Little surprises of hope and love

Roger Hutchison is the director of Christian Formation and Parish Life for the Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas.  He is also a painter.  After the horrific shooting at the elementary school in Sandy Hook, he was invited to paint with children who had witnessed the massacre.  The experience had a profound effect on Roger and he determined to dedicate his art and writing skills to serve those who grieve.
  As a result of his work, he has written and illustrated two books, The Painting Table: A Journal of Loss and Joy and My Favorite Color is Blue - Sometimes.  I have purchased several copies of My Favorite Color is Blue - Sometimes for my office at the hospital and church.  The day will come when I will need to share this book for a family whose child has died.
On Christmas Eve Sunday a friend of mine visited our church.  John is a Mennonite pastor and educator.  He has not visited our church in the nearly six years I have been there.  I was showing My Favorite Color is Blue to my congregation when I noticed John writing on his Sunday bulletin.  Assuming he wanted a copy, I took it over to him and told him it was a gift from our congregation.  
After the service John approached me and said that his sister had died just three weeks ago of ovarian cancer.  During the last year of her life she started painting mandalas.  He was very appreciative of the gift and thanked me for the book.
Is all of this just a coincidence?  Perhaps it is.  But I think there is something divinely fortuitous that John visited our church on that day, as I happened to be sharing a book about grief and loss, and felt inspired to give it to him.  I did not realize it in the moment of giving, but later understood it as sacred improvisation.  The Spirit of God moves among us inspiring grace, even when we do not recognize it at the time.
The other day I was walking through the hospital lobby.  A family with four children was busy in one corner.  The fifth child was getting an x-ray for a possible broken arm.  The dad called out to me, “Hello, Father!”  As I walked over to them one of their little boys ran up to me, wrapped his arms around me, and gave me a big hug.  I had never met them before in my life.  Another accidental blessing from an angel unaware.  
Not too long ago we used the word “serendipity” quite a bit.  I don’t hear it used very much anymore.  It means chance, providence, coincidence, or kismet.  But I think God is a serendipitous God.  We encounter God in accidental ways, in meetings we did not plan or schedule.  More often than not we bump into God in off-handed ways.  God visits when an unexpected friend drops by, or a child blesses you with a hug, or a grieving one paints for you.  That is our daily connection with the Creator: little surprises of hope and love.
I hope you bump into God a lot this year, even when you are dropped on your backside.  It’s amazing what you can see, flat on your back, looking up.  May yours be a blessed New Year.

Chaplain Gary Blaine, D.Min., provides Pastoral Care at Susan B. Allen Memorial Hospital.  He received his Doctorate of Ministry from Emory University, and holds certifications as a grief counselor and a grief group facilitator.  He can be reached via e-mail at