Small Surprises from God


The middle of January is kind of rough. It’s often dark and cold, both in weather and events. There are icy roads and accidents, friends fighting the flu, and people anxious about job bonuses and cutbacks. There are news reports about Oscar discrimination, Amy Schumer possibly stealing jokes, mudslinging politicians, terrorists, and gun violence.

Yes, you say. So what. What does that have to do with the photo of a panda toppled over in the snow? Patience please, I’m getting there. So, the other morning, I am eating breakfast and feeling low about all the bad news. I glance out my window into the backyard and notice an odd form in the snowy landscape. Not sure what to make of it, I pull on my boots and stomp out to take a look.

That’s when I find this stuffed panda, all snowy and discarded, in the middle of white nothingness. And, I laugh. At the absurdity of it. For the welcome joy of it.

Most likely a forgotten casualty of a playful exchange between the two miniature poodles next door, or perhaps, a companion left behind when sledders were called in for dinner; this deserted panda waits for its crazy life to resume. I crouch down and snap a few pictures.

Then, I remember another story I saw on the news – actually an uplifting story. The story of Bei-Bei (meaning precious treasure), the male giant panda cub living at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., who made his public debut this week. I smile, picturing Bei-Bei, and thank God for brightening my day with this panda surprise.

In the past, I would not have stopped to ponder what was resting in the backyard, let alone what connections it might have to God. “Something’s in the backyard,” my mind would have muttered, “hmmm…I’d better get going with my day.” I expected messages from God to be monumental and flashing in neon colors. But, I’ve come to realize that’s just not how God usually works.

More often than not, God shows up in the unexpected, the small, and the ordinary moments of our lives. We catch glimpses of him when we hear from friends at just the right time, when we recall a happy memory of a loved one who has died, or when we witness a change for the better in someone. He might be waiting for us to see him in the stars, in a new friendship, in the sly smile of a newborn, or even in the happy gait of a dog on a much needed walk.

Listen carefully and he also stirs us to show someone else how he cares for them. We may feel the need to take food to a neighbor, call a friend with cancer, read an extra bedtime story to a child, or give someone a hug. Notably, when we add up all the small surprises delivered on his behalf, we see monumental patterns flashing in neon colors!

God longs for us to notice our daily happenings, and to pay attention to the lessons they share. He requests our attention to detail. Look around at this intricate world he created. Dare we expect anything less than this request?

On the way back inside from photographing the panda, something catches my eye. A playing card, the King of Diamonds, is lying under some leaves right beside the basement door.

Strange, I think and continue inside. Then, it hits me. God left me his calling card. A King. Why not the King of Hearts, I wonder. Oh…yes, I see it now.

Remember, my thoughts about the middle of January being kind of rough? Well, as I see it, I was searching for a diamond in the rough. And, he delivered.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Prayer for the Week:

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 English Standard Version (ESV)

Dear God,

When the weather is bad and the news is worse, life can feel hopeless. Thank you for the reassurances you offer me through small surprises. You nudge me to look around at the details in my life, in my very own backyard, and you laugh with me. You remind me of the good news in the world, and you teach me how to become a part of it. Help me keep you present in my mind and heart, so I don’t miss a single surprise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Watch a video of Bei Bei the panda’s debut by clicking right here.


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