When I was little and didn’t know better, one of my favorite comedy teams was The Three Stooges.
They had a skit that’s stayed in my mind over the years. Curly meets Moe (the mop-headed one) and Moe tells him the awful adventure of his wife running away. He pursued his wife’s lover over a great part of the country and finally caught up with him at Niagara Falls. When he hears the words ‘Niagara Falls” he goes into a trance-like state. ‘Niagara Falls! … Slowly I turned … step by step … inch by inch … then I caught him!’ With that he grabs Curly (who’s actually an innocent passer-by) slaps him, bops him, tears the front of his shirt and knocks him down.” Every time he hears, ‘Niagara Falls’ the same scenario unfolds. They don’t make comedy routines like that anymore.
I have a similar reaction to Moe’s when I hear ‘Corsicana.’ “Corsicana, Texas, ” slowly I turned … step by step …” Once I was scheduled to preach a ladies meeting in Corsicana. At least I thought it was Corsicana. It was actually in a nearby town but I frantically drove all over Corsicana. I’ve preached at hundreds of different places, and I’ve only missed a very few engagements in 37 years of preaching. I think I even showed up a few times when I wasn’t expected. But I missed Corsicana because the meeting wasn’t in Corsicana. That wasn’t the worst, though.
Years ago, I was coming home from a convention in Austin, Texas with my friend David. We discussed whether to get gas at Waco or get some along the way as we headed back towards Tyler. It was around midnight and we didn’t want to spend a lot of time looking around Waco trying to find gas, so we elected to get some on the way. Bad decision. Did you know that there were no gas stations open after midnight the 55 miles between Waco and the next station we found … at Corsicana! Even the jackrabbits were sleeping.
Out Of Gas
The car sputtered to a halt 12 miles west of Corsicana. You can imagine how much luck two men had hitch-hiking, late in the night in the middle of nowhere. We walked and walked, occasionally NOT appreciating the cooling wind of lonely cars which flashed by, ignoring our sad looks as we stuck up our thumbs, asking for a ride. Finally a big truck slowed, his brakes squealing as he halted his speeding load of cattle to give us a lift. I don’t know when I ever been so happy to see someone I didn’t know. The young man deposed us at an all-night gas station in Corsicana and continued on his way. A couple of policemen gave us a lift back to the city limits with our rented can full of gas, and we were hoofing it again, but at least this time we were headed in the right direction.
Once again the rare cars on that road passed us as if we were two escapees from Huntsville prison. Finally a big truck came barging down the road, but stepped on his brakes when he saw us. Guess who? It was our friendly cattle hauler, or an angel maybe! We small talked during the trip to the car but it was hard to communicate over the roar of the truck motor. He stopped to let us out, there, where the car slept emptily on the side of the road. I was so thankful to this fellow; I didn’t know what to say except a brief, ‘God bless you!” His response struck me. ‘He needs to,” he said in a voice that made it seem as if there was a hard story behind the declaration. We gassed up and drove the rest of the way, arriving at a late/early hour.
The next day I was a bit bleary-eyed while in my office praying and reflecting. Missing sleep doesn’t agree with me. ‘What was that all about last night?” I inquired of the Lord. Let’s be honest. God could have done something about my plight; he could have over-ruled our stupidity and caused the gas to stretch or a station to stay open past 6 p.m., or lots of stuff. He’s God. Was He sleeping on the job? I really believed God answered my grouchy question by speaking in my heart. ‘I was looking for a way to bless that truck driver according to my word. I said to Jacob, ”˜I’ll bless those who bless you. I’ll curse those who curse you.’ I wanted to bless that man and when he helped you and David, He made it possible for me to bless him.” I remembered the hurting response the man had given to my, ‘God bless you.” ‘Lord, bless that man. You see his need. Help him to know you. Bless him the way he blessed us.”
A God Who Blesses
We serve a God who wants to bless. He told Jacob, ‘I’ll bless those who bless you.” When money-grubbing Balaam wanted to curse God’s people, the Lord turned his words into a wonderful blessing. And spiritually, we inherit Abraham’s blessing (and Jacob’s) in Jesus Christ. ‘ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ,” Paul said to the Ephesian Christians. Don’t be afraid to let God bless you. I believe He loads us down with blessings each day, if we’ll only take stock. And He wants to do it even more than He does. So often it’s our disobedience or our doubt that keeps Him from blessing us more. So you don’t have to be afraid in life, whether you’re in Niagara Falls, or Corsicana. ‘Corsicana! Slowly I turned, step by step …”
‘We have placed too much hope in politics and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life.’ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn speaking at Harvard University, in 1980.