Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Day After...And Everything Is Different

Yesterday was the day after Christmas. Whether or not December 25 is the actual date of Christ’s birth, it is the day on which a good portion of the world stops to celebrate (whether they know the origin of their celebration or not) the birth of The One Who Changed Everything.

One day mankind arose, worked, ate and went to bed under the death-curse of sin. And the next day we awoke to a world that cradled at last its own Long-Promised Redeemer. We woke up and everything was different…better…possible…new.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows— light! sunbursts of light!

… For a child has been born—for us! the gift of a son—for us!
He'll take over the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow, and there'll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.”

(from the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, found in Isaiah 9, quoted from The Message)

The prophets of Israel had talked for generations about the promise of a new day when God would right the wrongs, turn the tables for the Grand Reversal on wickedness and death. The birth of Jesus was the start of that new day. His death and resurrection sealed it. No more searching the skies for the sign of the promise. No more crying in captivity. No more groping around and stumbling in the darkness. The whole world was caught in an ambush of God-light and God-love and nothing has been the same since. The Light had come!

In Alaska, we understand light and dark. When we pass the winter solstice and the days start to lengthen again, we count every second. The local news announces each day’s gain of sunlight and no increment is too small to note. We are coming out of the long darkness and craving the light that brings the hope of springtime – and new life.

Jesus changed everything. We were asleep in the darkness of our sick, fallen, wicked ways. And one day, we woke up and everything was different. Jesus was in the world. These are the days after Christmas. Did you notice the new day? Did you know that everything has changed? Did you know you got a do-over?

"Jesus summed it all up when he cried out, "Whoever believes in me, believes not just in me but in the One who sent me. Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won't have to stay any longer in the dark." (John 12:44-46, The Message)

Ambushed by God and brought from darkness into the light,

Saturday, December 24, 2011

On the Eve of Christ

It’s Christmas Eve and soft snow is falling. It doesn’t come much more special than Christmas Eve.  I’m waiting to leave for Midnight Mass with a friend. I am not intimately familiar with the Catholic traditions, but I am looking forward to candles and music and the incense – especially the incense.

It was on the eve of Christ’s birth that God Himself was looking forward to that sweet incense that was Jesus, come to offer His life as a fragrant sacrifice for us all. The censer was lit at His birth and the smoke ascended in full at His death and it covered the generations of sinful stench we had produced in God’s nose.

Christmas Eve – the Eve of the Christ – it is a one-of-a-kind moment of waiting for a one-of-a-kind act of love: God with Us, among us, come to be known by us and to rescue us.

On this Christmas Eve, may you find that Immanuel awaits you at the dawn of a new day and may you catch His scent on your own life.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
(Ephesians 5:1, NASB)

Ambushed by Immanuel-God-With-Us,

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sealed With A Kiss

My two-year-old keeps stealing the baby Jesus from our Nativity. His big brother used to do the same thing. We have found the tiny figurine in the bed sheets, in the Christmas tree branches, riding in a toy train, and if I remember correctly, one morning we found it tucked into my son’s pajamas.

The other day, my littlest one was carrying the baby Jesus figurine around the house, kissing it and saying, “Thank You, Jesus!” over and over.

It was sweet, but it was more more than that.
It was the appropriate response to Jesus.

Yes. What he said...
Thank You, Jesus.
For the coming, for the living, for the dying, for the resurrecting, for the ascending…thank You.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NASB)

God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. (John 3:16, New Century Version)

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.  (John 3:16-18, The Message)

Ambushed by God,

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Beautiful Mystery

You’re a mystery
like poetry
like a parable
a rhyme or a riddle

You’re a mystery
wrapped in clouds
shouting so loud
just waiting to be discovered

You’re a mystery
so intriguing
You’re a mystery
so inviting

You saved Yourself for the weak
the humble and the meek
Only the hungry dine
only the thirsty drink deep

You saved Yourself for the needy
You saved Yourself for me

I want to waste my life to search You out
search You out…

(Mystery, words and music by Misty Edwards, ©2007 Misty Edwards/Forerunner Music)

It is Thanksgiving night, and I have much for which to be thankful. But at the end of the day, I have this song stuck in my head and I am right now just so thankful for the mystery: God Himself.

I am glad God is mysterious, glad He’s so immense I can’t see the whole picture, happy to be left wondering and finding answers only to discover that I now have a whole new set of questions. He’s The Mystery and The Answer.

I didn’t initiate my search for Him – He did that. He tucked clues and hints all around us, into every crevice of Creation. He gave us mystery so that we would discover Him. We want to know how gravity works. We want to know where the edge of the universe can be found and really…what does make magnets work? And whatever science may or may not discover about the mechanics of all those forces at work around us, the real answer is, “Because He said so.” Gravity works because He told it to. The edge of the universe – expanding or not – lies where it lies because that was the boundary He gave it. Magnets attract because God said, “Magnetic attraction, be!” When we go looking for the truth, we find God.

It’s just that simple…and it’s not simple at all. God doesn’t always explain Himself and He's not afraid of being misunderstood. He called Himself “I AM”. Who does that?

When God sent Moses to tell the Israelites that He was about to rescue them from their life of slavery in Egypt, Moses asked who he should say sent him if the people wanted a name. God answered, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” (See Exodus 3 for the story.)

And when that same Moses asked God, “Please. Let me see your Glory.

GOD said, ‘I will make my Goodness pass right in front of you; I’ll call out the name, GOD, right before you…

…But you may not see my face. No one can see me and live…

…Look, here is a place right beside me. Put yourself on this rock. When my Glory passes by, I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by. Then I’ll take my hand away and you’ll see my back. But you won’t see my face.” (Excerpted from Exodus 33, The Message.)

By the way, the original language for, “I’ll call out the name, GOD…” is a reference to that earlier conversation between God and Moses regarding His name. That name, that beginning of mystery, is something like “The One Who Exists” or “The One Who Is”, “The One Who Abides, Remains, Continues”.

His name and His face are shrouded in mist and mystery, but not His heart. The One Who Exists in mysterious clouds and flashes of light has made Himself known to every man, woman and child who cares to know. He gave us just enough information so that anyone with an ounce of curiosity surviving from childhood will at some point go looking for Him. And anyone who goes looking won’t be disappointed.

He hid His face, but He laid open His heart from the day He left off speaking things into existence and instead used His very hands to sculpt a human being and His very breath to give that human life. His heart was laid open when the Son left the Father and crowded His larger-than-the-universe self into a helpless baby-body. His heart was laid open for all to see when that Son laid down and died so the handmade-mud-man could someday stand again and look the Beautiful Mystery in the face, call His name and finally live what was in God’s heart all along.

You’re a mystery
wrapped in clouds
shouting so loud
just waiting to be discovered

I love the mystery. Thank You for the mystery, God-Who-Was-and-Is-and-Continues-Forever.

Ambushed at the river by the I AM WHO I AM,

Hello, Lord. I thought that was you just ahead in the cold mist. I see the back of your Glory. I see what Moses saw covered by your hand with eyes peeking through trembling fingers. The earth knew this moment in its own natal glory when Heaven kissed the sunset.

(Caption by Kathy LaMantia, photo of sunset and rising mist on the Kenai River, titled "Sunset at the Confluence")

Monday, November 21, 2011

Risky Business

A friend who very graciously let me ease into writing for public consumption posted this on her blog a while back. It started as an email between friends and became something more. I wrote it in the passion of the moment the first time, and when I re-read it now, I feel the same breathless wonder. I've tweaked a sentence here or there, but the thought and my amazement remain. If you read this and find yourself wanting to hear more about a God who is beyond comparison, head over to Calling, "Shotgun!" and you won't be disappointed.

Every once in a while, I'm struck by the thought that what God did to rescue us was more significant than we can ever imagine. We know it was sacrificial. We’re told it was painful. But it was also risky.

We think of risk as what we do. We take the risk to forgive, to love, to trust, to believe…
But God took the first and greatest risk (which, by the way, makes all the risks we think we take for Him quite safe). The Son left Heaven and His Father's side and was born. The “One Who Always Was” was born - a baby.

Babies don't know anything. A newborn baby doesn't know that He is the Son of God, come to rescue all of mankind. Jesus left Heaven knowing that at conception He would forget (I’m not sure exactly how that all worked, but you get the idea). God (Father, Son and Spirit) had to trust that Jesus would find His way. Yes, I know, God is all-knowing. But Jesus came to us having willingly emptied Himself. He came to us as a man, and a baby-man at that.

"He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion." (Excerpted from Philippians 2:5-8, The Message)

It was a great risk: Would He remain sinless? Would he grow up to know His real Father? Would He listen to the Holy Spirit and discover who He really was? Would He rediscover the Plan that He had helped to formulate and carry it through? Because He did have a choice, after all. Choices. Just like the choices Adam and Eve had – and we all know how that turned out. The whole plan of redemption - the very Trinity! - rested on a baby!

What a brave, risky thing God did! Father, Son and Spirit risked it all! For us! God risked His Son, Himself, the relationship of the Trinity, and all of creation, just to rescue us. And Jesus was forever altered. For all of eternity past, the Son was perfect. From the cross forward, He is scarred. Because of...for...us.

These are the thoughts about Jesus that leave me breathless. So this was on my mind today, and tonight I listened to a recording of Jackie Pullinger (missionary to the Walled City, Hong Kong; she wrote "Chasing the Dragon") speaking at a church somewhere in the English-speaking world, and here is what she said (emphasis and bracketed insert mine, but taken from the context of the recording):

“As there's no more pain and crime [in Heaven], as there's no more death, no more sickness, we are perfect because of Him, and we're washed clean because of Him. The only one scarred in the whole of Heaven is Him. For that book, called The Revelation, tells us there's a Lamb, looking as though it's been slain. How strange that for eternity, we are perfected in the presence of a scarred Lamb.”

The only one scarred in the whole of Heaven is Him.

I think of Him as standing out among the whole of Heaven in beauty, in flashes of light, in power and victory. I have not – until now – thought of Him as standing out in all of Heaven as the only one who is scarred. He bears eternal scars so that we can be free of ours eternally. I’m overwhelmed.

What to do with a God like that?

That is the question, isn’t it?

What to do with Jesus?

Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ's sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought.

Even though it has only lately - at the end of the ages - become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It's because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.

(1 Peter 1:18-21, The Message)

Ambushed by the God who gave it all up for me (and you),

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Moonlight, Shine!

For all the ones I know and love – moons, revealing God’s glory in the night.

And for my new nephew, just born – may you become all that He dreamed in His heart for you, that you will reveal to all of us something of Him we never knew before.

I’ve been sleepless lately. The gibbous moon has been so bright on all that new, white snow out there. It shines through the gap between my drawn curtains and calls me out of bed. I just know I’ll miss something glorious if I don’t get up and go look out the window. If I do go, I’ll see those long, lovely shadows leaning out from the spruce and aspen to pattern the yard, or there might be a snowshoe hare in a brave dash across the open spaces between the trees, or I could glimpse an owl swooping low in his midnight hunt. You just never know what you might see when you stand at the window alone in the still night hours and the moon is near-full.

I was looking at that silver moon the other night and thinking about the source of moonlight – the sun. My thoughts turned to The Son and how the Christ is the source of any light that shines out of me, or you, or that stranger in the store who somehow knew just the thing to say to soften a hard day. The Book of The Beginning (Genesis) tells us we were made in God’s image, revealing Him in the earth. And the whole rest of the Bible goes on to tell us that we are so loved and so much wonder has been placed in human skin that if we embrace Him, we will be moons reflecting the light of The Son into any dark place we dare to walk. That Son Himself said, 

…You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (excerpted from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5, The Message)

People are amazing…because God is amazing.

There was a man who walked through one of the darker places in this earth. He gathered truth there, saved it like the precious treasure it is, and then he shone for all he was worth – with his pen. His name was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and during his eight years in the Russian gulag as a political prisoner, he interviewed 227 fellow prisoners and crafted their stories into verse so he could commit them to memory – some 200,000 lines. Years later in “internal exile” in Kazakhstan, he dredged up that raw poetry and wrote it down on small slips of paper. He rolled the papers up tightly and slipped them into a champagne bottle that he kept buried in his garden.

Night after night, he dug up that bottle, dug up the memories and put pen to paper so the world would know those hidden and forgotten men, know their stories. The world had something to learn and those men’s lives had it to teach. It was Solzhenitsyn’s to tell. “You’re here to be light…”

The finished work, The Gulag Archipelago, had to be smuggled out of the Soviet Union for publication. After its release, it became impossible for the rest of the world to pretend ignorance or remain in the dark about what was going on in the Soviet gulag. Solzhenitsyn had embraced God in those work camps, reflected truth in a dark place, and changed the world.

I’m no Solzhenitsyn. I don’t have 227 men’s stories in my ears and heart to tell the world “what really happened”. But I do have a few stories of my own, and a few stories of the people I’ve known. I have a few years of discovering truth and embracing God. Yes, I have a few stories to tell and some light to shine, too. I didn’t think I had the time  maybe when my kids are older, maybe when life is different, maybe… And then I heard the story of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and The Gulag Archipelago. He was a prisoner. He wasn’t allowed even a pencil or paper to call his own. He had to memorize what he wanted to say and save it for years, finally writing in secret and in hiding and in fear for his life, for crying out loud. So, was I really going to whine that I was busy with laundry and diapers?

I can’t help but think of Paul and Silas, beaten and in leg irons, singing about God at midnight in the prison (Acts 16). They were bright, full moons, indeed! Harvest moons! Beaten up, locked up, and still, their God-light-reflecting-songs caused the earth to quake and a jailer to come to Jesus with his whole family in tow. “God is not a secret to be kept…”

Every one of us has something to offer, some color in the Son’s spectrum to reflect. What do you have? If it’s got life in it, it’s needed. If it’s true, we’re all desperate for it. Is there any grace in your life? The whole world is searching for it, so please share. Yes, maybe someone out there is already doing it. But they’re not doing it the way you do it. No one can do whatever it is you do the way you do it.

If you write, write the words that tell us the truth.

If you sing – or if you can make an instrument sing – sing the song God put in you.

If you paint, draw, take photographs, design greeting cards, or chalk up the sidewalks with beauty, please don’t stop. Show us the beauty and it will point us to The Beautiful One.

If you bake, fill the world with breads and cakes and bless us all to taste and see that the Lord is good.

If you run, run like the wind and we’ll all marvel at the God who designed your fast feet.

If you preach, if you teach, if you recite, if you declare, then open your mouth and let the truth come out and we’ll all take it in because there’s no glut of truth in the air waves these days.

If you garden, then sow and cultivate and know that what you do is exactly what God had in mind for Adam and Eve.

If you dance, show off the grace He gave your limbs and we will slow down and take a deep breath and just be for a moment.

If you are one of those precious treasures who can sit, then sit. Sit and grieve with the grieving so they don’t cry alone. Sit and laugh with the rejoicing because it’s better to celebrate together.

If you love numbers, show us the wonder hidden there. You’re in good company – God loves them, too. He loves pi and fractals and the Fibonacci Sequence and I’m just sure He hid some of the best clues about Himself there.

If you know about the stars, oh please, please, please tell us how long ago they sent that light this way, and what does it sound like when the morning stars sing together? We want to glimpse our Creator.

No one got it all. You have something to reflect – some color, some facet, some favorite part of God. The rest of us want in on it, too.

Who knows what darkness you can tear down if you give what you’ve got? Who knows what night you can dispel if you’ll just shine?

Yes, people are amazing…because God is amazing.

Listen, Heavens, I have something to tell you. Attention, Earth, I've got a mouth full of words. My teaching, let it fall like a gentle rain, my words arrive like morning dew,
Like a sprinkling rain on new grass, like spring showers on the garden.
For it's God's Name I'm preaching— respond to the greatness of our God!
The Rock: His works are perfect, and the way he works is fair and just;
A God you can depend upon, no exceptions, a straight-arrow God.

(-Moses, Deuteronomy 32:1-5, The Message)

Ambushed by the God who made the sun and moon and all the stars,

Saturday, November 5, 2011

You Can't Tame the Wind

A still moment
The wind has been raging and then stewing in turn for days here. We’ve had trees downed, power outages and blowing snow. At the moment, we are in a “stewing” phase. My wind chimes – which had been knocking themselves silly against each other – are right now singing pleasantly. But every once in a while, they are stirred up into cacophony again for a few moments. That wind – it’s unpredictable.

I was listening to those chimes today and thinking about a passage from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. (I’ll assume you know the story. If you don’t, it’s one of The Great Reads and you really should find a copy ASAP.) In the passage I’m thinking of, the children have just recently made it all together into Narnia and three of the four are hearing about Aslan for the first time:

“…Asland is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe?”

“…if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe? ...Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

No one ever said anything about God being safe. He’s kind of like the wind – unpredictable. He’s powerful. He’s even dangerous. But He’s good.

The wind can carry the delicate dandelion seed without injury and it can carve holes in mountains. It can lift the little swallows as they leave the nest outside my front windows and it can lift an 875,000 lb., fully loaded 747 off the runway. And just like the wind, God can kiss me with the gentlest of breezes on my cheek or He can completely demolish whatever walls I’ve put up thinking they’ll keep me safe. The problem is, that kind of safe – the kind I build myself – is only about as safe as a prison. Sure, you can’t fall off a mountainside cliff in prison, but falling off a cliff really isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a person. I did it once (fell off a cliff) and let me tell you, there are worse things – like missing out on real life.

Real life – life with the One who thought up life – is really dangerous. God doesn’t play by our rules and He isn’t afraid. Of anything. At all. He’s not even afraid of my sin. Or yours. He has NO FEAR.

Fear makes a person predictable. If you know what someone fears, you can pretty much maneuver and manipulate him into any position you want. But God has NO FEAR. You can’t “manage” Him. You can take Him or leave Him, but you don’t get to tame Him.

I like that about Him. He’s full of surprises. He likes to catch me off guard. He often doesn’t do what I think He'll do (I’ll bet the guy who got Jesus’ spit-n-mud-in-the-eye treatment didn’t see that one coming!). You just never know when He’s got the surprise of your life waiting right around the very next corner. You just never know when He’s about to pounce on you with all His wonderfulness! And sometimes life with Him just might kill you (in a dozen different ways), but what you get in return is always better than what you had. Life with God is exciting!

A scarf turns in the wind (another windy
day, some other windy place)

Nope, you just can’t predict God. And do you want to know something else I think is really exciting? I’m just like Him! Jesus Himself said,

So don't be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be 'born from above'—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it's headed next. That's the way it is with everyone 'born from above' by the wind of God, the Spirit of God." (John 3:7-8, The Message)

You can’t tame the wind. You can’t tame God. You don’t get to tame me, either. (I’m smiling.)

No one else could ever make me a better offer.

Ambushed by the God who moves the windchimes, the trees and my heart,

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I was awake at 3:30 this morning helping my littlest one untwist the blankets from his legs and resettle. On my way back to bed, I stopped and looked out the window to see if it happened to be snowing. The picnic table on the deck looked a little brighter than usual in the darkness. Was it just frost? I turned on the porch light – it was snowing!

I’ve been impatient for the snow ever since the last of the leaves blew out of our trees here. I love the snow. I got that from my dad. I married a man who loves the snow and we have children who love the snow. It’s a good thing I live in Alaska.

A few years ago, I found a children’s book by a man who has since become one of my favorite writers: Uri Shulevitz. The book is titled, “Snow” (which is why I picked it up) and honestly, I would quote the entire book right here if that wasn’t illegal in about three different ways. But I will tell you the story, because if you’re even a little bit interested, you’ll catch a glimpse of God as He passes through it.

The story starts with a grey day – grey skies over grey rooftops in a grey city. But one tiny snowflake falls and a boy out for a walk with his dog sees it flutter to the ground. “Snow!” he declares. Passersby on the street and his family at home all greet his exuberant announcement with squashing skepticism. It is, after all, only one tiny snowflake. And then there are two tiny snowflakes, but they melt when they land. The TV and the radio both have pronounced that there will be no snow. And then, my favorite part:

But snowflakes don't listen to radio,
snowflakes don't watch television.
All snowflakes know
is snow, snow, and snow.

And the story goes on as the snowflakes continue to multiply until the streets, the rooftops and the skeptics are all covered with snow and the grey city becomes a glittering white fairyland.

I have wondered, if I had been among the grownups passing by the boy as he looked up at a seemingly empty sky and shouted, “Snow!” would I have been one of the skeptics? With all my heart, I hope not. With all my heart, I want to live by faith and not by the grey that can be so much easier to see.

The Apostle Paul understood how much perspective can limit or reveal the colors that are there for those who will look. He was under house arrest in Rome when he wrote the letter we now know as the Bible’s Book of Colossians. Despite his confinement, he urged the Christians of Colosse to revel in the freedom God had paid such a high price to give them. He wanted them to stop listening to the rule-makers and the naysayers and start living by the faith that had opened their eyes to real life in the first place. Paul wrote,

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ – that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. (Colossians 3:1-2, The Message, emphasis mine)

It’s all about perspective.
I want the birds-eye view that comes through the lens of faith.

As I write this, the snow has stopped falling. The sun has burned a hole through the clouds and is pouring out onto the whiteness below. I would have liked a few more inches to fall. But if I look toward the east, I see some hint of dark skies and maybe the potential for more snow. I’ll hold out for it, snow-lover that I am.

Ambushed by a God who sometimes hides in a children's book,

(Photos from this afternoon's walk)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Swans at Dawn

I've been ambushed. Set up. Traps were laid and I walked right into them.

I was in one of those seasons of life when you feel like a sponge that’s been wrung out. And then wrung out again. And then wrung out one more time before it gets set out in the sun to bake into a dirty, hard, crumbly square.

And then…I took the bait.

I walked past a window one morning and the light on the trees outside was irresistible. I grabbed my camera, shoved my feet into my boots, yelled goodbye to my husband and children having breakfast and ran out the door and down to the river. My plan was to take some pictures of the sunrise over the water, but as I approached the boat launch, I saw them - Trumpeter Swans. Dozens and dozens of them – maybe as many as 50 or 60!

Trumpeter Swans are the largest bird in North America and are considered by some to be the largest waterfowl in the world. They’re huge. A very large male can have a wingspan of almost 10 feet. They’re graceful and majestic, and they’re known in life and lore as the symbol of loyalty and fidelity. They mate for life.

When I reached the water’s edge and could hear them flapping and splashing and clop-clopping their bills, it took my breath away. I knew it was God who had lured me out into the early morning frost, and He’d brought the swans to the boat launch (I’d been chasing them up and down the river for a week or more, but they always stayed out of reach of my camera).

He set me up!

I stood as deep as I dared in the muddy river’s edge, trying to get closer without filling my boots, and I drank. My dry sponge soaked up a pink and gold sky and gleaming white bird-majesty and the sounds of their final feasts before the long flight south. And I soaked up the smile on the face of the One who made it all.

I'd been ambushed by God.

There is not much meditation in my days. My days right now are full of frogs (rubber ones now that the real ones have vanished from the yard) and dirt, phonics, science experiments, laundry, diapers. I have two small boys. My nights are short and interrupted. Sometimes I don’t have the option to take an hour to sit in silence with God until my ears finally let go of the day’s noise and pick up His voice. Sometimes I do have the time, but not the inclination. Either way, it’s good – no it’s a lifesaver – to know that He is The Pursuer (and that, by the way, is what grace is).

Have you ever seen something so beautiful that it made you want to cry? You just walked into a God Ambush. Have you ever heard music that spoke to your very bones and shouted to them, “DANCE!”? Yep. It was a set-up. When the evening light slants just-so and you feel that strange homesick feeling, it’s Him. He’s calling to you. The God who made it all, who knows the secret of gravity, who knows the song the stars sing and who teaches the birds their path south and then north again – that God – He is after you. Pursuing you. Wants to talk to you and listen to you and sometimes even just to sit silently with you. He loves you.

The Song of Songs begins with a woman searching for the Love of Her Life. She just wants to be near him:

(Bride) Tell me where you're working—I love you so much—Tell me where you're tending your flocks,where you let them rest at noontime.Why should I be the one left out,outside the orbit of your tender care?

And that Groom, that man who loves her, he tells her not to worry, he’s making plans for them to be together:

(Bridegroom) If you can't find me, loveliest of all women,it's all right. Stay with your flocks.Lead your lambs to good pasture.Stay with your shepherd neighbors.…I'm making jewelry for you, gold and silver jewelrythat will mark and accent your beauty.(Excerpted from the Song of Songs, chapter 1, The Message)

I went out again the next morning to find the swans. I got up early and went to see if He’d bring the swans to river’s edge again so we could enjoy them together. And what did I find when I got to the water? A moose. A big, beautiful bull moose, standing in the middle of the river, drinking. He looked right at me and was unconcerned. Maybe he saw our Maker standing next to me.

Swans at dawn and moose in the morning.
There’s an ambush lying in wait somewhere with your name on it.
Are you on the lookout?
When you find yourself there, enjoy!

Ambushed by God,