Common Ground

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NKJV)

Image by Gisela Merkuur from Pixabay

I was typing away on my laptop lost in my to do list when I heard the exterior door to my office click open. I had no appointments scheduled and I was trying to meet a deadline, until a familiar voice I hadn’t heard in quite a while greeted me.

“Hi, Codie. Are you able to sign this purchase order?” Mark said.

“Mark. How are you?” I replied, “it’s so good to see you.”

Like many of us, Mark was among those who struggled to process the impacts of the pandemic, and as a result, I hadn’t seen him. He worked remote. He worked behind a closed door, limiting interactions. He insisted on a mask for as long as we have been navigating COVID. He was paralyzed by fear.

Today, not so much.

“I just got back from Orange County,” he said, knowing I am from Southern California.

“Did you go to Disneyland?” I asked, beaming a smile just thinking about the happiest place on earth.

“Three times!” he chimed, “and it was so much fun.”

We fell into conversation like old friends catching up at a high school reunion. We shared the highlights and challenges of the past year. It was common. Familiar. Comforting.

It is rare that we have experienced something every other human has experienced. The worldwide pandemic brought us so much closer together in this way. And today, I was able to comfort and be comforted by the comfort God poured into our lives in specific and unique ways.

It only takes a moment to find common ground when what we need most is to belong, to feel connected, and to recognize that we are not alone in our circumstances.

God also accomplished this for us when He sent His only Son to earth to understand life from our perspective. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NKJV) puts it this way, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

“My wife and I didn’t agree on vaccines at first,” he shared, “and it caused conflict. It was tough.”

“We struggled too since we have a blended family and have to share our decisions with my step-kids’ mom,” I reciprocated, “I think it was a struggle for all of us in some way.”

I signed the purchase order and Mark was on his way. But what stays with me is the sense of hope I feel knowing God sees us in our times of need. He is our great High Priest who understands. And He gave us each other as ambassadors of comfort, connection, and common ground.  

My Great High Priest, You knew I needed to be seen today. You knew I had words of comfort I could share. You orchestrated a moment of common ground that infused hope into what may have seemed like an ordinary day. Thank you for reminding us that You understand. Thank You for calling us to comfort one another with the comfort You have so generously given to us. May we maximize the moments You present to us. – Amen

Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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Make Room for Hope

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1:4

There were no open tables at the food court the day I met Irene. I joined a group of twenty-somethings hanging at the mall on a sunny San Diego afternoon, and we paused the shopping spree for a bite to eat.  

“Is this seat taken?” she blurted.

“I can’t find anywhere to sit.”

She demanded attention with her loud print shirt and her east coast accent.

“Of course,” one of the guys responded waving his hand for her to join us.

And the conversation was as lively as her blouse.

She had taken the bus to the mall to get out from her small apartment, she had two sons who did not spend much time with her, and she was lonely. We obliged her, and she stayed so long visiting over lunch that she missed her bus back. We squeezed her into our Honda hatchback, along with the four of us, and gave her a lift back home.

A divine appointment. A flicker of hope. A moment of purpose with many to follow.

Irene’s hair was bright white like the light she saw at the end of the tunnel in her near-death experience. She did not take kindly to pastor’s preaching the week I invited her to church.

“God is not a white light at the end of a dark tunnel,” he stated as a matter of fact.

She whipped her head around and I could feel the laser beam stare melting my cheek like wax. Disdain dripped from her countenance.

“You told him my secret!” she yelled at me after the service, shaking her fists in the air.

“God knows all our secrets,” I replied with a smirk.

It took the entire forty-minute drive back to her apartment to calm her down and to explain that it was Jesus showing up in her world, inviting her to get to know him.

And she invited me to get to know her. I visited her often and we swapped stories about life, love, and writing. She was a poet.

I imagined her on stage at open mic night with her attitude, her doctrine, and her colorful shirt on full display like a soap box preacher. Animated. Intentional. Flamboyant.

 She knew the power of words, and it became a force between us.

We had in depth conversations about Jesus, and though she was Jewish and did not understand him to be the Messiah, the Word was there with us.  

Knowing Irene was a treasure to me. And when I spoke at her memorial service, I shared the power of poetry to honor her and I shared the Word of hope to honor Him.

May we notice and respond to the subtle, and flamboyant, invitations to share the hope of Jesus.

Make room at your table.