Can We Delight in the Unexpected?


For some reason, it can be so easy to view the word unexpected negatively. All the commercials and ads that remind us to plan for or prepare for the unexpected reinforce it. Don’t misunderstand. It is important to do. That is why we want insurance for and on all sorts of things and why we try to put some money away “for a rainy day”. If we have lived very long at all, we know how important that is. We never know what is going to happen so preparing for as much as we can is a good thing.

One of those times happened to us one summer when our HVAC system had to be replaced. Ouch! I kept thinking it wasn’t that long ago when we did that, but somehow those sorts of things don’t seem to get recorded accurately in time.

I know several people who were slammed with big-ticket items that needed to be replaced in recent months. In one case they had multiple things happen within a short period of time. The stuff we have never lasts as long as we hope and in our modern era we have come to rely on more things than ever before to help us accomplish things handled more simply even 50 years ago.

Beyond expected ‘things’ breaking down, there are those other events that come into play. A job loss is often unexpected and so are so many medical issues that happen in our lives. And of course there are accidents of all kinds that ruin our cars, our homes, our property, and our bodies. It is little wonder that the word unexpected gets a bad rap. The word is usually attached to something negative.

As a result of the history we have with the word, it can tempt us to anxiety and fear. Somehow we all feel better when we have more control. I am not sure why we keep forgetting that we really don’t actually have control over very much except for our choices and our responses to things.

All this bad news about the word unexpected can cause us to forget that some times the unexpected is something good or even better than that. Maybe we miss it because we tend to use a different word then. We choose the word surprise. It’s odd because a surprise may not always be a great thing, but our connotation of that word is much different than unexpected tends to be.

I don’t think the unexpected takes the Lord by surprise. Because of that I wonder if He also hopes we will trust Him enough to know the unexpected will come, but so will He. He will be there with us to shepherd us through it all, provide, show a way of escape, or bring healing and comfort. If we are tuned in to listening to Him in the midst of the unexpected and respond in obedience and lean into Him, we will be reminded of how faithful He is. He has never promised us that life would be easy or without trials and suffering. The Lord admonished the disciples as he sent them out that their life would not be easy on any level and it is no less true for us today.

But let’s get back to what I wanted to remind you of about that word unexpected. Do you remember when Jesus was at the wedding in Cana and the host ran out of wine? When Jesus changed the water into wine (the very best wine at that), was that not unexpected by the guests as well as the host of the wedding? When Jesus invited Peter to meet Him on the water where He was walking was that not an unexpected invitation and faith builder when Peter actually did?

Sometimes the unexpected happens in our life in less dramatic ways that are no less impactful. One of our granddaughters was facing a very tough week while in her last semester of nursing school a few years ago with several major tests. One of them really left her frustrated and unconvinced she had passed, while another seemed like it was probably going to result in a good grade. The unexpected happened when she learned she did do well on the test she felt good about, but the one she felt not as good about actually resulted in an even higher grade.

Barry C. Black reminded me of that in his book, Nothing to Fear, when he said,

“God delights in doing the unexpected in our lives, saving the best for last. He wants us to experience life to the fullest, and he has given us principles and commandments to keep us from the pitfalls of sin. He surrounds us with the shield of his favor, and he delights in surprising us in the eleventh hour.”

One other unexpected comes to mind that we must not forget is that the return of Jesus will happen suddenly and unexpectedly as Paul describes it in 1 Thessalonians 5 “like a thief in the night”. We are to be prepared as the story of the wise and foolish virgins tell us, but as his children that unexpected day (or night) will be the very best ever if we remain committed and watchful versus careless in our words, actions, or spiritual growth.

Expect the unexpected, but never forget it doesn’t surprise the Lord.


The Gift of Curiosity


When I mention the word curiosity I wonder what comes to your mind. It is one of those words that can have many attached experiences and feelings connected to it. By definition it is in itself neither innately good nor bad, but can lead to either of those poles. Perhaps that is because I think it is a God-given gift. As such, it has incredible potential and the enemy knows it well and also seeks to use it to draw us to “the dark side.”

A dictionary defines curiosity this way: “a strong desire to know or learn something”.

At the very beginning of life we see an infant and later a toddler as a great example of curiosity. Their curiosity is what propels them forward to learn the most basic things. In that quest they sometimes get into danger or trouble, but without curiosity they would never learn.


Curiosity spurs our imagination and wonder. Can you imagine what curiosity and wonder filled Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? Can you get a glimpse of how God allowed them to use it as they named the animals? We also see how the enemy used it to draw them away from trusting Him.

Early in our lives the risks of curiosity often result in attempts to control or box it in for the stated reason of protecting us. Sometimes formal education has left little room for it. Clay P. Bedford addressed the value of curiosity in education in these words:

“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.”

We all know the expression that “curiosity killed the cat” and yet a closer evaluation should remind us that curiosity resulted in the discovery of penicillin that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. (Just one example of so many)

Curiosity has provided the grist for every new discovery we know, every new place or peoples, each invention or medicine. It is spurred on by wonder.

“It would be very difficult to draw a line between holy wonder and real worship; for when the soul is overwhelmed with the majesty of God’s glory, though it may not express itself in song, or even utter its voice with bowed head in humble prayer, yet it silently adores.”  

Charles Haddon Spurgeon
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To lose our sense of wonder would be to lose some of the very essence of God’s image imprinted on us.

Andy Stanley once said, “Everything in life conspires against our sense of wonder: age, experience, our jobs, and even our church.”

It was curiosity that caused Moses to do a double take when he saw the burning bush that was not consumed. After he stopped to look, God called out his name in one of the most arresting moments of the Old Testament story of Moses.

How curious was Nebuchadnezzar when the flames of the fiery furnace he had sentenced them to did not consume Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? How did that speak to Him of God when not even smoke attached to them and a fourth man “like a son of the gods” was visible in the furnace with the other three?

When I consider the title of Judith Kunst’s book, The Burning Word, regarding scripture and how we approach it, how can I miss that the “burning Word” is a metaphor for the burning bush? God invites us to discover Him there.

“In his actions and in his words God continually holds out revelation, holds out wisdom, but it is hidden, and we must seek it out. If you seek me, you will surely find me, says the Lord. I will be found by you.

Moses had the burning bush, we have the Bible…If I want to come close to the God of the Bible, to step onto the holy ground of his presence, then I must wake up my curiosity and look for God in the strange, hidden, and burning places of scripture.”

Judith Kunst

I think He hopes we will be intrigued, ask questions, and pursue Him to the depths of all of who He is. Our questions will not knock Him off his throne. When I consider the breadth and scope of his work as Creator and how little of it any of us can fathom in a lifetime, I cannot help but think He delights in our discoveries for they consistently prove He is God and greater than our imagination can conceive.

I love how Dallas Willard writes about this:

“We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that He is full of joy. Undoubtedly He is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of His love and generosity is inseparable from His infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and depth and richness.”

As you seek to grow in intimacy with the Lord in solitude, silence, and opening His Word, let Him stir up curiosity to explore and mine the hidden jewels He has left for us there.

We are not used to contemplating an all-knowing God as one who is curious. But it is God who imagines freedom for us all, God whose faithful curiosity about the future of the world has set the text of the Bible eternally on fire.” 

Judith Kunst

Such a Small Thing, But How it Binds


I sometimes think it is the nibbling things that will do me in, do us all in. What do I mean by nibbling things? I am talking about little things here or there that we ignore or accept as ‘not so bad’. I can easily think of dozens of examples. Of course eating comes to mind and that old ad that says, “I bet you can’t eat just one!” For me that would be one cashew or peanut when a full dish sits on the table. Aren’t they supposed to be eaten by the handful just like popcorn (my other favorite snack)?

There are thoughts that nibble away at the truth inside us as well. It can be as small as a friend who doesn’t return a phone call or fails to remember a birthday. A stray nibbling begins— ‘I wonder if she really likes me’, ‘I thought she cared about me’, etc.

All the ploys have one overarching purpose—to deceive us. Deception is Satan’s trademark and he is truly gifted at it as we see all the way back in the Garden. The problem is that we too often miss his subtle devices today since he really doesn’t show up as a serpent while we are out admiring the apples on our trees in the orchard.


Back in that other garden he created a doubt in Eve’s mind and then deceived her into over-riding what she knew she should do. He does that with you and me as well, but it doesn’t stop with one bite of an apple (or cashew). His ultimate goal is to get us to tolerate sin within us little by little in small ways. Sin seduces us into tolerating it or sinking into despair.

The result? We become self-deceived and that sets us up to be able to do things that have escalating levels of sin and a conscience that gradually falls asleep and never gets bothered by what we are doing.

No, it doesn’t happen all at once nor to all of us to the same degree, but when we do not or will not face the truth of what we choose we open ourselves to a pattern of self-deception that automatically leads to deceiving others (sometimes without even having an awareness).

Isaiah 50: 2 warns us about the path we can find ourselves on:

“Woe to those who call evil good

and good evil,

who put darkness for light

and light for darkness,

who put bitter for sweet

and sweet for bitter!” (ESV)

How do we get caught in the trap Satan sets for us? In many ways deception acts like a narcotic because it numbs us and prevents us from feeling the pain we do not want to feel. It helps us justify the choices we make. We’re late so we speed. We’re stressed so we eat chocolate. We need copy paper for our printer at home so we take some from the office. Our spouse hasn’t been showing us much attention so we flirt just a little with the neighbor.

It can be a bit like the story of the frog in the kettle. The kettle is on the stove, but the fire is not lit so the frog jumps in. While enjoying the water, the fire gets lit and soon the frog cannot get out. The frog did not believe he was at risk to be hurt or die until it is too late.

We can start to believe what we have rationalized as being okay won’t hurt us either. Now Satan has us where he wants us. We are deceived, lying to others and ourselves about our choices. Over time our heart gets hardened so we no longer recognize or repent of our poor or sinful choices.

Too often from the very beginning, no one holds us accountable. If we are blessed with someone who loves us enough to hold us accountable early on, we will regain our footing on the solid rock of Jesus.

God meant for us to be in community one with another. We don’t see ourselves accurately many times and when we have someone who walks with us on life’s journey extending us love, grace, and mercy PLUS accountability, we improve our vision significantly and repentance becomes a habit so that our heart doesn’t harden and our soul doesn’t die. That person helps us see the small thing long before it grows into the dragon that intends on devouring us.


You Need the Right Tool

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My husband often comments that you need the right tool for the right job. A survey of his workshop area would suggest that he likely has exactly that after all these years and many times over I have appreciated that as he has repaired something that I was sure would need to be replaced. It should be evident to most all of us (even those who are not tool savvy) that a hammer can’t accomplish the task a screwdriver can, and a wrench will be used differently than a socket and ratchet set.

But men don’t have the market on how this wise adage plays out and my husband has been good at helping me in the areas where I need the right tools for the right jobs.

A kitchen is a woman’s workshop and peeking inside the drawers and cabinets in her kitchen will introduce you to a wide variety of gadgets and tools for every conceivable task she may have to create the latest recipe or the old tried and true one. And it’s surprising that for all those fancy gifts you may receive as wedding gifts, you may not use them nearly as much as others you use daily. I can think of just one exception after 57 years of marriage.

We received a beautiful set of handmade knives from a carver in our area and despite other knives we have been given or used from time-to-time, this set gets used multiple times a day and are kept wonderfully sharp through the skill of my husband using a whetstone with precision on the knife edges.

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And I am convinced that women should be involved with the design of any kitchen cabinets and drawers because we never seem to have enough of them. Years ago, no one expected you would need room for crockpots, woks, rice cookers, and more.

But have you noticed that of all the utensils you have tucked (or jammed) into a drawer or two that many of them just get shoved around in there while you actually use just a few of them routinely? Some of my favorites are old. There is an antique 3 prong fork with a wooden handle that was a part of a larger set in the farmhouse where I grew up and though I have a few other things I can substitute for that, I choose it routinely to test a potato to see if it is fully baked or to prick a pie crust I am about to put in the oven.

The tools we use most are also the ones with which we have the most practice and can be sure will do exactly what we need them to do. Hence, we will be more likely to pick up a tool we have used for years quicker than a new one we just received, or thought would be nice. The old one is tried and true.

The same principle applies in other areas of our lives as well and that includes how we use the spiritual tools given to us on ordinary days or when caught up in warfare during an enemy assault. You may have noticed that those weapons and tools already available don’t seem to be skillful in our hands if we have not practiced using them regularly.

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Remember when young David shows up to bring his brothers some bread and cheese in the Valley of Elah where Goliath is taunting the Israelites by twirling around his twenty-five-pound spear, a head and shoulder above every other warrior on the battlefield? David is stunned to see everyone cowering in the presence of Goliath and offers to take this enemy down for King Saul and claim the reward (the hand of one of the daughters of the king the story says). King Saul was likely stunned at the bravado of this young shepherd and offers him his armor without recognizing what had shaped David’s view of God in this situation.

“In the Bethlehem hills and meadows, tending his father’s sheep, David was immersed in the largeness and the immediacy of God. He had experienced God’s strength in protecting the sheep in his fights with lions and bears. He had practiced the presence of God so thoroughly that God’s word, which he couldn’t literally hear, was far more real than the lion’s roar, which he could hear. He had worshipped the majesty of God so continuously that God’s love, which he couldn’t see, was far more real than the bear’s ferocity, which he could see. His praying and singing, his meditation and adoration shaped an imagination in him that set each sheep and lamb, bear and lion into something large and vast and robust: God.”

Eugene Peterson

King Saul meant well in his offer and if we think about it, it would not have been a simple thing for David to have that armor placed on him and then turn down this offer of the king’s own armor. But David knew it would have been a disaster to rely on those weapons. They were not tried, nor did they fit him in more ways than just one. David knew who and what had been with him all those other times as a shepherd tending his father’s flocks and protecting them from enemies.

“Borrowed armor always is (a disaster). David needed what was authentic to him.”

Eugene Peterson

That is a powerful lesson for each of us today as we face our own challenges and the taunts of an enemy.

Yes, the well-known story of David and Goliath reminds us that the tried-and-true tool David chose (a sling and 5 smooth stones) was the one he knew well and was skilled in using, but it wasn’t the sling and the stones that were key. David knew God through the trials and testing of daily life and it was He that David counted on, it was God who would carry the day. David was the one who reminded the entire Israelite army of the One they had forgotten.

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Be Like a Child

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When we are children, I doubt we think a lot about what the gifts of this season of life are. From early on we seem to focus on looking forward to growing up to get to do or be the next thing that we think is so exciting. And it doesn’t seem to be a habit we let go of very early until one day we realize we are getting older (or even old), and we didn’t even notice how age was creeping up on us while we were doing life.

Not everyone looks back on childhood with warm memories of that time. Even though we may idealize it, life doesn’t usually give us the ideal. Our parents aren’t perfect. We don’t get everything we want. Not all the things we get to learn are fun. (Few of us got excited about a list of spelling words to memorize or lists of math tables to review.) It doesn’t come to mind where our food will come from if we live in a decent socioeconomic area. Though it may be simple fare and not what we enjoy, someone else usually provides it and gets clothes for us and provides us with a bed.

But beyond all that, childhood offers most of us more free time to go off exploring and not having to account for our time than any other season we will live. We spend our hours from the time we get up until we go to bed discovering the world around us from the ground up because we are “little” and closer to the ground.

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As a result, we notice things we barely see as inch upon inch causes us to get taller. We are fascinated by the most ordinary stone we discover on the ground where we are crawling or sitting. Each new thing brings with it delight or maybe pain. The stories others read to us stimulate our imaginations and when we are off discovering we can easily see ourselves as not unlike some of the characters in those stories. We can be a ballerina, a butterfly, an astronaut, or a hundred other things.

As children we are learning the basics and no matter how much we may discount them as being all that important. Most of those things will remain a part of us for the rest of our lives. (Well, not the part about being a butterfly or the next Spiderman perhaps.)

“Children’s stories go over, inch by inch, the ground on which we spend the rest of our lives eating and sleeping, walking and running, playing and working, fighting and loving, cursing and blessing.”

Eugene Peterson

By the time we are grown up, we don’t think much about those basics but it’s not only those physical basics like walking and talking, eating, and dressing ourselves that stay with us. So do those ordinary things like telling stories and what’s happening in our days, asking questions, naming things, and counting things.

“We never get away from the basics, but we do lose sensitivity to them. When we’re new to them, experiencing them for the first time, we hear and see and feel intensely. Gradually, our perceptions dull as we become preoccupied with other things. But they’re no less there, no less basic.”

Eugene Peterson

Is it possible when Jesus was telling those who followed Him when He walked the earth to become like children that He was addressing their dullness of their spiritual senses? Had they gotten so caught up in religious practices and rituals they no longer were in awe of who God is?

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Start reading one of the great stories of the Bible to a child, and he or she gets totally into the story. They are right there with David choosing just the right smooth stones to take out Goliath or marching along with the Israelites outside the walls of Jericho or looking at wonder at the walls of water they were walking through as the Red Sea parted. Of course, it happened that way and they are caught up in the excitement of the “God story” and what it must have been like while their parents are simply reading the words of a story without much thought to the visceral experience of living in that story.

Jesus told us in more than one place that we were to be like a child. Have we missed what He was reminding us of?

“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

Matthew 18:2-5 (NIV)

The crowd around Jesus didn’t think the children were all that important or significant. They weren’t studying the Torah or learning the trade of their fathers. They were just children, but Jesus makes it plain to them they possess qualities those who are older need to learn or relearn again.

What would it be like if we read that daily Bible passage through the eyes of a child? What would it change in us? How much more would we appreciate and see of God than we do through the eyes of an adult that doesn’t put themselves in the story? Have our imaginations become so stale that we don’t think about the sound of the storm as we were rocking on the ark with Noah wondering when it would ever stop? Can we not imagine how scary it would have been for Esther to be taken into the palace and groomed to be in the harem of the king (let alone be reminded by her uncle that she needed to try to save all the people from whom she descended)?

Yes, we are to grow up and put away childish things, but not to put away our childlike discovery and delight in the basics, our awe and fascination with God’s greatness and grand story.

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