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But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. ~Job 12:7-8

It was a gorgeous day, a bit chilly to start and clouds obscured the summit, but that meant that the hike would be comfortable and by the time we got to the top there might be views. As it turned out, layers did end up being doffed and the skies did clear enough for wonderful views. The goal was birding, bagging a 4000-footer was not even part of the consideration. The target species was Bicknell’s Thrush. Since they only nest in alpine and sub-alpine habitat they are understandably rare and elusive. So hearing four (some heard a fifth) and seeing two brown blurs of passing birds was a fair exchange for the effort.

During the descent, we were listening to the infrequent birdsong, feeling a bit cheated out of a “birdy” day. We heard a few songs that were not easily identified to particular species. That is not uncommon, and commonly when I hear a warbler song that is confusing, my thought is “it’s going to be another Redstart isn’t it?” Sure enough, our mystery singer did turn out to be an American Redstart.

What made this particular sighting different for me was that it convicted me of my transactional expectations. I caught myself believing that I deserved something “more interesting” than a Redstart. Really? Who made that rule? You likely have figured that out faster than I have, of course it was me. Approaching anything as quid pro quo is likely to end in disappointment and even claims of unfairness. That Redstart owed me nothing, and expected nothing from me. Indeed, no Redstart, Bicknell’s Thrush, or the absent Canada Jays, or any bird or creature owes anyone anything. They all offer the gifts of their unique beauty without any strings attached. The only expectation is reciprocity, they offer their gifts trusting that they are needed, and that if everyone does the same there will balance and bounty. Truthfully, if there is any expectation in return, it is that we will likewise give freely.

Prayer: Great Gift-Giver, thank you for nurturing us to discover and prodding us to give the gifts you desire to offer through us. Amen.


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