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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lessons from a Chat

Photo by Marilyn Patterson

The first shall be last, and the last shall be first...

Upon hearing his familiar song, I slammed on the brakes, nearly throwing myself over the handle-bars. He was back; after his winter break in Central America, my old friend had returned.

This comrade was a Yellow-breasted Chat; a large, gawky, pear-shaped bird that makes his home in shrub islands, and low dense thickets.

"How was your vacation?" I queried.


Apparently my question was not the ice-breaker he was looking for.

"Was the weather to your liking?" I asked him, with piqued curiosity.


"Did you have trouble with your passport this time?"


My chat had many secrets, but at that moment, he didn't seem too keen on giving any of them away.

The Yellow-breasted Chat is an odd-ball among birds. Its distinctive vocalizations earned it the nickname "Raucous Polyglot" ("noisy many-tongued") in the 19th century. The bird does seem to have a bizarre musical taste, as most of his calls consist of a whistle and a bit of chatter.

But the oddities don't stop with his voice. The birds bright yellow breast and white "goggles" have earned it the nickname "clown-bird." This title seems to fit, as the chat will often go into a bizarre display where it will skip from bush to bush, giving his raucous whistle and chatter all the way across. During these displays, he seems to break the laws of gravity by stopping in mid-flight, sinking toward the ground, and then picking himself up again, acting like the yo-yo of the gods.

Even his own family seems to think him something of an anomaly. He belongs to the Warbler clan; a group of small, musically talented, strikingly patterned songbirds. Compare a chat to any of his smaller cousins, and differences are immediately apparent. Most warblers are small and vibrant; the chat is large and awkward. Most warblers are superb songsters; the chat seems to be a reject from American Idol. Most warblers are graceful fliers; the chat makes you wonder how he gets from point a to point b.

"Yes, they broke the mold with you my friend," I said in the politest manner possible. "In fact, the world you inhabit seems totally up-side down," said my mouth.

"Just like the world you inhabit," said my spirit.

As I looked at my friend, my mind's eye began to wander. It raced back two-thousand years, when the Master sat on a mountain and gave a sermon that turned the world up-side down for everyone who had ears to hear.

When we allow Christ into our hearts, he comes and gradually turns our perspective up-side down; He enters the doors of our souls with the keys to a unique kingdom.

A kingdom where the Master serves the servants.

A kingdom where death is necessary for life.

A kingdom where the malnourished orphan in India, raising her withered hand in praise, is as much an heir as the CEO in New York City, raising his pen in a multi-million dollar signature.

The world would call such a kingdom up-side down. Christ would call it reality.

I wonder how many Christians plan for Christ to turn this present day world right side-up when they invite Him into their lives. I imagine we all have our own agendas for Jesus to fulfill, but gradually, our eyes are opened. And when we look around, we see ourselves in the same mistake the crowds shouting Hosanna were in. We find ourselves in desperate need of a divine shake-up.

Eventually, my mind wandered to the moment at hand, and I found myself concentrated on my friend, the chat.

"Perhaps you and I have a good deal in common Mr. Chat."

He assented silently, quite an feat for such a noisy fellow. His golden moment of silence was then followed by chatter and a few skips into a nearby bush, leaving only his voice behind.

"With the condition the world is in now, I think I feel much more secure in an up-side Kingdom, don't you?" I heard another pause. Then came his reply in those unmistakable tones:


That's chat speak for "couldn't agree more."

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