Whenever I speak on “Control Girl” at a full weekend day retreat, I like to begin Friday night’s session by talking about providence, which the dictionary defines as:
“God, especially when conceived as omnisciently, directing the universe and the affairs of humankind with wise benevolence.”
If you don’t often use the word “providence”, perhaps you’ve heard of “God Moments”. We love telling stories about times when:
- the details fell into place
- there was unlikely provision
- we experienced amazingly good timing
- we had crazy good fortune
The two components of a “God Moment” seem to be:
- Something turned out right.
- It can only be explained by God’s involvement.
I like to start out talking about providence because I want the women at the retreat to be reminded of times that they saw God being in control as a good thing! If we see God as distant, uncaring, or against us, we won’t give Him control; we’ll keep snatching it back and trying to manage things ourselves—which never works out well. But if we see God as lovingly leaning low from heaven to involve himself in the details of our lives, sometimes it helps us loosen our grip on control.
So on Friday nights, after I tell some little plot twist stories which show God’s hand of guidance and care in my life, I invite the women to share about their own God Moments with each other. I always love hearing the stories that women share, but last week I heard a story that was breathtaking. It’s so good, I just had to share it with you:
God Loves Prisoners
My new friend Stef is part of a smallish country church that is doing big things for God. Stef is deeply involved in two of her church’s ministries, and in this story, the two are intertwined.
First Stef helps in her public school system’s weekly release time. They call it the “Bible Trailer”, and serve the kids whose parents opt in (in their case, over 700 children!). Second, Stef helps with Kairos, an intense prison discipleship ministry. Many of the men in prison (such as this one and this one) sign up for Kairos initially because they want the home-cooked food, but God uses Kairos capture their hearts with the truth and transform them!
Stef attended the testimony session in the prison after a Kairos weekend this year and heard a story that made her weep. One of the prisoners got up and shared, “My daughter, “Lacy”, goes to the Bible Bus at school.”
This immediately captured Stef’s attention. The Bible Bus? She had a Lacy in one of her Bible Trailer classes. Was this man’s daughter her Lacy?
He said that Lacy told him, the week before, that she made a place mat in Bible time at school. And she prayed that he would get her place mat. She told him it had a big smiley face in the middle, with the words “God Bless” across the top, and “Jesus Loves You” written across the bottom.
At this point, Stef began to weep. It had to be her Lacy!
Each year, Stef and the other leaders have each of the kids decorate a paper GFS (my husband’s employer!) place mat for one of the prisoners. The kids aren’t allowed to put their name or any personal information on the place mats. But they decorate with words of blessing, pictures of the cross, and truths about God.
With over 1200 place mats going to a prison full of men, it was unlikely that this man would receive Lacy’s place mat. Yet that’s exactly what happened!
When he sat down at the table, the place mat before him was exactly as Lacy had described. He realized at that point, that God hadn’t brought him to Kairos that weekend, just for the food. He said, “I cant believe that God would arrange the place mats just to show me he loved me!”
God was meeting this man in a very personal way–inviting him to give his life to Jesus. And he did!
God Loves Little Girls
Stef couldn’t wait to share the place mat story with her kids the next week. But then, the kids were so rowdy that day, she completely forgot. This, however, gave Lacy a chance to connect with her dad.
The following week, when Stef returned and told the kids the story of the man getting his own daughter’s place mat, Lacy—with a puzzled look on her face—slowly raised her hand. She said, “That exact same thing happened to my dad a couple of weeks ago!”
Stef said, “Lacy, that man was your dad!”
In awe, Lacy said, “You got to meet my dad?!”
God wasn’t just leaning low from heaven, to work in a grown man’s life. He was also reaching out to a little girl. A girl whose daddy was in prison, and who needed to know that she had a heavenly Daddy who sees her and hears her prayers. A God who loves both prisoners and little girls!
There’s one more little detail from this story that adds the icing to the cake.
When Kolby, a man from the church, drove that stack of place mats over to the prison, he had to make a sharp turn en route. The stack of place mats tipped over and scattered about Kolby’s truck. After he picked the place mats up and stacked them neatly, and brought them in to pass off, he said, “I hope these weren’t in any sort of order… because they aren’t now!”
But Kolby was wrong. They were in exactly the right order! For God had taken the time to shuffle the deck of 1200 place mats so that one little girl’s drawing made it into the hands of her very own daddy. And so that all of us could rejoice over the beautiful heart of our great God, put on display in a prison.
Our God is real. He sees us. He loves us! He is providentially weaving together details of our lives that cause us to look up and see Him!
God is in control! And that’s a very, very good thing.God is in control! And that's a very, very good thing. Click To Tweet