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Birds of a Feather

A few years ago, my wife, Peggy, and I visited The British School of Falconry in Manchester, Vermont. To have the thrill of launching birds of prey—Harris Hawks, in our case—from our arm and receiving them back again? No need to ask us twice! Let’s go!

The hawks were quite a bit lighter than they appeared, between four and five pounds, as I recall. Of course, they consist largely of feathers, so what else should have I expected? When it was time to fly my hawk—Wallace, by name—I donned a leather glove on my left arm and secured between my fingers the two straps dangling from his legs. With a heaving hoist of the arm, I released the bird, letting go of the straps at just the right instant. Wallace embraced his climb with an eager flapping of the wings, taking an arcing glide path to a high perch in the field, some distance away. There he sat watching until with sharpest vision he saw me place a single piece of steak atop my gloved fist. Then, choosing a suitable return vector, he swooped in on an admittedly somewhat-nervous me, alighting on my outstretched arm and settling in before partaking of the treat that awaited him there—London broil, served “extremely rare.”

Astonishingly, the falconer explained to us that, though he protects, feeds, and cares for these birds daily, they have no more emotional attachment to him than to us first-time visitors! So when a bird’s belly gets full enough, he loses interest in both the caregiver and the care. Instead, from his field perch, he begins to scan elsewhere for other food—mice, for instance—and is perfectly willing to leave provider and provision behind.

And I have to pause and ask myself, is this how I relate to God? Do I accept all He has to offer in my time of need and then, once nurtured, turn my attention elsewhere? In my most honest moments, I have to say, yes, sometimes I do. And while we understand why Wallace might return to the wild from which he was snatched, it makes no sense for me to go back to the ways from which I am freed. Fortunately, God knows our heart, that we’re prone to stray. So in His limitless love for us, He patiently watches over us, and when our back begins to turn away from Him, He calls us again to Himself, to His comfort and care. For we have found our home; we live freely in Him.

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22)

 

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Just a Little Bit More

It is a story worth revisiting. Business tycoon and founder of Standard Oil, John D. Rockefeller, was fabulously wealthy, America’s first billionaire. Think Warren Buffett or Bill Gates today. When asked one day, “How much money is enough?” Rockefeller replied, “Just a little bit more.”

Can there be a more profound description of human desire? It’s what we all want—just a little bit more. Another way of saying this is, more is never enough. It mocks us but never sates us. Regardless of our personal currency—be it money and means, accomplishment and adulation, position and power—the supply of more never meets the demand for more; there is no point at which the two intersect.

But what if we discovered “enough” were attainable, that we’d just been chasing the wrong things all along? What if our desires were to align with God’s desires, where mercy is more valuable than money, peace is more fulfilling than possessions, good is more precious than gain, and faithfulness is more treasured than fame? When it comes down to it, aren’t these the things that satisfy us? Don’t these reflections of God’s character soak deeper into our souls than the external pursuits of this world? Aren’t true contentment and rest found in these priceless things of God?

The psalmist said, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). It’s not that God is some sort of cosmic vending machine that spits out whatever we want; rather when we draw near to Him, the temporary things of this life are exposed for what they are, and our enlightened heart turns toward Him who said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

He himself is enough; we need nothing more.

Jesus, send your Spirit to me today, that I would set aside my desires and rest in yours. May I be fully content in you. Amen.

[Read today’s Scripture in Psalm 37:1-10.]

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Fly Again

He will cover you with his wings. And under his wings you will be safe. He is faithful like a safe-covering and a strong wall. (Psalm 91:4 NLV)

One Spring, our neighbor determined to witness a hatchling’s first flight. She stationed her lawn chair by a nest-bearing tree and brought along a book to pass the hours. The awaited time arrived soon enough, and unmistakably so, for a momma robin began to urge her young-‘un to launch. He, on the other hand, wanted no part of it. So while Momma continued to chirp, Junior stood at the edge of the nest—frozen, looking down, unconvinced. After an hour of parental prodding, though, the little guy decided it better to plunge into thin air than to listen to this all day!

The baby bird went into a glide, the neighbor’s green grass passing beneath him like a scroll, then the street, and in no time the first-timer was in our air space and over our lawn. At that point, it became clear his approach vector would not serve him well. I wonder what went through his mind as our house grew ever-larger and quickly filled his entire field of vision. Thud! (Or Thud-lite?) He hit our house and fell to the ground. The plumed pilot was only stunned, fortunately, and when he came to, he found his feet, got his bearings, turned around and headed for home. Walking. The entire way. Enough flying for today, thank you.

The psalmist marvels at God—a shelter providing rest, a fortress securing refuge, a wing offering cover. And so He is. But it doesn’t always feel this way, does it? Like the momma robin, God sends us out into a world with “thud” moments awaiting—small ones that leave us smarting and big ones that send us reeling. The question is, what do we do then? Do we let our ruffled feathers keep us away from God, or do we wobble back to where we will find love, protection, and, yes, sound correction and instruction for another launch, another day? Our grounded aviator had much yet to learn about flying, but he knew enough to head home and fly again … tomorrow, perhaps.

Father in heaven, as you send me out to engage the world around me today, assure me of the promise of your love, instruct me in the wisdom of your Word, protect me in the shelter of your wing. Amen.

[Read today’s Scripture in Psalm 91:1-8.]