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I met Lisa a few months ago.  She, her husband Wes, their son Phoenix, and their dog bear were passing through the area and stopped at the church to seek some assistance for one night – a place to sleep.

They told me the story of how they were from Maine and had traveled to West Virginia so that Wes could start a job there.  They packed up all their stuff into their van and headed down.  They had a place to stay waiting for them.  Turns out the job fell through when they got there.  So they turned around and started to head home, stopping in Carlisle for the night.  They happened to find out church and sought out some help.  We put them up for the night in one of the local hotels and offered one of our handmade blankets to the family.  They were grateful and had expressed a good deal of their faith during my time with them telling me at one point that God provides for them always.

Fast forward to last week – I received an e-mail from Lisa telling me that she and Phoenix would be traveling through the area again.  Turns out that Wes had to finish out a parole sentence in a distant state from years ago and so it was just her and their son.  They were heading back to West Virginia to be with family who could help them out.  They would get housing in exchange for doing child care.

She still had Bear, their small dog who was friendly as ever.  I met up with them when they arrived and got them taken care of for the night.

I learned a few things from my encounters with Lisa.  First, no matter the situation, Lisa was always joy-filled.  She always has a smile on her face.  She doesn’t have much, but what she has she is grateful for.  Second, Lisa has great trust in God.  God always provides is what I heard Wes say.  And here was God providing for this family again – this time through the church.

I couldn’t help but think of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus traveling when I encountered Lisa, Wes, and Phoenix.  This time it felt more like Mary going to visit Elizabeth.  Different circumstances of course, but the idea was there.

God shows us in mysterious ways.  God invites us to participate in the unfolding of the kingdom too.  God had invited me to participate in the unfolding through Lisa and Phoenix and Bear.

We have no idea how many people there are who are in similar situations.  It’s easy to turn a blind eye to things like this.  But that’s not what we are called to.  Instead, we are called to answer the e-mail that is sent to us, to answer the door when the bell is run, to answer the phone when there is a call, to answer.

My prayers remain with Lisa, Phoenix, and Bear – as well as with Wes.  I pray that they are reunited sooner rather than later and are able to get back on their feet.

Sometimes I wonder if we have this preconceived idea of what participating in the unfolding of the kingdom of God is like – what it looks like.  I wonder if we think it’s all nice and neat and organized.  But then I get an invitation to participate in the unfolding of God’s kingdom.  And it comes at the door right when I’m getting ready to leave for the day.  Or in a text.  Or at the Flying J truck stop.  Or at Dinner with Friends community meal.  Or in the elevator of the hospital.  Or in the parking lot as I’m getting into my car.  The invitation comes at random times – usually when I least expect it.  And that’s probably a good thing.  When it happens, I have moments to either accept the invitation or reject it.  It seems that in the spur of the moment, I’m more likely to accept the invitation.  God has different plans than what I’ve come up with.

And sometimes those plans come in multiple parts, with the knock on a door and an e-mail follow-up separated by several months.

Be ready.  You don’t know when God will send your invitation.