The Bubble Gum Man

4:15 a.m.!  A senior cat who has confused night and day awakened me with a paw in the face, a lick and a tender bite and meow.  How could I refuse?  I picked him up, hugged him, said hello to the rest of my furry loved ones, made coffee and sleepily made my way into my office to sit with the Lord. 

I sat down in my favorite oversized glider/rocker, my eyes drawn to a Bible in the shelf I had not picked up for years.  Don’t we Americans have an overage of Bibles?  I picked up the Bible, its well-worn pages automatically opened to the book of Psalms which housed an old Bubble gum wrapper with pen inked writing, “remember the bubble gum man- 1996.  I had written a story about that day and being organized within a few moments located it on my external hard drive…

 

*****

I sat down in my favorite wicker rocker to spend a few short minutes with the Lord before starting a day I anticipated might be a little more trying than usual. Opening my Bible to the book of Psalms, I came to some familiar words. David’s writings always brought me such encouragement. I read:  “The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me]. I shall not lack” (Ps. 23:1 amp). I flipped over a few more pages:  “O fear the Lord, you His saints; for to those who fear Him there is no want” (Ps. 34:9 nasb).

While sipping my first cup of coffee for the day, I pondered:   Does God really give us the desires of our hearts? Does He care about what we want, or does He only meet our needs? Is He personally involved in my life, or is He merely the distant God of the universe? How can I practically share truth to encourage those I am to help today?  I need to know.  I need a revelation and a practical one.

            I placed my Bible back in the wicker basket next to my rocker and closed my eyes. “Lord, show me today that these words are true.” I pushed myself to my feet, walked into the bathroom, turned on the shower, and stepped under the spray.

Needles of hot water beat upon my back, as I stood in the comforting warmth, not wanting to move. I had a full day ahead of me. I would be counseling people trainsitioned out of their jobs after serving 25-30 years with the same company!  Now they were being outplaced to discover a business world which no longer valued loyalty and long-term commitment.  How could I encourage them?          

            Most of these folks had never been to college and many had only received a GED. This was the first time I had ever worked with this level of employee, and I wasn’t quite sure how to help them. Counsel that worked for executives, would not be helpful or practical.  Their resumes contained such achievements as winning pie contests at Mt. Zion Baptist Church and awards for not missing a day of work. Lord, help me be you today to these people. Let me see from your perspective and hear your heart for them. I know they are equally important to you. Cause me to see their potential and gifting’s, encouraging them and skilled in being able to offer practical suggestions as to what to do next.

I turned off the shower and stood still, hoping to hear something from God. I heard only the kitten scratching at the bathroom door.

* * * **

Hours later, there was only one more counselee for the day. I was saddened by the thought. Working with these people had been one of the greatest joys in my entire career in Outplacement. They were so appreciative, non-demanding, gracious, and fun to talk with. Unlike the executives, whose careers seemed cookie-cutter perfect, the stories of these employees tugged at my heart as they told me how they had shared their lives with their co-workers—participating in weddings, the birth of babies and grand babies, graduations, and even death. Now, after all these years, they would be going in different directions. They needed more than an evaluation of skills and a resume. They needed hope that would inspire them to see that this new season could be even better. “Lord,” I whispered, “please let me share with them something tangible that will encourage them and replace fear of the unknown with anticipation of the new. I want them to see their future as a wonderful gift, wrapped in your perfect love and to practically know your goodness.”

All day as I worked with each person, I silently mulled over how much I needed to know God as the God of desire, not just need!  As always, God was faithful to provide me with great examples and stories which encouraged and met each client where they were. The people I had been privileged  to serve were down to earth,  their lives so simple and uncomplicated.  I spent the day laughing with them as each person shared their journeys, hopes and dreams.  Unlike me, these clients believed that what they hoped for, would occur.

It dawned on me that perhaps I had not been asking God for them, as much for myself! I needed to experience God beyond the truth that He is my provider and protector.  I needed to see Him as the One who wanted to give me the desires of my heart and that He had actually placed His desire in my heart.

My throat was dry from talking, so I went downstairs to get some water. Suddenly I had a craving for bubble gum. To be specific, Bazooka bubble gum. I had been taught that it was not ladylike to chew gum and blow bubbles, but today I was ready to break all the rules of etiquette.

I pushed the elevator button, dreaming of the flavor I was going to get. Umm, I like original, cherry, and grape—don’t know which to choose. Actually, I had not seen the other flavors in a long time, but it was fun to dream. Besides, desperate people can’t be too choosy.

The opening of the elevator door interrupted my thoughts. I quickly exited and walked toward the cafeteria and store in our office building, disappointed to find that it was already closed. I released my disappointment with an extra-loud sigh.

“What’s wrong, ma’am?” came a masculine voice. It was the building maintenance man.

I explained my dilemma, and he giggled. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.”

He disappeared, and I watched the clock on the lobby wall. It was almost four o’clock, time for my next and final counseling appointment. I didn’t want to leave without my gum but….

“Here, ma’am, this is for you.”

I looked up to see the maintenance man carrying a grocery sized brown paper bag, apparently stuffed full of something. “What is this?”

The man just smiled and handed me the bag. It was so heavy, it took both my hands to hold it. I couldn’t wait to see what was inside. I unfolded the grocery bag to discover hundreds of pieces of Bazooka bubble gum in every imaginable flavor!

Overwhelmed, I couldn’t speak for a moment. “How?  What do I owe you for all this?” I managed to ask.

“Oh, you don’t owe me anything,” he insisted. “You’ve more than paid me with the smile on your face.”

I reached over, gave him a friendly hug, and stepped back into the elevator with my bag full of gum.

My counseling appointment was late, and I was thrilled with the spare moments to rehearse what had just happened. I began to relate this incident to the morning’s questions about God. Are You a God of dreams or only a God who provides for our needs, but not our wants? I would have been satisfied with any piece of bubble gum, but I was given my favorite brand—and not only the original flavor, but all the flavors, an abundance of gum. When I got home, I counted over 400 pieces—and all of it was a gift from my unknown benefactor.

As evening approached, I continued to think about what I had experienced earlier that afternoon. The scenario lined up with God’s Word John 10:10 I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance and (to the fullest overflowing) and If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  (Matt. 7:11)

If God had willingly given me the small, trivial desires of my heart one afternoon, would He not give me the desires of my heart in other, more significant areas? I knew that answer was a resounding yes!

*****

The next morning, I stopped by the area where I had seen the maintenance man to thank him again. I had jotted him a note and planned, once more, to offer him some money for his trouble. But I couldn’t find him. I asked Property Management where I could reach him, and all I got was a blank stare.  “Maintenance people service other properties, too,” the manager said. “They’re only on call as needed. But I can’t say we’ve ever used anyone who fits that description and since this is a new building, we have not had any maintenance need that has required a visit.

To add to the mystery, when I visited the cafeteria, I discovered that they did not sell gum at all! For the next year and a half, while working in that building, I continued to look for the “bubblegum man” but never found him. I have often wondered if God sent an angel that day to display His extravagant love for me!

For months I had begged God to let me know Him as the God of Rita as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! He had!  I had been given a personal, tailor-made encounter with a loving God. I didn’t need the bubble gum!  But God knew what it would tell me about His heart for me.  It was not just a piece of gum in one flavor! Who would have thought that He could use something so simple? Makes me wonder how many times He has showered His love upon me in ways I did not recognize.

That same God knows you and every unspoken desire you carry!  He longs to bless you extravagantly, as He did that day for me, to tell you, “I love you.”  What do you need and desire from Him today?  Look, watch… He is speaking. 

 

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