The Big Sit


Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha! You’re anxious and upset about so many things, but only a few things are necessary—really only one. Mary has chosen the better part, and she won’t be deprived of it.” ~ Luke 10:41-42

I have some empathy for Martha. When I really want to hear God speak to me, I tend to need to be busy doing something else. It might be as simple as walking when praying, but my monkey mind seems to be always demanding a banana. The problem that Martha seems to have is that her full attention was given to what could have been mindless tasks and so didn’t have have anything left to focus on the gift that was right before her.

In the competitive birding world (no, that is not an oxymoron), Mary was doing a Big Sit, while Martha was doing an ineffective Big Day. The concept is that a 24-hour period is dedicated to recording as many species as possible. Big Days typically have defined boundaries. Historically, state boundaries are the usual playing field, but over time interest has increased over limited geographical areas, such as counties, or cities, or in the case of a Big Sit, at circle of just a few yards that if vacated means losing the ability to list any species observed. The reason I say that Martha’s Big Day was ineffective is that she seems to do all moving and no observing. Having done more than my fair share of Big Days, I can assure you that the best ones are effectively a continuous string of extremely short Big Sits. Big Day birding as a spectator sport would be far more boring than watching golf (though there is an entire channel dedicated to that, hmm…) When a Big Day birding team is on its game, each stop involves leaping from the car, listening intently for no more than three minutes and jumping back in the car to get to the next location to do the same thing. Even in the middle of rushing to maximize the number of stops, each stop is dedicated to intentional and very intense listening.

Unfortunately, Martha appears to be intent on making good time rather than maximizing the species list. She gets caught up in the practices of the cult of busy-ness and gets to all the stops with little show for the effort, while Mary stays put in one spot and has a better list for the day.

Prayer: Still, small voice, thank you for the sweetness of that whisper, but feel free to use your outside voice to get my attention when I’m lost in busy-ness. Amen.

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