The Unforgivable Sin (Especially for Mini-van drivers like me)

So many rescues in Kodiak this week!! A fishing boat was adrift in 22 foot seas. The Coast Guard braved the 50 knot winds and rescued the fishermen off the boat. Then the Coast Guard ship, while attempting to tow the fishing boat, was disabled and adrift as well in gale-force winds and seas! Other cutters came and rescued them.


Danger. Near-death. Drama. (This is why so many reality TV shows are set in Alaska.)

But there's more: 

A few days later, a friend from church watched a car sail off the road at 55 mph and crash in the deep trench below, then burst into flames. My friend ran and without any concern for his own life, pulled the unconscious driver out of the flaming car. He saved his life. The headlines ran:



I know about rescues, too. I have been rescued from storms, from blizzards, from boats adrift on the ocean multiple times. Today, in an interview for Crossing the Waters, someone asked me, “Okay, so you live in Alaska. You have this exciting life and all these rescues. I drive a minivan and go the office and pick up kids all day. My life is boring. How can I get to know the real Jesus through my boring life?”

 I drive a mini-van too. (And it's 20 years old, hideously ugly and falling apart. Not quite this bad, but close  .. .)



But dear readers----THIS is the unforgivable sin: Boredom. Yes, I hunt and fish and have Alaskan adventures, but may I tell you about the greatest adventure of my week? Are you ready? Hold on!!

I took an elderly woman out shopping for a winter coat.


That's it. There were no flames or gale-force seas, but it was an adventure so grand, so miraculous it made me cry.


My friend Sophie (not her real name) was not doing well. The stresses of her life had eroded her memory and abilities. Just months ago she had been a vital, warm friendly God-loving woman who always greeted me with joy. Today she barely recognized me. Her eyes were wide, sad and clouded. She did not respond to my pleasantries. She didn't want to talk.But she knew she needed a coat. And she knew she wanted to go to the local consignment shop. I was dubious. The chances of finding the right size coat that she liked at a consignment shop in Kodiak were slim indeed.


We shuffled in slowly together, my arm in hers. The saleswoman, “Pam,” greeted us warmly, recognizing Sophie. But Sophie did not remember her. We asked Sophie her size and whether she wanted a short or a long coat. She said her size quietly and then motioned to her knees. Pam brightened. “I think I have a coat just that size that came in a few days ago. It’s in the back room. I’ll go get it!”  I followed her, and in a whisper, Pam asked what had happened to Sophie. Then she confided,  “I was saving this coat for myself. But I think maybe God has another idea.”


The coat emerged. It was long, black, thick, warm, with a hood. It was perfect. And it looked like new. And it was only $40. The saleswoman and I raved about the coat as we helped Sophie put it on. We guided her to the fitting room. She looked at herself in the mirror with a blank expression. “Look, it fits perfectly! And see how warm it is! Do you like it?” I enthused, overwhelmed that this coat would be here.


She turned me to slowly. “No.”


“You don’t like it?”


“No.” She shook her head almost imperceptively. Then she turned from the mirror, stood a few inches from my face and said in a tiny voice, looking me full in the eyes, “I’m scared.”


My heart seized. I put my hand on her arm and leaned in close, speaking as softly yet as firmly as I could. “It’s going to be okay, Sophie. Your husband is getting better at the hospital.  You have friends helping you every day. And Jesus is with you, Sophie. He will not let you go. We won’t either.” I held her arm and held her eyes as long as she would let me. She looked so lost I almost started crying. 


Then Pam spoke up. “That’s right, Sophie. You have lots of friends. We’ll help you." She paused. "How about if I hold onto the coat for a few days. If you change yourmind it’ll be right here!”

“Yes, we’ll go to that other store, then we can come back if you want to. How does that sound?” I asked, gently.


She nodded. We gave the coat back. The saleswoman and I exchanged gestures of gratitude and hope, and Sophie and I shuffled out.


At the next store, we moved from rack to rack. I showed her jackets I thought maybe she would like, but each one was a “no.” I realized that Sophie was not able to make a decision today. But she needed a winter coat. But how could I force one on her?



Discouraged by this conundrum, I gave up. I finally urged her out of the store and back to the car. We drove back to the hospital where her husband was. Just before we got out of the car, Sophie broke the long silence. ‘That coat” she said, and then began reaching for her money.


“Would you like that coat, then, Sophie, the long black one?” I asked, hopeful.


“Yes,” she said softly as she gathered her purse to leave.


I went back the next day the moment after the store opened and claimed the coat. The shop owner, on hearing the coat was for Sophie, gave a further discount.


I don’t know if you believe in God or not, or if you believe in the stars, or luck or random chance. But I have seen God at work in so many places and so many ways. The stars don’t care about Sophie. But God does. That coat came in and Pam tucked  it away for herself until that moment when Sophie came---and Pam and I knew God had sent that coat for her. For her, one of his lambs who is cold and scared right now. This is what God does every day. He brings friends to comfort. He dresses his lambs and keeps them warm. No detail is too small. No one is beyond the scope of his mercy. And I got to be there to see this beautiful provision.


Boring? Jesus came to rescue us from a boring self-serving life. No matter who you are and where you live, in a crowded urban highrise, in the suburbs, in your mini-van filled with kids, on a dirt road in rural Virginia, on a fishing boat in Alaska: every day we say “Yes” to following Jesus, we launch out into adventures, storms, dramas and miracles. “Love your enemy” (boring?) “Forgive your offender” (boring?), Show mercy to the woman who doesn’t like you, take dinner to your sick friend, go visit your cranky neighbor in the nursing home, stage a Bible play for kids . . .   All of this, any of this is as real, as exciting, as miraculous, as life-saving as pulling a driver out of a burning car.





Jesus has rescued you so you can rescue others!


(Bye Bye boring life!)


What adventures have you been part of lately?