Golden-cheeked Warbler (endangered): Arise and shine… God’s glory is shining on you

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Golden-cheeked Warbler
“All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory.”
(2 Cor 3:18)

Ever since I read about the endangered Golden Cheeked Warbler, it has been the desire of my heart to actually spot one. While it winters in Mexico to South America, it nests solely in the juniper-oak trees of Central Texas. And even in Texas, it is still a rare sighting. So before my family headed to Garner State Park in Texas, I prayed: “Lord, grant us what we need to experience the power of your presence, our creator, through your created.” (God knows the desires of my heart better than I do…)Not long after we arrived, I was on a morning hike at the park when I heard the most beautiful, distinctive song coming from a nearby tree. As I glanced to the source of the sweet chirping sound, I was dazzled by the glow of the aptly named Golden-cheeked Warbler! Nothing I had read could have prepared me for this rare and special moment. For me, it was like the glory of God shining in the face of this little bird! I saturated myself in the moment and then excitedly rushed back to camp, aglow with my own brightness, eager to share my morning experience with my family. My experience brought to mind the story of Moses, who upon returning from the tent of the Lord’s presence, had to wear a veil to cover his “shining face” when he returned to the Israelite people. (Ex 34:29-30 paraphrased) By this, I mean please don’t expect people who miss out on seeing the Golden Cheeked Warbler to share your giddy excitement. 

If God can make his glory to shine through this Warbler’s cheeks, how much more can he make his glory to shine in/through us?!! “We are not like Moses who had to wear a veil. In union with Christ, we reflect the glory of God with uncovered faces.” (2Cor 3:13-14 paraphrased)Just as the bright yellow cheeks distinguish this Golden Cheeked Warbler from any other bird, “God’s presence is what distinguishes us from any other people on earth.” (Ex 33:16 paraphrased) As we soak in God’s presence through prayer, worship, service, church, or his word, we can’t help but overflow with his love, grace, and goodness splashing others with glimpses of God’s glory!

Shortly after returning from our trip, I had the opportunity to share my special “God moment” with our teenage girls at bible study. The following week, one of our young ladies came to me with cheeks that shined far brighter than the Golden Cheeked Warbler as she presented me with a gift I’ll treasure for a lifetime. Upon seeing her rendition of my special “God moment” expressed in vivid watercolor, I asked Abigail how long she’d been painting. I couldn’t’ t hold back tears of unspeakable joy as she told me this is her first ever painting depicting, of all things, the Golden-Cheeked Warbler at Garner State Park. I pray it blesses you as it has blessed me!

GCW

“To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of: To God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever! Amen.”
(Eph 3:20-21)

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Woodpecker: Knock, knock… I Dream of Grace

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Woodpecker
“Ask, and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.”
(Matt 7:7)

I have this dream: I stand outside… knocking on Heaven’s gate. Today is the day that I’ll learn my fate.
Knock, knock, knock… “May I come in?” I ask as an angel of the Lord meets me at the gate. Beyond the angel dressed in white, I catch a glimpse of “eternal more.” I can see two ways to enter: one is very narrow and the other very wide. As I consider the significance of the two paths, the angel asks me to please wait outside while the Lamb judges things that I cannot hide. The course of my life flashes right before my eyes. The Lamb stands at the entrance as a witness, I can tell no lies. I feel naked and exposed. This is the way God created us I suppose.

In my life, I’ve known disgrace and shame. But that was before I invited God into my heart in Jesus’ name. As I seek my Savior’s face, I am left feeling awed and humbled by his overwhelming grace. It is beyond my comprehension how God could love me so much that he would send this Lamb-so innocent and pure- to earth as man, while I was yet a sinner, to save me so I could live with him in eternal harmony. God knew I could never do it on my own. From beginning to end, I was never alone. God revealed all I needed to know in Jesus Christ, the savior he promised to send. With all of life’s choices, I had only to pause long enough to recognize his voice. God was always with me. When I was too blind to see, the Holy Spirit helped me along the way adding his divine testimony. In union with Christ, I am in him, he is in me. This amazing grace overwhelms me as I stand waiting. I’m keenly aware that this is something I could never work for nor earn. God’s grace is a gift, far beyond my reach, given freely in Christ to save me from the eternal burn. Through the mysterious work of love divine, I stand here with a new heart and mind. I praise Jesus Christ as Lord… my truth, my life, and my way. And now I stand here humbled. It is judgment day.

I am knocking again… knock, knock, knock. I’m seeking and hope to find that heaven’s gate will be opened to humble me. In union with Christ, I come anchored in hope about my eternity. Here in this dazzling light, everything I ever tried to hide is examined and revealed in perfect clarity. I’m keenly aware of the sins stacked against me. I come to you flawed. As I stand reflecting upon my life, the gate swings open and I hear the final judgement: Forgiven! Forgiven for all!

Free at last, I step into living worship where I hear the trumpets blast. There upon the throne, I see you in all your majesty and glory. At the sight of your dazzling presence and light, I fall to my face joining the angels gathered before you in a song of praise. I’m overwhelmed by your love, saved by your grace. I’m humbled and awed. If not for Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t be here at all.

“He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus. For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift so that no one can boast about it.”
(Eph 2:7-9)

Flock of Geese: Let Me Be Your “Honker”… Loving God and Others

GeeseFlock of Geese

Artwork by Abigail (Age 15)

“The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love his brother also.”

(1John 4:21)

In regards to Texas weather, apparently even the Geese get confused about which direction to fly!  At least that is what I was thinking as I observed a flock of Geese flying back and forth overhead as if they couldn’t make up their minds about which direction to fly. Of interest was that despite their difference of opinion in regards to the flight plan, the geese would quickly recover and regroup back into their v-shaped flying formation indicating (to me at least) that splitting ways simply wasn’t an option. With each change of course, the only notable difference was the increased sense of urgency in which the geese honked at each other. If only it were that easy for us to reconcile after an altercation! But because we often allow ourselves to be ruled by our egos, pride, and “flesh,” we may choose to withhold our love and encouragement from others for any number of reasons. It could be that we feel others are “undeserving” of our love or are “too different” from us to love. At other times, we may feel that our love is not reciprocated in a likewise manner or appreciated in accordance to our expectations. In instances like these, it is tempting to “fly our own direction” verses seeking the path of peace and unity. However, “the command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love his brother also.”(1John4:21)

I’ll never forget experiencing the restorative power of unmerited love and forgiveness from my youngest son. One night when I was feeling especially frustrated and under-appreciated, I couldn’t resist the urge to let my family know exactly how I felt. Even as I inhaled deeply preparing to exhale another long string of ugly complaints, my youngest son walked directly into the path of my fury and threw his arms around me embracing me in a bearlike hug. His unmerited love in the midst of my contention completely extinguished my anger and brought an abrupt halt to my tirade.

In a much more profound way, “God has shown us how much he loves us-it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us!”(Rom 5:8) Through his sacrificial death and resurrection, God has demonstrated his great power and desire to not only restore our relationship to him but to one another. Consider the transforming impact of Jesus’ redeeming love toward Peter…even after Peter denied knowing him 3 times. Although Peter certainly didn’t “deserve” Jesus’ love, grace, or encouragement, Jesus appears to Peter after his resurrection seeking to restore him in a most tender and personal way. During this special scene tailor-made to speak to the depths of Peter’s heart, Jesus asked three times (the same number of times Peter denied him) if Peter loves him to which Peter responds “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” (I can only imagine the guilt and shame he must have been feeling…) To this, Jesus responds simply, “Take care of my sheep.” (John 21:15-17 paraphrased) For the love of Christ, let us love one another!

Because their journey can be long and tedious, it is believed that Geese conserve their energy by flying in a v-shaped formation. Typically, one goose will lead for a while, taking the “hits” if you will, while the others honk as if encouraging each other to “keep flying, don’t give up, we are almost home!” After the goose leads the flock for a while, it will fall back into the formation thus allowing another to lead the flock as the cycle begins again. Likewise, our spiritual journeys can become long and tedious. In the midst of our journey, it can be tempting to pull away from the flock or lose sight of God’s eternal “promised land.” During these times of confusion, let us love and “honk” at one another all the more urgently!

In closing, please allow me to share this beautiful quote from Mother Teresa:

“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.”

“In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”