“We Make Plans, God Laughs”
I had not heard it until I arrived in Canada, at the age of nineteen in 1986. However, in my childhood I have always heard my mother say, “God Willing” – before or after any plans she would share with others. Picking up on that, I have used that expression always, until one day in early 2000’s, at Northlea United Church (where I got married), in Chomedey, Quebec, someone stopped me and said, “Takouhi, God wills for us to enjoy the plans we set in our lives – God created us to enjoy all the goodness God provides, so God is willing that you live this life to the fullest and do good – Never doubt that.”
In this very crowded mind those words stuck with me. Therefore, since then, I have made an extra effort not to say, “God Willing” but say, “by God’s Grace”. And this past Sunday, July 31, 2022, we made family plans, by God’s Grace. My sister Ruth and her husband Donald were to visit us, therefore we purchased tickets to see The Music Man at the Gananoque Playhouse in the afternoon. Therefore, our plan was to go Grace United for Sunday morning worship celebration, go for lunch and go to the Playhouse – by God’s Grace.
We all went to church as planned and we were so honoured that Alison Palmer offered special music during worship, and she is one of the cast members of the musical at the Playhouse we were planning to see. Well, Alison has a voice that can truly feel like a smooth, gentle, healing rain to a parched soul. She did an amazing job singing “On Eagle’s Wings”, moreover, we found out that we have a mutual friend, Rev. Jeff Rock of the MCC in Toronto. Jeff and I went to the same seminary school, graduated, and ordained all at the same time – May 2011.
After worship we made sure to take a selfie together and we parted our ways, with hopes of seeing each other at the musical. While we were having lunch, I got a voice mail, as my phone was silenced, that the afternoon show was cancelled as one of the members has tested positive for COVID. Then I realized there was also an e-mail, etc., etc. … So, what do we do? Enjoying the beautiful water view in front of us at the Watermark Restaurant, waving goodbye to the Thousand Island Cruise ships passing by, we wondered do we go on one of those cruises, or stay around town for couple of hours and go to Half Moon Bay for the four o’clock Sunday Worship, or go for ice cream and head home slowly … Decisions, decisions, decisions. Well, ice cream and heading home, with a stop at Wendy’s Market, won the vote.
So, we decided to go to the ice cream shop right across the street from Grace United Church. I always joke around and say, the ice cream there is calorie-free, as it is across Grace United Church ???? – but we all know that is not the case. When we almost came to the corner of Stone and Pine, Gary, my husband, said, I think there are people who want to get into the Grace United Church building. I looked and I saw four individuals, looking like tourists, attempting to open the door and one of them was ringing the doorbell. My very first instinct said, “Ok, let me drop you all off at the ice cream shop and go open the door for them”.
So, I did. I went to them and asked if they wanted to go inside the church building and they happily replied with a broken English, yes please. I asked where they were from and they replied from France, instantaneously my French kicked in and I told them to wait for me here and I will go open the door, etc…
After making our way to the sanctuary, which they loved, we had a wonderful visit. I offered each couple a copy of my book, and also told them a little bit about the history of Grace United as much as I know (I am the newbie minister here). They took pictures, enjoyed the beautiful stained-glass windows. If my memory serves me right, their names are Marie-Claude, Olivier, Fabienne, and Jean-Marc. Wonderful couples from France.
After sharing a summarized version of my life journey, Olivier asked why does God let bad things happen? I tried every effort to tell him that God does not allow or plan bad things to happen, such as the war on Ukraine, the Armenian Genocide, which my father survived as an infant, or many other wars in the world; but it is human beings who plan and commit such atrocities. The three others echoed with me, and they agreed that we all do have the choice to do good or evil.
Just when we were leaving the church building, I saw a text from my sister, Ruth, asking me if everything was ok, as it had been a good 20-25 minutes since I disappeared in the building with four strangers.
Beloved, our plans for the day were a little different than what took place, but it was still a wonderful day of meeting God in unexpected ways. When Gary told me that there are people trying to enter the church building, I could have very easily ignored the obvious and went with my family and enjoyed ice cream with them, and these people would not have even know that I am the ordained minister serving God through Grace United. But I know deep inside, that ignoring the obvious will only make us lose out on the Blessings that God has in store.
I still got my ice cream, but a little late, and I still enjoyed being with my family on the beautiful grounds of Grace United Church, but most of all, I got to experience God speaking to Olivier and the rest of the group about the fact that God does not allow bad things to happen to people, it is human decisions and actions that play a major part in determining this world’s heartaches and sufferings. Yes, we cannot control all that takes place in this world, but whatever we can do, let us always do our best to give to others our best and do all that you can do through the Love and the Grace of God, and God Alone, and make this life a life that is worth living for, not just for ourselves but for ALL who are created in God’s Image.
Thanks be to God, who wills for us to enjoy all the goodness God provides, we just need to pay close attention to the smallest details of our lives – where we will find unexpected blessings. Amen.