Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Papa's Touch

On a recent trip I found myself in the Singapore airport with nine hours until my next flight. While the Singapore airport is surely one of the most beautiful in the world, nine hours is a long time, especially in the middle of the night, and I had already traveled from Jackson, Mississippi to Dallas to Los Angeles to Japan. Needless to say, I was exhausted, seriously so. In fact, for about an hour I thought I was going to faint. A hint of panic swept into my soul as well as a good dose of doubt as to my sanity.

The first order of business was to find a place to exchange money and buy something to eat and drink. But everything was closed. So I walked and walked and walked. At length I stumbled onto an American Express currency exchange, got some Singapore money and set out to find food. I ate some fantastic shrimp soup and drank at least one quart of water. To my surprise the food and water did not help much. Still feeling faint I figured I needed to find the most comfortable chair possible, thinking I would probably pass out—an unknown vagrant half way around the world from home.

Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of what looked like an American football game on a huge flat screen TV in what turned out to be a Boston style pub, complete with Red Sox and Celtic memorabilia. Thinking I was delusional, I walked over to take a closer look. To my utter amazement, not only was it an American football game, but a replay of the Cotton Bowl. It was my team, the Ole Miss Rebels playing Texas Tech in one of the great bowl venues in our country. For those of you who do not know, I graduated from the University of Mississippi (known as Ole Miss), and we rarely have a great football team. But this year we did, and we ended up playing Texas Tech which was ranked 7th in country. According to polls, 91 percent of Americans thought Texas Tech would beat us without mercy. And they should have. It was a David and Goliath thing. But on New Years day the game was on, and we not only won, we dominated. It was one of our greatest games ever.

So there I was in Singapore, exhausted, teetering on the edge of fainting, and certainly scared, and there in an Irish pub was my team the Ole Miss Rebels on the big screen. It was an ESPN replay of the great game. What are the odds of such a moment? Who knows? Who cares? I did.

Of the thousands of folks passing through the Singapore airport on any given day, it is hard to imagine anyone who would be touched by an Ole Miss football game. But on that night, so far from home, Papa spoke to me loud and clear. Perhaps I should say, Papa spoke to me in the most personal and tender way.

There is something here about how personally Papa relates to us. The most important moments of faith are always intensely personal. I stood there and laughed as tears rolled down my cheeks, thinking to myself, ‘It is true. Papa is real. We are—I am—known and loved and cared for. Everything is going to be fine.’

I think this is a good way for us to pray for our friends and family. We ask Papa to speak to them in ways that may or may not be relevant to others at all, but are profoundly personal and tender to them.—and thus very meaningful. Isn’t that what Paul was praying for in Ephesians 1:15ff?

It is the Holy Spirit’s work to give us Jesus’ eyes to see Papa’s tender care, especially when we feel exhausted and alone.

16 comments:

Jerome Ellard said...

Baxter, thank you for that encouraging testimony of Papa's tender, personal involvement in all our lives! We are thinking of you fondly here in Big Sandy. All of God's success on you!

Anonymous said...

Baxter- thanks for sharing... Papa is so sweet with such a great sense of humor too. I'm glad you made it through your Singapore layover to get to us in Thailand (I assume it was on that trip). I cannot tell you in words the everlasting impact the message has had on us!

Amy (of Amy and Bill whom you met last month in Chiang Mai.)

Mark said...

Baxter,
Does God give moments like this to starving orphans in third world countries? I don't ask this maliciously. I am a pastor who has been deeply impacted by perichoresis (have listened to the entire Big Picture series, I have lost track of how many copies of The Shack I have given away). I long to believe that such a "coincidence" is a gift from God and He thinks about me personally in that way; in fact I preach it and counsel it! But lying awake at night staring at the ceiling, thinking about those I know who are profoundly struggling, let alone all those around the world who need a meal or a safe place to sleep, I wonder if I am selfish to think that God would give me joy in a college football game (or as a Red Sox fan, the breaking of an 86 year curse on my father's birthday). Frederick Buechner describes compassion as "the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it's like to live in somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too." Does that little girl who's never heard the name of Jesus, cowering in a corner dreading another night of abuse, does she get to feel Papa's touch?

Warren said...

To Mark first - I believe that for all His children, God gives gifts for our hearts like that. I've not been to a third world country, but friends in ministry have. And they tell of meeting the most joyous, loving, faithful Christians there. One friend, mutual with Baxter, told an impoverished old man in Nicaragua that he was the most inspirational Christian he'd ever met.
Did not Habakkuk come to the conclusion that though there is nothing material left, he could and would rejoice in God who is His strength? And that God would give him feet that could 'go on the heights', ie that could walk lightly even in the high places where Satan's agents tended to be at work. As Paul would later say, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
To Baxter - have you read any of John Eldredge's work? The incident you just described could come from a page of The Sacred Romance for instance.

Pastor Paul said...

I feel moved to comment on Mark's comment. No, I do not think God does. At least not in the same way Baxter describes his experience in the airport. However, We all, it seems to me, tend to look at humanity's relationship with the Triune God as a NOW thing. When, in fact, Papa has prepared an eternity of joy, love, peace, security, happiness, and acceptance through His adoption and inclusion of Third World children who will probably never know it in this present life.

With that said, I do feel that the Father's love does touch the life, mind, and heart of the kinds of children Mark speaks of in ways we can not comprehend. Facing death, God holds, comforts, and carresses thosee children as His own and WILL take care of them eternally in His life and Kingdom. We only look often at the now of things and make judgemants based on those perceptions.

Papa is not a respecter of persons, but this is Satan's world for now.

Papa WILL have His way in Jesus for all for all eternity. Fortunately some will find out about it IN THE HEAVENLY REALM at some point in the future.

God is Good. For everyone.

Peace and love to all of you,

Paul Kurts
www.pastorpaulsinteractiveblog.blogspot.com

H said...

What if the Ole Miss victory in the Cotton Bowl was just a small prerequisite that Papa arranged to strengthen the heart of one of His children that He is "especially fond of" on a lonely night in a faraway country? (It would not have been nearly as encouraging if the Rebels had been slaughtered as predicted, right?)
Looking forward to April!
H

Stephanie said...

I would like to respond to Mark's comment. Mark, on many days I share your thoughts. I cannot speak for every person around the world. I can only speak for myself. I have been that little girl curled up in the corner, and even though my parents did not take religion particularly seriously, I have been talking to God for as long as I can remember. One night in particular I remember waking from a nightmare, feeling absolutely terrified and alone. I prayed, and in that moment I felt the most comforting presence absolutely envelop me, as though I had been cradled in someone's arms. Curled up in the most instant and amazing peace, I slept. Call me crazy. Feeling the presence of God that way never happened to me before, and has not happened in that way since, but it felt real enough to me to take it seriously for all these years. While I believe Jesus is the Life-Giver, and very present in the every day stuff, people, and experiences of life, I also believe there is a further presence we have yet to quite explain. I believe Jesus is with the little children, and that does not have to be incarnated with a human touch. There have been times I believed a rainbow was painted in the sky just for me. I have made great friends with "rolly-pollies," and butterflies, and earthworms, and have found sanctuary beneath great walnut trees. And while I believe God will continue to care and move even if in spite of us, that we are part of the incarnation, doing what we can to bring a name to the experience.

Ted Johnston said...

The question you all raise is a difficult one. How can suffering third world children possibly point to the comfort given by Papa the way Baxter did? Sometimes art gives a more satisfactory answer than our theologizing in prose. God spoke to my heart about this very issue through the movie Slumdog Millionaire. If you haven't seen it yet, I hope you will.

Bill said...

Hi Mark,

You raise a great question - certainly one I have struggled with too.

I'm really no theologian at all, but here is how I personally am inclined to think about it.

First, I try not to compare people's sufferings because everyone seems to suffer disproportionately in different experiences. There are things I might consider excruciatingly painful, but others consider them no big deal at all (and vice versa).

For example, there are people who can endure unbelievable amounts of physical pain and seem relatively unaffected by it, but if you subject them to just an hour of being alone then they feel like they've been to hell and back. Meanwhile, others enjoy themselves and thrive on being alone, but they experience terror at the mere thought of suffering from a physical illness.

It may be inconceivable to me that someone can have a panic attack at the mere sight of a spider, but they might not be able to even conceive of how I could endure years and years of living in dark, cold, and snowy weather.

I even think about how amazing it is that people centuries ago could go on with life despite so much more death and disease around them every day. Yet, the untimely death of even a mere acquaintance of mine causes me crippling pain. Perhaps if we transported them to our day and age, it would be unfathomable to them how I could endure driving on crowded freeways and staring at little screens in an office all day.

So I surely don't want to in any way marginalize the horrible suffering of the starving orphan in a Third World Country (let's call it Africa), but Baxter's pain and suffering here was very real to him. Was Baxter's suffering more or less suffering than the orphan in Africa? Did the Father touch Baxter more or less than the orphan in Africa? I don't know if those are the right questions. All I know is that Baxter was suffering deeply in his body and soul, and the Father met Baxter in that moment of deep pain. The Father provided comfort when Baxter felt that he could endure no more.

I know I tread on highly speculative grounds here, but I have to believe that the Father knows exactly how much the suffering the starving orphans in Africa can take. And I would venture to guess that he is providing touches of his sustaining grace and love along the way. It could simply be a handful of moments when someone does something extraordinarily loving for them and touches them in a way they never imagined possible. Sometimes, that grace may be that he allows the children to pass away and suffer no more.

Again, I am no theologian and am very open to being corrected, but that has been my best shot at that problem.

I pray peace and great blessings to all of you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Bill

Pastor Paul said...

In response to the question concerning "Starving children in third world countries", I have posted a two part discussion on this topic on my blog. Please see it at
www.pastorpaulsinteractiveblog.blogspot.com

Blessings to all,

Paul

Duke said...

Hi all,

I have known Baxter Kruger since childhood. He has always been a man of purpose and a great example to all who know him. Thanks Baxter for your ongoing ministry.

All the best, Duke

John Geerlings said...

Thanks Baxter
Thank you for posting this blog!

An airplane just went down and all passengers including one on the ground died close to where I live just south of the border near Buffalo. The plane slammed into one house in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The house disappeared yet a mother and daughter crawled through a window just after impact while the husband and father did not make it. Do I get this? No, I can apprehend but do not comprehend. I can touch this with my heart and do have great compassion and empathy, yet I do not comprehend the full impact it has on all those affected. I believe that we do not comprehend what God has laid in store for all of us and surely those who appear to be last as we view them in this world will surely be first. I personally have always suffered physically yet know that my own Jacob’s limp has taught great gain. So the greatest pain brings the most meaningful gain. I would not trade my own limp, so too speak, for anything for I know that I certainly would not be writing this. Just a few thoughts from one who is learning to apprehend! jg

Anonymous said...

Thanks Baxter for writing -- it generates relief in me. I spent time with you a few months back, and your vulnerability has again become so very visible to me (I'm mostly pretty cynical/bitter!). I wish you strength for your wise, Knowing heart. You've shared a very personal moment in a very personal relationship -- thankyou.

I feel impoverished for such moments...

Roffee said...

Baxter, I certainly hope you had a refreshing ale in that bar and fully enjoyed the blessings of the Father!

Roffee

Anonymous said...

Coach Dr. C. Baxter
Your thoughts of the day are very inspirational I do wish however that you would revisit the ongoing conversation concerning the epistimalogical relevance of the homoucios it's become a very heated debate amongst the frothers and we seek your clarification. Also the most elusive young adult/ best little leage middle infielder circa 1998 would like to seek your guidance on possibly swaping out his Methodist label for an Episcopalian title.
Over and Out,
Jebbie and C.N.
Peer Ministers ECOM
P.S. were supposed to be studiying for Anthropology of Mayan Archetecture (seriously ole miss?)

Anonymous said...

Your daddy said: "Charlie Bob you have hit the nail square on its head this time".