New England winters are better when you can sit by a roaring fire. And if you want to keep that fire roaring in the fireplace, you need good supplies of firewood and kindling. For years I have lugged in the logs only to discover that I had soiled or torn nice clothing in the process. Then, one winter evening we were visiting lifelong friends when I noticed that John hauled in his firewood quite nattily rolled up in a handy, sturdy blanket. I made a mental note to myself to solve the problem with one of those rugged firewood blankets in which I could roll up a few logs and carry them inside.

The next summer found my wife and me spending a rainy afternoon inside LL Bean in Freeport, Maine. As we strolled around looking at everything imaginable from kayaks to cable-knit sweaters, something caught my eye: a display of those marvelous roll-up blankets for carrying firewood. We had a goodly amount of store credit to spend, and my wife very graciously encouraged me to splurge for once and buy one. “You lug in firewood all winter long. Why not do that without getting soot and splinters all over your clothes from now on?”

So, we sauntered over to the display and I soon found ones just like the one my buddy John owned. We lingered a while as I looked them all over, making sure I did not choose exactly like his. Soon a kind and helpful salesman walked up and asked if he could help. I explained my need and he pointed out totes on the next rack over. “These are great, too,” he said. I was not deterred. I wanted one like John’s. That’s what I came over here for, and I didn’t want to be distracted. But I politely asked, “Why would I want a tote like that?” “Well,” he said, “you can very handily carry kindling in here– broken up sticks and twigs– and they won’t fall out. If you buy a roll-up blanket, they will fall out of that. A lot of our customers have returned to buy one of these too. They get tired of having their pieces of kindling fall out of the roll-up kind.” He showed me one off the rack. “They’re so sturdy that you can carry logs inside them too, but used as a tote, you can carry a lot of small pieces without them sliding out.”

So, there I was. Inside, a part of me wanted to just buy what I had come for. But here was information that was so full of experience and wisdom, that I had to change my mind and go in a new direction. For months I had been imagining having one of those roll-up blankets. Now I was being talked into something else.

When the first chilly days hit in October, I pulled out my trusty tote bag and enjoyed how easy it was to drag both logs and kindling into the living room. The tote was so handsome, we just kept it right by the fireplace. No more unsightly pile of twigs, branches, old newspapers, and junk mail next to the fireplace. And, now that ugly pile did not have to be moved every time a toddler came to visit.

Recently I pondered this: if God encourages or sometimes even forces me to choose something against my preconceived notion of what I thought I wanted, isn’t it very likely that He knows best? If an LL Bean salesman can help me choose the right tote bag, how much more would the creator of the universe know what’s best for me?

So many people in New England make an entire lifetime of decisions without even imagining that the guidance for those decisions could come from God and His Word. Look at the sadness, the broken lives, and tragedies that have come from people making life choices that are harmful to themselves and others. Imagine how different things could be if the people of this region sought to align their life choices with what God, who loves us all more than we can ever know, wants for them.

God always has our best in mind.

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