Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.
This verse from the Psalms is not so much a command as it is an observation…those who delight in the works of the Lord will learn much about His greatness. But we all would do well to treat it as a command by taking time to stop the “urgent” rushing to and fro of life, and just observe creation so that we can learn more about our awesome God. The great reformer, John Calvin, also suggested something similar:
While we contemplate in all creatures, as in a mirror, those immense riches of his wisdom, justice, goodness, and power, we should not merely run them over cursorily, and, so to speak, with a fleeting glance, but we should ponder them at length, turn them over in our mind seriously and faithfully, and recollect them repeatedly.
John Calvin, Institutes 1:14
I’ve had the blessed opportunity to do more of this in the past four months since retiring from full-time work to pursue several part-time projects.
Donna and I have delighted in watching a pair of sparrows build a nest in an old birdhouse attached to a maple tree in our front yard. Now when we walk into the house we can hear the anxious chirping of baby sparrows in the nest. Their parents faithfully feed them through the day, and soon those “kids” will leave the nest to mature and eventually start families of their own.
Right now I’m spending the last morning of a five day camping trip at Dillon State Park north of Zanesville, Ohio. From the window of my camper I’ve watched crows scavenging the bits of corn chips and nuts I left for them a few minutes ago on the picnic table outside.
The park is full of noisy, busy crows who have loud crow parties every evening…so loud their caws would almost drown out any conversation humans might try to have if they were camping close to the flock. One fellow camper commented that “crows are the new raccoons” at Dillon since most raccoons evidently have been exterminated from the camping areas. In years gone by, our family has been entertained and frustrated by the raccoons at the park as they would regularly invade our camp sites looking for food. Now, it is rare to see raccoons, but the crows have definitely picked up the slack! I’ve been fascinated as I’ve watched their persistence in finding any and all tidbits left by weekend campers.
Last year, a video went viral on the Internet of two girls who witness a mumuration of starlings as they were paddling their canoe across a lake toward a small island. You can watch the video here. This fantastic aerial ballet is truly something to behold. In one of life’s wonderful serendipities, on the very day I first watched this video, I saw a very similar starling dance as Donna, some friends, and I traveled down the Interstate that evening toward Columbus. The mumuration we witnessed was no less amazing than the one in the video. And I thought starlings were just ordinary blackbirds who didn’t do much more than hop around our yard looking for bugs and worms!
Sparrows, crows, starlings…my sister explained to me a while back that some people call these “junk birds.” Kate St. John, a blogger who posts regular bird watching updates on her site Outside My Window defines junk birds as birds “so common and prolific that it just doesn’t make your heart go pitta-pat to see them.” But as I’ve had the opportunity to spend time pondering these birds’ habits by watching them and by reading about them in reference books and on the Internet, I realize they are anything but junk. In scripture we are reminded in many places that God demonstrates compassionate care for His entire creation…even for junk birds like ravens (a very close cousin of the crow):
He gives food to the wild animals and feeds the young ravens when they cry.
Have you ever felt like a junk bird, like you are so common and insignificant that you have nothing to contribute? Have you ever doubted God’s love and care for you? Perhaps you could spend some time outdoors pondering the awesome works of the Lord while allowing Him to minister to you through His creatures great and small. As you consider their ways and God’s provision for them, you will begin to realize that you are here for a purpose. Like His creatures God has given gifts to you that you can exercise and so minister to others. Sparrows, crows, and starlings are beautiful, fascinating, beneficial, and instructive. Otherwise God would not have placed them on the earth. And “aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?” (Matthew 6:26)