I dated a man from Kearney, Nebraska once. I was divorced, restless, and curious. I’d picked up a newspaper at a highway rest stop. It was devoted to helping singles connect. The days of meeting potential dates on the Internet was not yet on the horizon. I rationalized, what harm could there come from writing and mailing a note? Kearney, Nebraska was a long way from Cormorant, Minnesota. It seemed like a risk free adventure. I used all my creative writing skills to arouse curiosity in the Kearney, Nebraska man to entice him to respond. And I succeeded as he phoned me. He had the gift of Irish blarney and made me laugh. Thus, when he asked me what he was to do with me, I suggested he come up and chop my pile of wood. A friend had gifted me with a pickup load of firewood but all I could do was look at that pile and wonder how to get it chopped into useable pieces. To my amazement, this man got in his truck, along with his golden retriever, and drove non-stop to my cabin on the lake. My guardian angel must have been on high alert. This was a very risky thing for me to do but it turned out okay. Quinn was a good man, a widower, still grieving over the loss of his wife to cancer. We talked, we went out to dinner and the movie, “Top Gun.” He’d retired from the military after a career as an air controller on aircraft carriers. Thus, the movie provided plenty of conversation fodder. He bunked on my couch, got up the next day, chopped my wood, and headed back to Nebraska. We talked often, wrote frequently, and enjoyed a romance destined to go nowhere serious. He loved Nebraska. Neither of us was ready for anything but romantic flights of fancy.
When Christmas approached he sent me a recipe book on how to make bread complete with needed pans. I sent him a short stack of books, including by Lois Hudson. I loved this novel that was partly memoir about living through the dust bowl era in North Dakota. I thought he’d read it and we could discuss it in our phone conversations. I used his gift to me. I seldom make bread now and when I do I use a bread maker. But I loved his gift because it led me to the joy of making bread. Quinn, however, put my gifts unopened in a closet. He said he’d rather think of what might be in them than to open even one. I found that sad. Eventually, the phone calls dwindled; the letters stopped. Something about his not opening my gifts, keeping them stuck in a dark closet bothered me.
I let him know when I remarried and continued to send our annual Holiday letter to him. A year ago a nephew of his let me know Quinn had passed away. The nephew found my Holiday letter and thought I should know. I wondered if the stack of gifts were found when they cleaned out his house. Maybe someone freed those books from decades old dusty wrapping paper. I hope so. Over the years Quinn’s refusal to open my freely given gifts triggered thoughts about the gift of salvation offered by God to us. It is a free gift. God already paid the price through the death of his only son Jesus on the cross. All we need to do is accept the gift and then let the gift change us. I’ve also thought about the gift of peace Jesus offers to believers. We have to accept it in order to have it. Yet so many of us, myself included, forget to live in that gift of peace.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of himself at all times and in every way. Jesus, Lord of Peace, thank you for this gift of peace that is beyond human understanding. Let me keep my heart, my soul, my very being open to this gift. I don’t want to leave this gift unopened or forgotten. I pray this for all those who need your peace in their lives. Amen.