Last time I mentioned that Pete and I were headed out on a road trip. One of the advantages of being away from our normal routine is that we can’t just run on automatic. Every simple act requires a lot of effort. Which road do we take? Where should we stop to eat? Should we go to this state park or that wildlife refuge? There isn’t time to do everything we’d like to do, so which option is best?
I’ve taken enough trips by now to realize that God is the ultimate tour guide. He doesn’t just hand you a map and point you in the right direction, He comes along and leads you step by step.
A number of years ago, I spent a month on my own driving and camping around Washington—along the coast, out around the Olympic Peninsula, back through the Tacoma area, then east along the Columbia River before turning southeast for home. It was an incredible experience, especially because I was so aware of God’s presence with me.
The very first night, I had dropped Pete off at SeaTac and headed westward for the beach. As I got closer, my map told me there were three campgrounds from which to choose. It was getting dark, and I didn’t have time to check out all three, so I asked God to direct me. Immediately, I had a strong impression that I was to choose the southern one, so I headed in that direction. Arriving, I was delighted to discover that not only was the place nearly deserted, but I could fall asleep to the sound of the breakers. After an early morning walk on the beach, I headed off down the road. In the process, I passed the other two campgrounds. One was closed for the season. The other was a blacktopped RV park, totally inappropriate for my sleeping bag in the back of my station wagon.
The next night, I again sensed strongly which campground I was to stop at. As I drove slowly around the loop, looking for just the right spot, I noticed that one site had a birdhouse nailed to the tree. As a new but very enthusiastic birder, I took that as an indication that God was watching out for me.
God continued to guide me for the entire trip. In one campsite in southern Idaho, a pair of California Quail were standing on the picnic table in welcome, and a trio of fluffy Great Horned Owlets fluttered around the trees. Another time, I felt led to take a series of turns off the main road, then pull over and look down. And there in front of me was a Sage Grouse, a bird I’d really hoped to see!
Now, as we headed south into Texas, I wondered if God would meet us in the same way He’d met me on my Washington “retreat.” And sure enough, He seems to delight in showing us His wonders.
One goal of our trip is to see (and hopefully photograph) many of the special birds that can only be seen in the U.S. in this one southern strip of land along the lower Rio Grande. As we visit the various refuges, sanctuaries, and state parks, it seems as if God is parading each species in front of me for my appreciation. Not only am I picking up new species to add to my life list, I’m getting photographs of most of them.
This really boggles my mind. After all, which birds I see is not that big of a deal, especially in light of eternity. No one’s life is changed, no souls are saved, no orphans fed or women rescued from trafficking. It’s just me, my love of wildlife, and my desire to share God’s creation through my photography.
Yet, God seems to care about that. I started the trip with a list of birds I really wanted to see, and I’m seeing them. Even more, there are numerous reports of rare birds circulating among the other birders here—a Black-vented Oriole at Bentsen – Rio Grande State Park, a Crimson-collared Grosbeak at the Frontera Audubon Thicket, a Rose-throated Becard at Estero Llano Grande State Park… and somehow I’m managing to see them as well!
All too often, I think I’m too serious about God. Yes, He’s awesome, and we should fear Him. Yes, He cares about people, and we should too. But the same God who struck Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone seems to get excited about showing me a Ringed Kingfisher, a Great Kiskadee, and a Green Jay.
I’m convinced that if God placed in my heart a love for his creatures, then He’s going to satisfy my desire to see some of them, not for any ulterior reason, but simply because He wants to make me happy. When life gets hard, it’s good to remember that He is that kind of God.
Texas birds, from top: Green Jay, Pyrrhuloxia, Great Kiskadee, Black-vented Oriole, Ringed Kingfisher.