Friday, October 9, 2009


“Lookuphere… lookuphere… lookuphere… Hey, you guys!” Steve Martin as Lucky Day in Three Amigos!

My dad is a bird watcher. I’ve accompanied him numerous times on crack-of-dawn outings and found it enjoyable and informative. The details God painted on tiny songbirds, waddling quail or leggy shore birds highlights our Creator in ways so many people miss. A key part of birdwatching, however, is bird hearing. Many species are expert hiders, so finding them to watchoften starts with hearing their song. Once the song is heard and identified, the bird’s location is much easier to determine. You hear it, recognize it, you know it’s there and where to look for it.

When we lived in Northern Louisiana, we hiked a path in a little, wooded park next to L.A. Tech. On one of our first visits, alerted by his perceptible pounding on an exposed telephone pole, we saw a pileated woodpecker, a rarer species nearly two feet long with a crested red head, like a Trojan helmet.

He was magnificent.

I get such a thrill from encounters like that.

From that day forward, I kept watch when we walked, eager to experience the sight again, but more often than not, he stayed hidden. Oh, I heard him plenty, his head knocking a tree trunk nearby or his distinct voice ringing out over the park. I knew he was there… somewhere. So I’d look harder, anticipating, hoping.

One day, when it had been weeks since I’d seen or even heard the bird and honestly, I’d stopped looking as much, there he was. He flew directly in front of us, a flash of red and wave of black and white, landing on a tree trunk, close and in plain sight.

Wow. The thrill rocketed through us.

And it came on a day we really needed it. Life had been rough.

So, I turned my radar back on, re-inspired to seek him out during every walk.

Even though we continued to hear evidence of his presence, the sightings remained rare. When we did see him, it surprised and thrilled us every time. Once, we saw two of them in the same tree.

That pileated woodpecker taught me something about God’s presence that served as a lifeline for us while we trudged through our wilderness.

We don’t always see Him, but He is always there. If we know God’s voice and what He sounds like, we can be assured of His presence even if we’re searching the treetops not spotting Him. Still, we shouldn’t weary in seeking Him because when least expected but needed most, He shows up in all His glory, revealing something about Himself that thrills and encourages as well as confirms His presence.

Recently, My Daniel and I took a walk on a grey, chilly Sunday afternoon, our moods as gloomy as the weather. After battling the temptation to sleep all day on the couch lulled by colliding football helmets, we made the effort. But as soon as we hit the path, the sprinkles started. We frowned at each other – figures. But then we both shrugged and said, “I don’t care if you don’t,” and so we continued in the rain.

We alone, save a quiet rabbit or two, braved the wet pavement shadowed by a soggy-leafed canopy, but the solitude suited us. The rain increased and decreased by degrees as we went, mostly without notice. We talked, vented, postulated, planned, complained… it was therapeutic. Still, a sense of heaviness sat on our shoulders like the accumulation of raindrops. We couldn’t shake the sense of uncertainty.

But then…

The throaty trill of a woodpecker* split the raindrops high in the canopy of branches. We stopped, scanning the treetops for the bird, spotting it at the apex of a naked, bark-covered finger pointing into the clouds. Our hearts thrilled.

I think about Steve Martin at the beginning of Three Amigos! standing atop the studio wall trying to get the attention of his other two amigos while they squatted clueless right below him. Sometimes God is saying “Look up here, look up here,” – not like Senior Martin’s comical birdcall impersonation– but maybe in the form of an actual bird, His creation. And sometimes, with me at least, He has to resort to shouting, “Hey, you guys!” Either way, He will do anything to get our attention, remind us that He’s present and watching over us, no matter what problems or struggles we’re facing.

His proximity astounds and blesses me.

As we resumed our stroll in the rain, we agreed that it was a good thing we didn’t let a few sprinkles keep us from venturing out on that walk.

*For your (mainly my dad’s) information, it wasn’t a pileated … it was another more common kind of woodpecker, but the family as a whole has a similar call. And it doesn’t decrease the significance in our eyes. J


lynnrush said...

Nicely put, Lori.

He'll do anything to get our attention. So true. Sometimes what He has to do to get our attention isn't so pleasant (Like losing a job, injury, hardship of some sort) but He's right there with us through it all!

KM Wilsher said...

What a great bonding time with your Dad, birdwatching. And, it is something I have been practicing: Hearing God's voice. How nice this post was!