One day Chirpy's elderly owner decided to vacuum her parakeet's cage. Just then the phone rang. While reaching for the phone, she inadvertently lifted up the vacuum hose and sucked Chirpy all the way through the tube and into the dust bag.
Frantically, she tore open the bag, pulled out her beloved bird and gently rinsed him off under the faucet. Not satisfied with soaking the wet songbird, she turned on her blow dryer and carefully blew him dry.
Later, when someone inquired about Chirpy, she admitted "Well, he doesn't sing much anymore."
Would you wonder? Sucked in, washed up, and blown dry! That's enough to steal the song from the stoutest of songbirds.
Can you relate to that? Just when you conclude that it cannot possibly get any worse, it suddenly does. However, that seems to be when the God of the Bible appears often time, in an unexpected place with a strange name like Bethel, Peniel, or Shechem. Sucked into a crippling circumstance, we find ourselves rinsed off in a paralyzing experience, only to experience being blown dry by God's gentle grace. Such was life for Jacob.
Jacob began his adult life by leaving home armed with a limited knowledge of family and friends. His first night out, he barbequed his goat and laid down to sleep. That was when he met God in a dream. God revealed to him in a way he understood that God occupied more of the world than Jacob previously believed.
"Surely the Lord is in this place," he exclaimed on awakening, "and I did not know it" (Genesis 28:16 NASV).
Encouraged by his experience, Jacob made promises and commitments to God based on his new understanding. Bethel became Jacob's house of God, the place and time where he and God met in a personal way. We all need times and places where God becomes personal to us. We leave our cocoon of family and friends and launch into a fresh, raw new life and discover that God is greater than our awareness. Thus, our renewed commitment becomes our house of God experience and God becomes personal.
I never knew a time when God was not real. I first heard him speak to me as a nine year-old. At twelve, I accepted the minister's invitation to meet God at the prayer altar and that impacted my life for decades. The God of heaven touched me and somewhere between thirteen and fourteen what had been a personal wish to be an athlete slowly flickered into a new aspiration. Thus, a call to ministry was born.
God often meets us in strange places, far away from stained glass windows. He may find us with our head pillowed on a rock under an open sky. Sometimes he finds us wading around in a stinking sheep pen. At other times, he appears out of nowhere at a burning bush, as Moses found. Frequently, he comes in the silence of the soul, where no one sees or hears the battle rage. In one way or another, he always comes.