´╗┐Words of
Encouragement & Hope
Submitted by Betsy Maple

Where's Jesus?

More than 20 years ago I was Director of Human Resources for a large corporation based in Dayton, Ohio. I often traveled to our outlying offices, sometimes for extended periods of time.  There are lots of challenges for women traveling alone on business, but one I enjoyed was finding a good restaurant.

I particularly asked locals to recommend ones unique to the area, either for their ambiance or great regional food.  For example, there was the mind boggling elegance of a large roadside McDonald's in Ohio. It was decorated with Italian marble statues, gold framed mirrors, custom drapes on the windows and live plants. But the usual Mickey D's fare.

At the other end of the spectrum was the best barbecue ever, cooked in a natural rock cave behind an old store front with no windows or doors in Georgia. It had only a hand scratched shingle saying BBQ, and a line of customers waiting for take out. 

However, the best combination of ambiance and fantastic food was found right in my neighborhood, The Peasant Stock, a casual French restaurant with a large adjoining bar. The bar, over the years, had become a local watering hole for nearby corporate execs, including many from my company. On this particular Friday afternoon, I had driven more than 200 miles. I had not eaten since breakfast. I was exhausted and frustrated because the week had not gone well. My "corporate" clothes were tired of me. 

All I wanted was to get a good meal and get back to my apartment without running into any chatty colleagues in the bar. I snuck to the back of the building and begged my way through the kitchen, (It's good to know the owners!) and slid into a seat near the only other diners, two older women. They were lingering over coffee and dessert and seemed to be in earnest conversation. Thinking perhaps eavesdropping on their chatter would keep me from falling asleep, I listened intently.  It was apparent that it was their first time at The Peasant Stock. 

They were mesmerized by the restaurant's focal point. Larger than life, it was a stained glass depiction of a buxom peasant woman with shoulder length brown hair, seated among the fruits of her labors. The stained glass was back lit and inserted into what had once been a door connecting the bar, until the bar became bigger than the restaurant.  

My ears perked up when one of the women said, "The people who own this restaurant must be awfully religious to pay for such a beautiful, expensive picture of Jesus in the garden."  Knowing the owners, I started to giggle and thought how they would laugh when I told them. And what a great story it would make the next time I was with friends in the bar or the restaurant. The more I thought about it the funnier it seemed. I tried to suppress my laughter, snorting coffee out my nose, and finally burying my face in my napkin.  

And just as I thought I had regained my composure, I heard the other woman say, "Look there's the communion cup and a basket of bread. It must be the loaves and fishes and all the flowers in the garden." But when I looked up, it took a moment for me to register such mixed up symbolism.  I began to giggle all over again and had to look away. 

Maybe just bad eyesight, I rationalized. When I looked back, they had placed their hands on the table in a simple act of grace, bowed their heads and were silent. Somehow I knew they were experiencing Jesus' presence in what I now refer to as a "God Moment."  And I was missing the whole thing. I was the confused foolish one.  

I have never told this story to anyone (except my sister, when I mentioned I was going to share it in Words of Encouragement and Hope.  It didn't get told in the bar. I kept it to myself because I didn't want those sincere Christian women to be laughed at as I had done. And perhaps I didn't tell my Christian friends because I didn't want to admit I had been so judgmental and rejected Jesus' involvement.   

Over the years, I have pondered this experience many times and finally realized that, I too, was experiencing a "God Moment."  Not like those women, but unique to my learning by reinforcing the fact we can find Jesus anywhere when we stop to listen. He is always with us. We have only to speak his name.

Betsy Maple