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
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Beauty for Ashes


“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be blade that was broken, the crown-less again shall be king.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

These are tough times when many have seen dreams dashed and hopes shattered. There is pain and struggle as people struggle to overcome or re-build their damaged lives. It is really unclear how many people are actually affected, because the hearty, proud and stalwart bread-winners of our country do not like to admit that they cannot help themselves out of a hole when they fall in one. Patience and understanding are at a premium these days, as well as compassion and HOPE.

Today I read an article which broke my heart. It was from a fellow-blogger who was discussing the reasons behind Sesame Street having to cover the issue of food stamps and childhood hunger. (You can read the article here.) The fact that this is even a question for any child SHOULD be heart breaking. Sadly, many of us have become immune to this issue, and many, many others. We give up, we discount our ability to help one, or two, or three or a few. Now, however, the problems are knocking at our own front doors like the Big Bad Wolf. Where do we turn for sympathy? Who do we ask for help?

It is discouraging for many of those who suffer from lost income, surprise medical conditions, crushing debt, hunger, homelessness, and the overwhelming feeling that they might not make it to see the fulfillment of their dreams. It is discouraging for these people to see and hear their more fortunate friends and family relate stories of shopping sprees, vacations, new cars, new houses, and promotions at work. There is so much trouble all around us, our sensitivity is incredibly crucial for those who are facing troubles that genuinely make them wonder how they will pull through this new test.

For those who have or are facing these kinds of trials, there is hope even in the midst of your suffering and confusion, and your dark night will have a dawn. Don’t you dare give up!!

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.                                                                                     

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
    foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
    you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
    and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.

“For I, the Lord, love justice;
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
    and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
    that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”

I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up
    and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
    and praise spring up before all nations. Psalm 61