Sometimes you never know that you have one until you lose it.

Now I have lost many “golden opportunities” of many different kinds. In fact, I don’t even know of all of the opportunities that I could have taken, but didn’t. There are so many times I could have gone the extra mile by setting the table without being asked, or mopping and sweeping the kitchen floor, or even just talking to a lonely stranger at church.

Those are opportunities? you ask. Yes, those are opportunities…and golden ones, at that. Opportunities to shine our lights for Jesus, opportunities to show a lost person the way, opportunities to share a comforting word.

(Wow, I’m having a hard time spelling “opportunities” now!)

Many times I had a chance to share the gospel or cheer a person up. But I didn’t make the most of the moment, and that needy person passed on by. Sometimes I don’t even see an opportunity because I’m not looking for one.

But if I were you, I wouldn’t want to hear about those lost opportunities of mine.

So I’ll spare you.

Instead, I’ll tell you about an opportunity that crossed my path exactly one week ago…one that wasn’t lost.

My whole family was at a graduation one night, and the graduate had several horses in her barn. Naturally, we wanted to go see the horses, so off we went.

You may be wondering by now what opportunity we could possibly come by out in a barn full of hay and horses. But no worries…I’ll get to that in two jiffies.

You see, soon after we entered the barn, I decided to explore the area behind the stalls. I stepped around a corner…

…and froze.

Someone was curled up in the hay with a notebook. The person wore a red jacket, jeans, and…

…and I don’t remember what else, because one split second later I was high-tailing it out of that barn, and my brothers, sisters, and friend were close behind.

Once we were in the safety of the cold, windy outdoors, we began to discuss who that person was and what they were doing. We all have pretty good imaginations. My friend, Jasa, was sure it was a guy…she thought she’d seen a red cap in the few blurry seconds it took us to get out of the barn.

I was sure it was a girl. Because what guy would be curled up in a haystack writing in a notebook? No guy I know!

The place where the opportunity comes is when, after we’d had the chance to think about it for a while, we decided to go back in the barn. After all, we had permission to be in there.

But we needn’t have worried. The person was gone. Or so we assumed.

Now that we didn’t need to worry about the strange person in the barn, I decided once more that I was going to explore. Even behind the stalls, you can reach over a short wall and touch the horses, so I was busily combing my fingers through one mare’s mane when I looked over my shoulder…

…and froze.

There was that person again…only this time, she’d moved to a different spot. And yes, it was a “she”. (See Jasa? I told you guys don’t curl up in the hay and write in notebooks!) I stared at this mysterious “she” for a long time, willing her to lift up her head and look at me.

For minutes I stared. And for minutes, she kept on writing in her notebook. And at last…here’s my opportunity. Either I walk away, or else I take the opportunity to talk to her and try to make a new friend.

Everybody else was ready to leave the barn, but not me. I was going for making a new friend. And I was NOT going to leave until I’d at least talked to her.

Finally she lifted up her head for a fraction of a second, and I blurted out the nearest thing to my mind. “Excuse me, but are we disturbing you?”

Dumb, huh?

But it worked. She lifted up her head and smiled. She had laugh-lines around her mouth, so she couldn’t be dangerous. *Smile* We found out that her name was Rachel, she was the cousin of the graduate, she liked to write stories in her notebook and the barn was a perfect place to write, and lots of other cool stuff about her. She told us that she hadn’t wanted to disturb us, so she was quiet and minding her own business.

Unlike me.

But I’m glad I didn’t mind my own business, because we got to talk to Rachel till eleven thirty that night.

Yup. Those opportunities make lifetime friends. They give you a whole evening of laughter and jokes.

And even the opportunities that are hard to take, and sometimes messy or gross…well, those can be some of most encouraging things you can do for other people, and, most importantly, for God.

Don’t lose them.