Sunday, February 17, 2008

Birds on a Wire

“Men cry out under a load of oppression; they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful. But no one says, 'Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, who teaches more to us than to the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the air?” ~Job 35:9-11

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always” ~ 1 Chronicles 16:10-11

I wish I had had more time to watch them. The North-South running power lines at that intersection are frequently inhabited by birds, but this was the largest “North Texas Starling Convention” (as my husband put it) any of us had ever seen. (I wish I'd had my camera!) The kids commented that the wires looked like they were “very thick” – that’s how packed in the birds were – hundreds, possibly thousands of them.

Enthralled by their sheer numbers, I took a closer look. This was not a static gathering of birds as it first appeared. These fowl were embroiled in a dynamic interaction, and it wasn’t necessarily producing a beautiful song. The picture was worth a thousand words as, even though our windows were up to buffer ourselves against the weather, I could “hear” them chattering:

Bird flying around frantically: “Brrrrrr! Man, its cold!! Anyone got a spare seat? Hey, scoot over.”

Bird he lands beside, now scooting over to the left: “Good grief, man! Get your own wire!”

Next bird in line, scooting also: “Hey! Quit shoving!”

And on down the line: “Owww! You stepped on my foot!” “Dude – watch it!” “Uh, excuse me??! What are you doing?” “Hey! Knock it off!” “Uhhh … can anyone say, ‘Personal space!?”

Finally, someone had enough: “Oh, this is ridiculous!” he exclaimed as he flew away.

That bird, then, flew around in a frenzy trying to find another place to settle. Once he chose his location, the whole drama would start again. Occasionally the birds would be moving down and a fight would break out with, I would surmise, one bird refusing to shift and calling his offending neighbor to account. Both birds would then fly off chasing and pecking at each other in a tumultuous dance before finally settling on two different wires, thus starting the process in duplicate.

It was a cold, windy day, so you can’t really blame them for bunching up like that, or for being not a little bit irritable. However, after turning West down another street, we saw some birds on some East-West wires who, though there were many of them as well, were obviously getting along quite nicely. They were sitting peacefully side by side. No one was fluttering about, no one was stirring up trouble. I wondered later if it was their orientation in relation to the wind direction that made the difference. Had they, perhaps, found a bearing that allowed them to stand firm against the gale and be at peace with their circumstances and with each other?

How like us, I thought! How often do we focus our attention on a direction perpendicular to God? And for what? Frustration, discomfort, restlessness, dissention.

In the 1991 movie "City Slickers," Mitch (Billy Crystal) and a friend, both experiencing mid-life crises, decide to head west. During a two week cattle driving experience, Curly (Jack Palance), a cowboy, imparts a profound morsel of wisdom:

“Do you know what the secret of life is?” Curly asks Mitch. “... One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean [nothin’].”

“That's great, but, ... what's the one thing?” asks Mitch.

“That’s what you’ve gotta figure out.”

Curly brings up a good point. What is the one thing in life that makes all other things meaningless in comparison? Like the birds on the East-West wire, we need to check our orientation. Are we focused on the One Thing that defines our purpose, Jesus Christ? If so, he promises we will find peace despite the squalls that may rage around us.

Therefore, ... let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, …” ~Hebrews 12:1-2a

One thing.

Just One thing.


  1. I truly appreciate the lesson that you can bring from the most obnoxious group of squawking, shrieking birds on the planet. Every time we pass a rather large group on a wire, Abigail says, "Look at that big bird meeting." And now, thanks to you, I know what they're saying. :)

  2. This is great! I love that movie and I always thought it was hilarious how the birds all needed to be perfectly spaced so if one would land you could watch every bird readjust! Too much fun.

  3. And here I always thought they were singing! I should have sent my kids to you when they were little and asked what the birds were saying. I would come up with a song that kinda matched the rhythm. Never thought to come up with a conversation.


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