Flight of Grace

white-pelican-flyingA mile north of Wahoo, NE is a 637-acre impoundment called Lake Wanahoo. Its purpose is flood control and environmental restoration. The planners also created a fisherman’s mecca with long jetties and quays that provide extensive shorelines for those of us addicted to the pursuit of what scientists call phylum Chordata. Along its length are flooded timbers which provide excellent habitat for crappies and bluegills. These attract the predatory large-mouth bass and northern pike which prey on them.

And these species attract sportsmen who swarm to its shores using everything from small kayaks to sleek watercraft with high priced equipment and gear that could pay for a medical diploma. And adjacent to the lake are campers and vehicles that combined values could buy the medical school.

As with most man-made impoundments it creates an economic bonus for the local community. New homes are being built on the hills overlooking the lake, stores sell all the necessary supplies for camping, fishing and the myriad activities which water recreation provides. It is an enjoyable place to spend a quiet week pursuing the elusive aquatic inhabitant and enjoying the quiet and peaceful landscape. That is until Friday when the hoard of recreationists invade with their kid’s and grandkid’s college funds on wheels. That’s when I pack up and leave, glad that I have a sermon to give on Sunday morning back home.

Among all this man-made recreation and mechanization there are residents who remind me that God has created the most subline example of grace and beauty in the form a gangly and odd-looking creature who has taken up seasonal residence on Lake Wanahoo’s waters.

In the early morning and throughout most of the day, in the northern half of this lake, on a sandbar jutting out to the deeper waters is a colony of white pelicans or Pelecanus erythrorhynchos, to be scientifically correct. Up close, these birds have an awkward appearance as though God wasn’t sure what to do with some left-over parts from his raptors or owls. Though they are at home swimming placidly on the water, their true grace is apparent when they take flight. With a few flaps of their elegant wings stretching 108 inches, they free themselves from the “surly bounds of earth” and glide effortlessly across the sky, often flying in pairs and sometimes in long strings like white pearls across the heavens. Their graceful flight puts the sleek boats and modern campers below them to shame.

They rarely venture over land, keeping the reassuring waters below them when they choose to rest quietly on the lake’s surface. It’s doubtful they could land on the ground if they wanted, unlike their geese and duck cousins. It is when they swoop from the sky and begin their long flight across the surface of the waters that they display their elegance and splendor. With a quick flap of wings, they sustain a mesmerizing glide just inches from the surface. If the lake’s surface is smooth and undisturbed by wind and waves, there is a perfect reflection sailing below them, spiritual images sharing the joy of sky and water in a perfect ballet of flight.

I’m sure their gangly shapes and odd carriage has a purpose and their elegant glide somehow helps them catch fish without the technology required by us humans who are perhaps more awkward and gangly than they. Yet one cannot help but think that God simply wanted to create something wonderful and graceful. And he gave them the freedom to rejoice in the pleasure and joy of using their God-given gift.

Jesus told his new disciples when they were worried about provisions, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!

The worries of this world bear down upon us and we add to the burden with those things that cost money or bring us false values. To be as the pelicans and sail joyously above the shining waters is a celebration of God’s gift. Perhaps it is in the things which God created and not in our contraptions that we truly can experience the presence of the one who created us and looks over us. It is what God told Job who could not see beyond his own troubles that we should take to heart.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you;

   the birds of the air, and they will tell you; (Job 12:7)


Pastor Dan


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