Heaven offers what we didn't pay for

Friday, November 18, 2011

My husband Dave had found our destination online, and we were all excited after looking at the advertisement for this resort featuring fully-equipped log cabins, a majestic lake, tennis courts and fire pits. But the best part was the special they were running --only $39 a night. Surely there was some mistake, I told Dave. This was too good to be true. Our three sons were 13, 12 and 8 at the time, and this was the first trip we had ever taken that was not baseball or grandparent related. With our recent move to Texas and no connections there, this was the perfect Thanksgiving solution.

We left our home that afternoon, Dave's small water scamp boat in tow. Tennis rackets, swimsuits, sunscreen, s'mores -- essentials for our Kumbaya sing-a-long (my idea, no one else's), and even a few logs for the stone fireplace were packed in the back of our truck, along with several books I would finally read.

As we neared our destination in the early evening, something wasn't quite right. The resort's welcome sign --weather-worn and broken from its base -- was upside down in thorny brush alongside the ditch. "Perhaps some high winds came through here last night," Dave offered, attempting to break the silence. It didn't work. None of us spoke.

Checking in at the "welcome center" didn't take long since we were the only vehicle there. Things were nothing like the pictures. Muddy paths led from one dinky cabin to another; there were no restaurants on site; and everything was in disrepair. Dave, ever the "Think of this as an adventure" kind of cheerleader, paid the caretaker and began unpacking the truck, refusing to heed our pleas to return home. Amidst much grumbling, we dragged our suitcases to our cabin. The front porch, featuring several rocking chairs in the ad, was the size of a twin bed. Dave pointed to the lone chair on it, telling me I could "read while enjoying the lake view." I told the boys to take off their shoes before entering the cabin. No sooner had they stepped inside than they began hopping around. Who would have known a thread-bare carpet could hold so many cockleburs!

Dave was determined to salvage this disaster. Attempting to rally the troops, he suggested they grab their fishing poles and take the boat out "for a spin." They were halfway across the lake when I noticed some dark clouds rolling in off the horizon. A couple of lightning bolts later, the scamp turned around . . . and stopped. Dave began fiddling with the motor just as the downpour began, but within a few seconds, I saw the boys reach for the oars. Thirty minutes later, they arrived back at the cabin, drenched and incapable of finding any humor in their fishing fiasco. Unfortunately, there were no washers or dryers on site. Nor was there a television, and for some reason the boys were in no mood to play the board games we had brought along. They took turns showering, all the while shocked by how the water drained right under the house and the plastic liner's seal didn't connect, so they could talk to one another through the gap in the wall.

The next morning we headed to the tennis courts. What a surprise! There was no net, and cracks in the concrete resembled small ravines. The basketball hoop -- no net, just a hoop -- hung lopsidedly at one end. That was it. Dave finally was forced to surrender.

There is an old adage that says "You get what you pay for." We certainly did, but there is one place that isn't true, and that's in Heaven. The Bible's advertisement reads like this: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1Cor. 2:9). We've been offered Paradise, yet we paid nothing for it. Jesus Christ did, and we can be assured there is no false advertising for what is in store for those who choose Him. And thankfully, no cockleburs, either.