Friday, December 16, 2011

Empty Shelves

Today I experienced empty shelves. In a national grocery store. In America. Erase God out of the equation and emptiness will most definitely follow. Allow me to explain.

San Salvador, Bahamas. 2011. We drove our beat- up rented golf cart to a storefront. We were told we would find groceries inside. Though there was dim lighting, we would find provisions for the boat and general grocery supplies. A musty smell, dimly lit, very confined store in need of a mop met us immediately.

A little boy of about 3-years-old in diapers and nothing else ran from behind the counter and greeted us in a quite excited and friendly manner. This beautiful little boy with chocolate eyes smiled  ear-to-ear with brite white teeth. He exuded health and joy and genuine happiness. I stood back just a second, reality check in my spirit as I realized this little boy was happy to see us and appreciative of our patronage. He was excited to see a stranger enter. He hugged me and I loved it!!!!

We approached the dark, steamy middle of the store, where the sun did not reach and the overhead fans struggled to cool. The Bahamanian heat stayed low as we perused the shelves. I tried to be kind as we assessed canned items, packaged pastas and boxes of potatoes and onions.

The mother of the beautiful child proudly led us to her freezera - the only electric appliances in the entire place. The coolers held frozen ears of corn, frozen fruits and some cheeses and garlic breads. We thanked her and headed to the cash register.

I sadly said goodbye to our young greeter. He gave me one more hug before we left. I stole a backward glance as the golf cart left a swirl of dirt in front of the storefront. The little boy had returned to his mama's lap. He no doubt waited for the next tourist to arrive and relieve the shelves of more items after giving him a big hug and a smile. One could not help but hug him and smile. He was infectious. He was special. You wanted to empty the shelves in that store just to keep that boy in diapers.

Erasing God from America
Today I was in a place so very opposite of San Salvador, Bahamas. I was in Boca Raton, Florida - where I live. Beautiful, upscale, more shopping than one can imagine. And I watched as a store clerk pulled items from the back of a shelf to the front because the entire store was 1/3 less full due to the economy. Yes there was electricity and Barry Manolow sang overhead. Out front one could not miss the Jaguars, BMWs and SUVs. But inside that grocery store today were sparsely-filled shelves.

Just a few moments before I spied the last large container of Chobani Low Fat Greek Yogurt (love it!) up high. An elderly gentleman was standing in front of this product that I wanted to grab and so I bypassed him to pick up a quart of goat milk. I came back and he was still there. He saw me struggling to reach the yogurt and offered to help. I didn't think he could reach it and when he did I exclaimed, "Oh thank you so much!! I love men!!" He laughed hard and I laughed along with him. I didn't think about my predicament with having to reach up high and far for the last item on the shelf until I reached the spice aisle and saw another woman struggling as I had to reach an item.

And then the cashier I have come to enjoy chatting with explained why she was not at the register but pulling items to the edge of the shelf. Empty shelves. Normally she is a cashier. However, they gave her ten minutes to go down each aisle in the store and pull products forward. On a rotation basis, this was something the store had begun doing to try and camouflage the hard cold truth. Empty shelves. Few items left,  inventoried and bought.

And I thought of the little greeter in the Bahamas in the supermarket. How can a country like America have empty shelves? We have been a proud faith-filled country - the land of milk and honey. A super power where everyone wants to live? And then as God so often does, He reminded me, They have taken Me out of the schools. Out of government. Out of the textbooks. The public square. Churches are even watering down my message so that no one feels bad about forgetting Me. Empty shelves are nothing compared to empty heart and empty minds that are devoid of the Truth of My Word and the life-breathing salvation that I have to offer.

As I headed down that aisle today, toward the light at the front of the store I realized that no matter where you are, or where you will be, the only thing that matters is that Jesus Christ resides in your heart, in  your mind and in all that you do and  hope to do. He is the joy that that little boy had in his eyes. Despite the empty shelves in that Bahamian store, that mama and baby had Him. I know this because we recognize His people. We know His light and His hope. Those chocolate eyes were not just innocent but they were His as well. For the dusty Cross which hung over the door did not escape me nor the tattered Bible opened to the Book of John. There were empty shelves in that place but hearts filled with the love of God.

I was sad as I realized the empty shelves I saw today don't have to remain that way. God tells us in 2 Chronicles 7:14, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Enjoy this video. Something about it touched my heart. I hope it will touch yours too. I like to open 5 or 6 windows of this YouTube and let the reminders come over and over again....

Lord Jesus, please remind us today that empty shelves do not have to indicate empty hearts or empty lives. We know these are the last days (Matthew 24:4-14) and we must be prepared. We trust you in these times and we look to You for healing and forgiveness. You have reminded Your remnant that We will always be provided for and will never want or need.

Thank you for reminding me of that little Bahamian boy. With just a diaper and a smile he allowed me to look past the empty shelves and the lack of light and power to see Your Power, Your light and Your ability to keep those who love You filled to overflowing, with vats brimming over with new wine and storehouses spilling over with grain. For You love those who seek Your face and don't mind having empty shelves for a season but pray nonetheless for abundance.

We love you Lord Jesus. Please fill our hearts today.