This story has four scenes.
Over half a century ago we were privileged to go to a camp for university students north of Toronto. It was located in the beautiful Lake of Bays Region on Fairview Island. God used the Biblical teaching, lectures and the love of the people to help us become believers in Jesus. We went there several summers and had many rich and memorable experiences. Some villages were nearby with little antique and gift shops. One day we found a very lovely English cobalt blue teapot overlaid with silver filigree. It was unusually beautiful. We decided to buy it as a symbol or reminder of how God had given us so many wonderful times there.
We were newly married and living in Fort Collins, Colorado. With the financial help of our parents and the insurance company where Gene was Personnel Manager, the Lord gave us a large house near Colorado State University. We believed God wanted us to have an open home. So when we moved in, we took the locks off of the doors so we could open our home and our hearts and share the love of Jesus with students. This resulted in a lot of activity—people coming and going. Of course, most of the students were from CSU including some of the CSU football team, even the famous Thum McGraw. (The McGraw Athletic Center at CSU is named for him.) Students came from other Colorado schools, CU, UNC, DU and Wyoming University as well. We had Bible studies, scheduled meetings and dinners. Also, many students come to “hang out.” There would be discussions on many topics, including problems and “life.” These often lasted late into the night. Wrestling and rough housing were often part of “hanging out” and our furniture suffered. During the first year we replaced nine couches. This was no place for spindly French furniture. Finally, Gene’s dad, who lived in town, was exasperated. He found a heavy sturdy steel framed couch at an auction that took four strong men to lift. During one of these times of a lot of activity and laughter, (which was a large part of being together), the teapot fell and was shattered beyond repair.
We had a pretty good attitude about most of our things that got broken, but this was so special and symbolic to us that we felt very sad. A few other things that meant a lot to us were broken or stolen. We faced the decision of the temptation to stop having an open home and say: “We don’t want these people in our home any more.” We asked God, if He was trying to get our attention. We thought he said, “I love you and am your heavenly Father. You need to be really clear about what your priorities are. First, fix your eyes on me. Wherever your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there, too.” In the old movie, “Cool Hand Luke,” the Captain from the prison said to Paul Newman, as the prisoner, “Get your mind right.”
We sing the scripture, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” Does this mean, Seek Ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be stripped from you? What should be our attitude toward things? Corrie Ten Boom said, “Hold things loosely.” That can also mean position, power, even our children—all are from God. One saying we knew well is, “Do not love things and use people, but love people and use things.” People are a priority over things. We are stewards of what God gives us and we should be good stewards—it is all God’s stuff anyway. It’s our attitude toward things that God cares about. We do need a house or apartment or room to have an “open home.” It is nice to serve tea in a teapot, but it can be a very ordinary teapot and, if it breaks, get another one. Things are like equipment for the job. So we decided we would rather have people in our home because we did love them and have some things broken than not to have people at all in order to protect our valuables. So let things get broken!
We have tried to keep our priorities right, but we have had to refocus many times over the years. One Bible verse that greatly influenced us and impacted our lives is Luke 9:24: Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” God has given us lots of exciting and interesting people to love and serve. In our many trips to Canada we did try to find another teapot like it, but never were able to.
Fast forward about 30 years. We were in Vancouver, B. C., Canada. We were at what was called a “Conference in the City” where Gene was speaking. A church had rented a small recreation center in the middle of the city. All the families came for the weekend, bringing sleeping bags and we all ate there, etc. It was kind of like the “lock ins” the kids have now but it was for all ages. As we were leaving at the end of the conference, a little old lady from Australia we had just met on the weekend came to Gerri with a box all tied up. She said, “This is for Gene and you. I think you will enjoy it and you can use it more than I will.” We had to dash off to catch a small plane because Gene was to speak at the University of Victoria the next day and there wasn’t a ferry that would get us there on time. We debated whether to check the box on the plane, but decided not to.
We arrived at our hotel and those of you who know Gene will not be surprised to hear that he said, “I wonder what’s in the box? Maybe there are some sandwiches or a German Chocolate Cake.” So I opened the box and there was a very lovely English cobalt blue teapot overlaid with silver filigree plus some “interest” from our investment in students, a matching creamer and sugar, which we had never had. It was exactly the same as the one that had been broken. The lady had no knowledge of our broken teapot. We found out later that she had brought these on a boat from Australia when she came to Canada decades before. We were stunned. We could just say, “WOW.” Thank you God!
This is what we called a serendipity. I went to the CU library to find a definition from the Oxford Dictionary: “A happy and unexpected discovery or, looking for one thing and finding another.” So we had a serendipity, a happy and unexpected discovery, we were looking for one thing and found another.
We asked God again, “What lesson do we need to learn?” We think He said, “I love you. I am your heavenly Father. I know ALL about you and want to encourage you.” 1 Timothy 6:17 says, “God generously gives us everything for us to enjoy.” Psalm 149:4 says, “For the Lord takes delight in His people.” The scripture says that God loves a cheerful or hilarious giver. If God wants us to be hilarious givers, then He is definitely one, too. He showed his love and care for us and took delight in giving us this gift, which would be meaningful to us, and we would know it came from him. We read in James 1:17 “Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” One gift God gave us was seeing people start to follow Jesus and seeing lives changed.
Jesus said, “Even the very hairs of your head are numbered.” We know about his looking after the sparrows that are of small worth and he says, “Not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” Does “God is in control” sound familiar? Then he says, “You are far more valuable than many sparrows.”
Think about all the details necessary to get the replacement teapot to us: the lady brought it on the boat from Australia years ago, we met her only the one time at the conference and she was touched to be generous and give it to us. Ephesians 3:20 says, “God can do anything you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams.” We read in Hebrews 6:10: “God doesn’t miss anything. He knows perfectly well all the love you’ve shown him by helping needy Christians, and that you keep at it.” No detail of life just happens. Nothing escapes his attention. An Old Testament verse says, “Do not despise the day of small things.” God remembers a broken teapot and shows us he cares about every tiny thing that happens to us in our life. Our God is big. Our God is Awesome!