I continue to be amazed at how God surprises me just when I need it the most.  Just when I think I’ve got it figured out God suddenly and often joyfully sticks his hand deep into my life and I am surprised by God’s grace and love.

As the season of Advent bore down upon me and my schedule became crazier and crazier and more overloaded than common sense allows for I was feeling exhausted and over-worked.  I just couldn’t imagine how the church could expect one more thing of me or could look me in the eye and think of one more thing to add to my calendar.  What with lots of extra special events (but they still take lots of extra energy and time just the same) and with so many people sick or in the hospital or at the nursing home and with a brand new knee injury making it extremely painful and difficult for me to get around I was feeling pretty put upon and yes, more than a little grouchy about it all.  When a colleague put on his Facebook Page that he was exhausted and the demands of his pastoral position were making it difficult for him to focus on the spiritual meaning of the season and taking the joy away I readily identified and groused a little more.  Thank goodness my wife and my secretary listen to my grousing kindly but without judging me badly for it.

Just then, grousing all the way, I went to visit one of our special people in an Assisted Living home.  I was exhausted before I even walked out to the car to drive down through traffic, worrying all the way about whether I’d find a parking place or not.  It’s a big contrast I thought from when I first came into the ministry.  In the old days nursing homes, hospitals and assisted living facilities all had a parking place reserved for clergy.  Now they not only don’t but seem to care less about who or what clergy bring to the people in the facility.  Clergy just aren’t valued as much by society as they once were.  It’s probably a good thing actually.

After a lovely visit and just as I was about to leave a lady who worked in the home stuck her head in the door and announced it was time for Worship Services but that the pastor who was leading the services was sick and wouldn’t be there.  Our lovely member and my great friend piped up with pride, “Oh, this my pastor”.  Before I could run or hide the lady at the door said “Great, he can come with you and help us out today…God helps in strange ways”.  What the heck could I do?  Already running late, already holding Debbie up with my part of the newsletter, already feeling tired and hassled and still with one more stop to make before returning to the church I went up and joined and helped with the worship service.  My heart wasn’t in the best place, or even in the right place but I knew what was right and what I had to do.

I went in thinking I was the one giving.  I left feeling I was the one who had received.  As the residents of the home shared what memories were special to them at Christmas I heard wonderful stories from people who were in their 80s and 90s telling about their grandparents and Christmas experiences from long ago.  I heard a story about some kind of shoes I had seen pictures of but never knew what they were called.  I was touched deeply by new friends.  I shared in a prayer, helped lead the off key but heartfelt singing and walked out renewed and refreshed.  I went in thinking I was the giver, I left knowing I was the receiver.

Thank you God for surprising me just when I needed it the most.  How cool is that?  It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.