Surprise!

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Just over four years ago today, my daughter called me quite upset. She had received some unexpected news. She was pregnant again! Most people would be excited, except she already had her hands full with three boys; the youngest being under 2. Her husband had the procedure most men had, but apparently, God was not done with them just yet. When she went for her sonogram and saw the face of this newborn child that God had blessed her with! She was the perfect mom and soon became excited and started planning for this surprising adventure. Turns out this child was to be another boy. My daughter and son-in-law now have four very active little boys ranging in age from 4 (today) to 10.
 
As I was thinking about his birthday and what a surprise he was, I began to think about all the little-unexpected surprises God gives us. They are all around us; some we see and some we miss. Some we are disappointed at the surprise and then look back and see what a joy it was.
 
For instance, one of the surprises is a rainbow after the rain. I am always disappointed when it rains for days on end. If it’s not raining then it’s cloudy. There are times after a rain shower the sun comes out and we step outside to see a beautiful rainbow. I know it can be explained by the weatherman, but I think to think it is an unexpected surprise from God. God reminds us in Genesis 9:13, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
 
I think about the surprise of forgiveness and his lack of memory. We mess up and hold on to it for what seems like forever, but once we confess it to God it’s gone. He has wiped the slate clean and doesn’t even remember we did it. It’s no longer in his memory. It may still be in ours, but in his mind, it’s gone. 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
 
There are times I can’t even love myself. For whatever reason, I get in a funk and think I am unlovable. Maybe it’s because I messed up or maybe it’s because I am lonely or for whatever reason, it just doesn’t matter. Those times God comes along and shares this secret with me, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39.
 
One day I was in the hospital with another daughter in Indiana. She delivered her baby and was in stress. She had a seizure right before my eyes. Now I had not seen anyone have a seizure before and it scared me to death. As the doctors and nurses were working with her, I was out in the hall praying for peace. My husband was still in Texas and I was alone. A few seconds passed and I received a phone call from a dear friend in Indiana. She called me because God had placed it in her heart to call and ask if I was okay. When I told her no, she immediately went into prayer. By the time we finished I was calm and at peace. God gives us surprises through friends calling just when we need them. What a surprise this call was. I had not planned on calling anyone. I couldn’t even think, but God knew what I needed and surprised me. This isn’t the only time I have received a phone call that I wasn’t expecting and needed it.
 
Just recently I went on a fishing trip early in the morning. I wasn’t expecting anything special. What God surprised me with was more than I expected. The beautiful sunrise, the fellowship of my husband and the witness of God has given the guide was an unexpected surprise.
 
If we look at things from a different perspective we can see God surprises us all the time. I was not happy about coming to Texas and leaving family behind, but God surprised me and this has been one of the most exciting adventures I have been on.
 
Some surprises are not what we expected or wanted. Like the death of a child or a spouse. Those are unexpected surprises we can do without. In those times, we can find God sprinkling surprises around us all the time. It may be a friend who comes without asking and stays by our side doing those things we aren’t capable of. It may be the surprise of peace and calm for those first few days. I am always surprised by the amount of food that comes to our homes when a loved one has died. You don’t always think about cooking or fixing a meal. Then the door bell rings and you are surprised by all the food that shows up at your door. I am always surprised by all the kindness and love that God surrounds you with during those difficult times. They are not the surprises we like, but God makes sure we can get through those unexpected surprises.
 
Surprises are things that happen that you didn’t plan on. God’s grace is one of them. God offers us grace when we least expect it. God’s strength is given when we least expect it. God’s peace comes to us just when we think we can’t go on anymore.
 
When is the last time you’ve received an unexpected surprise? I know all of us have at one time or another. Can you see how God was involved in your surprise either by offering it or helping you get through it?
 
We have been blessed by Luke’s birth even though he was a surprise. He has been and is a handful; all boy – full of energy. He is never still. My son-in-law once joked if they had Luke first he would have been the last. God’s hand was in this little package and he has turned out to be nothing but a joy to all his little life has touched. God touches our lives with surprises. How we deal with them is what makes them a blessing.
 
I challenge you to journal the next surprise. What did God teach you through these unexpected surprises?
 
Dear God: I thank you for all the little ones that came unexpected and for their parents. May you bless each unexpected surprise. Give us grace when we least expect it, bring us a shower of love when we feel unloveable and bring us peace when life throws us those surprises that are not needed or wanted. Thank you for the surprise of a rainbow after the rain. May it remind us of the covenant you have with your people. Amen.
 
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I Can’t Get That Song Out of My Life!

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Have you ever had a phrase, scripture or song that just keeps coming up over and over in your life? I am not talking about a short period but over several years? That has been happening to me. It started years ago.
 
Back in 2005, in the Spring, I left my church and family behind because my husband had been transferred to a plant halfway across the United States, down south. We were moving to Texas. Jokingly, I told people he was being transferred; I was being called. I just didn’t know how true that was. The last hymn played in my church on that day was a song called, “Here I Am Lord.” The words to the chorus are, “Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.” I didn’t give that incident much thought nor did I think too much about the song or those word at the time.
 
When we got to Texas later on that same month, I began praying for a church and church family. How would I ever know which church or what congregation? I started praying God would show me visibly which church he wanted me in. I attended the local church of the same denomination for a trial run, thinking, later on, I would try other churches. After several weeks feeling pretty comfortable in this church I began to explore the idea of testing the waters and looking for another church. I wasn’t unhappy, but I wanted to see what else was out there. Before I started my test, I went in one Sunday morning and something was different. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I knew it was different. As the service progressed the song, “Here I Am, Lord” was sung (I can’t remember if it was a solo or the choir had sung it or a congregational song). Goose bumps began to form and tears soon filled my eyes. I knew God had answered my prayer and had visibly sent me a sign. Now God knows I am stubborn in my thinking. For whatever reason, over the next several weeks that song was played many times. I know the choir did a number, I know the congregation sang it once and I remember a soloist singing it. I remember praying to God, “Ok, I got it! I am home! This is my home church.”
 
Over the years this song has popped up in my life either in my devotion time or praying or at church. I would say this is my theme song. Just recently it has popped up again. I believe I needed a reminder a couple of weeks ago.
 
I had been home to Indiana and while attending church with my daughter we sang that song again. As I was headed back to Texas I made some remark about how I was going back to my mission field. I was really making a joke about it; only half believing what I said. Then God reminded me I had just sung that song about sending me and holding his people in my heart.
 
Then recently I volunteered to read scripture in my class at church. I was given a Luke passage. Another man volunteered to read a passage as well. The teacher then directed him to read the Luke passage and gave me Isaiah. Can you guess what passage it was? Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” I believe in God incidents and intervention. I could have easily read the Luke passage, but at the last minute, it was changed. I got the scripture I was to read for a reason. I believe it was to remind me there is a reason I am here in Texas. I may joke about Texas is my mission field, but I believe God is telling me this is no joke; this is your mission field.
 
Now for the main point, if you have something that keeps coming up over and over pay attention to it! It could be God talking to you; giving you a message or directing your path. If you find yourself hearing the same message in various ways it’s not a random thing. It’s God wanting you to know and believe something. Take some time right now; stop reading this and think about the message you have been getting over and over and over. What is it telling you? Are you focusing on it or are you dismissing it from your mind? Could God be sharing something with you, directing you in a new area, or guiding you to do something?
 
The other thing I want to stress is this: God does not always move us to a different location to do missions. Most of the time God calls us to do mission work right where we are. Our mission work could involve our families, our mission work could involve our neighbors, our church or a community organization that needs volunteers. You do not have to move halfway across the country or move to a new country to do mission work. Mission work is sometimes within our households or right outside our doors. You can do mission work every day doing everyday things. You can do mission work as you are shopping at the grocery store simply by saying, “God bless you. Have a great day” to the clerk who is having a bad day. Or you may offer to pray for her or him. There are people who are struggling that we pass every day. Have you thought about stopping and asking that clerk if she needs prayer and tell her you will pray for her?
 
There are many organizations struggling because they don’t have enough help with what they do. Have you thought about giving your time to a non-profit who needs volunteers? Our schools need adults who will read or listen to children. Our hospitals are in need of volunteers most of the time.
 
Our neighbors are struggling with raising kids, getting kids to where they need to be, feeding their family, homework, and the list goes on. What can you do help your neighbor? Take a meal once a week, offer to drop the kids off, help with homework? There are lots of things we could do to help, but we don’t think about that being mission work, but it is.
 
In the first verse, there is a phrase that says, “I have heard my people cry. All who dwell in dark and sin my hand will save.” We are God’s hands and feet. We are the ones God will send, but first, we have to say to him, “I will go, Lord. If you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.”
 
Are we holding God’s people in our hearts? Are we willing to move outside our churches, our homes, and our comfort zones? Are you willing to be sent?
 
God is asking, “Whom shall I send? What will be your answer?
 
Dear God: Thank you for reminding me Texas is my mission field. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. Help me as I spend my time doing what you have called me to do. Help us to hold your people in our hearts. Help us hear you as you call us to be missionaries right where we are. Whom will you send Lord? It is I if you will lead me. I will hold your people in my heart. Amen