It is 12:28 in the morning, between Friday and Saturday. Darkness has long settled across the open fields and sleep is being taken advantage of by my family. The air conditioning kicks on, attempting to stifle the sounds of Jeff Buckley’s ‘ Hallelujah.’ Its late and I am very tired, but I need to share a story that will hopefully impact me for the rest of my life.
What I share is real and my version of it. I understand that the two stories are completed related…until they are placed into context of my life. Thank you, in advance, for sharing this with me and willing to read about some growth that took place within me this day. My prayer now is that many of you see a difference in me. How disappointing it would be to have lived these moments and nothing changes.
I’ll start by sharing with you that I have been praying a specific prayer for quite some time. Its a prayer that more often than not, relates to any verse or chapter in the Bible that I read. Its a prayer that I end with whenever I am praying to or talking with God. Despite my family’s financial, emotional, or medical circumstances, I have been praying that God would use me to impact others. I have been asking Him to use me. Most people want to be a part of something big, important, and meaningful. I want to be about something eternal. What surpasses eternal?! So, “God, use me to do something on your list. You know my life, make use of it.”
He began by telling me to get home. Work on a foundation worth building on. Make sure “the team” is with me on my quest of being used. Ever been living thinking everything was a-okay, but when given a chance to look through the window; perception and reality don’t match up. Then a choice must be made…fix it or be sent back to the bench. I had to back off from some things. I had to get some practice in. Time spent listening, learning, watching, reading, praying, and putting faith/love to action. And in turn, when God does use me for such times like today, the emotions, the life-thrill goes beyond the acts themselves. I see the ah-ha moments in them…
Last night, in Arlington, Texas, at the baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and the Texas Rangers, tragedy struck. One of the players, tossed a a foul ball into the stands in the direction of a man wanting to get a ball for his six-year old boy. Cooper was attending his second professional baseball game with his dad because the first one had been rained out. As the man reached out for the baseball, he flipped over the railing and landed 20 feet below on concrete. According to reports today, the man had broken both arms and there was a lot of blood, apparently coming from his head. The man tried to get up while paramedics were attending to him. All he kept saying was, “please, someone check on my boy, please go be with my boy…he’s alone.” Fifty-three minutes after the incident occurred, the man, the father, the husband…had passed away. This man and his words helped me to understand God’s usage of me today.
This afternoon, I followed a friend/co-worker to the home of a customer. We pulled up to the intersection Highway 75 and Virginia Parkway in McKinney, Texas. The car temperature gauge read 110F. And up ahead (I was four cars back from the light), stood a man, in his upper 20’s/early 30’s, in khakis and a yellow pillow. This was a long light because I watched him for what felt like an hour. The word used to describe the sign would be despair. This man never looked at the cars next to him. He never looked another person in the eyes. He was standing behind a sign that explained that he had lost his job, had been evicted, and in attempt to make ends meet, he was now selling cold Hershey bars out of a cooler in this weather on that street corner.
At that moment, I truly felt God telling me to call him over to ask what I could do to help. But I shrugged it off with an excuse that I was on a work errand and that the light was going to turn green anyways and that he was probably lying and he was just going to buy drugs or alcohol with whatever money I gave him. As I was trying to convince God that He surely had more for me to do or at least someone that would use what I gave them to become something incredible. I promise you…as God as my witness…at that very moment, I watched as this guy reached into his cooler, and with his eyes looking down the road at nothing in particular, he stuck the candy bar in the air and began moving his arm back and forth, as if to music that wasn’t playing; a rhythm of defeat. I felt as if God was screaming at me, “Donny!!! NOW! Now, Donny.” I did nothing. I sat there in my air conditioned car and just looked away.
The light turned green and I pulled away from the scene. I can’t tell you want song was playing in the car. I don’t remember much of the drive from that intersection to the customer’s house. God was staring me in the face and I had turned around. As my co-worker stood and talked to the customer about his new car, I waited in the car and made things worse between God and I. I felt like God was telling me to go back there when we left. So what did I do? I pulled out the ole iPhone and looked at a map to see if there was a better way out of there. Who does that? It was as if God was in the passenger seat with His arms crossed, looking at me in awe of such arrogance and rebellion.
Finally, it was time to leave. I did end up leaving the same way we had entered and I told my friend that I had to do something. And reminded him about the guy at the corner. He was fine with it. So, now I am back on track to do what God had told me to do 45 minutes earlier. Now I was praying that I hadn’t completely missed the boat. Prayed that God would keep him there long enough for me to talk to him.
As we got closer to that life-changing intersection, I am not sure if I was getting excited or nervous. But I was determined.
The corner came into view as we came out from under the bridge…he wasn’t there!!! The cooler was, but the man was gone! Wait, wait…there he was. Across the street, talking to a woman in parking lot of the Texaco across the street. So I pulled in the gas station…but , hey, what the heck, why not go for the trifecta of disobedience. Instead of turning in and kind of doing a U-turn back towards the man and where he was standing talking to the woman. I turn away from him. My co-worker sees a Dairy Queen and suggests that we run down there. I stop the corner and reevaluate everything. “Hey, see God, he’s already talking to someone. Looks like you have it covered and don’t need me.” His response, “THAT’S NOT THE POINT, HUMAN!!! I answered your prayers!!! You have been basically begging me to use you, I give you the chance and now you balk and begin coming up with the lamest excuses as to why you won’t listen.” Then, the I hear my God say something to me that gave me chills. I had no choice but to go to the man. God said to me, “Please, go take care of my son. He’s out there alone.”
Sitting here tonight, I don’t know if that man believes in Jesus, God, and Heaven. Sin, Hell, and Salvation. But I do know this, MY God considered him one of His. My God knew this man by name. My God knew this man’s path, story, needs, and knew that Donny Dixon had been praying for this very opportunity, without even knowing it.
So, I turned the car around and drove over to the corner. I was in my suit, he was in his khakis and yellow polo, but at that moment, with drivers watching from different directions, that man and I were dressed the same before God…covered in wrong, but made so beautiful by an act of love.
His name is Chris Jones. He and his wife both lost their jobs 4 months ago after being transferred to the Dallas area from Savannah, Ga. He tried a sales job for a week, but the boss there never paid him for the two sales he got, so he left. He has taken a few day jobs from Craigslist to survive, but nothing permanent. His wife and two kids were down the road at the daily rate hotel. He didn’t have a cell. I asked him what he was willing to do so that he no longer had to sell cold chocolate. He looked up from staring at the ground, he paused, and said, “Name it.” I just need to make enough each day to pay the hotel costs.
You know, the skeptic in me wants to question the whole story. The pessimist in me wants to tell this guy that life is tough and that he needs to just accept where he is and figure things out. But God in me tells me that its not up to me to know everything. If I am going to pray for something, and God has the compassion to answer, who am I to question. My role today was to “care for the least of these.” Chris told me that he had made enough today to cover the cost of tonight’s stay. I asked him about drugs and alcohol. (Again, ashamed that even asked. I swear I heard God yelling at me for such a stupid question.) He said he didn’t do drugs and that he hadn’t had a drink in over a year. This man was clean cut, hair brushed, clean clothes…yet, ashamed of himself as a man.
I thought of the times, even recently, when I needed help. How in the freakin’ world was I any different from this man that God Almighty calls son!!! Shame on me. I am crushed and embarrassed at my own audacity. But, My Lord saw through my faults and STILL used me.
Then, as He has done so often, God had to show off to prove to me who He is. I am standing there, wrapping up the conversation, when two men walk up behind me. One young guy hands him two business cards and says, “Hey man, my girlfriend just about an hour ago, drove by here. When she saw you, she felt like God was telling her to give you all of her tip money from today. She is a waitress down at Chaucer’s in Allen. When she told me that and told me what your sign said, I told her that I wanted to join her and do something for you as well. So, I wanted to come by and talk to you about a job. Give me a call and lets talk.” I chimed in and told this guy that Chris doesn’t have a phone, but does have e-mail. This young guy took back the cards and wrote down his e-mail address and then turns to look at me. “Donny Dixon?! I know you, man!” I didn’t recognize the guy. (My name badge from work was on my suit jacket. I thought he was just attempting to be humorous, so I moved on.) I turned my attention back to Chris to finish where we left off. After another minute or two, the young wouldn’t leave me alone. He said, “…no, seriously dude, I know you.” I asked him from where. “Are we working on your roof?” “Nope, sorry man, I live in an apartment.” “Ok, well, I know you…WAIT! I know! You and I go to the same church. I have been once with my girlfriend. You texted me this week, inviting me to the men’s Bible study. And I told you I was slammed with work.” “What’s your name?” “My name is Jacob.” “Merwin?” “Yeah!!”
Its as if God looked at me and reminded me to shutup, get out of His way, He knows what He is doing. Love God’s own little “I told you so.”
I gave Chris some money and told him to take care of himself, his wife, and his two kids. I promised to relay his e-mail address to others. I invited him to our church. I may never see Chris Jones in this life. But I hope the seed of hope that can be found in a Christ-like love is watered by a fellow Christian brother or sister. I have prayed many times over for Chris and his family. Chris is hurting tonight. He lays there in his hotel bed, not his home. He watches as his wife tosses and turns, worried about tomorrow. He says his two kids asleep; wondering what he will do to care for them. It is a struggle to man up in a world that does what it can to keep you down. With Father’s Day having passed recently, I am eternally grateful for a Father that allowed me to witness what it means to care for another as if he was your brother.
Tonight/Today, I humbling ask you to pray for this man…whether his name is Chris or not and whether this is his story or not. My heart says what I was a part of today was ever so real. Chris Jones’ e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe you shoot him a note. May you travel to this intersection and can offer him more than I. But if you are willing, please place this family in the arms of a truly loving God.
The two stories are unrelated. One is full of pain and loss. The other has yet to end. But when funneled through a perspective of “go be with my son, he is alone”…love is painful.
And to you, My God, My King…I am not asking for forgiveness tonight. You and I have already handled that. But My God…thank you and please don’t stop. Thank you for not leaving me alone. Thank you for loving Chris Jones enough and Shannon Stone enough, along with his little boy Cooper and Donny Dixon enough to reach for us when we don’t know where to reach at all.