Statistics, Javelins and Eagles

It seems in recent weeks that time and inspiration have been in low supply as I struggle to get many tasks done in all realms at the finish of another school year. With a full day ahead of me today, miles to drive, meetings to attend or lead, and having burnt the midnight oil to the point of sleeping in my clothes on the daybed with the dog last night, the morning dog walk on the marsh was not something I expected to savor.

As we strode along, my mind began its usual pull between restful watching and frantic inventory. I found myself considering the statistic I heard in a new film I saw on the weekend: “When God Left the Building.” Can 4000 churches be closing every year? I wondered: did God really leave? Or did people make mistakes? Or both?

About this time I realized I’d unconsciously grabbed and was toting a large stick in my hand.  Now I wondered about this fake javelin. Would it really protect us from the fisher I’d seen two weeks ago? What was I going to do? Hurl the thing and hope for the best? Weird.

Which oddly brings me to the real gift of this slip-slod morning. There’s simply no way to escape the glory of spring and the beauty of the fields this time of year. And because my family is attuned to land, be it fields of England or farms of Kentucky, it’s normal to think of growing up with this land, and therefore of parents as we walk. One year ago I was helping Mom recover from what would be her fourth and final surgery. Six months from that time, she left us. And now six more months on, I take one more step past the fiddleheads and across the meadow, tears in the eye and lump in throat.

Back in the car the dog and I motor down the turnpike, and I think of all these things. And suddenly, right out of nowhere, just at the spot where Mill River passes under Route 1, a very large, white-headed, brown bodied bird flies up. No mistaking that golden, big beak: Bald Eagle!

I whip the car around and park in the lay-by on the other side. And sure enough, there he sits. Showing me himself and making me, calling me to remember the cover art on Mom’s funeral bulletin: “I will rise up with wings like eagles.” Isaiah said it, and Mom lived it.

Perhaps you’ve prayed the selfish prayers I did at my parents’ passing: “Mom, Dad…please find a way to let me know you are OK.” So when these things happen, and I’ve had them all: eagles, shooting stars, gifts of money from the grave, calls from others on particularly rough days: are they signs, wonders, or mere coincidences? Surely they a matter of the heart, and of seeing by faith, with thanksgiving.


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