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surpriseLast week, we had the first meeting of our pastor search committee.  One of the men brought a list of things that we need to remember as we go through the process.  It includes obvious things like seek God (#1) and pray (#2).  Item #3 surprised me although it shouldn’t have:  Be open to God’s surprises.

I laughed out loud.

Recently, our church hired a new choir director.  We, the members of the choir, knew exactly what we wanted.  No, not wanted.  We knew what we needed.  This person had to be an excellent musician and vocalist, able to play the organ and piano, and direct our choir as well.  Obviously, our ideal candidate would have to be middle aged, at the very least, to have all this experience and also to get along with our older congregation.

God has an amazing sense of humor.  He sent us Zack who can coax hymn after hymn out of our quirky pipe organ.  He can sing our various parts, switching from one to another without missing a beat, while signaling each section when to come in and drop out.  Then there’s the added bonus – he’s a teacher, talented in explaining to us how to bring out a fuller sound, how to blend and much, much more.

The surprise?  He’s in his mid-twenties.  We are his first church choir.  His talents in working with 7-year-olds seem to work just as well on us.

Yes, we realized that he was the right candidate for us but this decision was slow and painful in coming, because we knew what we needed.  Laugh all you want.  God knew better.

Think about this throughout this holiday season.  How often do you plan the spontaneity and possibly the Spirit out of your celebrations?

I know, I know.  It takes a certain amount of planning to get Thanksgiving dinner on the table, cards in the mail and gifts bought, made and wrapped by Christmas.  Without at least some planning, things don’t get done.

But, in the upcoming weeks, remember to check in with God now and again.  Take time to pray.  Listen for His still, small voice as you go through your day. You may think that you know exactly what needs to be done but be open to gentle nudges from above.  If you accept the surprises He sends your way, I promise you, the results will be amazing.


One week after my father died*, the world lost another great guy. Though I didn’t know him very well, I can honestly call him a friend. He was always kind, thoughtful and deeply considerate. He’d suffered for well over a month before his death. The final diagnosis was — get ready for it — West Nile Virus. He was not infected while gallivanting about the pyramids, mind you. He lived in Southern Indiana. Please, think about this. I want you to understand the enormity of it: A super-nice guy was bitten by a mosquito in Indiana…and died a horrible death. Now, I get stung by mosquitoes all the time. They love me. But I never once considered it more than an annoying itch. Death never once entered my mind. Why should it?

Do I seem bitter? I guess I am. The randomness of the whole thing has gotten under my skin. (Like a mosquito’s proboscis, am I right?**) It just seems so very wrong. Unplanned. Stupid. Where is the movement of Providence in a death like that?

Which brings us to the four toughest words in our, or any other, language: Thy will be done. We say it all the time in The Lord’s Prayer. But how much do we mean it? Aren’t we always hedging our bets — thy will be done, except—? Thy will be done, only don’t forget about—? Thy will be done, but could you just do this one thing first? Or this, my favorite, thy will be done — but not that. That should not be done. Not only do we have no right to say these things — God doesn’t, after all, owe us anything — what good does it do us? Human beings have amply demonstrated their inability to run their own lives with anything resembling focused intention. We should be glad to give our will over to God. But we aren’t.

The pastor at our church recently said that we should not pray for things we want. We should pray instead that our wills be molded to God’s. We should want what God gives us, however hard that is. It shouldn’t be so difficult. God wants us to be happy, after all. God loves us. And God is a big-picture person, in a way that we cannot be. God’s got the bird’s-eye view.

A person in mourning can’t see the greater purpose of a death like my friend’s. But I have to believe that there is one. Because even if there isn’t, I’d rather live like there is. That’s where faith lives and breathes. I’d rather live believing that Someone Out There sees the whole puzzle than think for one minute that solving this thing is up to me. Life is too short, and eternity too long, to believe otherwise.

So here it is: God’s will be done. Go ahead. Bring it on. I won’t even brace myself for it. (Okay, maybe a little.)

*I refuse to use euphemisms like “passed.” Or worse, as one woman put it, “She lost her father.” I didn’t lose him. He died. He’s not pining for the fjords, for crying out loud. (That’s a shout-out to Monty Python fans, by the way.)

**Sorry. I can’t seem to stop using humor as a shield.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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