Our family just pooled all our money and resources to buy 52 acres of fields and forests land way out in the country. My kids and Janet and I closed on the deal last week. We have 2,000 feet of beautiful river meandering through the land and most of the acres are deciduous forest.
In a few years we all expect to have houses on the land and Grandpa and Grandma Ray (Janet and I) will spend our autumn years surrounded by our kids and grandkids. I prayed for this when I left home at 17 years old and now God is answering my prayer far beyond my wildest expectations. Blessed be God forever!
While exploring last week, my son Jesse called from his cell phone. He was all excited because right in the middle of our forest near the river was a huge nest of Eagles. They are very rare in southern Michigan. (Picture: Distant picture of our eagle nest.)
Janet and I went out yesterday and sure enough — there they were. They were nervous and shrieked out to us, warning us to stay away. We kept our distance so as not to disturb them and as we watched two adults and several younger eagles rose from the nest and caught a thermal, soaring higher and higher, round and round up in sky. Such a swirling group is called a “kettle of eagles.”
Bird watching has been a hobby of mine since I was a little kid trudging through the woods with my dad. (Picture: me on the left with my younger brothers.) I have never lost the love of bird watching and even as I sit typing this story I look out my window at about 10 different bird feeders surrounded by birds returning for the summer. You can see the list of birds (and other creatures) I have identified at our current house by clicking here.
I also love identifying trees, butterflies, wild flowers, snakes and turtles and all kinds of fun things. When I was a young boy I had extensive butterfly collections, books of pressed leaves, and terrariums filled with creatures. Even today I have a live tarantula on my desk and nature books surrounding me on shelves.
God loves these things too — he made them! He fully enjoys his handiwork. Remember Genesis 1:20-22?
“And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens.’ So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’”
By enjoying birds and trees and nature, I am enjoying what God enjoys. I am praising him for his works and learning to think his thoughts after him. Psalm 104 is a beautiful Psalm written to praise God for his wonders with birds and their nests, springs and rivers, trees and grasses, badgers and wild goats, the sun and the stars. The Psalm opens with a loud exclamation:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, thou art very great! Thou art clothed with honor and majesty.” The Psalmist then goes on to praise God for his creation.”
Actually, God has two marvelous creations. The first creation we can observe is the Universe, which is his poem (Endnote 1). The second great creation is us, the Church, the new creation born again into Christ. The Church is his workmanship (Endnote 2). We are his workmanship, his poem, his creation, his work of art — twice!
Section of the river on our land
We can learn a lot about an artist or writer by observing their works or reading their words. Reading poems gives us a window into the mind and heart of a poet. God is a poet and by “reading” his poems we can see into his heart and mind.
I am glad to be integrally woven into both of God’s masterpieces. I am a human being, made in image of God, part of his Genesis creation. I am also a baptized Christian, born again into the Catholic Church (Jn 3:1-5) and part of his new creation.
I am twice created in Christ Jesus; I am twice the result of his love and grace — I am his workmanship. Oh, how I want to live worthy of such an honor. How I want to live holy and faithful so as not to mar the creations into which he has woven me.
Yesterday Janet and I not only saw eagles but we spotted another bird I have always wanted to find but had failed to see in my 51 years. I saw a little Brown Creeper scooting up tree trunks snatching miniscule bugs and spiders from the bark with his narrow curved bill (see picture). Janet and I watched him until he flitted away to another tree up the gorge and out of site.
I bet God knew where the little Brown Creeper went and was watching him too. Between writing books and filming documentaries to draw people closer to God in his Church, I will also be take my grandkids on walks with nature books and binoculars. I want to help draw them closer to God too — as we praise him for his birds and bugs and rivers and trees.
1. In Romans 1:20, the English words “the things that have been made” are from one Greek word poiema. It is from this Greek word that we derive our English word poem.
2. The English word workmanship in Ephesians 2:10 is also a translation of the Greek word poiema.