Wednesday, December 28, 2011

From: A Word of Grace for Your Monday

by Kent Hanson
December 4, 2011

Dear Friends,

The chill betrayed the bright sunshine when hurricane-strength Santa Ana winds blew on the last day of November. High on the roof of the School of Dentistry building, a hungry red-tailed hawk perched, hunched down against the gusts and waited for lunch.

I have often heard that hawk's distinctive "kree-eee-ar" cry and have looked up to see it circling over the Medical Center where pigeons roost on the roof between helicopter landings and takeoffs. I imagine it screamed on this day too when it spied a pigeon making its way in short flights along the north side of the Coleman Pavilion seeking shelter against the blasting winds. No one would have heard it over the roar.

The angle of attack was short and steep. The hawk accelerated its dive to strike the pigeon before it reached the end of the building and could take shelter under the cars in the parking lot beyond.

Working in his second-floor office, my friend, Dr. Richard Peverini, heard the slam against his window. Startled he looked up to see a streak of white pigeon feathers and avian body fluids across the glass. He looked down and saw two birds lying on the sidewalk below. The fierce hawk was dead, lying on its back with talons still extended, highlights of bronze and red glinting in the sun as the wind ruffled its plumage. The hapless gray and white pigeon lay crumpled and still beside it.

The hawk may have misjudged the strength of the once-in-a-generation windstorm in the passage between the buildings and was vulnerable to it with wings folded in the streamlined dive.

More likely, the raptor saw the sunlight streaming through the windows of Richard's corner office illuminating the landscape on the other side of the building and thought open-space would allow it to safely pull out of its dive with its prey in grasp. Instead the impact of the hurtling strike against the unforgiving surface of the glass was so violent that the soft body of the pigeon splattered rather than cushion the body of the hawk against death

Richard is a kind and thoughtful neonatologist and executive who loves nurturing premature babies to health and enjoys the logic and elegance of mathematics. The savage collision within a few feet of where he was sitting was a thought-provoking reminder of just how irrational and brief life can be and of the ever-present shadow of sin on a cloudless day.

He brought me into his office to see the stain on the glass, small feathers still waving in the wind like a white flag of surrender that came too late.

Richard and I share a belief that God is always active and present, though in ways that are often mysterious to humans and to keen-eyed hawks. Job spoke of "That path no bird of prey knows, and the falcon's eye has not seen it" (Job 28:7). We take our lessons with gratitude where we find them.

The hawk's hunger on a tough day for hunting was real. Its desire, instincts, eyesight, speed, sharp talons and even the pigeon were the gifts of its Creator. The way ahead seemed so right, but the winds were treacherous and the light proved false. In the end, the obsessive pursuit proved deadly for the pursuer as well as the pursued.

So we take flight in our pursuit of the good, forgetting that the lines between temptation and calling and presumption and grace are very thin. We do our very best with what we have and push on fast and hard, but is it the right goal? Is it the right time? Is it the right course?

One of the early Christians said, "Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart." "Follow your heart," the world blithely tells us, but unless the Lord possesses our heart and his Spirit controls us we will be blind and vulnerable to the treacherous winds and false light that lures us on until we smack the wall and fall to our death (See, Rom 6:21).

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