In the Ordinary
At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Mathew 11:25-27
I think one of the primary differences between God and humans is that we tend to see sameness in the ordinary, while God, even in the midst of the ordinary, always sees uniqueness. Perhaps God provides the unique to make us more aware of the ordinary.
Human hearts then are drawn to search out the unique, the rare, and many times consider them as most precious. Otherwise, how could many of us so readily relate to the man who was fortunate enough to find the pearl of great price. In his case, the unique was not only his interest; it was his heart’s desire.
I find that I am no different. In reflecting back, even on just my previous posts to Embers there are many times that it was the unique that caught my eye and attracted my heart. I feel no need to apologize for that. It was like that the day in 2018 when I took the picture above that accompanies this post. That is a pair of whooping cranes that I saw in a half-harvested cornfield about three quarters of a mile from my house.
It was an ordinary late September morning; I was on my way to work like I did every week day. I had just hit a stretch of road that narrowed from two lanes to one at that point. Often enough, even though I was going the speed limit and perhaps, just maybe a few extra mph, people obviously more in a hurry to get to work than I, had a tendency to try to accelerate around me at this point, so they could arrive at the stop sign up ahead some milliseconds ahead of me. I learned to check my mirrors cautiously and often as I did that morning to avoid any kind of needless collision. I had just done so and relaxed because there was no one in my review mirror at all that morning. It was just an ordinary morning that morning. Happy day!
Suddenly, in my periphery, I caught a large flash of white out my driver’s left side window. I glanced again. I hit the brakes and pulled over to the side of the road. I confirmed that I saw exactly what I thought I saw. It was a pair of whooping cranes mixed in with several dozen smaller, and much more ordinary sandhill cranes. They were only about 30 yards off of the road.
It is very appropriate to call whooping cranes rare and unique. In fact, over the last 75 years or so, they have fought their way back from the very brink of extinction to a bit firmer footing. In 1945 there were about 20 known whooping cranes in the wild. All of them were part of a remnant flock that wintered in Texas and summered in southern Canada. That is not a typo – only 20 birds were left. They had fallen prey to market shooters who killed them for their plumage, as the feathers were used in hats for ladies. Loss of habitat and pollution took their share of the toll.
It has taken the concerted effort of many scientists, conservationists, and volunteers as well as government protection and habitat restoration to build the whooping cranes to a current estimated population of around 800 birds. That’s still a precarious number, but it is slowly climbing in the right direction. Because the population is still fragile, a second flock has been established that winters in Florida and migrates to Wisconsin for the summer breeding season.
The morning after my first sighting I slowed down and pulled over in the same spot. This time I half-expected the extraordinary. I wasn’t disappointed. The pair of whooping cranes was there again, although on the second day they were about 400 yards away from the road. Still, I watched them until they fed around the corner of the standing corn where they were blocked from view. By the third morning they were gone, and I have never seen them in the area again.
The story of the whooping crane should be enough to make everyone more appreciative of the gift of nature and the requirement that we care for it with respect, appreciation, admiration and even love. Sometimes God speaks to us in the rare, the unique. Sometimes God speaks to us in the ordinary. Whichever way God chooses today, He speaks.
When it comes to translations of Psalm 95, my favorite is the one from the Liturgy of the Hours that I pray every morning:
“Today, listen to the voice of the Lord: do not grow stubborn, as your fathers did in the wilderness, when at Meriba and Massah they challenged and provoked me, although they had seen all of my works.”
The reason that it my favorite translation is that there is no “if”. Many times, we hear the verse as: “If today you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts." Do not doubt. God shows us time and again that whether it is in the rare, or in the ordinary, He speaks. Shhhh, . . . Listen
His Peace <><