Struck by an idea a dozen years ago

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly,

“one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”

--Hans Christian Andersen

I have come to understand that sometimes we experience good things in our lives because we make them happen. We dream and toil, persist and sacrifice until our ideas become reality.

Other times wonderful opportunities seem to drop into our laps. I find these circumstances some of the most satisfying, for they are experiences filled with wonder and surprise. They are like manna from heaven.

That was exactly my experience in 1994 when the idea of writing Faithful Living was first introduced to me.

I wish I could say that I determined I would become a columnist and worked like a mad woman to make that happen. But the truth of the matter is this: the idea dropped into my lap in a way I could never have imagined.

The news first came by way of a friend who is unrelated to the newspaper in any way. In fact, he is a father, husband and missionary. A very unlikely bearer of such news except for this fact: my friend understands the deep and sometimes mysterious ways of God because he has lived on the edge most of his life. He has boldly proclaimed His love for God and taken that message of love and faithfulness to far-off lands. When comfort and convention were not available, Dick learned to lean on God through prayer. In turn, Dick has learned to listen.

What he is able to hear and understand from God can be truly amazing.

My life intertwined with his the morning a unique idea came to Dick as he prepared for the day. The idea? That Joan Bay Klope would write a column about her experiences with faith. Being a good friend, a man of great faith, and recognizing over the years that remote ideas unrelated to his life are often a gift from a heavenly sender, Dick called me to share the news.

“Gear up,” he said, “It’s time to write about faith!”

I was amazed ­— even intrigued, but skeptical. There was already a religion column offered by the newspaper and I was busy raising three children. When would I find the time to write a weekly column? And why me? I was a published writer, but not a pastor.

Two weeks later I received a call from a section editor at the newspaper. Increased pastoral responsibilities has suddenly pulled the pastor in another direction. Would I consider writing a column that describes my weekly adventures with God? They needed to live up a columnist — and fast!

I had no idea how I would fashion a weekly column so quickly, but in minutes I typed the words, “Faithful Living” atop my computer screen and began writing my first column. I chose the story of my Oklahoma grandparents and the summer afternoon in 1969 when we holed up in a walk-in cellar to avoid a quickly approaching tornado. While Grandpa topped his head with a sou’wester hat to keep the rain off his face and an ample scoop of my Grandma’s blackberry cobbler to stave off hunger pains, Grandma slapped at pesky mosquitoes in the dim light and prayed over us.

Grandma understood that she could not change what was happening to us, but she enjoyed full control over her spiritual response. She was faithfulness in action.

It is this picture of pure faith that filled my heart this Wednesday when nearby neighbors joined my family and me outside, in the sunshine, to celebrate the longest day of the year and the joys of summer. While we had no worries about approaching tornadoes, each one of us who gathered know a thing or two about storms of the kind life brings us on a regular basis. We feasted on hotdogs, potato salad, watermelon, and strawberry shortcake. We also paused to thank God for the people in our lives who continue to be a source of encouragement. They remind us of the One who brings the wonderful light of summer, providing sunshine and freedom.

Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and speaker who makes her home on Whidbey Island. Her award-winning column has run for 12 years in Western Washington newspapers. E-mail comments and speaking requests to .

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