The Element of Surprise

img_3748Allen had a problem.  As the new manager of the CLC Bookstore he lots of ideas for improving the customer experience and wanted to implement them as quickly as possible.  One of the biggest changes he envisioned was replacing bookshelves that had been built many years before for a store twice the size.  These old shelves, while quite functional, were also too tall.  There were no sight lines from the front of the store to the back and things felt crowded.  His first suggestion was to simply make the old shelves shorter by taking them apart one by one and cutting them down to the right size.  He even took the time to try it out on one of the shelves.  While this could have worked, it would have taken a lot of time and energy – and God had other plans.

At the beginning of November, we were approached by a local church who had closed their bookstore and had beautiful fixtures.  Ironically, those very fixtures had been in storage for a year in the building right next to our bookstore.  Before disposing of the fixtures, they wondered if we could use them.  There was only one catch – we had to get them out of the storage and into our store by the end of the month.  Always up for a challenge, Allen quickly agreed and began moving the shelves into our store and putting wheels on each one so they could be moved easily for events that needed the floor space.  By the end of the month, the bookstore looked like an entirely new place with bookshelves that cost us nothing except the time to move them and the wheels to put on them.  What an answer to prayer.

Some surprises, like getting new book shelves are wonderful and easy to celebrate, others not so much.  Nearly a decade unwanted-giftago, pastor, speaker and author, Tom Elliff, experienced one of those not so nice surprises when he learned that his dear wife Jeannie had cancer.  Tom and Jeannie had a wonderful marriage, an impactful ministry that spanned decades and a deep belief in the goodness of God.  This news would impact their lives in ways they could not anticipate and ultimately resulted in a book that Jeannie insisted that Tom should write entitled The Unwanted Gift.  After nine years of battling with this disease and going in and out of remission, Jeannie went home to be with her savior.  On her deathbed, Tom promised her he would finish the book and this past October, we had the privilege of publishing it.  This terrible surprise is being used by God to help many other people deal with their persistent, perplexing problems.

As a person who normally does not like surprises, I have come to an important realization in recent years.  The Christian life is not predictable and God does not promise us the status quo.  In many cases, He asks us to trust Him when we can’t see what’s coming around the corner.  Recently we woke up to one of those foggy morning that happens when the seasons are changing and it was hard to see anything out the window.  It is easy to get depressed and frustrated by our circumstances that seem like a deep fog in our lives.  Somehow though, just like the fog, things constantly change.   Ultimately it lifts and there is bright sunshine again or a persistent rain comes and washes away the mist.  The key that I am learning is to trust the one who makes the rain, fog, sunshine and snow.  He loves me deeply and has my good at heart even if my circumstances say otherwise.




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One response to “The Element of Surprise

  1. Elizabeth Patten

    Thank you for sharing Tom & Jennie’s testimony as well as Allen’s and also for the encouraging words, Dave. It is a little “foggy” here in Mozambique right now :).

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