Saturday, January 19, 2019


                He shouldn’t have been there, but he was. As I walked by, securely bundled against the cold, I caught movement in the corner of my eye. I turned my head to see a robin glide to a stop on the snow. There was no doubt of his identity. His red-orange breast stood out against the blanket of white snow. In his beak was some prize, firmly held. As I stopped to look at him, he flew under the low hanging branches of an evergreen and disappeared. In my experience, robins migrate south in the winter. The sight of a robin has always been a sure sign of spring. So, what was this out-of-place bird doing here on this sub-zero morning? How could it possibly survive?

                One of the things I enjoy about my morning walk is looking for little surprises. This was surely one. The path I normally take leads me over a foot bridge that spans the narrow river that winds its way through our town. As I cross the bridge, I slow my pace and look down at the snow-covered ice that covers the water below. It is crisscrossed with countless small tracks; the hurried scampering of squirrels and rabbits crossing the open space between trees or cover.  I always look to see if I can spot them, but I have yet to catch sight of one of those little creatures making their mad scramble from vulnerability to safety. I can see the places where the deer have made their way down to the river, looking for an open spot of water, but I have not seen the deer either. But on this day, I saw what I wasn’t looking for; a robin in winter.

                Years ago, I heard a speaker talk about encouraging his family to watch for God sightings during the day. They were to keep their eyes open for things that would suggest the presence of God in their world. Each evening, as the family gathered around the table for supper, they would report what they discovered. Together they would give thanks for all of the ways that God had made Himself known to them. That experience has prompted me to be more observant of my world. Where have I seen God today?

                One of the things I have learned is that God often reveals Himself in surprising ways, like a robin in winter. We tend to look for God in all of the obvious places. There are definitely hints of His presence, like the rabbit tracks in the snow, but it feels like God had been there and was gone. Then, out of the corner of our eye, we catch a glimpse of the presence of God right beside us, in a way we do not expect.

                Elijah’s experience comes to mind. He was running away from Jezebel, who was determined to take his life. Elijah was discouraged and afraid. He felt alone, abandoned, and defeated. God led him to a mountain cave where He made His presence known to Elijah. God revealed Himself, not in the ways that Elijah may have expected, but in a way that he did not.
    The Lord said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by."
    Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
    Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 1 Kings 19:11-13

                Many people are looking for God. They are looking in all of the obvious places, yet, at best, they are only discovering hints of His presence; tracks in the snow. For those who are earnestly seeking Him, He surprises them by revealing Himself in ways they did not expect. An unexpected act of kindness. A chance encounter with a friend at just the right time. A line in a novel that turns their eyes off of the story and onto the glory of God. God is never far from us. He wants nothing more than for us to lift our heads, open our eyes, and see His glory all around us. If we will keep our eyes open, we will be surprised by what we see, like a robin in winter.
Proverbs 20:12
    Ears that hear and eyes that see--
        the Lord has made them both.


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