A Person Holding a Cross

God Knows Where You Are

[I delivered this message several years ago at Christmas, but I just have a sense that someone needs to hear it now. The message is universal. A special recognition for Pastor Ken Gaub who provided much of the content and inspiration. The title is his and much of the description of his personal story for which I have lost a reference, but some of it may be found here.]

Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book “Home by Another Way,” writes:

For good or ill, every Christmas Eve functions like a time machine for us, taking us back to every other Christmas Eve we have spent on this earth.

I think there is great truth in that statement and for me it can really be expanded to encompass the entire holiday season. I get caught up in thinking about all of the good times and bad that I have experienced at Christmas. I recall picking out a Christmas tree every year with my father when I was young, to the magic of reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to my children when they were small, to having to plan the funeral of my father-in-law on Christmas Eve 15 years ago. Those memories all flood to the surface and whether good or bad, they seem to make me sad at Christmas. “Merry Christmas” feels pretty hollow when that melancholy overtakes me.

But as assuredly as Christmas Day comes, the sadness passes. If not before, it almost always does at what for me always feels like a magic moment…….the midnight end of our church’s candlelight service on Christmas Eve. Whenever it happens, I can be sure that Christmas never passes without that Christmas magic striking me. Pastor Ken Gaub of Yakima, Washington relates a true experience in his life that seems to me a pretty good illustration of the Christmas meaning that hits me. It is not a Christmas story in the traditional sense, but in a deeper way it really speaks to the meaning of Christmas.

Pastor Gaub tells of a time when he was driving on I-75 near Dayton, Ohio, with his wife, Barbara, and their children. They turned off the highway for a rest and refreshment stop and Barbara and children went into the restaurant. Ken suddenly felt the need to stretch his legs, so he waved them on ahead saying he’d join them later.

Suddenly the impatient ringing of a telephone nearby jarred Ken out of his doldrums. It was coming from a phone booth at a service station on the corner. Wasn’t anyone going to answer the phone? Noise from the traffic flowing through the busy intersection must have drowned out the sound because the service station attendant continued looking after his customers, oblivious to the incessant ringing. “Why doesn’t somebody answer that phone?” Ken muttered. Thinking that the call could be important, curiosity overcame his indifference.

Ken stepped inside the booth and picked up the phone. “Hello,” he answered. The operator said: “Long distance call for Ken Gaub.” With his eyes widened, and swallowing hard, Ken said, “You’re crazy!” Then realizing he couldn’t speak to an operator like that, he added, “This can’t be! I was walking down the road, not bothering anyone, and the phone was ringing…” “Is Ken Gaub there?” the operator interrupted, “I have a long distance call for him.”

It took a moment for Ken to stop babbling, but he finally replied, “Yes, he is here.” Searching for a possible explanation, he wondered if he could possibly be on Candid Camera! Still shaken, perplexed, Ken asked, “How in the world did you reach me here? I was walking down the road, the pay phone started ringing, and I just answered it on chance. You can’t mean me.” “Well,” the operator asked, “is Mr. Gaub there or isn’t he?” “Yes, I am Ken Gaub,” he said, finally convinced by the tone of her voice that the call was real. Then Ken heard another voice say, “Yes, that’s him, operator. That’s Ken Gaub.”

Ken listened dumbfounded to a strange voice identify herself. “I’m Millie from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. You don’t know me, Mr Gaub, but I’m desperate. Please help me.” “What can I do for you?” Ken answered. She began weeping. Finally she regained control and continued, “I was about to commit suicide, had just finished writing a note, when I began to pray and tell God I really didn’t want to do this. Then I suddenly remembered seeing you on television and thought if I could just talk to you, you could help me. I knew that was impossible because I didn’t know how to reach you. I didn’t know anyone who could help me find you. Then some numbers came to mind, and I scribbled them down.”

At this point she began weeping again. Ken prayed silently for wisdom to help her. She continued, “I looked at the numbers and thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if I had a miracle from God, and He has given me Ken’s phone number? I decided to try calling it. I can’t believe I’m talking to you. Are you in your office in California?” Ken replied, “Lady, I don’t have an office in California. My office is in Yakima, Washington.” A little surprised, she asked, “Oh really, then where are you?” “Don’t you know?” Ken responded. “You made the call.” She explained, “But, I don’t even know what area I’m calling. I just dialed the number that I had on this paper.” “Ma’am, you won’t believe this, but I’m in a phone booth in Dayton, Ohio!” “Really?” she exclaimed. “Well, what are you doing there?” Ken kidded her gently, “Well, I’m answering the phone. It was ringing as I walked by, so I answered it.”

Knowing this encounter could only have been arranged by God, Ken began to counsel the woman. She told him of her despair and frustration and he told her about Jesus and how he could lift her despair. In a matter of moments, she met Christ and was on her way to a different life.

Ken walked away from the telephone booth with an electrifying sense of our God’s very personal love for each of His children. What were the astronomical odds of this happening? With all the millions of phones and innumerable combinations of numbers, only an all-knowing God could have caused that woman to call that number in that phone booth at that moment in time. Bursting with exhilaration, he headed back to his family, but wondering if they would believe his story. Even though he thought he probably should keep quiet, as soon as Ken saw his wife he shouted, “Barb, you won’t believe this! God knows where I am!”

Ladies and gentlemen that is the miracle of Christmas! Over 2000 years ago God the Creator made a very personal call to each of us when he came to us as a little child. Angels proclaimed his birth to humble shepherds who overcame their fear and, as Ken Gaub, were the first to answer that call in wonderment and seek out that child. That little child grew up and experienced all the joys and sorrows that that we, the Created, experience. He showed us the way to live in God’s presence through him. He showed us that no matter how sad we may be at times, no matter how we may suffer at times, we have a future in Him. That no matter what we have done, no matter where we are, he loves us. By coming to us in Jesus, God says to each of us, “I know where you are and I love you.” So every Christmas, it comes to me anew. Just like Ken Gaub’s phone call, the meaning hits me again: “God knows where I am and loves me!”

So Merry Christmas! God knows where you are and loves you! He calls us personally through Jesus. Don’t be afraid to answer the phone!

© 2009, Thomas M. Trezise


  1. HELEN CINDRICH on September 30, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    What a neat story, well told. I hope it makes every person who hears it remember a time when they realized God’s love and his nearness.

    It’s not all the time, and it doesn’t have to be. Throughout the day, over and over, I say, “Sweet Jesus, I love you, make me love you more and more.” I don’t feel his hand on my shoulder, but I know he is listening. It is times like the experience of Ken Gaub that make us smile and know he is near. Thank you.

  2. Pam Bowers on October 2, 2009 at 12:16 am

    Stories like this just re-emphasize so strongly how real our God is!

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Welcome, I'm Tom

I'm Tom Trezise a retired lawyer and corporate executive with over twenty years of experience as a Methodist lay preacher. Raised in Appalachia, I proudly call myself a hillbilly at heart. I'm the executive director of The Everyday Kingdom, a non-profit devoted to fostering a community that helps people find and experience the peace, purpose, and joy available from living every day in Christ’s kingdom.

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