Friday, December 12, 2014

A Christmas Dinner In A Chinese Restaurant


I'll start by explaining what we were doing in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day. Twenty-four years ago, I was pregnant with my fourth child, Kyle. My three oldest were gone for the first time ever on a holiday, spending the day with their Dad. Chuck and I were alone. All of our holiday celebrating had taken place on Christmas Eve. We decided to go out for dinner, quickly finding out that this was not going to be as easy as it sounded. Who knew that there wasn't one restaurant open on Christmas Day? Don't people have to eat on Christmas too?

After driving all over the proverbial half-acre, lo and behold we found a place to eat. Much to our delight we learned that there ARE establishments open on Christmas Day...Chinese restaurants! I remember feeling a little like a loser. As I looked around the room at the other patrons, I remember wondering what their stories were. How does one find them self in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day? No family? Family doesn't want anything to do with you? Or, like Chuck and I, maybe they had celebrated the day before. Whatever the story, there were a lot of folk in that restaurant, on that Christmas day, twenty-four years ago. And every Christmas Day since then.

We decided to make this a Christmas tradition. We haven't missed a Christmas Day dinner at Wong's Garden .. not once. I remember the first year we took Kyle. He was only nine months old and I'm putting it nicely when I say that his behavior was abominable. Most years it was just the three of us. There was one year when my daughter Kelly joined us because she and I had spent the afternoon in the ER with strep throat, and she didn't go to her dad's house. My brother joined us one year, our son Brian another. But Chuck and Kyle and I have faithfully taken our egg drop soup together at Wong's for twenty-four years. That night was no exception.

The scene was the same. In the far corner was a large family, adults and little ones. Many tables were full with couples and foursomes. There was a line for carry-outs. The Christmas tree was up. It's been the same tree every year. A large statue of Buddha sat in the same corner as always. Kyle remarked that he couldn't understand how anyone would worship Buddha. Good question. Christmas music was playing overhead. WNIC...100.3. Waiters and waitresses bustled about and seemed particularly busy and disorganized this year. The owner was helping out and took our order.

A couple of tables away sat an elderly women with gray hair, at a table for four, all alone. She caught Chuck's eye first, and he said that he would really like to pay for her dinner. I asked him if he was sure that she was alone. He was sure. He had checked it out. She was actually done eating and getting her traditional carry-out containers to take home. Our hearts were touched by the sight of her, alone for dinner on Christmas Day. Now I can vividly recall years when we were counting our last dimes to make sure we had some money to carry on our tradition. In those days we would be cut short until the next pay day for sure, but we weren't going to miss this dinner. And there were years we barely had enough. This day, to God be the glory, He is so faithful...we had enough to buy this women's dinner and ours. So it wasn't about sacrificial giving. But it was definitely about something.

When the owner took our order Chuck explained to her that we would like to pay for the elderly women's dinner. No problem. We watched from a couple of tables away when she explained to her that her bill was taken care of, but we couldn't see her face. Here's where it gets good. She bundled up her coat,taking her carryout containers in hand, and proceeded to go out the door. One of the waitresses started screaming for her to come back! She thought the lady was skipping out on her bill! The table next to her started yelling, "No, No, the boss lady said that someone paid her bill!" Whew! Out the door she went.

Once she was gone, "boss lady" came to our table to ask if we were a relative of the woman. Now if we were, don't you think we would've been sitting with her? Anyway, she told us that the lady had begun to cry when she found out that someone had paid her bill. It turns out that her husband passed away two weeks ago, and her son was a no-show for this very Christmas dinner. Sweet Lord Jesus! I mean that! Sweet Lord Jesus!!

Over two thousand years ago, God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, Jesus. Jesus ... Immanuel...God with us. Over two thousand years later, on a cold Christmas night in Michigan, He is still God with us. He was God with that elderly woman. And He showed her, up close and personal, how much He cares for her. What I didn't tell you is that we almost didn't go to dinner last night. We almost got carryout. But something inside of me was saying that we should go and not break the tradition. Oh, thank you for the promptings of your Holy Spirit!

Do you see how our God cares so deeply and personally for each and every one of us? He knows how many hairs are on that grieving woman's head. Her name is engraved on the palms of His hands. His voice spoke from Heaven. He chose to come to her intimately, in the middle of a Chinese restaurant filled with strangers, and tell her... "I love you daughter. You are not alone. I am with you." And I'm humbled and so intensely grateful that He chose to use our little family to bring His message.

When all was said and done, "boss lady" told us that she had told the woman that God was looking down on her. I don't know if "boss lady" is a believer, if she just said the word "God", if she's a Buddhist, or what. But she gave "God" the glory and so do I. She also told us this, "I have never before seen people like you."

Oh, boss lady, I have never before seen anyone like my Jesus!

 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests."
 


 

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

"Will You Marry Me?" A Guest Post by Trina Matous

“Are you SERIOUS?” was my response to a question I wasn’t sure I would ever hear. After my initial surprise at being asked to marry the man I’d been dating for 11 months, I said yes. My journey to the moment this question was asked did not start 11 months earlier, but almost 20 years earlier.



I began dating in my late teens or early twenties. As is common for many people, I first dated for the fun of having someone to go out with. Though I was not ready to marry, the question of who I would marry was in the back of my mind. I wondered who the man would be, what he would look like and what our lives together would be like. God was a part of my life and I knew I wanted to marry a man who would go to church with me. 


Time continued on its merry journey and soon I was in my late twenties, still wondering who I would marry. Friday nights often proved to be most difficult. To me they seemed like date nights – nights I was supposed to be out having fun. Instead, many of them were spent at home feeling very lonely. I discovered there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. I enjoyed being alone, but did not like being lonely.



The other thing happening at this time was my growing relationship with Christ. I had discovered the joy and peace of a personal relationship with the Lord and had begun growing in greater intimacy with a Father who loved me more than I could imagine. As my relation deepened, I began to realize that the man I would someday marry had to do more than go to church on Sundays. He had to have a personal relationship with the Lord as well. 

 

By the time I reached my mid thirties, the Lord was speaking to me about being content. Paul’s words in Philippians 4.11 were challenging, “… I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” When it came to the marriage question, I had ached for a husband, prayed, hoped and dreamed. Now the Lord was asking, if I never married, could I be content? The process of being able to respond with a heartfelt and definite yes was a slow, arduous and sometimes painful journey. I wanted someone to go home to at night, someone to love me and share my life with. As I looked around though, I discovered being lonely was not limited to singles. There were plenty of spouses who were lonely in their marriages as well. I came to understand that marriage had to be for the right reasons and to the man God had chosen for me. Marriage would not solve problems I could not solve in Christ as a single woman. I had to be the right person, not just look for the right person. I also realized God’s desire for me was not a man who went to church on Sundays, nor a man who had a personal relationship with Christ, but rather a man who was sold out for Christ; a man who put Christ before all things and allowed Christ to be the prevalent factor in every part of his life. The final leg of this journey was realizing that God might well be calling me to a life as a content single woman. I had to settle for the Lord’s best even if that meant never getting married. 

Then one day, out of the blue, a man asked me out for a cup of coffee. It was so out of the blue that I stammered a weak, “Can I take a rain check?” and went on my way. Fortunately, he was persistent and asked again. Over the next eleven months I became convinced God had brought me a husband of his choosing, a man after his own heart.


I was 40 when we married and now, after ten years of marriage, I know what it is like to be deeply cherished and loved. I’ve learned to laugh more easily and heartily than I ever have before. I’ve enjoyed counting down the hours until we both get home from work and can spend time together again. Most importantly, I’ve learned that God’s best for me is far beyond anyone I could have ever imagined. Being “content whatever the circumstances” allowed me to become the right person for the right person.



God’s plan is so much more than we can appreciate or understand. We may suffer pain, trials and difficulty, yet can we take comfort that none of that is wasted? He uses all for our good and His glory. Are we willing to trust Him for a future we may not be able to imagine and be content with what he has given us in the meantime?

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Trina Bresser Matous is a passionate Bible teacher and writer. For over 20 years, she has shared Biblical truths in compelling and memorable ways. She is involved in her church as a Bible study leader and a member of the Restorative Prayer Team, which strives to bring healing dialogue with the Holy Spirit to the hurting parts of people’s lives. She lives in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan with her husband.




 
Trina is the author of the Christian Living Bible Study Series. Its first book, Paul’s Letters to the Early Church, will be released September 9, 2014 and its second, The Epistles of James, Peter and Jude, will be released in October 2014.



Studying the Bible can be a daunting task. Paul’s Letters to the Early Church is designed to assist readers in their relationship with God, help them understand difficult passages, shed new light on familiar verses, and gain an appreciation for statements made within the confines of ancient cultural practices. Readers will learn about Paul and his intense desire to see both Jews and Gentiles not only know about the work of his Savior, Jesus Christ, but also personally experience the love, grace, mercy, and redemption offered by the Father through the sacrifice of His Son. Learning more about the history and purpose of each verse will enable readers to grow in wisdom and knowledge. Paul’s Letters to the Early Church, the first in the Christian Living Bible Study Series, will be released September 9, 2014. More information at Paul's Letters to the Early Church.


You can connect with Trina here:

Facebook:TBresserMatous
Twitter: @TBresserMatous