I flew to Arizona for a five day retreat to visit my 78 year-old father in Green Valley. Just up the street from my dad’s home is a beautiful condo collection, one of which I rent each spring. My condo this year overlooked the sensitive contour line of the Santa Rita Mountains. Being the first week of May, the cacti were blooming, mid-day temperatures were in the high 90s, and the sun was bright with no cloud covering. What a wonderful escape from the below average temperatures of Wisconsin!
The first morning, I pulled open the sliding glass door and walked out onto my patio with a fresh cup of hot Starbucks coffee. I could smell the smoke of a forest fire on the other side of the mountains. I love that smell! Birds were in abundance, being that Green Valley is one of the top bird migratory paths in the world, drawing serious birders from every continent.
I gazed at the mountains, closed my eyes, and silently prayed a prayer of gratitude for my private moment in such a serene desert setting. So as not to obstruct my view of the mountains from my living room, I left the sliding screen door open and went into the kitchen to refill my coffee mug. Sitting down on the sofa, I began to read in the book of Psalms as I usually do at the beginning of my morning devotions.
Shortly after settling into Psalms, I happened to look up and, much to my surprise and delight, I witnessed a curved-billed thrasher walking through my living room. He stopped momentarily, made eye contact with me across the glass- topped table in front of the couch and kept on walking straight into the kitchen. I followed the bird quietly and carefully, hoping not to terrify it. When the thrasher got to the end of the kitchen, he flew up and landed on top of the window blinds. How was I going to get this thrasher out of my condo? I figured that if I caused him to fly, he probably would not find the opening through which he came in order to escape without injury. I concluded that I must capture him.
Slowly and carefully, I took one of the kitchen bar stools and moved it close to the thrasher who was trying frantically to escape through a window pane where he could see his freedom but could not secure it for himself. My heart broke for the poor creature. I knew that the only way he would have freedom was if I captured him and carried him to a place where he could fly free, but I knew that such a capture would cause his little heart to pound wildly thinking that he was doomed to die in the hands of his captor, this predator.
I said a short prayer before I grabbed Mr. Thrasher. I prayed that God would calm him and tell him, in thrasher language, that my intention was to help him and not to harm him. When I first put my hands around him, his wings flapped wildly. Knowing nothing of me, he probably assumed the worst—I intended to kill him. As he thrashed, I kept praying until he became still in my grasp. He surrendered to his fate. Little did he know that his fate was freedom, not death. I cared about him. I wanted nothing more than for him to be free.
I walked through my condo, out onto my patio, trying to hold Mr. Thrasher gently enough so he wouldn’t be too scared but firmly enough that he wouldn’t hurt himself from resisting my grasp. Once outside, I released him. He flew to the nearest tree on the edge of my patio, turned, looked at me, and began chirping. I don’t know whose heart was pounding harder, his or mine. I decided to help him recover his emotional equilibrium by sharing my breakfast with him—fresh strawberries and cantaloupe. He jumped down from the branch immediately and began eating the strawberries I had set out on the brick wall at the edge of my yard.
As I watched him eat the fruit, I thought about myself being a thrasher in the hands of God. How often do I wander into unknown, potentially dangerous territories laden with spiritual predators? How often do I helplessly thrash about trying to find some escape route from the dead ends of life? How often do I long for freedom to be what God created me to be—to fly freely instead of risking potential injury to my soul by walking voluntarily into situations where I do not belong and have no experience? How I long for a savior in such times who does not deliver what I expect but, instead, gives what I did not dream or deserve? Love. Life. Freedom. Grace. Only Jesus. I have studied and searched all other world religions. My conclusion? Only Jesus sets the captives free. We are all captives to something–some fear, some obsession, some passion–whatever grasps us more firmly than Jesus offers no release in the end.
Thank you God for allowing Mr. Thrasher to enter my condo and my consciousness today.
Thank you Jesus, for loving me, for saving me, for setting me free.
Thank you Jesus, for understanding my fears, for gently approaching me anyway and captivating my soul.
There is no God like Jehovah!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1
I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. Psalm 119:32