How do you see yourself?

My next door neighbor is an ornithologist.  Do you know what that is?  He’s a bird man.

He and his wife are excellent neighbors.  We chatted about 10 days ago after their early evening stroll.  Dr. J had noticed my robin’s nest over my front door a few weeks ago.  I told him that the babies had already flown away.  “Now, I have a duck nest”, I bragged.  So they came over to see for themselves.

Almost immediately, Dr. J. rationalized that the birds were attracted to my condo because of the architecture.  Unlike theirs, my front stoop seemed less open. It seemed more protective. I guess one could look at that way. (Between us, I think he was jealous).

I, however, challenged him.  He is a bird expert, but I am a field agent of a different sort.  “I guess you can see it that way”, I offered.  “I see it differently.  As a pastor, I consider myself a midwife of new birth.  It’s a matter of perspective”. Dr. J. didn’t know what to say.

How do you see yourself?  It really makes a difference.

  • Beyond the classroom, are you a teacher? Then, you will attract opportunities to teach.
  • Beyond the hospital, are you a doctor or nurse?  Then, you will attract opportunities to heal.
  • Beyond the desk, or the sales floor, are you a sales person?  Then, you will attract opportunities to pitch big ideas.
  • Beyond the university, are you a student?  Then, you will attract opportunities to learn important things
  • Beyond the home, are you a mother or father?, then you will attract opportunities to nurture others.
  • Beyond the church or temple, you are a child of God; you will attract opportunities to act out your belovedness.

I have been out of town for the last 6 days.  I got home last night and when I arrived, I checked on Ethel, my duck.  Unfortunately, two eggs had been rolled away from the nest.  I assume they were attacked by a predator of some sort.

I told Ethel how sad that made me, but reminded her that she was still a good mother. This morning when I checked on her, she shifted long enough for me to see that six ducklings had hatched.

I’m thankful I got home in time. I texted with a friend this morning sharing the good news of birth.  He reminded me that Ethel had done all the hard work, not me.  In my profession, the same is true.  It’s not my job or my ability to take over the labor of new birth.  At best, I am a midwife, an encourager, a coach.

Again,  identity is a matter of perspective.  I claim that among other things, I am a midwife. I will continue to attract opportunities to encourage and coach. How do you see yourself?

All around us, we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But, it’s not only around us; it’s within us.  The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs.  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance.  That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother.  We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us.  But the longer we wait, the larger we become and the more joyful our expectancy.     Romans 8:22-25  The Message.


The Wolf in sheep’s clothing

If you don’t know this, my dog is a war veteran. My oldest son adopted her from the mountains of Afghanistan.  Part Shepherd and part wolf, she was Marine-trained to keep watch.

Suffice it to say, she has a reputation as a bad ass. Every morning, at the break of dawn, she goes on patrol from my screened in porch.  She barks at strangers whom she does not recognize. She intimidates dogs who have not been properly introduced. She is prepared to go through the screen if she feels a significant threat.  She is my protector, my warrior, one of my best friends.

That being said, she has a story. Doesn’t everybody?  She was born in a war zone.  She learned to be overly alert and protective.  Frankly, she has post traumatic stress disorder.  Have you ever heard of that?

So do my two oldest sons who are also war veterans.  As a matter of fact, the whole family has it to some degree.  That’s what violence, intrusion, and the sudden death of loved ones leave behind.  Believe me. There are many military families like mine. Don’t get me started.

Some of you know from my recent facebook posts that my condo has become a haven for nesting animals. At the end of March, a robin built a nest on top of my front door. I adapted, using the garage or the back door as much as possible. I watched the eggs hatch, and eventually, the young birds flew the coop.

Then, a duck made a nest by the same front door and deposited 8 eggs.  I named the Mama duck “Ethel” and talked to her every day as if she belonged here.  I did the same for “Robin”.  Let me say, I used to live on a tiny farm.

My daughter raised ducks for a 4-H project.  We built a pen in a grove of pine trees to keep them as safe as possible.  We let out the ducks at least twice a day.  They would immediately take flight, circling our property three times.  Then they would land and expect us to chase them back to their pen. Heidi, our watchdog, loved their game.

Back then, Heidi would swim with them in our pond. To the ducks, she was not a bad ass, but part of the family. So, it didn’t surprise me at all that Heidi welcomed Ethel to our home.  Heidi was accustomed to ducks. In some odd way, she knew them as our kin. Then Mia, the golden retriever, showed up.

Mia is the darling dog of the community.   Because of her breed, everyone admires her.  Yet, she’s the off-leash blond bombshell who wants to take over the world.

Heidi, on the other hand,  is greeted with on-going suspicion. Because of her aggressive bark, she is labelled as a nuisance, one to be feared.  People have no idea what she’s been through. Neighbors have no idea that her bark is her cry for help. She is broken and overly-stressed. She is anxious and afraid. Like other war veterans, she longs to be accepted and loved. Could that also be true for other neighbors as well?

The other night, Mia was out and about.  As usual, she was the gentle and flirtatious  politician making the rounds, until she smelled the duck.  She charged the nest. Frantically, Ethel took off. I had to intervene.

In the meantime, Heidi was on lock down in the back yard. Because of her reputation, she was on the patio.  She was anchored by the gas grill, even as she lazily nested in the mulch nearby.

Mia is a sweet dog. There’s no doubt about it.  Perhaps, she just isn’t trained to be kind and welcoming to ducks. Perhaps she is so accustomed to being the center of attention, she doesn’t realize that there are other creatures in the universe who don’t want to be bothered.

Here’s my point. Beware of the “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” They can cause much anxiety and stress.  Here’s another point. Listen to the stories of others. Be gentle with strangers.  Give thanks for those who made sacrifices for us through service to their country.  Advocate for our veterans.  They deserve our kindness and respect, regardless of their species.