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Where Are We Looking?

 

“I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come?

My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

- Psalm 121:1-2 (The Book of Common Prayer)

 

“To you I lift my eyes, to you enthroned in the heavens.

As the eye of servants look to the hand of their masters,

and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he shows us his mercy.”

- Psalm 123:1-3 (The Book of Common Prayer)

Do you recall that scene in the first chapter of Acts, right after Jesus has ascended into heaven, and the disciples were still gazing upward? We read, “… suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”” (Acts 1:10b-11)

If someone would have pulled into the church’s parking lot two Sundays ago, a bit after the 10:30 service ended, they would have seen 8 or 10 of us looking up at the top of one of the lamp posts. A great-horned owl was perched there, looking at all of us, turning her head now and then, as if it were on some kind of swivel, but mostly motionless, seemingly unconcerned with the people pointing their phones skyward.

Three days later, on Wednesday, Beckie gave me a head’s-up that there were now three owls at the church, and asked me if I had a good camera.  I responded, “No, I don’t. And I won’t be there for an hour or so. Call Bob Lux; he does. I hope they are still there when I arrive.” They were. When I arrived, Bob and Linda and Beckie were all looking up, and Bob was taking pictures. There were two juvenile owls - still quite large! - perched next to each other on a lower branch of a tree near the office, and the mama owl - I assume the same one from Sunday - on a higher branch in the same tree. All three owls were looking at us, and the mama owl seemed to be keeping track of the owlets, too. 

When I returned to church on Thursday, the first thing I did when I got out of my car was look up. A man mowing the lawn saw me looking up and said, “There are three owls.” It took me a while to spot them. They were in three different trees this time. When I came outside a few hours later, the one juvenile had joined the other, so that they were perched next to each other again!

 

As the week ended, and again on Sunday, and into this week, too, I have been looking up - every time I come to church. But I haven’t seen the owls since last Thursday. Apparently they have moved on.

For me, there was a joy, a peace, and a sense of awe in seeing those owls. I have been having a lot of special interactions with birds in the two months since Julia died, especially with robins, hummingbirds, one particular hawk, one particular sandhill crane, and these three owls. To me it has been as if Julia has been saying, “I’m still around. How are you doing?”  I just stop whatever I have been doing; I stop my run, I stop hiking, I pause before going into the church or getting into my car. I just stop and look for awhile. I smile. We have a little bit of a stare-down, these birds and I. Sometimes I even say in a quiet voice, “Hi honey. How are you today? I’m hanging in there. I sure miss you! Thanks for stopping by.”

By now you have probably guessed what I am going to write next. Where are you looking these days? Where are you putting your attention? 

My guess is that the answer may have something to do with the stage of life that you are in and the time of day. If you still have children at home, I’m guessing you focus on them a lot. (Thanks for doing that, by the way.) If you are still working, I’m sure that a good portion of the day you are focused on your job. (Thanks for that work, by the way.) If you are married, I’m sure there are different times in the day when your focus is on your spouse. (Thanks for doing that, by the way.) If you are on vacation or getting together with a friend, I imagine your attention is focused on the sites or on your friends.

The Psalmist reminds us that there is always the opportunity to lift our eyes to the Lord - the One from whom our help comes, the maker of heaven and earth.

At various times and places, we are reminded to look to God for help, for mercy, for guidance, for strength, for wisdom, for forgiveness, for healing, for solace. We are also reminded to lift our eyes and our voices in song… in praise… in thanksgiving to God.

I would remind you that in seeking the Lord, the direction that we look does not have to be upward. It can be inward, too. If the Holy Spirit has been given to dwell within us, then we can benefit from looking inward as much as we do from looking upward. And… the direction in which we look for God can be straight across - across the room, across the table, across the nave, across the street. Christ dwells in your family member and in your neighbor. When you look at these folks, you can see the face and hear the voice of God, too.

But our great-horned visitors of last week have reminded me to keep looking up.

Lauren Daigle sings a song called Look Up Child. Here are some of the lyrics:

Where are You now

When darkness seems to win?

Where are You now

When the world is crumbling?

 

Oh, I hear You say

I hear You say

Look up child

 

Where are You now

When all I feel is doubt?

Oh, where are You now

When I can’t figure it out?

 

Oh, I hear You say

I hear You say

Look up child,

Look up child,

Look up

Where is your focus right now as you take a minute or two to read this? Could it be that God is inviting you to look up?