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The Launch

I pulled opened the blinds, lowered the toilet seat, and sat down with a cup of coffee. From there, I watched five baby birds struggle to take flight. 

While birds have nested under our covered porch in years past, my free time and awareness has never collided with the day the babies took flight.

So, I sat on my toilet seat with more than routine excitement.

For weeks I’d heard their morning calls through my bathroom window. While brushing my teeth, I’d peek through the blinds and watch the momma and daddy birds feed their offspring. As the babies grew in size, I knew they would soon launch. 

On the morning of the launch, I stepped out onto the porch with my camera where unusual movements caught my attention. A bold baby bird stood up extra tall and moved with unrest. So I rushed to the quiet of our bathroom and pulled open the blinds.

As I watched through the dirty window, the rabbel-rouser confirmed my suspicions. No longer satisfied with just peering over the edge, she stepped up onto the crusty ledge and leaned over.

Then, pulled back, unsure.

So, the others urged her on, crying "You can do it!"

Encouraged, she stood up tall as her siblings looked on in awe.

There, she considered the heights...

Spread her wings...

And then, pulled back in, safe.

Aware of her babies plight, momma bird flew in.

She landed on a chain right outside my window.

Daddy bird stopped by too.

Momma Bird flew up close to the nest, and whispered, "Come on. You can do it!"

Baby bird flapped her wings, but failed to jump.

Instead, she stared over the edge and pleaded for help. 

Flanked by both parents, courage built.

They offered one last morning snack...

And then I made a huge mistake.

Convinced the birds were stuck in fear mode, I decided to run outside with Windex and a paper towel to clean my window and enhance the view. But right as stepped across the threshold, they launched. Four of them. 

And I was peeved. 

While trying to improve my camera shot, I missed out on the photo. 

So, I turned to the blooming azaleas instead and they smiled nicely.

And then I saw him. The lone baby bird, still in the nest. But if you notice in this progression of photos, his head sticks just a little farther in each frame.

I worried about him. Wondered if I needed to feed him. But after a short Google search, I learned that the parents would most likely come back for him. And within thirty minutes, they flew in under the porch again. 

A voice student arrived shortly after, and by the time we finished our lesson, the nest was empty. But even this morning, the family of birds has been swooping in under all corners of our porch, singing and flitting about. 

So what have I learned?

1) I need to wash my windows. With my porch serving as a bird refuge, the summer ahead may allow for cool photos if I rid our home of window slime.

2) I do not need to concern myself over a slow to launch baby bird. His parents know exactly what to do. 

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So, don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (Matthew 10: 29 - 31 NIV).

3) Even if I feel like the left-behind, slow-to-launch baby bird, I can trust my Heavenly Father will linger close till I take flight. 

What do I mean?

Last fall, I saw a writing mentor who's highly respected in Christian writing circles. After briefly catching up, he told me I could use his name when I was ready to reach out to a certain agent. If things go as planned, I'll meet that agent next month.

But for an agent to take notice, my Facebook, Twitter, and blog numbers need to increase. I don't worry about them too much, especially since I can't even organize my life enough to post on the same day each week. 

But as I struggle to manage my health, teaching, writing, and all that is my life, I often feel like the left-behind bird, watching other writers fly. 

So, today I'm going to stand on the edge of my comfortable nest and simply ask you to share blog posts that speak to you. By sharing them, you my readers increase my numbers. And that in turn, may help me launch. 

Ultimately, I trust God's hand in it all. My days are His and my future in His care. He will guide each step and make a way. 

But sometimes, we have to do our part by spreading our wings and taking a leap of faith. 

The day after the launch, I walked outside with my camera and laid down on my back in my driveway. There I watched birds fly among the tree tops. 

Man, it looked like fun. 

Did Easter Shake Your World?

Even though I sipped coffee at home—and not on the beach—this morning, I felt the effects of the respite called spring break. 

Flowers are blooming. Birds singing. And baby birds chirping in a top corner of my pollen covered front porch. 

Blooming azaleas and dog wood trees enhanced our warm Easter weekend. And according to the news, we just hit our highest temp in 166 days. 

So, taking photos of the momma and daddy birds that flew around (and fussed at our lounging cat) slowed time and lured my soul back to resurrection and all things new.

Just like photographing the birds, venturing through Holy Week took me to unexpected places. Two stand out.

The first occurred at the end of a Palm Sunday service. After waving palm branches and singing All Glory Laud and Honor, the Methodist service diverted. The choir sang, Pietà, by Joseph Martin, a lovely piece that begins with these words:

“In the shadow of a manger, by a candle’s dancing flame, tender Mary holds her baby, and she breathes His holy name. ‘Jesus rest your weary head, close your weeping eyes.’ As evening falls, she starts to sing a lullaby. “Lulay, lulay, peace be yours tonight.”

From Christmas, the song led us to where Mary found Jesus in the temple, engaging the Pharisees, all grown up. And of course, in closing, we found her singing over him at the cross.

This recording brought me to tears again: Pietà

As if we hadn’t traveled far enough from cradle to cross, to close the service the congregation participated in a scripture reading led by several pastors. One quoted the narration. Another, the part of Jesus. Another, the part of Pilate. And the congregation, the incited crowd.

So, when we read these words from Mark 15, my role in this life-altering story came to life in a new way:

“’What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked them.

‘Crucify him!’ they [the crowd] shouted.

‘Why? What crimes has he committed?’ asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, Crucify him!’” 
(Mark 15: 12- 14 NIV).

In that moment, I felt immeshed with the dissenters. All these years later, their cry still rings out in our selfishness, our fear, our determined independence, our guilt and shame. 

“Crucify him!” They insisted. “Crucify him,” our sin demands. So, when the organ began to play Were You There When They Crucified My Lord, I could barely sing.

After Sunday lunch with Nathan, I drove back home. While resting with my cat, I received an unexpected text. Someone who had previously built tight walls to keep me out, surprisingly invited me in. Stunned, I waited to reply. But when I opened a piece of mail soon after, and read another note of acceptance from one who once kept their distance, I felt the earth move under my feet.

While the peace offerings meant a great deal, they also stirred unrest. Were they genuine? Trustworthy? Real? As doubt crept in, I questioned the sender’s intent and my response—until Saturday, Easter Eve, around 11 pm.

My home church hosted a read through the Bible event for the third year in a row. It started at 8 am on Good Friday, continued for 48 hours, and finished with the reading of the Book of Revelation at an Easter sunrise service. 

I waited until later to sign up, planning to fill in where needed. So, I went back and forth to the church three times on Saturday.

Right before Don and I stood to take our place on the stage at 10:40 pm, I learned the identity of others already there. Shocked, I hesitated. The people before me carried a severe wound related to the actions of others associated with me. Right or wrong, from what I knew, their strong emotions hadn’t subsided. And I didn’t want my presence to stir pain.

Unsure if they even recognized me, I thought about it for a long minute and let rationale overrule my concern. If there was any moment that potential adversaries should read scripture together, it was the night before Easter. And so, we did. 

Not long after they left, Don and I were asked to read Isaiah 53 – 56. Out of all the chapters in the Bible, I couldn’t have scripted a more poignant end to the swirling thoughts on forgiveness that culminated on that stage. 

Take a minute. Read this out loud:

“Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53: 1-5 NIV).

I choked on the words as I spoke them through tears. For, there's a higher way. It doesn't negate the pain or demand we brush away all wrongs. It simply states that because of the cross, because of Jesus' sacrifice, we are healed. And as that healing manifests itself in our souls, we can reach higher, forgive broadly, and love deeper. 

A supernatural transaction shook the world when Jesus stepped out of that grave. Will we let it shake ours?

Pack Your Coffin

Last Wednesday, at 2:23 pm, I considered coffee—round two. It was mid-afternoon and I’d just put my contacts in. An apple and peanut butter offered a slight pick me up. But I still crawled through the day. 

Before caving to an earlier nap, I considered the days accomplishments, which included: swallowing all meds, taking a shower, returning an email, listening to three Ted talks (mostly during the shower), and reading two short life-changing chapters in the book, All In, by Mark Patterson. 

Then, exhausted, I curled up on my bed and slept for two hours.


When I woke, I reread the first chapter:

"Jesus didn’t die to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous. 
Faithfulness is not holding the fort. It’s storming the gates of hell. 
The will of God is not an insurance plan. It’s a daring plan. 
The complete surrender of your life to the cause of Christ isn’t radical. It’s normal. 
It’s time to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. 
It’s time to go all in and all out for the All in All

Pack your coffin."

Earlier in the chapter, Mr. Batterson explained, “A century ago, a band of brave souls became known as one-way missionaries. They purchased single tickets to the mission field without the return half… and packed their few earthly belongings into coffins. As they sailed out of port… they knew they’d never return home.”

 Never. Return. Home.

(Batterson, Mark. "Pack Your Coffin." All In. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. 13-14. Print.)

In contrast, I napped on a sleep number bed and have no plans to leave my safe world. In fact, it would be very hard to leave my safe world in the confines of this body. 

But the phrase resonates, “Pack your coffin.” Especially during Holy Week. No doubt, Jesus arrived with a packed coffin. At some point, he understood the plan. Was he ten? Twelve? Eighteen? Or Thirty-three when the reality hit home?

What was that moment like? The moment he first understood he was headed for the cross? That he wasn’t here for enjoyment but rather to give his life away?

When my teenage voice students arrived last week, I thrust the book at Paul. 

“Read the first chapter,” I insisted. When he was done, I asked, “What do you think?” 

“It’s pretty cool. ‘Pack your coffin’.”

“Yes, but what does it mean for us here?”

He didn’t even pause, “We have to fight words and opinions where we live.”

Surprised, I pressed him for more and he let loose, “Our issues cause us to lash out. We don’t deal with our [personal] stuff, so we live in a war of words. That’s why unity in the church is so important.”

Bound by the notion I can’t risk enough, I hadn’t considered the ways my safe world really isn’t safe. But Paul had made it clear.

Just yesterday, on Palm Sunday, we commemorated the day Jesus climbed onto a donkey and rode straight to his death. It took a few days. But he knew the plan. He knew where the triumphal entry led. 

The momentary cheering would soon turn to mocking by the fickle crowd. One moment a hero. Five days later a criminal. No doubt, Jesus rode into town; his coffin packed.

However, shortly before He was arrested in the garden, he prayed these words, “My prayer is not for them [the disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—  I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17: 20 – 23 NIV).

Only a short time later, he was arrested and beaten and nailed to a cross.

So as I put all of these thoughts together, I desire to live abandoned to God's divine purpose which has much to do with unity. What it looks like and how to achieve it, I don't know. 

But as we journey to the cross and then beyond to the resurrection, I plan to ask, seek, and knock...and maybe even pack my coffin.

All photos courtesy of pixabay.com
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