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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lost No More

The grins on the faces of the birders coming off the boat told me that success was the sighting of the day.

Did you see the bird?, I inquired, knowing the answer beforehand.

Oh yeah!

Beautiful bird!

The ride is worth the money!

I'd be riding the boat all right, along with 16 participants.

But today's cruisers were unaware that this tour was a cruise for lost souls.

One day earlier
I had no idea why my boss was calling, but I figured answering your boss' call is a form of job security.

"Hi". My boss intoned. "Was there a Brown Booby reported last week?" Brown Booby is a type of seabird normally seen from the waters of Central America and points south.

"There was" I affirmed.

"Well, there's one sitting on a channel marker out in the sound right now!" The excitement could hardly have been contained.

The silence I responded with was perfectly natural after such a stunning revelation.

So there we were, the next day, approaching this wayward bird that had set the birding community ablaze. Every form of instant communication among birders was chock full of messages concerning the whereabouts of this gawky avi-fauna: the Brown Booby.

If the name of this bird sounds a touch silly to you, know that you're in good company.

The original discoverers of this species, a group of French Sailors, found the bird doing its mating display; one look at the feet is enough to tell you that this particular dance is rather gawky and uncoordinated. Hence, they gave this weird creature a fitting name.

Or, as my boss pointed out, there's a lot of French Sailors having a lot of good laughs every time we find one of these birds.

Arms that are ready to shepherd the lost safely home.

The bird was a feathered dichotomy: at once gawky and graceful, clumsy and sophisticated. Subtly stunning, yet clearly awkward.

As referenced earlier, the Brown Booby is normally found in the warm waters off of Mexico and Puerto Rico. Why it likes sitting on a channel marker outside of Wildwood, New Jersey, is anyone's guess.

Some suggest that a strong, southerly wind pushed the bird towards the Garden State.

Others say it might have been an odd dispersal, as other sightings of this species had been noted along the Eastern Seaboard.

No matter how it got here, it was lost. But not alone.

Since it had been found three days earlier, the birding community had been fervently seeking views of this vagrant. The longest a Booby has stuck around is a day and a half in our area, and he proved uncooperative. This one seemed to have tape on its feet, a perfect specimen for lengthy looks.

The bird was lost, but it could never be described as isolated. It had too many people looking for it.

Similar to the child of God. With all the happenings in the world, it's easy to slip into despair and feel lost. At times, it seems the current of regret and doubt sweep us away into the dark caverns of our minds.

At times, it feels as if all is lost

But, we have a message from the Father, a Father stronger than our feelings. The message says that although the difficulties of life may cause us to question our son-ship, He has us carved into His hands.

The message says that although the journey home is difficult and often frightening, He has provided a light for our feet.

The message says He came to seek and save the lost. A promise to take to the bank next time loneliness and despair creep in; He's out there looking for us, waiting to run to us with open arms.

Arms that are ready to shepherd the lost safely home.

I am sharing this with Hear It On Sunday, Use It On Monday.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Perfect Storm

When a storm treads its way up the bayshore in late summer, we have no choice but to watch.

With all haste, we ran to watch the storm roll in. Our hearts out-ran our minds as we raced to the wide open spot we have known before. From there, the storm was center stage. It had no choice but to perform.

What an odd storm you and I thought in unison. And it was unique. Nothing seemed to fit: a few clouds would roll by, here a lighting strike, there a thunder clap. The usual phenomena of a storm, but these were thrown together like random ingredients for a cake never before tasted.

We waited for the thunder to follow the lighting; it never came. We anticipated the rain as the sky grew darkest; it never materialized. Something was off-kilter with this storm; there was a meteorological mishap to send us this heavenly jest.

You and I looked deep within each other. We saw the confusion and battered spirits within our own souls. We knew the storm was simply a reflection of the beauty that was tossed about within.

With unspoken words we told each other of the fragmented bits of life we were experiencing. We felt as if we were ships, ships whose only contact with solid ground was being battered against random rocks along the voyage. It seemed as if our destination was straight ahead, but along the way, we ran into a number of twists and turns that knocked us for a loop.

We looked for an anchor within ourselves; there was none.

We looked for harbor without; only ocean was found.

We sought refuge anywhere we could; no one had answers to our illusions.

We knew it would be faith that would have to drive us home. Faith: the inherent knowledge that there was a Grand Artist who would put it all together. Faith: the firm belief that there was a designer that was piecing all the disparate elements of our lives together, like a celestial quilt being woven throughout the heavens.

Realizing it would take a Father of Lights to piece together the scraps of existence we called life was a freeing prospect. No longer were we wayward souls on a damned voyage; we were heavenly children on a trip home.

Faith sent a whole new light onto the many questions we had accumulated along the journey. And suddenly, a storm that had made no sense was the perfect storm, because there had been a divine hand behind it all the time.

I am sharing this with Brag on God Fridays.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Like A Still Small Voice

The humidity greeted me like a brick wall as I stepped out of my car.

I wasn't expecting it to be this muggy, I mentally noted. But I shouldn't have been surprised; early August in the Mid-Atlantic States generally ushers in the three h's: hot, hazy and humid. And this particular day in my favorite marsh of Greenwich N.J., all three unpleasant conditions met together to make a sticky time of year even worse.

No matter how hot it was, at least there would be activity...or so I thought. But it seemed as if all my surroundings were taking siestas, as though the world was on lunch break. I don’t blame the world, in this heat.

There must be some life here I commented internally as I looked around, hoping for some signs of activity. But all my eyes could make out was the barren marshland surrounding me.

And it was humid.

I suppose there are a number of dynamics to the hobby of birdwatching that keeps thousands of observers coming back for more. Perhaps it's the aesthetic value, the sheer beauty of nature that forces the observer to return time and time again. Or maybe it's the good company that nature lovers attract that turns a hobby into a passion. Maybe the serenity of a walk through the woods is enough to satisfy the longing soul.

One of my favorite aspects of wildlife watching is the fact that you're chasing after life. The nature lover is seeking all the secrets that the world has to offer. The opening of the flowers, the migration of the birds, the fragile life cycle of the butterflies, all these puzzle pieces of life fall into place when you're out watching the natural world unfold.

There are times when the world is simply vibrating with the essence of life...

There are other times when it seems like an atom bomb went off.

It's humid enough to make you think an atom bomb was dropped I moaned to myself, again.

Off in the distance a small flock of migrating shorebirds cried, giving the coda to their time in North America. A little life, but too far away to write home about.

As I dragged myself along, the tarmac seemed to move under my feet. It was going to be a walk without redemption when all of a sudden a small, flighty object winged its way past my line of sight.

What in the world...?

My winged wonder finally sat itself down after a few circles and revealed itself to be a Red-spotted Purple butterfly; a visual feast that sits comfortably between "beautiful" and "out of this world stunning."

Thanks for sitting, my beauty I sweet talked the colorful insect as I drew near. You stay right there.

A few times the bold butterfly played hard-to-get, and would take off and fly around, taunting me all the time. But with longsuffering and a little perserverance, the butterfly finally yielded the shots I wanted; I had finally gotten the records of the life that had been lacking.

This encounter reminded me that no matter how many times you go out in the field, looking at the world around you, there will always be a new discovery that will pop up at an unexpected moment.

The spiritual plane seems to function in a similar fashion. There are those times, those roads we travel, that seem to have no messages from God whatsoever. We travel on, knowing our obedience will be rewarded, but the seeming absence of the divine is enough to leave us longing for more.

The Bible makes the course of action for these moments perfectly clear through it's long set of scenarios and precepts: keep walking. No matter what you feel, no matter what you can see, no matter what others are telling you, don't go off the path. Keep living as Jesus lived, no matter what the situation may seem like. Because we know eventually, His voice comes in like a still, small whisper.

And sometimes, the whisper has wings.
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