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Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Step Into Eternity

By Cheryle M. Touchton

The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

“How old is your dog?” I asked the campers sitting across from Hallelujah.

I’d planned to walk briskly back to my camper when suddenly I felt that “drawing” sensation that means the Holy Spirit wants me to begin a conversation. I’d just left the showers. My hair was dripping wet, I had no makeup on, and my towel, pajamas, unmentionables, and toiletries were trying to escape my bear hug. I regretted not rolling stuff up in my towel and wondered what embarrassing articles of clothing were visible. I thanked God I’d at least changed out of my pajamas.

“Today is her 1 year birthday. We gave her a hot dog to celebrate but she’d never had one so she didn’t know what to do with it,” the wife said.

“Wow,” I said. “My dog eats everything I drop – food, paper, plastic, or medicine – she doesn’t discriminate. She sits around waiting for me to take my eye off of my food. She would eat a hot dog in one gulp.”

They both laughed. “Where are you from?” I asked.

“Just a couple of hours from here. I see you’re from Florida.” the husband said.

“You are observant. You saw my tag,” I said. “I don’t really know where I’m from.” Again, they laughed as I explained that I lived in Pennsylvania but have a house and two vehicles registered in Florida. When I told them why I was in the campground without my husband, they laughed that same way people always laughed when I told them I was Cecil Milligan’s daughter. Daddy was quite the character so I think that is a good thing.

“Yes,” I sighed. “My life is unusual. You probably saw me fighting with my rambunctious puppy today. Birds are her undoing. You’re dog hasn’t made a peep since I’ve been standing here.” They grinned and didn’t argue, which meant they’d seen the scene we made when Shiloh bolted up and after the bird in the air and I got tangled up in Shiloh’s leash...all while still in my pajamas. I took solace in the fact that the people I was talking to were also still in pajamas. That’s life in the campground.

“I’m a Christian,” I said. “I like to ask people where they go to church.”

“I’m Methodist and she’s Catholic,” the husband said.

“How long have you been married?” I asked.

“48 years,” he said.

“48 years and you still haven’t got that worked out yet?” I quipped. They both went to laughing.

“I go more than he does,” she said. “I’m Catholic. We’re scared not to go.”

“Do you ever go together?”

They looked at each other. The wife answered. “He went for the children’s Christienings.”

“Do you both know where you are going in the next life?” I asked.

“Can you really know that kind of thing?” the wife asked. “I hope I go to heaven. That’s why I go to church so much.” The husband was silent.

“It beats going anywhere else. Your church offers you an alternative that your husband and I don’t have but purgatory doesn’t sound very good either.”

“No,” they both agreed. Up until that point, the conversation had been light with laughter. However, I noticed the haunted look in her eyes. She was worried about the afterlife.

“The Bible says we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We know everything we’ve done wrong which I’m sure is why you’re worrying about where you are going in the next life.” She nodded solemnly. The husband remained silent.

“The Bible does say that the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life. Do you both believe that Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead?” They nodded.

“My favorite line in the whole scripture is ‘All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” The wife sat frozen, listening to every word. The husband abruptly stood up and went inside to finish packing. I was disappointed that they wouldn’t be meeting Jesus together but I continued. She didn’t seem to notice that her husband had bolted.

“Can I lead you in a prayer calling on Jesus to be your personal Savior?”

“Please,” she whispered hopefully. We prayed together, confessing her belief in Jesus, asking again for the forgiveness of her sin, and finally asking the big unasked question - Jesus would you come into my life and be Lord and Savior. The relief on her face was instant.

“You’re really good at this!” she exclaimed.

“All I did was share what the Bible says about salvation. The Holy Spirit did the work. He called me over here. The Holy Spirit testified to the truth of what you were hearing and convicted you. You were willing."

I went to my camper, fixed my hair and face, and returned to give her a copy of my book, The Secret to Everything. The husband grinned, welcomed me back, and was back to his jovial self. He made no mention of what had happened but she hugged and thanked me.

Like many faithful church attendees, she’d already done the hard part – she believed in the virgin birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. She knew she was a sinner and was desperately trying to be good enough for Jesus. I love the look on people’s faces when they realize how simple it is to have what they crave so much – grace. The step into eternity is such a simple step – but it changes everything.

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