I asked Him. Not because I am a minister, but because He loves me, cares about me, and I asked Him. If you have thrown away His love, why not put the pieces back together? Why not go back to Him?
I believe this card was found as much for you as it was for me. "Who is you?" Whomever God leads to this story. Ask Him to heal the hurts of the past, to heal the unkind things said and done in your life. Ask Him to forgive you: He's waiting for you to read His card, and realize how much He loves YOU. Don't throw love away, receive it.
I used the card that next Sunday morning, but that's other paper and different ink.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Fangmeier, a 1980 PHS grad, is the senior pastor at the Hosanna Worship Center in Morris, Minn. He is willing to return this card. To claim it, either call him directly at 320-589-1431 or call editor Mike Jacobson at 320-243-3772 to ask for it anonymously.
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