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Look at the Birds of the Air

Picture by Chris Howlett
Outside Cedar Ridge Lodge in the Glen Eyrie Conference Center near Colorado Springs and Garden of the Gods stands an outcrop of rock. It was one of those formations I am told that laid flat on an ocean floor until the violent shifting of the earth's crust stood it at a 90-degree angle to the earth like a giant vanilla wafer in a bowl of banana pudding. It dwarfed all the other outcroppings in the area. It formed a tiara crowning the valley where it stood.

One Sunday morning on a break from my pastoral duties back home I walked out from the lodge and was shocked by the sun-splashed, sandstone skyscrapper rising out of the valley. I was not as overcome by its height as its shining and sheer audacity to stand erect in a sea of contours. It stood like a six-foot sixth grader among its peers--gwaky and obtrusive, yet powerful.

I noticed that the face of the rock formation had become an apartment complex to the native birds of the region. They had built their homes in bubble holes formed in the rock face. Like a million moths circling a light bulb on your patio, the birds glided, fell, dove and floated on drafts that rose beside the structure. Lifeless rock sustained life. Building birds, feeding birds, procreating birds whirled around the ancient rock.

Staring like a child into an aviary at the zoo, I listened to the racket of life. As I watched the Spirit reminded me of Jesus' words about birds from his mountain-side sermon. I stilled to listen.

Look at the birds of the air. They do not draw up plans, or seek financing, or build earth-quake proof edifices to themselves; and, still your Father in Heaven provides for them. They never sow or reap, but they have all the moths and flies they need. Surely you are more valuable than birds in rock apartments. (Matthew 6:26)

I stood stunned by Light and Word. Chronos stopped for Kairos. Birds locked wing in flight. Wind and Breath joined in my breast. Silence spoke, and its voice echoed down the valley.

Stumbling for words to express myself, I quoted what I could of St. Francis of Assisi's Sermon to the Birds hoping the winged worshipers would benefit from the moment as I had. I didn't have anything to build an altar to memorialize the moment so I picked up a gum wrapper to sanctify the place where I stood and walked silently to breakfast.