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!

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“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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The Buck Stops Here: Bitterness, Joy, and the Choice

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The Buck Stops Here:
“Your joy is your own; your bitterness is your own. No one can share them with you.”
(Proverbs 14:10)

“The buck stops here”…this was my first thought as a buck literally stopped directly in front of me along a hiking trail one morning. Although I can’t say exactly who was more startled, I can tell you that it was a moment I won’t soon forget for a couple of reasons. First, at the time, I wasn’t a “happy camper”- no pun intended.  Shortly before our camping trip, I had fractured my foot in several places thus limiting my activities due to the constraints of a huge shoe boot. Even as I hobbled down the path on this particular morning, I was asking God to deliver me from the temptation to cast blame for my predicament in addition to protecting my family from the rising poison of my own bitterness. The ugly truth is I was feeling sorry for myself because while everyone else was having the time of their lives hiking, riding bikes, exploring, etc. – I could only watch from a safe distance. Secondly, it is not every day you find your ramblings to God interrupted by the sudden appearance of a buck. I was hardly finished praying; yet, the message was clear enough: the buck stops here! “Your joy is your own; your bitterness is your own. No one can share them with you.” (Proverbs 14:10)

In this moment, God reminded me that it is not our circumstances that define us as much as how we choose to respond to them. As we turn our attention from ourselves to Him, God is more than well able to transform our bad attitude into one of gratitude.

Along with a new attitude, my prayer time brought to mind some wise counsel I once heard: “Ultimately, we can choose to be bitter or better. Note there is only one letter difference between the two. Those that become bitter focus on the “I” – I should have, I could have, and I feel sorry for myself. Whereas those determined to become better will focus more on the “E”- Emmanuel- God is with us.” God promises to be with us in every circumstance and then leaves the choice in how to respond up to us: “Your joy is your own; your bitterness is your own. No one can share them with you.” (Proverbs 14:10) Choose joy!

Indigo Bunting: Faith and God’s Abundance

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Indigo Bunting
“No one can please God without faith, for whoever comes to God must have faith that God exists and rewards those who seek him.”

(Heb. 11:6)

Bursting with life and color, this Indigo Bunting transformed the dead leaves of my yard into a stage for God’s glory… reflecting the condition of my heart. With every God-given call or task comes the temptation to dismiss it due to our lack of abilities, current circumstance, or foolish pride. I’m convinced that one of the greatest obstacles to following God’s call is our own deceitful heart. One morning as I struggled with such inner feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, I humbly offered it to God in prayer asking for a reminder of HIS love, presence, and promise. And should our Creator be willing, I asked that His reminder come in the form of His created, specifically a Bunting. I knew I was asking a lot, certainly more than I deserve. But, I also knew that “nothing is too difficult for God” and He takes pleasure in “rewarding those who seek him.”(Jer. 32:26; Heb. 11:6 paraphrased) Although I embraced the day with faith and expectancy, no words can describe the unspeakable joy and humble awe of spotting this Indigo Bunting in my own backyard!

As I marveled over this one time visitor, I felt God teaching me a most extraordinary lesson. God doesn’t call us because of who we are or the abilities we have to offer. God calls us because of who he is and the life abundant he has planned for us in Jesus Christ. I could almost relate to Simon Peter when he was called to follow Jesus during his earthly ministry. After a long night of fishing with no results, Simon Peter is instructed by Jesus to push his boat out further in the deep water and let down his nets. Almost reluctantly (it seems), Simon Peter does as Jesus asks only to find himself with a boat so full of fish that he requires additional help to keep the boat from sinking! Upon recognizing the abundance Jesus has to offer, Simon Peter falls to his knees before him and cries, “Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:4-11 paraphrased) God can and does use these moments when we are most keenly aware of our own poverty of spirit to awaken our souls to the infinite riches he has for us in Christ.

As if in answer to an invisible call, I watched as the Indigo Bunting departed from the comfort of my backyard in pursuit of the great unknown. Likewise, we are left with a choice in how to respond to God’s call. We can remain in the current circumstance/condition in which we find ourselves… or we can choose to leave behind what we think we know and move forward in faith that “God exists and rewards those who seek him.” (Heb 11:6)

Inspired by the nature of God