I Lost My Quarter
I Lost My Quarter|
Pocket Full of Quarters is a metaphor for being prepared for life. Some people’s pockets are bulging while others never seem to have enough. Some once had a quarter but lost it.
I was walking on the beach and noticed a father carefully following as his giggling, blond haired, 19 month old explored Edisto Beach in South Carolina. Jasper toddled through the sand, reveling in his freedom never once looking behind to make sure his daddy was following.
When Jasper spotted my Shetland Sheep Dog, Belle, he headed straight for her. “He loves dogs,” the father explained. “We have a black lab.” They walked over and tried to pet Belle. Unfortunately, Belle did her usual shy thing and hid behind my legs.
“She loves children but is shy around adults,” I explained. The father stepped back to allow Jasper to get closer to Belle without spooking her. “Did you bring your black lab on the camping trip?”
“No, we boarded her for this trip,” he sheepishly explained. “I’m always embarrassed to mention boarding to dog people. We used to travel with our dog, but it’s hard to travel with 2 kids and a dog.”
I laughed. “Don’t worry, we also board our animals. Before we had children, we always traveled with our dog. Once we had children, we did like you and left the dog at the kennel. Now the children are grown and my devotion to Belle surprises them. When they were small, they took all of my energy so they never knew how much of a dog person I am. Where are you from?”
“Indiana,” he said. “We’re here vacationing and having some Grandma time. The last time we were here, my 8 year old daughter was Jasper’s size. I can’t believe how fast time flies. What about you?”
“Jacksonville, Florida. I’m a writer.” I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of saying that. “I travel the country listening to people’s spiritual stories and writing about them.” Jasper wandered off the beach so we followed.
“Spiritual stories?” he asked. “Do you mean religious or is it broader?’ he questioned waving his arms to indicate more expansive.
“It’s their story,” I laughed. “I don’t make rules. I’m a Christian and a Christian writer but I talk with people who have many different views. I’ve written a book about my journeys and I also put stories out on my website.”
"What is your website?” he questioned.
Thank goodness, I remembered to bring cards out to the beach. I handed him a Pocket Full of Quarters card with a quarter in the slot. Looking at his attire, red bathing suit, no shirt, and bare feet, I said, “I’m not sure where you’re going to put this.”
“I’ll put it in my beach bag. Thanks. Jasper,” he said gently. “You can’t go over there. That rope means you’re not allowed.” Jasper looked back, grinned, and walked under the rope. His daddy swooped him up, nuzzled his neck, and put him back on our side of the rope. “Spirituality is a hard subject to talk about quickly.”
I laughed again. “You’d be surprised how much I learn about people in just a few short minutes. What about you? Do you have a spiritual story? Do you attend a particular denomination or religion?”
“I’m Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, and agnostic all rolled up into one.”
Unique answers no longer surprise me but they always intrigue me. “Well, I know a little about the first three but I’ve found that being agnostic means something different to everyone. What do you mean by agnostic? Do you believe in God?”
“I must because I still believe in angels. I just think God is too big to be defined. I definitely believe in a higher being or something bigger than us.” He stopped and looked thoughtful for a moment. “When I pray, I actually use the word God. I just don’t like to put the limits on Him that religion does. That’s why I say I’m everything.”
“Is your God personal? Do you have a personal relationship with Him?”
He paused for a second. “I’m closer now than I’ve ever been,” he said.
I wondered if he sounded defensive but couldn’t be sure. Was I being too pushy? Then I had to laugh at myself. Most who know me would say the real question is when am I not being pushy. Making a silent commitment to work on that, I forged ahead. “What about Jesus Christ? Do you believe He was God manifested in the flesh?”
“I’m not so sure about that,” he replied. “Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t have a problem with Christ. I grew up Episcopal and have never lost my roots. I guess I believe in Him. My problem is with Christians and the church. I don’t see how they can follow Christ and do the things they do in the name of Christ.”
“You mean like fighting wars in the name of Christ?” I asked, suspecting he was referring to our current war.
“Yes. Without going into the current political situation, I don’t see how we can kill innocent women and children. I also don’t know how people can be pro-life and be in favor of the death penalty in the same breath. To me, when we stoop to the same behavior as murderers, we are just like them.” He started searching the ground and I looked at him questioningly. “I lost my quarter,” he explained.
“I’m sorry,” I said as I started looking for the quarter. “Now you don’t have a pocket full of quarters. It sounds like you see religion and politics as blended together.”
“It shouldn’t be but it is,” he confirmed. “We really should have separation between church and state but we don’t.
“That’s interesting,” I said. “I’ve never seen them as blended because my church doesn’t get involved in politics. Yet just last week, someone asked me if I was born again. Knowing the term born again comes from the Bible and means born from above, I confirmed that I was. She took offense and wouldn’t continue the conversation, other than saying that ‘born agains’ were too extreme for her. This wasn’t the first time I’d had an adverse reaction to discussions about the term born again. Confused, I wrote to my pastor and asked the connotations to the term born again. He said the term could be off-putting to other Christians if they are made to feel like 2nd class Christians if their church doesn’t use that terminology. He went on to explain that many associate it with extreme right wing political views. All I intended when I answered her questions was to confirm that I was a Christian.”
“That’s what I’m talking about,” he said. “By the way, my name is Eric.” We shook hands.
“What about the Bible,” I asked. “Do you read it?”
“Not much. I have issues with that as well. The Bible is too limiting. Many other books could have been included but weren’t. If you look back in history, you will see how the wealthy even influenced the selection of the books of the Bible.” Eric stopped talking and did some kind of movement that resembled tiptoeing and hopping. “Ouch ouch ouch!” Jasper, wearing nice safe shoes, had wondered into a patch of ground covered with briers. I was glad I had my flip flops on. “I like to give him freedom,” Eric explained as he lifted Jasper and took him over to grass that was more comfortable. “He spends so much time strapped in things like car seats and highchairs. I enjoy watching him explore.”
“He is an adventurer,” I noted. “Not afraid of anything.” We had walked quite a distance following little Jasper around the park. By this time, Jasper and Belle were friends. Belle must have been convinced Jasper was a sheep because she was tangling us up in her leash as she tried to circle and herd Jasper closer to Eric. “If you can keep him safe until he can do it for himself and still manage not to squelch that adventurous spirit, he may change the world. The people who discovered America were adventurers. I’ve enjoyed watching you follow him. You’re doing a good job of carefully watching him while giving him freedom.” Jasper wandered into the men’s restroom and I waited as Eric retrieved him.
“Eric,” I said as I was sensing it was time to end this conversation. “It sounds as if you really do believe in God and Christianity as portrayed by Christ. I love the Bible. My pastor is a Greek and Hebrew scholar and former Seminary professor. He reads the New Testament directly from the Greek text. As I listen to him expound on the scriptures, I’m astounded at how close the translations are to the oldest original texts. Think about all of the hands that have touched them. God clearly has guided the translation process. I trust the books of the Bible because God is capable of guiding the selection of appropriate books, in spite of the failings of mankind. I hate to see you throw the baby out with the bathwater just because some Christians are not Christ-like. I agree that you have to be careful about how you let other humans interpret the Bible for you but I’d hate to have the way some choose to interpret the Bible keep you from enjoying it.”
“Mama, mama,” pleaded Jasper. Jasper was tired and ready for mommy time.
“Thank you so much for this conversation,” Eric said. “I will go to your website. I appreciate that this didn’t turn into an argument about opinions. You listened to me.”
“I’m a lousy debater,” I quipped. “I always lose debates and I hate to lose at anything. May I write your story? If you read it and want it changed or deleted, all you have to do is e-mail me.”
“Absolutely,” he said. “I will look for the story and I’ll e-mail you.”
As I walked away, I thought about my frustrating day. Just before I met Eric, I called home and whined to my husband, Bob, about how tired I was. “I was late leaving home. I drove all day. It’s going to take me a while to get in a rhythm. It is stressful worrying about the camper and the dog. When I stop and go in places, I keep worrying that the generator might break and the air conditioner will turn off. If that happened, Belle might have a heat stroke.” I stopped talking and realized how I sounded. “I guess I have to do the best I can, remember that she is just a dog, and trust God.”
I heard silence on the other end of the phone. Finally Bob spoke. “She may just be a dog but she doesn’t have that attitude towards you. She is totally devoted to you and would take a bullet for you as long as there isn’t a stranger between you and the bullet.” OK, Bob is as devoted to this dog as I am.
“You’re not making me feel better,” I complained. “You’re supposed to tell me that the generator is dependable and Belle will be fine.”
“The real question is have you talked to anyone today?”
“Not today. I feel like today was wasted. I was going to stay in an easy campground close to Charleston but I found myself turning right and driving 20 miles out of the way to come to this state park. I don’t know why I did that. It was like someone took control of the car. I have got to learn to keep my life simple.”
As I thought back to my conversation with my husband and the meeting with Eric, I knew my day had not been wasted. God planned this conversation with Eric early this morning when He delayed my leaving so I would arrive at the beach on time. He turned my car right when I planned to go straight to another campground.
I’m sorry that Eric lost his quarter. I’m even sorrier that he has lost heart with church and Christianity. As I prayed for him tonight, I thought about what a good father and human being he is. To his son, he is the whole world.
Then I thought about my Heavenly Father, who is my Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. (Revelations 21:5-8) I love the church. It is the closest I can get to the kingdom of God while I’m on this earth. I would feel lost without it. When people have been let down by the church, it hurts me. I took comfort in the words of God. “I am making everything new.” God will deal with the injustices in His time.
He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars - their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." NIV
Eric says he has never given up his Episcopal roots. Despite human attempts to ruin it, the pure message of the unconditional love of Christ still gets through. To Jasper, Eric is the Alpha and Omega but one day, Jasper will need something bigger than Eric to guide him. He will need those same roots that molded Eric. The church needs Eric and his understanding of Christianity as presented by Christ. I pray that Eric will give Christ, Christianity, and the Bible another chance. I also hope he finds his quarter.