It finally happened. I had been waiting for this moment to come, worrying about it a little and looking forward to it a lot. It was perfect too. (My 17-year-old nephew even noted afterward that in the rush of the moment I said, “It’s just like I dreamed it would be!” Yup. I am that cheesy.)

I saw a bear in the wild!

It was walking into the woods and was preoccupied by bear thoughts of where to find the most food. I took a bunch of pictures. I had a silly grin on my face for hours. The bear didn’t even seem to know we were there and probably didn’t view the experience as being nearly as significant as I did. No problem – I had enough excitement for both of us!

If you don’t already know this about me, I love national parks. A lot. We have a map of the United States on a wall in our home with the location of each national park noted and a specific notation for those we have visited. We’re up to park #15 and until this summer we had never seen a bear in the wild. I admit that I felt a bit empty about it. Every good national park traveler has seen a bear, right? Never mind the moose I saw swimming in a river in Glacier National Park or the alligator that crossed our path in Everglades National Park; in my mind it was seeing a bear that would make me a real national park traveler.

A week in Shenandoah National Park finally gave me the opportunity to see a bear. In fact, by the time the week was over I had seen eight bears. I even watched a bear climb a tree – joy of all joys! I started looking everywhere for bears, turning my head at the slightest glance of “something black over there.” My bear radar was in high gear and I delighted at watching them go about their business of eating 15,000+ calories per day.

Even after we left the park, my bear radar was still engaged. It took a few days to stop glancing every which way looking for a bear. I chuckled to myself as I thought I saw a bear in a grassy stretch next to I-77 and in other completely illogical places to find a bear.

And then I heard that still, small voice. What was He saying? “I wish you would look for me like you look for bears.” Ouch. Yes, of course He was right. I was looking for bears with anticipation, excitement, and the certainty of seeing them. That’s exactly the way God deserves to be pursued. As cool as bears are (and they are cool!), God deserves that kind of pursuit so much more than bears do. (And, for the record, He wants it more than bears do too.)

That thought has been running around in my mind ever since. What does it look like to pursue God as He deserves? How can I cultivate the kind of love, admiration and longing for God that fuels such pursuit? How can I remove the distractions of the world around me and stay focused on the things of substance, the things of God? It’s something I’m always working on, and the still, small voice had given me a status check to remind me that work remains to be done. My purpose is to glorify God, to pursue Him with reckless abandon.

Since I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who can get caught up in the things of this world and find myself in need of a reminder to pursue God above all else, I’m sharing this story with you.

As we start a new school year and students enter the next stage of college planning (and high school in general), watch for God at work. He is everywhere and in the midst of everything. He is beside us in times of epiphany, in times of worry, in times of success and in times of setback or disappointment. God is constantly at work and He desires to be seen. He wants us to notice His handiwork; we need only to slow down and make ourselves available to Him. Sometimes it’s really obvious and sometimes we have to look intentionally to see Him, but He is always there and the greatest blessings come to those who see Him. Please join me in preparing our hearts for a year full of God sightings in our students’ lives, our lives, and in our community. As excited as I was to see bears, that experience can’t hold a candle to the indescribable feeling of seeing God at work and feeling the peace that follows Him everywhere.

May we all have a year filled with God sightings.

“Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted. For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.” Psalm 89:15-17

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