29 12 2009

His silhouette flew into my peripheral vision, climbing a long, wide spiral until I could barely see him—just a black dot against a hint of cloud.  Two other hawks caught my attention the same way earlier in the day as I drove into the gentle hills of southern Michigan from the flat Indiana fields.

“So what’s up with that God?  Why all the hawks??”

He often gets my attention with His creation, especially with there’s repetition.  But weeks went by, each with another hawk or two soaring above me, catching the wind this way, then that, without explanation.

“I’m listening God.  What are you saying?”

Nothing.  So instead of looking for more hawks, I forgot about them.  For over a year.


The sun covered me with delicious waves of warmth on an early winter afternoon while I waited in the passenger side of our van in the mall parking lot.  My head rested on the back of the seat giving me a total view of a perfect sky—deep blue with clouds so white they sparkled on the edges.

And there were hawks!  A pair, followed by three more, and another wound in slow circles across the clouds and into blue like a flock of tiny pendulums arcing in time to some distant music.  Time stood still.  Or at least it slowed down a bit as I inhaled slower and more deeply imagining myself soaring with them over the parking lot, a white graph partially filled with neatly parked autos.  The adjacent field, newly sheared of its corn crop—a rectangle of lush corduroy draped over the rises fell into the valleys, fringed with leafless branches.

I fly in my dreams, so I have an easy time imagining the hawks’ view.  Seeing everything at once—a road’s gradual curve almost undetectable on the ground becomes obvious at the height.  Lowlands, though difficult to discern dimensionally, defined by the darker earth spreading alongside a creek’s journey beyond the horizon, exposed in contour.

“I understand, Father.  That’s it, isn’t it?”

One of the hawks dove deeply in a divine Nod.

Perspective from a distance reveals things unnoticeable from the ground where reality bends to distortions like looking through a short camera lens.  Distance, the ability to step back is a key to perspective.


To my far distant ancestors, the Celts, the hawk was the symbol for perspective.  The prudent and wise when hearing the cry of a hawk during a journey would become alert to what might lie ahead in order to face the unknown with boldness and decisiveness instead of being thrown off balance.  Flying with the sun shining through its feathers, the hawk was considered noble and able to inspire progress.


Four years have gone by since God’s messages using the hawks began, and I’m just beginning to understand what He has been saying to me through them.  Appropriate since perspective is built through time!  I am more resilient than I was four years ago as I can look back and have His perspective on where I’ve been.  The road has curved, imperceptibly from the ground view, but obviously closer to His heart when seen from a distance.  The hawks continue to soar above me reminding me to step back and look at the road, then continue in His boldness and in the confidence I have learned.  And ultimately they inspire me to fly.

(For more info on choosing a one-word New Year’s Resolution go to


War & Near

25 12 2009

Seeing pastoral nativity scenes every December fills me with a warm Christmas glow and almost lulls me into a sentimental stupor in which I conveniently forget what really happened the night Jesus was born.  What took place in the spiritual realm when God was born as a human baby reads more like the plot of a sci-fi fantasy-thriller than a nostalgic Christmas card:  A red dragon pursued a woman giving birth while his dragon-army fought Michael’s angels in heaven.  The dragon, not able to overpower Good, was hurled to the earth where he chased the woman and her Child.  Then, frustrated that the pair escaped, he turned on the rest of her offspring—“those who hold to the teachings of Jesus”.   His demise, foretold long ago, was accomplished by the Baby who crushed his head, but not before the serpent struck the baby’s heel.

So much for syrupy “Baby Jesus, meek and mild” Christmas stories—this is war!!

Easter is the ultimate triumph, but not the incredibly amazing part of the story.  At least, not to me.  If Jesus really is God, what is so surprising about Him rising from the dead??  I would expect God to be able to do that.  The part that devastates me is that He would set aside all his glory, privilege, and power to become a helpless, finite human baby; that He, the Creator of the world, would so completely reduce Himself to pursue me.

As He entered the world, the time-space continuum and all other realities couldn’t help it; they erupted in strange behaviors.  A supernaturally bright light burned in the sky; prophecies converged in fulfillments; heaven was ripped open; angels spoke to shepherds; and then all was quiet.  But everything was different.

The curse was broken; the dragon defeated.  Hope became tangible.  Our slavery-yoke of sin… shattered.  Light put out darkness.  God was approachable.  And people were drawn to Him.

He came to us so that we could come to Him.  And although He ascended to the Father, He still promises to draw near to us if we draw near to Him.  The book of Job contains a concept of what that looks like: Leviathan, the great creature of the deep, is covered with scales so near one another that no water or air can come between them.  They are so close that the two most pervasive materials on earth cannot sneak in.

The red dragon is still at war with us, but his Vanquisher is our Champion:  Immanuel.

The snowflake kaleidoscope is made from a paper cutting of a dragon crafted in Hong Kong. It represents both the red dragon and the scales of Leviathan—a reminder that with Jesus’ birth, the dragon is defeated, and that we can be so near to Him nothing can come between us. Luke 2:8-18; Matthew 2:9-11; Revelation 12; Genesis 3:15; James 4:8; Job 41:15-17; Isaiah 9:1-4

Leaf Music

2 12 2009

Swish, swish.  Swish, swish.  The leaves woke up, flying knee-high, while I walked through the overflowing sidewalk under a flaming pear tree as the sun snuck over the horizon.  December 1st.  Even though Thanksgiving leftovers are still in the fridge and Christmas lights are already strung along rooflines, autumn continues here in Indiana.  The leaves’ wonderfully acrid claim on                    the crisp morning air confirms it.

Sidewalk leaves

Their pungent scent and the swish, swish around my ankles always remind me of fall when I was young walking on hidden sidewalks in need of raking after school, and running across the blanketed yard toward my dad’s leaf mountain.  Swishy, swishy, swishy, swish!  In one jump his hard-earned mountain exploded leaving an ill-defined molehill.

The penalty for destroying his work?  Helping rake.  Our yard seemed to be the size of Tiger Stadium with every bit of the field concealed under the leaves from first base (a giant poplar), to third base (a small maple), and all the way ’round to home plate (one of two shag-bark hickories, which provided hickory nut snacks for baseball players and leaf rakers alike).

Swish, swish.  Swish, swish.

“Dad, do you hear the music?” I asked, raking my portion of the infield.

“Huh? What’re you talking about?”

I stopped to face him, my head cocked to one side with my rakeless hand on one hip.  “The music!  Can’t you hear it?  Listen.”  I started raking again, this time singing so he couldn’t miss the obvious tune of “The Happy Wanderer” in the rhythm of my strokes.

Single leaf

Such beauty!

This morning an early-raking gentleman already had a waist-high leaf-mountain during my early morning walk through our neighborhood.  We each smiled, nodded a “Good morning,” both enjoying the newness of the day with its invigorating air as we got in some exercise before breakfast.

I heard the music in his raking.  Swish, swish.  And in my long strides through the fallen leaves.  Swish, swish.  Swish, swish.

Approaching the corner at the end of the block, a young lady pulled her car up to the intersection, and my music stopped.  Her music carried well through the still morning air, and mine faded like the mist each breath made as I continued toward her.  She looked happy, bouncing to the beat, singing herself into a new day, her voice lost in the bassy thump-thumping.

My music gradually came back.  Swish, swish.  And I liked it better.  Swish, swish.  Swish, swish.

“Hark, the Herald Angels Sing???”  But it’s still fall!  Where did that come from??

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