Hidden Surprises Along the Way


“When science finally locates the center of the universe, some people will be surprised to learn they’re not it.”- Bernard Bailey

Surprise can be a funny thing. People often say that they like surprises, love them even. The truth is, there is really no way to know what “it” is, until it’s too late. A wrapped present is intriguing to us. It represents possibilities, hopes, dreams, things longed for. Not all surprise packages contain things we enjoy, however. Who hasn’t received a gift from someone that didn’t quite “get” you?

[Disclaimer: Dear Person, you will know who you are. Please don’t be offended. I know your heart is as big as all outdoors. I am sure I have given my share of unexpected gifts as well. I still love you. :)]  I once received a Pepto-Bismol pink Snuggie. It looked for all the world like a thneed, straight out of the pages of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. At the time, I thought it was an odd gift. However, I know the individual who gave it intended it like a warm hug which would enable me to watch movies and snuggle my kids in greater comfort. (A very thoughtful thing indeed.) The appearance of the gift may have been unexpected. The thought behind it, however, was full of love.

Many of the “surprise packages” we receive during our lives can be mixed blessings; confusing, bewildering, frightening, and unexpected in the extreme. We may look at these surprises and wonder why this particular situation came our way. We may feel angry, jealous, rejected, abandoned and hurt. If we aren’t careful, however, we can miss the message behind the gift. Long periods of waiting can make us feel forgotten or unloved. Perhaps we should try to look past the details of the season we face and realize that patience can be a great ally, especially as we work toward our goals and dreams, many of which will require much patience, forbearance and tenacity on our parts. If we cannot learn to exercise patience while we wait for basic things, how will we ever be able to withstand the more difficult trials of life? Patience has a lot in common with hard work, which is another necessary thing for us to exercise as we grow in order to be able to handle the manifestation of our hopes and dreams. The easy-peasy, sit-back-and-watch-the-clouds-roll-by life does not accomplish anything. Sooner or later, you have to get up and do something, or you will see opportunities pass you by, along with the clouds.

Like Bilbo Baggins, we can use our fear of the unknown and distaste for anything that interrupts our status-quo, predictable comforts as an excuse to stay safe, and the same (which is the same thing as stunted), forever. We might daydream of things being new and different and exciting, but the reality is just too much work. Enter: Surprise Package A! As we open it, we find a CHALLENGE to our character and a BIG QUESTION MARK. What will become of our dashing hero now? Will they rise to the occasion, or turn tail and run? Will they fall in the trap, or skillfully avoid it? We know them now, but who will they become when it’s all said and done? Who will ANY of us become?? It all depends on how we handle surprises.

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”  Galatians 5:16-26

Celebrating Along the Way


Most people are prisoners, thinking only about the future or living in the past. They are not in the present, and the present is where everything begins. 
Carlos Santana

Let’s put something on the table right now: I am crazy about the Lord of the Rings. I love the genteel way that women were treated, instead of objectified. I love the heroes who were willing to fight and struggle and sacrifice their own opinions and comfort in order to do what was right and stand up for the good things in the world.

Let’s consider Hobbits for a moment. Hobbits are very much in the moment, even though sometimes others don’t think their habits are practical or appropriate. In the movies, for instance, there were many times when the Hobbits stopped to celebrate with food or a pipe, or both. Sometimes, when danger threatens, or disaster looms, it may not always seem like a good idea to stop everything and celebrate, especially when surrounded by Nazgul.

In life, however, there can be periods of time when we seem to be constantly facing danger, hardship, or disappointment. It IS important to stop and smell the roses along the way and learn to celebrate along the way to our dreams. Maybe you didn’t land a great job (or any job, as is still the case for many) yet. Maybe you are going through unpleasant relationship issues or battling health problems or find yourself mired in legal proceedings. We are all going to be beset by “stuff” from time to time, many times, for longer than you imagined you could endure.

This doesn’t mean, however, that your life should be free from release, rest, and down time, even in the midst of your trials. For one thing, if you are able to actively enjoy things in your life even though the big picture is not going your way, you prove that you are more than just your circumstances. You show the world that life does not have to be perfect in order to find meaning and enjoyment in the midst of it. When you are willing to invite a fellow traveler into your life by means of encouragement, help, companionship, and compassion, you are punching a giant hole in the darkness that hovers over this world. Not everyone will understand when you celebrate your milestones and make the best of a tough situation, but you will be much happier on the whole because of it.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter —
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousnesswill go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. Isaiah 58 : 6-12