How about something more lighthearted today.
Years ago, my daughter brought home a corn snake – it had been a whole-class science project in her senior year of high school. When summer came, someone had to keep the snake. She named it Carmel (corn snakes are predominately orangish brown in color). When summer ended Sarah went off to college – Carmel continued to live in our basement.
I inherited the duty of procuring a mouse per week. Nature is harsh. Snakes are also a little moody in the appetite department. Sometimes a mouse lasted no time at all. Sometimes Carmel and the mouse became room mates for several days. Either way I generally felt a little guilty – especially since the place I got the mice from put the poor little things in a box with a picture of a cartoon mouse jumping up in the air, clicking its mousy heels and proclaiming ‘Yippee, I’ve found a home!’
The feeding I most recall took place when Carmel had just about finished molting. This meant she had pretty much skipped a feeding and was ravenously hungry. It also meant her eyesight was poorer than usual. Still, somehow, she perceived I was coming and began anxiously striking the glass front of her cage in anticipation. The way the cage was set up, I had to lift the sliding glass door with my left hand and make a quick thrusting motion with my right – holding the box, open end facing the cage, to propel the mouse into the feeding grounds. This had always worked very well.
On this occasion however, the mouse seemed to have caught the vibe and clung with tenacity to the still closed end of the box. I thrust the box forward, but no mouse came out. Carmel struck just the same and closed her serrated jaws on the tip of my right pinky. As far as she was concerned, she had caught something alive and meaty and she immediately went to work trying to constrict and swallow it. I was not overly worried about being eaten by the snake. I was more concerned that the mishap had resulted in at least a third of Carmel’s body being extended under the sliding door – still held up by my left hand – and that her efforts to choke me down were pulling more of her elongated form out of the cage by the second. The mouse, recognizing an opportune moment to flee, leapt from the box onto the floor. The basement was rife with places a mouse could go and I could not follow. Both my hands were otherwise occupied. I quickly reached out with my left foot and stepped on the mouse’s tail. Now both my hands and one foot were occupied, the remaining foot pretty much tied up with bearing my weight.
I shouted to my wife that I needed some help. Note: my wife only barely tolerated Carmel’s presence in our home in the first place and is only slightly less anti-mouse than anti-snake. She came down the basement stairs, took one look at the situation, said ‘No way!’ and went back up. After a moment’s stunned silence, I dropped the box, used the other digits of my right hand to pry Carmel off the pinkie, pushed her back into the cage and closed the door. Hands now freed, I got the mouse back in the box. A few moments later, after a little re-engineering, well, my marriage survived. The mouse did not. The above is true in its entirety. I share it because I figure we could all use a laugh right now. I hope you got one.
So, the coronavirus – which I’m sure everyone is already tired of hearing about. And, on the medical side, my opinion only carries so much weight - I am not a biologist, epidemiologist or any other kind of ologist that would give me expertise in the areas of predicting or combating viruses. I have only the anecdotal experience of having lived through the swine flu, the bird flu (I think the corona virus only narrowly avoided being called the snake flu!) SARS, MERS, etc.
With that background, I do not take the corona virus lightly. People have already died. More people will die. I can also tell you with absolute certainty that people will die from the organized response to the pandemic. You cannot make decisions for 300,000,000 people without killing some of them. Kids out of school will spend more time with their vulnerable grandparents. Statewide business closures will result in fatalities. Those who rushed out to strip store shelves of toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer all increased their risk of exposure exponentially by getting elbow to elbow with their fellow hoarders.
And even with all those measures and their attendant harms, the pandemic will get worse. All the others did. I believe 60,000,000 Americans were infected with H1N1 and nearly 20,000 died. I remember visiting children from our congregation with SARS/MERS and being legitimately worried. So, yes, I expect the coronavirus pandemic will get worse. Then, like every other viral plague, it will either burn itself out or become a permanent part of the landscape – with, I predict, a mortality rate in line with all the other viral plagues we’ve endured. In the latter case, there will be a vaccine that will work about as effectively as all the other virus vaccines and we’ll all argue about whether-or-not we should get that shot.
I do understand trying to slow the advance of the virus so as not to overwhelm the system and to give more time for testing improvements, vaccine development, and other responses. But I think everyone should realize that cancelling every event on earth, blocking travel beyond township lines, bathing daily in hand sanitizer, and doing whatever it is people plan to do with all that toilet paper- will not stop the virus from blanketing the earth at this point.
Of course, my special concern is the mission of the church – and the church has a mission regarding this pandemic! God has prepared grace for this hour and the church has a mandate to present it. In part, this begs the question of whether or not local congregations should cancel services. I have received criticism in varying degrees because IRCC has not cancelled services – though we are making every effort to keep any particular gathering below the ever-changing numerical recommendation, taking extra measures to minimize the kind of personal contact that spreads the virus, advising anyone concerned to stay home, learning to live-stream our service and working daily to increase and refine our response.
Still, we have not yet cancelled services. Other congregations have. I am not party to their calculations. If anyone is interested, I would be happy to discuss our calculations.
But – whatever decision congregations make on that front – there is that mission I mentioned. It has three prongs
I promised back in the first installation of this blog to discuss what it means to be an evangelical (a title I do not claim for myself) and, perhaps, to consider how we ever got so confused about it. Here goes. Evangelicals are not a church or a church movement – rather, an 18th century adjustment in the way Christians in general saw themselves. About 1740, Christians, suddenly, as these things go, found themselves in a new situation. Christianity was now a firmly linked trans-Atlantic community exceeding former tribal, national, and philosophical borders. In the prior century if you were, say, a German and not a Catholic – you were Lutheran – like all non-Catholic Germans. If you were British and not a Catholic you were Episcopalian or, a little later, Methodist. This was an English thing. If you lived in Geneva and were not Calvinist, mean old Jean wouldn’t let you stay! But the expansion of European protestants to America changed things. Capitalism and Humanism took root and grew. Slavery was being seriously questioned. The world was all at once, different – both larger and smaller.
Into this period (The first Great Awakening) walked the great revivalists George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards, preaching a ‘good news’ (evangelion) that existed above and beyond all national and denominational barriers: a good news shared by German Lutherans, English Methodists, and American Puritans alike – those pesky Swiss too! Never mind all that other stuff written up in handbooks, bylaws and catechisms – there is a core good news – an evangelical truth - that defines all Christians.
This new evangelicalism was strengthened in the second Great Awakening (1790 to 1830 or so – seems like we fell back asleep pretty quick!), becoming the dominant expression of American Christianity which had now moved as far west overland as it did over sea to get here in the first place! But while Methodism or Presbyterianism had official headquarters, sanctioned literature, designated spokesmen, etc., evangelicalism was a more free-range operation carried west by circuit riders who got considerably ahead of denominational organization.
Perhaps because it was so generalized and thus hard to stomp on, evangelicalism emerged from the Civil War in better shape than the denominations from which it arose: a strength still present in the early to mid- 1900s by which time World Wars and a Great Depression caused a lot of questioning about God’s nature and even existence. Evangelicals felt they had the best answers to such questions but, lacking formal organization, the weakest voice. Enter the National Association of Evangelicals – circa 1942 – born in a conference of 147 Christian leaders from 40+ American denominations.
Spoiler alert – organization both strengthens and stifles! And now we’re ready for the part where the understanding of evangelicalism gets really messed up! In 1976 Jimmy Carter became the first ‘born again evangelical’ to be elected President of the United States. Newsweek declared 1976 – the year of the evangelical! But – there were other evangelicals (remember that free-range thing) accepting the same core good news as Carter but living far enough to the political right of the erstwhile peanut farmer turned politician as to need a separate philosophical zip code. These evangelicals birthed the Christian Coalition, the Moral Majority et al and became known collectively as ‘The Religious Right’ – as opposed to the original evangelical coalition that formed behind Carter. The Carter evangelicals didn’t go away – but no organizational genius stepped up to help them compete with their right leaning brethren.
This is one of the reasons the number of evangelicals is so hard to pin down. Are they 7% of the American population? Or 50%? Both things have been asserted! In 1967 were there 10 million of them? 20 million? 50 million? Well, it depends on which ones you count – which depends a lot on who does the counting! To a preacher the definition is theological or doctrinal. To a sociologist the definition is demographic. But to a politician at any time after 1980 the definition is a voting block or, to put a finer point on it – white Christian Republicans.
Herein lies the trouble. Maybe the first political pollster in line really meant to understand the forces that caused a certain segment of the population to turn out for a certain candidate in a certain election. But after that evangelicalism became no more (to politicians) than one more mailing list for use in the endless process of hitting people up for money and votes. This in an era where political voices get a lot more airtime than the preacher or the sociologist. To wit: the most commonly accepted non-political definition of evangelicalism was put forth by historian/sociologist David Bebbington in 1989.
A moments thought will tell you that the current politically driven definition of Evangelicals is far too narrow – even when recast as ‘white Evangelicals’. Funny how politics desires to take a movement created to ignore forced boundaries and shoehorn it into a narrower and narrower space.
Now, if this hasn’t bored your socks off, you might look sometime down the road for another post explaining why I do not consider myself an evangelical. If this did bore your socks off, put them back on! Spring is still some days away!
As the famous Disney character said – ‘Let your conscience be your guide.’ It pretty much goes without saying that conscience steers action. Perhaps it does not always go without saying that this phenomenon rises beyond the personal level. In my case, at least, my conscience has steered a lot of the ministry of Indian Run Christian Church. The recycling ministry is a case in point.
Several years ago, I was cornered by a reporter at the Stark County fair who asked how much I recycled. I replied honestly, ‘Well, not very much.’ The reporter then asked me why. I formulated the answer in my usual slow, methodical way (many people lack the patience for a real conversation with me) and with not nearly enough consciousness that I was talking to a reporter! ‘I guess, if I’m honest with myself, it’s just so much easier to put it all in bags by the road knowing it will all go away.’ When my name and that quote appeared in the paper, I was much dissatisfied. But, I was being honest! I determined to do better and I think I have. However, my life is ministry and I also feel strongly that it is part of any Christian congregation’s obligation to address the ills of the community.
In case you didn’t know, Stark County, Ohio is famous/infamous for our landfills. Yay us!? This post would grow too long if I went into the details – suffice it to say I perceive certain ‘problems’ with our landfill situation. Others, perceiving the same problems, launch law-suits or pursue legal reforms. I do not disagree in principle with such efforts. I’m just not wired that way. My game is always on the ground in front of me. For all these reasons, my determination to do better at recycling enlarged into a recycling ministry for the congregation I lead.
As I am also slightly compulsive about goal setting and record keeping, I can tell you that since launching the recycling ministry in 2012, we have recycled 654,446 pounds of metal and 390,013 pounds of paper*; meaning that 2020 is the year we exceeded 1,000,000 pounds of material kept out of the landfills and injected back into the economy in more useful forms. As the recycling numbers have grown over time (other consciences aligning with mine) I suspect (Lord willing) it will not take eight years to recycle a second million pounds. In 2012 we recycled 27,605 pounds of metal and 17,875 pounds of paper. In 2019 we recycled over 105,000 pounds of metal and over 80,000 pounds of paper.
My main reason for writing this post is to encourage you to look around. IRCC is not unique. Thousands of local congregations have conscience driven ministries that benefit their community in concrete ways. The church is more than you think and the church is good for the world! It is also true in my experience that the local church accomplishes these things on a budget that is CONSIDERABLY less than government or corporate programs would require. And I bet your conscience aligns with some of these ministries. Let your conscience steer your actions. If recycling isn’t your ‘thing’ find out what ‘things’ other local congregations are doing. Though I suspect any local congregation would welcome you as a full-time member, that probably isn’t necessary for you to pitch in. Get involved!
*I personally recycle plastic but have not yet found a good way to expand that practice to a congregational ministry level.
** Full disclosure: IRCC receives money for metal and paper recycled. I can assure you the dollars received divided by the volunteer hours invested would not rise to minimum wage – not counting fuel, cutting blades, and other necessary investments. It is a ministry in the truest sense. The money that does come in is turned into food to feed the hungry – it doesn’t pay our light bills, insurance, etc.
***We also grow food for the hungry. Over the same time period (2012-to present) we have grown or gleaned 270,000 pounds of fresh produce for the various feeding ministries in Stark County.
I have recently held several conversations concerning the book of Revelation – no problem btw – I am always happy to discuss Scripture and Revelation is a perennial concern to most Christians. I am going to pass on here what I believe to be the single most powerful tool for interpreting the Revelation. The official name of this interpretive tool is ‘historicism’ I know – everyone’s eyes start glassing over as soon as an ‘ism’ appears but bear with me as I attempt to simplify the basic list of competing ‘isms’.
Futurism contends that prophecy is always oriented toward the future (some prophecies concerned what was future for the prophet is question but is now our past) and that much of the end time prophecies of the Bible describe events still in our future.
Preterism contends that almost all Biblical prophecy and especially end time prophecy describes events that have already happened or at best, were in the midst of happening at the time the prophecy was given. In this view, almost all the book of Revelation describes the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Idealism contends that the imagery of Revelation does not describe concrete persons or events at all. Rather, they describe spiritual concepts. Idealists do not look for real world events to fulfill the prophecies at any time – the prophecies metaphorically describe sets of ideas common to the world and the kingdom respectively.
The position I recommend is historicism – tinged with just a dab of idealism. The book of Revelation describes the cosmic war in which Jesus Christ is central. That war was going on in the days of the Old Testament, at the time of Jesus’ ministry, at the time the book of Revelation was written, is still going on today and will be going on for as long as the present creation lasts. The events described in the book, then, occur over and over in passing generations – with one final cataclysmic repetition which will bring the historical process to a halt.
Read Revelation chapter twelve with this in mind and see what you think. Then try this: Read Revelation chapter 13 and consider the beast. Then read Daniel chapter seven and consider the beasts. It is made clear that at least the first of the beasts is in active operation at the time Daniel gave the prophecy. It seems equally clear that the operations of the beasts continue beyond Daniel’s time – passing up the Babylonians, Meads and Persians and entering into the ages of the Greek and Roman empires. Other visions in Daniel tell the same story. And if you think the beast of Revelation 13 is the same as the beasts of Daniel 7 – Gold Star! The Beast(s) are human governments opposed to the will of God and following the program of Satan in the great cosmic war. The beast was operating in the time of Daniel – and in the time of John – and today – and into the future – and, I believe, the rabid beast will finally be put down in one final cataclysmic clash.
Try one more. Consider the horsemen of Revelation 6:1-7. Then read Zechariah 1:7-12 and 6:1-9 – horsemen who patrol the earth, acting in the midst of the wars of men (The horsemen in Zechariah were impatient at first because the war which would contain their coming ministry seemed to them to be slow in getting started!) to achieve the purposes of God. You see, the question is not – When will the horsemen ride? But When will they stop? I, of course, believe they have been riding for ages, are riding today, and will have a last ride one of these days.
Keep going – the four living creatures of Revelation chapter 4. Where have you seen them before and what were they doing and how do we know they are Cherubim? Hint – read Ezekiel chapters one and ten.
So, when will the events of the book of Revelation - you know – apostate governments, apostate religions, (the false prophet) apostate nations, apostate economic systems (Babylon) and charismatic but apostate leaders (antichrists) of all the above all working to bring about Satan’s will on our sad fallen planet – happen? Well, of course they happened in AD 70. But check out today’s newspaper too. And count on it all continuing to happen – until God brings these events to a final end.
We have been in the End Times since the ascension of Christ and have been surrounded by the events described in the book of Revelation the whole time.
I am learning a bit of Greek folk music on the mandolin for an upcoming duet – don’t set your expectations too high! The nature of the music complicates my usual process which is – listen to the tune a few times and start picking it out. No matter how many times I listened to the tune, my ear could not translate it for my fingers. I acquired a copy of the printed music which included the mandolin intro. I read music the same way a turtle covers ground – very slowly. But slow is ok when you’re working with pen and paper – converting the classical notes to mandolin tablature* - one note at a time. Once converted to tablature I can do a passable job of playing from paper until my fingers learn what they’re doing.
But – what’s the deal? If you can hear one tune with your ears and find it with your fingers – why should another tune be different. The notes are the same. Right? The answer is that the intervals (the spaces between the notes) are different. Backing up a step – the mandolin is fairly easy to get along with because it’s tuned in even fifths -G D A E. If you are not a musician, shorten the alphabet to 7 letters – A B C D E F G repeating in endless succession. When you pass G you end up at A again and so on. Touch your thumb and say ‘G’ then keep counting off letters till you touch your pinkie. You should be on ‘D’ – the same will happen for D-A and A-E. The notes the mandolin strings are tuned to are separated by even fifths. This means, among other things, that every major scale on the mandolin is, in terms of finger placement, the same. It shortens the learning curve a lot compared to say, the guitar. And, being an American Heartlander, I’m pretty used to hearing music that proceeds in even thirds and fifths. It’s what we do! It’s almost fair to say that, like the mandolin, I have been tuned that way.
Greek music is based on intervals of even fourths. The ancient Greeks heard in fourths and tuned their original stringed instruments to even fourths (the modern mandolin has undergone some evolution). To make a long story short - I can’t hear the Greek music right and my fingers are frustrated, being forced to deviate from familiar patterns.
It makes me think – What was wrong with those ancient Greeks! Well, no, it makes me think that being ‘tuned’ to the world makes it very difficult to hear properly what I shall call – The Music of God. But we can be realigned. Personally, I find The Music of the World more discordant and unpleasing all the time.**
*Tablature is a form of written music designed for string instruments. For mandolin the musical staff has only four lines – one for each string. (Guitar Tablature has six lines) instead of notes you write numbers on the lines. The numbers represent the frets on the mandolin neck. A ‘5’ on the first line means the note produced by pressing the first string at the fifth fret, etc.
**I’m being metaphorical here. This is not a diatribe against any musical genre – though I never did catch the disco vibe!
I don’t usually plug TV shows and that’s not my main goal here. But I did stand amazed after watching Season 2, Episode 12 of New Amsterdam. I generally enjoy the program though the values it promotes are a mixed lot for me. But the main theme of this episode concerned faith and prayer. As I perceived this, I prepared myself to be disappointed with the handling of an issue critically important to me and mine. But I was pleasantly surprised.
The main character (Max) is such an obviously goodhearted, kind and caring individual and brings those qualities to bear as chief of medicine at New Amsterdam hospital. But he is also deeply scarred by shattering disappointments and carries a burden of bitterness that can be difficult to watch.
In this episode, a pastor leads a prayer group on a rotating tour of hospitals where they station themselves in the lobby and – pray. The group works to remain unobtrusive but lives on the edge of being escorted out by security. Max is tolerant but dismissive. He won’t have them removed unless they REALLY become a problem - but they are plainly a nuisance – taking up space in the lobby for no good reason, slightly in the way and accomplishing nothing of value. There is also that uncommunicated bitter edge in Max that seems to take some measure of personal offense at the prayer group’s presence.
The tragedies De Jour include a man in his fourteenth year of a vegetative state and his struggling family, a dangerous but difficult to diagnose problem in the ER (where the computers are on the fritz due to a software update), a woman depressed by skin flaps after massive weight loss (and her inability to afford corrective plastic surgery and the rigid position of the insurance company on the matter) and a teenaged boy who is probably going to die from ‘vaping sickness’. Max’s irritation grows as his community of doctors, nurses, and orderlies converse on even the most casual connections between events in these cases and the presence of the prayer group. The crux of the matter is reached when the boy with vaping illness – who has been holding stable while they plan a course of treatment – suddenly crashes – minutes after the departure of the prayer group from the hospital.
Max chases the pastor down and asks for – well, he clearly knows not what. Growing impatient with the pastor’s explanation – ‘That’s not the way it works…’ Max protests ‘Well, then why do you do it – if not to ask some higher power to do – something – to make changes, improve situations?!’
The pastor patiently explains that the main change we seek in prayer is to ourselves, we want to be drawn into God’s purposes and come to understand them – at which point – the chaos begins to make sense. Not everyone is healed but God is in the ‘not healings’ too. When prayer becomes that to you, miracles are possible and recognizable.
Max returns to the hospital and watches the dying boy – the single remaining unresolved situation. He prays. ‘Hello – up there? I’m not really into the whole praying thing. I know my parents did a lot of it when my sister was sick and it didn’t seem to do a lot of good. (The childhood death of Max’s sister remains one of his burdens) But I could really use a miracle down here and surely, in all the chaos and terrible things that happen – can’t one be good? I realize I don’t have anything to bargain with or offer but this empty space inside me which I’m willing to fill with – something. Jackson (the teen) could really use Your help and the worst of it is he needs specifics.’ Camera changes scenes.
Jackson has, miraculously it seems, recovered. Never mind further treatments. And after all, other doctors muse, we know almost nothing about vaping illness yet so who knows why. But it’s great, right. Max looks ever so slightly up and replies – ‘Amen’.
This so nearly describes my own thought on and experience with prayer I thought I should pass it on. Glad to hear what anyone else thinks.
Over the years I have put a lot of study into the difference between religion and politics. (A difference denied by many but I’ll spare you that for the moment and begin with the presumption that religion and politics are different things.) Given that – we have all heard increasingly forceful admonitions that we shouldn’t let our religion shape our politics. (For myself, I can’t imagine why we shouldn’t – a future post!) But a spate of recent studies seems to indicate exactly the opposite has occurred in my generation and the generations immediately following i.e., our politics have shaped our religion. Michelle Margolis is among the most prevalent and readable proponents of this thesis. You can check her larger work – From Politics to the Pews: How Partisanship and the Political Environment Shape Religious Identity or a shorter article in the New York Times Online – When Politicians Determine Your Religious Beliefs or any of a great number of interviews, articles, etc. by Margolis.
Margolis does not contend this has always been the case. She points to a shift beginning in the 1970’s. Here are some of the major data-points underlying Margolis’ conclusions.
Margolis has performed several experiments like the following seeking confirmation.
Participants (all religious barring a control group) are shown a flier – either a partisan flier for their own political party or a non-political flier and then answer a series of questions. The results are consistent: Republicans shown the partisan Republican flier felt closer to their religion. Democrats shown the partisan Democrat flier felt more distant from their religion.
Margolis concludes that down to the early Boomers, religion shaped politics. Beginning with late Boomers and probably magnifying in the generations that follow, politics has shaped religion.
In trying to understand this I mean no disrespect to my brothers and sisters of either or any political persuasion and I don’t know that politics making us feel better about our religion is any more to be desired than politics making us feel worse about our religion. If Margolis is right, I regard it as equally bad news for everyone. More on that later. But I’d be glad to hear what anyone thinks.
Let me jump right into the blogosphere with a rant on the (I think) one-dimensional nature of most shared Facebook items. For instance – consider this one shared by a few of my nearly 1700 Facebook friends.
White Evangelicals are the least Christ-like according to a new poll of religious people. Was it really necessary to take a poll?
Well of course not! We all know about those white evangelicals. Right? Full disclosure: I am white. I do not consider myself an evangelical (something I may take up in a later blog).
The post seems to have originated with political personality – Tim Hagan.
The post honestly acknowledges that the conclusion is based on a ‘poll’ not a scientific study.
So, I looked up the poll. Perhaps you will be surprised to discover that in the poll itself there is no mention of Christ-likeness or reference to any Scriptures as guiding principles. Nor does the poll concern itself with what any believer thinks of any other believer’s spiritual state. What participants were asked about was their attitude toward government programs, government actions and individuals in government. Since, apparently, white evangelicals showed more antipathy toward government efforts to ‘help the poor’, ‘protect minorities’ etc. than ‘mainline denominational Christians’, in spite of Jesus’ clear emphases on such things (Jesus and Scriptures mentioned boldly now in the poll’s conclusions), obviously those white evangelicals are less Christ-like. In fact, the poll is interpreted as revealing that ‘non-religious’ people are the most Christ-like of all!
Well, OK. Shame on those rotten white evangelicals for hating the poor! But I noticed the poll did not investigate the amount of money and volunteerism given by those same white evangelicals where non-government efforts to aid the poor and protect the helpless are concerned. It seems like that might be worth looking into. After all, the basis for the poll’s conclusions is that Christ-likeness correlates with a heart for the poor and helpless. I missed the part explaining why hundreds of millions of dollars given, buckets worth of sweat equity poured into, and deep personal commitment to corporate, church-led, or personal projects do not count.
I don’t mean to speak for white evangelicals (as I do not count myself one) but it seems to me that the conclusion drawn from the poll has less to do with white evangelical attitudes toward the poor and more to do with white evangelical attitudes toward government projects and policies. Other conclusions are possible and I stand ready to hear them.
But – back to the beginning of this post. I don’t share anything I see on Facebook without researching it first. The few times I have violated that policy persuade me I should never violate it again! I share very little anyway. I tend to post my own words, thoughts, conclusions, and the activities of myself and the congregation I shepherd. But I get it – nothing with so many words as this blog post is going to do well on Facebook. Punchy slides on colored backgrounds that can be read in 3 seconds are the ticket. But it seems plain to me that no such posts can fairly state or evaluate such complicated issues. The wrong tool for the job!
Glad to hear what anyone else thinks! Please leave a comment.
I have written about it before but – now is the best time to listen for Great Horned Owls. Great Horned Owls ready to nest and reproduce for the first time will have ‘Christmas Shopped’ for mates, pairing up throughout December. During the months of January and February they will have selected nesting sites and started tending newly laid eggs. Few of the owls in question will actually build a nest. They will either select a large cavity in a tree or take over the nest of some other bird –Great Blue Heron, Red Tailed Hawk, Crow, etc. The other birds do not generally mind too much –at least not enough to argue with the Great Horned Owls about it –as they don’t nest in the winter. Sometimes the Great Horned Owls will take over a squirrel nest. Squirrels do use their nests in the winter and do mind them being taken over but –well, it’s kind of a sad story. Nature is harsh! At any rate, the Great Horned Owls will incubate their eggs throughthe deep winter months and hatch out chicks while there is still plenty of cold and snowleft. (Note –this is not the universal case. Great Horned Owls are the most widely spread of the eleven North American Owl species and live as far south as Mexico.)
Whooooh whooo (sorry) would choose to nest in a bare cottonwood in the middle of winter in Northeast Ohio?! Well, the owls are year-round –non-migratory –residents and are going to put up with the cold at any rate. The Great Horned Owls are also very adaptable eaters, having the most varied diet of our eleven species as well. They eat anything they can catch – including cats, small dogs, and other raptors –as large as Red Tailed Hawks. Winter is a pretty good hunting time for them. There is less cover and all those rodents are out searching for food. And, the Great Horned Owl chicks are ready to fledge as early as March –just in time to begin their career as young hunters when all the migratory birds are coming back and setting up to nest, all the small mammals and reptiles start having babies, etc. It works out.
But – back to my original point. If you want to hear the Great Horned Owls, now is your chance! The mating and nesting is the vocal season for almost all birds. Put on a coat and hat and go stand outside (the church parking lot is a prime location) in the still of the night and just be quiet for a while. When you hear that double hoot, try answering back.The Great Horned Owls are usually good for at least a short conversation and once in a while, one will actually come to see who’s calling. But when you hear them, know that a whole invisible (to you) world is going on out there: courting and nesting and hunting and fledging – life and death – and all most of us will ever perceive of it is ‘hooo hoooo’ –and that only if we go out in the cold and dark to listen.
There is another unseen world operating all around us where the stakes are even higher. Far too many people are even more completely ignorant of it than they are of the world of the Great Horned Owl – but it’s there and at least the echoes of it can be heard by those who will take the trouble to listen. Ephesians 6:12