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Encouragenet

Here I Am, Lord – Surprise Me!

Our God has a list of His own for His post-retirement servants. It is His nature to have a “hidden from us” agenda for our future. Those of us who are in our post-retirement years, or are approaching that season, sometimes find ourselves in a sea of possibilities as we seek direction for service. What should I pursue now? Where can I best serve God and His people? How do I choose?

Possibilities for service abound. These could include continuing part-time in some area of pre-retirement service, trying out a totally new and unrelated activity, or perhaps a combination of those two. Another possibility would be open volunteering—that is, serving short-term in an area of need, even though it may not be my first choice; fulfilling a long-time desire (“I have always wanted to…”); furthering my education in an area of special interest through adult education, workshops, or seminars.

surprise package!Our God has a list of His own for His post-retirement servants. It is His nature to have a “hidden from us” agenda for our future. As we ponder, contemplate, and pray about these and many more possibilities, we seek the Lord’s guidance and count on His direction for our journeys through these years.

So much for our list of possibilities and considerations! Our God, however, has a list of His own for His post-retirement servants. It is His nature to have a “hidden from us” agenda for our future. After all, the well-known Jeremiah passage says, “I know the plans I have for you…” These plans are known only to Him until He decides it is time to “prosper” us.

The sainted Dr. Martin L. Koehneke, former president of what was then Concordia Teachers College, River Forest, Illinois, once centered a worship message around the theme: “Our God is a God of Surprises!” Throughout my ministry, and now in post-retirement service, I have never forgotten that statement and have experienced His surprises on many occasions. The most recent was a surprise adventure into an uncharted (for me) ministry. Was I ready for this? No! My story truly was a series of surprises. Allow me to share it with you:

Surprise! A family in our Wisconsin congregation was beginning to experience the decline of their family patriarch due to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. We were invited to the 55th anniversary of Eddie and his wife, and I was asked to play the piano for some singing and a little entertainment. I didn’t know the couple that well, but was acquainted with some of their children and grandchildren over the years through church activities and teaching in the elementary school.

We didn’t have too much in common—he was a farmer and I a city-bred teacher. Although the Alzheimer’s was progressing, he was still able to remember and talk about the farm days. I listened intently.Surprise! That day, God led me to talk one-to-one with this gentleman, Eddie, and a communication was established. We didn’t have too much in common—he was a farmer and I a city-bred teacher. Although the Alzheimer’s was progressing, he was still able to remember and talk about the farm days. I listened intently. This connection with him led me to stop by his house the next week to visit. When I arrived he greeted me with a smile and a warm handshake. We were just beginning a friendship.

His daughter contacted me soon thereafter and said that my visit had made a big difference in his spirits that day, and she asked if I would stop again. I had no idea I would have this kind of impact, but God did. This happened just about the time I was thinking I should probably get on with “my” list of retirement activities. I agreed to stop by again.

That began, in earnest, God’s plan for an 18-month adventure of ministry and assistance to someone who responded favorably to my interactions with him, including physical care, spiritual sharing, and particularly assistance with feeding. Eddie, a former baritone player, particularly responded to any form of musical activity—even my rusty attempts at playing my dad’s old accordion for him. He was especially moved and yet quieted by a brand new CD, “Lullabies for Children of All Ages,” produced and given to me by friend, Jeff Burkart. In the process of all this, I also found myself assisting his wife and other family members by providing occasional transportation and running simple errands.

Surprise! Here was post-retirement service for which I had no “heads up,” no training, no previous experience, and certainly no indication that I would ever function in this role; however, God had chosen this time and place for me to serve. No, it was never on MY list of service possibilities—and that’s what made it God’s surprise!

One More Surprise! Our Lord allowed my wife and me to be with Eddie and his family on the evening He carried him home to receive his Crown of Life. It was indeed a sad farewell, but our parting words of song to him were “Jesus loves me, He who died! Heaven’s gates to open wide…”

Never be too concerned about the nature and direction of your post-retirement service. Naturally, one considers a number of possibilities and has a tentative “game plan,” if you will. The best opportunities often come when you least expect them, and they can take on a variety of forms and venues. Yet, God will bring you much pleasure, satisfaction, and inward peace in the process. So, go and serve the Lord with gladness – and let Him surprise you!

Tom Giordano is a repositioned Lutheran teacher who at the time of this writing served at First Immanuel Lutheran in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. He continues part-time with service in music there and at Mt. Calvary Lutheran in Estes Park, Colorado. He also served on the LEA EncourAGEnet team.

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