On the Water: A Vacation Moment

I sit on the short wooden dock

Feet dangling in the cool lake water,

Waves rippling around my calves. 

Tiny fish school below my toes

Eagerly biting at creatures smaller than they,

Invisible to my eye. 

A duck family makes another pass, giving me wide berth,

Mama voicing a low and constant quack

To keep the youngsters moving on course. 

The wind tangles my hair into disarray,

The shadow on my lap resembling Medusa’s locks. 

A boat races by, squealing children on board. 

Its wake enlivens the water below me,

Splashing my knees and moving my relaxed legs 

Back and forth and back again. 

An industrious ant approaches and dances around uncertainly

Before detouring around my giant obstruction in its path. 

The chilly breeze across the water

Offsets the warmth of the sun’s rays on my shoulders 

As our home star begins its descent in the evening sky. 

And I drift into a special peace that comes from being on the water,

Cares washing away, my soul resting fully. 

Two Sparrows

Over the past month, I watched as two sparrows crafted a nest atop our porch pillar, and then mama bird sat patiently on a couple of eggs. Another sparrow would swoop in from time to time to try to take over, and papa bird would fight him off and then chirp noisily for awhile. It was like an episode of Wild Kingdom.

I knew it was getting close to hatching time, so I’d been watching anxiously for tiny beaks to pop up over the nest edge. Yesterday, we returned from church to find a tiny baby bird lying on the porch. He’d either fallen or been tossed out of the nest. Upon inspection, we found he was still alive, wriggling on his back. We sprang into action, grabbing gloves and a step ladder to put him back in the nest. Then crossed our fingers that mama and papa bird would return and tend to him.

The parents did return and inspected their youngster with surprise, then mama snuggled up next to baby. Later in the evening, I was pleased to see mama bird feeding not just the little guy we rescued, but a sibling who had also hatched. I went to bed with hope restored for our resident bird family.

So, it was heartbreaking this morning to peek out the window and find the nest missing from the pillar ledge. Both it and its sweet, downy occupants were lying on porch. This time, the babies were still and lifeless. I put on some gloves and carefully picked up their bodies, cooing softly to them as if they could hear me and trying not to cry as I loaded them into a bag along with the discarded nest.

In that moment, they ceased to be simply two tiny sparrows that had fallen on hard luck. They became an illustration of the uncertainty of life and the cruelty of death, evidence of The Fall, and proof that things are not as they should be.

One might accuse me of being overly sentimental or over-spiritualizing. “Seriously? They were just a couple of common birds.” But they were two of God’s creatures, two new lives in the world, created for a purpose, even if only to add their songs to the sounds of our neighborhood and eat some bugs. Matthew 10:29-31 (New Living Translation) says, “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.” They may be common, but they are not unimportant to God.

This evening I find I’m still sad about the baby birds. Maybe I just have a really soft spot for nature. Maybe it’s because we’re dealing with our own boys “flying the nest” in various ways. We moved our older son this weekend into his very own apartment for the summer, and our younger son is about to graduate and head to college. I think, in part, it’s because for several weeks, I watched with anticipation, and what I had waited for ended in an entirely different—and undesirable—way.

And the circle of life had skipped several steps for those little birds. In this season of my own life, as I deal with illness, that concept feels a bit unsettling. Still, I know God’s with me in this season, and I, too, matter to him. The second part of the Matthew passage goes on to say: “The very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” As much as God cares for the sparrows, he cares even more deeply for me.

Spring brings a fresh crop of questions

With spring’s arrival, I find my “pondering” is more frequent than usual. It’s as though the warmer weather and sunny days have awakened synapses in my brain that have lain dormant over the long, cold winter. Many of the thoughts and questions that fill my head are triggered by what I see in my own backyard as nature wakes up around me.

New life co-mingles with the old and the dead. Many trees have both buds or flowers and a few straggling dead leaves that have held on persistently through fall and winter. New blades of grass grow up and around broken branches deposited on our lawn by winter’s winds. I ask myself: What old or broken things in my life do I need to clear out or clean up to make room for healthy, new growth?

flower and thorn

But not all that grows is desirous. Prickly brambles creep up from the dirt alongside daffodils and hyacinths. Oak saplings appear in areas designated for manicured flower beds. And vines twist themselves around fences and railings, growing more insistent with each lengthening day. Left to their own, those little plants can eventually take over and do damage. I wonder: What unhealthy vines and brambles have I allowed to grow in my life that threaten what I’m intentionally growing or building?

Not all plants make a comeback after a long winter’s nap. The lilac bush in our back yard has long struggled, with fewer and fewer branches each year yielding leaves and blooms. Each spring, I’ve carefully pruned the deadwood, hoping to give the bush one more chance. But this year, nearly all the branches are bare, and it seems time to finally remove it and plant something else. In my own life: What “dead” thinking or behavior do I need to chop down and replace with a fresh attitude or habit?

As I sit on the front porch, papa bird flies back and forth to the nest he and his mate have built in the eave. He brings bug after bug to nesting mama bird—so industrious and diligent, undeterred by distractions, a singleness of purpose. I reflect: What do I pour such energy and focus into? And are those things most deserving of such energy?

This spring, what thoughts and questions are sprouting for you? What do you need to think about afresh?

Consider the Daylily: Part 2

After a few years, daylilies grow into larger and larger clumps, becoming overcrowded. When this happens, they don’t flower as much, and it’s time to divide the plants. Although this may seem traumatic to the plants, in the hands of a skillful gardener, the division and replanting brings additional, healthy growth and abundant flowering.

So it goes with us. Every now and then, we must go through division, trial, difficulty, testing in order to stretch, improve, and become stronger or more fruitful. No one likes these experiences. They can be unpleasant or even traumatic. But in the skillful hands of the Ultimate Gardner—our Heavenly Father—we can be confident that the result will be growth and abundant living, to our benefit and the benefit of the world around us.

Consider the Daylily


All over town, there are seemingly countless daylilies dotting flower beds and lining driveways and lot lines. Many are small and yellow, growing in large bunches of identical blooms. Others are large and bright orange, standing proudly atop tall stalks. Still others are blends of crimson and gold, purple, or white—those can be quite spectacular.

Magnificent or simple, each daylily blossom lasts only a day. It closes in the evening and fades, replaced by others the next morning.

Our lives are a bit like that. Each day we have on this earth lasts for, well, only one day. We can’t change yesterday, and we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. So, all we can do is live fully into today and, to quote a plaque my grandmother gave me as a little girl, “Bloom where you’re planted.”

Some of our days are like the big bunches of small, yellow lilies—ordinary, unremarkable, similar to many other days. But we can work to make even those days beautiful and special. Other days are like the bright orange or crimson or purple lilies—those are days of graduations, births, promotions, rainbows after storms, phone calls from old friends, family vacations. Those days are naturally more notable and beautiful. Hopefully on those days, we can pause to reflect on the joy of the moment and be grateful.

Of course, there are daylilies that fail to bloom because of lack of water, bug infestation, or being nibbled by hungry deer. Similarly, some of our days are filled with disappointment, illness, loss, and struggles. But just as a daylily plant has many blooms, appearing day after day, we can hope for another new day and pray it blooms a little brighter.

Snow? For Holy Week?

Here we are, a few weeks into spring, two days after Palm Sunday, and in Pittsburgh, snow is falling. Big, white, fluffy flakes blowing in the wind, landing on the budding trees, sprouting plants, and a few early flowering bushes.

Snow… during Holy Week. Ridiculous, right? That was my initial thought until I realized that, actually, it might just be the perfect time for snow.

Psalm 51:7 says, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” And in Isaiah 1:18, the Lord promises, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow…”

Isn’t that what Holy Week is all about? Christ died for our sins, so we could be clean. Through Him, we can be as white as the snow. Praise God!