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Like a parent who has you by the shirt collar, I could no longer avoid the Lord's constant pressure. I stood before the counter at my local Christian bookstore and agonized over my decision of which Bible to purchase.
For three weeks the Lord had given me an urgent shove to give Cindy, a former neighbor, a Bible. But fear held me captive. I was afraid of rejection, afraid of putting a wedge in our friendship. I prayed, "Me, Lord? Are you sure?"
For five years our family had lived a mile down a remote country road from Burt and Cindy. Being twenty-two miles from town we often helped each other as neighbors do.
Together the men plowed snow from our long driveways. My husband, Loren, hauled their firewood the summer Burt developed colon cancer. On cold winter nights, we visited in their cabin and sipped mugs of tea or hot cocoa while we indulged ourselves on Cindy's famous peanut butter fudge.
We were the first to move when we decided to buy a house closer to Loren's work. Burt's health made it increasingly difficult for him to maintain their home, and they soon moved to town closer to their kids.
Three years had slipped by since I'd seen Burt and Cindy. Except for the annual exchange of Christmas cards, time and life changes separated us.
Though we'd known them nearly a decade, we'd never talked about the Lord. We'd only made casual comments about church or our kids' youth group activities over the years. And while they never said anything negative, we didn't know where they stood on spiritual matters. Certainly, someone closer to her could better explain about Jesus and the Gospel message, I reasoned. However, God chose me.
Now, confronted with so many different styles and Bible versions, I faced a dilemma on which to choose. With the various options spread across the counter in front of me, I prayed, "Lord, please help me pick the right one." Unsure of Cindy's church background but knowing she had arthritis in her fingers, I finally decided on a lightweight slim style in an updated version.
The question arose, "Did I want her name imprinted on the Bible?" I first responded, "No," since I didn't have my own name printed on my Bible.
However, snagged by the question, I hesitated. Somehow it seemed important to include her name. I didn't know if Cindy was her given name or short for Cynthia. "Lord, this has to be right," I prayed. "Please help; I don't know what to do." After some internal ping pong, I determined to use the name I knew her by, Cindy.
That night, I gained my nerve and called to see if I might stop by for a visit. Burt answered the phone and told me Cindy was ill and had moved in with their daughter forty minutes from my house. He said Cindy would love to see me and gave me the address and number where I could reach her.
He Never Forgets
I had no clue how sick Cindy was until the day I walked into her daughter's living room. She had always been petite, but now she was rail thin. She sat in a wheelchair with a handmade afghan over her legs. Not far from her stood an oxygen tank. Cindy struggled for every breath, as the machine pumped air into her lungs.
After our initial greeting, I handed Cindy the wrapped package. She peeled away the floral wrapping, letting the paper slide to the floor. I tried to read the expression on her face as she scanned the publisher's label printed on the top of the box. Without a word, she lifted the lid from the box to reveal the Bible. Her shoulders dropped and she gasped.
Cindy pressed her weathered fingers over the 24 carat gold letters stamped on the Bible's leather cover. In a raspy voice, barely above a whisper, she repeated over and over again, "My name, my name…"
I dropped to my knees beside her wheelchair. "Cindy, I don't know what you think about God, or church, or any of that, but I know the Lord's helped me in my life." Despite my inadequate words, with the Lord's strength I stumbled on. "I want you to know the Lord's there for you, there's hope …, because of Him we have the hope of heaven. He hasn't forgotten about you and he wants a relationship with you."
She slid the Bible from its box and clutched it to her chest, rivulets of tears trickled down her bone-thin cheeks.
"I've been telling Burt I wanted to go back to church. I haven't been in over thirty years."
Cindy reached out and draped her arm over my shoulder. I gave her a soft hug. "The Lord loves you, Cindy, and so do I," I whispered as our cheeks, damp with tears, brushed against each other. I gave her a final hug and said goodbye.
I drove home that day thankful I had not let fear of rejection stop me from giving a friend a Bible.
Cindy cherished the love she found in God's Word until her passing. Though my dear friend had placed God on the back shelf for nearly half her life, he never forgot her name.
**Note: "Written in Gold" first printed in SEEK 01/2013 by Standard Publishing.
© 2011 Kathleen Kohler