I love small towns. Not that Carmel is huge, but it has grown significantly since we moved here in the fall of 1982. From about 30,000 back then, we are now closing in on 90,000 people. Admittedly, some of the charm has worn off but it’s still a great place to live.
Several weeks ago I wrote about our latest trip to West Virginia and how much we loved the local diners that we visited while we were there. And yesterday, by chance, I went to Pendleton, IN, a small town that is about 30 minutes northeast of our home in Carmel. I had to run several errands and although I travelled by expressway to get there, as soon as I exited onto State Street, that familiar small town feel was immediately evident. We have several smaller communities near us – Westfield, Noblesville and Fishers, where our son, Andrew, lives but the charm of Pendleton is something really special.
It’s been close to fifteen years, at least, since I have been to Pendleton. The thing I remember most about it is the fact that there is a community restaurant on the main drag in an old bank building that seems to be a local hang-out. Great sandwiches, by the way, and it is called, most appropriately, “The Bank.” We have eaten there many times and my visit to town today just reaffirmed my desire to go back there and start our tradition again.
But yesterday, I was on a different mission. I had an errand to run near the east end of town and when I was finished, I ended up stopping in a little local restaurant called “Anita’s Kitchen.” It was clearly a place the the community supported and the food looked terrific. But I was more thirsty than hungry and so I just walked up to the lunch counter and ordered a diet soda. The server fixed me the drink and I turned to get in line at the cash register to take care of the bill.
There were several people ahead of me and everybody seemed to know everybody else – until I got to the front of the line… I think that I was in the presence of Anita herself! When I announced that all I had was a soft drink, she closed the register, gave my a huge big, small town smile and told me that “it’s on the house.” I had my money in my hand and was about to insist that she let me pay for the drink, but I could see by the look on her face that this wasn’t going to happen. She then wished me a great day and asked that I come back to eat with them some day. People at the counter actually nodded in agreement as I thanked her, assured her that I would return and headed for the door. As much as I was surprised by the whole event, I should have expected this type of treatment in Pendleton. There’s just something about small town folks that really speaks to me. They look out for each other but always try to make a stranger feel welcome.
That’s pretty much the way it is with God. If you accept His hospitality, you get taken care of. Period. In fact, you can’t pay for anything – because you are given a gift of salvation and eternal life – you didn’t earn it, you can’t pay for it and you can’t argue about it. You can only accept it – because it’s on the house… the owner of everything has given you a gift.
Jesus even tells us that He has gone on ahead of us to prepare a place for us. How great is that! Tonight’s verse affirms the promise of Jesus through the gospel of John. The apostle tells us the words of his Savior in John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”
My encouragement tonight is that many believers live to serve others and want to mirror the kingdom of Heaven here on earth. My prayer is that we will all look for ways to serve one another, to put a smile on someone’s face when they least expect it – and to remember to make strangers feel welcome when they enter our communities. After all, at sometime in each of our lives, we were strangers as well! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…