Ruby

ruby

“Do you know my story, Grandpa?” Ruby my 16 year old granddaughter asked.

“Well, parts of it.” I answered, catching my balance as we descended a mountain trail in the Ardennes.

As I turned to face Ruby, memories associated with this vibrant young woman flooded my mind. I remembered the time as a three-year-old when Ruby almost died of febrile convulsions. (My son reminds me that I learned of this accident during a bishop board meeting and that I led my fellow bishops in prayer, crying out, “Let me die, not her.” When my son later questioned my theology, I informed him that grandparents may not be the best theologians.)

I remembered how Ruby as a fifth grader was quickly developing skills as a gymnast. But a severe concussion and coma from a playground accident changed that trajectory, and she decided that she would become a nurse.

I recalled Ruby as a skilled horsewoman, as a sometimes saxophonist and recently as an archery competitor.

And, of course, I knew Ruby as friendly, outgoing and often the center of good times.

But I knew there was more to learn so I responded, “Yes, parts of it;” grabbing on to a branch to slow my descent. “But, tell me more.”

Ruby began, “Well, several years ago I found myself very much enjoying and being influenced by my friends, subtly drifting away from my Christian values.

“Then at a youth group retreat I had a powerful encounter with the loving heavenly Father. He changed my heart; He changed everything. He gave me a freedom to express myself among my friends. If my friends disagree with me, I do not let it trouble me; I just continue expressing God’s love to them.

“Recently a teacher came to me and said with a big smile that she would always remember me because of what happened last year in class. The teacher had said, ‘Oh,God!’ And I immediately said, ‘Don’t take the name of the Lord your God in vain.’

“On another occasion a Muslim boy told a friend, ‘I want to talk to that Protestant girl (as distinguished from Catholic) because I have been reading the Bible and I want to discuss with her what it means.’

“My fellow students and I have discovered that if on occasion we want a break from lectures, we can engage a teacher in discussion. On one such occasion I said, ‘Let’s have a discussion about evolution.’ My fellow students groaned and said, ‘There goes Ruby again.’ One such discussion lasted for over an hour. The teacher asked me why I did not believe in evolution. I responded that I find it more satisfying to believe that I was created by a loving heavenly Father than that I evolved from a monkey. The teacher was so amazed by this that he contacted me again to continue the discussion.

“Several times on my way to school, I encountered some people who are part of a religious cult. I discussed this with my youth leader, and I studied the tenets of their beliefs. The next time I met them, we carried on a conversation and then I asked if I could pray for them. They refused, stating that I would not use the right words. After learning the ‘right words’ I said I could include those words in my prayer. But they still refused.

“But my best story happened recently. I was facing my final 11th grade English exam. It was an oral exam and I needed to be prepared to tell a story and to report on a book. I asked the teacher if I could report on the Bible; she responded that she wanted me to read and report on another book in that She felt I was too familiar with the Bible. I persisted, asking if I could report on a book and still discuss the Bible if there was time. The teacher agreed.

“In the exam I started off by giving the story of how God’s love impacted me. At the end the teacher said ‘I hope what you say is true.’

“Then I asked her if I could pray for her. She seemed somewhat taken aback but agreed. So I prayed that her ‘hope would become a certainty’ for her. She thanked me for the prayer. I later learned that she had given me an ‘A’ in the exam. “

As I reflected on my conversation with Ruby, I realized that she is a climate changer . She enters a ‘space’ and immediately declares that Jesus (not the latest pop singer, actor or athlete) is very important to her. This creates an atmosphere in which faith in Christ is “in the air.” Then people have the freedom to either agree or disagree. But even in disagreeing they are still thinking about faith.

May the contagious faith and love of Ruby help ignite a youth movement in Europe.

And may grandfathers, such as I, become less self-aware as we abandon ourselves anew to our great calling as ‘climate changers.’

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