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20150628_220327I don’t like finding surprises on my desk. Here’s why.

Things are going well in my congregation right now. Better than ever before, most especially better than I deserve. But the climate in my church hasn’t always been as it is. There was a time not all that long ago when it was necessary for me to take a pretty firm stance on some things. This stance affected my family very personally and profoundly, caused division in the church, and even cultivated a climate of stress which sent me (a 37-year-old at the time) to the hospital one Sunday morning after worship with a minor heart attack. The situation made it entirely probable for me to, on occasion, walk into my office after a worship service and discover an unsigned note laying on my desk chair or resting near my keyboard, written by a disgruntled parishioner. Each note I discovered was almost always in the same format – typed out and expressing the author’s belief that it was indeed Godly to write and leave such an anonymous tiding because it was purely for the betterment of the church that my faults and failings be communicated in an unbridled way. How else would I know to meet the writer’s list of demands and realize that I should consider resigning? Of course, included in each note were the Biblical texts massaged ever so gently with eisegetical prowess to meet the scribe’s point, each followed by an exclamatory statement of certainty that this was all written in love, for my good, and according to the Lord’s will.

For the record, I’m still here. Those folks are gone. And while we have our challenges, things around here are pretty healthy.

Still, even though it’s been a while since I’ve received any such surprises, in a Pavlovian way, my stomach does drop a little when I walk into my office and I find something that wasn’t there before…unless, of course, it is a bottle of the Glenfiddich 25 Years Old Rare Oak.

20150628_212702There it was, sitting right there on my desk with a kindly greeting card resting nearby which read: “Sometimes, the people we count on the most are the ones who hear ‘thank you’ the least. Since you’re one of those people, I hope you always know how much you are appreciated.”

There was no signature concluding the note, only a final comment from the author that he or she was thinking of me and wanted me to take time and enjoy the gift.

My stomach dropped a little, but not in the same way that I’d experienced in the past. Knowing that this is no insignificant edition (and as I understand, it is only available in the overseas markets), my reaction was one that began from an initial height of astonishment, but then teetered over the edge and fell a few stories into a plush feeling of comfortable happiness and ease and a knowledge of appreciation and loving kindness.

Wow. God sure is good through His people.

20150628_212904Dearest gifter, you may be certain that when I finally arrived home later that evening, I first explored the box, book, and bottle, and then I eased the cork from the top and poured a tad. Rest assured that I savored your benevolence with a smile and I lifted a dram in your honor. In this spirit, I would urge you to consider making yourself known that I may thank you properly, offering you a share in the wonder. But just in case you remain unknown to me and we are unable to share this whisky together, let me describe to you what was my pleasure and joy.

The nose, my friend, was irresistibly sweet, actively fanning a trace of cherry relish. The palate, dear sir or madam, was divine. Caramel was the first noticeable sensation. And while I didn’t taste the vanilla prescribed within the booklet, there was a glacé brandy flavor that worked very well with what seemed like a carryover of fruit from the nosing. The finish was long and full, coating with warm sugar and a little bit of a nipping spice.

Glenfiddich got this one right. You, dear gifter, chose well.

Overall, I still struggle with walking into my office and finding surprises. In fact, maybe I should add that if anyone else is reading this and perhaps you are one of what I suspect were only one or two hate mail gifters from back in the day, you should know that after the first few notes I received from you, whether they were found on my desk or they were mailed to my home, I didn’t really read them. Instead, I did one of two things. Either I stuffed them back into their envelopes and gave them to the Board of Elders, or I simply fed them to my shredder affectionately named “Jaws.” I retain this practice today. So, if you have something spinelessly hurtful to say to me, to get my reasonable attention it will be necessary for you to sign your name to the note. Then I’ll know who to call. Even better, how about you just call me. That’s a much better, adult way. In fact, how about this. I give you my word right now that I am willing to pour you a dram and converse about whatever it is that’s bothering you.

Of course, you should also know that the edition shared will be dependent upon your demeanor. If you are looking only to speak and not listen, don’t expect to receive a glass of the Glenfiddich 25 Rare Oak. I don’t waste the good stuff over dead dialogue. You’ll get a glass of Scoresby.