Who’s afraid of Friday 13th?

A couple of years ago now (actually, I looked it up and it’s almost a decade ago scarily enough!), I had a meeting up in Brecon. I arrived early, and was ordering a coffee in the cafe where we were meeting. It was clear that the person serving me was unhappy and so I asked him if he was ok. He wasn’t.

It seems he had experienced a whole bunch of difficulties in his life, often coinciding on (or around) Friday the 13th. I hadn’t really even clocked it, but that day happened to be Friday the 13th, and he was just sort of expecting something really awful to take place.

As we chatted I asked him if he really believed in “luck” as a force that could effect his life, and he thought about it for a long time before concluding that he probably didn’t. The conversation, and his mood lifted, as we laughed about why a certain date (or number) would attract either good or bad luck for anyone’s circumstances.

The meeting was great, but as I drove back from Brecon, all I could think about was how many other people may needlessly be living with a sense of gloom or even fear on Friday the 13th. The Holy Spirit began to birth in me an idea for a way to be a “blessing on a bad day”…

The idea was simple enough – it had two parts to it.

The first was a simple survey, which served as a sort of “guided conversation” starting with people’s views of luck, superstition and then deeper questions about faith and prayer. I’d also designed leaflets to offer at the end of the conversation for those wanting to know more, with our contact details on.

The second part of the idea was to print a whole load of bible verses onto small cards that had the words: “blessing for a bad day” written on the front. These were just to let people know that God knew them, loved them and wanted to bless them.

A small team of volunteers went out in pairs with the surveys and leaflets and were busily chatting and witnessing right throughout our village. I sat a small table on the side of the pavement, with a bowl of these blessings and prayed and waited to see what God might do.

To be honest, the longer I sat there smiling at passers-by the more I began to feel a little silly. As the devil is very good at in such circumstances, I was bombarded with a whole host of doubts about where this idea had come from and whether or not I was just making the church look a bit daft.

Suddenly, a woman approached the table. She was trying to make out from the sign what I was selling. I explained what I was doing and she looked absolutely flabbergasted.

She explained that she had always hated Friday the 13th to such an extent that she always books it as a day off and rarely leaves the house if she can help it. Today, however, she was forced out of the house and was on her way to the hospital to visit a relative.

I explained that we wanted to bless people on what was often perceived as being a “bad day.” And she sat down to find out more.

I was about to ask her to choose a scripture from the bowl, when I remembered I had deliberately left some blank in case I wanted to write a specific scripture or prayer for someone. As so, feeling strangely bolder, I offered to do that instead.

I was about to write something, when I felt the Lord give me these words:

“Sometimes faith is spelt r.i.s.k.”

At first I wondered if that was the Lord speaking to me, but I had a strong urge that this was for her. I had one of those inner minor arguments with the Holy Spirit about whether or not this was really a “blessing”… but the Holy Spirit eventually won and I wrote it down.

As I timidly handed the woman this blessing, I explained that that phrase wasn’t what I had intended to write, but really felt that God was wanting to speak to her.

She opened the card, and was immediately moved. She had lost her grandmother some years previously, who was the only Christian this lady had ever personally known. They’d often had long and tense  conversations about faith over the years, and her grandmother almost always ended the conversations by saying: “Well, maybe I don’t have all the answers, but all I know is that sometimes faith is spelt r.i.s.k.” 

The very words I had just written down for her.

We both filled up as we spoke about her grandmother, but also the important differences between faith and superstition – between the power of “belief” and the very real power of the person her grandmother believed in. I wanted to make it clear that it wasn’t her grandmother speaking through me, but the God who knew and loved her and who had reached out today to let this woman know that she was known and loved too!

 

When the team came back, they too were buzzing with excitement as to how their own conversations had gone. One of the team had run out of blessing cards, but carried on with the survey anyway. At the end of their conversation one stranger had asked for a blessing – and he had pointed up the road to where I was, and she said: “No no, you’re a Christian, come on – you bless me!” and stood there waiting for him to pray for her!

Could it be that the world is more hungry to be blessed than we realize, and more ready to be blessed than we are be a blessing?

Whatever the date is, and however deep the darkness you feel – if we will stop and listen, God is able, willing and ready to bless us however bad the day.

 

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